Christianity or Religious Fundamentalism? (the evil of shunning part 3)

We live in a world where the term “religious fundamentalism” has taken on a rather negative connotation. Religious fundamentalists, it would seem, blew up the World Trade Center.  Religious fundamentalists live in communes and the leader molests the women and children.  Or so we are led to believe.  Some people are proud of being a fundamentalist, and will gladly label themselves so. They believe it means they are rock-solid and can’t be moved from their principles. (all of which they claim are right and good, even if standing by them deprives other people of their rights.)  However, there is no doubt that to be a religious fundamentalist means you are someone who will harm other people in your quest to be right yourself.

I will define religious fundamentalism, but first let us acquaint ourselves with what it means to truly be a Christian.  The simplest definition of “Christian” should be “a follower of Christ.”  This means we are like him.  Not that we belong to a religious organization, but that we truly follow Christ.  This means we love our fellow man, we suffer ourselves to be harmed before we would retaliate or claim anything for ourselves.  It means we have absolutely nothing to prove or protect.  Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 18:13 “How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  v. 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that [sheep], than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

Now that sounds very nice, doesn’t it.  He makes no mention of letting a lost sheep go and carefully tending the 99 that are safe in the fold.  So what are we to think…if someone does just the opposite of this, can we call him a Christian?  If a lamb has fallen into the brambles and a so-called Christian gives him a kick and maybe knocks him over the edge of the cliff, is this person a Christian?  It’s interesting that these verses precede the ones that the Holdemans use to justify excommunication and shunning. I still have a hard time seeing how these two ideas can be reconciled….going out in search of a lost lamb, and then suddenly doing away with someone who displeases you and cutting them off.  Very few people are strong enough to deal with the kind of rejection and emotional abuse brought about by the enacting of the shun. It’s inhuman.

Here is the wikipedia definition of religious fundamentalism:  ”

The term religious fundamentalism was used at first to describe some people in the Protestant community in the United States in the early 20th century. These people had a set of well defined (“fundamental”) values. These values were in opposition to more modern ideas. The group also said it was important to stick to what faith (the Bible) told them. Today, the term is used more generally.

Religious fundamentalism has been prevalent in society since its beginnings in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. People today who study religious fundamentalism see it as a response to modern society. Today society is not as simple as it was. Today many people live in societies that can be hard to understand. Changes in familiar things can make people feel unsafe. So some people look in their religion to see something that does not change. They also want rules about how to act that do not change. So they see their religion as this thing that does not change.

When people look at religion this way they see the ideas in the religion as absolute. This means that it is not possible for them to change. When religion is seen as absolute it becomes fundamentalism.

People can be any religion and be fundamentalists.”

We can see by reading this definition that religious fundamentalism is a knee jerk reaction to the threats that modern society poses to a certain type of religious lifestyle. There is an interesting but sad thing built into this;  when someone is trying to protect something that makes them feel safe, they automatically hate and fear anything or anyone that threatens that safety.  People who are caught up in religious fundamentalism may very well indeed have much good about them. By the same token, they may be pretty much rotten to the core.  It can go either way. However, there is a rigid and legalistic aspect to them that will eventually over ride any good that they may have about them.  If one runs afoul of the system that they are trying to protect, one should be prepared for a tremendous backlash.  Now let me point out here that simply drifting away and giving up the dearly held principles of the religious group in question is not nearly serious enough the incur the most violent forms of retaliation by the religious fundamentalist.  No, it is converting to something else that creates the problem.  Here we find ourselves thinking about Islam.  The world has billions? (I haven’t’ checked the number) but anyway, a large number of Muslims.  We know that not all of them are “fundamentalists.”  Some of them have never read the Koran, would never harm another person, bomb a building or blow themselves up.  Basically, they are non-practicing Muslims, or non-religious Muslims.  However, we also have the fundamentalist Muslim.  These cry “Death to the infidel!”  They take it upon themselves to persecute those who would dare to leave the faith and convert to another.  They take it upon themselves to act out with great force anyone who speaks against them.  Am I speaking of the Islamic terrorist or the  fundamentalist Holdeman? Sometimes I get mixed up.  Which one did I say cries “Death to the infidel?” Which one was I saying tolerates absolutely no criticism of his religion?  Well it doesn’t matter if I forgot which one I meant, because they are the same.  This might be hard for some to accept, but it is true.

In the case of the Holdeman religion, a member can go astray. They can lose their religious zeal and become secular.  A person can even fall into grave sins, as defined by the religion. A young man can get tattooed, pierced, drink and smoke marijuana, and yet he will not feel the sting of the shun nearly as much as someone who has asked a question.  Ask a question and see what happens.  “Convert” to another type of Christianity and see what happens. The fear and the loathing from the formerly fond and loving family will be something to see.  You will be surprised to learn that they can live without you.  They can cut you off like so much contaminated garbage.  They will cut your children off with you, if you have any.  They will leave off visiting you, although if you humble yourself to go to them in a quest for acceptance and love, they will grudgingly, in fact sometimes even rather cheerfully, let you into their homes, but once inside, you will be treated rather badly!  Be prepared!   If you are a young girl and you fall into a bad situation and have a child out of wedlock, never fear…your indiscretion will be overlooked.  You will be perhaps given a baby shower, and people will help you babysit.  After all, it was a small indiscretion. BUT…dare to ask a question that puts someone on the spot, and you could find yourself booted out the door, you and the wife and kids, cut off, cut out,and delivered to Satan for the redemption of the flesh. (When you figure out for sure what that means, let me know!)

This then, is the evil of shunning. It is a tool of the religious fundamentalist to keep the organization intact. It has nothing to do with judging “sin” or drawing an erring one back.  Well, it will draw you back if you are weak and can’t take the heat.  Then you become a religious fundamentalist yourself.  I’m sorry, I know I’ve been a bit harsh here. But can you see what I’m trying to say?  Women who wear black scarves, men with beards, ritual behavior, and DEATH TO THE INFIDEL!  Scary world we are living in!

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8 Responses to Christianity or Religious Fundamentalism? (the evil of shunning part 3)

  1. lotsaquestions says:

    De javu! Ask no questions! That is the cardinal sin! As my Holdeman friends say, “Suck it up, or face the consequences.” Thank you for putting this in words for others to read.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very true what you say about asking questions. I had questions about the doctrine of the One True Visible Church that the ministry could not answer. Finally one of the staff told me that when you are close to god he will give you that belief. At that point I told them I felt that they were teaching false doctrine.

    We were put on repentance on a Monday. The following Sunday we were excommunicated. We were on repentance six days. The charge against me was spiritual adultery and heresy. To this day we do not know what the charges were against my wife. We have asked for the letter that is to be given to all excommunicated persons but that request has been denied.

  3. Hiram says:

    I had a hard time going to sleep last night, thinking about this. This is why we rage. This is why we will fight to see injustice end. This is so wrong it can hardly even be spoken of.. This kind of thing must come to a halt. I can’t imagine the pain and difficulty you have gone through. This should be a criminal act.. Soldier on my friend, God knows every tear and every pain. Contrary to how you may feel at times, he has not gone away, he is not in absentia. He hears the cry of the abused and he will deal with things in his own time. This I can promise you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Home for Christmas?

    Many people look forward to Christmas. It’s a time for family to get together to enjoy each others company. To visit, to laugh, to bond. A time for our children to get to know their Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts and Cousins. And to those of us fortunate enough to still have our parents we know that the Christmases are numbered that we have left with them.

    To those who are excommunicated Christmas can be a heartbreaking time. Imagine arriving at your childhood home and not knowing how you’ll be treated or if you are really welcome. Our first Christmas after we were ex’ed we visited my family. We have always stayed at my parents but this time arrangements had been made for us to stay in the teachers home as the teachers were not home. Christmas dinner after filling our plates in the basement from the children’s table we perched on the couch over TV trays and tried to eat. We had attended the Christmas Day church service but were treated so rudely that on the following Sunday we decided to attend another area church. Needless to say, my family was not happy with us.

    The next year we went to my wife’s parents home for Christmas. We were treated much the same. Before the meal my father in-law made the announcement that the excommunicated after filling their plates were to eat in the living room and the others were to sit at the table to eat. This announcement came from a man that had shunned his excommunicated mother in-law in life and then took the inheritance she left after she died. In life, she was not good enough to eat with but in death her money was fine.

    At the time I was excommunicated I thought I would just accept the abuse but something within me changed that year. I decided that never again was I going to allow my wife or myself to be treated as if we were less then human. I will leave a family gathering and eat at a restaurant before I will sit at a different table and like that day in Montgomery, Alabama when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, I also found I can no longer accept the discrimination of the shunning.

    There is an online community of 350 excommunicated Church of God in Christ, Mennonite persons. This group is growing steadily. It is a support group where we can share with each other our hopes, joys, victories and also our frustrations with others that have or are walking this way with us. Never again will the Holdeman church be able to separate and ostracize people individually. This has been a tremendous help for us.

    So will we go home for Christmas? Probably not. At this time we don’t feel welcome. We do hope that someday this may change. Hopefully while our parents are still alive and we have children at home.

  5. Hiram says:

    I get a strange feeling as I read your comment, Anonymous. It seems that when you left the church, the reaction of your family could almost be characterized as a demonic rage. It almost seems like an unnatural hatred and fear came over them and suddenly they were able to treat you in the cruelest and most demeaning way imaginable. Maybe this is strong language, and yet, when I stop and think about it, I try to imagine this kind of reaction coming from Jesus. I try to imagine him with someone he saw who was losing the way. Did he ever turn on them with the kind of fierce rage and rejection that you experienced? Did he ever turn his back on someone who was faltering? Supposing for a moment that you really had fallen into the ditch and were in need of help, is this what Jesus would have done to you? Banished you to the basement where you were humiliated and made to feel rejected and unloved? This seems to me to be sure proof that they do not really see you as lost. They see you as slipping out from under their control. You made them angry. They felt fear. They did not think you had gone lost or they would have treated you in an entirely different manner. They would have been tender and gentle with you They would have dealt lovingly with you, for fear of sending you farther away. In the warped mindset of Holdeman shunning, they believed that hurting you would shock you back to your senses. It is a very calculated risk they take with the shunning. Too little and you will feel comfortable and not return. Too much, and too hard, and they could lose you forever, but it is a risk they are willing to take. Quite often they push their loved ones over the edge and lose them forever, and then they look sad and blame it all on you. I’m having a hard time seeing Jesus in all of this.

  6. As an ex-Holdeman I have credibility and good rapport with the local Holdeman-Mennonites, yet Holdies from elsewhere typically view me as some type of zoo specimen once the “Holdie Spirit” informs them that the Holdeman Church has turned me over to Satan. There is a strange reservation there and a brew of fear, pity, concern, loathing, and hostility all combined into a strange gaze…
    My Holdeman friends would be mortified if I would explain their discriminatory behaviour to their “worldly” business acquaintances and clientele in front of them… That’s how I can tell it is abuse – they want to keep it hidden!
    Concerning Holdeman-Mennonites being embarrassed if their “worldly” contacts see the shunning in action – in reality, why should the Holdeman-Mennonites care if the “world” doesn’t understand the shunning? Doesn’t their Bible say to be a “peculiar people”? The reason they don’t want “the world” to know about their shun tactics is because they are “seeking favour with the world” and even though the Holdeman consciense is so badly damaged and suppressed that it almost doesn’t know right from wrong in treating others as 2nd class citizens merely for no longer professing the same religious views as previously, yet a little morality must still linger, for they do recognize that “the world” would be revolted by their actions.
    The thing is that for most of us exes born to of Holdeman parentage, we were coerced into signing a life-long contract at such a young age that we weren’t mentally or emotionally developed enough to make such a decision and that is why the shunning is so immoral and horrific.

  7. Chris Frase alias: (Set Free) says:

    My father says “why” do they insist on bullying my family ?? My sister says and I agree how lucky “God Blessed” I am to be Set Free and she wishes they would do that to them because she would have to lie and say she did something she didn’t do in order to be reaccepted. “The Fear” of my membership being “annulled” setting a “precedent” is a fear of losing control. I say, “If the Holdeman religion would “open the door” by setting people free and demonstrating the love of God they would have more people “want” to return than they do with their present unGodly methods of dealing with people. It’s a cultural thing. I was “rebaptised” by immersion in another church, “according to my faith, understanding of the Word and personal conviction, (which incidently makes me a “true annabaptist 8^> )When asked how I felt when I got baptised I said, “wet” When asked how I felt when I got baptised “into the church” I said, “I was an 11 year old “child” without understanding just doing what everybody else does…following the form, the norm of the herd, “Without understanding” I count that baptism valid in the sense that I truly was converted and God had claimed me as one of His own. But invalid in the sense that I was baptised “into the church”. In my other recent baptism I was baptised into Christ. As far as getting wet it’s a sign that you are accepted by God. The “One Baptism” they use to support their theory is the baptism of the Holy Spirit we each receive upon conversion. And Not baptism “into a denomination that considers themselves the only ones” John the baptist referred to it specifically when he said, “I baptise you with water but there cometh one mightier than I and He shall baptise you with fire and the Holy Ghost. The baptism with fire and the Holy Ghost is “the ONE baptism” water just gets you wet and is a sacrament as a witness to that Holy Spirit baptism. The “fire” is obvious…the warmth and freedom that comes with becoming a child of the King…that ALL believers experience in some form or another. It’s the light in the eye, the free look on a persons face that even if they don’t realize it themselves other people can “see” it. Which brings me to the point of “the one true “visible” Church” of which “doctrine” (if you will) I firmly believe in for the simple fact that I have yet to meet an invisible Christian…regardless what church or if they even go to a “church”. It’s the Spirit that bears witness and we simply know…when we meet a fellow Christian. Sure at first glance you may not know…but talk to a person and the spirit flows, Their spirit witnesses with our spirit that they are children of God and even Holdemans cannot deny that !! However hard some of the “fundamentalists” may try !

  8. Chris Frase alias: (Set Free) says:

    Got to looking at “cultural thing ? and culture in general…take it apart…cult…tural ???Hmmmm ??

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