If you have been left behind

In my journey out of fundamentalism over the last ten years, I started off being angry at it. I wanted to argue with every fundamentalist, to show them why they were wrong. Then I went through a period of morbid fascination and I started scrapbooks of outlandish examples of fundamentalist literature (pamphlets, tracts, posters) that I called ‘Volume 1: Live footage from hell’ and ‘Volume 2: Tribulation squad’.

In recent years, I’ve just left fundamentalism alone. Most fundamentalists are nice people, and I’m unlikely to help them much by telling them they’re wrong. (And so many mix some fundamentalist beliefs with lots of non-fundamentalist ones.) But still, sometimes something comes along that recaptures my old fascination – like this tract I found called ‘If you have been left behind’.

Long before the insipid novels, this was the real deal. It’s scarier than the novels, because it is published in all seriousness as a guide to the unbelievers who are left behind when the rapture happens.

It may be that this message will sit on many a book-shelf, until perplexed and grief-stricken people come across it. Some may remember the title, and search it out.

It’s a spooky thought, this tract published to be read when the world is in turmoil. Later on, we read:

My reader, if you have been left behind, and realize the Great Tribulation has begun, DON’T TAKE YOUR OWN LIFE, whatever you do!

The tract carries on with helpful advice about the sort of things the reader will discover as they face the seven years of tribulation. It’s written sincerely, with the best of intentions.

Fundamentalism makes me feel bad about being a Christian sometimes, and I think it will continue to fascinate me and repel me at the same time.

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One thought on “If you have been left behind

  1. Hi Nathan,
    I have had over 40 years experience in fundamentalist/conservative evangelical churches. I agree with you that many of these people are lovely people, especially if you agree with them on theology. However, the situation becomes different, once you express a significant divergence in theology.

    Fundamentalist churches seem to be based on a patriarchal model of God where power is exercised from the top down and strict obedience to the leaders is required, together with a strict doctrinal conformity to the “fundamentals” of the faith. Strong sanctions are applied if there is any divergence from the boundaries set by the leaders.

    My concern is not to criticize them. Most folks who attend are good people but the system often portrays God as an angry person with emphasis on the judgment of God and tends to make people afraid to question things for fear of retribution.

    I just wish that fundamentalist pastors would put more emphasis on the wonderful love of God revealed in Jesus so that such congregations would feel drawn to God’s fair beauty, to his/her boundless love and mercy, to his astounding generosity so freely and liberally given.

    To emphasise things like a crude literal interpretation of the book of Revelation with heaps of wrath and judgment, as they often do, seems to me to be so far away from the message of Jesus in the synoptic gospels, who befriended outcasts and welcomed them with open arms.

    I take the view that Jesus love was unconditional, self giving and others centred as well as inclusive. Often, the fundamentalist leadership is exclusive. e.g. neo-orthodox evengelicals would be rejected even if they live more Christ-like lives than many fundamentalists.

    Although wrath is real, I think Miroslav Volf is right when he says “God will judge, not because God gives people what they deserve, but because some people refuse to receive what no one deserves; if evil doers experience God’s terror, it will not be because they have done evil, but because they have resisted to the end the powerful lure of the open arms of the crucified Messiah” (Exclusion and Embrace, p298).

    Shalom,
    John Arthur

    l

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