Fundamentalism erases people.
I’ve watched as men once alive with ideas and passion surrender their curiosity and intellectual integrity to conform to the ideological boundaries that will let them keep their jobs.
I’ve seen women literally shrink—a pound at a time, a dream at a time—as they conform their bodies and their spirits to a strict ideal, as they try to make themselves acceptably small.
I’ve seen the light go out in people’s eyes when they decide it’s safer to embrace a doctrine or a policy that their gut tells them is wrong than it is to challenge those who say it’s right.
I’ve watched open minds close and tender hearts harden.
I’ve seen people pretend to believe things they don’t actually believe and do things they don’t actually want to do, all in the name of conformity to God’s will, all in the name of sacrifice and submission.
Fundamentalism erases people. It erases their joy, their compassion, their instincts, their curiosity, their passion, their selves. And then it celebrates this ghosting, this nulling and numbing, as a glorious “dying to the self,” just like Jesus demanded.
But is this really what Jesus asked?
Is this really the sort of fasting God demands?
Or is it to loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, and set the oppressed free,
to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh,
to have life and have it abundantly,
to proclaim freedom for prisoners and sight to the blind,
to cast out fear,
to find rest,
You see, Jesus never asks us to die without promising us resurrection. Resurrection is the whole point!
The selves we die to are the fearful selves, the sinful selves, the imprisoned selves. The selves we rise to are the free selves, the life-filled selves, the brave selves, the whole selves, the Christ-like selves.
Ultimately, we are not called to die. We are called to live.
As Paul told the Romans, “What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection… God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master” (Romans 6:7, 23, The Message).
And later: “I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13, The Message)
If we are animated by the spirit of Jesus, we have nothing to fear.
There is no need to shrink.
No need to pretend.
No need to check out intellectually or emotionally.
No need to disengage out of fear.
No need to conform to anyone’s will but Christ’s.
God doesn’t want to erase us. God wants to bring us back to life.
So take this gift of life...
Eat it, drink it, and breathe it in.
Taste and see that the Lord is good and you are alive.
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