Category Archives: Fundamentalism

sectarian; Christian;

“How Shall We Then Live?”

For many years, this writer has been alluding to having been raised by a sect of Christian Fundamentalists. Most of the time, the context has been apologetic, or in the form of some excuse for alarming or curious reactions to life events. Almost assuming others are looking on with cocked eye or raised eyebrow, I have felt the need to explain why it is that I respond differently to just about everything.

Enter the coronavirus pandemic.

At first sign, I was sure we were in for a radical change in our social and professional landscape. Most thought me purely reactionary, alarmist, then sensationalist. Some laughed, handing me their version of a tin foil hat.

All this proved true but, by the time such reality was manifesting, my prophetic cries were muffled by dictae from the voices of hastily appointed if frequently shifting actual authority.

What ultimately ensued is still affecting everyone, today; yet, the ones out front sounding the call are still pushed aside in favor of some vaguely gathered general consensus by those firmly planted in the middle of the collective scope of reference.

You won’t find me among these. Why?

Because I was raised by a sect of Christian Fundamentalists.

What distinguishes me, and those of my ilk?

First, we view the world through firmly entrenched dependence on the black and white lens. It’s in our cells; we can’t – without excruciating, conscious effort – escape it. We see things from an all or nothing perspective; one is either saved or lost, bound or free, right or wrong.

And, this informs our judgments. When things happen outside of our deliberate action, we must immediately evaluate according to a moral paradigm. “Whatsoever things are true….honest….of good report……” Is there truth, inherent? Is there candor? Is the source trustworthy? Are the instructions clear, and appropriate? And, based on all of the above, what should our course of action then be?

But, it doesn’t end there.

Like most students of the Scriptures, we dig. Deeply. We read, and listen, and consider. We check references. We constantly ask of these: where is your evidence? From whom do you derive your data? No alleged, or self imposed, authority bends our knee. Having been taught to believe that the devil appears as an angel of light, we peel back face value to find what may be hiding behind.

Once we have made all of the determinations outlined above, we are compelled to act. And, act we do, but in a manner which some might term beyond earnest.

It’s called zeal. We don’t just decide, for ourselves. We stand, on the proverbial corner, and preach.

That comes from having been told to do so. “Go ye, into all the world, and preach the gospel to every tongue, people, nation…..” To us, there are no limits to either our scope or sphere of influence. We must tell it, on the mountain, to all.

So, the next time you find yourself recoiling at yet another declaration on social media which doesn’t quite align with that which you and your milieu have come to accept as true, stop. Look. Lean in. Take a moment, or more, and really investigate what is being presented. And, if it’s coming from me or somebody else so inclined, you might find yourself enduring a shift. Don’t let that frighten you. Many call this growth, and most celebrate its worth.

When you do, you may notice a certain kind of clarity of purpose forming. And, this will drive your action toward decisions which bring an even deeper peace. You will have developed a plan for living which no longer depends on following what just seems like an acceptable path presented by those with either the loudest or most pervasive voices; rather, you will have carved one for yourself, from the inside out, and nobody will be able to take that from you.

We in the Plymouth Brethren were taught that this source was the Spirit of God, and the gift given: discernment. I can’t prove the presence of such a Spirit. I have no hard data, on that. What I do have is a driving force, that comes from the center of my cellular nuclei, which moves me to both think, look, listen, read, compare, contrast, verify, contemplate, and then act. And, for that, I make no apology at all.

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Quote footnotes: “How Shall We Then Live?” – Francis Schaeffer; “Go ye into all the world…” Mark 16:15; “Whatsoever things are true…..” Philippians 4:8.

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© 10/1/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole, including translation and screen shot, permitted without signed written permission of the author. Sharing permitted by blog link, exclusively. Thank you for representing the higher standard.

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My Christmas Card List.

When Mum found out she was terminally ill, I remember her smile of resignation as she looked from one to the other of us, sitting there on the front porch, together, nearly all of us in the family. It was almost apologetic, as if somehow she’d disappointed each of us by not getting the “good” diagnosis. That was Mum, always determined to do the right thing, the acceptable thing, the thing which was expected.

But, then she set about, to plan, as plan she would whenever anything presented to be addressed. With a noticeable sense of urgency, her ability to verbally communicate rapidly deteriorating, she insisted on finding [managing to get me to find] her box of Christmas cards. In methodical if repetitive silence, she flipped through them all, searching for names and their addresses. Since organized thought was diminishing with the tumor’s encroachment, this was a trying task. She enlisted me, yet again, haltingly explaining that she needed to “let everybody know.” I would compose a letter, to copy and send out to everyone on her list. These were the people who meant the most, who would care to know; these were those whom she loved.

Most everyone I knew who still sent out Christmas cards did so dutifully; there were endless, extended family and both present and former coworkers, that end of year stock taking of those still considered part of the relevant realm. But, to Mum, the list was precious; these were her dearest friends.

In her world, actually spending time with others just for fun had to take a back seat to the needs of the family. Dad had his shop; he could never leave his haircuts. There was no time in a given year to travel – except for that one week in August, south of town to the college campus about 90 minutes away where everybody on her Christmas card list would convene for seven full days of heavenly Christian fellowship.

These were people she’d known, together with all the cousins out east, since childhood. They’d kept in touch every year, for the entirety of their lives. Most had married, raising children who would represent inter-familial connections from within the fellowship. They were all joined at the heart.

Or, at least, Mum thought they were. She carried them all in her mind, as she sat every day at the sewing machine, revisiting any number of brief encounters across the whole of her life. Her thoughts devoted to every detail of a vivid recall, so each person would materialize in her memory. It was inside her head that she would sustain her relationships with each of them, tucking her favorites into their own corners for reference as they came into the frame of her story.

I’d sat, perusing the list we’d gathered. Many of them were totally unknown to me; surely, I had never met these, at all. Some were familiar, among the few ministers who would visit yearly with their wives; still others just names I’d heard spoken over the phone, in conversation with a sister or two. Mostly, had we ever actually seen these people cross the threshold of the front stoop, our house would have been filled every week to flowing with the glow and glitter of live laughter, of real life interchange. I was certain, sitting there next to Mum in the chair beside her bed, that they’d all have felt her love just as much as she did without them present in the room.

But, they hadn’t been, and they weren’t, and now she was about to die without them. She would send my letter, and some would call. Most would send cards, and set reminders to order flowers. But, she would know them, well, as well they ever could have been known, with a kind of devotion unseen and unspoken. And, every Christmas thereafter, maybe she would occur to them, and they would finally know.

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I was the second born, the love child of a reunion marriage. Often, I’ve been known to declare myself the embodiment of both my parents’ strongest and weakest traits. Among these, I bear Mum’s willingness to love from afar, her inability to materialize relationships, her life of wistful imaginings. If you are on my Friend list, I carry you in my heart. Whether we live or whether we die, you will have been loved, if only by me.

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© 3/11/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting, in whole and part, the entirety of this story – by leaving its contents intact and untranslated. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively. Thanks, again.

THE SAVIOUR.

The Saviour.

Every time I’d stood out on the sidewalk in front of the Gospel Assembly Hall as a child, during that short break between Morning Worship and Sunday School, watching the ladies walking to Holy Rosary in their pointed high heels and lace mantillas and thinking about them all going to Hell if they didn’t accept Jesus, I’d always felt a sharp distinction between myself and everyone who hadn’t.

For those who were raising their children to be non-denominational, sectarian Protestant such distinction was essential to the tenets of a real Christian as they defined one. It wouldn’t even matter when, at the cusp of adolescence, I questioned the validity of all of it including the existence of God; what mattered was that I had, at age 6, confessed my sins in prayer before witnesses and accepted Jesus into my heart to be my Personal Saviour. This sealed my eternal security, in spite of a latent and ever increasing lack of faith, for as long as forever could be perceived by any human.

The reason, if rational thought was to be factored into any aspect of this mystical process, for specifically confessing and accepting and acknowledging Jesus as Personal Saviour was based upon one otherwise universally Christian, core belief: original sin. People were born at enmity with their Creator, inheriting Adam and Eve’s taint, and could not win the everlasting favor of God Almighty lest they repent and fall at the feet of Jesus as he hung on Calvary’s cross. And, it wasn’t even the act of His crucifixion which would ultimately redeem us, but the fact that Jesus was none other than the only begotten, Holy, Son of God. No other living being was sinless, inherently worthy to offer up His very body as the supreme sacrifice for each of us.

Now, even though Christendom has evolved to produce as many variations on this theme as there are letters in the arabic alphabet*, one fundamental feature is universally declared: Christ’s Holiness.

Infallibility. Jesus could be our Saviour only because he was sinlessly perfect, God’s Son; no other, however bloody, however wrought, could satisfy God’s requirement for atonement. Only Christ, the perfect pearl of great price, would suffice.

Throughout my life, I have never met a Christian by any moniker who didn’t honor Christ’s infallible holiness. Debate may have raged over the Trinity (separating Seventh Day Adventists from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Way International from all other cults); many a scholar at Bible Study may have elegantly argued the nature of Christ’s relationship to His Father; but, none disputed He Who was without sin as the only qualified Redeemer. For every Christian, Jesus was the one and only choice to save humankind from eternal condemnation.

And so, it is from this moment in my memory that I come careening up to the present. The world spins, nations rise against nation, and America faces the singular choice which determines its redemptive future. According to God’s Holy ordinance, much about life meets with these dispensations in time; for Americans, all religion aside, the state calls every citizen to its own altar. As free as every person created by God is to choose acceptance or rejection, every member of America’s democracy holds the inalienable right to place its vote for a worthy leader. Holiness ever elusive among mere mortals each one is nevertheless free to determine which, among candidates deemed qualified to stand up to the call, is the better choice.

Given the ravages of the infectious disease which has slain hundreds of thousands in a matter of months, to me this election feels urgent. But, I appeal to everyone who has ever identified with being Christian: would you put your soul’s eternal security in the hands of a deceptive, corrupt mortal? Then, how can you hold up a man who has committed multiple documented transactional acts of usury against men and women of every persuasion? How can you in devout conscience elect one whom Christ Himself would, as he did with the money changers, throw out of the Temple?

As Christ was brought before Pontius Pilate to be tried, the people were given a choice between two who had been held. Barabbas was a known criminal; Jesus had committed no legal offense. Yet, the mob demanded that Jesus be crucified, clamoring that Barabbas be released. They, in effect, cast their public vote — choosing a known criminal.

Are you a part of this mob?

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* https://littlebarefeetblog.com/2016/11/07/evolution-and-christians-of-the-alphabetical-order/

© 9/8/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

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