It occurs to me that I might be able to shed a bit of light on some of the dark and impenetrable mysteries that occasionally issue from the febrile minds of Christian fundamentalists. The reason I’m in a position to do so is that I was once just like them: a Bible-totin,’ Scripture-quotin’ True Believer™.
I had the grotesque misfortune of being spawned by impoverished, uneducated teenage parents whose families had always “belonged to” the Missionary Baptist Church. That church was their default position both socially and intellectually, and they inflicted it on their children. (Actually, they would scold me for misrepresenting them; Missionary Baptists harbor the novel idea that there is no “Church” – there are only “churches.” I won’t bother to try to explain the significance of that abstruse theological notion here.) That’s as bedrock fundamentalist as it gets. Missionary Baptists pride themselves on an absolutely unalloyed, never-to-be-examined-or-questioned embrace of the Blessed Old Leather-Bound Bible, our operator’s manual for life, every word of which is absolutely, unfailingly true from cover to cover.
My embrace of the Bible was as ardent as anyone’s: I was as convinced as any fundamentalist you’ve ever met on Facebook or on Main Street that the Holy Bible – preferably the King James Version – is the very Word of the Almighty. I therefore saw atheists as just as dangerous and hellbound – and homosexuals as just as disgusting and abominable – as they do: children necessarily adopt the attitudes of the authority figures in their lives. If they’re lucky – as I was – they later outgrow those attitudes. For those cursed with a modicum of native curiosity, such a belief eventually becomes a powerful incentive to actually read the damn thing, and that’s where some people get into trouble and end up losing their faith. Most either don’t read it, or read it with a special kind of selectivity backed by a scheme of interpretation that I want to talk about here. (NonStampCollector’s excellent “Context!!!!!!” barely scratches the surface: what follows is what lies beneath.)