Well, I’ll tell you what they’re afraid of. At least in terms of the beliefs of Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, one of which I used to be.
They are most afraid of believers and even unbelievers coming into a proper relationship with Jesus Christ, instead of into the relationship with the Bible in which they themselves find their own security.
And this is extremely ironic, because it is the avowed intention of Fundie Christians to introduce the whole world to Jesus, in line with the ‘Great Commission’ in Matthew 28:19-20. Sadly, though, what usually happens is that there’s a ‘bait-and-switch’ where they advertise Jesus (albeit not very well) and then once their unfortunate victims ‘buy into’ Jesus, they find out – once they have their feet under the table – that the package they have just opened does not contain Jesus after all, but instead that same dusty old Bible along with a list of rules, expectations, prohibitions and whatnot.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” – Mt 23:15
And, of course, that package also contains the ‘dire warning’ that this group has all the correct answers, and, if the new adherent listens to anyone else, reads the wrong books, or breaks any number of unwritten, tacitly assumed Rules, then oh guess what, it’s the same old, same old, fear-based threat of the fiery pit for you. In short, they are afraid of anyone else demonstrating that there is Life outside their little bubble, because that would introduce fatal flaws into their closely held belief structure. They are the only ones who are right, after all. Which is about as much cultic behaviour as it gets. No wonder they are afraid of the real Jesus. No cult wants anyone else to be in charge except their leadership.
And so, most of the foul treatment of others, that Fundie Christians are so well-known for, flows from this exclusive and toxic belief structure, and the need to protect it.
Because, lets make no bones about it, they have a set interpretation of the Bible, and therefore they have a formula – that everything pertaining to life is in their Rulebook – and once you have a formula, you don’t need God. They would deny this, of course, but when you really dig deep, almost the entire reliance is placed on the Bible and not on Jesus. There is more irony there: the Bible does not itself claim such an elevated position. But when it boils down to it, the Bible is seen as being more reliable than our own Relationship with Jesus.
To be fair, not all Fundie Christians are like that. But their underlying belief structures, about the depravity of humanity, ‘original sin’, hellfire and damnation, judgment, and policing others’ morals, are pretty similar across all the groups who would identify as Fundamentalist; it’s just they express it differently, either more or less overtly but still present. Like I said, I know whereof I speak, because I too used to think like that.
Anyhow, here’s Keith Giles, one of the presenters of the Heretic Happy Hour podcast, with some ideas on why Fundies try to keep Jesus bound up in their Rulebook and don’t want to let Him out. This passage is reproduced with Keith’s kind permission:
…’What if the Word of God is more than a book?’ and ‘What if I can hear the voice of God directly, without any help from my pastor, or the Bible?’
These are challenging questions, I know. But, I believe the Scriptures themselves reveal the answers to these questions, and that what we find might surprise you.
Honestly, I am becoming convinced that the Bible is intended to teach us that the Word of God became flesh, lived among us, revealed the Father to us and now lives within every single follower of Christ at this very moment.
Not only do the Scriptures point us to Jesus, but they place Him alone at the center of everything. Jesus, and only Jesus, defines for us who God is, what God is like, and what our lives should look like as a result of that revelation.
This, I believe with all of my heart, is what Christians today need most to understand about their faith.
The ironic thing is that some of us have made the Bible an idol. We worship it. We attribute characteristics to it that should only be said of Christ.
It’s as if the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us and we have very quickly put Him back into a book again. Why? Because if the Word of God is in a book, we can manipulate, and control, and distance ourselves from Him.
Or, to put it another way: If the Word of God is alive within each and every one of us, then that means we don’t need Christian pastors and teachers to explain God to us.
Quite frankly, Christians today are terrified of trusting the average person with the Spirit of the Living God. We don’t really believe that the Holy Spirit within every believer can actually lead us into all truth. We doubt that His sheep can really hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. We are nervous about unleashing the Divine among the common Christian community without guard rails.
What are we so afraid of? Is it any different from when the Children of Israel drew back from the Pillar of Fire or the Cloud that spoke to them directly in the wilderness? Isn’t it exactly the same as when God’s people demanded a King like all the other nations and rejected God as their direct ruler? We are always seeking to put mediators and mouthpieces between ourselves and God. But God is always the One who seeks to draw near to us, to place His Spirit within us, to make His home with us and to speak directly to us as a Father speaks to His own child.
My hope with this book [link below – Ed] is to provide a fresh revelation of Christ to you and to point out how we sometimes allow good things—even the Bible—to stand between us and Him. In short, I want a Christianity that looks a lot more like Jesus.
Either our Christian faith is Christ-centered, or it is not worthy of being called “Christianity” and we should not be called “Christians.”
– Keith Giles. Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible (Kindle Locations 171-193). Quoir. Kindle Edition.
Superb. I suppose that anyone who has managed to read this far is not one of the people that Keith talks about. But if you are, and you have, then please have a good think about it.
This way lies Life!
P.S. Yes, I do believe that the bloke in the header picture is, actually, a real vampire. Yes indeed.
[Author’s Note – This piece is part of my ‘Dark Night’ series because it contains insights I have managed to crystallise only because I am currently going through a Dark Night of the Soul. For more information on this idea, please see my series on the Stages of Spiritual Growth, here.]