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Leaving Fundamentalism - Personal Stories

Leaving Fundamentalism

Personal Stories

Edited by G. Elijah Dann
Subjects Life Writing, Biography And Autobiography, Religion
Series Life Writing Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554580262, 246 pages, May 2008

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Leaving Fundamentalism: Personal Stories, edited by G. Elijah Dann

Foreword | Thomas Moore

Acknowledgements

 

An Introduction to Christian Fundamentalism | G. Elijah Dann

Rapture, Community, and Individualist Hope | Joseph Simons

From There to Here | L.A. Livingston

Fantastic Voyage: Surviving Charismatic Fundamentalism | David L. Rattigan

My Mother, My Church | Margaret Steel Farrell

The Ministry Revisited | Keith Dixon

Looking Back at Sodom: My Evangelical and Lesbian Testimonies | Julie Rak

The Slippery Slope of Theology | Jeffrey W. Robbins

Life Stages | Jacob Shelley

“More Catholic Than Thou”: One Man's Journey Through Roman Catholic Fundamentalism | Andrea Lorenzo Molinari

Inching Along | Beverley Bryant

From Fear to Faith: My Journey into Evangelical Humanism | Glenn A. Robitaille

The Jesus Lizard | James Fieser

“Are You a ‘Real’ Christian”? | Leia Minaker

The Naked Empress, Queen of Fundamentalism | Anonymous

Confessions of an Ex-Fundamentalist | G. Elijah Dann

 

Contributors

Beverley Bryant has a lifetime of experience both within and without the evangelical community. A registered nurse by profession, she spent two years doing part-time work toward her master’s degree in divinity before completing her master of education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto. She is working on a novel that’s still in its early stages and spends time reading, critiquing, and enjoying the work of fellow writers in her writing group. With her partner she lives in Mississauga, Ontario, where she works, practises karate, and enjoys the challenges of raising teenagers.

G. Elijah Dann received the PhD in Philosophy from the University of Waterloo, and the doctorat en théologie from the Université de Strasbourg, France. He is co-author of Philosophy: A New Introduction (Wadsworth Press, 2005), and author of After Rorty: The Possibilities for Ethics and Religious Belief (Continuum Press, 2006). He has taught in departments of religion, philosophy, and health sciences for universities in southern Ontario, most recently as lecturer for the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is currently Visiting Research Fellow for the Centre for Studies in Religion and Culture at the University of Victoria.

Overwhelmed by a mystical experience at the age of twenty, Keith Dixon took it to be a call to the ministry. Theological training gave him skills as a clergyman, but the primal experience remained a mystery. He lasted five years before abandoning his congregation and his ordination. Doubting basic Christian teachings, he declared himself agnostic. Denial eventually melted into the exploration of psychic phenomena, gurus, shamanism, and meditation. Buddhism’s world view most closely matched his experience. He took Refuge but chafed at some of the rigidity in Buddhist practice. The mystery of fifty years ago remains unsolved for him, but the subsequent journey has taught him an openness that permits a new respect for what he cast aside.

James Fieser is a professor of philosophy at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He received his BA from Berea College (1980) and his MA and PhD from Purdue University’s Department of Philosophy (1983, 1986). After teaching briefly at the University of Rio Grand and Christopher Newport University, he arrived at UT Martin in 1993. He is author, co-author, and editor of seven textbooks, including Moral Philosophy through the Ages (McGraw-Hill, 2001) and Philosophical Questions (Oxford University Press, 2005). He edited the ten-volume Early Responses to Hume (Thoemmes Press, 1999–2003) and has published articles on various ethical topics. He is founder and general editor of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy website, at http://www.iep.utm.edu.

Lori-Ann Livingston wanted to be two things when she was eleven: a jockey and a writer. The first was achieved by riding her arthritic pony, the second is still her passion. She currently works as a communications and marketing associate for the City of Kitchener. Previously a journalist in Canada and the UK, she wrote for a national Irish weekly newspaper and British music and religious publications. She is also the executive director of Latitudes Storytelling Festival, a festival of diversity and stories. She lives in Kitchener with her Irish husband, preschooler son, baby daughter, and a dog named Sally.

Leia Minaker grew up in southern Ontario, the second child and eldest of four girls in a family of seven. She recently moved to Edmonton with her husband to pursue her master’s degree in health promotion at the University of Alberta. She enjoys her program and hopes to follow her master’s with a PhD in health studies. Leia is particularly passionate about social equality, economic and environmental justice, and policies that promote population health. In her limited free time, Leia enjoys camping, running, discussion with friends, reading, and spending time with her husband.

Andrea Lorenzo Molinari is the president of Blessed Edmund Rice School for Pastoral Ministry, a satellite of Barry University, in Miami, Florida.He received his PhD from Marquette University (New Testament and Early Christianity, 1996). He is author of three books: The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles (NHC 6.1) (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2000); ‘I never knew the man’: The Coptic Act of Peter (Papyrus Berolinensis 8502.4) (Paris: Éditions Peeters, 2000); and Climbing the Dragon’s Ladder: The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2006). In addition, he has published numerous articles related to early Christianity.

Julie Rak is an associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. She is the author of Negotiated Memory: Doukhobor Autobiographical Discourse (UBC Press, 2004) and the editor of Auto/biography in Canada: Critical Directions (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005). With Jeremy Popkin, she edited a collection of essays by Philippe LeJeune, On Diary (University of Hawaii Press, 2008), and with Andrew Gow she edited Mountain Masculinity: The Life and Writing of Nello “Tex” Vernon-Wood, 1911–1938 (University of Athabasca Press, 2008). She is writing a book about popular autobiography in North America.

David L. Rattigan was born in Vancouver, BC, and grew up in Liverpool, England, where he now lives and works as a freelance writer. He has a degree in theology from the University of Manchester and is a qualified teacher of secondary religious education. Dave is passionately involved in local arts and music, and has been an active member of his local Anglican parish since returning to Liverpool in 2003. In 2005 he founded LeavingFundamentalism.org, an online resource “for surviving the journey out of conservative Christianity.” Another major interest is film, particularly British horror of the 1950s and ‘60s, and he enjoys an occasional foray into linguistics.

Jeffrey W. Robbins teaches religion and philosophy at Lebanon Valley College in central Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife and two children. He received his BA from Baylor University, a M.Div. from Texas Christian University, and a PhD in religion from Syracuse University.He is the author of two books in philosophical theology, Between Faith and Thought: An Essay on the Ontotheological Condition (2003) and In Search of a Non-Dogmatic Theology (2004). He is the editor of After the Death of God (2007) and The Sleeping Giant Has Awoken (2008).

Glenn A. Robitaille was raised Roman Catholic and ordained through the Brethren in Christ Church. Early on he abandoned dogmatic theology and moved to a more inclusive, multifaith perspective. He received his master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Ashland Theological Seminary and Vision International University, respectively. He is a pioneer in the field of Internet-based counselling and a successful church planter. Glenn is a contributing author in the book A Peace Reader (Evangel Press, 2002), and has published regularly in various magazines and journals. A father of five, he resides in Midland, Ontario, with his wife, Debra.

Jacob J. Shelley was born a fourth-generation Pentecostal into a family of pastors past and present. His father was a pastor, and several of his brothers will likely pursue a life in the ministry. For many years he thought that he too would be a pastor, but instead he entered the world of academia. He has completed a BA in religious studies and a master’s in theological studies. Although currently in law school, he aspires to complete a PhD. He currently resides in Edmonton with his wife.

Joseph Simons became an evangelical Christian as an adult, abandoning the Roman Catholic practice of his parents. After a long recovery from a nearly fatal accident, he went to bible college. Upon graduation he did not become a pastor but worked at various jobs—including truck driver and group-home counsellor—before moving into writing fiction. He is the author of the novel Under a Living Sky. He works with special-needs children in a Catholic junior high school and attends an Anglican cathedral—the pipe organ being the main draw. He believes in generous-hearted communities, whatever the creed, and values beauty found and goodness lived in a precarious world.

After obtaining a degree in English from the University of Waterloo, Margaret Steel Farrell began her career in corporate writing, where she focused primarily on employee communications and marketing in the financial services industry. She is a freelance writer in addition to her 9-to-5, belongs to a local writing group, and recently edited her aunts memoir of life in southwestern Ontario in the 1930s. With her son, Margaret lives in Kitchener, Ontario, where, in addition to writing, she enjoys creative pursuits such as dance and voice-over work for local radio commercials.

Description

In a time when religious conservatives have placed their faith and values at the forefront of the so-called “culture wars,” this book is extremely relevant. The stories in Leaving Fundamentalism provide a personal and intimate look behind sermons, religious services, and church life, and promote an understanding of those who have been deeply involved in the conservative Christian church. These autobiographies come from within the congregations and homes of religious fundamentalists, where their highly idealized faith, in all its complexities and problems, meets the reality of everyday life. Told from the perspective of distance gained by leaving fundamentalism, each story gives the reader a snapshot of what it is like to go through the experiences, thoughts, feelings, passions, and pains that, for many of the writers, are still raw. Explaining how their lives might continue after fundamentalism, these writers offer a spiritual lifeline for others who may be questioning their faith.

Foreword by Thomas Moore

Awards

  • Short-listed, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, Religion Category 2008
  • Commended, Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose and Independent Books 2009

Reviews

``The repulsion expressed in some of these riveting accounts is strong. Yet several authors speak of happy childhoods, of loving parents and church friends, of great evangelical singing, and more; and they say that they miss elements in their fundamentalist pasts, while not missing those pasts. A major contribution of this collection is its evidence of diverse post-fundamentalist spiritual journeys. One author thinks that Jesus may have actually lived, but ‘he has long since been fashioned into an ideal by those seeking ideological tools’ (38). Another became a Roman Catholic theologican, another a philosophy professor, another a ‘liberal Anglican’ who is ‘an openly and unashamedly gay man’ (68). Several affirm a Christianity to complicated to explain briefly, and some are still seeking. For anyone interested in the nature of religious experience, these are fascinating accounts. Thought they do not tell us what keeps others in fundamentalism, they are frank, forthright, and often painful in explaining why some cannot do so.’

- Jacob H. Dorn, Anglican and Episcopal History, Vol. 81 (1), March 2012

``Who'd have thought a collection of stories about fundamentalism could be such a good read? Elijah Dann is not only a fine writer himself, but his ability to select compelling narratives by other ex-fundamentalists shows the acumen of a splendid editor.''

- Eric McCormack, novelist, author of The Dutch Wife

``Thoughtful essays about the experiences of those who have abandoned conservative Christianity.... Do not skip Dann's introductory essay, an excellent definition of contemporary Christian fundamentalism. It also summarizes the movement's political context--this is particularly useful as we approach a U.S. election. Why should you read this book? It will ... help us reach out to those whose religious experience has not included open discussions of faith issues.''

- Rev. Lee Simpson, United Church Observer, August 2008

``Leaving Fundamentalism is relevant to religious right alert readers for a couple of reasons. Dr. Dann's introduction to the first person stories of people who have left fundamentalism is a crisp and clear look at Evangelical and Catholic conservatism as we see it unfolding today. Linguistically and historically the reader is introduced to how we have arrived to where we are. Constantine, The Great Schism, the Reformation, Inquisition, colonization of the New World, naturalism, materialism, modernism, culture wars, and 9/11 are deftly explained. Dann throws light on how the term fundamentalism came to be seen in the late 20th century early 21st century as derogatory. He explains how the Scopes trial brought about a mid-century retreat of fundamentalists into a sub-culture of blue laws and how they re-emerged and re-branded themselves into the movements we see today. You don't need a natural curiousity of the history Christian faith to find yourself captivated.... This is not a scornful look at faith, it is an intensely human and respectful one. We are introduced to individuals who tell their own story, be they Catholic or Protestant. Their narratives have been blessed by a courteous and open editor. Complexity is not an enemy. I found myself struck by the emotions of the 11 authors.... Common themes of search, belonging, need, anxiety, loss, guilt and discomfort are expressed with raw honesty and I am left humbled, surprised, happy, sorrowful, more informed and wanting to learn more.''

- Religious Right Alert blog, March 7, 2010

``This book will enlighten ex-fundamentalists along with those having no experience in the movement.... [It] will give non-fundamentalists some astonishing insight into how otherwise rational, humane people might plunge into such an anti-rational, harsh world view, and why its so hard for them to escape. But for former fundamentalists, reliving their our own traumatic experiences through these stories, the understanding will go much deeper. We will think to ourselves, in relief and empathy, I was not alone.''

- Confessions of a Cultural Idiot Blog, February 2, 2009

``Fundamentalism, in its anxious search for inviolate truth, commands submission to a supposed objective and unmovable power outside of the mysteries of human fragility, struggle and wisdom. It is no friend of the poetry of authentic human story which searches the ways of truth through deep engagement within the realities of life. ``Leaving fundamentalism'' gives witness to the hard work of uncovering and embracing the mysterious and vulnerable truth of human story. The both frightening and lovely thing about ``leaving fundamentalism'' whatever the direction of the human and spiritual journey afterward, is that the leaving is an awakening to the pain, challenge and joy that comes as though one has finally been given permission to be fully human. This collection draws us into the beautiful complexities of individual journeys united in their liberating encounter with the mystery, ambiguity and poetry of life itself and is to be commended for the courage of its authors.''

- Eileen Scully (PhD), Coordinator for Ministry and Worship, The Anglican Church of Canada