Fundamentalist Christians demonstrate a fascination with “the end times.” This observation is helped in that the claims made about when the “rapture” or the end of the world takes place are broadcast in the TV, tabloid and internet media. The picture a non-fundamentalist receives is that of a people who want destruction and evil to abound so that God’s judgement of unbelievers and reward of believers may arrive. And so fundamentalism is characterized by anti-intellectualism (only the Bible tells the true origins of man), anti-civilization (destruction, mayhem, and anarchy), and anti-life (this world is evil). Why? Because this is the picture some fundamentalist leaders give.
Christianity suffers from this caricature of our beliefs. Who wants to be a part of such a movement unless he or she is some kind of flake, nut, or terrorist in training? The situation is even made worse when the people who hold such beliefs and want to enforce them on everyone else (dominionist doctrine) have the chutzpah to claim when they are opposed that “christians” are being persecuted. These are the reasons 90% of the US population believes in God while only 20% regularly attend church.
This writer is fed up with these stats and arguments. Like Madeline L’Engle, I believe “the fundamentals” should be redefined as the virtues of God – faith, hope, and love. Compassion, empathy, altruism, grace and other fruit of the Spirit are the values by which the church should live. I often argue that the Ten Commandments – a very well thought out list of how a community can live together before God – is merely the beginning of christian living. The beatitudes are goals that embody the values of Jesus. These eight (some say nine) statements in Matthew 5-7 and the parallel statements in Luke 6 must become the new fundamentals if the faith continues to grow.
Acts 3 gives us a truer statement of vision of “the end times” for the Jesus’ believers and followers. We repent and turn so that a true restoration of all things may come about in this world. Heaven and Earth meet and each is renewed by the interconnection of the two. Christians should not seek the death of our world so a glorious new one may come. We should be working as hard as we can for the renewal of this one. This renewal was why Jesus died. It is the work that God the Spirit is doing now. Let’s join in it where ever we can.