Questioning faith, conscience and conviction

By on October 1, 2009

THE 16 essays collected in Leaving Fundamentalism: Personal Stories come from deeply thoughtful folk who have rejected the culture or teachings of fundamentalism.

Editor G. Elijah Dann, an author and academic who has taught at various Canadian universities, defines fundamentalism broadly, as “churches that insist on radical transformation from their members” (p. 12). This broad grouping of Catholic, charismatic, conservative and evangelical Christians embraces many orthodox expressions of the Christian faith, including my own. This book, then, is as much about the tensions between heterodox and orthodox expressions of faith as it is about “fundamentalism.” For this reason alone, the book ought to interest people in the Anglican Church, where these same tensions are at play.

[pullquote]These stories also raise troubling questions about the nature of faith, conscience and conviction. How can adults yield to a religious experience that they later doubt and reject? How does this happen? And what is a genuine encounter with God?

Dann regards them collectively as journeys out of the shadows into the light. He describes his own experience in a fundamentalist community as “so much misguided, spiritual futility” (p. 207).

In contrast, my own upbringing in a conservative Christian church has served me well and I have not abandoned my childlike faith, even at 40. I questioned Dann’s triumphant closing note at the end about these painful excursions in faith: “Only by leaving fundamentalism will they regain the integrity and joy of their faith” (p. 222). I thought instead of the parable of the sower, whose seed grows a while and dies. Had they heard the still, small voice of God or something else?

Rachael Brighton worships with her husband and three sons at St. James Anglican Church in Bridgetown, N.S. She is editor of Coastlands: The Maritimes Policy Review, and is pursuing her M.A. (Theology) at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, N.S.

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