UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Leaving Fundamentalism: Personal Stories

Thoughtful essays about the experiences of those who have abandoned conservative Christianity

By Lee Simpson

Leaving Fundamentalism:
Personal Stories
By G. Elijah Dann
(Wilfrid Laurier University Press) $24.95

The subtitle says it all: Personal Stories. These essays give voice to years spent in the thrall of North American Christian fundamentalism and the pain of breaking away. G. Elijah Dann includes the experiences of those who have left denominations ranging from Catholic charismatics to the Church of the Nazarene and from Southern U.S. Baptist to the Canadian Alliance church, among others. This is a Canadian book: as our citizens have come from many lands, so have our Christians come from many churches.

As one whose exposure to the more egregious expressions of fundamentalism was limited to one summer at a Pentecostal vacation Bible school where I was (briefly) “born again,” I confess I found this a harrowing read. Even conservative United Church congregations will likely be deeply shocked at the unquestioning acceptance of dubious theology demanded of followers. And demanded is the word: followers are shunned for questioning, cut off from friends and family for expressing even a single doubt.

Each story follows a different path; many have similar rhythms. Some note the hypocrisy of pastors who dissemble and deceive to maintain congregations. Youth is allergic to hypocrisy, and a fundamentalist upbringing often lapses in university. A number of essays feature those who were on their way to ministry when liberal theology knocked them off course. It was the first time that questions about faith were permitted.

Other stories depict crises of faith provoked by issues of gender orientation, marriage outside the faith and illness. Dann’s own story is a must-read, and answers the question, why this book?

Do not skip Dann’s introductory essay, an excellent definition of contemporary Christian fundamentalism. It also summarizes the movement’s political clout — this is particularly useful as we approach a U.S. election.

Why should you read this book? It will affirm adherence to the United Church and help us reach out to those whose religious experience has not included open discussions of faith issues. It may also remind you that taking the pulse of one’s faith family is a healthy and vital process. 

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Culture

Indigenous actor and singer Tom Jackson has named his annual Christmas charity concert after the song. (Photo: Craig Koshyk)

6 must-hear recordings of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

From a beloved version by Tom Jackson to one translated into Mi’kmaw, Jesous Ahatonnia has been adapted in many creative ways over the years.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

Why we pay our interns a fair wage

by Jocelyn Bell

But $15 an hour is only a small step in the right direction.

Promotional Image

Video

Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image

Faith

December 2018

The complex history of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

A product of 17th-century Jesuit missionaries, the popular hymn was written to introduce the Wendat people to Christianity. The Observer explores its troubled origins and continued use today.

Columns

November 2018

Christians should stop using God to sanctify adoption

by Jackie Gillard

This adoptive mom writes that she's frustrated by the common evangelical Christian message that adoption is always the best outcome for a child.

Columns

November 2018

Christmas music was meaningless to me, so I started listening to this instead

by Paul Fraumeni

Tunes about snow and chestnuts and silent nights didn't bring the power of the holiday home to this writer, so he found a new soundtrack.

Promotional Image