Books

Leaving Fundamentalism

I am a bit stumped on how to write about this book Leaving Fundamentalism, which is edited by  G. Elijah Dann and published by Wilfred Laurier Unversity Press (2008). I have not read the book, it has been offered.
The internet being what it is, I landed at the Google book preview and didn’t stop until I got the the end. I would buy this book, and have not accepted the offer for a free copy. Since I was drawn into the preview I’d rather point it out now instead of waiting for a hard copy to arrive in the mailbox.

dannLeaving Fundamentalism is relevant to religious right alert readers for a couple of reasons.  Dunn’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. Dunn 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. As a Canadian, I am not culturally disengaged in the reading of the preview.

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. The ages of those telling their story in Leaving Fundamentalism range from 20′s to 70′s. 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. That’s surprising for a quick preview read.

Why do people embrace fundamentalism? What are they thinking and feeling? What happens to relationships? What holds adherents and what disillusions them? What are their gains and losses?  Leaving Fundamentalism gives some insight into those questions as each person tells their story.

I don’t know what made me click over to check out this book. The cover made me smile, I don’t equate fundamentalism with stained glass windows, I perceive the fundamentalist faithful as inhabiting a more black and white world. Politically and socially that may be true in the larger context of church and para-church organizations, what I think makes this book relevant to readers of this blog is the multi-coloured individual courage and relevance of those who tell their story.

You can take advantage of the Google preview for Leaving Fundamentalism off the Wilfred Laurier Press site.

Review:  Confessions of a Cultural Idiot
Author site: G. Elijah Dann
David L. Rattigan is one of the story tellers and his was the first essay I clicked to in the preview. I have read his writing online for years and have a lot of respect for his work. You can find some of his writing at Leaving Fundamentalism and Ex-Gay Watch.

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