Yesterday I was admonished to "stay the course of my upbringing" in regards to a particular religious matter. After prayerfully sleeping on the indictment, I was moved to offer this description of what it was exactly that I was taught in my youth, how my life today is different, and why I maintain an Evangelical World-view while rejecting Religious Fundamentalism as my guiding principal of who God is.
I was born and raised in The Church of Christ. They are evangelical fundamentalists and are not charismatic. They strongly believe in the restoration of The First Century Church and base their beliefs upon their literal interpretation of the King James Bible (they contend all other versions are "watered down" and therefore not authoritative). Adherents are taught to dig deeply into Scripture for Truth. My mother taught me how to study with a Greek-interlinear bible, so I could examine New Testament truths in the original tongue. My copy of Strong's Concordance of The Bible gets heavy use in my biblical research, even to this day. In The Church of Christ, I was taught to ever be a Student, to reject the teachings of men, and to hold fast to The Word of God.
They also teach, and I believed, that only people from The Church of Christ will get into Heaven. No Pentecostals, no Baptists, no Catholics. Just folks from The Church of Christ and the actual first century christians. They come upon this honestly, by their application of Rev 22:18,19. They don't believe Peter, Paul, or John rocked a guitar or organ in their first century worship service, so if you do rock a guitar or organ in your worship service, you are adding to The Book, and that's a damnable offense. There are a few other things that disqualify other denominations from Heaven, to include not observing the Lord's Supper every Sunday, allowing women to hold positions of authority, and not having the correct "Last Days" beliefs, among others. I was taught that The Church of Christ is right and everyone else is wrong.
That is how I was raised.
Then the Navy took me far far away from small town Oklahoma. Out of rural poverty, out of a Conservative State, out of the Bible Belt, out of America. I saw what Christianity looked like and how God works and moves in places like Africa, Spain, Germany, and Italy. God used the Navy to teach me more about human nature, and in his infinite mercy, he revealed to me through the Holy Spirit a more perfect understanding of what Love really is.
Today I weekly welcome atheists, homosexuals, alcoholics, people with drug problems, people with pornography problems, people with anger and jealousy problems, people that follow the way of Islam, followers of Judaism, Pagans and others, into my home to dine with me at my table, although usually we just refer to each other as "Friends." Before we eat, as a rule, I offer thanksgiving to God Our Father for our food and for our lives. I have never once had a friend object or take issue with this practice. After dinner we fellowship and talk about our experiences in life, often my wife and I share what God has done for us, His providence and protection. It is here that God uses me as a tool for the furtherance of His Good Works. It is here that I share in the struggles and celebrate in the victories of other Humans, who though they are different than me, were also created in the image of the Father. It is here I attempt, with God providing the power, to evidence to Others what a self-sacrificing, other-focused, God-centered life, is. A Christ-follower's life should be attractive to others: humble, confident, forgiving, loving. This is how God uses me to send Jesus's call to the Unbeliever.
I am but a mere mortal. And though God chose to make me an intellectual, my intelligence cannot come close to understanding the full breadth and depth of The Creator and His Mysteries. As such, I have no place to judge the "correctness" of the Fundamentalist's understanding of God. I do know that Good Fruit comes from Good Trees and that there is no Ugliness in Perfection. Though I don't see eye to eye with the Fundamentalist, and though aspects of my Christ-Following-Life may come up short by his standard and understanding, I still believe we are on the same team. Eph 4:1-7
My name is Woody, and I am a Christ-follower. I am not a Baptist, a Catholic, or a Pentecostal. I am not a Church-of-Christ'er. Rather, I have been called out of The World to be A Peculiar Person and to follow the path God has laid before me. I am about My Father's business. Join me.