Fleeing Fundamentalism: A Minister's Wife Examines Faith

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At a time when the distance between church and state is narrowing and the teaching of intelligent design is being proposed for our classrooms, it is startling and provocative to hear the reasoned voice of a dissident from inside the church. For Carlene Cross, arriving at this shift in belief was a long and torturous journey.

In Fleeing Fundamentalism, Cross looks back at the life that led her to marry a charismatic young man who appeared destined for greatness as a minister ...

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Overview


At a time when the distance between church and state is narrowing and the teaching of intelligent design is being proposed for our classrooms, it is startling and provocative to hear the reasoned voice of a dissident from inside the church. For Carlene Cross, arriving at this shift in belief was a long and torturous journey.

In Fleeing Fundamentalism, Cross looks back at the life that led her to marry a charismatic young man who appeared destined for greatness as a minister within the fundamentalist church. Their marriage, which began with great hope and promise, started to crumble when she realized that her husband had fallen victim to the same demons that had plagued his youth. When efforts to hold their family together failed, she left the church and the marriage, despite the condemnation of the congregation and the anger of many she had considered friends. Once outside, she realized that the secular world was not the seething cauldron of corruption and sin she had believed, and found herself questioning the underpinnings of the fundamentalist faith.

Here is an eloquent and compelling story of faith lost and regained. Certain to be controversial, it is also a brave and hopeful plea for greater tolerance and understanding.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The religion depicted in this absorbing memoir of falsehood and betrayal is fundamentalism gone berserk: it has turned into an inhuman, apocalyptic, darkly controlling force that reshuffles common sense, "jumbling all logic into madness." After indoctrination at a Bible college, Cross finds herself in a marriage from hell replete with abuse, addictions and mental illness. Her husband, a popular young pastor, uses religion to mask the alternate reality he has created, a netherworld that will potentially destroy not only his career but the entire family's safety and sanity. With the courage of a trapped animal, Cross reinvents her life, waiting tables and going on welfare in order to earn a degree and support her three children. For a time discarding God, the Bible and organized religion along with her malevolent husband, she eventually redefines spirituality as "a road of discovery-not of submission to a rulebook." Cross's brief summaries of Christian history are at best simplistic, and some readers will contend that the fundamentalism she portrays is an aberration, not the norm. Still, her heartfelt condemnation of public hypocrisy couldn't be more timely. In her ex-husband's own self-indicting words: "Isn't it ironic, a guy condemning sinful society and completely without a conscience himself?" (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Midwest farmer's daughter marries fundamentalist minister and confronts disillusionment in this brave memoir. As a girl in the late 1960s on her family's Montana farm, Cross (The Undying West, not reviewed) wanted desperately to live a more glamorous, urban life, "where people didn't have to wage war against the elements of nature and spoke with proper English." A preacher's visit to the farm lured her and her mother into a Protestant sect that taught that the Bible represented the exact words of God and Jesus was going to return to "rapture" faithful Christians to heaven. Instead of dreaming of travel to faraway places, young Carlene immersed herself in the Book of Revelation, and attended Big Sky Bible College; while there, she briefly served as a Bible teacher to an extremely isolated Hutterite colony and volunteered to hand out Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. Soon, she fell for college dreamboat David Brant, but she preserved her virginity until marriage. (In their case, sex turned out to not be worth waiting for.) Eventually, David was ordained and settled on a ministry at the Calvary Baptist Church in Seattle. He was a flamboyant and popular preacher, but his congregation had no idea that this father of three had a troubling obsession with pornography. He was also frequently away from home, which gave Carlene time to commiserate about her unsatisfying marriage with another unhappy wife. Susan proved to be a lifelong friend, supporting the author through the shame of scandal and divorce. Gradually, Cross got her life on track, found a job and went back to school. Now, she writes, she can recognize how the Bible has been grossly misinterpreted throughout history to gird murderousmissions. She tells her story in surprisingly jaunty prose, eloquent without self-pity. Describing life as a depressed single mother on welfare, for example, she notes, "I simply needed to muster the guts to embrace life's emptiness." A long, fraught journey into the light, chronicled with compassion and spirit.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565124981
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 10/6/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author


Carlene Cross lives in Seattle, where she has worked as a college counselor and a producer for public television. She is the author of a previous work of nonfiction entitled The Undying West: A Chronicle of Montana’s Camas Prairie.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 17, 2011

    A courageous and eloquent story

    As a former fundamentalist, I am a bit suspicious of memoirs written by people who claim to have left fundamentalism behind! It's almost become a cliche: author grows up as a fundamentalist; author is oppressed and distressed by fundamentalists, and sets out to expose the nasty, judgmental, and hypocritical fundamentalists. The result is a bitter and angry polemic against fundamentalism that sheds much heat but little light. By contrast, Carlene Cross' book is a searingly honest but never bitter telling of her painful personal saga. She tells of growing up in her fundamentalist family, meeting her husband in Bible College, and then supporting him in his ministry as their marriage and church fell apart. For Cross, fleeing fundamentalism meant reaching out for a new understanding of faith and finding a new capacity for love and hope. I came away from reading her book with a deep appreciation for her honesty, her compassion for others -- and for her younger self -- and the humor and wisdom with which she confronted the difficulties of her past.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

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