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Posted June 1, 2009
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For anyone who has ever been brought up in a fundamentalist background and made the "leap of faith" away from its tenets or for those who are still in the fundamentalist world but have their doubts then I think that James Alexander's Stories of a Recovering Fundamentalist: Understanding and Responding to Christian Absolutism is a read that is more than timely but rather a bit necessary. I was one of those who grew up in a fundamentalist church (Churches of Christ) and have questioned basically everything in my life since then.
James Alexander, who I must say writes in a very intelligent style, recounts his own life's and to an extent his wife's struggles of the heart, the intellect and ultimately the soul between what is right and wrong and what is true and not true. This book is a story of metamorphosis.
During the 1960's the author was a member of the Jesus Freak movement and later did lots of searching for churches that "felt right" to him and his wife. Always seeking a higher understanding James Alexander studied hard and even went to a seminary, oddly enough a Catholic one, and became a minister in Middle America. Through the years though the doubts kept coming up - he was seeing that to buy into absolutism in Christianity was to buy into an investment that wasn't making much sense to him anymore. James Alexander was beginning to see that many of the stories of the Bible were just that, stories. He came to see many of the myths in the stories of miracles and impossible events recorded in the Bible. But this did not bring him to a rejection of his Christianity, but rather to see that these myths were necessary. We learned powerful lessons of morality through these myths. These myths in many ways were the basis of many cultures. They taught us to love one another and they taught of the love of God. The author found himself in stark contrast to the religion that he had been following for so many years. Finally, and not with grand fanfare, he and his wife made the move. They simply moved to another church.
James Alexander is in no way damning of the fundamentalists who he knew and communed with for so long. In fact he not only tells of his strong ties to the many brethren he'd come to accept as Christian brothers and sisters but he admits that giving up absolutist ideology has not been without doubts and withdrawals. This is a strong statement for the author to make in my opinion as although it can be argued that doubts and withdrawals are a sign of an unclean conscious I would be the first to disagree: It is totally consistent with the main statement of the book - that there is nothing absolute in the religion, only people who see things from an absolutist standpoint. And even though I might not agree with his every position, James Alexander has given the reader a raw, loving and completely honest testimony of his own journey of faith.