I have spent most of my life as a fundamentalist Christian. I know the arguments backward and forward, and until recently I believed it. The problems started when I started to think. I began to realize that I was a bit more independent than I was. The problem is that when you have been entrenched for so long in a certain mentality, it is very hard to leave it.
One of the first things drilled into a conservative Christian is the concept of guilt and judgment. There is a clear picture of right and wrong, black and white. Watching certain movies leads you to sin, therefore it is wrong both to watch those movies, and associate with people who watch them. If you do associate with people who are less than ideal Christians, you are 1) encouraging the idea that you’re okay with their lifestyle, and 2) putting yourself at risk to become like them.
You learn these warnings as a way of preventing such a thing from happening to yourself. The conservative Christian world is proud of its black and white outlook on life. The goal is to help people act in a way that they (the fundamentalists) have decided is okay, and to help prevent them from acting in ways that they consider to be “sinful.”
Fundamentalist Christianity is dependent on appearances. In order to achieve the appearances they desire, they emphasize the need to act in a certain way, at least where others can see you. Every thing you do is judged, and held up to a standard. If you fall short of their standard, you are labeled a sinner, and guilt-tripped until you start shaping up. Several years into this lifestyle, you don’t need to worry about someone outright telling you anything. The warnings, admonishments, and unspoken threats are a part of you, and you no longer need to consciously remind yourself of them.
Because of this, it seems only natural that when we start having doubts about our faith, those old excuses jump in front of us. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to just stay Christian? Do we really want to end up like Sally Smith down the road who was wooed away by evil liberals, and is surely going to hell? Do we want to stumble and fall, like others? Are we really that bad and evil and dirty?
Even more importantly… what if we’re wrong? If we really go through with this, we’re just like the enemy… we are the Enemy. Anything we try to say along the lines of “We just want to think,” or “We’re just doing research,” or “We don’t really know what we think yet…” those are just excuses. Excuses for the sin we are falling into.
In the end, though, we’re not making excuses for the enemy… at least, not if the enemy is freedom of thought and reason. We’re making excuses for holding onto what we’ve been raised with. It’s easier that way. We don’t have to tell anyone. We can go on living like before. As long as we make excuses for why we shouldn’t leave, people will still like us. We can still be white, instead of black.
It’s not that we should abruptly choose to be black instead of white, that we have to leave fundamentalism abruptly instead of gradually. It’s that we should recognize there is more to the story than we’ve been raised with, and now it’s time to be grey.