Many years ago, I was a frequent visitor to a web forum in a deep south state, a once popular place where people came together on-line to discuss matters of faith. I met two unforgettable people on this forum. Both were what my Aunt Sis would probably call hard-shell fundies, meaning people so dedicated to the fundie hard line that they would have been perfect members of the target audience in the famous Matthew 23 tirade Jesus fired at the Scribes and Pharisees.
One was a male professional scientist who regularly referred to our many nonChristian friends and neighbors as “mere worms.” This was not done out of carelessness or for shock effect. After having several sincere on-line conversations with him, it became clear to me that he honestly thought all nonChristians were worms and on a par with pond scum. In a moment of frustration with him one day, I reminded him that Jesus must have thought nonChristians were a lot more valuable than that because He suffered and died for the sake of all those “worms.” That did not even scratch his hard shell—much less poke a hole in it so some light would shine in on all the darkness.
The other fundie was a young woman who had a shell many times thicker than the one surrounding the professional scientist. She was a self-righteous, mean-spirited, spiteful, straight-razor-toting fundie who evidently had the mind of Jesus Christ because she absolutely knew—confidently knew—things that only the three members of the Holy Trinity would know. For example, whenever a major celebrity died, someone like comedian Bob Hope, visitors to the forum would discuss how sad they felt about the passing of the celebrity. After the heartfelt conversations about the celebrity were going good, she would invariably speak up and interject this famous sentence in a deadpan written tone:
“______ _______ is in Hell now.” (Insert the name of any 1999-2000 dead celebrity.)
Apparently, she fancied herself a perfect human judge of celebrity character, spiritual condition, and state of heart. Best I could tell, in her view, a person like dead movie comedian Jim Varney had been given a spiritual body ideally suited for sensing even the tiniest amounts of pain. God had judged him for his sins; found him wanting; condemned him to Hell; and thrown him into a huge pond of fire. In this pond, poor old Jim’s flesh melted off his body slowly like candle wax while Jim experienced unimaginable pain from every raw nerve ending as it melted. After old Jim had melted away to nothing, his spiritual body would reappear intact within the flames and the hour-long melting process would begin again in earnest. This process would repeat itself for all eternity. I would hasten to add that she never actually described Hell in those specific terms on the forum. However, she did believe in a fiery Hell. I passed this melting flesh view of Hell by forum members a number of times, and she never broke in to correct it—as fundies are want to do with things they believe are in error. So, I think my description pretty much matched her view of poor old Jim Varney’s fate. Interestingly, I do not recall her ever stating any sort of empathy for any condemned celebrity’s eternal condition. People like Jim were all sinners—in her mind—and God had given them what she thought they deserved, and she was fine with that—tee-hee-hee!!!
Best I can recall, she did this with every dead celebrity that crossed our path in 1999-2000. Whoever the newest dead celebrity might be, she would quite seriously comment: “He is in Hell now” or “She is in Hell now.”
In the years 1999 and 2000. I went around, and around, and around debating these two hard shell fundies on assorted Christian subjects—with me taking the God’s love and grace stance—mixed with some very good logic, Bible verses, and facts. By the time all the debating was finished at the end of 2000, there was nothing left of me and my soul but a burned out cinder. Dealing with these fundies sent me into deep clinical depression, and I stayed there for weeks—and arguably for several months into 2001. This was my first real and deep encounter with hard shell fundies. Prior to that time in my life, I had known fundies mostly in a pass-you-on-the-street manner—no really deep engagement. I learned two basic things from my debating encounters with these two fundies:
(1) It is virtually impossible to win any debate with a fundie—not because their position is right and true—but because they come into every debate or discussion with a firm prior resolution that they will never change their viewpoint—no matter what their opponent has to say. Talking to a hard shell fundie about the Christian faith is like talking to a tree stump.
(2) Hard shell fundies are arrogant, self-righteous, and downright mean-spirited. When unmoderated and free to be their true selves, fundies come into nearly every faith conversation to hurt, maim, and destroy the nonfundie parties. They do this because they view everyone who disagrees with their theology as a worm-like enemy of God—and any enemy of God is an enemy of theirs too—and the enemies of God must be softened up with battering; be shown the error of their ways; and be forced into becoming a fundie—and if they refuse to conform—the enemies of God must be destroyed.
I know some of you fundies who just read those two numbered points above said to yourselves: “I am not anything like that!!!” Sure. There are exceptions to every rule, and you might be one. However, and I want to make this perfectly clear, I have encountered numerous fundies in all sorts of life situations since the year 2,000, and most of them have by far conformed to the two numbered statements above to varying degrees. Why are they like that? In my opinion, it is because they are so outwardly focused on the people they regard as the enemies of God that they have no time to stand in front of a mirror and see that the greatest enemies of God may actually be themselves. As the Pogo comic strip famously said: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
We should never forget that people just like these fundies (the Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees of Jerusalem in the 1st century A.D.) schemed, connived, lied, and cheated to make sure Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to a cross—as the Bible clearly records. Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees have existed in every human generation and in every human culture since the beginning of human times on this Earth. Here in the United States, in the generations still alive today, the Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees (like those who sent Jesus to his death) are called Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals.