Sixteen years is a long time, and it is sometimes hard for me to remember things so far back in the past. I thought some more about how the fundie fairy tale written out below actually came into being, and I finally realized who wrote it. It was me. However, I would hasten to add that just because I wrote it does not mean it is a lie. In the 1999-2000 time frame, I was a frequent visitor to a religious message board in Alabama (AlabamaLive!!!). This message board was regularly visited by some of the most outrageous and virulent Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals I have ever known—hateful, mean-spirited, pride-filled, rotten, straight-razor-totin’ fundies.
Over a period of about 2 years, I read virtually everything they had to say about their “true” Christian fundamentalist faith and its historical origins—as they seemed to believe it or understand it. Many pieces of fascinating (and sometimes downright weird) pieces of religious information came my way until I had accumulated a mental box full of it—like the many pieces in a large jigsaw puzzle. One day, I finally realized that I could put all of those puzzle pieces together into a coherent historical narrative about how these fundies believed their “true” Christian faith and churches came into being and how they developed historically in Europe and the United States across 2,000 years. I wrote out this narrative story on the AlabamaLive! message board, and to the best of my recollection, none of the fundies jumped on it as a false story—and these fundies would jump on you like a duck on a June bug if they smelled error.
The story below is my best remembered and best logical reconstruction of the historical fairy tale the fundies had related to me in the form of many disjointed puzzle pieces. As a professional archaeologist and sometimes historian, I realized after a while that these fundies had a fairy-tale-like perception of how their peculiar faith and churches came into existence—and I further realized that this perception of theirs was almost certainly false and at odds with the real history of the universal church.
Professional historians differ on the fine historical details of the matter, but Jesus of Nazareth is generally thought to have been crucified on the cross and resurrected from the dead circa 32 A.D. Although he was surrounded by the 12 disciples and other followers prior to his death, the church per se can be traced back to Jesus’s demand to go forth into the world to spread the gospel to all creatures and the famous anointing of the disciples by the Holy Spirit in the The Upper Room. Today we think of churches in terms of large buildings. However, regardless of sheltering structures, the 1st century church was a collection of believers who universally shared the same heart for Jesus. Rather than meet in large, dedicated church buildings, small collections of believers met to worship in each others homes, and families would have daily worship devotionals around their hearths, many of which were in the homes of poor believers. When the people of the church fell into persecution by the Jews and Romans, small groups of Christians would sneak away to worship together in isolated caves to avoid detection by the authorities. (Important Note: Few historians would deny the foregoing as actual church history—but next—the fundie fairy tale begins.)
More and more and more believers slowly entered the ranks of the early church as time passed. As the early church grew, it became more socially structured and organized—as most things normally do when larger numbers of people are involved. Eventually, most Christian worship moved from small groups in caves or around the hearths in houses to large buildings that could accommodate more people. However, a small handful of the more devoted early Christians were unhappy with worship among larger numbers of people in buildings. Seeing that the early church was already moving in the wrong direction, they decided to separate themselves from the other so-called Christians and continue to worship together in small groups or just as lone families by the hearth sides in their tiny homes.
The large numbers of Christian worshipers from whom the hearthsiders had separated continued to worship together in buildings across the early centuries of the Christian Era, and their numbers continued to grow. Soon after the major persecutions of the church ended and the Roman civil authorities officially recognized Christianity (even making it the official state religion under the Emperor Constantine), these churches became the first large apostate churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Coptic Church, etc.
Consequently, two different lines of churches were established in early Christianity, and they both went forward over vast halls of time in parallel with each other. The large, major, denominational line of churches continued to grow over time and increased in their God-hated apostasy as they grew, and they even fragmented into numerous other apostate churches after Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s. The parallel line of small, hearth-side churches continued to quietly worship God in their small homes from one generation to the next across the same vast halls of time, passing their faith by mouth, and later by reading the Bible simply, from one generation to the next. Fearing persecution by the large apostate churches, these small but gentle home churches laid low in each generation and even built their homes in isolated, rural, wooded areas to escape the notice of the sinful apostates and nonChristians who lived around them. This whole parallel line of hearth-side Christians was the “true” Christian church and the first “true” Christian people—properly separated as God’s special anointed vessels and the most approved and beloved of the Heavenly Father.
These isolated, hearth-side churches with small numbers of “true” Christians continued from one generation to the next and grew in numbers until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At that crucial and most important time in human history, God called us forth from the hearth sides in our small home churches, along with other recent converts to the “true” Christian faith, to form the first Christian fundamentalist churches in the United States. In other words, God called us all forth to unite, build our fundamentalist church buildings, and preach to the whole world the “true” gospel of Jesus Christ that the apostate churches had perverted and nearly destroyed across 1900 years of human history—and to save the Authorized King James Version of the Bible from perversion and extinction. We were called forth because the end times were drawing nigh, and the Lord needed us to be especially zealous in our work to save souls.
So, as you can clearly see, God has preserved the “true kernel” of the Christian faith in thousands of little home-based, hearth-side churches across nearly 100 human generations. Large numbers of today’s Christian fundamentalists are the direct lineal descendants of those people who so quietly laid low and passed their simple faith on to new family members by the home hearth from one generation to another for 19 centuries. God be blessed. Amen.