I came across a video in my YouTube feed entitled “Hagee: Rock Music Is ‘Satanic Cyanide’ The Should Be Taken Outside And Burned.”
With a title like that how do you not watch the video?
So I did and, yes, mega-church mega-conservative mega-fundie pastor John Hagee did go old school and denounce rock music as satanic cyanide. But that wasn’t was really caught my attention.
What I found most interesting in this admittedly brief clip is what Hagee accidentally said.
Watch it for yourself, it’s just a minute and a half long, and see if you notice it.
Did you catch that?
In the midst of his rant, Hagee got a little carried away with his diatribe, went a little off script, and declared “When you reject fear, you have already embraced f…” The word he seems to have been about to say there was “faith” as you can see when he catches himself and tries to correct his accidental inversion”
Sure, it might have just been completely unintentional slip up, but he was on a roll and it’s hard not to think his passion got the best of him, that he stopped worrying about the script and started preaching from the heart.
But even if it was just an accident and not a Freudian slip, I couldn’t help but think that whether intentionally or not John Hagee just offered one of the best summaries of fundamentalism I have ever heard.
“When you reject fear, you embrace faith.”
Keeping with the model of his diatribe, i.e. the thing being rejected is good, the thing being embraced is bad, the idea in this proverb would be that in rejecting fear, fear of God (not reverence, but literal fear), fear of the church, fear of the pastor, fear of hell, fear of whatever, a person loses the foundation of their Christianity.
In other words, without fear how can a person be expected to live the Christian life? After all, if they’re not constantly afraid of being cursed by God, persecuted by the church, or damned to hell, then where is the impetus for living a disciplined Christian life? When that fear is rejected, all that’s left is a life lived by faith, faith that doesn’t claim to hold all the answers, but which trusts in God to grant grace when it is needed and forgive when mistakes are made. According to this proverb, that sort of lawless, unstructured life is to be rejected because fear is no longer in control, it is no longer the driving force in life.
I realize that all sounds ridiculous, and it should, but in my experience it sums up fundamentalism pretty well.
Fundamentalism portrays itself as the standard bearer of the true faith, as the beacon of light in a world of darkness, and as the faithful remnant which holds fast to the core truths of Christianity.
But in truth, fundamentalism isn’t about Jesus and the good news of the gospel. It’s about fear and control. It was birthed in fear and a need to control everything even as it confessed as Lord a Jesus whose life was defined by giving up control. And it has matured by using the fear of hell to control the lives of others even though it claims to embody a Christ who came to give life back to others and who set them free from the fear of hell.
Fundamentalism is, as John Hagee accidentally points out, the opposite of the Christian faith as defined by the life of Jesus which abandons control in pursuit of servitude and which celebrates permeable boundaries while embracing the unknown.
Now, I’m not saying a person can’t be a Christian and also claim to be a fundamentalist. They can be. After all, all of us in the church are wrong about something.
But as Christians, if we are ever going to be able to embrace and then incarnate the good news of the gospel, we must first take the accidental advice of John Hagee.
We must reject fear and embrace faith.
Grace and peace,