Now here's a thing.
I've started a new blog, in case you hadn't noticed. It's called "My Gospel, Right or Wrong" and it's the further adventures of Drayton Parslow. Drayton, in case you don't remember, don't care or never knew in the first place, was second only to Hnaef as deputy to Archdruid Eileen. For reasons entirely unconnected to her paranoia, Eileen was convinced that Drayton was constantly plotting against her, and as a result Drayton suffered from a lot of casual violence. With Eileen safely packed away in 19th century Wessex, I suddenly realised I had a hole in my life by not writing funny stuff about modern church life. Eileen's interest in making money was matched only by her contempt for the people to whom she ministered, so I thought it might be amusing to have a dedicated, totally committed church leader whose poor people skills and utter doctrinal certainty made him a disaster. Drayton was the obvious candidate, so he was moved to the Leicestershire village of Frisby-on-Soar* and made a pastor.
But even in the Beaker world, where chapels are swallowed by black holes and choirs are floated out of the manor by filling their robes with helium, I couldn't just make Drayton an archdeacon, or even a curate or a Methodist presbyter. We have to go through years of selection and panels and training to do that. So I needed a congregation that would value dedication over academic qualification, and might even scorn Theological courses and schools. So I went for a congregationalist type of church. And since most child-baptising Congregationalist churches are now URC, and insist on training their ministers, I made it a baptist church. So Frisby Independent Baptist Church was formed. And Drayton's first musings arrived on the Interweb on Monday 5 July.
Note the date. Because on 4 July, Clayboy posted on an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church that was opening in his neck of the woods. And you will notice that I commented - on the 6th, because I don't read every blog every day - on the coincidence.
Now, I'd never heard of Independent Fundamental(ist) Baptist churches. And the co-incidence that I'd just invented the FIB as opposed to the IFB was lost on me. But this was still only the second day of my new blog, the time when you go around adding blog rolls. And my tradition on "fantasy" blogs is to link to blogs that are "interesting" in the wider sense of the word, rather than only blogs I agree with. So I did some googling, and found Stuff Fundies Like, which appeared to be an amusing take on the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches of the US. Seemed interesting, and that fits the criteria, so I linked.
Presumably I sent some traffic there, as the owner noticed and very kindly linked back to me. Simon Robinson pointed this out to me, and that prompted me to look at the stats. To find that I had (as of now, nearly three days after the post) hundreds of visits, nearly all from that one site. Including one person who seems to be totally devoid of irony [skip the text if you like - just head down to the comment from Mr Curry].
Now, I can see a lot of pain from the visitors - people who've been hurt by a movement of which I knew, until Thursday evening, next to nothing. We in England may laugh at American fundamentalists, but we normally laugh at the snake-oil salesmen and televangelists and snake-handlers - we don't think of them as having groupings and alignments and real victims. We hear about their financial and sex scandals, but we don't categorise them.
Now, Drayton is a monster and a pastoral disaster. But he's not these things because he's an Independent Baptist. He's these things because he's an idiot and totally devoid in irony and self-awareness. That is all. But I guess if nothing else, the response I've had to Drayton is proof that idiocy and religious incompetence are widespread human phenomena. I personally regard fundamentalism as a fear-response to uncertainty, and so I can see why something so utterly illogical and unscientific - and unbiblical, in my opinion - still attracts even in these twenty-first century days - or maybe even more so. The world is hard and complicated, faith is always something that is founded on things we don't see, and don't even understand. How much easier to read your faith off a play-sheet, and read the entire Bible as if "God's Truth" were a single genre.
*Named in honour of the real villages of Frisby-by-Gaulby and Frisby-on-the-Wreake. Frisby's just such a great placename!