Saturday, 17 July 2010

Independent Fundamentalist Baptists

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!

10 comments:

Doug Chaplin said...

This seems a good point to tell you that I'm enjoying Drayton! (more to be truthful than Eileen's current temporal entrapment among the Casterbridgean D'Urbervilles or whoever.

He is a sort of Basil Fawlty of ministers, and funny precisely because he doesn't know he is. I would guess even most Americans might eventually find the irony.

G said...

Thanks Doug.
I think you're right. I never expected Eileen to be too popular in her new environment, that's definitely my personal "project". Mind you, I never thought Drayton would be more popular (over a two-day period) than the Beaker Folk ever were. And that after only 12 days in the job!

Holger said...

Excellent, thank you. By the way, half-way down the middle of the post I suddenly thought that this could turn out nasty for you. You know, as in Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum". Hope it won't!

Flora said...

Hmm, fraid I'm not enjoying Drayton all that much. I think because I can never get rid of a sneaking suspiction that he may well be (at least partly) right. And I do feel a bit sorry for him.

Flora said...

Sorry suspicion, not suspiction, late-night fingers.

G said...

Flora, presuming you're who I think you are.... (or even if you're not!)

I'm trying to write Drayton so that, every now and then, I suspect he may be in the right. You're ahead of me, as I was going to be doing that a lot more in the time to come...
That's the trouble with monsters, sometimes they're really us - David Brent, Basil Fawlty and Harvey out of "Waiting for God" all spring to mind.

Catriona said...

I am enjoying this, especially as one of those heretic Baptist Union ordained women... hee verily hee. And as I'm now in a place where manbags and blokes in skirts, well....

Keep up the good work!

Flora said...

Good oh, guess I was jumping the gun there then. After all the power of Eileen was that we all know, if we do but pause to reflect, that we all have a teeny fragment of Archdruid tucked away in the less frequently visited realms within. Waiting only for a hint of a glimmering tealight to emerge, blinking, into the fullness of BEING.

Darrell said...

I\'m glad you\'ve gotten some traffic at your new endeavor, it is richly deserving of a readership. Well done.

You write the FIB (and the IFB) frighteningly well for never having experienced it first-hand. I suppose when people draw their own caricatures it only remains to give them some time and place to occupy.

I hope you continue to write for a good long while. I\'m enjoying it immensely.

G said...

Thanks for the links and tweets, Darrell. From what I've seen over the years I suspect three human constants are egotism, abuse of power and stupidity. And we're nearly all capable of all three.