I grew up a Trumanist Christian, as in the Truman Show with Jim Carrey. That is, I grew up in a bubble, protected from the rest of the Church by a protective dome that prevented outside interference. As we drove to church every Sunday morning, for a double-dose, both Sunday School and the Sermon, we passed a Lutheran Church. Sometimes I felt sorry for those who attended that church — though, of course, they didn’t get to church as early as we did.
We were Baptists; the rest of the world, churched or unchurched, was going to hell. I hate to be so crass, but I’m telling you our (perceived) truth. And the reason we were going to heaven was because we alone believed the Bible as it was really taught. What was taught could be snagged from the notes of the bottom of our Scofield Bibles. We didn’t join forces with any other churches, mostly because they were “liberal” and being “liberal,” the Dante-like lower circle of the inferno, was a sure ticket to hell. We alone were faithful to the Bible.
Question: Have you experienced Trumanist Christianity? That you and your group were alone the remaining, remnant-like faithful of the Church? What do you think can be done to “cure” it? If you emerged from such an experience, what helped you? Here’s how I got over it:
This kind of Trumanism can be cured. I was cured in 1973 when my church sent me to Austria with a group of Christians, and I learned then and there that there were lots of Christians who weren’t Baptists. Some of them were Lutherans, which gave me new light on the church across the street. Some of them were Presbyterians, though I still had some reservations. Some of them were Mennonites, who happened to be the finest Christians I had ever met in my life. I had no trouble with Pentecostals as my grandparents were such and they, if I needed an explanation, were wayward Baptists who just had too much Holyghost (one word). C.S. Lewis cured me on the Anglicans, and J.R.R. Tolkien on Catholics, and Fr. Schmemann on the Orthodox.
Any awareness of the Church in the world and any awareness of the Church in history, and most especially any fellowship with Christians in other parts of the world, simply confirms that God is at work in the whole “Church.”
Hence, my utter astonishment at this article that revives my childhood memories of being a Baptist Christian when the two terms were absolute synonyms. I’m all for support and even pride in one’s denomination and its distinctive contribution to the Church, but the tone of this piece reveals a dangerous Trumanism. I hope they reconsider their strategy and rhetoric.
For the hot conversation among the SBC folks, see here .