From Scrabble to Fundamentalism

23 February, 2008

My wife and I just finished up another game of SuperScrabble.  We’re both pretty good at it.  Words like onyx, quoin, gravid, vav, etc., are quite common on our boards.  While we were playing, I let my mind wander (my wife says I shouldn’t let my mind wander:  its too small to be allowed out on its own) back to when I was in elementary school at Grand Canyon.  My fifth grade teacher (Mr. Halverson) would divide our class up into four groups of four (yes, there were only sixteen in my entire class) and set us up with Scrabble games.

There was moaning and groaning by the kids in whatever group I was placed for two reasons:  they knew that I would win, and it would make the following assignment more difficult.  The follow on was writing a story, poem, or essay using as many of the words on the board as possible. 

Sometimes Mr. Halverson would hear:  “Mr. Halverson, he’s making up words again.”  The teacher would come over and explain that, although quoit (or numerous other odd words) is not in the dictionary that they have in the classroom, it really is a word.

Today, one of the words I used was ‘god.’  I remembered using the same word back in fifth grade and creating a controversy.  Sean insisted that the word MUST be capitalized (which means I couldn’t use it in Scrabble) as it is ‘God’ and failing to capitalize the word was insulting his beliefs (he didn’t phrase it that way, of course).  I insisted that the word didn’t have to be capitalized as I could be referring to Odin, or Kokhapelli, or Zeus.  In order to preserve peace, Mr. Halverson asked me to use a different word.  I protested, but eventually gave in.

Now, the kid who objected was in fifth grade at the time.  We were children.  In retrospect, I can understand his feelings toward his idea of ‘God:’  he felt that, because I didn’t believe exactly the same thing he believed, I was treading on his most precious religious beliefs.  I haven’t seen him since I moved back east in ’78.  But I have met his type many times.

These are the people who demand the right to pray before public functions, but object to an Islamic, or Buddhist, or Hopi prayer.  These are the people who insist that children must be led in prayer by their public school teacher, but it must be the right Christian prayer.  These are the people who pass congressional resolutions declaring America a ‘Christian’ nation.  These are the people who rewrite history and make Jefferson (!!!) a fundamentalist Christian.

 These people are stuck in fifth grade.  They never grew up.  They still have that Frank Burns (the movie version, not the TV show) adolescent Christianity.

Now for the question:  do ‘these people’ fail to grow up because they are fundamentalist Christians? or are they fundamentalist Christians because they failed to grow up? or (this one is from my wife) are they fundamentalist Christians so they don’t HAVE to grow up? Any way I look at it, its scary.



  1. Say, is that the ‘quoin’ of the realm? (That actually makes sense…

    Like the Jesuits say, “Give me the child and I’ll give you a brainwashed man.” Or something to that effect.

    I think Dawkins is right on this. What’s done to children is brainwashing, and is cruel. Give me an unwashed brain every time.

  2. Your honor, the witness is refusing to answer the question posed to him. Mr. Ric, the question was:

    do ‘these people’ fail to grow up because they are fundamentalist Christians? or are they fundamentalist Christians because they failed to grow up? or (this one is from my wife) are they fundamentalist Christians so they don’t HAVE to grow up?

    Quoin of the realm? Nah, just the keystone of the operation.

  3. I think the answer to your question is primarily #1. Fundamentalist Christians do grow up in lots of areas that don’t have anything to do with their faith; they own businesses, hold jobs, organize community events, etc. The primary area in which they fail to grow is intellectual. This failure is often accompanied by moral failure, as significant moral reasoning requires exercising the intellect beyond the rote skills acquired in childhood.

  4. Addendum to my previous comment. Even though I think #1 is the primary case, one can make a pretty strong argument for #3. Faith in a sky-daddy absolves believers of adult responsibilities. Sure, they may be obligated to credit God for the things they achieve, but the upside is that they get to blame Satan for the things at which they don’t succeed. Everything is either “in accordance with God’s will,” or a tragedy in which “Satan has temporarily thwarted God’s will, but Sky-Daddy will prevail in the end.”

    In addition to absolving believers of responsibilities for their actions, fundamentalist religion absolves believers of the need to make choices: don’t have sex before marriage – yes, sir; don’t drink alcoholic beverages – yes, sir; let the pastor inform you of the “proper” Christian response to a moral dilemma – yes, sir…. The list goes on endlessly. Fundamentalist religion definitely fosters a state of lifelong childishness.

  5. Okay, I think I’ve arrived at my final answer: 3 + 1, in that order.

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