Book Review: Fleeing Fundamentalism by Carlene Cross

This book should never have been written. Its ending is depressing. Its story is horrifying, though sprinkled with episodes of hope and love. Ultimately, this is a story about the loss of faith. Indeed one of the saddest accounts I have read in a long time.

Carlene Cross tells her story in this 273 page book. Carlene was a dreamer. She hoped for a life where romance and the four spiritual laws would co-exist forever. In her pursuit, she meets a strikingly persuasive and zealous man named David. David wore his religion everywhere. It was tattooed all over his life. His evangelistic zeal and charm drew Darlene ijnto his world. They were eventually married. Their marriage, though carrying on the appearance of normalcy, became a nightmare of biblical proportions. While Carlene followed in the steps of submission of the fundamentalist variety, David followed in the steps of his lusts and passion for women, pornography, and strip clubs. While the young, striking orator delivered crowd-pleasing messages on Sunday morning, he found psychological and physical relief in strip clubs during the week.

Carlene’s life was a life that desired to keep her private life private, but all that began to unravel after David’s revelation of his lengthy addiction and deceit.

At that moment, Carlene begins to plan her escape from her tormentor. But her escape is slow and painful, and then only to be rushed by unforeseen events. Her three children become victims of a jealous and maniacal father who upon leaving his successful ministry plunges into theological despair. On the other hand, Carlene is also embracing liberal theology; the pop kind with foolish arguments lacking much serious historical support. In fact, the story ends with religious uncertainty. That is, I should say that Carlene is certain of one thing: that submission to a holy book is not an option.

With this brief summary in mind, here are a few observations:

First, religious zeal is only healthy when it is moderated by religious charity. Take charity away, zeal destroys.

Second, fundamentalism is deadly in every sense. It destroys a proper view of God and self and often leads many to abandon the faith once the door outside the fundamentalist world is open. Some embrace a bright faith, while most embrace darkness in all its misery.

Third, Carlene’s abandoning the faith is a result of being a part of a community where only the external matters. Questions of the heart are never addressed, but external appearance means everything. God says man looks on the outside.

Fourth, self-centered ministry is self-destructive. Any ministry based on man’s personality and style is doomed to failure. No man is called to such a self-centered mission. David lacked accountability in the most common of ways.

Finally, while this book offers a frightening account of spousal abuse and betrayal, we may be tempted to believe these are rare accounts in the Christian world. But the reality is quite the opposite. In fact, spousal abuse sometime is easire to hide in the Christian home, since people are never looking for it.

May women be courageous to find voices in their community and seek immediate help when they are suffering the pain of abuse. No woman–Christian or non-Christian–should suffer under the hands of tyrants, not for one night; not ever.

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