Skip to content

Miniblog #137: How Did I Break from the Fundamentalist, Pentecostal Republican Mold?

by Carson T. Clark on October 22, 2012


Those who know my story often ask how on earth I went from being a fundamentalist, Pentecostal Republican to a hardlining moderate, Anglican independent.1.Relatively new readers might not know my background, so I’ll paint the picture as clearly and concisely as possible: As late as 2005 I cited Jerry Falwell as one of my spiritual heroes, my favorite book used to be Tommy Tenny’s The God Chasers: My Soul Follows Hard After Thee, and through my freshmen year I remained an avid fan of Rush Limbaugh–faithfully listening to his daily podcast each weeknight. It has taken some time but I’ve figured out that what they’re asking for isn’t the survey of my life’s narrative. No, what they want to know is how I so completely broke from the mold in which I was raised. Or, rephrased from another perspective, how I escaped. It’s something I’ve given much thought over the years. Last night I believe I finally found my answer. Spanning the spectrum from politics to religion, so many conservatives and progressives seem fueled by sheer anger toward one another. It’s as though there’s something about them–something deep down in the recesses of their hearts, minds, and souls–that resonates with a spirit of opposition and is driven by a desire to defeat one another.22.They’d never come right out and admit this, but the plain reality is that they’re invigorated by conflict. It’s this thirst for an intoxicating brew of power, control, and victory. When I was a fundamentalist I felt that elemental, competitive fire. Yet it was never a good fit. There was always something that felt innately amiss. It’s as though the perpetual conflict produced physical energy while simultaneously sapping my emotional, intellectual, and spiritual vitality. Outwardly I felt enlivened but inwardly, and when I was alone, it felt like I was Marty McFly fading into oblivion.33.Incrementally and with each passing day I somehow felt less alive. Eventually I bottomed out. That is why I broke from my childhood mold. To employ a nutrition analogy, it was a pure survival mechanism reacting to years of empty calories resulting in malnourishment.44.I would note that’s also why I cannot for the life of me figure out how people on the ideological extremes sustain that level of fervor channeled into opposition. Far from slowly taking a toll as it did to me, it seems to animate them. Somehow they seem renewed by the constant turmoil. This genuinely baffles me. Bottom line: I’m just not wired that way. My desperate need was for emotional transparency, intellectual honesty, and spiritual health. The only way I found to achieve those things was to be driven far more by my passions for virtuous things than against vile things. To achieve that, my only choice was to radically alter my entire life outlook and approach. In sum, the reason I’m no longer a Fundamentalist, Pentecostal Republican is that I desired to be civil, felt unfulfilled, and innately cared more about truth than ideological causes.55.That and some good, confrontational friends and mentors who forthrightly challenged my impassioned, ignorant crap. H/T to Mr. Smith, Jerry Foecke, Wally Glucklich, Mike Newsom, Sean Jarvie, Tim Abramson, Matt Nagel, Garrett Laakkonen, Zac Neubauer, Blaise Brankatelli, Alex Valdez, Matt Swanson, Greg Stoutenberg, and many others.

  • Derek Rishmawy

    Well, I’m grateful to have you as a friend in your current, Anglican, Evangelical, Not-sure-what-party-but-leaning-Democrat, very emotionally-honest form.

    • Carson T. Clark

      Leaning Democrat? I think you underestimate my libertarian streak.

    • Leo Staley


  • Larry Prater

    Took me 35 years.

    • Carson T. Clark

      The good news? You’re out!

  • Judy Tate Mahan

    I can so relate to this. The thing that helped me most was being away from church due to illness and reading “The Shack”. I was finally able to use some logic and escape the bubble.

  • Shel Boese

    I dont know what you mean when you include Pentecostal in the list? Most pentecostals are not Republican in the US and of the nearly 800 million worldwide fundamentalist and Republican dont regiter at alll. In fact theologically fundamnetalism is opposed to charismatic/pentecostal theology. A good primier is Thinking in Tongues by James ka Smith and also Roger Strondstads charismatic theology of St. Luke.

    • Carson T. Clark

      See: Assemblies of God.

  • Pingback: President Obama is a Christian()

  • Andrew Downs

    What an experience and your analysis is solid. I have one quibble though. I would argue that aggression toward the other is not necessarily a response to political extremism, but a reflection of personality type and how they perceive the world. This has some correlation to politics, but not always. A perfect example is David Horowitz who was a hater as a liberal in the 1960s and was reborn a hater as a conservative in the 1980s. I don’t believe he changed from one pole to the other on the political spectrum, precisely but that he is inclined to hate other people. This is entirely consistent with your not being wired as a hater.

  • Pingback: Change, or Just Playing for Another Team? « James’ Ramblings()

  • Bob MacDonald

    There’s a cure for the enemy within. In the TNK, it is the Psalms, in the NT, it is the drinking of the cup with Jesus. The cup (כוס which should be running over, Ps 23) first needs its owlish (כוס 102.7) nature to be tamed. So it is also destruction to our desire for power and vengeance. To give rest to enemy – to realize the musical rest in the mid-point of each verse of the psalms. (Consider Psalm 75 just for 1 example). Suck the dregs of that cup of wrath – discover that your wrath also need only have endured ‘but for a moment’, and that your judgment and role as an accuser need not continue (that’s why the accuser is not present in the epilogue of Job.)

  • Leo Staley

    I still find reading through the God Chasers to be inspiring though. AW Tozer is still one of my spiritual heroes, but was one of the original fundamentalists.

  • Timbo

    Good stuff. On your point #4, I think people form their very identity around things that they shouldn’t (political stance, sports team, etc.) and when that thing fails it either stirs them up to greater fervor of hatred towards whatever opposed their idol, or it wakes them up to reality that their idol is destined to let them down. I have also experienced the latter and am better for it.

  • Tim

    Voting Gary Johnson?

%d bloggers like this: