I Hear Fundamentalist Voices


It’s been quiet on the blog for a few days, in part because it’s so beautiful out that I’ve been taking my sweet girl to the park to run in circles all day long. I’ve also planted a bunch of vegetable seeds in my raised beds  – an early birthday present from family – so naturally I spend a lot of time checking to see if there are any ripe tomatoes yet.

But it’s also partly because the Voices are back.

“You are shirking the Truth.”

“You are walking down a slippery slope to relative morality.”

“You have made God in your own image.”

“You have backslidden.”

It seems whenever I take a step toward healing, the Voices come back.

They were exacerbated after I publicly “came out” as a Christian LGBT ally after the World Vision fiasco last month. When I visited a church with a woman minister last week, they squabbled so loud I could hardly hear her message. Whenever I rest for a moment in grace, with the assurance that God really does love everyone, they are there to argue with me.

“BUT….” they say.

“But you are watering down the Gospel.”

“But you are taking the easy way out.”

“But Truth is TRUTH.”

“But this is what happens when you don’t submit to Godly authority.”

I may have cut ties with my fundamentalist community years ago, but I have taken their Voices with me. They like to swoop in when I am weak.

So after I wrote a few vulnerable posts two weeks ago, the Voices knew what to do.

They whisper in my ear the things my old pastors would love to tell me but have been denied access. They provide the information I used to acquire from books that I no longer buy. They deliver the guilt I used to seek out from conferences but now steer clear of.

Sometimes I can minimize them. I can say “I choose Love,” and they shut up for some time. Other times, they have the power. After all, they have years of study and practice under their belts. They’ve groomed and perfected their answers. All I have is a blurry, scandalous hope – in which I can barely grasp – that the God of the universe is one of radical love.

I keep watering my seeds and trying to grasp that hope. The Voices tell me I’m wrong and I’m leading people to hell. I tell the Voices that even if that is true, it’s a risk I’ll take. I will still choose to err on the side of Love.

I have heard it gets easier. I spoke with someone recently who is years ahead of me in a similar journey. She said the Voices get quieter with time.

I hope she’s right.

What about you? When you left fundamentalism, did you carry their Voices with you? How do you deal with them?



  1. Tamara Rice on April 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    What a beautiful post, Carly. Love this: “All I have is a blurry, scandalous hope – in which I can barely grasp – that the God of the universe is one of radical love.”

    It’s been almost 15 years since I could be classified as a fundamentalist, almost 10 since I identified as evangelical. But for me, facing my own mortality in cancer almost 6 years ago shifted something in me that really silenced the voices within. I grasped what I know with certainty, I realized how very, very small that list is, and the voices got really, really quiet after that.

    For me, the voices exist now only when an old friend or family member mimics the voice. And there’s not a lot I can do about that, unfortunately, except keep the voice in perspective and hold on to what I know to be true. In those moments, I rest in–as you put it so well–that “blurry, scandalous hope.”

  2. Kate Schell on April 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Mmhmm. I hear these voices, too, sometimes. It comes down to this question: “What if they were right all along and I’m fallen away and leading others astray?” But then I look at what I’ve left behind and am reminded again that I cannot believe those things or live in that fear. I am reminded again that it was my conscience that led me away from that ideology.

    Thanks for writing this, Carly. You’ve put words to what I think is a common experience.

    • Carly Gelsinger on April 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      Yes, it really does help to look at what we’ve left behind. Even if I never shed the voices, I could never ever go back to living in fear and anger as I did in that ideology.

  3. Callie Glorioso-Mays on April 9, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Oh yes. My voices usually say something like, “You’re compromising the truth!” or “This is your flesh speaking.” Sigh. It is hard. Thank you for this honest post.

  4. Paula Willems on April 9, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    First of all, let me start by saying we need to watch out for the lies of the enemy. Satan is notorious for taking statements that sound godly and sound scriptural, but he twists them ever so slightly and uses them as a weapon against us. Does Jesus condemn? Does Jesus accuse? NO! Satan does.

    When I read your post I immediately related, because I hear these voices all the time when I am stepping out in what I believe the Holy Spirit is telling me, especially when it goes against the grain. The voices get increasingly aggressive the bigger the issue. (We may both need to revisit the Screwtape Letters.)

    When we start hearing the voices, that is the time we need to get down on our knees, open up scripture and go straight to God and ask Him what he has to say on the matter. Doing so will either confirm THE VOICE (His), if He is indeed convicting you of something (when He does so, He does so lovingly), or will contradict the voices (the enemy’s) if they are against His truth.

    The fact that there is guilt and condemnation, and confusion going on here is what makes it seem to me like this is an attack of the enemy. (This has happened to me on multiple occasions – boy do I have stories.) God’s truth is usually the most simple and clear answer and will probably not have all this extra baggage with it.

    What does Satan want? To confuse, tear down, discourage, paralyze, manipulate, and isolate us. What does Jesus want? To clarify, build up, encourage, enable, whatever the opposite of manipulate is (its late – I can’t think of the word), and bring us into community with Himself and His Church. If what you are hearing does not sound like it aligns with Jesus’ heart and His scripture it should be thrown out.

    It is good that you are writing out these messages that are speaking in your head, on “paper”. If you have doubts, look up scripture and compare them, and if they are off you will find the spots the enemy has twisted them, or omitted them. Or just ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you His truth, and He will give you peace about the answer you get. Hold your thoughts accountable to Jesus.

    Praying for you, my dear friend. I know what it is to go through major spiritual warfare. I am not one to blame Satan on all our problems. I think in life most are a result of living in a fallen world or as a result of our own poor choices… but I do think there are occurrences in a person’s life when this does happen. Remember that Jesus has already won. His truth will shine a light on any darkness, and any manipulation of the enemy will flee. Remember that you are not alone, and have fellow believers who come alongside you with caring hearts and prayer.

    I firmly believe these voices come now because you listened to God’s leading and wrote a post that was terrifying for you to write. You were being brave, obedient, and vulnerable. Most people do not have the guts to step out like you did, and that freaks Satan out. <3

    One last thought, I had a recent conversation with someone about how there is a striking balance between grace and truth. Abuse of our faith happens when people go to extremes. Grace/Love without Truth can turn into following our emotions and honoring the flesh, Truth without Grace is (like the Pharisees) where people embrace judgement and condemnation of others who do not live well, and results in hypocrisy. Jesus' heart lies somewhere in the middle. He called out the truth in people when it mattered, but was known for his love as well, if not more.

    I think there are many clear sins in the bible that are good to uphold with fellow believers, but "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and regardless of what the different sins people may struggle with LOVE & GRACE are the common ingredients that offset that. We are called to uphold the truth as well as extend love and grace. But there are some potential sins that have been accepted in the past by mainstream Christianity that may in fact not be as black and white in scripture as was commonly accepted. (Homosexuality being one… never mentioned in New T, and in Old Testament was called an abomination, but cultural references suggest that this could be referring to homosexuality at the time which was usually a sexual slavery thing, where young boys were forces to have sex with the powerful.) Since there are some topics with limited evidence, I think the best approach is to be humble about them and accept that "I don't really know" and not give the enemy the opportunity to use the vague subjects as a point to cause division over in the church.

    • Carly Gelsinger on April 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks, Paula – I’m so hesitant these days to label something as “the devil” or “spiritual warfare” just because that was something that was so exploited in my Pentecostal background. Everything was demonic! Everything was spiritual warfare. That said, I hadn’t even thought of this as a spiritual attack until you wrote this. So now I definitely have something to think about. Thank you for sharing.

      • Paula Willems on April 17, 2014 at 6:52 pm

        I understand how you feel, and I think people throw around that label all the time to avoid taking responsibility for stuff going wrong. I think like 90% of experiences are just natural occurrences, and some people like to blame the devil for everything. I just think every once in a while you run into situations where you have a sense that there may be something more going on. I think that is when prayer and bible reading is necessary to confirm or deny the feeling. Like you said, I don’t know for sure if this is the case in your situation but it is something to think about. I hate when people abuse the spiritual warfare label, so I try to use it sparingly.

  5. Paula Willems on April 9, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Jesus possessed the following attributes: Love, compassion, humility, patience, longsuffering, mercy and mercifulness, graciousness, gentleness, meekness, kindness, holiness, perfection, prayerfulness, submission, obedience, divine anger, joy, peace, sensitivity to others, the ability to read into people thoughts and hearts, spiritual strength,

    Jesus’ nature expressed love, grace, mercy, compassion, kindness, goodness, understanding, righteous just and anger (i.e. He was angry at injustice, hypocrisy, unrighteousness etc.). Jesus reflected the nature of His father.

  6. Kim Murden on April 10, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I have those voices. Praying for you this week. Praying for our freedom and true liberty as children of God. Praying and singing and giving thanks. Doing all the things that obviously please God.

  7. Jesus Tavern on April 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I could Bible-thump here because I’m a Bible nerd as you know from my previous posts Carly. But all this post has me thinking is this: If living a life of LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, compassion, mercy, acceptance, justice, freedom and hope is watering down the gospel and leading people to hell, then me and my household will gladly see you in hell Carly. And I’ll buy us all a beer when we get there.

  8. Kelsey Munger on April 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I love this post, Carly. And I can relate all too well. ((HUGS))

  9. AlissaBC on April 10, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Ugh. I so get this, Carly. I may have had one (or two) fundamentalist voice breakdowns just yesterday, in fact. Good to know I’m not as crazy as I sometimes feel. I hope you’re right about them getting quieter over time. And those words in bold? Man. It’s like you just get me.

    • Carly Gelsinger on April 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      SO glad to know I’m not the only schizophrenic fundamentalist on the internet. Hugs to you, Alissa!

  10. Travis Klassen on April 10, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    “Truth is truth.” Indeed…so glad you are telling yours. It informs mine.

    • Carly Gelsinger on April 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks Travis. BTW – loved your live tweeting today. Even though it kind of made me sick and angry.

  11. christiehoos on April 11, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    So needed to hear this! We are in the process of leaving, or explaining why we actually left years ago and have taken this long to actually physically leave our fundamentalist church. It’s so hard. And I hear those same voices in my head. “Err on the side of love” has been our mantra also. I hope it will someday be my reflex, the way my evangelical reactions are now. Even the words that come out of my mouth aren’t always what I believe, just the fundamental-isms I’ve heard and said all my life. It’s like I have to retrain my brain and my words to reflect my heart.

    • Carly Gelsinger on April 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      It is SO much like retraining our minds. It’s crazy. And you’re so right, the process of leaving takes years. I am glad you were blessed by this. Keep up the hard work.

  12. lthompson513 on April 11, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    I’m trying to get serious, but all I can think is, “Look at that Baby G! Walking around and getting so big!” She’s beautiful, and I’m so glad you’ve had some fun outside with her this week.

    I am no biblical scholar. I have not gone to seminary. But, when I hear those voices, when I’m worried about doing the right thing, I think of the many strong people I know that are the “love” voices. I picture those strong, gorgeous people in my head and hold onto that until the other voices quiet down. But most of all, I watch my son. I watch him take in the world and delight in it. I watch him love every thing that has breath, every one that has breath. I watch him pray for those who are hungry before we eat supper and the way he looks up in reverence when he’s handed bread for communion, as if it’s the greatest gift in the world. And I believe.

    • Carly Gelsinger on April 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Oh Lauren, I am going to need you to write about this. Your deadline is next week!
      We’ve been having fun lately. It is so good for me to get out of my head sometimes and just experience the world the way a toddler does.

  13. zmmurg on April 21, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I don’t know you at all, Carly, and I just happened to stumble across your blog. I think it’s wonderful that you are on a search for Truth, and though I don’t know anything about your background, I do think that any part of a fundamentalist belief system that had you chained in any way was a good thing to let go of. I do have a couple question’s I’d like you to ask yourself, because I really do believe that “the Voices” as you put them, shouldn’t be written off without a careful, careful look at where they’re coming from. I struggle a lot with feelings of guilt and “Voices,” as you put it. I’m not one to make a decision and not over-analyze it in a million and one ways to see if it was the correct one. What I’ve realized is that sometimes the “Voices” are Satan trying to tear down the liberating work that Love is doing in my life. I have also realized that the “Voices” can actually be just one Voice–the Holy Spirit, lovingly pushing me back when I’m out of line. The way I solve this dilemma for myself is looking at what the Bible has to say on the particular issue I’m agonizing over. I seem to see that a lot of Christians are “escaping fundamentalism.” They are taking a whole new attitude to the way of living as a Christian, one that incorporates love instead of legalism which is, in a million ways, wonderful. However, I also seem to see that in a push-back reaction to the extreme legalism of before, these Christians are taking an extreme love approach. Does that exist? Love that is too extreme? Not at all. What I mean by “extreme love” is actually taking Love and making it something that it isn’t really. Love does not lead people down the wrong path, and likewise while it embraces a person regardless of their lifestyle, it does not condone it and it does not allow the person to continue in it without informing them of the fact that they will have to give an account to God. All that I am trying to say is that you should make sure that your new, liberated belief system is in line with Scripture. God loves sinners, but not sin. As Christians, we have to take the hard approach–neither fearfully holing ourselves into a cave of legalism, neither fearfully creating a false love that does not rescue sinful souls from hell. It’s a fine line, a balance that can be achieved only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Blessings, and I know that if we truly have sincere hearts, God will help both you and me to find this beautiful balance of true love.

  14. Allison Duncan on June 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Carly, you might find some helpful stuff in this book, “Good News for Anxious Christians,” by Phil Cary, a former professor of mine: He has some wonderful words of grace and healing for those who have been damaged by fundamentalist teaching that leads to a lot of unnecessary guilty feelings. I know Phil’s insights about what we DON’T have to do to be good Christians has been very helpful to me, as a fairly guilt-addicted person. 🙂

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