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This is how ACE treats its supporters

What happens if you write a letter of complaint to Accelerated Christian Education? Obviously, if write a letter, I’m going to get ignored, because I am regarded as nothing but a tool of the devil (and I do not use that term as a figure of speech). But what about Christians—what about ACE’s customers? Will they take constructive criticism from supporters?

Or are they those stereotypical fundamentalists who are so convinced of their own rightness that they know anyone who disagrees with them is simply wrong?

Online reviews of the ACE curriculum always make interesting reading, but I was particularly struck by this one. After describing what she perceived as faults in the curriculum, the reviewer writes:

I called School of Tomorrow and discussed my concerns with them and they did not have any answers for me regarding how easy it is to “cheat” on the Pace tests and learning to think logically and critically. I even asked if the rep could make and note and say something to whoever is in charge of curriculum, but they won’t do that. The fact is ACE wants testimonies of people who did well using their curriculum but those that did did not go to med school and have to think out the box. They go to bible school, become teachers, maybe there’s an accountant or businessperson scattered in, but I want my children to have a world of opportunities open to them when they decide on a career and I absolutely DO NOT want them to struggle the way I did.

Is it true that ACE is only interested in success stories? Enter Kevin Long. Kevin has recently outed himself as a supporter of this blog, and even contributed a guest post, but it was not ever thus. When Kevin first began commenting here, he was still supportive of aspects of ACE. Before he came round to the Leaving Fundamentalism position on ACE, Kevin defended it as an option for kids who would sink in mainstream schools. He wrote a letter to ACE at that time, and has received no response. Kevin’s given me permission to share it with you. I think it’s quite revealing that ACE won’t respond even to this.

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Whaddaya mean, ‘fundamentalist’?

At one of my recent talks on Bristol, an attendee challenged me on my definition of fundamentalism. And while I still think his definition did a violence to any traditional usage of the term (while mine was, obviously, unassailably correct), he raised an important point. ‘Fundamentalist’, in modern usage, is essentially a swear word. If you call someone a fundamentalist, you’re writing off their views as irrelevant and invalid. At the same time, the word does have a historical meaning, referring to a specific type of Christian theology.

In the past, I have capitalised on that very ambiguity with this blog. I blog about self-identified fundamentalists, the kind meant by the historical meaning of the word. But since I also think that these views are irrational and their adherents are extremists, I’ve been letting my readers interpret the term however they wish. If by fundamentalist you mean someone who believes in the literal truth of an inerrant Bible, that’s what I mean. But if you mean a terrorist, well, as far as I’m concerned the atrocities committed by self-proclaimed fundamentalists at Christian reform homes are in the same moral ballpark as terrorism, so that’s fine too.

Now I’ve decided I want to engage meaningfully with believers, I have a problem. You can’t reach mutual understandings through interfaith dialogue while calling your conversation partners terrorists. So is it time to lose the term ‘fundamentalism’? Even Bob Jones University, the spiritual home of fundamentalism, has made noises about ditching it:

“Basically, we’ve decided that we can’t use that term,” said Carl Abrams, a BJU history professor and a longtime member of the faculty. “The term has been hijacked and it takes you 30 minutes to explain it. So you need something else.”

But if not fundamentalist, then what? Well, before we can answer that, we need to know how fundamentalism gained its current status. And for that, we need Adam Laats’s outstanding book, Fundamentalism and Education in the Scopes Era: God, Darwin, and the Roots of America’s Culture Wars.

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