Beyond Big Fundy

Meeting the Moment for Progressive Christianity


There’s a lot of criticism about Big Pharma, Big Government, and Big Business.  And there’s been plenty of talk for decades about the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

What about Big Fundy?

We should name it for what it is: the fundamentalist-industrial complex.

Now, more than ever, is the time to replace it with a form of Christianity that is kinder, gentler, more compassionate and just.

To do so will require a major investment of people-power and money in progressive Christian organizations and churches.  We’ve done a lot with a little.  We could do a whole lot more with a lot!

Big Fundy is a long-established alliance between conservative Christians and big business interests.  It formally got off the ground in 1935 with the founding of the “Spiritual Mobilization”.  A long list of major corporations contributed financially to this organization, devoted to making Christianity an instrument for promoting capitalism and attacking communism and the “socialist” programs of the New Deal.  Later, Billy Graham, bankrolled by big-money donors, became the face of the widening movement: he was groomed to deliver a smoother, more culturally acceptable form of fundamentalism than the rural, unsophisticated version that prevailed up to that time – and they freshly branded it as “evangelical” Christianity.  His “crusades” filled stadiums from coast to coast, and he became a power player among conservative politicians.  His organization was the precursor to that of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”, which went much further into open alliance with the Republican Party.

Big Fundy is a multi-billion dollar industry consisting of a network of corporate interests, wealthy donors, and grass-roots contributors supporting a large number of well-established organizations.  Its most recent grand-scale project is the campaign to rehabilitate the image of Jesus in America through massive buys of air time, billboards, and other media.  It portrays Jesus in an innocuous manner, but the campaign funnels viewers into the hyper-conservative media universe of fundamentalist Christianity, linked strongly with right-wing politics.

The most visible manifestations of Big Fundy are megachurches.  These occupy fundamentalist-industrial complexes at freeway exits, looking like box stores rather than spiritual sanctuaries.  They look like what they are:  huge enterprises twisting the liberating, compassionate gospel of Jesus into the worship of money, power, and backward social values.

Big Fundy has followed a long-term strategy that paid off handsomely.  Its tentacles have reached into every nook and cranny of American culture and institutions.  But it is in big trouble right now, as religious affiliation goes into steep decline and more and more Americans are disgusted by the unholy matrimony of conservative Christianity and Trumpism.  Blending the faith and example of Jesus with a dogma of untrammeled capitalism and regressive social values never made sense in the first place.  But today, the dissonance is becoming impossible to ignore.

In the capitalist world, it is trendy to talk about “disruptors” – entrepreneurs and technologies upending established markets with fresh inventions and creative business models.  Today, Big Fundy is threatened with spiritual disruptors known as progressive Christians, who are flipping the narrative of the faith in the direction of love and justice.  As never before, evangelical leaders are now condemning progressive Christianity as the cause of the precipitous decline in their churches.  Today, our movement has nowhere close to the financial and organizational horsepower of Big Fundy.  But we have the winds of change at our backs.  And we now have lively churches, advocacy organizations, and creative media to attract folks who are fleeing evangelical churches.  Progressive Christianity has evolved and grown in the last 25 years.  Now we present an engaging alternative to the millions of Americans who seek something very different than what Big Fundy has to offer.

We are in a uniquely remarkable historical moment. We have the opportunity to redefine the dominant paradigm of Christianity in America.  Let’s take it and run!

To get going, we’ll need a clear look at what’s required.

Focus on the Family is just one of the many manifestations of the fundamentalist-industrial complex.  It runs a huge propaganda empire aimed at families and children, and its public policy advocacy operation fights against abortion rights and same-sex marriage.  It has an operating budget of about $100,000,000 a year. is the global hub for our movement.  It offers networking, media, resources for churches, and curricula for kids and adults.  It has an operating budget of about $200,000 a year.  (You can change that by donating HERE!)

Another arm of Big Fundy reaches into colleges nationwide through several networks of conservative Christian campus organizations.  Just one of them, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, has a budget of about $100,000,000 a year.

The organization I serve as (volunteer) executive director, , runs a growing network of progressive ministries on college campuses nationwide.  We have an operating budget of about $30,000 a year.  (You can change that by donating HERE!) With a lot more money, we could help to fund the many campus ministries that wish they could switch from Big Fundy networks over to ours… and that would have a huge impact on college campuses everywhere!

There are other inspiring and effective progressive Christian organizations (ask me – I’m eager to recommend them all!) – but none of them have anywhere close to the financial horsepower of Big Fundy.

Now is our David moment to confront the Big Fundy Goliath.  But not with a stone in a sling: rather, with compassionate words and deeds that serve as healthy antidotes to the toxic brew of regressive politics, backward theology, and stunted social values of the religious right.

You can make history.  You can join a progressive church, or start one.  Or press your wishy-washy mainline Protestant church to get serious and take a public stand for inclusion and justice.  You can make clever TikToks illustrating what progressive Christianity is about, and circulate them through our networks.  You can leverage your social media to advance our visibility.  You can donate money to our organizations, and urge your friends to do the same: a little goes a long way, and a lot will go a lot farther.  We don’t have to raise billions to get the work done… we’re more nimble and creative than Big Fundy.  But we do need much, much more funding than we receive today in order to reach the wider public with our message.  If you are in a church that is disbanding, and has real estate or other assets, do what you can to have those assets donated to one of our organizations, so that new life will grow from the seeds of the old.  The assets of just a few empty churches could make an enormous difference at a national scale!  If you have connections with potential major funders, please connect them with us.

But the greatest impact you and I can make is to live the faith!  — and follow the compassionate way of Jesus, through service and contemplative practice — and share your faith with others, inviting them to join you in progressive Christian community.

(See more of my “musings” here…)

Pastor, United Church of Christ, Simi Valley CA

Executive Director, Progressive Christians Uniting/ZOE: Progressive Christian Life on Campus

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