Tag Archives: Fundamentalism

WINGSPREAD Ezine for May, 2023

Spreading your wings in a perplexing world
May 2023                                                    James P. Hurd

Please forward and share this E-zine with others. Thank you.


  • Blessed Unbeliever published!
  • Writer’s Corner
  • New story
  • This month’s puzzler
  • Wingspread Ezine subscription information
  • Wisdom


It’s exciting to see the interest in Blessed Unbeliever, a novel about religious zeal that morphs into religious doubt, and the persistence of pursuing grace.

Sean McIntosh lives in a California world of Fundamentalist certainty—until his world unravels. He’s trying to make sense of losing his girlfriend and losing his dream of becoming a missionary pilot. And he’s shaken by contradictions in the Bible. His despair leads him to commit a blasphemous act and declare himself an atheist—all the while at Torrey Bible Institute!

Blessed Unbeliever (paper or Kindle version) can be found at Wipf and Stock Publishers https://tinyurl.com/27pvdkyp , Amazon https://a.co/d/9su5F3o or wherever good books are sold.

Writer’s Corner

Punctuation matters!

Word of the Month:  EN MEDIA RES. Latin, meaning “in the middle of things.” It is effective to start a story, not at the beginning, but en media res, just before or just after the climactic event. Then you can fill in the details as the story unfolds.

Tip of the month:  “If it sounds like ‘writing,’ I rewrite it.” Elmore Leonard. Our readers should be captured by the story, not impressed by “the writing.” Writing is only the container, the medium that carries the story to the reader.

Your turn: Who is the most interesting character you’ve ever read about, biographical or fictional? (I like Sherlock Holmes. He is hilarious, but he doesn’t know that.)

This month’s puzzler

Adapted from Car Talk Puzzler archives

I’m going to give a series of names, a series of words, okay?

I’m going to give you a piece of the series, a sub-set of words, and your task will be to give me the rest of the series and tell me what the series is. 

And here they are: 

  • Juliet.
  • Kilo.
  • Lima.
  • Mike.
  • November.

And that’s it. That’s all I can give you. Pretty rough one huh? Good luck.

(Answer in next month’s Wingspread ezine.)

Last month’s puzzler: 

Recall that Ralph, an auto mechanic, can’t seem to get through airport security. He empties all his pockets, even takes off his belt, but still sets off the alarm. The TSA guy asks, “What’s your work?” Ralph replies, “Auto mechanic.” “Ah; that explains it!” says the TSA guy. What did the TSA guy realize?

Answer: To protect his feet, Ralph wore steel-toed boots—which set off the alarm. Removing them, he zipped through security.

New story: “Fearful of Finding the Fatal Flaw”

. . . In short, I became a Bible nerd. My faith depended on big words: dispensationalism, eternal security, election, the millennium, pre-Tribulational rapture and especially inerrancy. We sang, “The Bible stands, like a rock undaunted, far above the wrecks of time. . . .” The Bible was without error (in the original). . . . But I despaired of finding the answers I was seeking. I even considered becoming an atheist. . . .

To read more, click here: https://jimhurd.com/2023/05/03/fearful-of-finding-the-fatal-flaw/

(Leave a comment on the website and share with others. Thanks.)

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Last football wisdom (I promise!)

What does the average Alabama player get on his SATs? 

How many Michigan State freshmen football players does it take to change a light bulb? 
None. That’s a sophomore course. 

How did the Auburn football player die from drinking milk? 
The cow fell on him. 

Two Texas A&M football players were walking in the woods. One of them said, ” Look, a dead bird.” 
The other looked up in the sky and said, “Where?” 

What do you say to a Florida State football player dressed in a three-piece suit? 
“Will the defendant please rise.”

How can you tell if a Clemson football player has a girlfriend? 
There’s tobacco juice on both sides of his pickup truck. 

What do you get when you put 32 Kentucky cheerleaders in one room? 
A full set of teeth. 

University of Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh is only going to dress half of his players for the game this week. The other half will have to dress themselves. 

How is the Kansas football team like an opossum? 
They play dead at home and get killed on the road 

How do you get a former University of Miami football player off your porch? 
Pay him for the pizza.

These exquisite insults are from an era before the English language got boiled down to four-letter words.

1. “He had delusions of adequacy ”
Walter Kerr

2. “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
Winston Churchill

3. “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” Clarence Darrow

4. “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”
William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

5. “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”
(Ernest Hemingway about William Faulkner)

6. “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”
Moses Hadas

7. “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
Mark Twain

8. “He has no enemies but is intensely disliked by his friends.”
Oscar Wilde

9. “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.”
George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

10. “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.”
Winston Churchill, in response

11. “I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here”
Stephen Bishop

12. “He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
John Bright

13. “I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”
Irvin S. Cobb

14. “He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.”
Samuel Johnson

15. “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.
Paul Keating

16. “He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”
Forrest Tucker

17. “Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”
Mark Twain

18. “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”
Mae West

19. “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”
Oscar Wilde

20. “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts… for support rather than illumination.”
Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

21. “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”
Billy Wilder

22. “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it.”
Groucho Marx

23. Exchange between Lady Astor & Winston Churchill:
Lady Astor: If you were my husband I’d give you poison.
Churchill: Madam: If you were my wife, I’d drink it.

24. “He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.”  Abraham Lincoln

25. “There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.”
Jack E. Leonard

26. “They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”
Thomas Brackett Reed

27. “He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them.” James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

Fearful of Finding the Fatal Flaw

My pious mother and father helped start Silver Acres Church (Santa Ana, California) and immersed us in weekly Sunday school, countless Fundamentalist sermons, and an arsenal of memorized Bible verses. In short, I became a Bible nerd. My faith depended on big words: dispensationalism, eternal security, election, the millennium, pre-Tribulational rapture and especially inerrancy. We sang, “The Bible stands, like a rock undaunted, far above the wrecks of time. . . .” The Bible was without error (in the original).

Pastor Cantrell preached, “If you question inerrancy you question God. The doctrine of inerrancy rests, not on examining the text, but on the belief that God would never allow mistakes.” It made good sense—if God wrote the Bible, how could it contain errors?

The summer of my sixth grade I attended Pine Valley Christian camp. Being a Bible nerd I often launched frivolous questions at our speakers. What was the first mention of baseball in the Bible? (the Big-inning). First mention of smoking? (when Rachel lit off her camel). Shortest person in the Bible? (Eliphaz the Shuhite). You get the idea.

I asked one speaker: “Where’s the first mention of tennis in the Bible?” He didn’t know. I told him, “When David served in Saul’s court.”

He was not amused. “Son, you should not make fun of the Bible. It’s God’s holy word.” I turned away, chastened. Silver Acres and Pine Valley taught me that the Bible did not, could not have any mistakes in it—inerrancy on steroids.

Later, I enrolled in Moody Bible Institute. Impersonal Chicago intimidated me, although I felt comfortable behind the sacred gates of Moody’s big stone arch that fronts LaSalle Street. I expected that by studying my inerrant Bible at Moody I would find the answers to my nagging questions: How understand my loneliness? Lack of friends? My social awkwardness? But I was disappointed and sank further into depression.

I feared I would find one fatal, unanswerable flaw in the Bible that would bring my whole faith crashing down.  I consulted my roommate George: “I’m really confused. The numbers don’t agree. I Kings 7:26 says that Solomon’s basin held two thousand baths, while II Chronicles 4:5 says it held three thousand baths. Were these two different basins? Did Solomon have four thousand horse stalls (I Kings 4:26) or forty thousand  (II Chronicles 9:25)? Did Jesus’ sermon occur on the mountain (Matthew 5:1–2) or on the plain (Luke 6:17, 20)? Did Judas, Jesus’s betrayer, hang himself, or was he eviscerated in a field? Three of the Gospel writers list three different ‘last words’ of Jesus. They disagree about whether Jesus was two or three days in the tomb. Which of these is inerrant? All of them? And why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” George only nodded his head thoughtfully.

And the scientific contradictions. When Job states that God “hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7), my teachers saw an ancient confirmation of modern science.  But elsewhere in the same book we learn that God “laid the foundations of the earth,” (38:4), a pre-scientific view.

My teachers pointed with approval to Isaiah’s phrase “the circle of the earth” as an example of ancient scientific knowledge (Isaiah 40:22). But when John mentions the “four corners of the earth” (Revelation 7:1) they protested that he was only using a metaphor.

I despaired of finding the answers I was seeking. I even considered becoming an atheist.

“Inerrancy” is a modern controversy. Even the great 16th century theologians John Calvin and Martin Luther allowed mistakes in the Bible. They treasured a God-inspired text in spite of the contradictions they found.

After college I was speaking at a graduate school where I suggested that the notion of Biblical inerrancy is a “shibboleth” (that is, a symbol, a code word to signal the difference between “us” and “them.”) To separate us from the people with the wrong doctrines. After the talk, the grand old man of the school took me aside and told me, “Inerrancy is not a shibboleth; it’s an essential doctrine of the Christian faith!” I felt like a Cub Scout in knee pants being scolded by his scoutmaster.

But eventually I turned again to read the Gospels where I discovered that inerrancy and other doubtful questions, while important, paled in the brilliant light of the man Jesus who had “nothing beautiful or majestic to attract us to him, did no wrong, was despised and forsaken, yet bore all of our weaknesses and sorrows.” Today, this man’s love, his words and his deeds, overwhelm any doubts that may trouble me.

Wingspread Ezine for January, 2023

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

January 2023                                                  James P. Hurd

Please forward and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.


  • Blessed Unbeliever release!
  • Writers Corner
  • New story: Clutchers Car Club
  • This month’s puzzler
  • Wingspread Ezine subscription information
  • Wisdom


In Blessed Believer, Sean McIntosh has good reason to doubt his fundamentalist faith— he’s just lost his girlfriend and his life dream of aviation. But when he turns to unbelief, he finds it harder than he ever imagined—especially at Torrey Bible Institute! So he commits a secret act of sacrilege to convince himself he’s an atheist. It’s a long journey back to his girlfriend, his life dream, and his faith. (Wipf and Stock, 2023.)

Buy here: https://wipfandstock.com/9781666756951/blessed-unbeliever/
or on Amazon (Kindle format coming soon).

Writers Corner

Word of the Month: ENDORSEMENTS: The short paragraphs written on the back cover, recommending a book to the reader (see above).

Tip of the month: PROOFREADING. 1. Print out your piece and read it out loud to yourself. 2. Get a couple of people (readers or writers preferred) to read your piece through. 3. Professional proofreading is expensive but may be necessary.

Your turn:     What is the most memorable line you’re read, or heard in a movie? Email me your favorite at hurd@usfamily.net. Example: Where Harry says, “Go ahead; make my day” (Clint Eastwood, Sudden Impact, 1983).

I’ll post your responses here next week.

Last week I asked you about the best short story you’ve ever read. Two of my personal favorites come to mind.

Jack London, “Two Boys on a Mountain.” Makes your hands sweat.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Hollow of the Three Hills,” about an unfaithful wife encountering a witch. Horror and despair.

This is the woman I married . . .

New story: Clutchers Car Club  


This is a background story based on my novel, Blessed Unbeliever, about Sean McIntosh and Kathleen Wilberforce in the 1950s. It gives some background on Reggie Radcliffe, Sean’s enemy.

After he arrived at Stanton, Reggie Radcliffe single-handedly birthed the Clutchers Car Club—a coterie of church kids, all motorheads. One dark Tuesday night in spring 1959, the Clutchers gathered as usual in the barn at Jeff Adam’s Villa Park orange ranch. A dry Santa Ana wind whipped the branches, flinging oranges off the trees like projectiles. Cars pulled in and parked among the trees. As the guys walked into the barn, which was swept and all alight, a small radio played Bobby Darin—“I want a dream lover, so I don’t have to dream alone. . . .”    
To read more, click above   

(Leave a comment on the website and share with others: https://jimhurd.com . Thanks.)

This month’s puzzler

This is from a book of riddles collected by Agnes Rogers. Mrs. Simmons, a suburban housewife, was very fond of her mother-in-law. One morning after breakfast, she went shopping and then stopped as she often did, to have a mid-morning cup of coffee with the older woman. When Mrs. Simmons returned home, the first thing she saw was the grizzly remains of her husband . . .

Instead of calling a doctor or the police, she calmly went about her domestic chores. Why?

Answer to last month’s puzzler: You recall the defendant was rightly convicted by the jury but the judge was compelled to let him go free. Why? Answer: The guy was one half of a Siamese twin and it would have been unfair to the other half if the guy was imprisoned. (I know: a rare occurrence, and kind of a lame puzzler! Please do not erase me from your memory!  😊)

“Was it something I said?”

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Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

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There’s this hot dog stand, and a Buddhist walks up and says, “Make me one with everything.” 

Why did the Hindu patient refuse to take Novocain from the Buddhist dentist?
He wanted to transcend dental medication.

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”   C.S. Lewis

More football

“A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.” 
– Frank Leahy / Notre Dame 

“He doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear. In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”
-Ohio State’s Urban Meyer on one of his players: 

“I never graduated from Iowa. But I was only there for two terms – Truman’s and Eisenhower’s” 
– Alex Karras / Iowa 

The Girls at Torrey Bible

[An excerpt from my novel, East Into Unbelief, soon to be released.]

March came, the days brightened and the weather turned warmer and windy, the trees dragging their leaves like nets. Sean walked across the quad and up to his English class. He loved some of the poetry they were reading, but he would never admit that to his friends. And Christian Education class. Mr. Getsch’s lectures fascinated Sean—he taught them how to teach, how to start a file drawer. Or, maybe Sean just enjoyed sitting next to Linda Fuller from Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Slightly built, Linda’s brown hair fell carelessly to her shoulders, framing her brown eyes. Usually she wore a white blouse with short sleeves, her pleated skirt falling just to her knees. and black flats—casual but not sloppy.

Fascinating, exotic Linda. Sean loved her self-confidence, her brio. Fuller: Sean loved the name. It sounded English. He knew nothing about New England, but he loved her New England accent. She told him, “Yes—the town was founded in 1645, just after the Pilgrims . . . Mother belongs to the Daughtahs of the American Revolution.” She said cah for car; sneakahs for tennis shoes. Imagine growing up, not in Santa Ana, but in Manchester-by-the-Sea!

Linda explained how Dean Darla Dickenson shadowed the lives of the Hargreaves Hall girls like a darkening eclipse. “She’s always calling someone in over something. I think she cares about us, but she tries to control . . .” Possessing the metabolism of a hummingbird, Linda never harbored an unspoken thought, never finished a sentence, and never provided segues. But Sean, usually at a loss for something to say, loved the way her words filled his awkward silences.

“Last week my roommate asked Dickenson if French kissing was a sin.” Linda said as she opened her textbook and binder. “I think she needs to get married. That’ll solve all her problems.”

Sean’s face colored, not being used to such frankness. He assumed most girls weren’t interested in French kissing. Then he thought of Betty. Maybe some girls were like Betty, even TBI girls.

Sean knew that Dickenson was long on law, short on grace. She lived a disciplined life, defending her moral barricades so fiercely that no man had ever dared breach them. “What did Dickenson say to her?”

“Oh; Dickenson said it was a sin.” Linda chattered on, stopping only when Dr. Getsch’s opening prayer drowned her out.

It was 1961, and most colleges practiced in loco parentis—curfews, no alcohol, segregation of the sexes. Most colleges locked the girls up, tracked their movements. But Fundamentalist schools more so—they endeavored to shield them from the attack of a post-WWII culture that threatened to overwhelm their moral defenses.

Linda, beautiful Massachusetts Linda. A few days after their conversation, Sean asked her to go with him to Lincoln Park. Walking up LaSalle Street, Sean realized they would miss TBI’s dinner, so they stopped at a little restaurant for sandwiches. “I wish my parents would come visit,” Linda said, “but they won’t leave my baby brother, and can’t very well take him . . .  Oh, look! A couple CPD cars stopped at that apartment. I wonder what . . . I’m glad they’re . . . My dad got stopped by a policeman once.” Linda burbled on about her classes, her roommate, her church and family back home. Sean searched for a verbal handhold to vault himself into her monologue.

Then they reached Lincoln Park, a beautiful summer gathering place—gardens, little lakes, curving walkways, manicured lawns, trees misted green with their tiny new leaves. Along the border of the park, elite residential buildings towered over them.

They sat down on a bench to watch the ducks swim around in one of the little pools rippled by the brisk March wind, their reflections moving with them across the water. Above in the trees, sparrows rose in random gusts. Linda slouched down and her dress drifted a couple of inches above her knees. Sean pretended to not notice. Linda pretended she didn’t notice that he noticed, as she gazed at the ducks and wriggled her dress back down.

She wore a thin chain with a Cross that nestled between her breasts, like gold cascading down a mountain vale. “Where’d you get that Cross pendant?” Sean asked. He longed to grasp it.

“Oh; I got that in the TBI bookstore. They’ve got all kinds of . . . Oh look, a squirrel!” She looked, fascinated, as the animal scurried up a maple tree. “Our dog at home loves to chase squirrels down cellar . . . Isn’t this lake beautiful? Look at those ducks . . . I wonder if there’s a bubbler nearby? I’m thirsty. . .”

Linda talked like she was strewing potato chips on the ground—Sean didn’t know which to pick up first. Was she nervous, having to comment on everything? Regardless, her idle babble reassured him. After careful thought, he reached over and took her hand.

She stopped talking and stared again at the ducks. Embarrassed, he released her hand. After a while they stood up and started walking. Linda stared ahead. “Holding hands is like being on an elevator, you know. I’m scared of elevators. You start going up slowly, but then you go higher and faster. It’s hard to stop.” Sounds exciting, Sean thought. But her objections confirmed that girls didn’t welcome his advances. Betty must have been an anomaly, he thought. It was getting cold, so they walked over to the “L,” rode it south, got off at Chicago Avenue, then walked the short distance back to TBI.

As they reached the school, Sean glanced at the façade of Moody-Sankey Auditorium. D.L. Moody was a great nineteenth-century evangelist. His partner, Ira B. Sankey, was a gospel singer and hymnwriter. Sean thought about the dozens of huge brass organ pipes that lined the front of the auditorium. He fantasized about taking Linda up into the dark balcony, but he wasn’t sure he was that courageous.

They walked into Hargreaves lounge, a sterile space as formal as a king’s reception room, designed to guard couples’ morality. The rule was “three feet on the floor.”

 “The afternoons are growing warmer, and the park had so much green grass,” Linda said as she sat down. I wonder about our lawn at home. Oh; did you hear about the spring banquet? I suppose Dickenson will check the girl’s dress lengths, as usual.”

Sean said nothing. Was she hinting he should take her to the banquet?