A Godless Fundamentalist: Chapter Ten – The Unraveling Begins

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by John Ellis

As 2002 began, I found myself living in Atlanta, GA. Over the previous three years, I had made some minor alterations to my grand plans. Having fallen in love with performing on stage, my goal was no longer to become a movie star. I was now focused on a career as a theatre actor. And from my perspective, I was on the cusp of achieving all my goals. My life was going great.

My Christian upbringing was a distant memory that rarely troubled me. At parties and rehearsals, I would often mention that my dad was a fundamentalist Baptist minister to the great delight of those around me. I would regale them with tales from my time as a student at a Christian school and BJU, and they would chortle at my mocking depictions of people from my past.

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A Godless Fundamentalist: Chapter Nine – Embracing the Darkness

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by John Ellis

In December of 1997, the Oscar winning film Good Will Hunting was released. I watched it three times during the movie’s theatrical run. At the time, I enjoyed the movie, of course, but my fascination with it was mainly driven by the narrative surrounding its journey from page to screen.

The short version of the story goes that buddies Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, both struggling and unknown actors at the time, had miraculously sold Miramax the rights to their script. A true rags to riches tale. Granted, none of that is how it really happened, but I didn’t know that at the time. In late 1997 and early 1998 the tale of two unknown actors plucked from obscurity resonated with me. So, I began writing my own screenplay.

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A Godless Fundamentalist: Chapter Eight – Pushing Buttons at Bob Jones University

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by John Ellis

Safely back in Pensacola with my new life of freedom stretching out before me, I needed a job. Unfortunately, the job I landed was at the tree service company where my brother worked.

My brother and I only worked together for about a week, though. By the time I got the job, the summer was almost over, and he had to be back at BJU early due to his job in the Campus Store. I didn’t describe the job as “unfortunate” because of my brother, but because of the job.

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A Godless Fundamentalist: Chapter Seven – Fired by the Bill Rice Ranch

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by John Ellis

Image is important in fundamentalism. To be fair, image is important across all subsets of Western culture. We signal how we define ourselves by the ways in which we dress and present ourselves. But, in many ways, especially for the fundamentalism of my youth, image takes on extra import inside of Christian fundamentalism.

Many of the rules about dress were in place to prevent us from looking like “the world.” And, oh, were there a lot of rules.

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A Godless Fundamentalist: Chapter Six – My Year as a BJU Preacher Boy

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by John Ellis

If you continue reading this series, you’re going to discover that for a span of time as an adult, I was a drug dealer. You’ll read about how truly depraved I was and some of the truly terrible things I’ve done. You’ll find out about some of the weird and incredible events that are not easily explained, but that God used to draw me to Himself.

However, I predict that nothing you read in the subsequent chapters will be more confusing and jarring as this current installment. In fact, I would imagine that if someone wrote a movie script of my life that was then purchased by a producer, the scene that corresponds with this chapter would be cut.

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A Godless Fundamentalist: Chapter Five – A Freshman at Bob Jones University

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by John Ellis

When I was a kid, Bob Jones University seemed to be the epicenter of my world.

The adults in my life talked about the college in reverent tones. The highlights every year at church were the services featuring BJU’s musical ministry teams, drama teams, and the screenings of films produced by Unusual Films (BJU’s film production company). Most of my Thanksgivings growing up were spent on BJU’s campus. In fact, my family spent a few of our summer vacations at Sword of the Lord Conferences as well as the World Congress of Fundamentalism that were held on the campus of Bob Jones University.

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A Godless Fundamentalist: Chapter Four – For the Love of Grunge

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by John Ellis

During my transition from a Christian day school to Bob Jones University, and at the risk of romanticizing a musical genre that’s more artistically challenged than I realized at the time, grunge music, and its accompanying culture, became my god.

It didn’t happen overnight, though. The last half of 1993 and through the first half of 1994 provided me with clarity about my beliefs, or lack thereof, as well as boldness to act on my growing confidence in who I wanted to become.

In large part because of that, if you were on Pensacola Christian College’s campus during the fall of 1993 and you remember a brown and beige van frequently barreling through with music blaring, that was me.

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