In my previous post, I discussed how fundamentalist and progressive Christians both take Christianity and center it around what they can get away with. The progressive actually shares this sense of liberty with others while the fundamentalist keeps it for themselves. Both sides were placed in contrast to the “essentialist” (true) Christian who takes on a more holistic approach to the faith. The true Christian does not see Christianity as “what they can get out of it” like the other groups. However, there is another group that actually does reflect a opposite perspective from the progressive, and makes enemies with the fundamentalist. This is the school-master Christian.
When coming up with this category I imagined the stereotypical Catholic nun who always seems angry and wishes to project that anger onto others. She hits the “unruly” children with a ruler when they aren’t sitting up straight or seeming to show interest in something unrelated to religious life. The only “fun” people are allowed to have is going to church and serving God. The more extreme approach may abstain from all physical pleasures. They do make sure needs are met, but they think you should not enjoy food or worldly television or music (outside of music in the church). The school master Christian, like the fundamentalist and the progressive, also tends to emphasize ecclesiastical matters with the church. These will vary with the denomination.
The best Biblical passage to reference the school master is Romans 14: 1-4
1 As for the one whose faith is weak, accept him [into your fellowship], but not for [the purpose of] quarreling over his opinions.
2 One man’s faith permits him to eat everything, while the weak believer eats only vegetables [to avoid eating ritually unclean meat or something previously considered unclean].
3 The one who eats [everything] is not to look down on the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat must not criticize or pass judgment on the one who eats [everything], for God has accepted him.
4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? Before his own master he stands [approved] or falls [out of favor]. And he [who serves the Master—the Lord] will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Essentially, you have two Christians who have differing views on dietary matters. One Christian believes they have liberty to eat meat and the other feels safer eating only herbs. Paul instructs both believers not to look down on each other for the decision they made. The school-master is like the one eating only herbs and the progressives are the ones eating meat. The fundamentalist eats meat while giving herbs to everyone else. The true Christian does not judge on such menial matters. As such, you may see an essentialist Christian eating herbs or eating meat, however they will not judge your relationship with God based on your decision.
For the essentialist, there are more pressing matters to attend to. The essentials always start with one’s personal relationship with God and conduct as a believer. The school-master almost seems like they “get it” more than the others. But their self-centered attitude makes them want to share their suffering with others. The true Christian knows when to “kick the dust off their feet” and the importance of a personal relationship.