A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Mumpsimus – a traditional notion that is obstinately held although it is unreasonable

Yes this is a real word!  Mumpsimus: A traditional notion that is obstinately held although it is unreasonable. A person who obstinately adheres to old ways in spite of clear evidence that they are wrong; an ignorant and bigoted opponent of reform. An obvious error that is obstinately repeated despite correction.

According to Wikipedia

Mumpsimus refers to the act of following (or a person who follows) a routine, idea, custom, set of beliefs or a certain use of language after it has been shown to be unreasonable or incorrect. For example, a person may continue to pronounce “picturesque” as “picturesqueak”, even after being corrected by someone else.

Mumpsimus has been defined as a “traditional custom obstinately adhered to however unreasonable it may be” and as “someone who obstinately clings to an error, bad habit or prejudice, even after the foible has been exposed and the person humiliated; also, any error, bad habit, or prejudice clung to in this fashion.”  Merriam-Webster considers such an adherent to an exposed error to be a bigoted person. 

The term originates from a story about a priest who misread sumpsimus as mumpsimus. After being told about his mistake he stated that he had been using mumpsimus for a number of years and was not about to change, saying “I’ve got so used to using the word mumpsimus that I’ll just go on saying it that way.”

The Oxford English Dictionary credits the English diplomat Richard Pace (1482–1536) with introducing the word, but it may have first been used Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) in a letter he wrote in August 1516. Pace acknowledged that he had taken the anecdote from Erasmus in a letter that he wrote to Erasmus in 1517.  Another source attributes the tale to King Henry VII of England (1457–1509), which would make it even older.

William Tyndale may have been the first to use the word in an English-language book.

The cant word quickly became widely used by sixteenth century writers. In William Tyndale’s 1530 book Practice of Prelates, the word was used in the sense of a stubborn opponent to Tyndale’s views. He said that the men whom Cardinal Wolsey had asked to find reasons why Catherine of Aragon was not truly the wife of King Henry VIII of England were “all lawyers, and other doctors, mumpsimuses of divinity.” 

Henry VIII reportedly said of arguing preachers, “Some are too stiff in their old Mumpsimus, and others too busie and curious in their new Sumpsimus.”

Hugh Latimer ( 1487–1555) used the term in two sermons he preached in 1552, saying “when my neighbor is taught, and knoweth the truth, and will not believe it, but will abide in his old mumpsimus…” and again “Some be so obstinate in their old mumpsimus, that they cannot abide the true doctrine of God.”

The visible church has an abundance of mumpsimuses.  Who or what do you think are the most dangerous mumpsimuses in the visible church?

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25 Comments

  1. Dave H

    “After all these centuries, we have come to perfectly understand everything about God and everything presented in Scripture. It has all been catalogued neatly into a perfect systematic theology. And therefore the church leadership has a clear-cut answer for every question you might have, and every situation you might encounter.

    The observations in Scripture about mystery? About faith? About seeing through a glass darkly? No, we’ve come a long way since back in those old days. We’ve had it all figured out for quite some time now. Just do as you’re told. Questions are just a reflection of your lack of faith.”

  2. Eagerlabs

    “God hates divorce.”
    “God helps those who help themselves.”
    “Don’t judge.”
    “No one can know the truth.”
    “God loves everybody.”

    I’ll stop there. I’m getting mad.lol

    Oh..that’s another one. “Anger is a sin.”

    Oo..that’s another one

    • Maggie

      What is sad is that the person verbally attacking another for anger or judgment (or hate) is often speaking very angrily, hatefully and judging the one attacked. I have had this happen in small groups and “Christian” counseling. The counselor had a Masters of Divinity, which is worthless now to me. (I am looking for another therapist, probably a secular one.) The best part is that the verbal attacker is often completely wrong (regardless of qualifications from Divinity school).

      • Hi Maggie, welcome to the blog 🙂 And thanks for sharing this bit of your story.

        We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

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  3. Saved By Grace

    I’ve been told loneliness is a sin. I asked for a biblical reference (full address: book, chapter, verse) but had no response or follow-up. It can’t be found….I looked!!

    • The Apostle Paul expressed his sense of loneliness:

      At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.

      2 Tim 4:6

    • Helovesme

      Paul was also lonely near the end of his life. At the end of 2Timothy (4:9), he badly wanted to see Timothy again (“Do your best to come to me quickly”). Following verses speak of those that left him behind, and Luke alone was with him.

  4. sunshine

    Sometimes people will continue to attend and support a church when the pastor is caught in obvious sin. (Mishandling of church funds, romantic affairs, etc…) Their reason being that they’ve attended that church their whole life.

  5. Seeing the Light

    Forgiveness equals reconciliation.

    Safety is always found in blindly obeying authority, including wives to husbands and church members/attenders to church elders/pastors. This is the safest place for you and keeps you in the will of God.

  6. Helovesme

    Hmmm, what kind of Mumpsimus still exist in or out of the church? Too many to count

    No one is perfect. We are all sinners (or flawed individuals) Therefore sin is not as “sinful” as it may seem

    I deserve pity because I sinned, even tho I’m not repentant of it

    Women are more spiritual than men (yes, I know that sounds crazy, but that is something I’ve lived and seen. They’re often expected (spoken or unspoken) to be more compassionate, forgiving, sensitive to others, and willing to bear heavy or multiple burdens—more so than men

    Women are responsible for crimes done against them because of how they dress, how they act and how they look. Men cannot help themselves, because they are wired a certain way, and women must understand that.

    A woman who is not afraid to challenges others, speak her mind and speak up is a troublemaker, and is overstepping herself. She needs to stay in her place and remember it.

    A woman who comes forth with an accusation is automatically suspected of lying, and the accused is automatically declared innocent as a result

    He (or she) is innocent before proven guilty. Therefore we can’t take sides if an accusation comes forward

    If you disagree with us (leaders in the church), you are stepping outside of God’s will. You are rebellious and have sinned. God is therefore angry with you.

    Be pleasing to those around you, and God will be pleased with you. Love them, serve them, bless them and you will reap the results and be loved in return. If someone is not pleased with you or is hurting you, just love them some more. Love will cover everything, soften their hearts and God will bless you as a result.

    There are more, but I don’t mean to go on too long. What sickens me is that I’ve probably only scratched the surface!

  7. Kind of Anonymous

    Charm and charisma equal a trustworthy and godly leader. Musical talent and good looks – all the better.

    Religion has bought the monstrous heresy that noise, size, bluster and activity make a man dear to God – this one courtesy of AW Tozer.

    Christians should always be nice. Jesus was always nice, gentle, meek and mild.

    Image equals reality.

    Its okay to use the world`s methods of getting things done and maintaining power and control, as long as you have a godly reason for doing so.

    • Helovesme

      Kind Of Anonymous this blew me away. What “spot on” observations! Thank you for sharing.

      Can I add: as long as no one speaks about evil (in their own lives or in your church, family, etc.), it doesn’t exist. Silence means everything is “all good.”

      Churches are about who is useful (to their agenda, their ministries, etc.), and anyone who is not as useful is expendable. This is partly why I think church leaders cushion and conceal the sins of those who are very useful to them, personally or professionally.

      Being a pastor is a career, not a calling from God. Such persons treat the church as a business, not a sanctuary that is meant to represent Christ.

      I particularly liked the last one. The ends justifies the means, basically.

  8. kind of anonymous

    Helovesme, thanks for your kind words 🙂

    Your comment about how churches dispose of people not useful to their agenda actually validated something for me, regarding a church situation I was in, where I became the convenient scapegoat on whom the pastor heaped the blame for said situation. The others involved were one person he was afraid to incur the anger of and another whom he was using for personal validation as well as to use this persons talent to make his church seem successful. I had called him out on some very carnal reasoning, spiritual compromise and dishonesty, as well as abusive behaviour for which there was no acknowledgment or repentance. Cleary I was not contributing to his agenda and was the least valuable member and therefore disposable.

  9. kind of anonymous

    Just had a further thought; HeLoves Me, the bit about pastors treating it like a career is so accurate. See how many ideas are taken from the corporate world and from the sports world, right down to having a slogan painted on the wall of the church, having a worship `team“ instead of musicians, church growth seminars and methodology, as if techniques produce salvation, etc. Lately the gimmickry in some churches seems to be importing stuff from rock concerts and theatrical performances, like artificially creating a mystical spiritual atmosphere with dark lighting and fog. What next – Disco balls?

    • Helovesme

      Kind Of Anonymous am so sorry for what you went through. While I was writing different mumpsimuses down, I had to remember that these things really happened to real people. With real consequences, as in your story.

      The other day I was thinking why it’s so common for church leaders and/or Christians to side with the abuser, and victimize the victim even more. Why would anyone do that? I had to remind myself how persuasive abusers can be (playing the victim, effectively lying, for example). But I also remembered how scary they can be, too. Very intimidating personas. Very charming, but powerful personalities. They have a way of stirring up fear in those around them, not just their victim(s).

      Why in the world I didn’t write this down, first and foremost, shocks me. It may be one of THE greatest mumpsimus out there:

      A person who professes to be a Christian, is an actual Christian. No questions asked. No evident good or bad fruit necessary to prove or disprove.

      Spot on, again, about churches being run like a business. A pastor is more like a CEO than a shepherd. He look at his attendance charts, tithe numbers, amount of staff, etc. like a business person. He is not interested in shepherding the sheep. He is interested in the profit that the sheep represent.

      And unlike Jesus, who said He would leave the 99 righteous to find the one lost sheep, this type of pastor is only interested in the 99 (or more)—and the one lost sheep is a loss of revenue, not too significant and not to be concerned with.

      That type of pastor is like the hired hand, who will run off and retire, or resign—when his true character is revealed, or is about to come to light. Cares nothing for the sheep he hurt.

      • kind of anonymous

        Wow. I think that`s one of the biggest ones you have just described, the one about
        “a person who professes to be a Christian is an actual Christian. No questions asked, no evident good or bad fruit necessary to prove or disprove“.

        Probably all the others hinge on that one, given that just putting your hand up in an altar call, going down front and praying the sinner`s prayer or signing a card, asking Jesus into your heart, all are accepted as “conversions“.

        I am doing better as far as what happened church wise, appreciate your caring concern. My own spiritual immaturity contributed to the situation in that I was easily manipulated and lacked the character strength to hold firm against something I knew deep down wasn`t right. I keep having to learn the same lesson over and over and over when it comes to who to trust. I do not know what it is in us, that we so badly want to trust people. I am often like Charlie Brown, with Lucy and the football, deluding myself despite having seen over and over again what happens in the same situation.

        Perhaps an internal mumpsimus of my own, one hard to remove: Sure, he ignored that scripture but he`s a really nice guy and look how helpful and nice, accepting or compassionate he`s being. I am just being silly, or legalistic, or upright, or foolish.

        TRUTH: if someone demonstrates casual disregard for scripture with clear application to a concern or situation you have raised, do not trust them. Even if they have a reputation for godliness or good deeds or are well liked in the community, their lack of reverence for scripture says more than any sermon or service ever could.

        Alligators have really nice white teeth when they smile, right? Lol. Great discussion HeLovesMe. Real good nuggets of truth.

  10. Anonymous

    “Whats next — disco balls?”

    I needed a laugh. Thanks, Kind of Anonymous.

    I went to one of these new mega-churches ONCE and it was like being at a strip mall with a coffee shop, shopping opportunities, and then came the live rock concert, otherwise known as the Sunday morning church service. I think they had ear plugs available, upon request. It was more of a rock concert than anything else. If a disco ball had come down midway through the ‘service’ I wouldn’t have been too phased as that would have simply signaled a mere change in the band’s style or something…. who knows.

    Something else, that’s for sure. There was a shocking incident of shadiness, too, that took place at my expense and that one time was one too many. Shaking the dust off my sandal in my mind, just recalling that awful day.

    • kind of anonymous

      Hi Anonymous 🙂 Glad you got a smile! I can only imagine what the shocking incident of shadiness was, having found out the hard way that not all is well in Christendom. I hope you have found some comfort here ((( ))) One church I was in, the second the service ended, the lead guy started playing Sweet Home Alabama from the platform. The whole service had also been like a rock concert so it wasn`t exactly a jarring transition.

      • Anon

        At least he waited until the end to start in with Sweet Home Alabama. 🙂

        Your comments on this page have been so great, Kind of Anonymous. Both you and HeLovesMe listed so many things that resonated with me.

        What a painful subject since so many of these ‘teachings’ were incorrectly seen as indisputable truths and then applied to our lives, for all the more suffering and disastrous results.

        This blog is such a blessing. Such a blessing! It’s a place of learning, comfort, healing, fellowship……and a safe place, thanks to the excellent moderation of comments.

      • Helovesme

        Kind Of Anonymous I’ll leave the discussion here so as not to take up more of your time. It’s just that your replies have truly resonated with me. I am a big “Peanuts” fan so you really spoke to my heart with that one! I too have trusted so many wrong people in my life. I, too, need to keep learning the same lessons over and over again. The reason why I think we so badly want to trust others, is because we are creatures who naturally want to engage and fellowship with others. That is not a bad thing per say.

        Anyone who abuses your trust is the abusive one. The one that trusted often beats themselves up too badly for something that is not their fault. I personally believe that trusting a person does require a bit of a leap of faith, meaning you do take a risk. We are too quick to condemn the trusting person rather than the one who abused that trust.

        Disclaimer: I fully believe in looking for and being aware of warning signs and red flags before choosing to trust someone. But I still stick to my belief that if the one who violated, betrayed or abused your trust is the one at fault. We can look back and see things with fresh eyes and ears, and gather wisdom from that for the future. And yes—anyone who is casually, unrelentingly defying Scripture with their actions (as you said)—don’t trust them.

  11. Maggie

    I left a church a few years ago that shamed me for being single; this is common in Protestantism. (I am 52 and never married.) The church members and leaders would confront people, including me, publicly in the hallway or foyer, which violates Matthew 18. They were trying to get me to be more feminine, but they were also trying to control me, an adult, over miniscule things.

    Many protestant churches preach marriage and do not care about the people involved. I heard one preacher saying that marriage helps people to grow up. (My parents have been married 55 years, and they never grew up.) My parents are as abusive and entitled as they ever were. I think Protestantism needs a place for nuns. The guys can form a priesthood if they want. I have been told so many times why church men do not like me and/or church women. That is fine. However, we single ladies should be allowed to form nunhoods if we so choose. Am I the only one who thinks this????

    • Good question!

      • Maggie

        Thank you! Your responses made my day today!!

  12. Finding Answers

    (Airbrushing…)

    Less than one year ago, when the walls started crumbling, I came across the word Mumpisimus.

    Part of something exegetical? I’m not positive and can’t be bothered looking for where I saw it first, especially after reading the original post and the comments it generated.

    When I started to read the Wikipedia definition, a stream of secular examples flowed through my mind, starting with a number in my family of origin.

    The comments generated really opened my eyes, putting into words commonly held points of view, rarely questioned – even by those who disagree.

    Maggie: Perhaps the following will light a spark of hope?

    Within the last month, I attended a new church – new to me, that is – and listened to a sermon on 1 Peter. (It was next to last in the series). One of the things the pastor emphasized was a) remaining single was not unBiblical and, b) criticizing / judging someone who chose to remain single is unBiblical.

    (My apologies to you…for protection, I need to omit church details.)

    In hindsight, I wish I had followed in your footsteps, Maggie. “Marriage” was a mumpsimus – such a beautifully descriptive word – I was brain-washed with from day one, both inside and outside the family. It’s taken a long time to reach the conclusion I need a quiet safe haven within which to recharge from the intensity of everyday interactions.

    For a number of years, I have understood my need for “downtime” – “downtime” used in the (healthy) machinery sense. Your comment brought home to me the further understanding the oasis I need is not just a patch here and there for refreshment.

    Remaining single seems to walk hand-in-hand with choosing not to have children. (My anti-x and I never had children.) Oddly enough, for similar reasons. “Selfish”. “Self-centred.” “There’s got to be something wrong with you.” Etc.

    I don’t write those words to you lightly, Maggie. And certainly not because of a “marriage” that ended in divorce or being raised in an abusive household. “Marriage”, in most people’s eyes seems to add to one’s “status” as a person. I wish I had had your courage to remain single.

    I have chosen to remain unmarried since my divorce, finding I can answer God’s call for my life with greater facility then were I to remarry. (I’m definitely not convent material, though! 🙂 )

    Mumpsimus…what a lovely, evocative, descriptive word….

    • Maggie

      Thank you for telling me that at least one church actually understood the Apostle Paul’s position on marriage and remaining single. This is fabulous and a beacon of hope. It is not typical in the tradition ridden realm of Protestantism. (Please note I did not use the word “Christianity”; “churchianity” would be a better word for modern Protestantism.) You were right to omit the details for protection. I do understand your comment about downtime. I encourage you to keep on healing and being good to yourself. Jesus would want that, for he is Jehovah Rapha, Our Healer.

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