Recovery: How to Rebuild Your Social Network After Leaving Fundamentalism

Today, I’m pleased to share a brief video from author, fundamentalism survivor, and SFL reader M.E. Anders. It’s good to be reminded that there is life after fundamentalism.

187 thoughts on “Recovery: How to Rebuild Your Social Network After Leaving Fundamentalism”

    1. That was the one thing that bothered me about the video. I don’t believe that the IFB movement is a cult. But there are some IFB churches that have cult like tendencies. I also believe that the person in the video was simply sharing her story of finding freedom and I appreciated her openness.

      1. I agree that not all fundamentalist groups in the IFB are cults. I knew some great down-to-earth people who were kind and caring. It depends upon which group you are associated with + how close to the “inner circle” you get.

      1. Is Windsor Hills Baptist Church or their college under Jim Vinyard what is being specifically addressed by this video? I’m not familiar with either. I do have more than a passing acquaintance with the IFB movement, but not with this church or college.

        I would be hesitant to paint the Independant Fundamental Baptists that I know with a broad brush. There are some very sincere, humble, Godly people who identify themselves as Fundamentalists, and I don’t disrespect them or their beliefs. (There are some real stinkers in the group, for sure. I have war stories, too.) I would not go so far as to label the movement as heretical or a cult. Some of the leaders in some of the churches are out-and-out sociopaths, some are criminals, some are going to get caught, and some already have. Some of the parishioners of the churches are in the same boat.

        I suppose my problem with the video boils down to my dissatisfaction with the lack of detail. Who is this woman, and from whom is she running? Why would she call her former church a cult? Does she have any contact with her family, or her friends from the church she left? If not, why not?

        1. I am from the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. My name was Mindi Ramsey, when I was a member there. Graduated from Hammond Baptist High School. Attended HAC. Met with Jack Schaap personally several times.

          My stepfather and mom ran the Nursing Home Ministry there for several years. They have now also left the church and are now part of a Pentecostal church.

        2. The working definition of cult requires a charismatic or domineering leader, so Bob Jones, HAC and those places are definitely cults. I am not sure about the IFBs who have no “perfect leader” who is above reproach… or does such a leader simply “go with the territory”? Do all IFBs have these kind of pastors? The ones that do, where power is consolidated and there is no “check” on their power… that IS the definition of a cult.

          Also, using language impenetrable from the outside (solidifies ties to the cult, since nobody else can understand you) and warning people that “outside is bad and dangerous” (scares you and keeps you in) are marks of a cult.

          I assume some IFBs have this whole gestalt going (the big colleges named here, do) and some do not?

    2. Take a look at the signs:
      http://www.howcultswork.com/

      “Any group who says you must belong to their organization to be saved is almost certainly a cult.”

      “Cult members are usually very fearful of disobeying or disagreeing in any way with their leadership. Healthy organizations however are not threatened by openly debating issues.”

      “Beware of groups who tell you who you can and cannot see.”

      “If you are instructed not to read information critical or the group…”

      “Never ending compulsory meetings…”

      Here is another website: http://rickross.com/warningsigns.html

      By Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist
      Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.
      Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

      No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

      No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.

      Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

      There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

      Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

      There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

      Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.

      The group/leader is always right.

      The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

      Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.
      Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.

      Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower’s mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused–as that person’s involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.

      Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.

      Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.

      Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.

      Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.

      A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.

      Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.

      Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

      Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

      Ten signs of a safe group/leader.
      A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.

      A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.

      A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.

      A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.

      A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.

      A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.

      A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.

      A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.

      A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.

      A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

      Don’t be naΓ―ve, develop a good BS Detector.

      1. I like the list of characteristics of “safe” groups. People who have only experienced the IFB or similar churches may not know that these “safe” criteria are the norm in many churches.

      2. Thank you, Ricardo. That was most helpful. I spent a long time believing in my heart that I was in a cult but not sure if anyone else would believe me so I kept quiet about it. Of course this was years ago before the internet had such material so readily available and the one book I had access to about cults had some of that information in it but not nearly enough. I brought it to the attention of one of my teachers at HAC and the answer I got was, “WHERE did you get that book? THAT book is not on the approved reading list.” Then I was told I should check my attitude and pray to “Get right with God” for the accusation. (which it wasn’t, it was a question)
        Anyway, if my opinion here is worth anything at all, as a survivor of Hyles Anderson College and First Baptist Church I would have to say, “YES” it is a cult and they are the mothership. I was there when the Jonestown thing happened, and I remember Hyles saying very inappropriate things and making jokes about it every time we had communion. It was a cult and I know that HE got off on the idea that he could do something similar any time he wanted with most of his followers if the occasion arose. I am sure there are very sincere people who call themselves IFB who do not THINK they are in a cult. But just like we were always told, “You can be sincere and be sincerely wrong.”

        1. Oh, and after you were gone, in fact, after I was gone even the second time, when the Hyles scandal hit the fan, his devoted followers were vandalizing the homes of those who left that cult mothership. When Hyles was accused of stoking the fire to get them to punish the “deserters,” as they were called, Hyles response was that he could not be held responsible for these people’s “love and devotion” to him. Yes, he got off on the idea of being a cult leader, absolutely. So I say AGAIN: if your IFB church really is not a cult, I am happy for you., But why don;t you just see what your leadership believes abut HAC, Hyles, BJU, and the rest? If it quacks like a duck… ❓

        2. I have no argument if you want to argue that certain churches are a cult, or cult-ish. That is a far cry from saying every IFB church is a cult.

          I attend an IFB church that is miles different from my former HAC church. The freedom my family has now is GREAT!

      3. Interesting list… I’ll comment on a few of these at a time:

        β€œAny group who says you must belong to their organization to be saved is almost certainly a cult.”
        – I’ve never heard any IFB, no matter how controlling state this… but doesn’t the Catholic church that there is no salvation apart from them?

        β€œCult members are usually very fearful of disobeying or disagreeing in any way with their leadership. Healthy organizations however are not threatened by openly debating issues.”
        – Absolutely. Former church was like this – open disagreement was equated with rebellion. Hyles was famous (infamous?) for how he treated those that questioned him.

        β€œBeware of groups who tell you who you can and cannot see.”
        – Not sure about this; plenty of ADVICE given about people to stay away from, but not mandated or enforced (that I know of).

        β€œIf you are instructed not to read information critical or the group…”
        – Absolutely; internet blogs were preached against many times.

        β€œNever ending compulsory meetings…”
        – Heh; one can only have ONE never ending meeting; you’d never have time for another. πŸ™‚

        1. When you say, “Plenty of ADVICE given about this but not mandated or enforced…” it made me wonder, in that system there was very little difference between advice and a mandate. If it was “advised” that you have no friends outside the organization, and it was set up to be very difficult to gain or maintain friendships outside the organization, and if you DID have friendships outside the organization you were treated differently or badly… If you were taught from childhood that *other* people were bad for you and potentially dangerous to the point that you feared people who didn’t dress like you, act like you and believe like you, then to say it was “ADVISED” but not mandated isn’t much of a distinction.

        2. In my personal experience, what the IFB is and what the IFB SAYS it is are two totally different animals.

          They claim not to be legalistic but their endless preaching on Biblical rules, regulations, and lifestyle give the lie to THAT. They say that the Bible is their only authority but will appeal to anyone else as long as that person supports their preconceived worldview. Etc.

          They won’t admit to being a cult and maybe some of them aren’t, but they skate so close to the margin of cult territory the difference ends up being negligible. They have a really nice, cleancut, friendly facade that is a truly effective blind to what they’re really doing – unless you have an analytical nature or aren’t on the receiving end of their judgmental behavior, you probably wouldn’t even think about it.

          Raise a question or a doubt, however, and the true colors are impossible to miss. I still have a personal letter that was written to me by my former pastor, a man you would never guess was this twisted, that is full of delusions, half truths, errors, and manipulation tactics, that I received after I left. It is a testament to the IFB and what they’re all about.

          Ricardo’s post is spot on – but sometimes you have to look closely to see what’s happening.

        1. I know it makes some people uncomfortable to feel as if they’ve been in a cult but the IFB is structured as a cult. Do they teach worship of the man of God? No, they preach against “worshiping man” but the church structure is set up to give the “man of God” limitless power. Do they teach you to shun Christians that leave the church? No, we’re instructed to love them, but somehow, those Christians that leave are often painted as “probably not saved” and then it’s ok to not be equally yoked with them. Or, it’s ok to “mark such an one” and not even eat with them as instructed in the Bible. What comes from the pulpit and what is in between the lines are two different things. And isolation from those who leave the cult, and a man-centered structure are signs of a cult! It’s not until you break one of the invisible rules of these churches will you be able to clearly tell if it’s a cult, or cult-like. Go ahead and brag on your NEW IFB church that’s NOTHING like your old one. Piss someone off, then you will be able to firmly decide if you’re in a cult.

        2. @mkxcomm, “What is comes from the pulpit and what is said between the lines are two different things” that is exactly why I am leaving. You can be a christian visitor and hear some IFB sermons and think they are right on but when you know how things actually play out, they don’t come close. Yeah, yeah, grace, and love, and forgiveness and humbling yourself are talked about but it is so NOT how IFB people are! (Most are not so no one needs to correct and say that not all are)

      4. Yeah, by this definition, for instance, Opus Dei is a cult.. but the entire Catholic church is not. I assume IFBs are subsumed within the Baptist church as a whole? It would therefore be hard to know when you have just walked through the doors of such a cult…

    3. I agree with EmilyB (hey! it rhymes!).

      I’ve no doubt that Jack Hyles ran his church like a cult, if not a cult in actual fact. Ditto for Bob Gray (TX), and Jim Vineyard, and Tom Neal, and probably others of whom I’ve not heard.

      But that does not make IFB churches a cult. Even if one could name 20 cult-like churches, I’ve heard that there are 10,000 IFB churches, and 20/10,000 is a very, very small ration. She slams all churches by calling them “not the real world”.

      I’m sorry for her that her bad experiences have (apparently) caused her to abandon God altogether.

      1. “I’m sorry for her that her bad experiences have (apparently) caused her to abandon God altogether.”

        That is your takeaway from this video? Really? Apparently you are still guilt ridden.

        Church is not nor will it ever be the real world. That doesn’t mean that I just “abandoned” God by saying that. It means I’m being realistic. Church has always been a system of escaping the world. You go to church and you are fueled so that you can go back into the world and live. It is a perversion of the church to take its experience and infuse it into every day living (ie what happens at most fundy churches). They start to create their own world and they try to infuse it directly into your life. You must come to church Sunday morning Sunday night and Wed to not do so would be a sin. Oh and we’ll probably have other things like visitation, prayer breakfast, etc. All of which is required. Oh, but that isn’t enough either. Now we are going to create a Christian school which both keeps your children away form the real world and creates jobs so adults can flee it. And on and on it goes.

        Church is a reprieve, not an end to itself. Acknowledging that doesn’t mean you abandon God.

        1. My “takeaway” was that she was in a cultish church and seems to have now refuted Jesus Christ.

          My recollection is that she said that those attending church are not “in the real world”; I disagree, but I don’t say that church is the real world – it is part of the real world.

          The church is God’s creation, and very important to Him. I didn’t think she had abandoned God only because of this statement — it was the entire statement.

          I don’t think that church is a system of escaping the real world (but some people may use it as such) – if you mean escaping the world in the sense of the enemy of Christians, then yes, I agree.

          We should take what we learn there and from our own study and apply it to our daily living.

          I know that some churches almost teach a form of living in a monastery… the family goes to church there, serves there, their only friends are there. The kids go to school there, marry there, and would not even listen to God Himself telling them to leave, if their pastor doesn’t give them permission.

          I got the impression from her video that she has rejected the claims that the Almighty has upon her, and is going her own way, apart from Him… and that IS sad, in my opinion.

        2. It is sad if that is what happened. I think it is sad that people who claim the name of Jesus have a history of doing this sort of thing. Of being so grossly out of line that they cause people to turn away and never look back. It is exactly why I say we should be very careful not to create bifurcations particularly if none need to exist. Does Jesus exist? Sure we make that yes or no, black or white. Must a Christian believe YEC to be a Christian? That is a needless bifurcation that damages the body of Christ. I place the blame squarely on her church not on her.

      2. “I’m sorry for her that her bad experiences have (apparently) caused her to abandon God altogether.”

        That is your takeaway from this video? Really? Apparently you are still guilt ridden.

        Church is not nor will it ever be the real world. That doesn’t mean that I just “abandoned” God by saying that. It means I’m being realistic. Church has always been a system of escaping the world. You go to church and you are fueled so that you can go back into the world and live. It is a perversion of the church to take its experience and infuse it into every day living (ie what happens at most fundy churches). They start to create their own world and they try to infuse it directly into your life. You must come to church Sunday morning Sunday night and Wed to not do so would be a sin. Oh and we’ll probably have other things like visitation, prayer breakfast, etc. All of which is required. Oh, but that isn’t enough either. Now we are going to create a Christian school which both keeps your children away form the real world and creates jobs so adults can flee it. And on and on it goes.

        Church is a reprieve, not an end to itself. Acknowledging that doesn’t mean you abandon God.

        1. I am with you, Mark. I am astonished at the people here who are dissing her evaluation of fundamentalism, or IFB churches, as a cult. Re-read the really excellent list of things to look for, when evaluating a cult, posted above. I do understand that YOUR IFB church may not be there… yet. Fine, if you feel your church is different, and you want to stay; but to say that M.E. was OTT calling it a cult? Nope. And you can no more prove to me that the cult-like IFB’s are outnumbered by the non-cult-like IFB’s than I can prove the opposite is true, to you. Going by the experience of many many people, I would say the culties outnumber the nons. And probably by a wide margin. With what fundy U or fundy leader is your supposedly non-cult IFB affiliated? Because few if any of them are TRULY independent. Also, evaluate your IFB leadership’s feelings about Hyles, Schaap, Jones, or any of the other maniacal nitwits leading the cult.

          Again, excellent post, M.E., excellent posts, Mark, and THANK YOU, DD, for posting this in the first place.

        2. She does appear to be atheistic at this point (facebook and her website) I think you came down a little too hard on Guilt Ridden. It’s hard to be an atheist without “abandoning God.”

        3. “she appears to be atheistic”

          That would NOT have stopped me in my more active “Corvert the HEathen” phase.

          You don’t know how your thoughts may be used by God.

          BUT, it is soo common in IFB circles to write off people. As if we didn’t change our minds constantly…

          PLEASE! DON’T WRITE OFF ANYONE. Especially for something we write in a blog somewhere…

        4. I don’t mean to imply writing anyone off — the impression I got from the video is that her experiences at an cultic church have made her renounce Christianity.

          And that is sad, IMHO.

      3. Just to clarify in my video, I did not “forsake Jesus Christ” because of the cult experience. I actually “turned to God” and began examining my beliefs for four years according to the Scriptures. I simply chose a more mainstream Christianity at that time.

        I am no longer a believer today, but that is a result of study and careful examination. Each person must search for him/herself.

        1. Thanks for responding M.E. Anders,

          I withdraw my comment about your “appearing to be atheistic.” I made that statement based upon your facebook page and the links on your website. There was no intention of misrepresenting your position…thus the “appears.”

          @Ricardo — I was not “writing anyone off” — I was merely stating the fact that someone who is atheistic could accurately be described as “abandoning God.” Obviously, this is not the case in this situation.

        2. I appreciate your candor. I too have come to some similar conclusions…only a few people that I really trust know that I’m not a christian anymore. It’s strange to not feel free enough to be honest, but they would FREAK OUT. They would be as tortured about “my pending doom” as I used to be for other people who I didn’t think were “saved.” The cult didn’t cause me to reject the notion of God having a son and sitting up in their chairs (thrones) in heaven bound by a law to burn the ones that didn’t turn… it was just that once I left and started thinking…(never being allowed to do that before – since all thinking was doubting and doubting is sin)…I came to many conclusions… I am certain about very little, mostly that what I was told isn’t true.

      4. Actually, from what the testimonies I’ve read from former members, I believe Fairhaven actually teaches members to shun people that leave the church…even family members.

    4. It’s the current fad to call them a cult. I came from Trinity Baptist Church, pastored by Bob Gray, and no one from the IFB is going to call me their BFF. However, there are so many ‘nice’ denominations that are friendly and don’t harass people like the IFB does that also cover up child abuse. No one will call them a cult because they have semi-traditional views, never speak terribly about each other and still keep these dark secrets under wraps.

    5. Be thankful, EmilyB! You must not have seen some of the obvious demonstrations of cultishness. I have (I’m from the BJU colored stripe of it all). It’s taking me a long time to recover (more than 40 years in). Every aspect of my thinking is warped and I realize I am damaged forever. I’m glad you are not dealing with anything so severe. I hope you can just be kind and patient to those of us that were in the extreme fringes of it all as we’re trying to detox and figure out what is really normal and where the real Christians can be found.

      1. Just wanted to say that I feel for you in your struggles with leaving the strict stripe of fundamentalism. Some of us are more damaged than others because of cumulative experiences. I hope you find the freedom you are searching for in time.

        1. Thank you M.E. Anders. I hope so too. I admire you youngsters who saw the light early and got out. Blessings to you.

      2. I actually did grow up in an IFB “Hyles-ish” church. And I now attend an evangelical church. Leaving wasn’t hard at all. I just left. And all the friends I had while attending that church are still my friends today. I know there are those who shun me now, but they weren’t my friends to begin with.

        Anyway, I agree with whomever it was who stated that while SOME IFB churches may be cults, you can’t paint a broad brush over the entire “denomination.” That was my point. My dad is a pastor of a very IFB church and guess what? They still love me! No one is praying for my salvation. My parents even attend Sunday School at my church when they visit.

        I will, however, agree that FBH very cult-like. I’ve had enough experiences with that place to know that.

    6. Then you’ve never been to Tabernacle Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. My family went there when I was in elementary school. It has every characteristic of a cult–oppressive rules, hero worship, the masses being controlled be an elite few, extreme reverence for the leader (Harold Sightler at the time).

    7. You know you’re a recovering fundy when you get caught up on details like the definition of the IFB as a cult, instead of the actual point which was how to rebuild your social network when you leave. πŸ™„

      1. It depends what your definition of “caught up” is. πŸ™‚

        You see, it is so much easier to argue details adnauseum, rather than taking a hard look at what is in our hearts.

        If I can keep arguing about this or that verse, translation or Greek roots, I don;t have to deal with following these teachings in my life.

        1. “You see, it is so much easier to argue details ad nauseum, rather than taking a hard look at what is in our hearts.”

          Yes, that right there is the definition of fundamentalism.

    8. Just wanted to say that I think many IFB “churches” are full blown cults. no doubt about it in my mind.

      Mindi…I think you are wonderful. I totally ‘get it’ as I know what it’s like to disagree w/ the ifb baptist pope & get “rebuked”, used as sermon fodder & other abuses…done in god’s name of course.

      I was “church disciplined” excommunicated for disagreeing w/ the pastor & no longer wanting to be a part of his little fiefdom. You see nobody has ever left that group on good terms…ever.
      I was told to “watch out for god’s fiery indignation…” guess I became God’s enemy because I no longer wanted to be a part of that “church”. The pastor then instructed his sheeple from his bully pulpit to shun us. I cannot even express the betrayal & sadness of it all.

      After my experiences with a power crazed narcissistic megalomaniac pastor…my eyes have been opened.

      Again Mindi…you go girl! I take you seriously….I KNOW what it’s like.

  1. Oh, when one has been a part of the Great Jack Hyles Now Jack Schaap Fundy Machine, one sees it as a cult, and never doubts it. Moving, touching video! After so many years out of fundy-dum, I do not have this issue of rebuilding, but I remember when I did, and it was harder, in those pre-Internet days, to find support. I think this is a great contribution, M.E. Anders, and may you feel God’s richest blessings in your life TODAY! πŸ˜€

    1. i agree. tho i never witnessed a literal “drinking of the kool aid”, i did notice tons and tons of other characteristics like the one man show (not Jesus, in case you might have thought that) and the use of fear to such an extent where people feared for their lives. i have no problem calling that a cult. but hey i got out of that church thankfully and went to a more modernist (independent) baptist church. not perfect. but definitely not where i was

    2. Thank you for such positive and uplifting words. I do feel loved, accepted, and at peace with the woman I have become as a result. No bitterness left in my heart. I only wish the best for people leaving damaging extremist groups.

  2. When people that you know atually lose their life and it is just dismissed as “nothing” you have clarity that it is a cult. Thankfully, the Federal court saw it for what it was ❗ 25 years in Federal prison means something to anyone that will choose to think.
    When people go through the efforts that are so painful just to escape, you know it is a cult.
    So joyful to be FREE!

  3. I’m sure not all IFB churches are as bad as others. But I remember back in my church in Michigan they taught that you ought to have very few friends outside of the church. You needed to base your friendships on those of “like precious faith” instead of making friends with either unsaved people or people who didn’t believe as you did (meaning Christians that went to churches that were not IFB) so that you wouldn’t be “corrupted” by those people.

    Though my family isn’t IFB we were living in a city several miles from my family members and the church did become my whole social network. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t a member of the church. My husband worked in the world so knew other people but not very well, he only knew them to work with them. His family was also not living close by. So the church was our whole world basically.

    Then we got online in 2002 and things began to change. (We’d been in the IFB since we were married in 1985) I began to do as she says in the video, find friends that had similar interests to mine. Some were IFB friends, true, but others were other cat lovers and others who loved the same show I’d loved while growing up long before I was in the IFB, the old gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows” which, had my parents been IFB I would never have been allowed to watch. I made friends with those of many different beliefs, some Christian and others not.

    Having the IFB mindset that anyone who isn’t IFB must be wrong I tried to convert people and this didn’t go over very well. Over the years since I’ve had to realize that others had a right to their beliefs and that mine were not all perfect. It was a stepping stone on my way out. The IFB is against everything that isn’t part of their network, calling it worldly. They major on minors and strain at a gnat (such as women in pants) while swallowing a camel (such as man worship).

    The church we recently left was a church in which the pastor thought Jack Hyles was the greatest preacher, the greatest human being to ever walk the face of the earth. He couldn’t make it through a sermon without mentioning him at least once. I got so disgusted with this. At first it was because I wondered who was really pastoring our church, this pastor or Jack Hyles. Was he channeling Jack Hyles from the grave to get orders on how to run things? He even preached a sermon on the 10 year anniversary of Hyles’ death entitled 10 things he’d learned from him.

    We left that church about 6 weeks ago and have since found another church where we are very happy. Jack Hyles is NEVER mentioned. The pastor doesn’t preach hour long sermons. Though I miss the people in the old church, we’re making new friends here. So now I have Christian friends and non Christian friends and am more balanced than before.

    I would not call the IFB the same as Jonestown, as far as I know, there are no IFB churches that are suggesting that the people all move to a particular area and set it up as a city where everyone in the city belongs to the church. Though some churches do try to dominate all of your time with church activities that become “mandatory” especially for those who work in their various ministries, I don’t think any of them have gone so far as to suggest they all move to a certain area so they can be completely separated from the world.

    1. They don’t have to… when the parents’ work lives revolve around the church, the kids go to the church, the family serves in church ministries, the kids go play sport with a team from the fundy school, the people attend the basement college, there’s a censored library on the grounds and all your social events from playgroups to movie nights (of approved films) are all arranged by the church, you are completely separated. You can have no contact with the outside world because you have no time for it. You think all your needs are being met and you don’t know any better.

    2. Interestingly, my dad was an IFB pastor and we were allowed to watch Dark Shadows. He didn’t particularly approve of it, but he didn’t take it seriously.

      But then again, my dad wasn’t your typical IFB pastor. He was never of the Hyles stripe–he attended a pastor’s conference early on in which Hyles was rebuked the host pastor for leaving the platform during Hyles’ sermon (turns out, there was a fire in another part of the building and the pastor left to check it out!)

      That really turned my dad off. He saw through Hyles as being a megalomaniac early on.

      During the late 70s, my dad decided he could find no Biblical basis for not allowing his wife and daughters to wear pants or to attend clean movies. I remember the first movie he saw (since before his salvation) was the first “Rocky.” He loved it!

      My dad marched to his own drum. He preferred the KJV, but often used other versions in his studying and sermon preparation.

      He aligned himself with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International, which includes way more Baptist preachers with mindsets like him. In fact, the BBF is often considered “liberal” by Hyles-types.

      Growing up in his home and in churches he pastored, I never felt the burden of extreme IFB-“dum,” as Seen Enough calls it. πŸ™‚

      It was only later in life, when I was introduced to the oppressive, burdensome Hyles mentality that I saw the other side of the coin.

      I would have to say that churches who adhere to the Hyles philosophy/mentality/mindset DO fit just about every characteristic listed above of what a “cult” entails.

      But remember the IFB stripe that I grew up with. There’s balance and liberty in those type of IFB churches…that’s why your brush can’t be extremely broad.

        1. And I do SO agree with you that the BBF types seem refreshingly non-cultic! That is, unless they line up with the Hyles/Jones team for whatever reason. I once worked for a BBF pastor, who started out great. Then he wanted to skyrocket to popularity, so hitched his wagon to Hyles’ star. That’s all, she wrote. Sigh. But I do appreciate that the BBF people seem waaaay more rational!

      1. It’s hard to know just how to label our new church. I guess it’s fundamental but it doesn’t reek of man worship. The pastor seems to be much more of a humble servant than the other IFB pastors I’ve known. He doesn’t insist on micromanaging everything in the church. He preaches from the KJB which is what we prefer. But the pastor’s wife said they do not demand that the women wear only skirts and dresses, but only be modest, which I agree with. I feel a much more relaxed atmosphere here than the tightly wound up feeling I’d get from the old Hyles clone church. πŸ˜€

    3. That whole “no friends outside the church” thing was at every fundamental church we went to. It’s also why my parents sent us to private schools after we got into fundamentalism, and why we never went to those schools very long. It’s also why I don’t have any old childhood friends.

    4. So glad that you have found a new church home where you can feel more balanced with your friendships. That’s wonderful news!

      Regarding the Jonestown reference to my past, I am only using that to refer to a “psychologically oppressive cult-like environment” not the specific commune-drink-the-Kool-Aid aspect (unless you refer to dogma as “kool aid”). It evokes an image in outsiders minds, so they can somewhat understand the gravity of the situation.

  4. It is too bad that “Independent, Fundamental Baptists” are labeled as a cult in her opinion. While I understand she had serious struggles and apparently sat under the wrong leadership model (twice), painting all under that banner of “cult” is too broad a brush.
    If the leadership is bad, get out. Please get out fast, but all of us have to understand all of the leadership and all of the churches in the group she mentioned are not cultish.

    Also, my suggestion would be to bury yourself deeper in the arms of Christ. Perhaps the actions of others have caused her to doubt that He still cares, still loves her and still wants a close relationship with her. While all the other things she mentioned are fine, she will never find true peace without Him. Sadly, He wasn’t mentioned.

    1. It makes me so sad when people abandon God completely after experiencing church abuse. I can’t blame them, but it’s sad.

      The church leaders who caused this will have to answer to God for it.

    2. Sadly I think a lot of the “never good enough” sermons you hear from these kinds of churches lead you not to believe that to the pastor and leadership you’re never good enough but to the Lord you are never good enough, and it affects your relationship with the Lord. You come to the place where you feel you can’t pray because you may not have all your sins confessed and maybe you’ve sung songs like “I wonder have I done my best for Jesus” and “I’ll wish I had given Him more” and other guilt inducing songs have led you to believe that He doesn’t accept you, oh you’re still going to heaven but when you get there the Lord won’t be happy with you because you just weren’t good enough, you didn’t serve enough, didn’t give enough, and it’s all guilt guilt guilt!

      One illustration I remember hearing was to imagine the judgment seat of Christ and it’s as if you went to a shower and only brought a small gift. Everyone else’s gifts are much better than yours and as they’re being opened yours is moving up and soon the person will open it and you will be embarrassed because your gift is so small. That’s how it will be at the judgment seat, when you have done so little for the Lord. That haunted me for a long time so I would do as much as I could in the church but no matter how much you do it’s never enough. And you never do as well at it as you should. Eventually you come to the point of wondering what’s the use? How can God love someone as lousy as I am? It does affect your prayer life.

      The best thing is to get away from the influences that cause you to think this way. We need positive reinforcement, not just a load of negative guilt mongering preaching and singing.

      1. So absolutely true. It’s what God does through us that counts, he wants to give us the privilege to be used by Him and he can do that when we are humble and weak so it will be obvious that He is the one getting the glory. IFB pastors seem to think that they should always make you feel like shit. Heaven forbid you are too happy then you must not be doing enough or you are in denial of something and by george (not our george πŸ˜› ) you better get down to that altar and get right with God! 😈 πŸ™„

    3. It’s very difficult simply to leave, Tiffundy, if you’ve attended a church since birth. When I left (very gradually) my IFB church, I hardly knew anyone outside the church, and I struggled to escape a nagging doubt that maybe they were right, maybe everyone else in the history of the world was wrong. If a church is as controlling as some of these churches are (and mine wasn’t even really that bad), leaving can be one of the hardest things a person can ever do.

  5. Great video. Of course the IFB movement is a type of cult. It is a bit different than a “traditional” cult, as it is not being led by a single despot, but there are many elements that definitely fall within “cult” standards. The far reaching level of control that IFB schools place on their students, the element of control that IFB pastors impose on their congregants all under the alleged auspices of God himself. How is that not “CULT” leader behavior. I know that when I left IFBism, the feelings and emotions that I felt and continue to feel are those shared by people who left true cults. And yes, it is true that there are varying degrees of “cult” within IFBism, but the fact remains that it is a cult. And it is also true that there is the possibility of “good” congregations and IFB leaders, but these are the exceptions. Not the rule.

      1. I wouldn’t agree with that at all. Please scroll up and read the signs of a cult that Ricardo posted. I don’t know of any other denomination inside Christianity (I’m not going to comment on other religions) that exhibits those characteristics more consistently than the IFB movement.

        1. Based on what AdamZ said, then Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, et al fall under cult standards. I wasn’t replying to Ricardo’s post.

        2. Okay, never mind. But I don’t see what other organized religions have to do with anything. And he’s still right. Any religion that doesn’t allow complete freedom for its believers is a cult, technically. And in many cases they go even farther than that simple definition. In some Muslim societies, leaving the religion makes you worthy of death,, or at least your family/friends treating you as if you’re dead. That goes beyond our definition of cult, in my opinion.

        3. Hey! The Pharisees started out with a great idea!

          Really!

          But then the movement degenerated into rules, rules and more rules.

          SAME WITH THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

          Take a second look at Acts. And at Romans, Gal, Eph, Phil et all. According to John, in Revelations, only one out of seven churches had it “right.” (Probably until they changed pastor.)

          These are the stories of local churches doing some things right and screwing up royally in other areas.

          Of course there are great IFB churches out there. Some in spite of the pastor, some in spite of the congregation. And this is also true of every other denomination.

          BUT, because of the “Independent” nature of the IFBs, many excesses are never held in check, either by the hierarchy, the denomination rules, or by a more democratic form of self rule.

          So, YES, the changes of abuses of all kinds happening in IFBs are much higher than in most other denominations.

        4. Ricardo, I am sorry but I just do not agree with you. We could talk about it until Jesus comes back and probably never agree.
          To make a blanket statement like this: “So, YES, the changes of abuses of all kinds happening in IFBs are much higher than in most other denominations” is a little over the top.
          We could start with all the major problems in every religion in the world, and work our way down the list, eventually hitting the IFB world. It might not take long, but you would get there. But IFB is not at the top of the list as you are suggesting.

        5. Which cult is “at the top of the list?”

          the one that hooks you.

          Of course you can find worse ones out there. We do rationalize it. My cult is not as bad as others out there.

          True.

          But by the time we’ve surrendered our brain in order to obey the leader, no matter how benign, we are asking for a crisis, sooner of later.

  6. Thank you for sharing M.E. Anders. I hope that you continue to grow and find a network of friends to support you. We are hear for you hear.

    One of the keys that I found to leaving was getting out of the church network. They teach you that they hold the corner on all truth. They teach you to be wary of anything unlike them. So when you first leave finding a church is almost impossible. Any little thing sends you packing. Was that song a praise and worship song? Oh wait they just sang that hymn to a different tune. Did they just clap after that baptism? They baptise babies great. That usher isn’t wearing a suit. And on and on it goes. Fundamentalism taught you all those things were not only wrong because of a preference but were aberrations. Honestly it is a smart tactic you convince someone that only you and your style of churches are right in all of the world and when someone leaves they have to come back because everyone else is just a little bit different.

    When I left at first we ran into this. A church would otherwise be great, but one thing would be different and we, my wife and I, would be taken aback. We finally had to reevaluate everything. We threw the whole of Fundamentalist theology on the table and evaluated it in light of scripture. We had to see it all with new open eyes and figure out what was true spiritual conviction and what was just blind following. Baptism by full immersion? Maybe we believed that maybe we didn’t. Hymns only? Maybe that was sacred to us and maybe it wasn’t. Dispensationalism? And so on. Eventually that lead us to a church that was anything but Fundamentalist. That is when true liberation happened. Finally we were free from guilt and manipulation.

    1. Mark R. I loved your post. When my husband and I graduated from HAC he got a job on staff of a rather small IFB church with a school. After only a few years there we realized we couldn’t stay and he resigned.

      While we were there we had become friends with just about everyone in the church and *thought* we were loved. When we left, the pastor told our closest friends (in a staff meeting) many lies about us and that we were leaving because I loved the world more than I loved God and that if they continued to keep fellowship with us that they would be in danger of becoming the same way. At that time we lost EVERY friend we had (because we never did anything outside the church at all, it was frowned upon and also there was no time for anything but service)

      Ok, so anyway, regarding your post about starting over again, we looked and looked for a church that fit the criteria that we *thought* we wanted and each one had stuff that we thought we disagreed with. We started going to a Sunday School class that had very nice people and then after Sunday School was done we would go home. (It was a big enough church that it wasn’t really noticed that we were skipping church but of course we felt guilty about that, we just wanted our kids to be in Sunday School)

      I remember once the Sunday School teacher wore sandals and I didn’t hear a word he said the whole class time. I just kept thinking, “I wonder why he isn’t embarassed that he forgot to put on his shoes…” Through that and through those kind people we found our way to a more healthy view of things but it took a VERY long time. I still can’t believe how far we have come.

      I now wear JEANS and sandals to church every Sunday and so does my BFF the pastor’s wife. My son is the drummer on the praise and worship team and my pastor ONLY teaches from the Bible and NEVER talks about himself either in the pulpet or outside of it. Women hold leadership positions in our church and nobody thinks twice about it. I am now in a church that, if I had visited it while I was in the IFB I would have SWORN they were not even saved and probably wouldn’t have stayed long enough to get to the message because the music was too loud.
      Praise God for HIS goodness!

      1. The first search for a church took my wife and I months. We tried all of the “fundy” churches (I actually had a list from my former pastor). They were ruled out pretty quickly for various reasons. So that left us with anything, and we decided to try anything. We didn’t rule out anything. Pres, Lutheran, Methodist, you name it it was on the list. There were some churches right away that we just knew weren’t ever going to be fits. But as months went by eventually we realized that our issues with churches started to come down to petty preferences. That is when I sat my wife down and said lets lay it all out on the table. In order for it to work nothing had to be sacred.

        God is good. He got us through it and here we are. We go to a church that is extremely far from Fundyville, but that is ok. It always was ok.

        @sims I’m glad the story resonated with you. I think some people feel the dissonance and collaps under the turmoil. I think I would have as well if it weren’t for the wonderful church we ended up in. A church where we were free to continue our journey of self revelation without ever being looked down upon or rebuked. It was ok if we came to a different conclusion than our pastor or some other member of the church. It was ok if we didn’t believe exactly like we did before. If we had ended up in a church that required absolute agreement I probably wouldn’t be in a church today.

        1. Thank you for sharing about your journey of finding a new church home after leaving the IFB. It sounds just like what I did. I visited dozens of churches and explored just about every “flavor” of Christianity. I even went through the Catholic Adults program to find out what they believed. LOL πŸ™‚

          I did get support from some more “liberal” Christians in my extended family which helped that transition.These cumulative experiences all lead me to the point where I am now in my life. I could not be more thrilled to find a peace and happiness with my belief systems.

        2. @M.E. Anders

          Each person must have their own journey, and quite frankly it is never over. Sometimes that journey leads in unexpected places, but you can guarantee that where it leads me won’t be where it leads anyone else. We each must come to our own terms. The key is finding peace in that decision. May you continue to find peace and health on our journey.

    2. Mark, this post is right on and very helpful. Those of us leaving IFBism are so used to how they do things and they are all cookie cutter versions of each other whatever people say about how independent they all are so that is exactly what happens we have been brainwashed as to the alleged only “right” way to do communion or baptism or that you must have sunday school and certain kinds of music and instruments, etc that we/ I need to really work hard to battle the brainwashed little voice. So many that come from this kind of background wind up thinking that no church is good enough because of these IFB leftover idealogies. I know I am going to look at plenty of churches and I need to make sure I am not freaking out about something that is unimportant. I know that what I am looking for is a church body with major love one anothering going on and not just in word but in deed!

        1. Good for you. I wish you all the luck.

          When we first left we did check out a few baptist churches, but by the time we moved to Boston I was done with that phase. I don’t live or die by mode of baptism and frankly most baptist churches I stepped into felt remarkably close to Fundamentalist Baptist churches even if the music or style of worship was different. I don’t know what it was but there is something that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. so I think you are wise to avoid them.

  7. I’ve recently been involved in a discussion on this very subject on a Forum I belong to, where a couple of the members come from an IFB background. In the course of the discussion, we’ve reached the same conclusion that many have here– that while it’s problematic to call the IFB movement a Capital-C Cult, there’s very good reason to be concerned about a number of aspects that may place it somewhere on a spectrum of cultlike beahviour. (And of course some individual churches are more extreme than others; but there do appear to be trends.)

    My issue is that when most people think of cults, they think of Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, or Waco; so if something doesn’t involve UFOs or people dying in a mass suicide or a hail of gunfire, it can’t possibly be a cult. That creates not only a false dichotomy, but a dangerous one. It makes it all too easy to turn a blind eye to abuses of power in our own communities, simply because we can’t believe that what’s going on in our neighbours’ homes and churches, or even our own, could possibly have anything in common with those ‘crazy people’. I would submit that the difference isn’t qualitative, but quantitative; and it’s hard for me to accept that because a handful of people in an organization are driven to suicide by institutionalized despair, it’s somehow less significant than if the whole congregation died.

    1. I agree that it’s a false dichotomy.
      To be giving wrong teaching and harmful instructions, a leader doesn’t have to tell everyone in the group to commit suicide, and a group doesn’t have to say that its leader is literally God to ascribe God-like authority to him (or her, but in the IFB it’s never a “her”).

      Again, look at the list of characteristics of “safe” groups and leaders that Ricardo posted. These are the norm in many, if not most, churches. If they aren’t the norm in your church, I submit that there’s a problem there.

      I tend to avoid using the word “cult,” because it is so polarizing that I find it to be a distraction from meaningful conversations. But I have no difficulty in understanding why so many former IFB members use that term to describe the churches they formerly belonged to.

      1. And, Gary, I think it’s crucial to point out that there’s a difference between labelling something as a cult and someone personally identifying as a cult survivor. While I still think it’s reasonable to debate the former and to acknowledge why there might be overlap between the IFB movement and cults, I also understand why some people might object to it. However, it’s absolutely inappropriate to tell someone that they cannot identify as a cult survivor because the church they left wasn’t a cult. (I’m not saying anyone here has done so; I’m just expressing it as a caution.) We don’t know what they went through, what their experiences were, and to doubt their veracity in claiming to have survived cult-level abuse is the worst kind of kicking someone when they’re down. By all means, people should continue to hash out whether the IFB movement is a cult at the macro level; that sort of discussion and dialogue can only be healthy. But no one has the right to critique or question someone’s experience at the micro level. To do so is arrogant, disrespectful, and unkind– all unChristian behaviours, and all things that the person has likely been on the receiving end of all too often before.

        1. (I’m agreeing with you, by the way, in case that wasn’t completely clear. I haven’t had my tea yet…)

    2. I agree with your last paragraph. I think the word “cult” has come to mean, to most people, something more physical. Compounds. Polygamy. Poison. Stakeouts. Etc. It’s important to remember that those are just different types of fruit of the deep-rooted characteristics of a cult. Some cults or groups exhibiting cult-like behavior may only result in spiritual or mental damage but that doesn’t mean they’re any less dangerous.

    1. @Big Gary – Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I do enjoy asking the hard questions, though it can be considered controversial. I have blogged even more about my experience at my website, if you are interested. (Just click on my headshot next to the comment.)

  8. So much to say, but I won’t bloviate. So many reasons as to why I lean towards the IFB movement as ‘cultish’. But I will tell of one simple example. I went to Fairhaven and in that school they control lots about you. For instance, your bladder. As a seven year old you may use the bathroom when and where they tell you and that is all. Unless you are willing to pay the consequences. (Demerits and eventually spankings in front of the class.) Interestly enough I bet those same people don’t tell their dogs when to use the bathroom….I’m sure their dogs let them know when they have to go and the people let them go potty. (Atleast my dogs make it clear when they’ve gotta go)
    This may seem silly and insignificant, but I tell you if IFB church/school is in control a child’s bladder,,,,, they are indeed in control of much, much more.

    (Side Note off topic a bit: I have found that most IFB members say that they believe in salvation by grace through faith…..but most seem (by their actions and rhetoric) to believe that their ‘sanctification’ is up to them. Let me tell you….if you can’t save yourself; you can’t sanctify yourself. It’s all about God and what He does for us. (I don’t think they get that)

    Okay, I lied…. I’ve bloviated a bit. Sorry. πŸ˜‰

    1. Oh, Sara. I’m so sorry. This brought tears to my eyes and made me remember that my children all suffered from this as well. My daughter in particular had tendencies to UTIs because of having to hold her bladder too long. She was in jr. high at Bob Jones Academy and was forced to wait for long periods of time to use the restroom. When I told the principal that the doctor had requested that she be able to go on demand because the situation was getting serious, it did not go well. He basically told me that restroom breaks were at the teacher’s convenience and that I should just let the Lord take care of it. He said that my daughter and I were not trusting the Lord enough. πŸ‘Ώ ❗ 😈

      1. Not trusting the Lord enough?! Does he think that if someone gets diabetes they weren’t trusting the Lord enough? Does he think that if someone gets strep they weren’t trusting the Lord enough? Sheesh! πŸ™„

      2. It’s another example of Fundies being anti-science. They don’t believe scientific theories about what causes health problems and what treatments are effective. Instead, they’re still pretty close the the health beliefs of most pre-literate societies; which are that illness is caused by demonic possession, by angering the gods or the ancestors, or by other magical causes.

        The notion that holding your urine in all day can harm your bladder is not hard for most people to accept, but the doctrine of some Fundies, apparently including that principal, is that this, like everything else, can just be prayed away.

      3. @Amazed…. How awful for your daughter. I am so sorry your family had to endure that. The brutality in the Fundy Schools is despicable. Then to throw in a Guilt Trip mixed with a little bit of Bible taken our of context is heretical. I agree with both Beth and Big Gary… Fundies are not logical nor are they interested in science. They seem to lack the one thing that God is- “LOVE”

        1. Thanks, Sara. You’re right, the brutality is unbelievable. Sadly this little incident was one of the more minor ones and I had actually completely forgotten about it until I read the previous post. What we actually would end up enduring was far worse than this.

        2. @Amazed- You have my compassion and I hope that your family has been able to heal from the hurt inflicted on you. I’m so sorry that you, your family and all of us had to endure that. I am so thankful people are now starting to speak up and maybe, we can put a stop to this. Prayers and Peace

    2. @Sara – I also went to Fairhaven Academy for two years while my step-father pastored a church in Gary, IN. I remember holding my bladder for fear of demerits. The last demerit I got was literally written up “for laughing” at something funny a student did.

      1. You are an amazing person and so very strong to walk away from the IFB movement. Thank you for sharing your inspiring Journey. You are really going to help so many others who are struggling to find freedom!!
        I’m sorry you’ve endured so much. I’m sorry you went to Fairhaven…. it’s a sick place. Your last demerits were for laughing?! I tell you the leadership is completely demented.
        p.s. Sorry you had to hold your bladder for who knows how long…. I feel like that is one of the worst feelings ever. Fairhaven likes to take away the most basic human rights. 😈

    3. That’s simply barbaric! Don’t they know a person can develop all kinds of medical problems if they are forced to hold their bladder too long? I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something that was taught at the schools of first Baptist of Hammond where our former fundy pastor is from. No wonder he would bloviate (love that word) for over an hour sometimes on Sunday mornings with no consideration for the bladders of his congregation, or the diabetics who needed to eat before their blood sugar went too low. To do this to little children or to young teen girls who may have needed to take care of themselves during a menstrual period could have had embarrassing repercussions. These people should be locked up! πŸ‘Ώ

    4. OMG Sara, this brings back a very unpleasant memory from my childhood. I was in elementary school, don’t remember which grade, but I know it was 4th or lower. My fundy school used ACE (Accelerated Christian Education for those who don’t know), which had classrooms set up with “desks” that were basically tables with backboards and dividers placed at intervals. You sat between 2 dividers and that was your desk. πŸ™„ Anyway, on this one occasion we were all standing at our desks facing out…I don’t remember why, but I think this was something we did regularly, like while they gave announcements or something. Anyway, I had to go, but I was SO afraid of getting in trouble, I didn’t say anything and didn’t leave…and as a result went right there the floor. 😳 Now, I don’t believe we were ever told we could only use the restroom at prescribed times, it’s just…I was *afraid of getting in trouble* for having to go to the bathroom. πŸ‘Ώ Unbelievable.

      1. Connie- I am so sorry you had to endure that. It’s an awful brutality and degrading. The fear that you speak of is one that I knew….and it’s torture and wrong. I truly believe that IFB churches operate on fear and guilt. They systematically break down a person-especially children- until they are docile and a “non-threat” to the establishment. Fear is not from God. (Perfect love casts out all fear) I’m glad your escaped and survived!! I’m sorry though that you had to endure that abuse!

      2. Perhaps this is already clear enough, but just in case: I actually wasn’t afraid of getting in trouble for having to go to the bathroom. I mis-wrote above. I was afraid of getting in trouble for interrupting…so much so that I had an accident. The point remains: It was an atmosphere where FEAR ruled the day. πŸ‘Ώ Sara is right–fear is not of God.

  9. A quick titter amidst all this seriousness:
    When the M.E. Anders video embedded above ended, a bunch of links to videos of FBC Hammond came up on my screen, including one entitled “How to Submit.”

    I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

  10. After over 20 some years in the I.F.B., and traveling around with an I.F.B. Christian college to hundreds of churches, my personal opinion is that the I.F.B. is certainly a light cult or at least marred by cult-like tendencies. Generally speaking, very harmful

    Thank you for the post. Good for you to break away from a difficult situation. I think there might be a common thread in IFB that hinders one from discovering hobbies and interests one would truly love or be interested in.

    1. Yeah, unless you are doing something at the church, you are being a bad steward of your time and talents. Man there is so much “meat” in this topic and I don’t have time right now to fully comment but this posting couldn’t be more timely for me since I am at the cusp of escaping!! Thank you for posting this, Darrell. I definitely have more to post later.

    2. All churches encourage people to spend time on the churches’ activities and projects. But if a church tries in any way to discourage you from doing things outside the church, beware.

        1. That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Big Gary. I have heard “hobbies” and anything else a person could be doing other than something the church expected them to do preached against from the pulpit many times.

  11. I am no fan of the IFB church my hubby is involved with, and I think that he would be better off going to a church that is a lot less strict and teaches mercy and grace a lot more. I do NOT, however, think it’s a cult. I think I mentioned before that it seems to pretty well fall under the “fundy lite” side of things. The pastor’s wife even worked in the public school system until last year! They also don’t teach that it’s a sin for women to wear pants.
    However, from everything I’ve heard here, and from what my hubby believes thanks to another IFB church, I do believe that there are many, many IFB churches with cult like characteristics all the way to down and outright cults.
    I went through a lot as a young adult victim of clergy sexual abuse in a Southern Baptist church, and found much healing in cult survivor materials. I do NOT think the church I went to was completely a cult, but I do know there were several cult characteristics in it. And it was a more Fundy type Southern Baptist church. But my point is, a church doesn’t have to be a full fledged cult for a person to, in their experiences there, to get the full fledged cult experience and damage. Me, I stayed in that church for 2 years after that happened, married a guy I had met in that church, and then spent the first 16 years of my marriage trying to totally escape the grasp of that church because my mother-in-law still went there and kept trying to get me to accept that pastor as a christian leader in the name of “forgiveness.” πŸ™„

  12. Ms. Anders, thank you. I left several times over a period of about six years before I left and stayed gone. The social network was a lot of it. Unhealthy churches do isolate church members, and spout a lot of warnings about leaving that church.

    My husband and daughter left before I did. They joined the Anglican church. I visited a lot, and loved it, but was terrified of leaving. Most of my 58 years of life I was in fundamentalism – it was an addiction. The priest’s wife at the Anglican church took me under her wing, and to the extent that I developed a kind of social network in the Anglican church, I was able to leave little by little, and finally just walked away.

    Before I left, though the pastor of the church I left tried everything he could to get me to stay including lying, and guilt trips. One person said “They’re just like the CATHOLICS!” Wow. And, they are similar. But the dissimilarity of the Anglican church from where I have been is what makes it possible for me to worship there.

    It’s easy to see now that I’m out. Every now and then I have a panic attack even yet, but it’s getting easier to get past them.

    1. @Susan – Thanks for your kind words. I’m happy that you finally were able to leave your damaging environment. It IS like an addiction. I always felt this “invisible force” pulling me back. Now, I understand that it was a psychological technique and a part of the Religious Trauma Syndrome.

  13. Ms. Anders ~ I have not read the comments above so I don’t know what kind of response you’ve received but just in case you’re interested, my sweetheart and friend, Vyckie Garrison escaped from Quiverfull/Patriarchy some 2+ yrs. ago and started a blog (you may already be familiar with) called No Longer Qivering (There is no U in Qivering) where a good many escapees from cultish, soul crushing groups have found like minded people and support in very similar situations to yours. Give ’em a look, eh? πŸ™‚

    http://nolongerquivering.com/

  14. I would say that the church we attend had some of the cultish characteristics listed above. But our new pastor is taking our church in a different direction, and I can honestly say we fit the “safe group” characteristics.

    I would agree with the people who have posted that not all IFB churches are extreme. It seems she may have come from a more extreme IFBC, and is now enjoying freedom. I find it sad that some people leaving a specific church or denomination follow the pendulum to the other extreme. 😐

    1. God does not exist apart from His church. Christ gave himself for the church. God views people as Jews, Gentiles, or the church of God. That is the true church. He may have taken His hand of blessing from some local congregations, but never from the church made up of believers.

      1. God does not exist apart from His church? No, you and I must be reading this differently. He most certainly does. He has existed before there ever was the church, universal, local, or anything else, and he exists in my life, and in this world He created, whether a church is still standing or not. While God certainly LOVES His church, God does NOT “Equal” the church.

      2. “God does not exist apart from His church.”

        Really? Then why does it say, “In the beginning, God…”. The church has NOT existed from the beginning. God, however, has existed from before the foundations of the Earth and will exist forever.

        1. I am talking about now. The church is very much part of God. At this point we cannot be separated from Him.

        2. What is your definiton of “Church”? Do you mean the body of believers who make up “the church”? Or do you mean the organizations that we attend and worship together in? I think to decide whether I agree with this statement or how much I agree would depend on that definition.

        3. If you’re talking about “today”, I think you need to say that “The Church does not exist apart from God.” Because God certainly does exist apart from the Church – remember, His existence is seen in creation, even today.

  15. There a two issues here.
    Is IFB a cult? Yes. But there a different levels and degrees of cult behavior. My old fundie church was cult-lite. But we have members who quoted Dr Bob incessantly. This might make a good thread on the bulletin board.
    How one does built a new social network? Though work, sports leagues and social clubs. I found meetup.com to be a great place to meet people.

    1. My wife and I have used meetup.com alot, too. We joined one called, “greenville social scene.” They do TONS of different activities, and the people are really cool. Of course, several small groups have formed within the group based on similar interests, but the one large group was the catalyst for that. Definitely worth a shot.

      1. I had heard about meetup.com a couple of years ago and forgot to check it out, thanks for the suggestion! I love meeting new people. 😎

  16. “There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.”

    The fact that so many of us still feel guilty about leaving is a testament to this one.

    My favorite red flag is the way they portray missionary work. Even the smallest village in Costa Rica has at least one and many times three churches. The Association of Evangelical churches has thousands of affiliated churches.

    And yet, time after time, in missionary conferences, my country is represented as a black map with only two lighthouses… the two churches that the specific missionary in charge of the presentation has planted.

    In addition to the obvious issue of honesty, the clear implication is that “our” church is the only valid one, the only one with THE monopoly of access to GOD.

    1. wow! I remember missionary conferences at my church where they talked about how there are no “good baptist churches” in ____ country/area. It’s so true that they act as if they are the only ones who can bring salvation to anyone, which usually involves more forcing of their culture on others than anything.

  17. While I was a Sunday School teacher at my old fundamentalist church, I taught a Sunday School class on cults. It included the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, the Roman Catholic Church, Buddhism, Islam, etc. Basically any system of belief that wasn’t independent fundamental baptist. And I was asked to touch on how many Protestant beliefs were cult-like and demonic in origin.

    So some fundies put the cult label on EVERYTHING. And yet now that I’m out, I consider myself to have escaped from a cult. Absolutely.

  18. My opinion is that any church group that instills fear of honesty into its followers is cult-like. If you are afraid to question, afraid to admit you are weak, afraid to express your true feelings, afraid to miss church, afraid to wear pants, afraid to read another version of the Bible, afraid to grow your hair long, afraid to swear, drink, smoke, watch movies, listen to music with a beat, dance, talk to non-believers other than witnessing, step inside another denomination’s church, etc etc etc……you need to re-examine your church. ESPECIALLY if your worst fear is even THINKING about leaving. I am over the resentment that I wasted so much time living in fear for so many years, but it took a long time. I hope those of you who are struggling with guilt, will realize that it’s not from God. It’s man’s doing. Men who are control-freaks, ego-maniacs, and/or living in fear of their angry God. They will use any method to get you to stay in their flock, not just for your tithes, but in my opinion, mostly for their egos. Men have big ones, especially those in leadership. They’re good at pretending they don’t, too. I was a big sucker for the fake humility for a long time. Don’t waste your time!

  19. I know that the IFBx are so cult-like, they may very well be one. The ones at the other end of the spectrum are still marked by cultish behavior. Being told if you wanted to obey the Bible you couldn’t join another Baptist church (non_IFB) put doubts in my heart, both in IFB and in my own heart. The lack of teaching people to think on their own and not depend on groupthink is one of the worst.

  20. I left one of the ‘good’ IFB churches. They pride themselves on being better than the others. So it was a major shock to me when I had a personal disaster and instead of being supported by my church their claws came out.

    I honestly believe that the whole Independent Baptist system is founded on completely wrong doctrine. Some churches, like the one I went to, see that there’s something wrong so they change the externals, but they do not change at the heart. They cannot and still remain Independent Baptist.

    So some look good and some look bad, but if you’re ever in trouble and you’re in an IFB church you’re in great danger.

    I believe that all of them are dangerous. Just some hide it better than others.

  21. This really isn’t meant to be an inflammatory comment, but it will probably come across that way, anyway(especially because I planted the seed that this could be taken as an inflammatory comment).

    In the past, I have read on this blog (which, BTW, I follow daily and LOOOOOVE) several comments that have rebuked (pun intended) people for claiming IFB “movement” is NOT a cult. Yet, today I read several comments stating that IFB isn’t an actual cult. While I most certainly haven’t gone back and counted how many comments were FOR IFB being a cult and then counted comments that were AGAINST IFB being a cult, it IS enough of an abrupt change for me to become puzzled.

    I also read Anders’ personal blog/website, and I think she has something to sell (obviously, that “something” are her writings and books). I’m not faulting her for this AT ALL, but I think her viewpoint, while totally legit, has been amped up. I would argue that because she’s now an Atheist, she’s totally at the other end of a spectrum and views IFB as a true cult because she is at a total opposite end. I do like that she enjoys having rational conversations with differing viewpoints.

    What are your thoughts on this? Again, this isn’t meant to be inflammatory.

    1. Megan,

      Well, I guess it was not inflamatory enough… πŸ™‚

      I hope we continue hearing ALL points of view: Yes it is a cult, No it isn’t. and everything in between.

      Including “I have no clue.”

      We were so conditioned to believe that we, and only we had THE ANSWER, that actually giving space for disent -and for doubt- is revolutionary.

      1. I spent fourteen years at PCC, four as a student and ten as staff. Based on my staff experience, the extreme emphasis on the “doctrine of authority”, the attempts to cut adults off from contra-PCC information/influences, the psychological manipulation, and the extreme level of control that they attempted to exercise over the minds, property, and choices of those who worked there (including trying to make it as painful and lonely as possible to leave), I’d definitely call it a cult for most of the period I was there, particularly toward the end. And I do not use that term lightly.

        Maybe they’ve backed off since I left in 2003, I don’t know. I do know that my wife and I were both almost destroyed by my staff years there; I was an idealist, not pragmatic enough to shrug off the evils I saw that they portrayed as biblical.

        Where am I now? I’ve been out eight years as of last month, and I’m still coming to grips with the huge part of my life (present and future) that I threw away there. That is not an easy thing to deal with. Well, I believe in God most days, and that’s about as far as it goes.

        1. (Oops, that was meant as a reply to Megan.)

          And M.E., thanks for the very honest and thought-provoking video.

        2. When I was looking for a college, I half-seriously considered BJU and PCC, but that was ONLY because I had NO idea how bad they were. I later learned they were even more fundy than my upbringing. 😯 Once I learned about (what turned out to be non-fundy) Cedarville University, it stood head and shoulders above the rest. And it was there that I learned some things about BJU & PCC….

          For most of my time at CU, I worked in the Admissions office, in the section that sent materials to prospective students. If we were sending anything to current BJU or PCC students, we had to separate those letters out from the rest to handle separately. See, our usual envelopes had “CEDARVILLE” in huge letters across the bottom and of course “Cedarville, OH” in the return address. But for those letters we couldn’t use our regular envelopes (we had to use plain brown ones) or display our return address. And do you want to know why? It’s because we’d learned that at both institutions, if the post office people saw anything with “Cedarville” (or probably any other non-fundy U) on it, they would *set those pieces aside and notify the dean.* 😯 That’s GOT to be a violation of federal law…not to mention individual liberty (but of course, there’s none of THAT at fundy U! πŸ™„ ).

          I also heard stories from BJU/PCC transferees (escapees!), who talked about what happened if they did find out you were thinking of transferring: The Dean of Students would call you into his office and tell you you were *out of the will of God* if you went to a non-fundy school. 😯 I couldn’t wrap my head around it then, and I still can’t. WHERE do these people get OFF telling others what is and is not God’s will for their lives?!? πŸ‘Ώ

          That may not constitute *forcing* someone (full-on cultish-ness), but it is at the very least manipulation. It’s also called…Spiritual. Abuse.

  22. On the subject of estabishing a new support system after leaving IFBism. I think that I didn’t have such a huge support system in the church anyway to be honest, many of the relationships I have from there aren’t that deep, under ten probably are beyond aquaintance level. I also always have been very noncomformist when it comes to having unsaved friends, I have plenty of those and I have been attending a mega church on Saturday nights for over a year now and am forming many new friendships which I hope will become deep ones. And a major, major shoutout to Darrell and all of you here at SFL, you are the best support for leaving because here I can say the most unsensored of my feelings on the whole issue without offending people I know and that is very healing to be sure. Thank you all. πŸ˜€

  23. Ricardo, thanks for posting those warning signs and healthy leader signs, especially the negative ones many of them apply to the church I am about to leave, I so look forward to the healthy version. The part that I think hurts the people the most in these churches is that they are missing out on getting to know so many of their brothers and sisters in Christ because they have been taught that they are too good to fellowship with them. We are going to be together in heaven one day and won’t that be embarrassing?? Oh, and I was reading a list of questions that my church is asking potential pastoral candidates and one question reads as follows: “Do you have a criminal record, or past moral indiscretion? If so, please write an explanation on a separate piece of paper. This will be kept in strict confidence.” In the light of all the freaking crap that has been exposed in IFB circles this FLOORS and sickens me!!! Moral indiscretions?? Isn’t that what they scream at the congregation as being adultery, fornication, sexual sin??? Moral indiscretion???? They will keep it in strict confidence?????? Am I stupid or are they disqualified if they have either of those and shouldn’t everyone know about it so they don’t become a pastor at any church???? There is a different section where they make sure he tells them what church offices divorced people can or can’t have in the church but they might consider someone with a criminal record or moral indiscretion???? WOW…no double standard for an otherwise potential fundamentally correct candidate!!!! 😯 😯 😯 😈 πŸ™„

    1. You’re welcome.

      I met someone who lived in a convent for two years. In silence.

      “Must have been very peaceful” I commented.
      “Are you kidding me?” he replied, “the convent was full of complete basket cases, me included. If you have Peace, you can be and live anywhere.”

      I have visited hundreds of congregations from dozens of denominations. I have found good, solid Christians in just about every single congregation. In spite of the leadership, in spite of the congregation, in spite of terribly wrong (IMHO) doctrines and teachings.

      Try it. You’ll like it.

      I’ve seen the Love of God reflected in the eyes of the Jehovah’s Witness woman knocking at my door, even though I disagree with much of what she is selling.

      If you’ve got the Peace that surpasses all understanding, you can stay whatever church you are in, no matter how wrong some of the doctrines are.

      1. Because I have that peace is why I can leave. I know God is with me, my strengh and comfort. It is time for me to leave, six years and I am ready for a change. πŸ˜€

  24. Yes. Independent Baptist Fundamentalism ranges from cultish to outright cult. Unfortunately, they haven’t cornered the market on it. When my husband and I were looking for a church after leaving Fundamentalism, the majority of churches we visited of any evangelical stripe had enough of the bad theology that led to the same cult-like tendencies to give us PTSD.

    Fortunately, like others here, we have found refuge in the Anglican church, and our wounds are healing.

    1. So true. I’ve sworn off most churches at this point because no matter where I went, eventually the control mechanisms came out. I might try a Unitarian church some time because I’ve heard they’re pretty open, but for now, I’m just too shell-shocked to put myself in a vulnerable situation again. 😯

  25. I am an Independent Fundamental Baptist and I can attest that not all of us or our churches are a cult. And to lump all into the same pot as such shows no knowledge of what being an Independent Fundamental Baptist is all about. Therefore, someone such as this lady and what she says should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Yes, there are some that should never even refer to themselves as an Independent Fundamental Baptist let alone a Christian because of the harm they bring to the name and cause of Christ!

    Sadly, all have been lumped in together and that is not fair nor is it right. Any true Independent Fundamental Baptist knows that what we believe comes from the Bible and the Bible alone (at least it should)! Salvation is a gift open to all and is not our job to legislate righteousness or holiness.

    Sadly, some have missed this. Once someone is saved however, some changes should take place. We’re new creatures, not to live the way we were before salvation. And yes, changing does involve standards in ones life. But those standards should be God and Holy Spirit lead – NOT man lead! If it can’t be backed up with the Word of God, we need to just shut up!

    Furthermore, some Independent Fundamental Baptist folks would start to question this lady and her salvation. Again, that is not our place! It is between her and God! It’s a shame what some have done to the fundamentals of the faith, turning and twisting the Word of God to mean what they what it to mean instead of letting it say what it says and mean what it mean!

    1. And to lump all into the same pot as such shows no knowledge of what being an Independent Fundamental Baptist is all about. Therefore, someone such as this lady and what she says should be taken with a grain of salt.

      Actually many of us do know what we are talking about and have lived the IFB way for decades. We do know what damage the IFB is capable of and we have first hand eyewitness experience with the movement.

      http://persifler.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/more-de-construction-a-first-hand-account-of-ifb-damage/

      The problem with the FIB movement is that it lends itself to cult activity. It promotes cult like behavior in the leadership and in the pew. It promotes a caste system of Pulpit-v-pew. The IFB makes the pulpit the exclusive property of one man and even the best of men with the most nobel intentions will succumb to the power he finds in that exclusive position.

      http://persifler.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/corruption-is-directly-proportional-to-the-level-of-control-that-is-available/

      Yes, not all IFB churches are cults but the IFB movement itself lends itself to and promotes cult like practices. It sets itself up as a god proxy. Take those that embrace King James Onlyism. They practice idolatry and do much harm to the word they pretend to defend. Or the cult of personality found in many pulpits (and not just in the IFB but in all of Churchanity) how the Man-o-god is worshipped as a super saint. Then there is the iron fisted rule of the weaker brother syndrome: touch not, taste not, flee all appearance of evil or you can’t belong to our sanctimonious society of saintly sheeple.

      In conclusion, we agree that not all IFB churches are cults, but it would be dishonest to ignore the fact that the IFB movement does engage in cult practices and even in those individual assemblies where it doesn’t, it gives tacit approval to the promotion or cover-up of such practices… all for the sake of the ministry and/or for the “cause of Christ.”

    2. @fundamentalistforever.

      what is the point of coming here sir? 99% of us are formed fundies and you come here to try to persuade us as if we know nothing of fundie land? Of course you cannot lump all of them together however I am sure their were some well meaning nazis too. I still am going to lump all the nazis in the same group.

  26. The focus on the video was actually HOW TO LEAVE. Anders had some good pointers for leaving successfully, whether or not one agrees with the “cult” statement or her beliefs now. To leave the IFB, you have to leave everything behind and begin to sift through everything you were told was true. You certainly need a support network for the healing and rediscovery that must take place. For us, we moved geographically several times which made it easier. We had to start over anyways. Not everyone has that luxury.

  27. What a great video, M.E.!

    I believe you said that you came from FBC Hammond, so I can totally see how you would view your experience as in a cult.

    Well, all my best wishes to you, girl.

    Love and hugs.

  28. I was never part of an IFB church…just went to BJU for 5 months (which was quite long enough, thank you). But my husband grew up IFB…his dad is an IFB pastor. It’s been shocking to me to see how he’s been treated by old “friends” and his parents (not to mention the administration at BJU) because he decided the IFB wasn’t for him. It’s like he’s not even saved anymore in their minds. I just can’t wrap my head around that.

    After watching this video, I actually think that M.E.’s got a great point – he wouldn’t have been able to leave and stay gone without support…which he only got from me for quite a while. Once he moved 1000+ miles away from his parents and was able to build his own group of real friends who cared about him whether or not he believed the same way they did…he’s just absolutely thrived over the past two years. It’s been hard, no doubt – he still struggles with what and how he was taught for 19 years (and let’s face it – I still struggle from my 5 months at BJU plus various interactions with fundamentalist preachers in my own denomination, so I KNOW this has to be rough for him) – but…we’re free. Blessedly free. Surrounded by friends.

    Thanks for the video, Darrel and M.E. Eye-opening and helpful.

  29. Is it really possible to re-build from the damage fundamentalism inflicts? I think I know how a chicken mcnugget feels—all ground up into pieces parts. The fundamentalism seems to have lots of ways to ensure, that if you leave fundamentalism you will hurt for the rest of your life. Even those who claim to be survivors and friends pull the same tactics. :mrgreen: Is there really any balm in Gilead?? πŸ˜₯

    1. Terry, while I hesitate to give a sweeping answer, because I believe everyone’s pain and hurt is different, and everyone’s tolerance is uniquer, and everyone’s healing time is, too, I still must say YES, there is healing and relief. I cannot say how long even my own took, and I cannot know for sure whether or not there are still lasting effects–surely, there must be!–but it DOES happen! In fact, given enough time, and enough pro-active behavior on YOUR part, the after-effects can be minimal, I really believe. God bless and help you today!

    2. Seen Enough is very wise in their answer. For me healing has been a Journey….and it takes time. It’s hard to trust people and to be transparent…but there are good people out in this world who will love and accept you for who you are. (Two things you won’t find in Fundyland)

      Therapy has helped me a great deal and I would recommend it to anyone coming out of Fundyland. Get a real therapist though, not these Biblical Counselors. Biblical Councelors rarely validate that you are an emotional being as well as a spiritual and physical being. When coming out of the Fundamentalist Movement a person is typically emotionally hurt and you need someone to help you navigate and validate those hurts. Finding a good therapist that you are comfortable with and you feel like you can trust will completely change your life for the better. This is just how my Journey to healing has led me and I feel great!

  30. Leave it to Darrell to side with a now devout atheist who came from an entirely screwed up family from the start. Her fantasies about who her step father was and who her mother is are narcisistic to say the least. They were a family always having some kind of trouble and tried their best to please the leadership. They never got it. And what I mean by it is a solid foundation in their relationship with Christ. Obviously something was seriously wrong within and I don’t know too many who did not know it. Sometimes people haven’t a clue of how they look to others.

    You wonder why she is now an atheist? It wasn’t FBCH. Another one who has failed to take responsibilty for their own measure of faith and who it is placed in.

      1. Yes, this man’s empathy just drips from the screen. Not since Jayne Cobb has any man shown such great concern for his fellow man. πŸ™„ Still a great video, although my first thought was of Joesph Campbell’s sage advice to “follow your bliss”

  31. This video tugs on my proverbial heartstrings quite a bit. The church/community in which I grew up was extremely legalistic in all requirements and beliefs. Guys with facial hair (the horror) were looked “down” on, guys with hair inching toward their shirt collar were not allowed into the conversation of becoming deacons/trustees of the church. And women? Well, I think a Burka would have been considered appropriate covering. Ha.

    Now, I actually attend a very liberal Catholic church. The priest discusses the fundamental Christian doctrine of the blood/Resurrection/second coming. But when I read Scripture, that guilt of not being a “good enough” Christian, failing, sinning…never measuring up is sometimes consuming. Attempting to stay true to my personal beliefs while the sermons of yester year echo in my mind is quite the challenge. It’s a challenge that I tackle daily…a challenge that I’ve yet to overcome. I suppose being a preacher’s kid in a IFB church in the South will do that.

  32. Out in California, I wouldn’t count Jack Trieber’s school or church a cult since they have members with facial hair, women wearing slacks, young men wearing shorts and sandals. Plus Alvin Martinez sang on LaVerne Tripp’s television program. Tripp was famous for being on TBN for years and was Paul Crouch’s right hand man but left TBN in 2001 because he had an affair with a TBN secretary.

    Now in Oklahoma, Windsor Hills is definitely a cult. You’ve all seen the video of their youth camp where the guy runs through the auditorium and jumps off the stage like a chicken with his head cut off?? Plus Jim Vineyard personally teaches the kids how to shoot weapons at his camp.

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