SFL Flashback: Secondary Separation

This post was originally featured in October of 2010

“If it is safe not to run with the wrong crowd, then it is safer not to run with the crowd who runs with the wrong crowd.” ~ Jack Hyles

How to be Completely and Totally Separated in a Few Easy Steps

Step 1: Hey, that guy is a godless liberal heathen. I’m going to separate from him!

Step 2: Hey, you are friends with that godless liberal heathen guy. I’m going to separate from you too!

Step 3: Hey, you are friends with that friend of a godless liberal heathen. Guess you’re on my separation list as well!
Step 6,697,254,041: I’m now the most separated and holy individual on the planet. I also own 28 cats.

51 thoughts on “SFL Flashback: Secondary Separation”

  1. I remember teaching at Pillsbury College from 1976-81. Secondary separation seemed to be an obsession there. As a result, I had no contacts with anyone with the community at large. Rather, we seemed to feel superior to everyone else because we were not touching the “unclean thing.” It lead to a lot of backbiting and divisions within even the Baptist Association of Minnesota at the time, and I believe that this is one of the main reasons why the school closed in 2008. Pastors felt that it was their job to plant informants within the student budy so they could monitor every movement that the faculty made, but these same people never supported the school financially in any meaningful way other than token contributions. My last year, when I knew that I was on the outs at that institution, I got a summer job for two successive summers administering the secondary education Title IV Migrant program. I got to meet people on the outside, and I was invited to join the Jaycees by one of my teachers. It was a breath of fresh air. It was nice to be around people who weren’t gossipy and judgmental, but my association made me volnerable to attack by the “bretheren.” Since things basically slowed down to a crawl at Pillsbury during the summer, I took the opportunity to sneak off to some of the other churches, and it was nice to know that the Lutherans were spiritual and had lovely and meaningful worship.

    My five years (1981-86)at Maranatha were not as bad. Secondary Separation was not the obsession that it was at Pillsbury, but I found again that I had no outside friends until I started going back to graduate school.

    When I left Marantha to go to Oklahoma for my Ph.D., for about a year I couldn’t get past this impulse to watch my back at all times and speak in whispers, lest anyone report me to the authorities and get me in trouble.

    From time to time I listen to recordings by internet of local fundy churches, and I see that nothing has changed.

    1. The Separated Life and Life in North Korea, not that different really. 👿 There’s even a mandatory Personality Cult of the Glorious Leader/Man-O-God. 😈

      1. It’s interesting that you mention North Korea. I recently finished a book called “Nothing to Envy” about the typical lives of North Koreans. The parallels between North Koreans and American fundamentalists is staggering.

    1. I recently read an account–was it here at SFL?–of somebody’s former pastor who separated from absolutely everybody because everyone was ungodly (=the congregation kicked him out) and spent his so-called golden years sitting at home alone listening to old sermons on tape. There’s Hell on earth for you.

  2. In the mid-90’s I remember the MOG and trustee’s of my fundie church at the time were talking about building apartment buildings on the church property so everyone could move in and become even more separated.

    I was a mid-teen at the time I overheard it and spoke up and said “well that’s a real good way to reach the world”. I was taken outside by 3 men and was sharply rebuked.

    They could never raise the money for the compound… uhh I mean apartments.

    1. Sadly, it is very common (at least the Jack Hyles-influenced churches) that the way to “reach the world” is to became door-to-door salesmen once a week and try to get people to say The Magic Prayer (TM) that would give them a place in heaven. Except for those times, all outsiders are shunned as if they have the plague.

      The only time they are kind to outsiders is when they are putting in overtime at doing their duty.

      Many are the times when I was with a staff member, and the busy person at the door didn’t want to talk with us, and the staff member would make a nasty, cutting comment about them to me as we left.

  3. I have never really understood the so-called “secondary separation” — the quote from Jack Hyles summarizes the issue; this was his philosophy that he expected others to follow.

    The Bible clearly tells us to separate from (but not isolate ourselves from) the lost, and to “reject” heretics, and flagrantly disobedient Christians. But nowhere that I have discovered does the Bible ever tell us to separate from a fellow believer who himself fits none of those categories, but doesn’t separate from the some person that we separate from.

    Seems silly — as Darrell so expressively points out, where does it all end? When I am alone and separated from everyone because no one completely agrees with me?

    1. It ends when you living alone on a mountain top fortress and in doing so you have gecome “god’s favorite.” There is none like you in all the world who is as close to god as you, because you have reached Christian perfection! You have, in fact, even seperated from your 28 cats because you realized they were not as sanctified as you. 😉

        1. Old spelling help: there is “a rat” in “separate”.
          You would not believe how much I recall this. 😀

  4. This reminds me of the following chustnut recorded by Garrison Keillor who was raised in a separation-obsessed branch of the Brethren church:

    If believer A is associated with believer B who is associated with C who holds a False Doctrine, must D break things off with A to avoid the taint?

    “The correct answer,” writes Keillor, “is Yes.” But apparently some Brethren thought D should first try to speak to A and encourage him to break things off with B. According to Keillor, this question split the church.

    (I used to think this story was just some of Keillor’s satire, but apparently it is more or less true and is where the “open” and “closed” branches of the Brethren church came from.)

  5. Don’t diss the cats. They’re like little furry therapists. Some people need a lot more than others. :mrgreen:

        1. If Jesus had a dog, how could it be anything besides a big black Labrador with sweet brown eyes that would melt a heart of diamond? 😎

    1. Guinea pigs. They wheek with delight whenever they see you, purr with pleasure when you pet them and are generally adorable (oh, and you don’t have to worry about stinky litter boxes or picking up big yard poops). 😀

  6. Let’s see that covers (5) five of the characteristics of a cult according to this article: http://www.icsahome.com/infoserv_articles/langone_michael_checklis.htm

    -> The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

    -> ‪ The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

    -> Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

    -> ‪ Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

    -> The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

  7. My argument is this: (Backed by stories in the Bible)

    1. Not even Jesus, when he walked on earth, separated himself to this degree.
    ….”friend of publicans and sinners.”
    2. Look at the lives that some of his earthly chosen apostles lead before following him. Peter was pretty much a sailor.
    3. He helped people from all walks of life.
    Look at the diversity of the 12 apostles.
    4. The only group that had condemnation for his actions were the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
    AKA IFB’ers of that time. AKA Haters. AKA They crucified Christ. AKA they slandered his name in the community for doing what he thought was right. AKA he didn’t agree with them. AKA They indoctrinated the masses to the point that no one person could stand on Jesus behalf when before Pilate.

    Not a church goer or even religious, Im just pointing out what they’re own book says.

  8. Ah yes; separation. Watch how Jude drops a Bible bomb on separation: “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Watch how John dismantles secondary separation: “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not…neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” My question to fundy schismatics is: What do you do with Jesus’s statement, “Other sheep have I that are not of this fold”? Nothing like the Bible to blow man’s pet doctrines to kingdom come!!!

    1. Thanks Ken for those little insights which ironically turn the heresy hunters’ favourite epistles back on themselves. Of course the “causing divisions” issue is debatable in that Jesus also said he’d come to bring not peace but division. Catholics in the 16th Century would’ve accused Luther of causing division, Anglicans in the 18th would’ve said the same about Wesley.

      Tricky one eh?

      1. Yes, Chris, it is tricky. And that’s what the Bible does to the professional clergy’s pet doctrines, and religious CEO’s oversight of their little religious franchises (some call them churches) every time. I love the way the Bible lances the boils of man’s tradition and customs.

  9. So true. I don’t think I ever knew what the term meant before but when trying to discern true from false teachers you end up playing similar blame games. I wrote a little song about it – the words go like this.

    Well Dave likes Steve and Steve likes Randy
    And Randy likes Sandy and Sandy likes Julie
    And Julie likes Lucy and Lucy likes Izzy
    But Izzy don’t like Julie thought she hangs around with Lucy
    Cos she’s got a friend in Henry and Henry’s… got The Disease!

    Well Izzy likes Lucy and Lucy likes Julie
    And Julie likes Sandy and Sandy likes Randy
    And Randy likes Steve and Steve likes Dave
    But Dave don’t like Randy though Steve got to where he is through Randy
    Cos Randy’s… got The Disease!

    Everybody’s got disease cos they don’t fit your big description
    Christian bookshop’s up the creek – they take a week to get prescription
    You say “Come out of her my people”
    But which is “her” and which “my people”?
    Corrugated iron or steeple
    Life’s a curate’s egg
    With The Disease

    Well they’re too narrow and they’re too broad
    But God cuts deeper than the sword
    OK let’s avoid diseases
    You be John and I’ll be Jesus
    You drink water and I’ll drink wine
    In moderation and we’ll be fine
    And so the way to cure disease is…
    Don’t build on doctrine BUILD ON JESUS…


      1. That song was part of the inspiration. The verses are spoken, the last line is said in a panic with no guitar chords. The chorus has a tune a bit like the bridge in Lehrer’s Vatican Rag. Will have to put the song on my soundcloud and share here.

  10. I am trying to make sure I know where the people in this group are coming from.

    Extremists, nuts, control freaks, messiah complexes, God’s gift to the church, spiritual guru’s, IFB pastors with a god complex and all those who are never to be questioned are the rightful targets of ridicule and mockery, but the Bible is the perfect word of God and is to be trusted, obeyed and respected.

    If that is the premise here, then I am on board with the ridicule, mockery and satire.

    But Paul says the following things for a reason:

    2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY.

    2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye WITHDRAW YOURSELVES FROM EVERY BROTHER that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

    Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, MARK THEM which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and AVOID THEM.

    1 Timothy 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: FROM SUCH WITHDRAW THYSELF.

    And it is my job as a Christian to follow Paul as he followed Christ (1 Cor 4:16; 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:6; 2 Thess 3:9)

    1. I think you’ll find this to be a mixed group; there are people who have been severely wounded by control freaks, etc, who have (in my opinion) gone too far the other extreme and have renounced Jesus Christ.

      But I like what you wrote… we should be students of the Scripture and following its commands.

      The “follow me as I follow Christ” statement of Paul’s has been twisted much; I would prefer to say that we should all be following Christ, and if another is farther ahead of us on the path, it may appear that we are following him. Paul’s exhortation was not get get followers of him, but more along the lines of “come along with me as I follow Christ”. Anytime our reliance is more upon a man (no matter how good his leadership is) than upon Jesus Christ, we are in error.

    2. But Paul says the following things for a reason:
      2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY.
      2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye WITHDRAW YOURSELVES FROM EVERY BROTHER that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
      Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, MARK THEM which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and AVOID THEM.
      1 Timothy 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: FROM SUCH WITHDRAW THYSELF.
      And it is my job as a Christian to follow Paul as he followed Christ (1 Cor 4:16; 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:6; 2 Thess 3:9)

      All those could apply to Schaap, Phelps and dozens of other IFB abusers or enablers.

      It’s one thing to separate from those who are well and truly wrong. It’s another to separate from someone because she’s wearing “too much” makeup, pants or has feathered hair (all true stories from my youth). Or from another family because their kids were dating “too young” or our own family members because they voted Democrat. That’s completely idiotic.

    3. The issue, of course, is how one interprets the antecedents, RD. For example, I know charismatics who interpret 2 Tim. 3:5 as a command to separate from those who do not practice the sign gifts (apparently the sign gifts are the “power” of godliness in their theology). Regardless, none of the verses you quoted have anything to do with secondary separation.

    4. I was going to respond to you and try to explain the difference between “separating” yourself scripturally (not thinking as they think…having a Godly world view as opposed to a secular worldview etc)and separating yourself in an anal retentive, insane manner where to live like an Amish clan only with lots of hatred and malice for the outsiders.
      But I figured you’d merely suck me into a vortex of Fundamentalist circuitous reasoning and I need every spare 15 minutes of life I can find these days.
      I guess I can’t buy you a drink instead?

  11. I don’t think a super-separated fundie would have cats – cats emphatically refuse to do what they’re told.
    Separation is stupid, in my opinion. That is, it’s another example of deciding to run your lives by what a couple verses in the Bible possibly could be construed to say, rather than by what Jesus actually did.

    1. When I was growing up, we were not allowed to have cats for this very reason. They were considered to be disrespectful and disobedient, thus setting a bad example. They were also sneaky, an appearance of evil. I now have 3 cats, and furry friends truly are great therapy, as stated above.

      1. …cats set a bad example? O.o
        I’ve seen some crazy stuff, and read crazier on this site, but it seems as though I’ve only seen the surface of the crazy that is fundydom. 🙁
        God is really showing me his mercy in that I wasn’t exposed to most of this until I had developed critical thinking skills.
        Glad you’re free now FormerHACgirl 🙂

        1. How in the world can somebody get “all animals must be respectful and obedient” out of the Bible without misapplying passages that describe human behavior? Sloppy thinking! Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!

          Is it really true that some groups won’t even let women use modern menstrual supplies because “only angels have wings?” Or is that a Poe?

        2. It has to be a Poe because real fundies know that angels looked like shining young men in Scripture with no mention of wings (except cherubim and seraphim). My mother didn’t like Christmas story picture books that showed feminine angels with long flowing locks and wings. She was very happy when she found one with male angels without wings.

          (I also had a friend who’d spent several years looking for a masculine angel to put on top of her tree.)

      2. I was going to say that we couldn’t watch The Little Mermaid growing up because Ariel disobeyed her father… but yours is way worse. (And kind of hilarious.) I’m glad you can have cats now, though! 😆

  12. Dear SFL Reader:

    If God is a separatist, why have an incarnation?

    Christian Socialist

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