Today…

There are those who claim that the fundamentalism featured here on SFL is an artifact of the past or focused on the fringes. No matter how much evidence is brought to light, these apologists insist that Fundamentalism has changed into a kinder, gentler movement where all that crazy stuff just doesn’t happen any more. This is a strange claim given that the entire premise of fundamentalism is that it does not waver from its convictions — no matter how many convictions its leaders receive in court.

With that in mind let us consider the following facts…

Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson College, Pensacola Christian College, West Coast Baptist College, and Crown College (to name only a few) are still in full operation. Not one of those institutions has significantly changed since their founding. Not one has apologized for the racist, sexist, or abusive behavior of the past. Not one has made meaningful changes to the core philosophy of man-centered religion, outward-focused rules, or performance-based spirituality.

Many of the same evangelists who were touring in the 70’s and 80’s are still on the road today visiting churches that are still run by the same pastors who were big names in decades past. If, perchance, those pastors of yesteryear have retired you can be sure that their son, son-in-law, or hand-picked disciple is now running the show the same way that daddy did. Does anybody remember a man named Jack Schaap? If you’ll check you’ll see that he was sentenced in 2013 not 1983.

I could fill pages with the scandals that have broken in fundamentalism over the past five years since SFL started but I simply don’t have the stomach to revisit them all. Suffice it to say that Chuck Phelps is still preaching, Greg Neal is still being defended, and Matt Jarrell is still dead. How many examples have to occur before people can finally admit that the lunatic fringe is not that far from the center of fundamentalism?

It is the greatest of ironies that fundamentalism can proudly proclaim that their music is the same, their message is the same, their Bible version is the same, their convictions are the same, their standards are the same, and their methods are the same but at the same time expect us all to believe that they’ve completely changed with regards to their faults and follies. I don’t buy it. Do you?

Update 1: It has been pointed out to me by several different people that Bob Jones University did indeed apologize for its racism and support of segregation. The words “not one” should instead read “Very few.”

229 thoughts on “Today…”

  1. And no, I don’t buy it. However, there does seem to be a trend of some IFB pastors, churches, and members quietly moving away/leaving/starting anew. Some of the leaders are leaving churches for more grace-filled ministries, church names and hierarchies are being changed, and many traditional IFB churches are dwindling into obscurity (and, hopefully, extinction). And, many of the “big names” in fundamentalism don’t seem to have the same sway that they did 20-30 years ago.

    I think the Internet, and sites like SFL, are a primary catalyst for this change. People are asking, “Now, why are things the way they are?” and it’s bringing about much needed introspection.

    Still, there are some people who apparently are not only willing to go down with the ship, they’re dragging people out of lifeboats and hiding the life preservers.

    Jesus consistently had problems with Pharisees (legalists) and Saduccees (deniers of the supernatural). I figure we will as well.

    1. I agree that the IFB church is (very slowly) dying out. One consequence of this is that as some individuals, pastors, and even entire congregations leave the movement, what gets left behind is the radical, dedicated core of fundies who see nothing wrong with the church and indeed praise some of its weaknesses as its greatest strengths.

      Their favorite verse becomes, “They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have surely remained with us[.]” (Incidentally, this is one of my mother’s favorite verses.) Thus, having people leave the church becomes, in some weird, twisted way, a further validation of the IFB’s twisted ways.

      So they beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

      1. Good point.
        It’s not unusual for a movement to become more militant and more ideologically rigid and extreme as it becomes smaller, partly because the true-believer, die-in-the-last-ditch types are the last to leave, so their influence increases as the numbers of others dwindle; and partly because people leaving creates a perception of threats that leads to a “circle the wagons” mentality.

      2. Truly. The dwindling numbers may even prompt some pulpit Baps to launch a Baptist Battle of the Bulge in a last ditch effort to hang on to something that was romanticized in decades past, but was fictional at its core. My life and times in the IFB showed me that it is more focused on the institutional components of that religio-corporate entity that some call a church, than it was dedicated to a personal relationship with Jesus. As long as “the institution’s the thing,” all efforts, resources, and energies will be designated to keeping it going (as any corporation does). But then, a step toward a real, sincere, vital relationship with Jesus Himself, may mean that some religious CEO (some call them pastors) may not get a salary. No tears will be shed by me if they go out and get a job!

        1. My parents are the same way. And the fact that I, their oldest child, turned out how I did (read: heathen reprobate who “probably isn’t saved”) has just served to make them get even more entrenched with respect to their own beliefs and how they parent my younger siblings.

    2. I’m very curios (and have no idea how you would find this out), if the shrinking rate of IFB is mirrored in the larger trends of society away from church/religious institutions, or is faster or slower. I’d be more inclined to believe your assessment if there were numbers indicating their numbers were shrinking faster than say the Cathilics or Prsbyterians, or non denoms.

      1. Probably hard to get those statistics since there is no central denominational office for the IFB that would maintain such information.

        (Of course, we could always go back what various IFB mega-churches SAY their attendance is, but I don’t think that would be very reliable data!!)

        1. DS – Are you telling us that thousands weren’t saved at the week long “Revival and Tract Handout” held during spring break in Vegas last year?

        2. Self reported numbers are definitely not reliable, and extremely so when it comes to IFB.

          I just find that whenever I’m tempted to believe fundamentalism is on the verge of dying, that I’m reminded that a core value is abuse, and as such tends to always have a ready supply of victims that are primed to be victimized, and that institutional abuse has a way of self perpetuating much much much longer than I wish were true.

    3. I don’t know that the IFB churches are dying; some of the extreme IFBs are dying as people realize the problems. I think that there are many, decent, relatively unknown IFBs that are about. I suspect that Jack Hyles influenced a lot of churches and evangelists that are on the crazy side.

  2. And, even with all of the problems inherent in the fundamentalist system, some individuals in the newer generation are speaking up about exactly these types of things and calling the ‘traditionalists’ out even while they still buy into the (questionable) theology of fundamentalism.

      1. BBC did a fascinating documentary called “Around the World in 80 Faiths.” I highly recommend it. The host featured the Burning Man festival as a North American religion.

        1. I should add there is some, shall we say, “tribal” nudity in some of the segments, so I don’t recommend watching the documentary at work!

  3. I know a minister who made the journey out of IFB to “normal” Baptist-dom. He’s not IFB in teaching or method any more, but he retains an exceedingly idyllic view of his time therein. That said, he’s not at the same church he was back then.

    I wonder if it isn’t easier for individual ministers to shift toward grace, while on the other hand, it would be easier for IFB churches to pass through the eye of a needle?

    1. I have found that those who retain the “exceedingly idyllic” view that you describe are those who perpetrated abuses while they were fundies. Most of the rest of us who were victims and not perpetrators don’t remember things with anything like the rosy view held by our former tormentors.

      1. True that. This minister doesn’t push legalism and feels fairly “normal” now, but I don’t know what his IFB church was like when he was IFB.

        All I know is that, as a former IFB congregant, I have a completely different perspective. I have no desire to retain ANY of the [true] fundamentalist distinctives, nor do I have any desire to set foot in any IFB church ever again.

        1. Josh, my sentiments exactly. I will NOT set foot in an IFB “church” again. Too many bad memories of how I was cajoled, manipulated and spiritually abused with unBiblical guilt trips. Not to mention overhearing a MOG make jokes at my expense after I trusted him with some of my innermost thoughts and questions.

      2. Deacon’s Son wrote: “I have found that those who retain the “exceedingly idyllic” view that you describe are those who perpetrated abuses while they were fundies. Most of the rest of us who were victims and not perpetrators don’t remember things with anything like the rosy view held by our former tormentors.”

        OMG, that is so true!

        A recent blog by Cary Schmidt where he looks back fondly of his time in what he considers good churches (mainly LBC and NVBC) is an excellent example of this.

        Ugh!

  4. The fact that fundamentalism is changing (albeit not in the way they would have you believe) is to be expected considering the movement was based around a cult of personality of its leaders (i.e. John R Rice, Bob Jones (Sr & Jr), Curtis Hutson, Jack Hyles, etc). Once the old leaders passed away, the new leaders set about defining fundamentalism on their own terms. This is what is to be expected when a religious movement is based around men and not Jesus Christ…it will constantly be in a state of flux depending on who the current leaders are.

    1. In fact, what I see in the last 20 years or so of fundamentalism is nothing more than years and years of various men jockeying for the “top spots” in fundamentalism. I have referred to it before as the race to become the next IFB pope. Interestingly, this also contributes to the increasing radicalization of the IFB, as one can only prove oneself as the top dog if one is even more obnoxious than everyone else.

      1. This political power struggle of which you speak is, I think, one of the major things holding together the “old guard” of fundamentalism.
        I have spoken with many fundamentalist leaders in privet, and they are generally agreeable and not obnoxious. Some even concede cretin points of gospel-driven theology, or admit to issues within fundamentalism.
        However, I have seen time and again these same men in public become belligerent and legalistic, even directly contradicting what they told me in privet, when the time was right to do so (that is, when a big name preacher is visiting or some other opportunity to prove one’s fundy pedigree presents itself).
        This two-faced nature of fundamentalist pastors has disturbed me greatly. Even those who see flaws are unwilling to call them out because of the fear of men, and the desire for acceptance or advancement.

        Two thumbs down 🙁

  5. Rule following can often be done without a deep change of heart. Thats one of the dangers of Fundamentalism–say a prayer and then adopt these approved set of rules and live them out–anyone who does that is saved, anyone who disagrees is Hell bound.

    So the question that must be asked is “Are the “changes” to fundamentalism a heart change or aesthetic changes?” I know some fundamentalist churches who are contemporary in worship, women can wear pants, and versions other than the KJV can be used. But if you question their doctrinal standards–you are in danger of not being among the saved or if you vote a certain way “how can you consider yourself a Christian?” And if you are female you cannot teach men–if you do you’re not saved…..its the same rhetoric–the same heart–just packaged differently.
    The change that has to happen is a humility about their beliefs–they have to be willing to say, “we see things now dimly.” And they need to allow that others who do not hold to what they see as the fundamentals of faith–have the same chance at being saved as they do.

  6. I was exposed to Fundamentalism for 20 years. In those 20 years I did not observe any softening but rather a deep entrenchment with extreme politics and white supremacy which I hadn’t observed in the beginning.

  7. While there may be cosmetic changes here and there, Fundamentalism has remained the same at its root. I could walk into my old church today after many years out, and not miss a beat. I can expect the same attitudes, the same corruption, the same sexism, the same legalist mentality, the same judgmentalism that was there when I graduated high school.

    1. Re: cosmetic changes. I have thought A LOT about what Bible “Colleges” teach, since it isn’t the Bible and it certainly isn’t a college education (for most “majors” at least). I recently decided that what most of them teach is essentially marketing. Bible College graduates tend to be brilliant at putting a good face and positive spin on things. Learning to peddle crap is the essence of the Bible College experience.

      In my opinion, WCBC is THE WORST at this sort of thing. They are all like, look how cool we are with our big screens in the auditorium and our CCM with the drums removed and our Apple products and our sleek website and our podcasts and our trips to Disneyland. The problem is that all of these things are nothing more than an attempt to repackage and market the same old rotten fundy message.

      1. Agreed. My sibling recently went to WCBC and they present themselves as being the cutting edge crowd of fundy colleges. Well I’ll tell you one thing..Paul Chappell certainly lives nice.

        1. Oh, he sure does.

          At one time (before the housing crash, which hit Lancaster hard) his house was the most expensive house on the whole east side of the city. And it wasn’t his only property either. Anyone else ever get a retroactive retirement plan? (Yeah, me neither)

          IMHO his ANNUAL Building Banquet mantra of “Not equal giving, but equal sacrifice” was just a big steamy pile of cr@p. People would give away their retirement savings, wedding rings, second car, vacation money, etc.

        2. Paul Chappell is obsessed with “building.” My church at one time was going under and people were manipulated to take out second mortgages, give up their wedding rings, etc. Shockingly, they did. I would never give up my wedding ring for a church. Never. That is like slapping my husband in the face.

  8. If anyone watched the recent God Bless America Crusade it was plain evidence that Old Time Fundamentalism is still around. If the younger generation are changing and holding onto the term whatever churches come about would not likely be accepted by the old guard. Separation is still a deeply important tenet to them. And since it is colloquial and tends to be perpetuated within families and schools, it’s likely to be with us for quite some time.

  9. I have seen one church make the claim that they do not follow man’s rules in an attempt to stop the flow of people leaving the church. Yet you would not find one pair of pants on a woman.

    Another church I spent time in proudly proclaimed that they will never change the way they do things. They did things “Biblically” (said while waving the KJV overhead).

    1. It should be said, in all fairness, that women dress exactly alike in MOST churches.

      Methodist Women’s Dress: Pantsuit, bouffant hair, costume jewelry, cheap handbag.

      Evangelical Women’s Dress: Capris and t-shirt, highlights, Coach bag.

      Episcopal Women’s Dress: mom jeans, 80’s perm, hemp bag.

      And so on. I realize these are some silly generalizations, but I think the tendency to dress the same can be found in all sorts of places where a bunch of people regularly interact with each other. I think that is the reason for no pants on IFB women in IFB congregations. I bet 90% of those women have no moral conviction about wearing pants, but want to be sure they dress just like everyone else.

      (And, yes, ladies, I know men have the same tendency. IFB = suits, Evangelical = soul patches, Methodist/Episcopal = beards and pectoral crosses, etc.)

      1. I think the point is not that women dress similarly in each congregation but the fact that there are numerous fundamentalist churches who do not allow women to wear pants. They must be in dresses.

        1. Perhaps, but if a majority of those women suddenly decided to wear pants, no one could do a thing about it. Thus, by conforming to the silly rule, they perpetuate it. And then, when a new lady joins the church, she looks around her, sees everyone in a peasant skirt or prairie dress, and decides, well, I better dress like that too. In my experience, it is quite rare that someone actually goes up to the visitor in pants and says, “you must wear a skirt/dress if you wish to worship here.” (Even my insanely judgmental and confrontational fundy mother never did that.) Most IFB standards are absorbed by imitation, not duress. Sure, the pastor thunders the teachings from the pulpit, but most of them don’t give a crap what their parishioners actually do. They are selling the sermons their members want to hear, nothing more.

          (I realize there are some out there that probably do enforce the dress standards much more aggressively than I am describing here.)

        2. I wonder if a lot of people in these churches do what they do simply because it’s expected of them, not because they have actual convictions (or maybe they call them convictions but it’s actually preferences). In my church, women used to wear dresses to church Sunday morning and evening. Now I don’t even remember the last time my my mom wore a dress to church Sunday morning. I wish we’d stop letting our church dictate to us what we do.

        3. Yes, FO, I think that’s the case. While I was part of a fundy church I always thought it was silly to wear a suit and tie to church, and I questioned it often. But I still did, because it was “expected.” And I could go on and on with this. I’m convinced it’s why they don’t like it when you question things…when you do, you realize there’s no longer a reason to be a fundy.

        4. While yes, I think there are those who dress a particular way due to the “peer pressure”, for women there is more than fashion at stake. A woman in fundamentalism’s salvation and purity is judged on appearance and their submitting to the rules. Most would never feel the ability to even question–their free will and thinking have been broken by the systems they are in often times. So yes, some do it just because everyone does. But there is a lot more involved.

        5. @Deacon’s Son: If a whole bunch of IFB women started showing up in pants on Sunday, there would be a pointed sermon from the pulpit, then a whisper campaign, then a bitter schism, and finally two congregations–both IFB, but one in pants.

        6. Hey, let’s not knock peasant skirts. I kind of like peasant skirts, myself.

          I usually wear a dress or skirt to church. In the Catholic context, that’s almost an act of rebellion. Many Catholics dress like slobs. :mrgreen:

        7. …not that there’s anything wrong with dressing like a slob. Well, OK, sometimes the torn jeans and beach shorts do strike me as a tad de trop. And don’t get me started on the ultra-slutty outfits, like the micro-shorts and skin-tight low-cut tops. Sure I’m a prude. I have sons (21 and 18, respectively). So, sue me. 😈

          I must admit I like dresses. IMHO they’re more comfortable than most pants. I also like tunics and leggings, though. If the tunic’s long enough, you almost feel as if you’re wearing a kurta and salwa (a traditional Muslim Indian outfit…very flattering and feminine, IMHO).

          If I were constantly told that I had to wear dresses and skirts, I’d probably hate them. But I’m never told that, so I feel free to dress however I like. And what I like is…dresses.

          For schlepping around the yard and walking the dog in the woods, I wear mangy old lounge pants. At work and at church, I usually wear something in the dress / skirt family. Chacun à son goût — that’s my sartorial philosophy. Except for those beach shorts, LOL.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsUmLcri7fU

      2. It’s true that all people who hang around together tend to start dressing in similar fashion at least to some extent.
        But it’s not common in most churches for the leaders to hold that it’s a moral or religious duty to dress in a certain, narrowly-limited way.

        1. Big Gary:

          So true on the dressing in a “narrowly defined way.”

          I’m not sure how many times my former CEO mentioned from the pulpit his preference that men wear suit and ties. His argument (wich is nothing new) is that since we would wear a suit and tie to the White House to see the president, why shouldn’t God’s people show greater respect when meeting with God at God’s house. It then became a heart issue since some men didn’t see it his way.

          Of course, he forgot to mention that God does not dwell in houses made with hands…or protestant temples.

        2. Hooah, BRO.

          You know, the idea that if you dined with the president you’d get dressed up, so dress up for church is ridiculous. If their object of religious devotion is everything they say, they would realize how silly it is to have the suit/dress concept for church. Isn’t their object of religious devotion all-seeing, everywhere, and all-knowing? If so, then their god has seen them naked and it matters not what they wear to church.

        3. The idea that we’re dressing up for church because we meet God there implies that God is in church and nowhere else. This is bad theology.

          It reminds me of the Buddhist parable of the monk who prepared for prayers by clearing his throat and spitting on a statue of the Buddha. When his brother monks chastised him, he said, “Show me a place to spit where there is no Buddha.”

        4. I heard multiple sermons regarding how to dress within fundamentalism. Women must wear skirts. Dress up for church.

          I have never heard a sermon outside of fundamentalism regarding how people are to dress, for church or otherwise. People may dress similarly, but if someone walks in wearing a different outfit they’ll be treated normally.

      3. In the ‘Hyles clone’ church I attended, the Mog still proclaims from the pulpit that any “professing Christian woman” who wears pants is announcing her true ‘spiritual state’. Definition: backslider, not right with God, and rebellious.

        Also, if those women are married, that marks their husbands as, henpecked, lily-livered (heard Hyles use that one), wimps! Thus, exposing their husband’s ‘spiritual state’.

        In Fundyland, women wearing pants is a very revealing act, in more ways than one!

      4. This is going to be so far down from Deacon’s son’s post that I’m not sure that anyone will see to whom I’m replying. But here goes:

        My grandparents go to a Methodist church in our area, and they recently pointed out one of the pastor’s wives (different church, but they get together, I guess) to me. She was elderly with a HUGE 60’s bouffant. I have to say that I wondered if it was a Methodist thing, and then I sort of got judgmental and thought that maybe I wouldn’t want to visit that church because of her ridiculous hair.

      5. Do you think perhaps that depends on the area of the country? I go to an episcopal church currently, and I can’t think of a standard dress code. Some are young and wear pants; some are old and wear pants. Some are young and wear skirts/dresses; some are old and wear skirts/dresses. Some wear a lot of makeup, some wear none. Some carry a hemp bag, some carry Prada. (Ok, so nobody in my town is rich enough to carry Prada. But it’s not hemp, and it’s shiny. 😉 )

        As a former Fundy, I really paid attention to what people were wearing at first – it’s a learned defense mechanism, I guess. The mechanism has been bewildered into silence however, because I finally realized that people at church just look, well, normal. They dress the way they dress, and that’s the end of it. /shrug

        1. After leaving fundamentalism I would look first at what people were wearing and judge them. I’d also scrutinize what I was wearing…did it pass? This after being out of bible college for a year or two! It took a couple years but finally I think of clothes as just clothes and don’t read into it anymore.

        2. I know, right!

          When I first started going to this church, some of the teen girls would participate in the scripture reading in the liturgy at times. I didn’t think I was much of a prude, but apparently I am at church because I was shocked by the low-cut tight clothing she wore and kept looking around to see if anyone else was offended too. Of course, nobody was.

          Just this last week I realized that since I’m not being bludgeoned with messages about immodest clothing, I can now see that girl for who she is, not what she’s wearing, and it doesn’t even register anymore.

          It’s amazing how much that life poisoned me towards other people. Thank God for His mercy and grace.

  10. I went to a church that was so proud it was not like those other IFB churches. They were even willing to reconsider their approach to the drums!

    I just wish they’d been willing to reconsider their approach to pastor-worship and covering up crimes 👿

  11. I’m curious — what do you think were the motives behind Jerry Falwell — who began his career as a BBF fundamentalist — “softening” somewhat over the years and eventually moving into Southern Baptist circles? I’m not necessarily suggesting that it wasn’t a true change of heart and mind, but it could have been a case of him seeing that (as the saying goes) “the grass was greener in the other fella’s yard.” Know what I mean? 😉

  12. I left fundamentalism over twenty years ago. The last time I was in an IFB church was for a memorial service for my father two years ago. I could see no change but this particular church might not have been interested in change.

    1. Today is my 16-day anniversary on leaving the IFB. I’m hoping that in twenty years I will not be rehashing my life and times in the movement.

      I suppose it should have been a clue when a “preacher boy” friend of mine (25 years ago) took me out soul-winning on the streets of Old Bowie, MD. One Jewish lady gave it to him with both barrels, slammed the door, and commenced to cussing and swearing down her hallway until we couldn’t hear her any more. This “preacher” all the while was yelling back at her and screaming that she was going to hell and that we were going to have to knock the dust off of our feet before leaving her to her own destruction. Oh, forgot to mention, he was yelling all of this as a prayer.

  13. Interestingly, the fundy pastor I grew up with spewed fundy venom three times a week for almost 40 years of pastoring and then, a week after he retired, he and his wife joined the local First Baptist Church which is your typical, standard-issue, evangelical Southern Baptist church. They’ve been going there ever since, last I heard.

    I had an odd conversation with him shortly before I left the IFB in which he told me that if he had it to do over again, he wouldn’t have been an IFB pastor. (Or a pastor of any sort.) That made me sad to think that he essentially felt that his entire life’s work had been a waste.

    It just goes to show that even some of the most ardent fundy preachers don’t actually believe in what they are saying. They IFB System has a grip on them just as much as everyone else. (That doesn’t excuse their bad behavior, but it does explain some of it.)

    1. That is interesting and ridiculous. This supports my religious franchise hypothesis. This guy did what he did to continue his financial lifestyle he had grown accustomed to. He had a following large enough that wanted the religious guilt and emotionalism and would hand over money to him in-lieu of their god. This was his business – religious huckster.

      1. Thank you for making that point. I meant to say that at the end of my comment but forgot. Yes, economics explains most of the IFB’s insanity. (Dirty old men explains the rest.)

      2. While some pastors are no doubt driven by money, it has been my experience that your average Fundy pastor is motivated by control, power, ego, fear, and politics; not financial greed.
        We also should be fair here and admit that many fundy pasters genuinely want to do what they think God wants from them. Although their concept of God often leaves Him devoid of most of His attributes.

    2. yes I wonder if the IFB pastors who are part of a church started by someone else fall into the not really being as fundamental as they make themselves out to be. In one church in my area there was a fundamental church whose pastor was exceptionally unfundamentalist–he actually was the one who orchestrated the ecumenical events in the town with the presbys, american baptists, episcopals, catholics, and methodists…..he left after 16 years, and the leadership pulled in a pastor who was ultra fundamentalist….Talking to the former pastor, he said everything had been a fight for him to do. So I wonder how much the congregation or the elite few in the congregation determine the doctrine and tone of the pastor

      1. So true. My parents’ church did in fact replace the former pastor with a radical IFB extremist. And my parents spent most of their time under the previous pastor trying to pressure him to take a more extreme line with respect to fundy teachings. Sometimes he caved in (including one memorable incident in which my mother ordered him to preach more sermons out of the book of Proverbs because that is a favorite book of the Bible in ATI and the pastor did, but called my mother out from the pulpit each time he did it).

        1. Fundies seem to excel at passive aggressiveness….whether it is calling out the name of the parishioner in the sermon or throwing a good bye dinner for the pastor as the way they fired their pastor or by eliminating the pastoral pay from the budget to push the pastor out…..fun times.

      2. Since Baptist pastors are chosen by the congregations, not appointed by a bishop as they are in some churches, what the most powerful members of the congregation want is a huge determinant of what kind of pastor they get, and a constraint on what that pastor will do and preach in that church.

      3. My old IFB church had a minister who, while not the most skilled at preaching, was the most compassionate pastor I’ve ever known. When he retired, the Big Family Cliques applied pressure to the rest of us (the plebes) and brought in a real piece of work. He’s a tyrannical dictator, an obnoxious screamer, and a teacher of nearly every damnable heresy you’ll ever find in fundamentalism. He’s still there, as far as I know, though the church’s attendance is now much smaller.

        1. That IFM MoG is probably preaching loud and clear out of Zechariah 4 on “Despise not the small things!”

          My recently former IFB CEO preached his usual topical message out of this passage about a year ago after a couple of families left.

          If he hasn’t already, he’ll probably preach something out of the O.T. on “Cleansing the holy place,” or something to that effect (since we’ve left) which will bring a hearty HAY-MEN I’m sure.

        2. When speaking of former members we were given “Sin in the camp” style messages. We were also warned never to trust former members, because they lie about how their kids are doing.

          Favorite scare tactic: If you leave the umbrella of protection provided by this church your kids will go to the devil. 👿

    3. The rationale for following the party line even if they don’t believe it from the heart is, “We’re Baptists. We’re a church. This is what we do.” And thus the Baptist Talmud is perpetuated.

      1. Dear Ken Reamy:

        Blacklisting
        All
        Perspectives
        That
        Interpret
        Scripture
        Themselves

        Lutheran? Blacklisted!
        Reformed? Blacklisted!
        Methodist? Blacklisted!
        Presbyterian? Blacklisted!
        Mennonite? Blacklisted!
        Apostolic? Blacklisted!

        Christian Socialist

        1. Dear Baptistic Reader:

          Apologies for the many Baptists who live at peace with God and other believers. Ought to have made that clear in the previous post. Blessings!

          Christian Socialist

        2. Let’s not forget:

          Southern Baptist: blacklisted
          American Baptist: blacklisted
          Evangelicals: blacklisted
          Independent Baptists: blacklisted
          other IFB down the street: blacklisted

        3. The IFB church we split away from: blacklisted
          The IFB church that split away from us: blacklisted
          The IFB mission church we started: blacklisted

        4. Thank you for qualifying your comment! 🙂 I’ve been a Baptist since birth, and out my 58 years only 16 years were spent in IFB-dom. Those years cost me some things, but God is a God of second chances.

          I’m still Baptistic in my thinking, but I hope I’m open to listening to others viewpoints and interpretations of Scripture. My years in the IFB church taught me the danger of believing that one group has all the truth, and that everyone else is wrong.

          As to the point of this post, I don’t believe the IFB movement has become kinder and gentler. I don’t think it can, for then it would cease to exist.

    1. Your eyes have been opened, Deacon’s Son. You no longer walk in darkness but have seen the light of truth.

      (Honestly, I don’t like white pianos. I prefer a deep, rich brown though I wouldn’t sniff at black.)

      1. Ours is cherry red. (Upright, not grand.) We love the atypical color.

        I once had a piano student whose mother was an artist. She gave their antique upright a pickled finish and painted tiny vines in a frame around the front panel. I thought it was great, but my spouse was appalled. 😉

  14. I agree that WCBC and its circles (which is what my former fundy church ran in) constitutes done of the worst that the IFB has to offer. They like to talk a good game about spirituality needed to come from the heart, and not be performance based. My MOG used to sau that all the time. But then I got preached against when I started wearing pants to church, and using a different Bible, and listening to secular music.they took these as indications that”my heart wasnt right.” so basically, dont follow rules to conform, do it from thd heart. BUT, if your heart its right, you’ll do things our way. makes sense.

    1. Yes, they are all about spirituality coming from the heart, as long as it is the RIGHT KIND of spirituality that FOLLOWS ALL THE RULES. My sister, who was an RA at WCBC and now works in the dean’s office, used to bemoan the fact that some of her girls obeyed all the rules, but she knew their hearts weren’t right and they weren’t doing it with the right spirit. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Everyone is made to feel guilty and unworthy. You are only okay if you are like my sister and follow all the rules BECAUSE you are doing it from your heart. It’s utterly ridiculous.

        1. Well said. YA aspect of Orwell’s genius: he clearly saw the deep perversion of totalitarianism, and it can be seen in any such relationship.

  15. Going back to how to dress for church for a minute…I am Catholic and the women at my church do NOT dress alike. You can find some women wearing dresses and even with headcovering…other women in t-shirts and jeans, some in dress slacks and a nice top… Dress shoes or tennis shoes or flip flops. Doesn’t matter and no one blinks an eye.

    As far as the men are concerned you can see men in suits sitting beside someone in denim wearing a leather Rolling Thunder Jacket. :mrgreen:

    As long as its modest no one seems to care all that much.

    1. Episcopalian congregation here. The rules are, “Don’t break the decency laws getting here, don’t jingle or glitter, and don’t smell strongly of anything.” We waive the third rule for people in odoriferous professions who can’t always get the smell off.

  16. While the IFB may be on the decline I think it is being replaced buy the new Integrated Family Church Movement which “rejects any activity that separates the family” and typically requires home schooling. I’m finding the same spirit among those circles as I did when I was in the militant fundamentalist circles.

      1. I read the first 3-4 paragraphs. Told me all I need to know. Homeschooling, Doug Philips/Vision Forum, etc. It’s the same crowd that uses homeschooling to TAKE OVER THEIR CHILDREN’S LIVES. I know, because I grew up in a home like that. My parents were SUPER uncomfortable sending us to IFB Sunday School and youth group because it “split up the family.”

      2. Okay, everyone, you need to click on that link and take a good look at the picture at the top of that lady’s blog: “The Adoration of the Home.” That picture precisely captures the dream of the homeschool mothers and ATI “virtuous women” I grew up around. They see themselves as queens, surrounded by adoring and subservient family members. Dad only exists to bring home the bacon. Daughters just kind of sit around. Crowd of burly sons exist solely to engage in manual labor and be sex objects who stand around waiting for wives. Fawning obsession with the youngest child bordering on creepiness). That picture sickens me. I realize the lady who put that one her blog probably does not have that sort of twisted relationship with her family, but that picture really does capture the ATI/extreme homeschool view of family life.

        1. That is a strange picture. I suppose the seated female is a goddess representing something like Purity, but to really “adore” the home, shouldn’t a FATHER be present beside her on the throne?

    1. Isn’t that what the Duggars do?

      I think that having everyone together in church makes it difficult to get a message across to everyone. You can’t talk about some things in front of young kids, and babies and toddlers are spiritually gifted in the art of distraction. Yet some fundy churches won’t let you have kids in the service — off to the nursery/Sunday school/junior church with them.

      1. These are people who believe that the sole purpose of the church is to serve and uplift the family, and, by extension, the parents as the head of the family. They don’t believe that there are certain things God calls the family to do and certain things God calls the church to do and those don’t necessarily overlap. They have a tendency to think anything the church can do, the family can to better, but we have to have “church” too so we just kind of tack that on as something that our family does.

  17. Dear Darrell:

    You wrote: ‘…a kinder, gentler movement where all that crazy stuff just doesn’t happen any more. This is a strange claim given that the entire premise of fundamentalism is that it does not waver from its convictions…’

    I reply: ‘Didn’t Rome say/do something like that?

    Blessings!

    Christian Socialist

  18. I think a lot of people, whether they admit it, view a lot of standards and rules churches create as they would styles and fads. There are certain things people would never wear or do, not because its necessarily wrong, but because it’s not the “in thing” right now. Same with standards and rules. People follow a lot of what their particular church pushes, not because they can back it up with scripture, but because that’s just the way it is. But too many churches carry it too far. I stay far, FAR away from those places.

  19. Fundamentalism has historically been based on fear-based reactions to “worldly” ideas or issues. In the 1960s fundamentalism was stridently anti-communist. The communists were portrayed as forcing integration on the south, and as agitating African Americans to riot. Bob Jones Univ stridently opposed integration, until they couldn’t. Finally BJU allowed African Americans to matriculate. The first was my classmate in 1975. Interracial dating was cause for expulsion. It was a biblical principle at stake, allegedly. Decades later, BJU changed to allow interracial dating, I believe. My point is this: fundamentalists seize on whatever issue is frightening conservative white people at that moment and adopt it as their cause. They don’t talk about communism or integration now, I suspect. That would no longer draw adherents. They will look for a “dangerous” or “worldly” bogey-man to inspire fear.

    Today some fundies fight the “homosexual agenda” (whatever that is) as they fought integration in the 60s. They always have to be against something, to foster a bunker mentality, to coerce their followers into “sacrificial giving.”

        1. Dear Bald Jones grad and elfdream:

          Yeah. Willie T.

          The way I heard it, this African American guy did a chapel at Snob Clones. It seems that he preached on black panters [panting for God]. It’s reported that at one point, the guy waved and said, ‘I see you out there, Willie!’

          Christian Socialist

      1. Not to defend the ridiculous ethnic dating ban at all, or segregation but for the record, in the years following WW2, some black GI’s wanted to use the GI Bill to attend BJU, were accepted, but the government wouldn’t allow them to use the GI Bill money there.

    1. “They always have to be against something, to foster a bunker mentality, to coerce their followers into “sacrificial giving.””

      Or procuring a $1,000,000.00 mortgage with 75 tithers in membership assuming the church will grow because of your new fancy building, awesome preaching and teaching from the MoG, and standing for “truth” no matter what!

      Then, when those who hate the “truth” leave said ministry, the theme of the preaching and teaching, along with the rants of the treasurer, changes to the necessity of “sacrificial giving.”

      2 Corinthians 9:7 is conveniently forgotten: “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    2. I think you hit the nail squarely on the head. “Look! It’s the boogeyman! Circle the wagons and fill the offering plate! No criticizing the pastor or his special people; they’re the ones leading us through the wilderness full of boogeymen!”

      1. And also: This is worth repeating. It’s the caption of a cartoon I saw once and have never been able to find again. The picture shows two exhausted men slumped on a couch in front of a TV. On the wall above their heads is this poster:

        HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA

        1. Fight Traffic
        2. Endure Soul-Sucking Job
        3. Fight Traffic
        4. Get Takeout

        1. You know, I have been waiting for the day when my little brother and I are in a roomful of people at an event, and somebody starts spouting off about the “homosexual agenda”. Because I’m just itching to turn to my brother and say, “So, what’s your agenda for tonight? This guy wants to know.”

  20. I tried to scan through all the posts before responding myself, so someone else may have mentioned this already and I just didn’t see it. There is on youtube some place a news report about BJU apologizing for it’s racist past. I think there is a comment by Rachel Maddow on it (probably on her show).

    1. I hadn’t heard that. I just googled it and saw that you’re right. There’s a 2008 article to that effect on NBC news. Apparently Stephen Jones made the apology after he became president. I can’t believe that he is president. I taught him in sunday school when he was in 4th grade. And I’m only 39. 😳

      1. It’s just amazing to me that the “board” of BJU (which most BJU-friendly fundies aspire to as the highest of honors, like being part of the college of cardinals or something) has approved FOUR Joneses as president now. I had some hope that after BJ3 things might change, but lost all hope when SJ was elevated to the papacy. One of my favorite pictures in my wife’s old BJU yearbooks are those photos of the board all smiling with smug self-assurance into the camera. If they only realized how powerless they really are! The Jones family runs everything. The board is essentially powerless. Even the Do Right BJU movement was resolved essentially by having the Joneses tell the board to off Phelps, not the other way around.

        1. DS: Funny you should mention how the Jones family ruled. When he was in my small SS class, 4th grade Stephen told me how his family was buying diamonds and storing them for an investment. As a very poor work scholarship student from a humble home, that kind of money was beyond my thinking.

        2. Dear Deacon’s Son:

          All is not well in Zion. The SFL fora had a thread on this a while back: http://tinyurl.com/lrum848

          Snob Clones Perversity has been described as a ‘ship without a captain.’ Although I’ve not checked in a while, reports were that he was very seldom seen and that his lifestyle had discredited him for the Snob Clones Perversity Presidency.

          I tend to think that the Snob Clones is thoroughly dysfunctional, and that this dysfunction is made incarnate in daily ‘ongoings’ at the ‘school’ [using the term lightly].

          Christian Socialist

        3. A pastor told me that he asked a board member at BJU what it would take for BJ to change. His answer: “About six deaths.” Apparently, the older generation “ain’t budging!” Sorry, I can’t reveal the sources. It was a personal conversation and he didn’t tell me the board members name. The pastor has no real connections to BJU.

      2. Not to offend – perhaps you were “evangilistically” speaking – but if you are truly 39 then Stephen may have been teaching you as he is currently 43 – Lots to criticize the IFB world for – and they have earned all they get – but comes across better when you get your facts right.

        1. It was my bit of humor. If you follow the thread above, I was in BJU in 1975. That puts me way over 39. Old age joke!

        2. Stephen sat to my left in chapel one semester. I had no idea who he was since I’m not of the BoJo lineage. He was down to earth and not at all pretentious.

          @Bald Jones grad: You had me going as well. Since I’m about five years older than Stephen it wasn’t computing…my stuff between the ears was turning gelatinous!

  21. Dear SFL Reader:

    The narrative which sustains the movement is highly sub-Christian. That makes its redemption problematic at best.

    I might be wrong about this, but I think that it is time to stop hammering the associated eccentricities and contradictions [which are neither few nor light] in order to focus on the one thing that needs to be frankly faced:

    This movement as a whole is untouched by the gospel and needs to be converted to Jesus Christ.

    Christian Socialist

    1. Christian Socialist wrote:

      “This movement as a whole is untouched by the gospel and needs to be converted to Jesus Christ.”

      I’ve sat here and stared 😯 at the screen comtemplating this statement.

      If this were true, and possible, I believe those within the movement would respond with utter comtempt at such a proposition; After all, they are the bearers of the gospel leading the world to Christ.

      No, I believe, as someone wrote in a recent post, that one must separate from the separatists in order to embrace the gospel in humility as it is presented in the scriptures.

      Fundamentalism is steeped in its own self-righteousness tradition and man-made gospel and may very well be without hope and beyond saving. The name has worn out its welcome and is nothing like the Christianity of the first three centuries.

      Perhaps I’m wrong.

      B.R.O.

      1. Dear BigRedOne:

        Dear BigRedOne:

        When I say that the IFB’s sub-Christian narrative makes redemption problematic at best — I was making a major understatement. My subtilty is easily missed. Sub-christian narratives cannot be redeemed because they are the wrong narrative.

        I am a minority is saying that some [I should probably say few] can have a ministry among fundamentalists. I say this in the sense that Jesus and others confronted the religious leaders of their day.

        In other words, I’m saying that fundamentalism as a whole should be seen as a mission no less any other group or society [religious or not], including America itself.

        As ever, I recommend this only for those who are stable and mature believers, and who are led to this work by God’s Spirit as a part of their devotion to Jesus Christ.

        Blessings!

        Christian Socialist

        PS: Thanks for the work you put into your posts. I appreciate your contribution to this forum, B.R.O.

        1. Thank you, Christian Socialist, for your input.

          I have a tendency to ramble. Most contributors on this site, such as yourself and many others, have caused me to think deeper below the surface. It’s now become an exercise to put those thought into words!

          Peace to you, friend.

          B.R.O.

      1. Big Gary:

        Fundamentalism “is essentially a political, not a spiritual movement.”

        Yes, Christian Socialist, among others, has pointed this out. I have to remind myself of that fact. It makes it a whole lot easier to make sense of some of it.

        1. I’m definitely aware that racism hasn’t ended, but our troll friend TREX is attempting to use the argument that colleges started in the 90s have no racism and therefore nothing racist to apologize for since racism was nationally eradicated (in his apparent fantasy history) sometime before those colleges were founded.

    1. I can tell you how WCBC has been racist. There is a significant Hispanic and Asian population in that area, of course, since it’s California. But, the Hispanic and Asian students at WCBC are treated as second-class citizens there. My own sister briefly dated a guy of Hispanic heritage and was ordered by Rasmussen to break it off. Oh, they allowed a favored few to interracially date, basically just to stick it to Bob Jones, but most of the “children” at WCBC are racially segregated to the fullest extent possible. Now my sister is planning to marry a different guy, also of Hispanic heritage, and they have both been asked to leave the staff. Just saw a picture on her Facebook of the current crop of female RAs and dorm sups: about 80% white girls.

      Furthermore, they are stridently anti-Semitic, in my opinion. WCBC works with this Christian Jewish guy who apparently has some money and uses it to sponsor teams of WCBC students to go to NYC, Miami, and other cities with large Jewish populations. They walk around looking for “Jews” and hand them packets with messianic Jewish propaganda. And you know what they call it? “Jewish.” As in “Just arrived in New York for Jewish! Praying for a great Jewish this summer!!” (Darrell has previously featured a video of their reactions to a man who stopped them on the street and filmed them.)

      In the six years now that my sisters have gone there, I have seen two black people in all their pictures of friends at school.

        1. By “same staff member” do you mean . . . Dr. R? Or do you know who my sister is and are you referring to her? My family spends most of their time lying to me and my wife about what really goes on at WCBC because they know we have issues with it. So, I am always interested to hear what really goes on there.

        2. Their Spanish pastor and a few Hispanic deacons are married to white women, so I am surprised they made a deal out of a Hispanic/white relationship. I was told their college policy required parental approval for any dating relationship and they would enforce any parent-mandated restrictions. Do you suppose your parents did not approve?

        3. My parents approved. It was Dr. R who did not approve. Apparently that was made VERY clear and my sister was told, as a condition of being offered post-graduation employment, that she could not continue in her relationship with him. (Which, now that I think of it, is probably a violation of the Civil Rights Act, but never mind that now.)

        4. Wow. I guess nobody working for him gets to choose their mate without his input. Can’t get more overbearing then that.

        5. I thought most fundies love Israel and was a friend to the Jew. I don’t think witnessing or giving to gospel to a Jewish person would be considered racist??

        1. I don’t know. I do know that Paul Chappell, the president of WCBC, is perfectly happy to cover up for his pastor brother who has reportedly admitted to pedophilia to his prior church, before moving on to the one he is currently working at.

          Are you seriously interested in these things, or are you just trying to find some loophole to find a Fundy college that’s not as bad as some of the others?

        2. I knew all about the BJU policy and apology. The media went after Bush for speaking there in 2000 primary. I knew that Crown did not have the same policy as BJU, due to the fact Crown in the 90’s had tax-exempt status. BJU’s was revoked in the 80’s I think. (I did not verify the date)

    1. Very accurate? offense? …My question was not about BJU. I was given some accusations about WCBC, but not even been given a “story” about Crown. Are they guilty of racism or not. Just the facts please.

    1. Clara English, I read your blog link in which you wrote:

      “But what I can’t get over is that this matter of conscience – not sin – resulted in such a kerfluffle with absolutely no one talking to us directly about it. If this were such a terrible choice and people were so concerned, why was there no follow up?”

      I’ve pondered this question for years, and now more recently with our attempt to leave our BJU-Cloned IFB church. Our desire was to leave gracefully and as open as we felt we could be. Unfortunately, we were accused by the CEO of “causing discord among the brethren.” This could not have been further from the truth. Three families contacted us and offered gracious support. Two of them said in essence, “we understand.” More in the assembly were thinking our thoughts than we realized.

      Your conclusion, and you’re probably right, was that you did the right thing. This too was our conclusion as we watched the inquisition unfold.

      Grace to you!

      B.R.O.

  22. Ok, it’s late. I want to weigh in, again, on Stephen Jones apologizing for Bob Jones University’s racism. I’ve thought about this sporadically throughout the day. I believe in the importance of forgiveness. But in the late 1960s my dad sat under BJ Senior. In my day I sat under BJ Junior, who was oh-so-subtle and nuanced (unlike BJ Sr). The racism was still palpable. Racial separatism was a doctrine interwoven into a variety of sermon contexts, and was delivered as if from God. My brother attended BJU for one year, in 1972. He dated a beautiful girl at BJU who was from the Philippines. No one said a word. If she had been African American, he would have been expelled, with the authority of God. In the old American South, there was little knowledge of any other racial group other than white or black. Whites and blacks were not to mix. If a white BJ student dated a black, they would be expelled. No further questions. So how can this boy Stephen possibly think that his apology makes it ok?
    He needs to wash some feet. A whole lot of black feet.

    We were all taught that separation of the races was a tenet of the faith. It took me years to unlearn that crap.

    Big Gary, Big Red One, Christian Socialist have all rightly pointed out that fundamentalism is a political, not spiritual movement. In the 1970s we were caught up in their political movement. It was a black-fearing movement, fostered by Bob Jones. It took some of us years, others decades, to overcome. And some, even in my own family, have never overcome it. They still hold to segregation as they clutch their BJU diplomas and their bibles. How did that differ from radical Islam?

    1. That’s one of the sad consequences of sin: one can apologize but that makes little impact compared to the years and years of negative influence that go before. It’s hard to remember that apology; it’s easy to remember the warped attitudes/rules. And words are cheap; I agree with you that it will take some serious action (footwashing or what have you) to even begin to change the perception of BJU.

  23. At my church there was a deacon’s wife who would announce before Ladies events, “Of course, Ladies, we want to dress up for Jesus and wear skirts or dresses to honor God.” She also told me after I moved away from that area that I needed to find a “good” church and start attending right away to honor God. Apparently she has exclusive rights to the definition of honoring God – so if any of you poor saps need help in this area I can get you in touch with her.

    1. And there’s one of my “favorite” adjectives they like to use: “God-honoring” music, which of course means “music without drums and guitars that doesn’t sound like rock music.” They are so absolutely sure that hymns played on a piano and organ (and maybe some instruments like a clarinet or trumpet) are what honors God and not CCM. When you try to show them Psalm 150, they just dismiss it as “that was back then.”

      If they want to say “traditional” or “conservative” or even “old-fashioned” (as one nearby church did) music, that’s fine, but to co-opt the words “God-honoring” I think is extremely audacious and arrogant.

  24. good for bju except for the fact that apologizing for past racism doesn’t really do anything to address the current racist ideologies that plague it and similar institutions.

  25. Re: racism. (If anyone even reads this.)

    Something I thought of last night was that in the old BJU and A Beka readers, there would usually be an extremely stereotypical story about a Hispanic family. They would all have names like “Rosita” and “Carlos” and sit around eating “chili” and “tacos.” (Chili, incidentally, really isn’t a Hispanic food.) I remember the food words would always be italicized to emphasize how FOREIGN and DIFFERENT they were.

    One A Beka reader also had a story of a Russian immigrant girl who rushes into a burning school to save the American flag. At the beginning of the story, some of the other kids are teasing her because she says “I go to be American” instead of “I am going to be an American.” Never mind that a Russian who is new to English would almost certainly never use the “going to be” idiom but instead would just say “I will be American.” (I speak Russian, and have taught English in Moscow, so I can attest to this with a fair degree of certainty.) Again, just crass and slapdash cultural stereotyping without even a small amount of effort to get things anthropologically, sociologically, or linguistically correct.

    1. Good analysis, DS. Racism is entrenched, alive, and well in fundamentalism, as in many other institutions. I am married to a minority who has educated me on this pretty well…it still galls me that separation of the races was cynically taught as being correct and godly. Then it was abandoned to help Geo W. Bush get elected. Go figure.

  26. I found an interesting article on facebook that brought to mind this SFL post. Are these Fundy schools really changing? I am not buying it. Sure they are now scrambling for accreditation of some sort, because their grads have struggled finding jobs or getting promotions in the real world, but most are still just as much of an anti-biblical abuse factory as ever, IMHO.

    http://www.soulation.org/freeatlast/2015/09/pcc-grad-advice-warnings-current-students.html

    1. They’ll change as much as they believe they have to, and no more.
      This is because they believe that they are acting according to eternal, unchanging truth, so any variation in their practices is a compromise with the evil ways of the world.
      They won’t ever come anywhere nearadmitting that their very ideas about education are wrong. That would denythe scools’ reasons for existing.

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