The Nice Churches


In describing what SFL is all about, I have often said that satire and parody are blunt instruments that lack nuance. Satire is good for pointing out glaring common problems but somewhat less useful when it comes to dealing with churches that don’t completely fit the mold of the stereotypical IFB mold: the “nice” churches with the pastors who don’t yell. Perhaps they wear pants to Wednesday night church and slip the occasional praise chorus (sans drums) into their worship line up. The members of these churches do seem like nice people even though they refuse to take the words “Independent Baptist” down off their sign and think that the word “fundamentalist” is at worst a misunderstood term that’s still salvageable. What are we to make of these kinder, gentler fundamentalists?

The problem is that philosophy matters. Theology matters. The way we treat the vulnerable and the broken matters very much indeed. To that end, here are three questions for the people in the nice churches.

What happens when your benevolent dictators just turn into a plain old dictators?

The nice church is usually predicated on fact that a particular pastor is “a really good guy” — which may be absolutely true. That pastor may have a heart of gold and refuse to exploit the power structure that gives him ultimate authority in the way a church is run. Here’s the secret: it won’t last forever. Either power will ultimately corrupt the man or the man will leave and be replaced with a less gracious successor.

The problem with teaching people that the ultimate responsibility for determining appropriate behavior, interpreting Scripture, and making the rules lies with a single man is that men are fallible. Without a vigorous and active system of accountability in place at every level of a church it is not a matter of if the office of the pastor will be corrupted but when. Even the nicest of guys end up not being too nice after a while. I’ve known a lot of “nice guy” pastors in fundamentalism. I haven’t known too many who were particularly good at handling dissent and confrontation when directly crossed by their own church people.

Do associations matter or don’t they?

This one is pretty straightforward: if you get into the pulpit and preach about abstaining from activities or associations with others and then go out and participate in meetings with other fundamentalists from a camp that is rife with corruption, you are a hypocrite. If it’s wrong to do charity work with Catholics because you question their orthodoxy then it is no less wrong to do revival services with churches that fully support Hyles-Anderson, BJU, or Sword of the Lord.

The documented abuses coming out of the major schools and camps of fundamentalism are astounding. They’re not hidden, they’re in the headlines and on major TV programs. Either you have dismiss every single one of them as an unrelated, isolated incident unlike all of the others, or you have to admit that the major bastions of fundamentalism are crumbling to dust — and that you’re going to associate with them anyway.

Strain at a gnat. Swallow a rapist. If you can do that your church isn’t very nice no matter how laid back the pastor may be.

One final thought on this point: for those who say that corruption, abuse, and exploitation is not common the churches in their particular camp…how would you know? With all the gag orders, with all the admonitions not to “gossip” and with all of your pastor’s information about other ministries coming from THEIR respective pastors, how exactly do you know that the claims made by ex-members and those claiming abuse at the hands of those ministries are untrue? Are your sources of information completely unbiased? Just something to think about.

Is the Bible the standard or isn’t it?

When faced with questions about their fundamentalist title and their adherence to the creeds of the past few decades (don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t make friends of those who do) fundamentalists will immediately tell you that all they do is follow the Bible.

And…”biblical principles”

And…”standards that some fundamentalist somewhere once derived from extrapolating a principle and then dabbing in a bit of personal preference and then tacking on some cultural expediency and then slathering the whole thing in pastoral authority.”

Here are a few points to ponder:

If you refuse to associate with other churches over extra-biblical matters of preference such as what Bible version they use or how much beat their music contains…that’s the opposite of nice.

If you look down on those who don’t share your personal convictions and use cutting language from your pulpit against those who don’t agree with you on those doubtful matters…that’s the opposite of nice.

If you spend a whole lot of time chasing after what some obscure commandment may have meant instead of worrying more about what Jesus plainly meant when he said “love your neighbor” and how that applies to victims of your own movement…that’s the opposite of nice.

Pleasant fundamentalists? I’m sure there are many. Decent fundamentalists pastors? I’ve known a few. It doesn’t make the movement as a whole any less dangerous or destructive. It doesn’t make all fundamentalist churches nice.

172 thoughts on “The Nice Churches”

  1. Wow, you discribed my old fundie church 40yrs ago! Nice, but didn’t stay that way! Followed the Hyles’ path that led to the MOG/hero worship Fundamentalism. Dangerous indeed!

  2. I must dissent.

    There are, as you rightly point out, nonjudgmental independent fundamentalist Baptist churches. They take care to be the loving, guiding hand the church was intended as. The fact that they choose to identify with a group of churches on the basis of theology, doesn’t mean they’re hypocrites for disagreeing with them!

    I want to go point by point through your points. While many of the questions may have been intended rhetorically, they cut to the heart of the issues:

    First of all, I go to a tiny IFB church. Where I openly and freely disagree on many issues with the pastor and elders. (No official deacons; we are a very small church.) Might this pastor be corrupted? All men are fallible. I doubt it in his case, but who knows? And he’s certainly not immortal, so a corrupt or judgmental man might take his place.

    And I’ll leave! I’m only going to this church so long as it’s a healthy place for me to grow in Christ. I believe, with all my being, in soul liberty. I am solely responsible for where (or if!) I go. Why should I let the future inevitable failure of man keep me from being in a good place now?

    “If it’s wrong to do charity work with Catholics because you question their orthodoxy then it is no less wrong to do revival services with churches that fully support Hyles-Anderson, BJU, or Sword of the Lord.”

    Again, this is a nuanced issue. If you believe that it is very difficult to get saved through Catholic doctrine, any sort of official joint ministry may cause contentions between your churches and confuse folks who know very little about Christian doctrine. That issue doesn’t apply when you’re dealing with a church with unfortunate associations. (There are others, but how you weight them is a lot trickier than you were letting on.) Besides, there is the obvious difference that one is first degree separation and the other second degree. The first may be questionable; the second is ridiculous.

    “Either you have dismiss every single one of them as an unrelated, isolated incident unlike all of the others, or you have to admit that the major bastions of fundamentalism are crumbling to dust — and that you’re going to associate with them anyway.” Are you really advocating separating from people because of sin of some members? That sounds an awful lot like some fundies I’ve heard. Another church’s pastor, in the same denomination etc. was evil? Judge ’em all!

    I agree that many fundamentalists teach the doctrines of men, and try to reinstate the law of ordinances. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to throw away the title ‘fundamentalist.’ I believe the fundamentals. Your ‘about’ clearly states them, and the sins and follies of others who claim the title will no more dissuade me from claiming it, than it will from claiming the other title we hold in common: “Christian”.

    1. Many people who feel the way you do about the term “Fundamentalist” are at least willing to acknowledge the culture views and reacts to that term in a very negative way. Some are adopting the term “Protestant Orthodoxy” as it accurately conveys their beliefs without the negative baggage.

      To stubbornly cling to a label the majority of society finds negative or even offensive simply because you personally find merit in the term…well, that’s the opposite of nice.

      1. Not at all; there are few more personal choices than how I choose to identify myself. I don’t choose to be a Christian because it’s ‘nice’ I don’t choose to be an engineer because it’s ‘nice’.

        You could argue that I’m misleading people about who I actually am. That’s possible. But I doubt it; I’ve rarely met people who react negatively to hearing I’m a fundamentalist. Many are curious what exactly that means. Others ask why I don’t act more like one. But I’ve never met anyone outside of evangelicalism who was offended.

        The world doesn’t know the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical. The only people I’m worried about it affecting is folks like many on this blog; people who’ve been burned by fundies. But as I almost never meet any of you IRL, offending you is not very important in selection of my personal identity.

        1. “I’ve rarely met people who react negatively to hearing I’m a fundamentalist.”

          You apparently don’t get out much. Either that or the people you interact with are simply not telling you what they really think.

          Once you leave fundamentalism and start telling people “I used to be a fundamentalist Baptist but I’m not anymore” you REALLY start to find out what they think of those kinds of people. And it’s not pretty.

        2. Darrel, I tell people I’m a Christian. In the circles I move in, some people view that very negatively. Should I stop using the term?

        3. This is one of the most common responses I get when I tell people that the word “fundamentalist” is no longer valuable.

          To it I simply say that the word Christian is generic enough to be redeemable. Catholics are Christians. So are Lutherans. So are are the Orthodox.

          “Fundamentalist” inherently carries connotations with it that we cannot redeem because those connotations are for the most part correct. The spectrum of “fundamentalist” (Christian and otherwise) is much narrower. The word is synonymous with “close minded,” “zealot,” and “radical.” Why would you want to burden yourself with that when it’s unnecessary?

        4. When I hear that someone is a fundamentalist I cringe, but usually only on the inside. I’m with Darrell that fundamentalist carries a negative connotation in today’s society. It may not be a fare assessment of EVERY fundy church out there, but the movement as a whole has be sullied and it’s time for the few good guys to make a public stand and either take back the title fundamentalist or let it go into the abyss. I vote fore the latter.

        5. Or I get out in different circles than you do. Most people I deal with aren’t Christians and plain don’t care what or how I worship. They usually don’t know I’m a fundamentalist till I’ve known them for a while (a month or more usually; it just doesn’t come up a lot.) And at that point they know ME. I feel really bad for anyone who’s been traumatized enough by fundies that they can’t look past a new title to an old friend. Fortunately, I don’t meet them very often.

        6. @WifeofBill And how shall wee (who still see value in the name) take it back? By denying it? By changing our terminology? That’s a reasonable approach if you don’t want to change the language. But if you intend (as I do) to change and frame the debate, you will claim and define the term your own way.

          I respect your position; at some point I agree that a term is better just scrapped. I don’t care if you really do believe in national socialism, you should just drop the Nazi title. It’s too sullied to reclaim.

          I simply disagree that fundamentalism is that far gone.

        7. Hermit, if you have to tell people you’re a Christian, no wonder they respond so negatively.

        8. “The word is synonymous with “close minded,” “zealot,” and “radical.” Why would you want to burden yourself with that when it’s unnecessary?”

          In some circles, the word ‘American’ is synonymous with glutton, unrefined, ignorant, and rude. Shall I stop using it? Maybe in those circles, maybe some of the time. But what about when I’m with others? What about people who view fundamentalism favorably? (Those do exist…) Should I abandon the title there too, simply because some people would get a wrong impression if they were here?

        9. @Qrayze Sorry, but Christians don’t come with a ‘Christian’ name tag. And we aren’t told to make one out of fancy standards. I certainly hope they’ll think I’m ‘good’ or ‘nice’ or maybe ‘upstanding’, but I don’t delude myself into thinking they can magically tell I’m not a pious Buddhist or something.

        10. As a former fundy , the word fundamentalist means militant. We have the truth. We are the only ones that know how to please God. We know the music that God loves to hear. We dress ourselves in the clothing God approves. 🙄

          I don’t use the term Christian anymore. I tell people that I am a Believer or a follower of Christ. .

          Didn’t the Romans invent the term Christian?

        11. Byrel, the point I tried to make, is that of outward behavior. Most everyone knows how a Christian is “supposed” to act. If people are upset at Hermit’s revelation of being a Christian, it is probably because his behavior doesn’t match what a Christian is supposed to be. Most people automatically assume I am a Christian. (with exception of my fundy family since I don’t adhere to dress-code standards) I don’t correct them unless asked.

        12. @MommyCat The amount of humility in fundamentalism always astounds me. I think it’s partly a byproduct of a lack of decent education, but regardless it’s really their biggest problem. God scorns the scorners and resists the proud.

          @Qrayze OK. Usually folks don’t know I’m a Christian unless they catch me praying. But a lot of the folks I know are athiest/agnostic and tend to assume everyone else (who isn’t middle-eastern at least) is.

        13. It’s interesting how the definitions of words, labels, titles change over the centuries. Take the word, ‘idiot’, for example. Original Greek meaning: a person lacking professional skill. Latin: ordinary person, layman. But, in time the term shifted away from it’s original connotation and came to refer to an individual with, over all, bad judgement, folly and stupidity. Early 20th century medicine and psychology term for ‘idiot’ refers to people having an IQ below 30.

          Once, the word ‘Fundamentalist’ stood for someone grounded in the Fundamentals of the Faith, without the negative connotations it now has in society (yes, those outside of evangelicalism regard those that call themselves Fundamentalists in a very negative light), largely due to the abuses of doctrine, power from the pulpit and cult-like following of it’s members.

          Today, I would not refer to myself as an ‘idiot’, though in the original Latin, I am a layperson. As a believer in the Fundamentals of the Faith, I will not call myself a ‘Fundamentalist’, because Fundamentalism has evolved into a movement far removed from it’s original intent and definition. And, it’s current connotation does not bring to mind the biblical, Christ honoring way to worship Him.

        14. Oh, I agree that folks hold fundamentalism in a bad light. I’m just saying that most folks will judge you based on you if they get to know you a bit. The fact you call yourself a fundamentalist usually will only bother strangers, if you actually try to live and love in God’s peculiar light. I like the term; it means something totally different from “Evangelical” or “Conservative”. If I want to say simply that I take the bible seriously, it’s hard to find a common label with a more direct denotative meaning. So let’s change the connotations! If you believe in the fundamentals (and are not a fundy), claim them! Trying to abandon the title is a last resort. Live forth an example of what a fundamentalist is and should be: a humble seeker of truth; a believer in scripture; one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness. The world will learn by seeing. And yes, lovingly and openly condemn evil, even in your own ranks. The world watches that too, and has a pretty good BS detector.

          And @Darrell, it IS disingenuous to claim the name of Christ when others are offended by it, but to argue that everyone should reject other, equally optional labels to avoid offense. Many a martyr has died claiming the name of Christ when NO form of Christianity was considered a good thing. While I don’t want there to be any deaths in a language war, I think it’s worth (metaphorically) fighting for.

        15. Even if people dislike the term Christian, I’ll use it because I AM a follower of Christ. Even if people try to twist its meaning or choose to only view it with negative connotations, it still means “one who follows Christ.” But fundamentalist has been co-opted by the media to cover fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Mormons, both of whom have utterly repugnant philosophies, as well as groups like Westboro Baptist Church.

          The Bible says that Christ is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense, but I want ONLY Christ to be the offense about my life. I don’t want to use a term that immediately offends people or makes them make wrong assumptions about me. Now, they may do that if I use the term “Christian”, but most people are aware that that is an extremely broad term that covers a wide range of beliefs and behaviors.

          And when it comes down to it, I’m just tired of being lumped in with the crazies. Fundamentalism is just too narrow of a word. I don’t want to be in a camp with the Hyles-followers or the Steve Andersons, etc.

          Sometimes I see reasonable or balanced fundamentalists as similar to the Puritans, wanting to stay within a movement and reform and purify it while many of us ex-fundies are like the Separatists (ironically, because separation is what fundamentalists do best) who decided we CAN’T stay in that group and be identified that way.

        16. This kerfuffle over “fundamentalist” is the reason I now use the term “Indy Fundie” to describe those who unjustly claim the term “fundamentalist” while ignoring the fundamentals and obsessing over the non-essentials.

        17. “If people are upset at Hermit’s revelation of being a Christian, it is probably because his behavior doesn’t match what a Christian is supposed to be.”

          Qrayze, are you telling us that when you enter a room there is an aura around you such that everyone immediately knows they are in the presence of a man (or woman) of God?

          That’s just a cheap shot, mate. You do yourself (and your friends on this site) no favours by leaping to accuse someone you don’t know of being a bad Christian. That tells people more about you than it does about me.

        18. Here are two ways that I think fundys can take back the title of fundamentalist and make it positive again. First, make a difference locally. Get out in the community. Stop the bunker mentality that is seen all too often in IFB churches. Serve others without judging. Look at people as people and not potential converts. Meet them where they are. Secondly, speak out publicly against the likes of Schaap, Phelps,etc., and the wicked in their own church. Stop covering up sin! Stop blaming the victim.

          But, like I said earlier, I think the title of fundamentalist should be dropped entirely.

        19. Hermit, I’m not a Christian. Interesting of you to assume that I am one, though…

        20. In reference to the comparison with the term “American,” I didn’t use the term “American” when I traveled outside of the country. It’s seen as an arrogant term since Canadians and Mexicans are also Americans, living in North American. When people asked where I was from, I responded with “I’m from the US.” That little change in terminology makes all the difference in the impression others have of you outside of the country. There is a great deal of truth to the “when in Rome” cliche. Yes, some people are offended by everything, but that is a small, small minority of people. There is a reason that “fundamentalist” has negative connotations across society, just like saying “I’m an American” has connotations of gluttonous, loud, disrespectful people. When there are small ways to alleviate immediately putting people off, they should be done. It doesn’t hurt to not announce fundamentalism just like it doesn’t hurt to say “I’m from the US” when you know that’s a preferred method of reference.

        21. I find the attachment to the label “Fundamentalist” to be very puzzling.

          If a person says they’re Southern Baptist, it means something. They go to a church that is affiliated with both a local Baptist association and state and national conventions, with all the structures and institutions and corporate governance that applies. The definition is fairly clear: if you are a member of a church that is a member of a local association that is a member of a state convention that is a member of the SBC, then you are Southern Baptist. If you were raised by parents who were Southern Baptist, you might also call yourself one.

          If you call yourself Roman Catholic, it means something. You’re a communicant in a parish that’s in a diocese that’s in communion with the Roman pontiff. If you’re not communicant you might call yourself one.

          But Fundamentalist means what? Why the attachment to the label? Why can’t you just say you’re Baptist? Why does “Fundamentalist” become the primary association, rather than “Baptist”? There’s no denominational structure nor any established list of beliefs that defines you… just a desire to belong. Which I find to be tribal and at the root of the whole problem.

        22. @ Pastor’s Wife,
          It’s interesting you should make the Puritan vs. Separatist analogy because that’s precisely how I often explain it. We have become separatists, while many of our good and godly friends remain puritans, trying to salvage the term fundamentalist and reclaim the meaning of “adherent to the Fundamentals”. I’ve come to accept that God may lead different people to different actions and even though we believe God wants us to separate from Fundamentalism, He may want our friends and family to remain and try to purify it.

        23. This topic is worthy of some historical study. In my reading, I have found that Puritans were those who thought the English Reformation had not gone far enough, and so they wanted to purify the Church of England. The Separatists were Puritans who thought the Church of England could not be purified, and so they wanted to split off from it entirely.

          And so we are coming full circle. Some hope to reclaim the Independent Fundamental Baptist church and turn it away from its foolishness toward an accurate reading and understanding of God as revealed in the Bible, while others of us believe that the Indy Fundy movement is so obsessed with tithes of mint and cummin that it will NEVER be persuaded to spend any energy on justice and mercy and faithfulness.

          I wish everyone who sees the problems in the IFB would walk away and join us, but I cannot condemn them. Romans 14: let each be convinced in his own mind.

        1. Byrel – Thanks for your good comments today, I usually skip the blog, glad I checked in today! I’m surprised you didn’t receive more comments like “Qrayze’s” questioning your Christianity, that’s very often what happens here when you “go against the grain”

          I do have a question though, couldn’t one be considered a fundamentalist and an evangelical? I caonsider myself to be both.

        2. Sure! I am myself! They indicate totally different aspects of my faith. I think a lot of people cross over, and it seems there’s a lot of fundamentalists here who simply reject the title for political reasons. (Which are legit, but I disagree…)

      1. @JW…Are you advocating plurality of Elders?? Baptists once followed such a church government, but abandoned it a long time ago. Current preacher/dictator, no accountability (sorry, but most IFB deacons are just ‘yes men’) Baptist church leadership structure is the foundation that fostered the abusive reputation that the IFB movement has evolved into. IFB pastors would rather be burned at the stake, than share their authority with, or be accountable to, other Elders on an equal level.

        1. I kinda figured that. I’m not politically correct at all, so I care little about what folks “think!” If they want to know, just ask, I’m happy to tell them! Frankly I think “Baptist” is carrying around more negativity than “fundamentalist” But I realize that is entirely subjective.

          Enjoyed your wise comments through the entire thread, stick around and “keep em’ honest”

        2. That’s an interesting comment, greg. I tend to disagree with you for the fact that the international media – from CNN to BBC to Al Jazeera – have co-opted the term “fundamentalist” to refer to people who are willing to cause social disharmony in pursuit of their religion. But, in many places I’ve lived, “baptist” has an immediate negative religious or experiential connotation, whereas “fundamentalist” just gets a confused stare as if one just announced a proclivity for terrorism.

        1. The above comment was for Jerusha Wheeler…(I was not only confused, but also lost)

  3. This is a point I’ve made before when people insist they are “historic Fundamentalists” as opposed to modern, crappy Fundamentalists. The facts are, Christian Fundamentalism, ever since its founding, has always been doctrinally vague, apart from a few key points.

    There has always been room in Christian Fundamentalism for weird and bizarre ideas. Fundamentalists have always added twists to Scripture, emphasizing a holiness based on defying contemporary culture rather than embracing the Scriptural mandates of love, kindness, hospitality, and mercy. Sexual sins among the leadership of Fundamentalism have always gone unrebuked. Racism has always been a presence in Christian Fundamentalism.

    1. To add to Bassenco’s comment, the IFB and Fundamentalism is not historical in any stretch of any imagination. It finds its roots in the 1800s. To find true, historic Christianity that is more nearly like the doctrine of the early Christians and reflects more closely the worship of the early church, you must go to the (dare I say it) Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, and even Anglican traditions.

      1. Well it is true that many components of Baptist dogma have been held by different groups going back to the 2nd or 3rd century. (Before that it’s hard to get people to agree on what exactly the church taught and did.) And for that matter, Gnosticism make a pretty good contender for the ‘old time religion’.

  4. Our former church could easily be classified as a nice fundie church. The people of the church would literally give you the shirt off their back as well as all the shirts in their closet. When someone fell into terrible sin the church loved them without question without any condemnation. Many in the church quietly served others in the community truly showing Christ’s love. Even the Pastor would drop everything to be with a hurting church member. 90% of the women in the church wear pants to Sunday night, and Wednesday night services. For all practical purposes it was a nice fundie church.

    But…underneath all that love is something very sinister: many fundie pet doctrines that don’t line up with Scripture. Messages that lift up the man of God with warnings to the people to remember the story of the she-bears and Elisha. Messages that have more about the Pastor than the Bible. Messages with 2 or 3 proof-text verse to prove the point and condemnation to those who feel that they are not being spiritually fed because at this church the Bible is preached…AMEN!

    While the church is a nice fundie church it is spiritually oppressive to those who want to have a different opinion and want more than the standard fundie 3 verses and an alliterated outline preaching. Just because the church is nice doesn’t make it a healthy place for a Christian to be.

  5. This needed to be said. However, “the mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The brighter you shine the light, the more tightly it closes.”

  6. Darrell, that was nice 🙂

    Seriously though, I would love to take an SFL poll. Who has first-hand knowledge of criminal abuse going on in their own church, or who has suffered from it themselves in their own church? I doubt there is one person (there could be some men who were high up the food chain maybe) that didn’t know of something horribly evil going on in the church they left. And, of that evil being either covered up, or only found out after the abuser made too many mistakes to hide things. I think the results would be very telling.

    1. Another thing. You are SPOT ON when you talk about the nice pastor only being temporary. There was a church in Springfield, MO which was pastored by the sweetest, grace-filled pastor. The church literally had an aura of loved when you walked in. The pastor believed in absolute authority, but he didn’t let it go to his head. Wonderful pastor dies. New pastor is like a drill seargant on crack. It ruffled the older people’s feathers, but because of the teachings of nice dead pastor, nobody did anything (maybe a couple left quietly.) Now, the spirit is harsh, unkind, and poisonous. Not to mention one of those hellish IFB girl’s homes started making his church their home and not too long after, new pastor was implicit in covering up a sexual scandal for them. Fun right?

      1. @MKXcomm: I am 97% positive I know exactly the church you are talking about in Springfield. I went golfing with the “new” (about 10 years now) pastor who threw and absolute fit at me because I wasn’t golfing correctly. I thought the point was more about fellowship and building relationships, but it was all about golf and nothing else. How dare I hinder the MoG at his golf game.

        1. That’s because you forget that golf is not a matter of life and death, it’s MUCH more important than that! That’s what my ex lived by, and he wasn’t even Christian! 😛

        2. @OutTheDoor. If he was playing golf, I’m sure you’re right. It’s a big deal for him. Did you come across him in the military or are you from that area?

        3. He was visiting a “daughter” church that I was a member of at that time. It was in a different part of the country but I have been there when the old pastor was there and it’s sad to hear of how it has become such a toxic atmosphere now.

    2. When I say this, I’m not trying to argue. However, I was never aware of a criminal abuse scandal in the IFB church that I attended.

      The church did support Hephzibah House, though. Close enough? 😡

      1. 🙂 I figured there might be some men who were unaware of abuses going on. And it’s perfectly possible (and hopeful) that there were none. I’d still like to see the numbers overall.

        1. When the scope is constrained to “criminal abuse,” that may have not happened in every IFB church. If you’d asked about abuse in general, then, yes, I know for sure that spiritual / mental abuse went on, and – for example – there had to have been kids who were spanked in a way that wouldn’t have gotten the parents arrested but was still quite harmful to the children. So yes, I’m certain that abuse went on.

          I feel like you may be acting in a defensive way. I’m not sure why you’ve made the assumptions you have about me. Even though I don’t have a personal story of abuse, I’m completely on the side of those who have been abused in fundamentalism. The IFB criminal abuse rate doesn’t have to be 100% for us to prove that something is very rotten indeed. 95% would prove the point just as effectively.

        2. @Josh, do you think I’m acting defensively because I referred to you as a man who may not be aware of the abuses going on? I wasn’t meaning to be defensive at all. My point is that the experiences for women and men in Fundystan are vastly different with men generally being far above the women in privileges and the like. Women, with the pervasive submission doctrine, were trained to be the perfect victims. Because of this, there were secrets, and then a deeper level of secrecy with those women who were not allowed to talk about their abuse, and children were too scared as well. I know many women who suffered devastating criminal abuses that the men in these churches were less likely to experience, or talk about. I’m not coming against you because you are a man. I’m saying that your knowledge of abuses going on in the various churches you attended could have been limited because you are not a woman. Does that make sense? I wasn’t meaning to attack you.

        3. Sorry I got defensive. I was a kid when I was in the IFB church, and though I was more “connected” and close to the inner news mill than other kids, I must grant that there certainly could have been things I didn’t know.

          For what it’s worth, the last thing I want to do is defend that church. It had more than enough spiritual unhealthiness for several churches. And with the new evil dictator that they hired after the benevolent “nice” IFB pastor resigned, (and we left!), the ground is more ripe than ever before for criminal abuse in that church today. It makes me incredibly sad.

    3. I think you MIGHT have bad case of self-selection bias. Who views SFL? Mostly folks with a past negative highly-emotional experience with fundies. Certainly that’s why I’m here! Unfortunately I suspect that is highly correlated with finding abuse in the upper echelons of a church, making such a poll pretty tail-chasing.

      But for what it’s worth, I’ve been to three churches with no evidence of criminal abuse. Completely unchristian behavior, sure. But nothing criminal.

      1. The numbers don’t mean nothing. For one, the number would tell whether or not we gather in here because we’re just a bunch of bitter people who want to listen to rock and roll and go to movies, or if we have legitimate concerns about the IFB movement as a whole. It would also be interesting because of the commonalities we all experience despite the fact that all IFB churches claim to operate on an island as independent entities. Of course the pool is saturated with people who have grievances, but I’d like to map it out a bit.

        1. Oh agreed. I’m just arguing you have to remember that you can’t measure variables which are highly correlated with likely selection biases. So, for instance, you couldn’t get a good handle on the prevalence of malfeasance in fundy churches. But you could probably get a good handle on what sorts of things trigger a ‘good’ little fundy rebelling.

    4. Lots of hanky panky in our former church. One of the male teachers from the day school was having an affair with a teenage girl, leaving his pregnant wife and toddler children at home. His wife was led to believe he was serving in ministry. He claimed nothing physical/sexual happened until after she graduated, but I don’t believe it. IMO, he’s a felon. He was forced to admit his sin and apologize. The teenage girl, wrought with guilt, confessed the affair to a church member. Said church member alerted the pastor, so this clown only came clean when he was forced. The worst part is the pastor sent him and his family on to a small fundy church on the other side of the country, where he is now the principal! He was rewarded for his infidelity. Go figure.

      The youth pastor (married with kids and a HAC grad) had an affair with the 22 year old elementary school teacher. He ruined her reputation and then moved on to another part of the country.

      And yes, the sheeple all insist that the pastor is such “a really good guy.” They all believe that theirs is one of the “nice” IFB churches.

      1. Yeah, way, way back, which would be seven institutions back if we’re counting, I was in a Christian school with a lot of hanky panky. Gay principal, half the girls in the senior class pregnant, and a gym teacher that was banging teenage girls.

        1. 🙄 I’m not sure if this is an attempt at humor or that you’re trying to discredit me. 1) I only very recently left the church of which I’m referring 2) I attended that same church over ten years 3) it was the only IFB church I ever attended, as I did not bounce from church to church 4) I had an intimate insiders view of what went on and knew more than most people 5) the accounts above only skim the surface of the unchristian behavior that occurred among leaders and decision makers.

          I disagree with your remark below that you don’t believe that the evil is as pervasive as some might think. I witnessed too much in the small “nice” church to believe otherwise.

        2. It is a completely serious comment. I’ve been associated with five IFB churches, a Christian school, and a Christian college.

          Only one of the IFB churches had problems. The Christian school collapsed in multiple sex scandals. The Christian college was authoritarian and mistreated workers, but to my knowledge is free of sex scandals and domestic violence cover-ups.

        3. Principle who is gay versus teacher who has sex with students… One of these things is criminal and morally wrong. The other one isn’t. Someday we won’t conflate “gay” with “criminal” and “immoral” – at least most of us won’t.

        4. I was puzzled by the reaction, but I’m not offended. I do not think, like one or more posters have said, that practically every IFB church is covering up criminal abuse. I just don’t think it’s THAT pervasive.

          But I do think that there’s a sizable minority of IFB institutions that have stores that are pretty much unbelievable. It might only be 15%, and in my experience I’d say no more than 30%, but it’s very real and it’s very bad and it’s too frequent to be written off as an absolute fluke when it happens.

    5. I will respond to your poll MKXcomm.

      My old fundy church had a man who plead guilty to child molesting. When that happened, his victims were shamed and run out of the church. The pervert was allowed to stay until he had to report to prison.
      My old church has not been featured on SFL (yet). I wanted to mention that since the story seems so familiar.

      That was just one of many awful things that happened there. Many people consider my old fundy church to be one of the good one.

      1. Yup. Most people claim my old fundy church was ‘one of the good ones’. The pastor is ‘a good man’. Well, except for that child abuser he knowingly put in the head of a ministry. And a few other issues…

        Good thing he was a lawyer before he was a pastor, really. 👿

        1. @MKXcomm…Every fundie church I, or family members, attended were in one way or another affiliated with the Jack Hyles’ brand of fundamentalism. Each one had it’s share of criminal abuse and sex scandals, involving either pastors, or staff members.

          @Elijah Craig…In that particular fundie camp there is enough evidence that “the evil” is as pervasive as some might think here.

          When I hear someone is a Hyles brand fundamentalist, I cringe inside and out!!!

    6. I am not aware of any criminal cover-ups of abuse in the last five Fundamentalist institutions I was associated with. In the last two I’m unaware of any sort of abuse at all (other than being narrow-minded and legalistic). Six institutions back… which is like 25 years… I’m aware of a church that would counsel abused women to forgive their husbands.

      I don’t think the evil is nearly as pervasive as some people on here think it is.

        1. That would be why you don’t think the evil is as pervasive. I grew up in a Hyles-affiliated home and I have no problem believing the evil is extremely pervasive, at least in that branch of Fundystan.

    7. Many people think my former Fundy church is one of those nice churches…The pastor is such a smooth talker he could sell ice to an Eskimo. After Schaap’s fall it appeared he wanted to fill the void and become the new dominant IFB leader (of the not-a-network, of course). He wrote blog posts addressing the “serious” issues impacting the IFB – while he himself was guilty of much of the same. With pastors like him one must watch what they actually do and ignore much of what they say – they are chock full of double-speak.

      Because he schmoozes so well, many are fooled into believing he is a sincere and loving pastor…not the cut throat businessman he really is.

      As for scandals, many who have left the church and Bible college know of things that have happened: A college rape scandal where the victim was put on a plane back home before the sheriff dept could conduct a thorough investigation; rumors of an abusive teacher (teach was suddenly reassigned two weeks before the end of the school year – no police report filed); racists policies quietly enforced – not to draw too much attention.

      But if you ask anyone currently high on the Kool-Aid, they will say this place is practically heaven on earth.

    8. @MKXcomm: when I left the nutty Hyles-clone church, it was primarily because of the exaltation of the pastor. I was not aware (at the time) of anything illegal.

      After leaving, I heard from some who were still in leadership and who asked me to keep it quiet that they KNEW that the pastor helped himself to church funds.

      There were sexual scandals, but nothing about the pastor – just some lay leaders who had been immoral; the church membership was never told the details; merely that they had sinned and lost their place of leadership. Even to this day, I’m not sure what is right to do in such a case – if the man has confessed and gotten it right, and it taken out of leadership, does the church have a right to know? If he refused to repent, I can understand it.

      There is always the case of the passage in 1 or 2 Timothy that says them that sin, rebuke before all — that certainly applies to pastors; not sure how much it should apply, say, to choir directors.

  7. I grew up in a church like this. Arguably, it was the “nicest” IFB church that my parents could have found in the area. They couldn’t find an SBC, and the other Baptist church had previously had ties to the ABC, which was too liberal for them. 🙄

    Darrell’s Hammer #1 hit the nail straight on the head. The nice pastor, who had his issues with attachment to traditionalism, but was genuinely one of the most caring and people-oriented pastors I’ve ever known, retired. To replace him, the church could have hired several candidates who were solid in doctrine and would have respected the traditional order of service while not being legalistic. But no, they went with the “fired up” PCC grad who is so full of himself that I’m surprised he hasn’t exploded and wiped out the entire town yet. For the church, it was the worst choice ever, but for us, it gave my parents the kick on the pants they needed to move on to a more healthy church.

  8. I used to go to one of the “nice” churches. It was my last IFB church. Unlike other places I had attended, the pastor and most of the people were kind to me. The standards were not mercilessly rigid. It was the first church that ever began to teach me about two-way obligations between the church and the members. Before that, I only heard that I was to serve the church, and that my needs were but burdens best kept to myself. If I hadn’t already been so beaten down by my old church and from life in the BJU bubble, I might have enjoyed my time there much more. It was the only IFB church for which I had any hope.

    Unfortunately, I discovered horrifying news just a few months ago. The pastor, the one who had been good to me, turned out to be anything but that to two of the girls in the Christian school. He was arrested and convicted of child molestation, and he lost the church. He recently went to his grave as a registered sex offender.

    Even the “nice” churches are hiding some dark secrets.

    1. I’m sorry for your experience. I’m more sorry for the abused girls. What a terrible, awful, wicked thing for him to do. I hope in Christ that you and those girls… and everyone else effected by this, can find peace and comfort abiding in Him.
      I wonder sometimes if “nice” fundamentalism isn’t the worst. Makes me think of John 10.

  9. I’ve attended a lot of IFB churches thanks to being a military brat. The last one we attended was a genuinely nice church. The people were kind and loving, for the most part, and there was a genuine spirit of caring for those less fortunate (whether in the church or not).

    Unfortunately, when it all came down to it, it was still an IFB church. It was so hard to leave because I really could tell myself that it wasn’t like “those other” IFB churches. But in many ways, it was. I can’t imagine anyone there covering up institutional abuse. But parental abuse? You bet. No one there would ever have nodded knowingly about sexual crime and swept it under the rug, but when Schaap’s evil came to light, the pastor stood by him.

    In the end, I left.

  10. Wow! What a great article! I’m going to have to share this one. These are the exact points I’ve made to my fundy wife in the past. (I read this article to her also)

    Her argument still stands in her mind…her “nice” pastor will never abuse…ever. 🙄
    That may be so, but they’ve had fresh BJU staff members who did and still do. The philosophy IS key here.

    Although you’ve got some typos, this article was VERY well written and made some great points. Thanks!!

  11. I love the hover text. Is that a quote from from Shelton Smith? 😉

    When I was a child we attended a church where the pastor did a great R. Lee Ermey imitation minus the swearing every service.

      1. “Your Soul belongs to Jesus, but your A**(loyalty, money, time, etc.) belongs to the corps(IFBdom)”…yeah, a lot of IFB preachers do a good R. Lee Ermey every Sunday from the pulpit, without the swearing.

  12. I think this is a very well-written and much-needed post. The thing about associations is what gets me the most. If something is wrong, then it’s *wrong*. I can very much understand the difficulty in accepting that about a group you’re close to–it’d be like ignoring part of your family. And I can understand still loving and being concerned about them, that’s a very good thing to do. But if a group consistently shows utter disrespect for God’s Word, how can you continue to pretend they’re better than whatever other groups you think show disrespect for God’s Word?

  13. The blog post mentioned not doing charity work with Catholics, but we wouldn’t do anything with anyone. We didn’t support Wycliffe Bible Translators or Samaritan’s Purse or Focus on the Family or New Tribes Missions. I couldn’t go to a nearby church’s VBS because of their music or to a Methodist church that was doing a Messiah sing-along.

    The refusal to get along with anyone was stifling. It also turned us into critics instead of Christians who loved our neighbors as ourselves.

    1. The other night our little family went though John 14, 15, and 16 together. A couple hours of this text brought us to appreciation for our Lord… His command to love one another as he loved us was the breaking point for me. I’m not too emotional, but the combination of reflecting on where we were just a few short months ago in the league of judgment, compared to the love of Christ shown to us in this gospel, was all I could take. Tears and appreciation.
      I don’t know you, but I can say I’m thankful you’re free from that life.

  14. Been out a long time and as I look back, I always thought I was in a “good one.” But the absolute dysfunction of living in that Stark Black and white Fundy world when reality is Grey all over caused such a disconnect in my ability to process life and live redemption out in a godly way that I never saw it.

  15. I understand where u are. I was there myself when I first left the IFB movement for the SBC, but I do have some great friends who are independents. They are the rare ones who don’t get hung up on the KJV or music. They wouldn’t bet friend if they did. Not all of them are like that and the pastor does not always let the power go to his head. Most of the time that happens, I agree. However, it doesn’t always happen

  16. Someone once asked me “why are all these young people leaving?” My response (before I left myself) was “because we told them to follow the Word of God, and they are doing what we say not what we do” The disconnect between what is said and what is done in even the “nice” fundamental churches I was a part of is absolutely mind blowing once you are able to step back and objectively view it.

    1. Sounds exactly like a conversation I had with my dad. He kept quoting to me from the fox’s book of martyrs and listing all these reasons why I should be Baptist. I said “If it’s not in the Bible, I don’t want to hear it. Tell me from the Bible why I should be Baptist?” He couldn’t do it. I was using the exact IFB logic on him and it shattered his own reasons why he thought I shouldn’t leave his religion. He kept saying “we hold the truth” and garbage like that.

      1. No offense to your Dad, but in his world, you aren’t even allowed to say those things to a man. You are to be quiet and submissive and let him do the interpreting. And if you find something you disagree with, your only recourse is to pray that the Lord would change his heart, all with a meek and quiet spirit, of course. Now some of what I said there was a twisting of the Bible, but some of it was true. I sound like a STINKIN FUNDY. SOMEBODY SHOOT ME. :mrgreen:

    2. Yes to both of you.

      My nice fundy-lite churches taught me to love Christ and His Word, to follow Him no matter what. So that’s what I’m doing. I DON’T see a lot of what was taught me in Scripture. I DO see things that the Bible says that we didn’t do at all. I choose to love Jesus more than my label as a Baptist. They taught me to do that!

      It’s so funny that they say, “Put Jesus first” and then get mad when you take them at their word and do it. “Well, we didn’t mean for you to do THAT.”

      And individual soul liberty — they teach it but get mad when you exercise it. *shaking my head*

      1. I echo your experience. My parents taught me to study the Bible for myself, rather than simply accepting what others said. But then they were hurt and disappointed when my study led me to positions different from their own…where THEIR position has become more rigid/Indy Fundy, and MY position is more like what theirs USED to be.

        SMH, indeed.

        Of course, when their BJU and WCBC-trained “pastor” (a former BJU classmate of mine) booted them from their ministries for not kissing his ring, they got a bit more understanding, to the point where they now question the value of Christian schools.

      2. When you mentioned people getting mad at you for actually doing what they suggest, I’m reminded of a comment by George Carlin “People appreciate your honesty, until you are honest about them. Then you’re an asshole”

  17. Thanks for the thought-provoking points, Darrell. I think this could be a much deeper theological and epistemological conversation, but probably too complex for a blog, and possibly to abstract for some of the audience. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to think of how epistemology influences the fundamentalist position.

      1. Yeah, but I’m becoming irrelevant. I need to either find something new to say or give george his freedom and move on. After all george has found so many friends here, he says it feels like home to him.

        I think I have reached equilibrium and can move on now.

        1. Lord Don,

          So you are becoming an Elder Statesman, dispensing wisdom as required, trying to help others find that same equilibrium.

          It’s a good place to be, no?

        2. I’m afraid that I’m becoming mor of a Robert Byrd or Strom Thurman … I may have outlived my usefulness. Now, I’m just rambling and repeating myself, you know the type I’m talking about. Grandpa McCready who tells you the same story everytime you see him? Yeah, I see that in myself more and more… and it scares me a little bit.

          …by the way did I ever tell you about corruption being directly related to the power that is available… 😯 😳

        3. Such wisdom needs repeating! The ifb claims wisdom from an almighty diety and they spend much time in supposed learning this dieties words to them. Yet they are sheeple lead by corrupt men grabbing for power and money.

  18. Self-deprecating narcissism is considered a hallmark of American evangelicalism by religious historians and sociologists of religion. Basically, big time (and some small times) religious leaders are stuck on themselves but operate in an environment that demands a show of humility. So they make an outward show of humility, maybe even write books about it, but are anything but humble.

    It’s not limited to Fundamentalism. Independent Baptists just tend to be a lot more crude about it.

    1. Also, Fundamentalism and New Evangelicalism are personality-driven by nature. Their history is of dissenting from established institutions and starting new ones. Almost always an individual takes a leadership role in this, although sometimes it starts out as a team effort. But teams tend to fall apart.

      See, for example, the Jesus People movement of Washington, DC from the 1970s until now. Che Ahn, Larry Tomcazk, Mahaney, etc, even Brian McLaren, were all associated in one movement in the beginning but each has struck out and created their own brand.

      Or Driscoll. Or Rob Bell. Not *all* leaders are narcissistic but personality-centered movements are prime breeding grounds for them.

    2. My father was the WORST about this sort of thing. He was just so proud of his humility he could hardly stand to be in the same room with himself! One of the ways that he believed he impressed others with his “humility” was by insisting on pretending that our pastor, who only had a high school education, was wise beyond all imagining on all things doctrinal. Never mind the fact that my father was an M.D. with 4 years of post-doctoral studies in psychiatry. Never mind that my mother had two bachelors degrees. Never mind that we studied ancient biblical langauges at home.

      It got so bad that when the pastor would call on my father in church to confirm one of the pastor’s crackpot theories about life, religion, and the universe, (because having a “doctor” in his church legitimized all of his nonsense, in the pastor’s opinion) my father would simply nod smugly even though I KNEW that he didn’t really agree. It was more “humble” to be a yes-man to the MOG than to openly challenge him, no matter how crazy the pastor’s statements were.

      For several years, the pastor used to get my father to agree in church that psychiatry itself was “fake” and “just a spiritual problem.” Our youth pastor’s wife, a nurse, even berated me once in Sunday School because my father had “too many kids in this town on drugs.” Then, the pastor’s family suffered a tragic event in their lives and several of them became my father’s patients. Never heard another anti-psychiatry sermon after that!!!

  19. Our “really nice church” had a child molester in its midst who was head of the ACE schools in western Canada. A Bible college teacher who bragged he could “have” and woman in the church and a pastor who could not envision life with “his” beloved bible college. The massive passive aggressive, the ever changing rules and how it was ok not hold your girlfriends hand, yet the nightmare things we saw going on in the church was ok…

  20. I think when a person feels the need to call himself a fundamentalist, he is wanting to communicate that he believes the right things and project a lifestyle that is consistent with following Christ, however that may be defined. I stopped using the term when I realized that our nice IFB church had stopped growing. High school graduates couldn’t leave fast enough and nonbelievers didn’t get us. The things we argued over were irrelevant to them. Questioning/hurting people aren’t at the point where believing the right things is important to them. What would get their attention is if we honestly answered their questions and loved them unconditionally (both require patient listening). Our smug self righteousness is thick and it repels seekers. If the fundamentals were to love God with all of my heart and my neighbor as myself, then I could call my self a fundamentalist; however, for most of my IFB brothers, that list is too short.

    1. I dropped that word 10 years ago or so, only because it was not helpful at all. Carl F. H. Henry (One of the original “neo-evangelicals”) told me to try and stay in there and reform it. I met him when he visited our church and I took a fruit basket to his house to welcome him to our town. I tried for a few years after that conversation, but it was so deadening to my family.

  21. Good behavior cannot be bred from evil philosophy. A good stew cannot be had crom rotten meat. Any good behavior can only occur in spite of the philosophy. Thus, the only difference between a good fundamentalist and a bad one is merely how willing one is to take the philosophy to its logical, destructive conclusion.

      1. So…a nice fundy church is one that has an evil philosophy…that it doesn’t take to it’s logical conclusion.

        A evil person can still be nice…if they’re a hypocrite. Okay.

    1. …which is why I will never set foot in a fundamentalist church again. Sadly, even in garden-variety conservative Baptist churches, bits of rotten fundamentalism occasionally float to the surface. Sometimes I wish I’d gone straight to a “liberal” denomination like the UCC. Still, the cynic in me tells me that they surely have their problems, too. 🙄

      1. Josh,
        That last sentence: Word. Me too. I struggle to understand just what church can possibly be the “right” church, and as far as I can tell there is really NO denomination or school of organized religious thought that isn’t tyrannical and authoritarian at its root. As I said, any “good” churches that I’ve been too still accept that bad and abusive theology is fundamentally the TRUTH (case in point: What church doesn’t believe this: Inerrancy of the Bible, which is merely code for “we’ll define what the “inerrant” application looks like; our subjective interpretations will suddenly become “infallible”, and presto-change-0! Instant authority! We define INFALLIBLE truth, and if you disagree, we have the implicit divine right to kill you! This is the root of the despotism inherent in the history of almost ALL religions I think). So, again, any church I seem to try is just different degrees of lying. They all lie; it’s just that the good ones lie less. But this is only ever in SPITE of their doctrine, not because of it. I cannot yoke myself to that kind of insanity. I just really, reeeeeeeally, can’t.

        1. Zach:

          Per your [rhetorical?] question about inerrancy, what about the UCC or the PCUSA? I dunno, but my conservative evangelical acquaintances rant about those denominations not “really believing in the Bible” all the time. But that has more to do with LGBT+ acceptance, methinks. Then again there’s Unitarian Universalism, but I do actually believe in God, and if I didn’t, why would I want to wake up early on Sunday for meetings with people, most of whom I don’t really care to be around?

        2. Josh,
          Could be right about them. I’ll do a little research. At this point, a good old NON-Bible believing church is just about where I am now. That is, I’d like to go somewhere where the Bible is the fourth Person in the “Trinity”. Maybe I’ll start by limiting my searches to those places with female pastors. According to where I go/went, those backsliders are going straight to hell. Good. The one damn place they won’t follow me.

          As far as universalism: where you are totally redeemed outside of yourself; just the flip side to the total depravity lie. Either way, choices are not yours to make, and that always leads to abuse.

        3. Argo,

          That’s a good start. If you want mutually assured damnation, a church with a partnered GLBT minister would be a sure bet! 😆

  22. Please read “Paranormality (Why We See What Isn’t There) by Professor Richard Wiseman. I promise you will find it enlightening and entertaining. For the purposes of this discussion, the chapter on Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple (the Original Kool-Ade drinkers… Grape flavored, btw) lays out the four steps in establishing a cult. The parallels to “fundamentalist baptists” are hauntingly obvious… ( “distancing members from dissenting viewpoints, a leader who claims special communication from God, requiring painful, difficult, or humiliating rituals which result in ((paradoxically)) increased loyalty to the group (think, “Soul Winning” statistics), sceptics are driven away, and the group is increasingly isolated from the outside “world” (think, “Standards” and “dress codes”) Leaders have direct access to God, and therefore should not be questioned (100% buttons, anyone?)

    All this to say that the fundamental problem with “nice fundamentalism”, is that the foundation is cracked. You can ignore it, hope it won’t get worse, call it a fissure or a fracture, but it is what it is.

    By the way, Wiseman has written several other excellent books; all are backed up with very interesting and (at times) humorous controlled experiments in human behavior. He’s an academic with a very accessible writing style.

  23. The initial rallying cry of Fundamentalists was “Is the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty”. I happen to agree with that. The problems arose when they started to consider EVERYTHING an essential. They put “standards” (i.e. pants on women, short hair, etc) on the same level with core orthodox beliefs (i.e. diety of Christ) and allowed no liberty on anything, no matter how trivial.

    This rule, however, is suspended for any of this country’s founding fathers. Although they would brand as a heretic anyone who espoused the theological beliefs of Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Linclon, etc., they get a free pass because they died a long time ago and founded a “Christian nation”.

  24. Darrell,
    I disagree with much that you’ve said here. But at least it’s a serious reply that has led to a serious discussion. It’s one of the more thoughtful things I’ve ever seen on this site.
    On your “My Obama Year” you are experimenting with being a liberal for a year to get inside their head. I often wonder how much would actually get published on this site if you did the same for some of us independent baptists.

    1. Ryan, I’ve already done that “experiment.” It’s called the first 27 years of my life.

      Son of a pastor and missionary; grandson of a pastor and missionary; graduate of a school that is a bastion of fundamentalism; Baptist deacon; Baptist song leader; Baptist Sunday School teacher; Baptist lay-preacher.

      I don’t need to get “inside the heads” of Baptists. In fact, I’ve spend the better part of the last five years trying to get Baptists out of my head and let Jesus in.

      1. Oy. Gotta love that Fundamentalist condescension. If anyone knows Fundyland, it’s you. Can this guy be any more insulting by the assumption that you don’t know?

        I wasn’t even in it as long as you (although I do have PTSD as proof I was there), and I can still recognize a Fundy a mile away (although the SBC has been producing some eerily similar stuff in the last few years).

    2. “I often wonder how much would actually get published on this site if you did the same for some of us independent baptists.”

      Mr Hayden, I find that remark to be arrogant and condescending, not to mention ignorant. A few minutes of research would inform you of Mr Dow’s background.

    3. @Hayden, here is my best example for you.

      I have a blog. Recently I posted something about discrimination against black people in our nation and as a result, a young black woman started following my blog. I followed her back as a courtesy.

      As I started getting updates of her posts, I realized that besides some very deeply intelligent and interesting posts, she regularly reblogged things that were racist against white people. Some of it was casual, making white people simply look dumb. Some was shocking and highly offensive. What did I do?

      1) I realized that she must have been deeply wounded at some point as a result of someone being racist against her.

      2) I read her posts and saw that there was an uncomfortable amount of truth to the racist attitudes in the white people she encountered and sometimes, sadly reflected in my own heart. ( I realized that I still have more work to do on my inborn racism)

      3) I realized that she does not see all white people that way even though her posts suggest otherwise. So I understand that her posts are therapeutic for her and using angry posts help her feel better in a powerless situation.

      4) I have been hurt myself so I resolve to try to be a better person and not hurt people the way she describes in her racist rants

      5) Her whole life white people have tried to tell her how to feel, they have dictated what and who is beautiful and good in her life. So I knew that if I tried to get her to see the flaws in her racists thinking, I would be just another white person wagging my finger at her, telling her how to feel. Besides, it was hardly my place to try to confront her. I am from the group of people that oppressed her. I have no right to try to fix her racism. I am from a privileged group that will never know what it’s like to be hurt like she has been hurt and I will not presume to even imagine what she feels like to have an entire system against her.

      6) I accepted that she is hurt, but I know that she is more than a wounded person. She is a strong, beautiful person. I can see her for who she is. Scars and all.

  25. “Here’s the secret: it won’t last forever. Either power will ultimately corrupt the man or the man will leave and be replaced with a less gracious successor.”

    Somebody’s been watching The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent, anyone? 😆

  26. I must agree with all Darrell’s points in this post. As a recovering pastor, I saw myself in both polarities: nice and rigid. When I reached my liver spot years, the adrenalin rush didn’t sustain me anymore, and I had to step down from the pulpit. I was a bi-vocational pastor, but the church called a full time pastor and agreed to pay him more than twice what they ever paid me after more than 16 years in the pulpit. The successor was a “nice” guy, but it was only a facade. In reality, he was sinister, devious, and cunning. He sported a goofy “grin” that never reached his eyes, and this grin was present even when he was discussing sober and weighty topics, such as hell, and judgment. This lunatic kicked out everyone who tried to hold him accountable to the Bible, and in one fell swoop, turned a Bible believing church into a personality cult gathered around his hefty carcass. The price the trustees paid for being passive instead of holding this guy to the Bible, is that they lost a building to him that they had built debt free with their own hands. Churches are absolutely brutal on pastors, which may explain why some preachers are so unreachable when it comes to obeying the Bible.

  27. By the way, is the trailer behind the church pictured above the Bible Institute? I’m looking for a local IFB church to bestow on me an honorary doctorate. 😉

    1. It’s probably the “beautiful and spacious parsonage” that the church has provided for their “beloved pastor” for him to use in “ministering to the saints by hosting visiting missionaries.”

  28. Dear Darrell:

    ‘The problem with teaching people that the ultimate responsibility for determining appropriate behavior, interpreting Scripture, and making the rules lies with a single man is that men are fallible…’

    There is also that matter about Scripture being its own interpreter. I don`t recall that being mentioned during my time at Snob Clones.

    I wonder why.

    Christian Socialist

  29. I was let to the Lord through an IFB church. Was taught to learn the Bible and to think for myself. When I considered moving to an ABA church, I was told it depended if I wanted to follow the Bible or not. Later I looked back and realized that there was much good there — mixed races (out of a segregationist background, no less), no preaching about long hair on men or pants on women. But there were problems. When a man stood up and said that every word the pastor said from the pulpit was straight from God, there was no denial or correction. The pastor having to be aware of EVERYTHING the church did. Having favorites. The idea that God would not move you until He told the pastor first, even if you were an ordained preacher and missionary in your own right. You were not being loyal if you weren’t 100% behind his pet project.

    So while not as bad as most, the problems were serious, and promoted traditions equal to Scripture. And that doesn’t even go into in King James Onlyism.

  30. Darrell, this was a great post, and very well-written. You make great points that I would like to address. I haven’t had the time to read all of the posts.

    I was actually saved in a Protestant (that is, not Baptist) church, but all of my growth as a Christian was in IFB churches. The first two were great; the third had an ex-Southern Baptist pastor who had an assistant from HAC. The next church was pastored by a BJU grad, and then a Hyles-clone church.

    I still attend an IFB church, and like many aspects of it.

    Some of your post really resonates; especially the warnings about associations. My family is very concerned about associations that are creeping in.

  31. I grew up in an ABA/Landmark/Missionary Baptist church. Each church was very independent.

    I could play the “my church wasn’t a bad one” game. Mine wasn’t–there were precautions to limit the power of the preacher, such as not allowing him a vote in business meetings and no checkbook access and votes required for everything. It was a pretty good church to grow up in, and I am pretty positive about a lot of it (basically the music and that there was a lot of love there).

    There were negatives, but they related to evangelical doctrines about purity culture and Bible inerrancy. More generic problems with evangelical culture and feeling of not doing enoughand a need to follow the rules, especially those felt to be from the Bible. If we had a more progressive doctrine and no contact with the bad churches in the state, it would have been a perfect experience.

    I figured out that we weren’t following the “rules” and tired to enforce them on myself. I became a very annoying child and hurt myself greatly. A more progressive church environment would have helped me significantly.

    HOWEVER, the other churches in our state association were unhealthy with dictatorial preachers who kicked people put for everything, rebellious kid, missing services, dating unacceptable person, escaping abuse, any possible sign of impurity were jumped on and condemned. They kicked people out repeatedly.

    The harm this church caused my uncle and grandmotherwas incredible. They have been depressed most of their lives..

    He and my aunt now go to another independent Baptist church where the preacher said that helping missionaries was better than helping the poor in the community because the church would get credit in heaven for helping bring souls to Christ (guess he missed Jesus’s teachings about helping the poor around you). He also preached that you should cut negative people out of your life. That’s very often necessary, but no mention of how to distance yourself and get the negative person help. Just cut them on their own.

    At this point, I would not trust an independent church, even with my positive experience.

    1. I’ve heard the support missionaries instead of the poor argument too. It could sound convincing until one reads the actual words of Jesus!

      I’ve had a lot of good experiences too, which is probably why I stayed in for so long.

      1. ummm, when Jesus sent out “missionaries” how long were they on deputation?
        Wait, what? Oh yeah, And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.

        I’m afraid that the missions work we (the Americanized Church) support today will be one of those things that will be consumed by the trying fire of judgment. We (especially those of us who were in “Missions Minded” IFB churches) will stand before God and watch all that effort and “sacrificial giving” go up in flames. We were so proud of how many missionaries we were supporting… and yet we didn’t know hardly any of them. They were just another in a long line of Mission Conference presenters who were passing through with their hand out, on their way to the great heathen lands found in the western United States. We supported more missionaries at one time than we had in attendance on Sunday evenings at a whopping sum of as much as $15/month.

        God have mercy on us.

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