Why Don’t They “Just” Leave?

Why do they stay at these churches and schools? Why don’t they just leave?

Why don’t they just leave their family ties and life-long friendships?

Why don’t they just leave the college degrees that are only valued in one of these “ministries”?

Why don’t they just leave their community?

Why don’t they just leave their livelihood?

Why don’t they just leave the cultural comfort of having the world make sense?

Why don’t they just leave their certainty for doubt?

Why don’t they just leave the time and money they have invested?

Why don’t they just leave their children to fearful futures outside the center of “God’s perfect will.”

Why don’t they just leave to go and live as strangers in a strange land?

I think the real surprise is that so many have managed to leave at all.

94 thoughts on “Why Don’t They “Just” Leave?”

  1. This thought came to mind this week when thinking about the death in the Hamilton family

  2. Awesome ๐Ÿ™‚ Leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It has been a little over a year now, and life is good, but man was it tough in the beginning.

  3. Darrell,
    This made me get teary eyed. People never seem to try to understand…they just offer their “solution” and then get angry when you won’t or can’t apply it. I learned during, and after my divorce that there is a fundamental difference between opinion and advice. Advice comes from someone who knows you and cares about you and who understands the effects that the situation is having on you. They offer you advice based on that loving relationship. Opinion is simply someone who sees your situation as annoying and tells you what “They would do if they were you”…never grasping that they are not you.
    In the years after my divorce I heard “Just get over it” and “It’s time to move on” a few thousand times. I finally blew my stack at one guy and said “Let’s see…I only ever loved one woman enough to ask her to marry me. I only ever asked one woman. I only ever married one woman. I have no real family so my marriage was a lot more to me than simply my wife and our daughter. I am defined by my position as a husband and a father…more than anything I achieve at work or elsewhere. I dreamed dreams for us and worked very hard to see them come true. Now that’s all gone and everything that makes me who I am is gone with it. You’re RIGHT! I should just get over it!”
    People need to understand the emotional ties that exist even in the worst of fundie abuses. Not every pew is populated by evil legalists. I had many friends at the fundie church I grew up in and it took years to be able to separate them from the legalism that was crushing me. It’s a hard path.
    Well said Darrell.

    1. Thank you for saying this. I’ve recently been through something, and find myself saying the same thing- that my “identity” is gone. I’m having to start a completely new life, and am not always sure who I am myself anymore. It’s like I’m in survival mode right now. And I’m not sure I want to go back, either.

      1. Although I was never a fundy I can relate in many ways to the stories of spiritual, sexual, mental and physical abuse that my best friend suffered at the hands of her husband. Her friends were at their wit’s end to help (her priest even told me she should get a divorce). But she did not believe she could escape. In the end she escaped–in a pine box.

  4. Yes, for all of those reasons, and more…

    I’m one of the moderators of a forum for ex-pentecostals. We have many of the same issues. It takes herculean effort to leave that sort of life. You’ve been programmed for years to think, believe, act in certain ways. There’s familial pressures, cultural pressures, and no small amount of pressure from those who benefit by your continuing to remain in that world. When I left, I took my kids with me when I moved, but my ex had them on the weekends, and of course they were in church. Now, my older two are agnostic, and the younger goes so she can spend time with her dad, and so her girls can go to Sunday School (important socialization for them, at 2 1/2). But she’s told me that she hates feeling like she has to check her brain at the door.

    My parents didn’t speak to me for quite some time after I left. Friends I’d had for decades cut me cold. (And I miss them.)

    I knew what I left was a psychological and theological mess, but I didn’t know what else to believe. I was an agnostic for *18* years, and only came back to church three years ago, and I only came back for James. I stayed because I was made welcome.

    Sometimes I think that leaving an abusive church tradition (and face it- that’s what it is, IFB or pente) is very like leaving an abusive marriage. Some can’t bring themselves to do it, damage or no. So leave and come back, and leave again. Some walk out one day and never look back. Many blame themselves for the abuse.

    All I can say is be patient. Those who are trying to get out need your calm support. I would have walked long before I did, if I’d had support. And when I did, it was because I had friends who listened, said “that’s not right” and helped me when I chose to leave.

    A needful choice, but one you have to make for yourself.

    1. Amen and amen, sister. The marriage comparison is so apt, only instead of one person tormenting you, it’s a community. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ The decision to change things is always personal and never easy.

  5. I never totally bought into the lies. And I moved frequently as a single woman. It made “leaving” much easier. But there are definitely still repercussions. But the air is so much easier to breathe now.

  6. I count myself lucky that I never really believed, either, even though I grew up in it. Being the black sheep does make it easier to separate psychologically in some ways, But it still meant losing my culture, my family, my entire world, the instant acceptance and intimacy among friends that comes along with playing their game. And I’m still not over it. I don’t think I ever will be.

    1. Oh my goodness. I watched that movie a few years ago, and I thought it was a commentary on BJU and the way my BJU in-laws treat their daughters.

  7. Besides the emotional issues, and the practical reality of not having the necessary education, life skills, or employment skills to make it ‘out there’, there’s very often an economic factor. A woman cannot leave an abusive husband with young children in tow if she’s going to be abandoned by everyone she knows and penniless. She might be beaten and raped again, but if the kids are fed… ๐Ÿ™

    1. Tiarali,

      You wrote: “Besides the emotional issues, and the practical reality of not having the necessary education, life skills, or employment skills to make it โ€˜out thereโ€™, thereโ€™s very often an economic factor. A woman cannot leave an abusive husband with young children in tow if sheโ€™s going to be abandoned by everyone she knows and penniless.”

      There are two things you can do even if you cannot leave right now.

      1. You can get stronger and stand up to the abuse. I’d recommend Leslie Vernick’s website. She has advice exactly for women like you. It might help to learn some techniques to help you get stronger. Depending on how narcissistic your husband is, sometimes her tips really work to reduce the abuse and increase his respect for you.

      2. I would start a 1-year exit plan. Write it down. Start setting aside money, figure out how to finish your education, figure out what classes (or free You Tube videos) you need to take to get your skills up to date. Find a support group of abuse survivors in your area. Do not discuss the abuse anyone who is well-meaning but totally ignorant about abuse. They will give you naive and ill-informed advice.

      Be aware that phone companies and banks and credit card companies often have programs for abused spouses. They never advertise them, but they exist.

      One woman I know got her own cell phone and a credit card with a nice credit line even though she was disabled and hadn’t worked in years. Get a private mail box.

      There’s always welfare. It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s better and more dignified that being mistreated by someone you gave your life to.

      Blessings, my dear!

      1. Thank you. I’m in Australia. I was very thankful to be able to access a women’s shelter and yes, welfare. I’m not really sure what aid is available in America. I just think it’s one very important practical issue that sometimes gets overlooked.

        And obviously, that’s the situation I know. But I suspect that there are many cases of fundamentalist kids who are in institutions, whether one of the colleges or one of those children’s homes, who are there simply because practical matters mean that they either can’t leave, or they honestly don’t believe they can leave.

      2. I would be very, very careful about standing up to the abuse. More often than not this dangerously escalates the situation. IMO, better to lay low and start your exit strategy.

  8. You asked, “Why don’t they leave?”

    I left my controlling Calvinista church this year after several decades of attendance. It feels fantastic.

    Why did it take so long?
    Bottom line? Because no mature Christians from other churches invited me to theirs. I had no idea where to turn.


    I grew up in that church. I told myself I had friends here and we could just ignore the senior pastor’s biblical but boring sermons, the small-minded pastor’s comments, and tyrannical lay leaders. What I really had was one true friend, who couldn’t leave, my relatives, and a bunch of acquaintances. For years, I said, I’m only here to support that one friend.

    My church started out well and gradually worsened. It went from small loving church to an impersonal mega-church. I was like the frog in the pan of water on the stove. I didn’t leap until the water was burning me. Part of it was fond memories from the past and part was a lot of denial. For years many other Christians told me I should leave. They rolled their eyes after hearing my stories and couldn’t believe I was still there.

    History: In the 1980s a legalistic pastor with narrow views started changes. Then powerful arrogant Master’s College/MacArthur-style lay people took over. Then in the 1990s, a weak pastor joined. He was unable to keep the arrogant lay people in check. Many of the good young pastors left. A pathetic assistant pastor stayed and eventually rose to fill positions as better pastors moved on. Our attendance plummeted by 30%. We are close to several seminaries and the professors who taught our Sunday school classes were chased out by the MacArthur clones. Why didn’t anyone ring the alarm bells? They did, but no one was listening because the church’s income continued to increase.

    It took me a long time to realize my church was spiritually empty. The church is viewed as an elitist mega-church in the area, known for “right teaching” and having “right people.” There was a puffed up arrogance about us being the premier church in the area. What does it say about your mega-church if it can only grow 20 people a year and you’re in a county with several million?

    I was discontent for a long time. I figured out how to stop going to the main worship service even though I was a lay leader. I looked at my options: the other big churches in the area. But didn’t see anything attractive. Even my elderly relatives felt the emptiness and had slowly started disappearing.

    One Friday morning I left phone messages for each of the families that had left a decade ago and asked where they had landed. I discovered they were all at the same church, a small church I hadn’t even considered.

    By Friday night, I made my decision, based on their recommendation and the church’s website. I met with their pastor and asked if my ministry would fit in. He said yes, and was enthusiastic. The next day I told my friend I would never attend my old church on a Sunday again. I took my family, my relatives, and as many friends as I could.

    What a difference! What breath of fresh air! I don’t have to watch everything I say. I don’t have to smile and bite my tongue when people say bigoted hateful things. I don’t have to keep my opinions to myself. I can worship God with people who follow Jesus and take the Gospels seriously!

    I probably have 20 fantastic years of life and ministry to give. I’d rather spend those 20 years in a growing vibrant church rather than a dying one.

    My advice? Be pro-active. Ask people you respect where they go to church. ๐Ÿ˜†

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I have experience with MacArthur clones too. They may read the ESV and listen to CCM, but they can be just as overbearing as fundies sometimes.

      1. I am so sorry that you went through this with your church–it is heartbreaking to watch a fellowship just…die.

        If I may?

        I am related to John MacArthur, and I have to tell you that he is a kind, compassionate, and wonderful man–he encouraged me to leave my parents’ home when they were forcing me to stay because I was unmarried and female.

        Unfortunately, many of the people who attend Grace Community, The Master’s College, and Master’s Seminary come out of these places with hard-nosed and stiff-necked doctrines. This isn’t John MacArthur’s fault, and if anything, he tries to mitigate these behaviors.

        He’s a person with failings, some of which are silly indeed (i.e.: he has said that he doesn’t believe that fictional writing has value), but it isn’t really fair to state that he is the root of the problems that you saw in your church.

        Some folks just want control, and they use the words of respected pastors, scholars, and Christ Himself to, frankly, be a total cock to people in the church.

        Again, I am so, so sorry this happened to you, and am very glad you got through it.

        1. R,

          My friend graduated from Masters with the goal of planting churches. He told me that it was widely recognized, if not always explicitly stated, that the strategy for Masters graduates was to go out and take over Baptist churches, and then turn them Calvinist. The process was not kind, compassionate, or wonderful. I know; I have been a victim of it.

          The leader of an organization CANNOT disavow the behavior of his followers. He sets the direction. He also sets the tone.

          If he does not agree with the behavior of his followers, he needs to do something about it. Publicly. Loudly.

        2. That technique is called ‘steeplejacking’, and it is reprehensible. It happened to my little parish, and we are still recovering, 3 years later.

    2. “What I really had was one true friend, who couldnโ€™t leave, my relatives, and a bunch of acquaintances.”
      Yep, this was a huge factor for us as well.
      Thanks for sharing.

      1. Hello, MSK–I am so sorry your church (or just you!) went through that particular bullshit–it’s hurtful, stupid, and so ungodly.

        I too graduated from TMC, and that was absolutely not my experience. Agreeing with Calvinism was definitely a source of peer-pressure and much eye-rolling from me (and my close friends), but it was never understood that church planting was to involve proselytizing Baptist churches to Calvinism.

        (That said, I was not a Bible major, so it might have been a specific set of professors or classes, or even a peer-group that caused that proselytizing influence when your friend attended, and I just simply wasn’t privy to it.)

        On one hand, I do wish that MacArthur and Grace Community would do a little more to check on the behavior of their graduates, particularly if said behavior is directly attributed to what those individuals were taught at GCC, TMC or The Master’s Seminary, and even more particularly if a church directly links itself to those three institutions–that’s where this all *really* matters.

        On the other hand, Grace Community is one church. It’s not a chain. The churches that are planted by former members are not the voice of either MacArthur or his church.

        In my opinion? We hold individuals accountable for what they do and say, and not for what other people do with those thoughts and words.

        I hope this isn’t coming across as dismissive of your pain or experience–I know what it is like to have an entire doctrine and church thrown at your head to guilt you into behaving and believing certain things. My own parents used John MacArthur and Grace Community to try and guilt me into believing that if I moved out of their home, that I was in sin. And John MacArthur told me that they were wrong. *That* is what a good man does.

        What other people do with what they were taught is their own business to hold before God someday, and yes, Grace Community and John should speak up more often about not being a Christian douchebag, because many folks think that being a stiff-necked, unforgiving, spiritually abusive, doctrinal stick-in-the-mud is what John MacArthur would do.

        And it ain’t.

        I hope you are able to heal from the pain you’ve been through, and that you never have to experience this particular type again. Best to you, MSK.

        1. Well, since you have a connection, maybe you can pass the feedback along. For better or worse, whether it’s just or not, the leader gets the blame. FWIW, EVERY “mother ship” college and church claims that “there is not a network.” Maybe you’re right, but I am skeptical.

          This problem doesn’t just come from TMC. I saw an article a couple years ago about how the invasion is happening in SBC churches, too; invasions from certain seminaries with their Calvinist philosophy. These “preacher boys” can’t go out and start a church on their own. Too arrogant for that. Instead, they invade a pre-existing church, almost always hiding their actual beliefs and ALWAYS hiding their true intentions, and then making themselves manifest after a few months. At this point, the original congregants are faced with a choice: stand and try to expel the invader, and risk splitting their church, or walk away into the wilderness. It is evil, what these invaders are doing.

          I have been without a church now for seven years. My choices are the KJVO Indy Fundies, or the screaming charismatics. Oh, we attend services, but it has been made abundantly clear that I am not really part of the congregation. I just sit there and take up space.

          I’m glad John MacArthur helped you break free. I have relatives who live in bondage to the idea that they can’t leave Daddy unless they are being passed along to another man (like a used car, or a goat, or some other possession)…and they can’t even date unless Daddy approves of the guy. Guys have an easier time telling their parents to take a long walk off a short pier. From what I have observed, women take the brunt of this type of control-freak behavior. I’m sorry you have to face that kind of spiritual abuse, and I am fiercely protective of my daughter. Heaven help anyone who tries to lay those extrabiblical guilt trips on HER.

          These men ought to read the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and consider whether they REALLY want to risk destroying their relationship with their own daughter.

        2. You’ve got it.

          And good on you for protecting your daughter–fight for her so she knows how to fight for herself someday.

          For what it’s worth?

          I stepped away from the church and God entirely for almost two years after that fallout with my parents. It was the best decision I made for my faith.

          I’m currently attending a tiny, 20 person non-denominational church in Hollywood, and I have never been so at peace with the church before. If you’re local to LA, let me know, and I’ll send you the church info if you are interested.

        3. Grin.

          I’m in Germany. We host a “hymn sing” BBQ at our house every now and then, and invite all our friends who have been scattered to the four winds, and that’s our fellowship. We’re thankful for it.

          Thanks for the invite! And best wishes!

  9. I never attended an IFB church. My church life was in charismatic churches, but, the thoughts you expressed are the same. It was a way of life. You don’t just give that up, especially when it is all you have known for 25 years. For me, I did not just leave the church – I left the faith. It was brutal. As I reintegrated with society as a whole, it was a culture shock. I was angry – angry that I had invested so much of my life in a wasted cause. Now, not so much angry, just sad that so many are caught up in this stuff.

    1. Michel,

      I hear you 100%. I was so angry that my old friends started avoiding me because I did nothing but rant and rant whenever I was with them.

      My anger was so volcanic at the deception I’d bought into that I was really rude.

      But I think that those years of anger were really important. I needed to face the truth and look at the evil side of Christianity — the part that doesn’t reflect the way Jesus treated people.

      I thought I would be angry forever (so did my poor friends), but now that I’ve left my church and gone to a more open one I feel a lot more peace.

      I see the anger as God’s way of moving me out of a sick situation and into a healthy one — where I too have reintegrated with society. (Yes, I have agnostic friends, gay friends, and friends of other religions now. They are wonderful, intelligent and highly moral people. I admire them.)

      Nothing but pain and agony could have gotten me to switch.

      Blessings to you.

      1. Yes. I think that we need to learn that anger is appropriate to feel in some situations and for some time, and that hurting people will grow out of that stage in their own time and they need space in which to do so.

        Anger is not evil. TBH, not being angry when you hear of some of the terrible injustices that happen in the world would be an indication that something is seriously wrong with you.

      2. I am no longer angry. It has been 7 years since I left the faith. I look at these people with compassion and sadness. I do have friends that are in the faith that are very progressive. In fact, I live in a former pastor’s basement suite. He and his wife have been amazing. They have never once tried to engage me in a Christian dialogue.

        1. Michael – Are you the same “Michael” that I was conversing with on Friday regarding wine in the Scriptures?

  10. Well put…as usual. I’ve heard that question asked plenty of times and this would be a great response!

  11. I left about five or so years ago in my mid forties, so an old dog can be taught new tricks. The cost has been large in terms of old fundy friends and family shunning me and criticizing me and gossiping about me in the name of the Wednesday morning prayer meeting. But, I’m free, free, free and have never felt more joyous about the path my life is taking.

  12. This is true. Family and economic pressures are perhaps the biggest obstacles.

    A lot of people have left their family. It’s very painful unless you’re a total sociopath. It’s also very freeing to not have to speak to people that put verbal knives into you every time you speak to them. To not walk around angry and confused because someone is playing head games.

    I imagine it’s kinda like having a bone reset (I’ve never broken a bone). You really don’t want to do it because of how bad it’s going to hurt, but after the fact are glad you did it.

    A lot of people have left employment at these kind of places. Often they have more skills than they realize they do. Other times, they never appreciated just how poorly they were paid. I know of a couple people who left or were fired from a large Fundy institution on the Gulf coast, who went and made more money working the loading dock of Home Depot.

  13. As for the guys on the stage behind Jack Schaap as he was polishing–

    Imagine being a 40 year old man with only Hyles Anderson education. Having a wife and four kids. Not ever having earned enough to save up any money.

    Easy for us to say they should have done something. How many would have?

    I do think they’re culpable, but all these situations are gray areas. It’s easy for us to say it’s unethical to continue supporting such institutions with tithes or by working at them. We’re not the ones who have to consider the fallout on our kids, spouses, and other family members.

  14. Very well written and touching, Darrell. I couldn’t get away from my church fast enough, but felt comfortable for my first 3 years at PCC. It was familiar and safe. I had a difficult time understanding why my parents did not leave the church, but I understand now that it was their identity. After they did leave, due to moving out of town, I saw my mom fall into a deep depression and my dad become unable to make a decision. Our family fell apart. You would think that freedom would be empowering.

  15. Even when the decision has become obvious to you and you recognize its inevitability, the breaking of relationships and stepping out into the unknown is a scary thing. Like many other scary life changes, it will look less scary in hindsight, but I never wonder why people stay. I stayed so long after I knew I should not, and even that wasn’t a mistake, it was an effort to patiently hope for change, a desire to make the transition less traumatic for my family, and to be sure my motives were fully understood and vetted. It actually resulted in less doubt when I actually did leave. In the words of one of my fundy mentors, I wanted to do the right thing in the right way (sorry about the twitching)

  16. Leaving the insular world of the IFB often means losing your entire family, losing all your friends and, in many cases, even losing your job.

    It’s no wonder many people stay. They may truly believe that staying with the devil they know is better than venturing out with the devil they don’t know.

    Even without my family, even with precious few real friends left, the air out here is so much sweeter and fresher than the putrid toxicity being spewed inside the compound.

  17. I attend an IFB church. I refuse to accept the label of “Fundamentalist.” What exactly is one anyway? I thought it was one who held firm to BIBLlCAL doctrines and standards, not ones that are made up on a whim because a man so decides. But, I digress… I have been watching this movement pretty much my whole life. It wasn’t till I was about 22 that I started having my OWN beliefs about certain issues, after careful thought, observation, study, etc. I was to the point of leaving my church, and going somewhere else. However, I’ve noticed how people are shunned and talked about when they leave, even to a church with like faith, but maybe not the same standards. I’ve seen parents of said departed people get the “What did you do wrong, you worthless failure?!” look. The fact is, I love my parents. They are my heroes. I would never want to do anything that would cause them to be looked at that way. Bottom line, if I need to stay in a place that is not my first choice, in order to spare my parents heartache and sour looks, as shameful as it is that I must, I will stay there, with a good attitude. All the while shaking my head at the red tape that has so many Fundamentalists have been caught up in.

    1. I’m sorry that you feel you need to sacrifice your own desires for your parent’s well-being.

      1. I think this goes back to your other comment — about people leaving before they are ready. I’m not responsible for other people’s choices, not even my parents’. If they are unwilling to set boundaries, that’s really their problem rather than mine. But even though it’s easy to say that, it is harder to put into practice sometimes.

    2. Funderground, I understand where you’re at. I hated to leave – my dad was the pastor, founded the church, and he and my mom are still there even after he retired. I have other family there, and many friends. I was there the first day the church started, when I was just shy of 2 years old.

      But staying there was killing me spiritually, and I had to decide that, like my dad preached, my walk with God was more important than what people thought or felt. Thankfully, my family has been more understanding than I even thought they would.

      As far as I know, my parents haven’t gotten any shame from my decision; they’ve barely even brought it up — they’re more concerned about me going somewhere in general.

      If you can stay there and not be so grieved to where your walk with God is hindered, then have at it. But if the time comes where you’re being spiritually stunted (or strangled), you can’t base your decisions on the nasty looks of people who aren’t going to be right with God even if you stay.

    3. Funderground, I want to encourage you to stop attending church. You have a great relationship with your parents and you know they love you. When you stop attending it will give you a chance to explain yourself to them. My son gradually did this and it had a huge influence on me. It forced me to question my own beliefs, and I eventually left, too.

      Now my own husband is now thinking about these things and has stopped attending church, but he is still a fundamental believer. When the opportunity arises, I say something that will make him stop and think. His entire family, who are our neighbors on all sides, do shun us and do not extend the hand of friendship. That makes him think even harder about all of this.

      That is why I encourage your to stop attending for them. Your leaving may be just the nudge they need to get out the door.

  18. Leaving is HARD. My family is so toxic that it was bliss at first, then after years of them stalking me it started getting old.

    I stopped judging my other friends who couldn’t leave as easily as I did. I slowed down when someone was telling me what they were going through. I learned that the decision to leave is so huge, that there is no way one can make that choice for anyone but themselves. And if people leave before they’re ready, the’re more likely to get sucked back in and never leave.

    1. Yeah, sometimes the decision to leave comes easier if the situation is really bad. It doesn’t make leaving any easier but it makes the decision easier.

      It’s the people who don’t have it that bad who often stick around until something in their life breaks. Such as– they get in a marriage that’s incredibly dysfunctional and start to ask why. Or, even later in life, they have kids who get into trouble.

  19. We started at the IFB church when I was in 4th grade. I had gotten saved a year prior at a vacation bible school. I loved the church, I loved the school there. I believed with all of my heart. I worked in Jr. Church as soon as I could and went soul-winning (unsuccessfully) I read my Bible every day. This was my world, my faith.

    And then it began to crumble when I went to UCLA for my first year of college and not a Christian College. People stopped talking to me, my faith was put in question by the college and career Sunday school class. I used a Danish Bible, so I was a sinner for not using the King James. It didn’t matter that it was a different language translation done prior to the King James — I was branded as a sinner.

    Desperate to keep my identity, I transferred to PCC,losing my 4 year scholarship to UCLA. My first week, I was told my a prayer leader that I needed to get saved since I was from California. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to keep my faith, do right, and be a good Christian, the label of CALIFORNIAN might as well have been tattooed my forehead. When I was accused of being a lesbian, because my best friend was giving me a back rub, I lost my faith of PCC.

    Since then, I have changed. I still believe. But I am lost at the church I am going to now. I don’t really know anyone after 4 years. I don’t fit. I sit alone or sit with my mother. I really only go now for my mother.

    I feel like I gave God everything and have nothing to show for it. I feel very alone.

    1. Liz, I am so sorry for what you’ve experienced at the hands of supposed Christians. I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

      I hope you can remember that the Jesus you trusted as a child is still the same loving God – completely unlike the “Christians” you encountered. Unpack your Danish Bible and read it. Ignore the ignorance of those who would put you in a box of their making.

      I’d like to pray for you – that you will find your way home.

        1. Yes, if “Catholic” means, “Here comes everybody,” then “Episcopal” means, “No, seriously, everybody.” ๐Ÿ˜€

  20. Many years ago, I left my very conservative IFB church. The animosity that had been building in my heart for several years finally boiled over when the pastor left a voice mail letting me go from a an elected church office that I held for quite some time. It was devastating to be discarded in such a way. I realized then that this is just how we treat people in Christian circles–just simply write them off if they don’t meet the expectations. In this case, he chose to use a married couple rather than a single person like me in that position. That was it. I walked away and never went back. For quite a long time, I felt like I had been shot out of a cannon–avoiding areas where my old church member “friends” would be. It seemed to take forever to fit in somewhere else feeling like a fish out of water. Finally, I joined a church in the area that was much more laid back, preached the Gospel and was growing in leaps and bounds. Night and day! If you decide to leave–hang in there. It will get better. And, there are other places to go to be fed from the Word and have fellowship.

  21. I wasn’t raised IFB, so I can’t relate to the experiences many of you talk about. I chose to become IFB as a high school senior and stayed in it until my mid-30s. And boy, did I drink the kool-aid.

    I felt like I had to start my life over from scratch. I had to learn how to think, how to interpret the Bible – even how to vote! My father had raised me to have a brain (we even studied C.S. Lewis together). I find it ironic that he and Mom stayed in the church we left!

  22. For kicks, my wife and I like to go back to our old funnymentalist church when we are visiting in that area (we still have relatives there). One lady in the church, with a straight face, told my wife, “You seem to be doing really well for someone who is under God’s curse.”

      1. This is an IFB church where the pastor teaches that he runs the only perfect church in the world, therefore anyone who leaves his church is leaving the will of God. He even convinced several military men who were within a year or two of retirement to leave the military (and their benefits), rather than move away to one last duty station. When my wife and I moved, the pastor announced from the pulpit that we are under God’s curse. I call tell it still galls him when we go back after 20 years to show how happy and healthy we are.

        1. His presumption is astounding.

          One could reply, “Christ took the curse for me. I am free.”

        2. ” He even convinced several military men who were within a year or two of retirement to leave the military (and their benefits), rather than move away to one last duty station.”

          The same thing happened at my former Fundy church. I consider it unconscionable to ask someone to walk away from an upcoming pension just to stay at your church. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

    1. A few snarky replies come to mind:

      “Well, God’s curses just aren’t as powerful as they used to be, I guess.”

      “I am doing quite well, thank you. You should try being under God’s curse some time, too!”

      “No, I’m doing just terrible. Really, just awful. What must I do to be saved? (Let her “save” you, then continue on as you were.)”

      “[You relative] told me all about you. Would you like me to pray for you?”

      1. Thank you for seriously brightening my morning! ๐Ÿ˜†

  23. Our family managed to leave after 23 years in an IFB church where all 5 of our kids were born and raised and where they attended the christian school. Still have 3 in school and they are doing awesome!! It’s not a big deal when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that its God’s will. ๐Ÿ˜€

  24. Why is it so hard to leave?
    Its easier said than done. You don’t want your children hurt, and they are no matter what you do. You try to shield them from the excommunication. Try to explain why the people who always hugged you at church now ignore you at the store when you run up to them and tug on their clothes trying to get them to look at you and say hi. There is no good way to explain that to little ones 5 and under(or even older).
    Yes, what you feared would happen has. So now you shop at midnight so your little ones aren’t hurt. But they are still hurt and that comes out as teenagers and they blame you from keeping them from their family and friends from long ago.
    Yeah, leaving hurts; but staying would have been worse. By God’s grace our children have come through all that and more and love God.

  25. Why didn’t I leave sooner? Well, I was working for them and living in staff housing. If I quit, I had to move FAST. I got paid barely enough to live on so had no savings. I worked so many hours, I couldn’t get a part-time job to save money. My family was drinking the kool-aid, and I didn’t think they would help me. I was trapped a couple of years until a new pastor came who wanted to purge the old and bring in the new. This conveniently coincided with my brother’s attempt to extricate himself, so we were able to help each other and eventually break free.

  26. I know a woman who was the first of several to leave a Hutterite colony in midwestern Canada… her story is incredible to me. She wasn’t physically abused or anything, and her family was loving, but the religious side of it, the controlling atmosphere, it was all suffocating. She and some others were known to not accept the Hutterite beliefs and were basically segregated from everyone else for it–lest their poisonous doctrines endanger anyone else–but she couldn’t leave. She had few job skills, very little exposure to the “real world” (she didn’t even know how to drive or how a bank worked), little education, no family or friends outside… and if she left, she could never, ever come back or ever see her family again.

    A very kind Christian couple whose farm employed several Hutterites–including this woman–knew of the situation and told her that if she ever wanted to leave, they would gladly take her in, no matter what time of day or night. Finally, she did. Her father wouldn’t even open the door of his study to say goodbye to her, he was so upset. But things worked out for her! The couple who took her in helped her get on her feet, and she was really just the tip of the iceberg–her bravery led many others who also were dissatisfied to leave, including her family! I’m always in awe of how brave she was to be able to break away from everything she’d been taught for so long and everyone else who’s been able to find freedom… I simply don’t think I ever could, and I thank God I haven’t been put in such a situation.

  27. The IFB makes it hard to leave. They give you an inferior education. They make you as compliant as possible. They encourage you to marry too young and start a family. When you come to your senses, you feel trapped with obligations to your family, your community and maybe your job. They have you believe you have nowhere to go.
    I believe the leaders of the IFB do this on propose. Like all cults, they want their followers to remain somewhat marginalize from society.
    I am aware of local IFB pastors who still officiate at weddings of recent high school graduates. I still see bright and intelligent young people encouraged to give up scholarships to regional accredited colleges to attend places like BJU & PCC. I see it happening to members of my family, and I canโ€™t talk sense into any of them. โ€œWhat type of job to you plan to get with your Bible Degree from PCC? Will you make enough money to support yourself?โ€ The answer I usually get is โ€œthe lord will provideโ€.
    Someday when theyโ€™re barely getting by, some IFB preacher or Republican politician we tell them their economic problems are the fault of the homosexuals, immigrates, liberals or college educated snobs. No one will dare point to the building with the cross on the roof.

    1. Mark – I think you hit the nail on the head…the IFB world has become so incestuous that the longer you stay in, the less options you have to get out. If you go and get a “degree” from an un-accredited “bible college”, you only post-graduation options are to go into an arena that “reconginizes” that degree, ie. the IFB world. Getting out before college (which I did) has to be worlds easier than getting out after you’ve graduated from a Fundy U.

      1. It didn’t take me very long at Fundy U to realize that … and I’m thankful for dodging the bullet.

  28. Mark–AMEN! Especially that bit about pressure to marry and start families with a “money grows on trees if you’re a Christian” naivete.
    After I was expelled from graduate school at Fundy U for kissing (long story there), my future husband, then boyfriend, was fired from Fundy U for the same reason. I went back for “counseling” in hopes of getting the green light to return to Fundy U. In spite of everything, I felt I had to go back because I didn’t know where else to go.
    Well, my first visit to the dean of women’s office involved her grilling me about how my boyfriend was filling his time while he was out of work. “What does he do all day?” “Is he trying to get interviews?” She then asked me whether we were engaged yet. Um, no, I was cobbling together minimum wage jobs on which I could survive. My boyfriend was jobless. I told her this–she frowned and replied gravely, “well, the right thing to do is get married as soon as possible.”
    We did end up getting married, and the Lord did provide. The key is that we waited for him to provide, THEN we got married.
    Not so with many of my Fundy U peers, who are now living hand to mouth, trying to support families and finish seminary on “ministry” salaries smaller than a Mickey D’s paycheck, because they were encouraged to charge full speed ahead with major life decisions. I know a couple who rely largely on the charity of church members in their “training ministry” for basic necessities like diapers and a car. For them, the way out would be exceedingly painful.

    1. It seems that a lot of Christians who are in “full time ministry” don’t realize how their behavior appears to “the world.”

      “Relying on the charity of church members” translates to “freeloader” in mainstream American. Granted, as a culture we’re sometimes insensitive to those in need– blame it on the pioneer mentality, whatever. But if you want to talk about having a bad testimony, watching a movie, listening to rock, drinking beer, premarital sex– none of that remotely compares to a grown man who is physically healthy refusing to take a job that pays enough for him to pull his own weight. The reason doesn’t really matter to most people.

  29. A little song I composed about “Just” Leave

    Took my family away from my fundy church home
    Had dreams about the west and started to roam
    Six long months on a dust covered trail
    They say heavens at the end but so far its been hell

    And there’s fire on the mountain
    Bob Jones lost his hair
    Gold in them hills and its waiting for me there

    We were soul winning and door knockin’ from 5 ’til 5
    Selling everything we had just to stay alive
    Kids on the hay ride took it a bit too far
    Sinning was the biggest thrill Lord, Satan was the star

    And there’s fire on the fountain
    Bob Jones lost his hair
    Gold in them hills and its waiting for me there

    Girls in pants was the evening treat
    Church tracks and pamphlets filled the streets
    Men were shot down for the sake of fun
    Or just to hear the noise of Jim Vineyard’s gun

    And there’s fire on the mountain
    Bob Jones lost his hair
    Gold in them hills and its waiting for me there

    Now my widow she weeps by my grave
    Her ladies class she never forgave
    Shot down in cold blood by a pastor that carried fame
    All because we mention Jack Schaap’s fame

    And there’s fire on the mountain
    Bob Jones lost his hair
    Gold in them hills and its waiting for me there

    Fire on the mountain
    Bob Jones lost his hair
    Gold in them hills and its waiting for me there

    Waiting for me there

    1. AND you did so with a parody of a Marshall Tucker Band tune. Well played, Searchin’, well played. ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. My own pain aside, Fundamentalism is like living in a bubble. It is as insular as the Amish without the horse and buggy. You are taught to marry a Christian guy from fundy U, have babies right away, work in the christian ministry, send your kids to the church’s school, then their high school and then onto fundy U –rinse and repeat. The whole time they never leave the bubble for anything. If possible they see the doctor that goes to the church, use stores run by church members. So the biggest fear is “What will happen if I leave the bubble?” How can I survive without it? If I leave it, I leave everyone I know because there is no forgiveness for leaving the bubble. So most stay, caught by fear that is propagated from the pulpit. If you leave the bubble, you leave the will of God for your life. You will destroy yourself outside of the bubble. Your children will end up as drug addicted hookers without the care and comfort of the bubble.

    They lie.

    1. This reminds me of something my former Fundy pastor said from the pulpit (paraphrased):

      “Don’t believe what former members tell you when they say they are happy…They lie. They won’t tell you the truth about their kids!”

      (preaching that the kids of former members go to the devil – total scare tactic. My spouse had a hard time shaking this lie, but not too long after that sermon we were free.)

  31. It takes confidence to leave. The pastors and leaders know this. That’s why they try to destroy your confidence.

    Every pointless rule has a point – to make you feel powerless.

  32. Here’s the thing – even those of us that did leave as soon as we could carry deep scars. Especially if we were children in the movement. I left at 19. It wasn’t soon enough.

  33. “When you come to your senses, you feel trapped with obligations to your family, your community and maybe your job. They have you believe you have nowhere to go.”

    My youth leader told me to my face that this was his philosophy – keep the kids occupied all week with activities, make sure all their friends are church friends, and they’ll have nowhere to go even if they wanted to.

    Thanks, Henry.

  34. It was, for us, a hard decision to leave also; we had invested a lot of time and had “friends” there and were involved. The church made it hard to leave, by implying that there was no other good church like them anywhere, and to leave them was to go downhill.

    I thank God for the gradual opening of our eyes.

    We didn’t denounce them or try to convince others; we are generally welcome, although some take the attitude that we are automatically evil because we left THEM.

    1. BTW, I sent a comment which asked them to clarify something. unfortunately, they will only print comments that they “approve”. In other words, they will not listen to ant comment which is in anyway “dissenting”. They obviously decided my nose wasn’t brown enough, and did not print my question ๐Ÿ™

    2. So their attitude to those who leave is essentially plugging their ears.

      Such fear… And we all know that fear is the path to the dark side.

      1. “Look, I’m a REAL Christian! I have my fingers in my ears! La la laaa….”

  35. Darrell, your post and every last one of these comments are a gut punch on so many levels: how these aches must grieve the heart of God? How many quietly suffer (using this word intentionally, without at all intending to be overly-dramatic; it’s the only honest expression) torment such as this?

    One’s relationship with God is often their foundation. The eternality and significance of everything else is often based on not only the inward, but also the outward expression of one’s faith. It is agony when it crumbles under the hammer of fundamentalism.

  36. This was…timely. I didn’t leave the IFB, I left the Plymouth Brethren (open, not exclusives). I’m still very much in the, “But it wasn’t really THAT bad, was it?” stage. But then I think about a conversation I had recently with a man who is still Plymouth Brethren, talking to me about the church I grew up in. He commented, “It’s a wonder you’re not a walking bruise.” Sigh.

  37. My family is leaving….all this and more. Good to see that someone understands. :'(

  38. I came way too close to getting trapped in the Ultra-Fundy bubble.
    And even tho Im still SouthernBaptist, my Fundy background still shows its ugly head from time to time.
    My current pastor then holds me to examination: “Justify your position with Christ’s Love & Mercy, then give me Scripture. Never give me ‘heritage’ as an excuse.”

    Leaving the Ultra-Fundy nest bubble is never easy.

  39. This makes me cry because we’re trying to go through the process of leaving right now, and it is a million times harder than I ever dreamed it would be! ๐Ÿ™

  40. โžก For those who want to leave, here’s a bit of advice: It is better to find a new church first, so that you are *going to* a new life rather than *escaping* the old life.

    If you find a new church first (just ask your old friends you haven’t seen for a while), then your energy will be spent building new friendships. You won’t waste your time worrying about what your old pastor thinks.

    You will heal much faster and integrate more quickly. I left my old church in 2013, and although I felt a bit lost for 3 months, I now have new friends…and what’s best is that I don’t have to pretend around them. We are like-minded. What a relief. ๐Ÿ˜€

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