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The 20/20 on growing up in Christian fundamentalism

The above is a clip from last night’s 20/20. You can watch the whole episode here. The episode is an expose of sorts about the denomination Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB). I say “expose,” but it’s difficult to expose a group of churches that do not claim to be connected.

But they are connected. By belief. By strategies. By friendships. By doctrine. By theologies. By rules and standards. By “college degrees” from Bible schools where IFB ways are taught. One IFB church might not have any say or influence over another, but they are most definitely connected.

What makes this church subculture (and a very large church subculture in fact), is that each church has the ability to govern itself. A preacher boy and deacon board borrow the ideals set forth from one of a handful of Bible colleges and then takes those ideals to various spots around the country and do their ministry.

20/20 focused on a few of key issues within IFB–sex, secrecy, child discipline, and sexism. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s difficult to put your finger on the problems with IFB churches because every church has its own unique problems while sharing a long list of common problems with every other IFB church. An IFB church is only as healthy as the preacher boy standing in the pulpit and the men on the deacon board who rule and govern over everything imaginable.

I had a mild panic attack watching 20/20. About 12 minutes before it ended, I had to turn it off.

I’m working on my taxes today or I’d write more… But Jesus says I need to pay my taxes, so I shall do that first.

Peace to you, friends.



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Steven

posted April 9, 2011 at 8:43 am


I turned off the clip after 2 mins. Remindes me too much of the movie “Jesus Camp” also. There is so much abuse in the Bride of Christ it is sickening. But the hardest thing to do is to forgive. They have no idea what they are doing.



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Darrell

posted April 9, 2011 at 8:43 am


It’s going to be a wild ride over the next few days for those of us who write extensively about the IFB world. I forsee some epic conversation threads.



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randomlychad

posted April 9, 2011 at 8:50 am


Haven’t watched the the exposé yet. Does the IFB have anything in common with the FWB (Freewill Babptist)?



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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted April 9, 2011 at 9:06 am


    It doesn’t Chad. Freewill is “organized” and therefore liberal in the mind of an IFBer.



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LRA

posted April 9, 2011 at 8:53 am


I could not make it through the whole clip. The “break the will of the child” philosophy of discipline is what I experienced with my dad (who is a deacon at a large Bible church in Dallas) and his wife. When I confronted his pastor a several years ago about it, I was told to forgive… that it was my duty to forgive.

I will never, ever forgive cruelty. What was done to me was and still is wrong. It is sick and destructive. Until my father acknowledges and apologizes for the abuse he and his wife put me through, I will not offer up any kind of “forgiveness”. I will remain strong in my conviction that cruel practices are to be called out and are to be loudly condemned. LOUDLY. ALL CRUEL PRACTICES… LIKE SCARING PEOPLE ABOUT HELL. LIKE DEMONIZING PEOPLE. LIKE REMOVING PEOPLE’S DISCERNMENT FROM THEM BY NOT ALLOWING THEM TO THINK CRITICALLY. IT IS WRONG!

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!



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    Green Eggs and Ham

    posted April 9, 2011 at 10:46 am


    The key feature of fundamentalism is taking away your voice. Doubly so if you are a woman. That is the goal and the means.

    You will not follow the Man of God and do whatever he demands if you still have a voice.



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      LRA

      posted April 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm


      Yes, this!

      I am sensitive to any attempts to hush me up. I don’t care if people don’t like what I have to say. I’m going to say it… not for them but for others who may relate to what I’m saying and feel like they are not alone.
      :D

      Our voices are our power!



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        Green Eggs and Ham

        posted April 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm


        I wasn’t beat or touched, but I was silenced. I know I studied philosophy in part to get my voice back.



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          LRA

          posted April 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm


          I was beaten severely. My parents were afraid of doctors.
          :(



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          Green Eggs and Ham

          posted April 10, 2011 at 1:58 am


          Damn, that is messed up. I hope you are safe and recovering now. I want to say something very snarky about all the crap you get thrown at you on this blog, but I am at a loss.

          I read every post you make, because I very much like what you say.



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          LRA

          posted April 10, 2011 at 8:22 am


          Aw! Thank you! I’m doing well… I had years of therapy to help me deal with the abuse. I came to accept that I’ve lost my dad. That was really the hard part, because I loved him. But I just can’t allow him to continue to harm me on any level… even absently. He thinks he’s a good Christian. I think he’s in denial about his problems and he hides from them using the church. His church is his enabler, because his pastor will not acknowledge the abuse either. They think I was a bad child and I deserved it. They said I was a sinner.



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          Green Eggs and Ham

          posted April 10, 2011 at 8:45 am


          That’s the problem, they all think they are good Christians.



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          vegas710

          posted April 10, 2011 at 7:51 pm


          Oh, LRA. I’ve gone through something very similar with my dad. The abuse wasn’t physical (most of the time) but verbal and emotional and cruel. How do you forgive someone who won’t even acknowledge what they’ve done?? Through years of therapy and some EMDR I was finally able to confront my mom. She was a good parent but she was silent as my father mistreated us and she was silent when I told her about sexual abuse that I experienced and that another family member was still experiencing. She surprised me and owned all of it. She didn’t make excuses. It was amazing. But my dad… he insists I never told him anything and that he didn’t do all the things we ALL say he did. Jackass is still a minister.
          Didn’t mean to say so much, just wanted to say I’m so, so sorry. Nothing makes up for a lost childhood.



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          LRA

          posted April 11, 2011 at 7:04 am


          Thank you! *hugs*



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      presentlyhuman

      posted April 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm


      I wasn’t raised in fundamentalism like this, but I was in a conservative Christian church and I have to agree with this. Being a woman it was “wear a sweet smile, stroke men’s ego, and never say a word against anything.” I was never very good at that, so I never was a strong enough Christian for them.



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        LRA

        posted April 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm


        “I was never very good at that, so I never was a strong enough Christian for them.”

        Yeah… I think it’s called b*tchiness…

        Of course, I don’t see myself as a b*tch… I see myself as assertive, but one man’s b*tch is another man’s assertive girl, so, there’s that…



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        vegas710

        posted April 10, 2011 at 7:52 pm


        OMG, this resonates so clearly with me. The “stroke men’s egos” part is especially true and damaging. GAH.



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Dianna

posted April 9, 2011 at 8:58 am


I watched most of the special (the last half) and now I’m going to go back and watch the last half.

It, for one, makes me very glad I was raised in a family that respects me as a woman. While my parents had some fundie tendencies (the emphasis on hell and rules was major growing up), they didn’t cop to that view of women, which has made a huge difference. I’m a feminist now because I want to see other families treat their women with the respect that my mom and I have received.



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JamesW

posted April 9, 2011 at 9:05 am


I watched it last night while it was live. Amazing how big a difference between what I saw and what I understand to be biblical Christianity.
What was described was horrific and inexcusable.

I just finished “Churched” this week, and could relate in many ways to your experiences as described there, but I cannot relate to what I saw on 20/20.



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    Green Eggs and Ham

    posted April 9, 2011 at 10:41 am


    I understand that you are using the Bible to condemn this behaviour. The problem is is that the Bible is a Rorschach Test. You find in it what you want to find.

    If you are a person of good will, then you see the good stuff. If you are not, then you end up with all kinds twisted uses of power and corruption.

    You have to have a moral compass to say that the Bible does not approve of any of this behaviour.



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      JamesW

      posted April 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm


      I don’t think I understand your comment.



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        Green Eggs and Ham

        posted April 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm


        On rereading yours and my post, I am fairly certain that what I was referring to had nothing to do with your post.

        I was trying to point out that a critical analysis of the Bible’s contents is essential to avoid using it as a defense of sorts of horrible things.

        I also don’t think the Bible itself is a very good defense against misuse. It does not give any advice on how to read it. Developing a good hermeneutic is a complex process, which fundamentalists are not reputed to have.

        My apologies for baffling you.



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ChadJ (randomlychad)

posted April 9, 2011 at 9:26 am


Thanks, mpt, for the clarification. At one time, I had a Freewill Baptist friend who “disfellowshipped” me when he found out I was an “old earther.” Hence my question, as this brother seemed very fundamentalist in outlook and practice.



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Nick

posted April 9, 2011 at 9:26 am


I agree, they say they are not “organized” but as you point out, they follow each others’ lead for sure.

For instance, the church where my dad worked, I went to school at for a while and my wife grew up would never allow women to wear pants to church/school/etc. They got word that First Baptist Hammond Indiana was allowing their teen girls to wear modest pants, and what do you know? So did this church.

All of a sudden all of these women who taught girls growing up that pants were bad and who would be seen in public only wearing long skirts all of a sudden were seen in public wearing pants as if they never taught they were sinful.

I’ve often said there are a lot of IFB people who owe a lot of people an apology or at least admit they were wrong. I can’t tell you how many people I grew up with or went to school with who now do not want anything to do with God because they think he is IFB. Yet, the people who taught them he was IFB have now changed their overbearing demands (in some ways) after they hurt and ran others off.



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Green Eggs and Ham

posted April 9, 2011 at 10:33 am


At some point it is impossible to separate the religion from the crime.



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Sisterlisa

posted April 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm


I agree, Matt. They ARE too connected. They have their little pockets of cliques among them. One clique of IFB may not be connected with another one for various reasons, but the original ‘doctrines’ that they are all wrapped around are the same. How they carry out those ‘doctrines’ in their circles can vary from time to time, but the underlying teaching is men are superior to women and women must submit, even when the husband is wrong. I have seen the same type of hushing of church members in the one I came out of 2 years ago. Unraveling from that legalisitic mess has been a nightmare. I say it’s about TIME their covers got stripped!

All the couples that were ever helpful to me in my early years of the IFB had all left the church, some moved out of state. I have been the only one who writes and speaks out about the church I came out of. Everyone else has walked away quietly to try and rebuild their lives away from the spotlight of it all. Kudos to all who shine the light brightly to raise awareness of the dangers found within the IFB and all fundamentalism.



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Scott

posted April 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm


You should’ve watched it towards the end, I used to go to the church that she ends up going to at the end of the program. I was blown away. These people of that church as just as good at ostracization and the reason I quit religion altogether. I just could not take “God’s people” acting like assholes towards me and my family.



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lisa

posted April 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm


Male-controlled, thrives on secrecy and oppression, lots of manmade laws, separatist, big time into spankings and “will-breaking”! Sounds REALLY familiar. I found it hard to watch this segment too. Maybe I should revisit my baggage a bit.

God is my healer. He is not a man. And he is good.

Oh, and my counselor said it’s okay to say they were “beatings” and “evil”. (It’s still hard to not think I deserved it. Being raised this way twists with your head.)



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Tim

posted April 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm


Watching this was very interesting. I thought it was just the church I grew up in, movies, pants for girls, etc… I then went to a Bible college, and found different. These churches exist not only in New Hampshire, but also in the furthest SW towns as well.



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Carole Turner

posted April 9, 2011 at 9:45 pm


I watched the entire thing and was so upset by it. I thought of your life story in Churched and Hear No Evil, several times during it MPT. I can’t imagine being raised in that world. Wow.



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Not an IFB Survivor

posted April 10, 2011 at 10:35 am


I wasn’t raised in the IFB, rather UMC but I am a sexual abuse survivor where the church was lax in helping my situation. It led to hush, hush and repeated offenses, that are surfacing now 20 years later. I can only imagine the humiliation of being blamed for the abuse afflicked on you. Thanks for sharing this story.



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