Fed up with Fundamental Christianity? Sick of the hypocritical life and judgmentalism that is so typical, the more conservative you get? Well, you are not alone! (You may notice that the vast majority of ultra conservative churches are small and dying. . . there’s a reason.)
While it may be that you have been hurt and burned by judgmental Christians who are stuck in legalistic practices, that is probably not your reason for doubting Fundamentalism, or even Christianity as a whole. . .but it may have forced your questions out.
I’ve personally done some polls on Atheist boards, to find out what caused Christians to go away from Christianity as a whole, and it was almost exclusively because of questions they had, that Christianity couldn’t answer, and/or a higher education or maturity causing them to question.
Some people leaving Fundamentalism (or Christianity) may have questions of the history of their dare I say, cult, and it’s leaders. . . so I have compiled some info that might be helpful and interesting to those seriously questioning or leaving fundamentalism .
Some background of fundamentalism:
In many ways, First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN. is ground zero for all things Independent fundamental Baptist (IFB). First Baptist is one of the largest churches in America. It’s more like a state government with many outlying dominions than it is simply a church.
Hyles-Anderson is an “outreach ministry” of First Baptist Church (FBC). Hyles-Anderson College , one of the many unaccredited IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptist) colleges to which IFB families send their teens post-Homeschool. A list of IFB colleges is here. (Interesting note: IFB colleges grant leading IFB pastors or Missionaries honorary Ph.D.’s, which then allows them to claim the title “Dr.” with no actual schooling involved. . .my Grandpa had an honorary Doctorate for his 35 years as a Missionary in Africa.) Some of these, like Liberty University become accredited IMO, only by cheating. The State requires that they teach evolution in science class, so they teach a course on how wrong evolution is. As no real science professors believe that anymore, the quality of an education in all the sciences is inevitably going to be very poor at these “accredited” Christian schools. The science professors may have doctorates even, but you can bet they are honorary ones.
From 1959 until 2001, FBC was run and utterly dominated by pastor Jack Hyles. Here’s the juicy stuff on him from His Wiki entry:
“Jack Hyles built First Baptist up from fewer than a thousand members to a membership of 100,000. In 1993 and again in 1994, it was reported that 20,000 people attended First Baptist every Sunday, making it the most attended Baptist church in the United States. In 2001, at the time of Hyles death, 20,000 people were attending church services and Sunday school each week.
Jack Hyles’ daughter, Linda Hyles Murphrey, recently sent shock waves throughout the IFB by doing the unthinkable: publicly talking about her father. You can watch Ms. Hyles’ talk here, and/or read its transcript here. Highlights from her talk include:
“My dad lived a double life: one of a righteous family man and dynamic speaker in the public eye; but one of sordid sexual secrets privately. Secrets that only my siblings, and me, and my mom knew. He hated my mom—hated her; treated her terribly; abused her and even turned his own children against our mother. We hated her. He told us she was crazy. We thought to make him happy, we’d hate her too.
Our home was filled full of turmoil, hatred, stress, strife, and as a little girl, it was isolating, it was intense, and it was frightening. He had affairs. He had a mistress for many years, the wife of a Sunday School teacher. [He] built her family a beautiful home right around the corner from our house. You could see their family from our back door.
I felt like I had one main responsibility as a child. It was simple but daunting; and that was to keep all the secrets. There were so many. You see he had taught us that the best way to please God was to please him, because he was God’s man. And he taught us that to please him, we had to keep all the secrets. We could never even tell our best friends what went on in our home because we might be the cause of the destruction of his ministry.
I know I wasn’t going to be happy unless I was free, but I knew I wasn’t going to be free unless I could muster up some courage to get out of there. I had to cling to, and act upon, that tiny shred of courage in order to finally leave a cult; the only friends I’d ever known; my childhood connections; my history; my family. Knowing that in doing so, I would finally have what I had longed for my entire life, and that was freedom [and] truth.”
Sadly this is the story of so many pastors kids, and has I’m sure led to the thought that it’s because of the over involvement in the ministry that the kids rebel. Whereas, the control and pressure put on kids in the ministry, even if they don’t feel like they are hiding huge secrets and hypocrisy will inevitably cause rebellion in any strong willed child. The shy ones are already beaten down sheep, and probably don’t know they are even being controlled.
Anyhow, strangely, when Jack Hyles died, the FBC dynasty was inherited not by his son, but by his son-in-law, Jack Schaap. Jack Schaap is married to Hyles’s daughter Cindy.
Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church and Chancellor of Hyles-Anderson, was soon discovered to be having an adulterous affair with a then 16-year-old girl. An FBC deacon found on Schaap’s cell phone a photo of Schaap and the girl kissing; Schaap admitted to the affair; he was fired from the pastorate of FBC. (You can read more about the story here, here, or here.)
To learn why David Hyles, the only son of Jack Hyles, did not (as would be customary) inherit the reins of the FBC dynasty from his father, listen to the audio transcript of Preying From the Pulpit, a five-part series about FBC produced in May 1993 by WJBK of Detroit, Michigan. (Short version: David is an out-of-control sex and porn addict who had innumerable adulterous affairs at the various FBC churches he has pastored—and continues to work at—across the country.)
Another of the big influences to the rise of Fundamentalism, is Jerry Falwell. While it’s not known if he had any dirty private life like many of the other big names, he more then canceled out that piety with his Bigotry and dogma in his public life. Jerry Falwell was very politically minded, and stood for control and/or aggression both in local and global actions. He wanted to (ideally) force people (by a state endorsed church) into doing things the way he believed God wanted things done in this country. . .Which if it were just the good, mutually agreed upon moral standard of the golden rule, that would be fine, but as a Christian would not want to be forced to do the religious rites of the Jew or Muslim, our conscience should tell us that it is wrong to force the Christian’s religious standards on the nonbeliever. Jerry didn’t follow his conscience though apparently, and chose instead to follow the ancient prejudices, racism, sexism and bigotry found in the Bible.
He sought to be a political power in his own city first, by making sure the city’s main roads ran right up to the church, and later, having the roads all bottle neck at the Bible College he started called Liberty University. The college has their own police force that look the same as the city police to me. . . As well, their non citizen students are now allowed to vote on city matters, usually having nothing to do with them. . .and of course they are told how to vote, in no uncertain terms. Powerful political figures are frequent visitors at Liberty; Mitt Romney was there a few months back. This lack of separation of church and state was both admitted to and justified in Jerry’s mind, in his words : “The idea of separation of Church and State was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.” (As if Christians are the only ones in it!)
He also thought all public schools should be forcibly brainwashing our children with one religion, his of course. “Somewhere in the past generation, we’ve lost our biblical mind . . . We need a spiritual brainwashing. We must fight against those radical minorities who are trying to remove God from our textbooks, (and) Christ from our nation. We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours.”
Kind of sounds like he’s following in the steps of the Israelites to me. . . He went so far as to say that: “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”
While I agree that the public schools are a joke (and any kids with brains stands out in them now), his solution would not help. . . as is pretty obvious when you look at the many Christian teachers and schools having no apparent difference then the equally well funded non-Christian ones. . . (many big Christian schools have the same behavioral issues as the public schools do, even though they have daily chapel and prayer.) A higher teacher per child ratio would do wonders I believe, as well as personal counseling and training in behavior and character for both teacher and children. I think less structure, less stern discipline and a flexible curriculum would help too, IMO. Ideally though, people would mostly homeschool their kids. That is what was done in “the good ol’ days”, and usually works great still today. . .presuming the parents aren’t ultra religious and living in a sheltered bubble of ignorance from the rest of the world.
Falwell also claimed that “Any one who doesn’t support the Iraq war is anti-American”. As he was with the “in crowd” in the white house, he likely realized that the war was a farce and was started through deceptive measures of our own government on 9/11. (For more on that, watch part 2 of the controversial movie, Zeitgeist ).
Jerry Falwell instead tried to blame civil libertarians, feminists, homosexuals, and abortion rights supporters for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to which Rev. Pat Robertson agreed. “God Gave us ‘What We Deserve,’ Falwell Says.”
It seems a majority of people felt that it was wrong to abort the unborn baby late term, and Falwell capitalized on that, in order to get a Christian President in office. Bush SR. was anti abortion enough to pass a law outlawing late term abortion, but did nothing for the conservative right wing Christians’ agenda besides that. The funny thing is, previously before his big anti abortion stand with Bush, he had said that he had no qualms with abortion. No well known Christian group, save the Catholics, opposed abortion openly before this. Actually, all the large protestant churches even said “it was a Catholic issue”, and opposed all involvement until around election time. . . (More on that from God in America, on PBS.)
Falwell had an interesting perspective when it came to woman in this enlightened culture, especially those who worked outside the home. He claimed:
“I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom.
Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home…they’re mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men – that’s their problem”
Sadly, he didn’t realize how wrong that was. Feminist/Strong woman do not hate men, except sexist ones like him maybe. . . nor do weak men have anything to do with the woman being strong. The woman are likely that way only because the men aren’t strong, and have been dehumanized by abuse of some sort. (More likely though, they were just attracted to strong woman because opposites attract.) No one can control a person and no one can change a person into a passive servant without their consent. (If you don’t understand that concept, you need to read a great book called Boundaries.)
His thoughts on homosexuality were as follows:
“I do not believe the homosexual community deserves minority status. One’s misbehavior does not qualify him or her for minority status.”
He believed anyone who didn’t stand with him in his brand of Christianity is inferior, saying: “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”
He goes on to mock other religions by saying “I think Mohammed was a terrorist.”
It seems he was not happy with even the Christian leaders he got elected though. . .
“We have been victimized by traitorous behavior on the part of our leaders.”
This quote came at the end of a 12 year republican rule. George Bush Sr.was president at the time.
So did a right wing “Christian” make a difference in the White house? Did George Bush sr. do all that the right wing Fundamentals believed he would do for this country? The Daily Beast stated it well when they said, “The damage this single president did to the core of the country’s fiscal health – and our ability to weather a storm like 2007 – 2009 – is hard to find parallels with. Money quote:
To understand the history of religion in general in this country (America) and how it has influenced politics and freedom, you need to watch a PBS series on Netflix called, God in America: How religious liberty shaped America. I think if we don’t know our history we are more likely to repeat it.
Not only was religion a big influence in the politics of this nation, but it set up the children to be a susceptible bunch of sheep. (Which we are already hardwired to be as you can see in this very informative Youtube video, Why we believe in gods)
To question any authority in the past (or still in some religious circles,) was considered disrespectful, arrogant and proud. . . at any age. (That is one thing that makes abuse of power so easy for pastors, and I find a striking parallel to the abuse of power from those in the medical profession as well. To question their knowledge is considered to be arrogant and proud, but it may actually just be coming at an angle that they were never trained in, and that they have never considered. . .just like the pastor only studying one source for truth, and not checking the source first.)
Children were to be seen and not heard, and were deemed to be disrespectful and badly behaved if they asked questions of their authorities, which was called, “talking back”. (Something I am proud to say that I did constantly, I was told. . .) Of course these parents had to control these free thinking kids, because they probably noted that this tendency led to “heresy” (like it did with me,) but usually you were just demeaned as “rebellious”, or “argumentative” (Both of which are a complement to your intelligence.) and made to feel guilty for it.
My post Let’s talk about agism in America gets into the mental and physical abuse of children, done in the name of religion. Another good source that talks about it was a recently aired show called, “Ungodly Discipline“. It is about the child abuse within IFB.
“To Train Up a Child” by authors Michael and Debbie Pearl is a popular book within conservative circles, and has done untold harm to children! Why Not Train Up a Child is just what it claims to be: a clearinghouse of information and arguments refuting the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. If you have children and have been influenced by these people,(like I have,) or just by ancient biblical teachings in general, you need to consider the ethics and psychology it brings up and look into it, and/or attachment parenting. Attachment parenting offers discipline options that don’t leave you guilty and feeling like a bad parent. (I’ve found that attachment parenting also negates the need for other discipline methods, (for the most part). I’ve seen how many past struggles with disciplining my first two children were simply unnecessary power struggles we had. . . because they didn’t feel loved, just controlled.)
There are many privately operated Christian “homes” across the country to which IFB families send their “troubled” teens. (The more the child was raised under biblical control and “God’s way” of discipline, the more likely they will be troubled. . .thus the high rate of “pastors brats”.) They are forced to live there to be disciplined back into obedience to God. Because they are owned and operated by churches, such homes are typically exempt from any sort of licensure or government oversight. Introduced in Part 2 of “Ungodly Discipline” is a former resident of one of these homes called Hephzibah house. She wrote a website about it called Hephzibah Girls; her personal testimony about her experience at Hephzibah House is here.
Paradise Recovered is a new film about a sincere extreme Fundamental young woman tentatively making her way in the real world after getting a job, meeting an educated Atheist, and learning how to think and stop the control and abuse of her life in a cult. . . . When abuse leaves her guilty, betrayed, friendless and broke, she finds no sympathy or help from those who had claimed to love her, but realizes instead that true love is found in an Atheist who accepts her. Sadly, it’s a classic story, which is unfolding for one good friend and pastor’s son at the moment. . .
The invention of Lying is a movie that, although definitely not appropriate for children, its very funny and deep at the same time.
Blog on the Way is one of the best online resources for assisting victims of church abuse in Christian Fundamentalism. (Note its sidebar, The Christian Fundamentalist Roll Call of Shame: Child Abusers in Christian Fundamentalism.)
Written by ex-IFB pastor turned Atheist, the outstanding blog The Way Forward offers a clear-eyed insider’s view of IFB. I was addicted to his wisdom, and kind, scientific style of blogging.
If you search for Independent Fundamental Baptists on the very popular site Stuff Fundies Like you get posts from fellow Christians debunking the hypocritical teachings and harmful doctrines in Fundamentalism.
Vyckie Garrison’s exemplary blog No Longer Quivering, is a gathering place for women escaping and recovering from spiritual abuse from all religions. Garrison offers a wealth of sensitively presented information and insight about the Quiverfull movement, popular and growing amongst Christian fundamentalists, which claims that truly godly families should “trust the Lord” with their family planning. It too is a religious site condemning Fundamental practices as abuse.
The patriarchal, ego-fortifying, psyche-destroying, soul-crushing, domineering, brain-washing, fear-inducing, manipulative, spiritually abusive world of the fundamentalism I know is a deeply affecting letter published by a woman raised IFB and now just a more balanced thinking progressive Christian.
And last but not least, check back regularly to my blog, for an education and challenge to consider a different perspective to health or religion.