The IFBC cult
It's hard to describe a cult to someone who hasn't been in one. But at it's most basic, a cult is a group, led by an often charismatic leader that cuts itself off from everything “outside”. Inside, insularity rules; it's us versus them, and we're most holy. Everything that makes you question, everything that makes you doubt, it's evil, the Devil, Satan deceiving you! It must be cut off, removed, cut out.
Otherwise, you're going to hell.
Scientology is a cult, as are several splintered off Jewish, Christian and Muslim sects. So, is the Protestant sect most often known as the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. I'm sure not all IFBC's are cult-like. But I've been churched in four of them over almost twenty years, and they all taught the exact same, evil, insular, we're better than everyone else, because we're more holy gospel. If you find one that isn't, you've found your unicorn. Good luck with that.
When I turned 12 and my Dad went into the military we moved down south and I started attending a church that billed itself strangely to me. It called itself an “Independent Fundamental Baptist Church”. (The church, Alamogordo Baptist Temple is still there, still incorporated, however, I was unable to find anything else about the church. Evidently they building is there, but no one is tech-savvy.)
I had grown up in a Baptist church, and my mother loved the idea of being persecuted for Jesus, as I've mentioned before. So as part of our indoctrination-- I mean, home-- and church-schooling-- we had to read Foxe's Book of Martyrs and write a book report on it. I can't even describe to you how hard it is to write a book report on a book like Foxe's!
Foxe's is a listing, almost an encyclopedia, of people who got themselves hacked, eaten, burned, tortured, slaughtered, maimed and drowned. All in the name of Jesus. It's morbid, bloody and frankly, could probably give most torture-porn film writers ideas (for example, I remember reading some Roman emperor covered prisoners in pitch and used them to light his gardens at night-- living torches. Of course most of the prisoners were supposedly Christians who wouldn't convert back to Roman-pantheism, but there were your token rapists thrown in there, too). Yet, I had to write about it. I had to pick three or four different stories he told and summarise them, treat it like any other book report. [Which, if you've never had to write one, it's basically a “Such a Book, written by That Guy, published Then, is about A, B, C, and D. You usually summarise and then tell why you liked it, or didn't like it. It's to prove you read more than the back blurb. I would supposed you could get away with Cliff Notes, but I never tried.]
I hated that book. It gave me nightmares. I'm sure that was a sign of holiness, that the book could scare the shit out of a bunch of sheltered church kids. We had to carry that damned thing about, like it was a second bible, it was so important to the church, and our parents. I remember some one got yelled at, although I don't remember who it was now, for placing Foxe's under a book! Now, we'd get in trouble, and it was possible to get detention if we put any book on top of our bibles-- suddenly we had to do the same with Foxe's! So, when I was reading it, I'd sit them side by side. It was easier that way.
We also had to study-- and I mean study!-- a small tract called “The Trail of Blood.” [you can get a look at it, unfolded here, at Wiki Commons. Supposedly this tract, this folded up piece of paper showed how Jesus loved us, and we loved him back so much, so fucking much, that the Baptist Church was The Direct Descendent Of the Original New Testament House Churches!!! (Yeah, it was always spoken as though it was the title of some important work, this ancestry thing.) We were legitimately the followers of Christ, not those Catholic phonies, or those Protestant fakers.
All those little dots are supposed to show the church growth until today, how our baptist churches, but only the Independent ones, those in the SBC were like Catholic-Baptists, and totally cults-- how we'd been faithful, “even until death” through the ages, and Jesus would bless us and protect us and our church would grow grow grow because we were the right ones, and everyone else, every single other denomination of Christianity was Wrong, totally brimming with wrong, absolutely wrong!
Except maybe the Amish. Most of the members of the church were OK with the Amish. I don't know why. Most Amish are Lutheran, so it can't be because they're Baptist. I think it's a lack of real understanding about what the Amish and Mennonites believe.
Everyone else, though-- they were deluded, poor people, in Cults. Never a small “c”, either, it was always Cult, as though you could be in a denomination Cult. And we had to pray for them, “bless their hearts” that Jesus would shine his light on them, and they'd see the Truth (spelled “Independent Baptist Church).
Twenty minutes with Google and/or a decent religious encyclopedia will show you that the Baptist churches aren't the heirs to the kingdom, as it were. They're just another splinter sect, amongst hundreds, perhaps thousands of splinter sects. I know this now, after study and seeking real knowledge. At the time, with what little resources I had, I believed it! I thought we'd some how been better through time, than the other churches. I felt sorry for them. I mean, here we were being faithful doing everything Jesus told us, and those other denominations were not. Poor guys, they'll be so sad when Jesus comes back.
Such teachings train kids to lack and lose empathy, but to gain arrogance and certainty. In this life we have one--count it, One!--certainty: we will die.
That's it, that's all! My Grandfather (and probably yours, too) joked that Death and Taxes were unavoidable, and taxes would get you even after you died. Training kids, brain washing them under the guise of religious training (I'm using that word specifically, bear with me) makes them stop asking questions, because they know all the answers. It doesn't remind them that the only answer they honestly have is that everyone dies.
Of course, we all talked about “when we die” in the abstract. It was the question we were trained to ask people when we bothered them every Sunday afternoon: If you died today, would you go to heaven? (I am so sorry that I ever did that. I wish with everything I had, I could take that back. I am mortally ashamed that I ever thought I had the answers for all those questioning adults and teens.)
Some people that I went to school with didn't even think we'd die. A lot of the members didn't think we'd die. Because “Jesus was coming back” ™. We were going to be Raptured! That means he'd some how be seen by every single person, in the world, at the same time, hovering in the sky. Trumpets would sound a fanfare, that again, everyone would here, and the sky would “roll back like a scroll (pretty metaphor, isn't it?) then Woosh! Jesus would make all his precious Baptists-- cough-- I mean Believers, jump into the air, leaving their clothes and sin behind, and instantly get perfect, new bodies, probably in new clothes,. And we'd all go to heaven and be happy while the Tribulation happened down here, Dun, Dun Duuuuuun, and everyone dies!
If you've never read The Revelation of St. John, and you get bored one day. Give it a look. It's the fevered ramblings of a man slowly being poisoned by the (I think) volcanic gasses seeping up through the island floor. Yeah, he wrote about the end of time, stoned off his ass on sulphur and who knows what else. One of these days I'll unpack that whole Rapture, Armageddon thing. It's an interesting thought exercise, and freakishly frightening!
And Christians believe that shit! They believe that they're so special that they will miss out on the end of the world, but don't worry! They'll come back with Jesus at the end, and then there's a war, that they'll win, against Satan, and then they'll live happily ever after while Jesus throws their enemies (and me and everyone like me) into Hell for ever and ever and ever.
I remember, clearly as if it was yesterday, that I was talking to a girl I admired in school. She was two years ahead of me, and I loved to hear her sing. She was practising a duet with another girl, and afterwards I asked her if she was going to study music or voice at university.
“Oh, I'm not going to university,” she said, patting her hair. She had long, black curly hair that was always all over (and I love it, it was so beautiful!)
“Why not?!” I asked. She was smart, I knew she'd do well.
“Because Jesus will come before I graduate.” She was so matter of fact, so certain and sure that I was caught short. Me, all of 13, she was almost 16, she knew something I didn't?
“How do you know that?” I asked. I have to admit, I never really could believe in that whole Rapture thing.
“The signs.” It's always the signs, but never one they can show me, never mind say a count down clock.
“And if he doesn't? Then what?” I asked.
“Oh, he will! You wait and see, and it will be wonderful!”
I found out later she was devastated when the Rapture didn't take place before May of 1993. I guess she left the church and ended up using for awhile. I hope she's straightened out. But I also know what a blow it can be to a person when their religion is made false before their eyes. It can kill you inside to see logic demolish your tightly held childhood beliefs. The ones you parents taught you, and your parents would never lie! Right?
Part of that indoctrination, that brain-washing was of course modesty, which I've talked about before. All I can add, is the one thing I always ask: if you/some man can't walk down the street and see a woman completely naked without wanting to rape her, then you/that guy are the ones with the problem, not me, in my blue jeans and beat up tank top.
I was taught that women were second-class citizens, though. Even the nurses and doctors who went to church there, even the singers and the woman who played the piano who had a masters in music and taught at the university. We were all a little less, because we didn't have a penis.
I was taught that everyone outside the church was out to get us. We lived in hopes, yes hopes, of persecution. I remember one Sunday afternoon we were out “soul winning” we called it then. I call it bothering me when I'm trying to enjoy a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. We travelled in couples and never went inside the houses—for everyone's safety they said-- and when we got done with our street, one of the boys raised a question. The basis of it was: if they slam the door in our faces, or call us name, or cuss us out, did we do something wrong? (I think he was my age, so all of 13 maybe).
Of course we were told no , we were doing everything right. Jesus told his disciples, of which we were descended, that people wouldn't listen and would persecute them. So, be thankful that he let us be persecuted “for his name's sake”. Yeah, being told, “Would you please just go the fuck away!” is persecution. Makes the happy faces of the LDS and JW's make more sense, huh?
We were told to never try to get people mad, but to try to get them mad at us, so we could testify to our persecution. I got some doors slammed in my face, and some “I'm <this religion/denomination> I'm not interested, have a nice day.” Of course the kinder they were, the more persecutory they were. (No, I don't know how that works.) I guess it's a case of, those poor kind people, over taken by Satan, but I'm not sure.
We were told to glory in our persecution. It was what Jesus wanted.
More arrogance, more antipathy to our fellow humans. All in the name of Jesus, and our fundamental church.
This church was very insular. It was one you'd walk in to, if you didn't know anyone, and instantly feel out of place. We had an in, my grandparents were members there. He worked on the buses-- that is the kids who's parents didn't go to church, but let us pick them up on Sunday School buses, and she taught Sunday school. Of course they'd go out of their way to make you feel welcome, and make sure your doctrine was right. Otherwise, they'd “pray” for you.
This church was fairly large, too. The women always in culottes or skirts and dresses, and the boys never ever wore tee-shirts unless they were home. We probably looked a lot like your average Mormon church members, actually. But if I were to say that to any IFB member I'd probably get punched in the face-- everyone knows, those LDS are cultists, after all. Everyone but us, is a good explanation. Everyone out there is in a cult, except us. And those atheists, they're <whispering now> fully taken by Satan. So we had to pray for them, and their secular progressive-secular humanist way of life (I never did learn what the hell secular-humanist was, until I was an adult. And frankly it wasn't bad.)
This church taught me that if anyone disagreed with me, they were probably possessed by daemons; because I was supposed to only say things that the bible proved, and the devil hates the bible. So therefore, they were possessed. Then I was supposed to watch and see if they cursed me, or did anything If this happened, I was supposed to find the closest man of the church, never a woman, who would start praying loudly and who knows what else. Thankfully I never encountered anyone who I thought was really possessed. I'd have cried with fear, if I had. All the horrible things I'd been told about daemons, it was right out of Poltergeist, The Omen, Rosemary's Baby and Amityville Horror. Yeah, I was taught doctrine (the how and what It is about the faith) using horror movies as templates. But, I've discussed how moronic evangelicals are when it comes to Satan. It just can't be over stated, I don't think.
I think the worst thing, and best example for the cult-like atmosphere has to be the way we teens were treated. Strangely, I remember this pretty clearly, too, even twenty years later. One girl, her name was Tammy. She was tall, brassy and had the most awesome head of curly, red hair. I loved her. She, a girl I knew named Nina, and I were very close. Then, Tammy got beat up at school (she went to the public school) and raped. It was pretty horrible. She had just turned 14, I think (we were all roughly the same age, except me being an October-baby, I was always younger than everyone else in my grade).
A 14 year old girl who was faithful to our church, sang in the choir, helped in the nursery and loved Jesus with all her heart, was beaten half to death, and raped, at school (it was a football game, if I remember right), and what did the church do?
Us girls closed ranks around her. We were young, impressionable, and someone hurt one of us! She was One of Us!
The boys were ashamed, as is often the case when a young woman is assaulted most men feel it personally-- as though they were supposed to be there to protect her. She was One of Us!
My mother, I remember was aghast, as was Nina's Mum. Several of the ladies in the church were pretty upset, and made sure to help Tammy's family (you know, bringing dinner, watching the little ones while Tammy's parents were with her in hospital-- they kept her in there for a couple days).
The church leaders, though. The men, the Pastor, the deacons, the ushers... they were so nonchalant. Is there a word that is nonchalantly nonchalant? Blasé doesn't even come close to their attitude. They were so unconcerned, that it was as if it had never even happened. The teen slang, “whatevs” now, that's about the level of caring these men availed themselves, to. She'd been raped and beaten, whatevs. She was in hospital, whatevs. She was going to need re-constructive surgery on her nose and cheek bones, whatevs.
My youth leader, and I can't remember her name, she asked to put Tammy on the prayer list, a catch all for “hey, if you pray, remember this”, and the Pastor almost sneered. “Yes, Of course, Tammy... she was assaulted on the school grounds, at night. We will of course pray for her.”
Now, reading that, sounds like he'd made a mental note, and then forgot, right? But that's not what he meant. He told all the men in the church, that she was asking for it. She was out at night, alone, evidently, with no explanation that she was at a game. And so she was just asking for someone to hurt her.
“She should have known better.” The pastor's oldest daughter said to us. She was your stereotypical dumb blonde, so I was pretty surprised she could say such a thing; her younger sister, a girl my age was cruel and nasty-- she jumped right in with “Only bad girls are out at night where they could get into trouble.”
“Into trouble” meant pregnant. Tammy wasn't pregnant. She'd been raped! No one asked her, they just took.
But no, the pastor decided Tammy was bad, and so it was something she deserved, being put into hospital.
To this day, I can't help but remember the horror I felt when I realised that the church I loved, that I thought was Jesus's church would throw my friend out like that. Oh, they never told her she wasn't welcome, and most of us opened our arms to her, trying to help her get better inside and out. But the people who set the tone, the leaders, they showed her she was worthless, because she wasn't a boy, she was ruined and she wasn't a good girl. Good Girls didn't let men rape them. Good girls were home with their parents when it got dark.
When we got back to the States, my mother found another church, just like this one. We'd been to two different little Baptist cults while we were in Germany, and several churches we'd visited that weren't sufficiently Christian enough. The one she found in Paw Paw, Michigan was the worst one yet. This pastor claims he was a user, a horrible person, a drunk. You name it. He never said he killed anyone, thankfully, or I'd have called the cops. But he used, and dealt, and was just eeeevil!
Then, Jesus came down, and saved him!
Now, he's sanctimonious, crude, nasty and thinks women are breeders.
Isn't it wonderful what “the blood of Jesus” does in an IFBC?
I have heard of IFBC's kicking girls out who had been raped and impregnated-- for adultery. The girls were kicked out, but not the men who raped them. Of course she ruined his life, not the other way around. I've heard of men beating their wives, and the women being told they weren't submissive enough. I got a call from that pastor one day in my 20's; my mother'd told him about the marital trouble I had, and he told me I needed to submit myself to my husband, and God would make him be a better man.
Right, submit to a tyrant! When we split up, I got another call, telling me I wasn't welcome there any more. I just told him take his stupid shit and stuff it up his ass, “Your own parents are divorced, and attend that church, you sanctimonious wind bag!” I'm sure I said other, choicer things, but I remember calling him a wind bag.
I kinda meandered my way through this one, I know. I've been thinking about the mindset and how I had to break out of it when I left Christianity. The idea that I was a martyr in training, some how, that Jesus would love me more than someone else, because I'd been persecuted for him. I know now, that these people wouldn't know persecution if they saw it-- they have no idea of what persecution is-- other than it's something they do to other people.
Persecution isn't being disagreed with, it's being tortured, abused, wronged. If I'm going to persecute you, you'll know, I promise.
I should remember that for the Mormons who come to my door: “Hold still, let me persecute you good and proper before you leave.”
Talk about turn about, huh? They might just die, if they had to accept the treatment they dish out to us non-believers, Us LGBT citizens, us Pagans, us Jews, Muslims, Hindu and Atheists. Us thinkers, us workers, us Socialists...
[Any thing’s better than being a Socialist, you know. I'm one, and I get called Fascist, Marxist, Communist pig all the time. Yeah... dunno about that fascism part, either.]
But, Let's persecute the shit out of these Christians. It makes them happy! And it gives them some excitement in their otherwise conforming lives.