Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Post - Exposing the Independent Fundamental Baptist Denomination


Today's guest post comes to us from Sheldon Cooper, a 23 year old former fundamentalist, and an agnostic blogger from the St. Louis area. When he is not blogging, he is working full time in the warehouse industry, read more about him, and his views on life and religion at his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon.


As a child, I was part of a group known as the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) denomination. I attended one of their affiliated schools until the 5th grade, and then was homeschooled from then on with their curriculum.

Though my school background was in this group, the churches I attended were of different denominations, so for many years I had largely forgotten about this group and their teachings, and what I did know about them was only a fraction of what I know now, even though my sister was part of the organization until about 3 years ago.

I went on with my life, in the years following my firsthand experience with the IFB, and had a wild ride along the way that eventually led me from being a far-right Christian to an agnostic blogger.

When I became a blogger at the encouragement one of of my favorite bloggers, I didn't necessarily know what I would write about, or if anyone would read my blog, Ramblings of Sheldon. One day, in September, I found out that my sister's former pastor, Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, had been arrested, and then plead guilty to federal charges of sexual abuse.  This renewed my interest in the group.

I started researching the IFB denomination, and I found far more than what I expected. It was like an onion: the more you peel it, the worse it stinks. I knew I couldn't remain silent about what I had discovered about this group, and about my sister's personal experiences with them.

Once I started writing about the IFB in my blog's Exposing the IFB series, my readers responded with quite a bit of shock and anger. None of my readers had ever heard of this group before, and my Exposing the IFB series posts became the most popular in my blog, by reader count.

Here is why you should know more about the IFB:

Rampant pedophilia among their clergy and retaliation against victims and those oppose it

As I mentioned earlier, my sister's own former pastor Jack Schaap plead guilty to sexual abuse. He molested a 16 year old follower who had come to him and the church for counseling for previous sexual abuse.

What is more shocking than his actions are those of a New Hampshire IFB pastor named Chuck Phelps. When a teen girl in his congregation was raped by a deacon, Chuck Phelps not only forced her to apologize to her congregation for being raped, but made arrangements along with her parents to send her off to live with a family in Colorado so that she could quietly have the baby that resulted from the rape.

Was he rejected by the IFB for his deplorable actions? No, he was promoted to the board of Bob Jones University, a well respected college in the IFB world. Many students were furious when it came out what Chuck Phelps had done as a pastor, and organized a student protest called Do Right BJU, but their student leader was expelled only days before his graduation, with some rather questionable excuses given by the administration as to why.

Isolation from the outside world, and their belief that they are the one true branch of Christianity:

Any church that is not part of their IFB network is not a "Bible believing" church, as I was personally told by one of their ministers when I went to visit my sister as a teen. Even fellow fundamentalist churches don't make the cut. Not only are other churches deemed too corrupt, but the entire outside world and it's culture as well.

As I talk about my sister's personal experiences with the IFB in part 2 of my post on First Baptist Hammond, extreme measures are taken to protect teens and young adults (in the IFB, someone is not truly considered an adult until they are married) from what they believe is the evil outside world. In the case of my sister, at First Baptist Hammond's Hyles-Anderson College, dorm rooms were regularly searched, and staff members would listen to all recorded media, and any music that was considered "worldly", (translation: anything from the modern culture), would be confiscated and the student would result in disciplinary action. This happened to  adult college students, mind you, not teens living at home.

College students also could not go on dates by themselves, only in groups, and only with staff members accompanying them. Also, when the college would find work for the students, they were often given their own division in a company, with a follower of the church as a manager. The level of control they influenced upon students by isolation was astounding.

Hatred towards women, and treatment of them as second class citizens


In this video by Jack Schaap, you learn all you need to know about the IFB's sexist views, and how they often try to justify them, even stooping as low as he did in blaming the world's problems on Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

Married women are not allowed to work outside the home, unless it is in ministry or a family business. Birth control is not permitted, and it is not unusual for them to have up to 6 children per family.Though they don't use the term Quiverfull, they are identical to that movement in regards to their views on family, and regard many children as a sign of divine blessing. 

Hephzibah House

Read the full article [trigger warning for abuse survivors -HH] that I wrote on Hephizbah House - this is the most shocking, most horrific of all their secrets, the one they most definitely do not want you to know about (even though when challenged, they will deny it all). Hephizbah House is a home for teen girls in Indiana that IFB families have been known to send their daughters to if they judge them to be too disobedient to them. The pastor who runs the house, Ron Williams, has been responsible for acts of physical and psychological abuse for decades according for former residents who are now bravely publishing their stories on various blogs. Everything from forced labor under deplorable conditions, to girls being forced to wear diapers/being refused permission to go to the bathroom as a form of punishment, and brutal beatings that had physical effects decades later.

The Independent Fundamental Baptists are in my opinion, one of the most dangerous religious groups in the US, and a very powerful one with churches all across the country, and according to a Pew Research study, they make up about 2.5 % of the US population!. (Look at the statistic for Independent Baptists)

The time is now to expose this dangerous group. 
Read my archive of posts and resources for more information on the IFB.

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