Saturday, April 9, 2011

Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches (IFB) a cult?

Never in my life have a seen a piece of reporting that could be so incredibly damaging to the body of Christ.  As Christians, even if you are not part of a Baptist Church, we should be infuriated with the "investigative report" last night on ABC's 20/20.  They did everything in their power to undermine a branch of Christianity, thereby undermining all of Christianity and Biblical teaching.  My  post What Is A Cult? will give you some idea what I base my definitions on in this post.

According to 20/20 last night I've been affiliated with a cult for quite some time now and didn't even realize it.  Wow, I wish some one would have told me sooner.  Now my husband can stop trying to get ordained through said cult, and we can move on with our lives a happier and more stable family.  (end sarcasm)

Seriously though, if you didn't catch 20/20, I don't recommend watching this particular episode, and quite frankly if this is the type of reporting that they consider balanced, and investigative, I recommend skipping the show permanently.  The episode took a look at the secret "cult" that is lurking in most communities in the United States, the "Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches."  Most people don't even realize they're in their own neighborhoods! Gasp!  (Okay, my sarcasm is over now I promise)

My biggest problem with the program wasn't the fact that they exposed several church scandals, cover-ups, and child abuse.  I'm OK with that, if a youth pastor takes advantage of a young girl he should be in jail, not defended by a church who accuses the same young girl publicly of adultery while slapping the youth pastor on the wrists.  (just one example from their report) Unfortunately child abuse happens, it's sickening and we as the body of Christ should be mournful when it does occur.  In this day and age Clergy in my opinion need better training on handling these situations when they do arise, because it does touch so many people, therefore churches across America.

The part of this piece of "investigative reporting" that infuriated me was the fact that the Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches were repeatedly called a cult, by those who managed to "escape."  Perhaps the churches they attended were more "cultish" than the Baptist churches I've attended, but the reasons they gave for the "IFB" as it was so ominously called, being a cult were laughable at best.

One reason sited was the fact that the "IFB" (which arguably sounds more cultish than just plain Baptist) "takes the Bible literally."  The way it was said in the news story made my skin crawl, it was said in a scathing tone and context.  I suppose if taking the Bible literally, not adding anything to it or taking anything away makes me a part of cult, then shave my head and pass the kool-aid. (Scratch the shaving the head part, a woman's hair is her glory you know)

Another reason sited that the IFB, was a cult is because of all the rules the churches have, including standards of dress. (gasp!)  I realize in this day in age modesty is a strange thing to the world but seriously, this is a reason you say the IFB is a cult, is because most churches prefer women wear longish skirts and cover any exposed cleavage?! I suppose we should instead dress the way society deems normal and titillate any man that may enter the congregation.

According to 20/20 the IFB is also a cult because women are supposed to be subordinate to men, and the man has no one to answer to.  I suppose this one goes back to taking the Bible literally, a man is supposed to be the head of the house according to several places in scripture. Although 20/20 conveniently left out the fact that a man is supposed to love his wife so much he would be willing to sacrifice everything including his life for her, and the fact that he will be held accountable to God for his actions on earth, but what do I know I'm just a part of a cult.

Finally the crux of the report was that Baptist churches regularly support and preach on child-abuse.  I have in the past heard preachers say that there is nothing wrong with spanking, and legally in most states this is NOT considered child-abuse.  Even though 20/20 managed to find some extreme preachers who advocated much more severe forms of discipline than a simple "fanny whack" I believe they would be hard pressed to find even 5% of "IFB" preachers felt the same way if they did a simple survey.  But honestly why would they take the time to do that when they can just play the same sermon clips from the same handful of preachers over and over making it seem like all Baptist preachers advocate beating a child until he bruises.

In 20/20's "defense" they did interview a more moderate, read typical, Baptist pastor who insisted these Baptist churches were the extreme and not typical of all Independent Baptist churches, who by nature aren't even affiliated with one another.  I did consider what this Pastor said to be very eloquent and surprised 20/20 didn't edit most of it out, but let's be for-real one voice of reason in a 60 minute Baptist bashing piece isn't sufficiently fair reporting.  Also at the very end of the piece they tried to discredit everything the man said by pointing out he had 2 registered sex offenders in the congregation.

 The fact of the matter is sex offenders need church too, they certainly shouldn't be working with children, and parents should be aware of their presence. Thanks to  Internet databases they can be without the need for public embarrassment, and all parents with any age children should check these databases often.  People however shouldn't be excommunicated from a church if they are repentant.  Whether or not these men were repentant I don't know, but if past transgressions were the  test for joining a church, our churches would have no members.
 Had 20/20 truly wanted to be fair they should have found a baptist pastor who didn't have a registered sex offender in his congregation (which is most Baptist pastors) but I have a hunch they weren't going for fair when they selected this pastor just sensational.

Child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse happen, and unfortunately Christians are not immune to their affects and presence, but instead of showing the "IFB" as a cult which fosters this kind of activity, why not compare statistics to the rest of the general population.  I have a feeling they might be similar.  20/20 could have also shown child abuse in other religions, Islam, Buddhism, or  Hinduism,  but that wouldn't have been politically correct, would it?

 What is politically correct however is vilifying churches that teach the Bible is the inherent word of God, and Jesus is the only way to heaven. If society succeeds in making these beliefs look like the beliefs of a cult, then Satan has won a victory indeed.

When the interviewer Elizabeth was told by an "expert" that Baptist's think their doctrine is the only correct one, she looked shocked and repulsed.  Let's be honest, you should think you're church's doctrine is the only correct one! If church A says yes and church B says no there is no way they can both be right. 

I however have never met a Baptist preacher (although I'm sure there's some out there) who would  say if you're not a member of a Baptist church you're not saved, I supposse that teaching would be somewhat cultish. What I have encountered from the literally dozens if not hundreds of Baptist preachers I've met and listened to (I attended and work for a Baptist college so I encounter more Baptist preachers than the average girl) is that if you don't have Jesus, you're not saved.  Which is by definition exclusionary.  It's Jesus' work of salvation that saves us not attending a specific church. Again 20/20 chose the extreme preachers instead of the typical ones, in order to make it look like any church that takes a stand on correct doctrine must be a cult.

Hopefully most people will see the 20/20 report for what it was, sensational reporting.   Hopefully most people will see the child abuse as  a reflection on society and not Christianity as a whole.  I pray the next time I invite someone to church I won't be met with the response, "Oh you mean the cult over there by the rail road tracks."  I don't doubt there have been people who have suffered abuse from Independent Fundamental Baptist parents and pastors, but unfortunately abuse is present in every facet of society, whether it bears the name Baptist or not.

After reading some comments I would like to make myself clear. I have no problem exposing sex offenders, and child abusers, in fact if anything prevents more children from being abused I think it should be done.  It truly makes me sick what has happened to some within the church. People (children) are abused in every walk of life not just Baptist churches.  It's shameful and shouldn't happen, how things were handled in these churches was wrong, ABC went too far when they made it out like ALL Baptist churches were like this.  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18.  This is HORRIBLE!!!  Let's work on fixing this problem as a whole.

After 40 respectful comments of differing opinions one finally made it's way into my inbox that was just plain vulgar, for that reason and the fact that I don't have time to continue moderating and responding to comments I am closing them for this post.  I do however think a very good discussion follows and if you're still unclear on my stance I think my response to many of the comments clarify things.

This isn't one of my "normal" blog posts.  I try to keep things encouraging and not inflammatory. But as a Baptist and Christian I just had to respond to this report. If you're a woman looking for daily encouragement I invite you to join me more regularly here.

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