Home > Christianity, Personal, Religion > Former IFB still in recovery…

Former IFB still in recovery…

I don’t talk much about my short stint in Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Land but the scars are still there. So much that I feel compelled to write a book (fiction) about it. I don’t know if there’s a Christian publisher out there crazy enough to publish it but I see it as a story that needs to be told. (I like to think Matthew Paul Turner‘s publisher might be a good place to start…)

For the first 16 years of my life, I grew up Roman Catholic. I went to Catholic schools throughout my entire primary and secondary education. I was baptized into the Catholic Church, received communion, and was even confirmed. (My confirmation name was Kateri Tekawitha.)

My uncle and aunt on my dad’s side began attending a church on the border of Queens and Nassau County, Long Island and soon my father began to go to church with them. I later joined my father and was immediately introduced to born-again Christianity. The first time I heard of hellfire and brimstone was the very day that I raised my hand and went forward during the altar call hoping I could avoid eternal damnation. I don’t think I became a “believer” that very day but it was a turning point for me in my Christian spirituality.

As a Catholic, I found that the one thing keeping me from committing suicide was the teaching that if I killed myself, I’d be plunged into an eternal hell. As a born-again Christian, I found the one thing that kept me alive was the teaching that Jesus loved me so much and died in my place to keep me out of hell. Perhaps this is why I gladly left the Roman Catholic Church for a Protestant one. (Although IFB preachers shun the term “Protestant.”)

The main character and protagonist of my novel, Ms. Montez, is based off of me. I’m careful not to make her exactly like me but the similarities are evident and many of the events affecting her and surrounding her are based on my personal experiences.

Ms. Montez is a 16-year-old Hispanic female who suffers from depression and frequently sees suicide as a viable option after struggling with being teased at school, the abandonment of her older brother, and the absence of real-life friends. But just like most people who attempt suicide, Ms. Montez does not want to necessarily die—she wants to be freed from the pain of depression; Ms. Montez is on a quest for inner peace.

When Ms. Montez visits an IFB church that her aunt goes to, she expresses an interest in knowing more about Jesus. She is drawn in and “sold” on born-again Christianity when it sounds as though she is promised freedom from depression, loneliness, and suicide through the cross of Jesus Christ.

There is more to the story but the book goes on to address issues that are common not just in IFB churches but in many Christian churches today: mental health, hypocrisy, greed, gossip, adultery, and legalism. If taken the wrong way, I firmly believe the book could be read as a condemnation on Christian churches, but it is not meant to be so. The book is about a young girl’s struggle to find and maintain a relationship with God in the midst of this messy, broken-down world of sin—the church not excluded.

So many people have been hurt and burned by Christians in churches. My personal experience has been with the IFB world, and as such, the book centers around that. The book is not a commentary on all IFB churches but rather, undesirable characteristics that are frequently found within them.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Many of the events in the book are based on mine or other people’s real-life experiences:

  • The white youth pastor from the Midwest who showed up to an inner city youth group meeting in blackface
  • The church that virtually worshiped the pastor and ended up with cult-like features
  • The married youth pastor who had an affair with a teenage girl
  • The pastor who guilts his congregation into attending every church activity
  • The Christian who has been burned one too many times by other church members and feels he can no longer trust anyone in “the church”
  • The greedy pastor who laid a heavy burden on his congregants to tithe but bilked much of the money from the church
  • The pastor who preached against gossiping from the pulpit but would divulge personal matters of members’ lives to other people
  • The pastor who chewed a woman out at church for catching her wearing pants at the mall instead of a long skirt
  • The well-meaning yet holier-than-thou church member who tells a person struggling with mental illness that they need to pray more, read the Bible more, have more faith, or repent of sin in his or her life

It is in the midst of all of these things (and more) that my protagonist must seek to rely on God. It seems like an impossible feat. And in so many ways, it is. But with God, all things are possible. Ms. Montez manages to do it, which reminds me that I can too.


I created a Facebook page called I Am A Recovering Independent Fundamental King James Only Baptist. A few friends mentioned to me that they wanted to join the group but didn’t want to make family members still entrenched in IFB churches mad. I could only help but smile: my book will probably manage to do that and more to family and friends. But on the other hand, I think my book might also allow family and friends to identify with some painful experiences—much more valuable than a Facebook fan page, for sure.

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  1. internet elias
    April 9, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Good post. It appears you learned ‘the hard way’ that ‘churchianity’ and ‘Christianity’ are two very different things. We are each of us accountable to God for the things we do while calling ourselves by His name …CHRISTian. But the Word remain True. It points us to one who will NOT disappoint. One who WILL restore. One who LOVES from a pure heart. Many churches today are like Ephesus who was doing some really good things….but they had left their ‘First Love.’ Christ never intended a wooden or brick building to be called the Church. He was clear that He desired His Spirit to be present with us…that each believer would be the Body of Christ. That each believer would be the Temple of God. I suspect God is equally as disappointed with ‘churchianity’ as you are. :smile:.

    Mt 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

    Mt 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

    Joh 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    >>>>>>> She is drawn in and “sold” on born-again Christianity when it sounds as though she is promised freedom from depression, loneliness, and suicide through the cross of Jesus Christ.

    God’s promises are true. Not one is broken. We are the ones who refuse to draw near to Him. He desires that we KNOW Him through personal fellowship. He is a living BEING….not a system of belief :smile:. He will give you PEACE.

    Mt 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

    Mt 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

    Jas 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

    Jas 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

    Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

    ‘Churchianity’ teaches that we can ‘dabble’ only a little in the things of God….and receive all His power and blessings. I DUN’T TINK SO! ;smile:. With God…it is ALL or NOTHING. We cannot serve two masters and fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Hope you are doing well!

    Very good post. Thanks.

    Carolyn / internetelias.wordpress.com

  2. April 9, 2010 at 10:29 PM

    While I wouldn’t call myself a “recovering IFB” type, I did grow up in that environment, and I certainly recognize most of the events you listed – some seen, some heard about.

    I’m in a different sort of church now, and the journey that got me where I am was certainly not one an IFB would approve of (hey, I didn’t either), but it has shown me things about God’s love and grace that I don’t think I would have learned any other way.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve tried to not “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” not getting rid of anything I learned at an IFB just because it was IFB. If it’s in the Bible, that’s the important stuff, regardless of where it was taught.

    I’m interested to someday read this book, Kass. It sounds frightfully interesting to me 🙂

  3. April 12, 2010 at 7:01 PM

    you can also read a book called “stumbling toward faith” by renee altson (me!) … published by zondervan in 2004/2008.

  4. April 12, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    I grew up at PCC….my aunt and uncle worked there, my grandparents went to Campus Church and I went to the elementary school and the middle school…until my extended family “fell out of grace” and it was made clearly known to my parents that our relationship to them might make it difficult for me to continue attending school there.

    I would definitely read your book (I hope you can get it published) Besides PCC there were also lots of visits to Ruckman’s church and Kent Hovind’s place (yes, I know the three of them were feuding, but my parent’s apparently didn’t get the memo, so I got to experience all of them) the things that you mentioned were all things that I either experienced or know people who did as well. Those IFB stories stay pretty much the same across the country it seems. There are issues in other denominations as well, of course, but there is just something about the way the IFB seeks to control every aspect of your life that makes those wounds deeper.

  5. sam
    April 12, 2010 at 9:59 PM

    Sounds interesting. Thank goodness I got out of the IFB I had been going to for 2 years, got scalded enough while there. It’s just so obvious there’s something wrong with those churches.

    Some of your points sound familiar, from experience other characteristics include: if you don’t join in all the church activities, there is doubt cast on your character, as to whether you’re actually a Christian.
    “Teaching” on the weaker brethren, which is just a patting all the “inner-circle” on the back, and push & shove for those on the outer.
    People are encouraged to be “going all for Jesus”, which means that you must participate in all church organised “soil winning”, letterboxing, door knocking, and if you don’t have the time / energy, once again doubt is cast on your Christian walk, and any non-church organised witnessing (such as in the workplace or any other situation) is regarded as not counting in your going all out for Jesus.

    I could go on until the churched come home, but I’d better leave it there.
    I must say, I can’t wait to read your book.

    sam

  6. April 13, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    Good Post. Funny Sad Stories…

  7. April 20, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    I think it’s time to let all the dirty laundry out of the church b/c there are way too many people who live in that bubble and need to know they are hurting people instead of loving them to God.
    I also think we need to be careful when doing this, attacking the spirit that doesn’t obey the Lord, not the person, because only God can judge them.

    I pray God gives you wisdom and the spiritual discernment to effectively impact his kingdom through your writings. Amen, another talent given to expand the truth and love God has for people!!

  8. E.B. R.
    July 31, 2010 at 4:14 AM

    I would love to have that simple unquestioning faith that Jesus Christ mentions as he talks about the qualifies of a very young child. He does reach out his hand just as he reached out to his doubting apostles too.

    My initial high school experience with IFB churches actually started out in a positive way in the sense that they provided prayer, activities and fellowships and spiritual guidance for those who wanted to live a sanctified life. I loved the music so much too. I have found memories of some of the wonderful times. There are people who have been strong inspirations. While the King James is not the only version I read, I still love the Old English translation for its poetry. I did love the campmeetings too. I had friends. I think there were about four years in my live where I was intensively involved in the IBF movement, initially with excitement and enthusiam. But as I got older, that turned into despair and confusion, not necessarily abandonment, but definitely a sense of alientation and disillusionment. I found myself alienated by those who opposed Christianity as well as those who I had hoped to connect as Brethren. I found my experience devalued not just by affiliaton or refusal to affiliate, but also by investing the time and effort only to find myself in a position where everything I had thought I had done all for the right reasons wasn’t even acknowledged and even became the subject of jokes by both sides, finding myself in the middle of a tight rope tugged at both sides and ready to fray. And also those assuming that I gave up Christianity altogether when in fact this is hardly how I feel. They also jumped to conclusions which were far from reality.

  9. E.B. R.
    August 2, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    One observation that I have made is that when I was in the IBF movement, there was intense pressure to rush into decisions and also one formula applied to God’s will for everyone’s life; this philosophy almost cancelled the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. One didn’t have the time to silently listen to the individual guiding of the Holy Spirit and individually discern matters as one was always with the group and there was one interpretation by the group and a collective time zone in that everyone did everything at the same time and the same way. Certain gifts were greatly appreciated and others just didn’t seem to have the same priority. Many non-IFB churches recognize that people can contribute to church life in a number of different ways using the gifts. We are called to minister; however, not everyone is called to lead the full-time call as an ordained minister, missionary, teacher, or doctor. Also there are many institutions that can offer a Christian environement allowing an individual to gain the training and skills and technical expertise. Unfortunately, some who have strong science and math backgrounds are referred to colleges which are pretty much arts and humanities and preaching and teaching colleges. I’m not saying that these are not good schools, just that Christians who are gifted in math and science and other highly technical fields need to be encouraged in a Christian environment. I think this turned away many that really loved being involved in church in their earlier years. I know in my case, I had started at a public community college and was pressured to leave before gettingmy associate degree first. Public and private community and junior colleges can be good financial resources as well as places for those who either need more help and or have indefinite career goals or just have reasons why they may need to stay closer to home. The parents need to be included and their concerns need to be respected for any major decision. Unfortunately, in my case, this wasn’t the case. I think a compromise could have been found that would have given me that traditional education and environment had I included many other colleges in the search and just took a little more time, maybe a year. It doesn’t hurt to finish something one starts first.

  1. April 9, 2010 at 9:29 PM

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