Greetings! My name is John Shore. I’m a Christian. Like you, I believe in the literal divinity, miracles, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Over the past few years I have come to know a lot of members of the Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB), both former and current. Through study and research I’ve also learned a great deal about the IFB.
One of the main things I’ve learned about the IFB is that those letters should stand for Irresponsible Fundamentalist Bullies.
Many people think that the IFB is guilty of bullying, especially of gay people. I wouldn’t disagree with that. But I think the primary victims of IFB’s bullying are members of the IFB. And perhaps above all IFB college students. IFB college students are constantly, systematically, and methodically bullied.
You know how I know that’s true? Because you live in fear. And the victims of bullies always live in fear.
Here are some of the things you fear:
Being blameworthy. You live in unceasing fear of breaking any of your school’s seemingly infinite number of rules, of earning the dreaded “demerit points,” of one of your “supervisors” reporting you, of in any way whatsoever showing that you are less perfectly obedient—less perfectly Christian—than any of the other students.
Secular influences. You fear “secular” movies, television, books, magazines, clothes. You fear music with a “rock beat.” You think the whole world outside of IFB is nothing but various forms of Satan yearning to tempt and destroy you.
Your sexuality. You believe that your desire for sexual contact is your strongest enemy, the singular thing most certain, if you but slip and uncage it, to quickly transmogrify you into an immoral savage.
Knowledge. You are afraid of knowledge beyond that which (you’ve been trained to believe) can be verified by the Bible. Think about it, child: you fear knowledge, one of the most precious things any human can possess. Knowledge is the one thing that can bring power to anyone. Which is why the “college” you attend makes sure you acquire as little of it as possible. (And please mark this: the men atop the food chain at your college who insist upon “Dr.” always proceeding their name are overtly and shamelessly lying by simply expropriating for themselves that title, which out in the real world—the same world those men purport to hold in such disdain—actually means something. You’re young, but not so young you don’t know that a man who would lie about his position in life would lie about anything.)
God. You live in fear of God’s punishment. You spend a lot more time worrying about what God might do to you than what Christ has done for you. And that’s understandable. A fire in the hearth can only be so comforting when you believe a wolf is waiting outside your door.
You fear all those things. And you live in a system designed to foster and nurture each and every one of those fears. And the people who own the college you attend—the Jones family of Bob Jones University, the Hortons of Pensacola Christian College, the now thoroughly disgraced Hyles family of Hyles-Anderson College, for instance—are kept by your fears wealthy beyond measure. (Literally, since IFB colleges are notorious for endlessly and dishonorably scheming to hide their money—especially from the government of the country they’re always so quick to profess their undying love for.)
You, along with every member of your family, are being held upside down and shaken until all of your money spills out. And the men who are doing that to you—and who while doing that to you innocently proclaim to only be doing the work of God—then stand you in a corner, face turned toward the wall, and demand that you quietly stay there while they scoop your money off the floor.
It’s a sign of just how thoroughly and for how long a time you’ve been bullied that you now identify with your bullies. And you probably have since you were old enough to grasp how unwise it is to bite the hand that feeds you.
It’s critically important that you know that there is no shame for you in any of this. You are an innocent. You’ve done your best, you’ve tried your best, you’ve been your best. What happened to you was done to you. We are all the same in that. For better or worse, we all grow up fully imprinted by our parents and families. They give the push which starts us down our path.
Some of you will make it out of IFB. For some of you, the persistently whispering voice of the truth within you will continue growing louder, until finally you will have no choice but to pay it heed. And ultimately that voice will lead you to create for yourself a life wholly defined by you, and no one else. You will be free; you will be wise for all you’ve been through and know.
Most of you will not make it out of IFB. The ties of IFB will prove too strong for you, its grip too tight. You will be too afraid, or simply too incurious, to objectively evaluate, much less divorce yourself from, the only life you’ve known. In obedience to the authoritative men in your life, you will take your place within, and thereby help to perpetuate, a version of Christianity that is manifestly much more about fear and repression than it is about the love and freedom for which Christ gave his all.
Again: I am a Christian. And though it breaks my heart to say it, if you remain in IFB, you will force me to be your enemy. Because IFB holds that women are inherently inferior to men, that they are intended by God to be nothing but mothers and “helpmeets” to their husbands. IFB believes that godly parents methodically beat their young children in order to “break their will.” IFB fights to deny its children an education (to the extent that it runs such sham “colleges” as the one you now attend). IFB sends its “disobedient” teens to unsupervised “homes,” where they are horrifically abused and degraded. (For more, see The 8 million strong Independent Fundamental Baptists cult, headed by Bob Jones University.)
IFB is a blight on the world, a demoralizing disgrace to Christianity. It is predicated upon real and sustained harm done by real and sustained bullying.
Please see that. Please, in one way or another (and no matter how long it takes!) come to your senses, gather your resources, and venture out into the world that I promise you’ll be amazed to discover means you no harm whatsoever—a world that wants you to explore, learn, grow, thrill, experience, and in every way simply be the unique, gifted, joyous, utterly individualized person whom God so delighted in creating you to be.
Please come and meet the God behind the perverted, twisted caricature of him in which you’ve been tricked into believing—the real God, the true God, the beneficent God, the God who has nothing for you but everything you want: unqualified, unconditional love.
That God is waiting—has always been waiting—for you to know him as he knows you.
I am praying for you. We all are, in the sincere and nearly desperate way that people of faith always pray for those whom they know are worthy of so much more than they’re getting.
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(Because people have asked, the photo above is this picture, Photoshopped by the endlessly awesome Dan Wilkinson: