IFBs and Spoiled American Women

Women's March on Washington

A close family member who happens to be a woman attended the recent Women’s March on Washington. Memories of [much] earlier days and accounts of her experience shape my spirit as I prepare this post.

While I haven’t checked, I’d guess that at least one or two IFB pastors waxed eloquently about the sinfully rebellious and unfeminine spirit any woman who would do such a thing.

SFL prints this account as Ashleigh Ferguson Baker in recognition of the many women who live under demeaning and/or abusive circumstances because they were born with the gender their father determined for them. It is truly shameful that such statements are necessary. But that said, it is imperative that we not forget or close our eyes to the hardship many women bear every day.

‘Let this be a reminder that there are currently, right now, 25 and 30 year old women in America who are being held hostage in their parents’ homes, not allowed to leave until they are married, at which point their fathers’ authority over them will be transferred to their new husbands.

There are currently, right now in America, sitting beside you in church pews, women who haven’t been allowed to get an education, lest they develop an “independent spirit.” They haven’t been given high school diplomas, let alone been allowed to step foot on a college campus. Because why would women need education anyway?

There are women being told that no, they don’t have feelings for that person. That they are easily deceived, don’t know their own thoughts, and thus, cannot be trusted to choose their own mate. If they do? They risk being cut off from their entire family.

There are women who are in their late 20s, having to sneak out of their parents’ homes in the dark of night, suitcase in hand, because their parents don’t trust them to have friends other than their siblings, monitor their phone and internet conversations, and won’t let them get a job.

There are young women who are teaching piano lessons in their home living rooms, then handing the money they’ve earned to their fathers each week, because as a wife they won’t have their own money so why learn to do so now?

There are women, right now in America, being told that showing their knees is nakedness, that bare shoulders are sinful, that their heads must be covered to show their submission to their fathers, husbands, brothers, and ultimately, to God.

There are women in America, smiling at you in the grocery store, whose husbands are beating them, cheating on them, belittling them… and then expecting their wives to meet them willingly in bed each night, without birth control, providing him with what he wants and her with another baby to nurse. And when cautiously, quietly asking church leaders for help? These women are told to pray more, because they will “win him back” with their gentle and quiet spirits.

There are women in America, right now, in your neighborhood, who are desperate. Many of them aren’t even sure what they’re desperate for, because their hearts and minds have been so wounded by emotional and spiritual abuse that they often believe what they’re experiencing is right and normal and holy and good.

But the women who do wake up? The ones who want out? Let me tell you how they manage to climb out of that darkness:

They encounter strong women who have gone before them, who will band together, march together, stand up stronger together in the face of opposition, and pull their sisters out.

For some of us, this isn’t even about systemic patriarchy. It’s about Patriarchy with a capital P, literal subscriptions to “Patriarch: the magazine” and articles published in “Ladies Against Feminism,” being told to our faces for our entire lives what we’re allowed to think in our own heads, hearing year after year that Patriarchy IS God’s great plan for humanity, experiencing extreme forms of actual, daily oppression for being a born a girl.

So before you hit repost on that declaration you don’t need a march because you’re not oppressed in America in 2017, claiming that spoiled American women are whining because what about women being oppressed in Afghanistan in the name of religion? Maybe take a look around you, in your own neighborhoods and churches, and realize that it’s happening right here, in America, right now. That what you see in front of you isn’t always what’s happening behind the scenes. Maybe realize some of those women holding signs and wearing pink hats know a thing or two about blatant injustice, celebrated in the name of religion.

And maybe some of those women know that the only reason they are still standing today is because of the women around them who linked arms and pulled them out and helped them learn, for the first time in their lives, to stand on their own two feet.’

Your Faith Has Made You Well!

Separated Faith Made You Well

Independent Fundamental Baptist preaching has an astonishing ability to take a text into so many odd directions. Take the ten cleansed lepers. One returns to give Jesus thanks. Clearly, it’s a message about soul-winning. On the other hand, this can be a message about the ten converts, only one of which joins the church and becomes a good tither. Or, perhaps this is a message about the ten people whose lives are changed, but whereas nine become critical of the pastor’s failings, only one supports him as he ought.

It occurs to me that the ten healed lepers account holds insight to how Independent Fundamental Baptist preachers handle the canonical text. From Lu 17:11-19, we find the following themes [Large, bold text].

Keeping their Distance:

And so they should! No one actually wants Hansen’s Disease. Separation is always in order! And keeping their distance obeys Is 65:5 which says:

‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’

Is it just me, or does this sound much like IFB ‘separation’? Of course in Is 65:5, the separated, ‘holier than thou’ ones are described as a stench in God’s nostrils. In fact, Is 65 says a number of less than flattering things about people who have been compared to IFBs. But this sermon concerns Luke 17, not Isaiah 65. So Is 65 doesn’t matter this morning…

Show yourself to the Priest:

Because this recognizes the pastor’s authority and wisdom. The pastor is the one who knows and must therefore be heard on all matters of faith and practice. Pastor is the decider. Don’t you forget it!

Turned Back:

This one is good because it gets you coming and going. You can ‘turn back’ TO the pastor. You can also turn back AWAY FROM the pastor. Of course it is always best if you return TO the pastor. But it’s good to know that the pastor has you covered either way.

Prostrated Himself:

No arguments. No exemptions. No excuses. No explanations. No conditions or strings. This establishes a right relationship WITH the pastor. And a right relationship with the pastor becomes a picture of your right relationship with God. The reason your pastor looks so much like God is because your pastor is so much like God.

Get up and Go:

It’s time to win the other nine! Somebody must have counted those ten lepers. They noted the one who returned. And they noted the nine who went blithely on their way, without a word of gratitude [or offering] for the pastor. Since God counts numbers, so do we.

Now go and tell them that your faith has made you well.

When Equally Valid Narratives Conflict

Conflicting Narratives

Conflicting Narratives

Child Rearing Narratives

Parents who don’t provide rules and guidelines to keep their children under control doom them to a life of lawlessness and sorrow.

Parents who try to control their child with more rules just create a little Pharisee. And little Pharisees eventually become big Pharisees.

Church Fortune Narratives

Conservative fundamentalist churches are growing because God is blessing them for their faithfulness.

Conservative fundamentalist churches are dwindling because they are persecuted for their faithfulness.

Authority Narratives

The Bible is our authority. And we know that the Bible is correct because it comes from God.

God is our authority. And we know that we’ve got God right because it says so in the Bible.

National Narratives

America is a Christian nation that is uniquely blessed and used by God. Our nation is a beacon on a hill!

America is a pagan nation that is rotten to the core. Our IFB churches alone bear witness to the light!

[A]Historical Narratives

1966 — In the last 40 years, liberalism swept the land. Old markers are gone. We are awash with demonic doctrines and pagan lifestyles.

2016 — In the last 40 years, liberalism swept the land. Old markers are gone. We are awash with demonic doctrines and pagan lifestyles.

Is it just me, or does something here not quite right?

Bloodlust and God as a Cosmic Cop

God as a Cosmic Cop
‘Toxic authority, police brutality…’ Click image for Morgan Guyton’s article.

Our Cosmic Cop

God sees and knows all our thoughts and deeds. And in IFB culture, he also judges them. Every moment. Like the stars in the night sky that God showed Abraham, sermons on that theme are beyond number.

Morgan Guyton often addresses public spirituality. But his recent piece on a string of police killings holds insights that are singularly brilliant. He postulates that there is a strain of Christianity which:

has a toxic conception of authority that shapes how we respond to incidents in which authority figures do evil.

Beginning with the cross, Mr. Guyton asks exactly where God’s authority lies in Jesus’ crucifixion. Then he offers this:

How we answer that question determines where we see God in these police shootings and how we understand the way forward.

After making observations about Peter’s Pentecost Day sermon, Morgan notes two responses to the proclamation of Jesus. One was from Jews in the Temple on Pentecost. The other was the Sanhedrin’s response to Stephen’s address. In that order, we read:

‘Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do”‘ [Acts 2:37]?

‘But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them’ [Acts 5:33].

So Jesus’ blood proclaimed either dissolves our resistance or hardens it.

Morton says the church must consider whether it today responds as did the 3000 in the temple, or as did the Sanhedrin. In other words he asks:

‘Are we softened or hardened by Jesus’ blood?’

Bloodlust or Gospel

Here, Guyton gives the church a great gift. Police kill daily, and courts grant them immunity to do so. As we face the fact Violence as Normalthat this more and more will be the norm, Guyton gives us words and imagery to preach the gospel in today’s context. He writes:

‘It makes sense that Christians have been unable to let a crucified man be our God. It’s far too disruptive to the logic of our worldly systems of power to kneel before a bloody, convicted criminal who couldn’t breathe.’

This aligns a ‘bloodthirsty God hellbent on self-vindication’ theology with the same worldly systems of power that crucified Jesus. It sees Jesus in lifeless, unarmed bodies of the poor, gunned down by the same worldly systems of power which also convicted and crucified Jesus.

Shaping the Gospel for Today

Morton’s alignment of an angry, IFB god with earthly systems of power, and his identification of Jesus with poor and helpless people killed by militarized police is a profound contradiction established theology and social policy. It is a radical proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If the church frames and preaches Jesus Christ in such terms in this present context, the upheaval in faith and socio-political discourse could be unlike anything seen since the Revolutionary War.

The truth is, the gospel of Jesus Christ is always revolutionary and radical because it always stands in utter contradiction of the principalities and powers of this age. But not every generation perceives HOW to shape the timeless, changeless gospel such scandalous ways that it becomes truly good and truly news in that time and place.

So long as Fundamentalism retains the theology of God as a cosmic cop, it cannot preach the gospel. Nor can it in any way be ‘separated,’ because it remains thoroughly aligned with the principalities and powers of this age.

Friday Challenge: Abuse of Authority

Abuse of Authority
Click to see the pastor naked … er … the naked pastor


It’s true. Pastors do NOT abuse authority. They only use it to serve God. This means that they also use authority to lead you to serve God. Theoretically, God is the authority on everything; in practice, pastor is the voice of God — sometimes on nearly everything.

That’s a ton of authority. Translation?

Pastors ARE the authority. God says so. And if you ask them, pastors often agree. You’re outranked and outgunned. Acknowledge my authority now.

Authority is an intriguing concept. For many of us, it was one of the earliest life lessons we learned. But even if very common, authority tends to assume a wide range of meanings in many different situations.

I once offered that authority indicates the resolve to combine criminal action with legal impunity. If memory serves correctly, my junior high principal was ‘not impressed.’

Friday Challenge

Today’s challenge is to provide a definition/example_of/or possibly your brush with pastoral/elder/ministry_leader/Christian_teacher/etc.  ‘Authority.’ Note that this is ‘Authority’ with a capital ‘A’.

Have at it!