I recall the not so great times, and there were many of them, during my unfortunate days in the IFB movement. So many do’s and don’ts in the church. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. You broke a man made rule then you had to worry about the censor police paying you a not so nice visit. It was like the character Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory if you violated the rule of sitting in his spot. It’s as if I continue to suffer and struggle from this depressing time. Someone mentioned to me in a somewhat light hearted way that I may be suffering from IFB PTSD. I thought about that statement. Actually makes a lot of sense. Is IFB PTSD a legit diagnosis ?
As a kid, I was forced into church against my will. There were no children’s ministries in our church. No outreach. The same complacent crowd day in and day out. Might as well have been a country club. We sat on those uncomfortable wooden pews, trying to sit still while the preacher hacked every three syllables. Smaller kids would get hand spanked or a hickory switch if they could not sit still. How can you expect a toddler aged child to remain sitting perfectly still while listening to a preacher that foamed at the mouth like a mad dog, speaking incoherent language, and was not reaching the younger crowds? We had about twelve to fifteen kids similar in age at our Sunday school class. Until I composed this message, I recently realized it was all boys in our Sunday school group. The girls were older than us and in another Sunday school class. Our Sunday School had a camping “get together” over a three day weekend prior to school starting. We (boys)all spoke how miserable and unhappy we were going to church. We could not watch certain shows. We could not listen to certain music. Our lives were being dictated. Very controlled environment. One of my friends got me to the side at the time and said he would run away from home later that year. He told me not to say anything because was so miserable. Thankfully he didn’t run away but how sad to have that thought—-all because of church.
When some of us were old enough to begin working part time jobs, the “Holy Rollers” frowned upon us when we especially worked on Sunday’s. “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.” “We rest on Sundays.” “God rested on the seventh day.” While I ,as well as one of my friends had to endure this tireless, useless babble in what seemed a continuum, I said, “Well, if you wouldn’t shop for groceries and go out to eat on Sundays after church, then we wouldn’t have to work on Sunday’s.” This clueless crowd could not come up with anything better to say to me except, “well, that’s different.” I often thought why hospital nurses, doctors, police officers, etc. never came to our church. They would have been shamed for having to work on Sunday’s. No wonder I, as well as so many others, hated church.
We would go to another church that in some ways was worse. The associate pastor at the time was a nut job. He did not own any televisions. He was very strict in that boys couldn’t wear shorts and girls couldn’t wear pants. We also had to have King James Version of the Bible. We were not allowed to go to a movie theater and was frowned upon if we partook in such “worldly” activities. He had so many convictions and expected everyone to have the same convictions. The music had to be that miserable southern gospel music or God awful blue grass gospel. Furthermore, if a song had a guitar strum or the beat of a drum, it was deemed too worldly and was strongly recommended that we burn the music.
At this point, I began to evaluate my life. I began to grow tired of the IFB. Keep in mind that though I have been in church all my life, I was not saved. I thought I was saved but never was. Years earlier, I would meet up with some other friends at school and told them how unhappy I was at church. They invited me to their church on the north end of town. I initially declined (and what a huge mistake that was). I decided later in life to give this church a try. One of my friends picked me up from home and drove me to this church. I heard some contemporary Christian songs and praise and worship songs at this church. I have to admit that I actually liked it !!! I had never heard it before. I came from one of those churches that played “good old fashioned southern gospel and blue grass music.” When I would return to my church, it was as if I had betrayed them. This crowd, especially the “set in their ways ‘granny panties’ crowd” heard this type of music in church. Oh my goodness !!! It was as if Jesus was returning or World War 3 was about to happen. The older ladies who were set in their ways, biblical or not, were about to have heart palpitations. In some ways it was funny !!! I was a teenager at this time. At this point I was beginning to grow weary of having to endure church. I was sooo tired of being controlled and manipulated. This music was something new and by golly, they weren’t having it. It wasn’t from the little red hymnal book. It was almost blasphemous when words to any songs appeared an a PowerPoint slide and then projected onto a screen. We were sinning because it wasn’t the old time way. As a teenager, when I saw their actions, I thought, “did they not know that their music at one time was too over the top? It was brand new at one point.” I was convinced that their actions were not biblical at all. It was tradition. Man made traditions.
It was clear that going forward no one would sing a song if it’s not from the little red hymnal. Every other Sunday night, or one Sunday afternoon a month, we would have “sangin’s”. No, not singings. Sangin’s. If you’ve never lived through the brutality, you would not understand the mental torment and anguish. What surprised me the most at these sangin’s is the lack of excitement and enthusiasm projected from these sangers. Were they really excited to sing about being saved? Most of these “sangers” only came to receive a love offering. Good God almighty, I cringe to this day just thinking about sangin’s
What got me was that these “granny panties” and “Holy Rollers” would listen to country music outside of church. I was into hard rock and some heavy metal/hair band groups. I was still a kid. I really liked the beat of this style of music!!! I was playing sports and hearing these loud and upbeat songs motivated me in practice and in workouts away from school. It took my mind of the stresses at school, at home, and yes, sadly, took my mind off the stresses at church. I grew up in the 80’s, still the best era ever for music in my unqualified opinion. I would often say the 1980s were the best fourteen years of my life. Anyway, I would have to hear such nonsense about listening to pop music, rock music, hard rock, and metal songs. Such ridicule. As if I was mentally being bullied. What was interesting is that the older crowd was listening to country music, which I have NEVER liked. And still don’t like today. Yet, this crowd thought country music was okay. I would revisit the church on the opposite end of town where I lived. Oddly enough, this pastor talked about music this day. The pastor had made a comment about people being criticized for listening to hard rock or metal music or pop music. Even classic rock. The pastor then made a great point, saying, “for those who criticize, Have you ever listened to a country song? Drinking beer, cheating on your love, there’s a tear in my beer, and leave the wife and dog and you miss the dog?”
To make music matters worse, IFB “preachers” were bad to congregate on streets and do “street preaching.” I often used to hear, “ if you aren’t saved, you will go straight to a devils Hell.” It was shouted and screamed to me and to my friends A LOT !! There was an instance later where these crazy preachers saw us on the road. They told us that we were going to Hell because we were listening to rock and roll music. I knew who these “preachers” were and made contact with the pastor. The pastor apologized and said that he has told his street preachers to not do that. I was later ridiculed by the old Fogies who later found out I had made contact with this pastor. I was told that I crossed the man of God and should never argue with and question the man of God. I wonder how many people were turned away from God by these guys screaming at them? At the same time, How much worse would it have been had these guys continued to street preach?
I admit that today, I still struggle in this area-music. I almost feel like I’m sinning if I listen to hard rock songs or some metal songs. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I still have times that when I do listen to this genre of music, I feel like I’m doing something bad. As if I’m about to be ripped to shreds. Honestly, it feels like an abusive childhood from which I can’t recover. No matter how hard I try. Even today as a saved person I still can’t come to terms with it. I almost feel like I’m sinning if I listen to hard rock songs or some metal songs.
I even find myself feeling bad when I read a bible that is not King James Version. KJV is great, don’t get me wrong, but who speaks in thee’ and thou’s today….Unless they are preparing to become a contestant on Jeopardy? You sinned if you had the NIV. If you couldn’t quote the entire Bible verse, in KJV, you either repeated it and got it right to appease the overzealous assistant pastor who is on a power trip or you didn’t say it at all. To make matters worse, they did it to the kids as well. I am talking about kids who were five years old or younger. No wonder these kids don’t attend church today. As recently suggested to me, maybe I’m suffering from PTSD as a result of being in the IFB movement? The struggle is real—-literally. It’s almost like I’m being constantly beat. The mental anguish is almost indescribable.
The IFB nonsense has a strong hold on me. It remains a struggle that I can’t seemingly overcome. Our assistant pastor would preach again and this time make a very inappropriate comment. It related to modest attire. I remember the crowd at the time being so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. We were all shocked. I later learned that one of our new Christian converts was deeply upset, and rightfully so, and never returned to church. Who could blame her? She was wearing pants at home and at work. She was now convinced she was sinning and out of God’s will.
After this lady and her family left, I began to reevaluate myself. Did I really want to stay in church? Was God really a stick in the mud? Is this what the Christian life is really all about? This lady did nothing wrong. Her husband and two boys would never return to our church because of a very hurtful comment. I was getting tired of being criticized for the style of music, the Bible translation, and wearing shorts at home. I wanted to please our pastor and assistant pastor as a teenager….or so I thought. At this point I was tired of feeling like a criminal. I remember as a teenager at home having to quickly change out of my shorts and into blue jeans if the pastor or assistant pastor visited….usually unannounced and unexpected….and almost always uninvited. I grew tired of having to constantly switch to appease these goof balls. I realized that I was doing nothing wrong. My shorts were a very decent length, not up to my rear end. Well, I was at home one spring and our pastor stopped by our house. I was in a t shirt and a pair of shorts. He came inside, looked at me, and said” I see you wearing shorts. I got something to preach on for Sunday morning.” At the time I half heartedly laughed and thought nothing of it. Well, Sunday came and yes, our pastor talked about boys/men wearing shorts. At this time, I was very mad. In my mind, I was giving this “preacher”, and I use that term very loosely, a mental middle finger image and saying some words that I otherwise would not say. It was then I decided that the IFB brainwashing was not for me. I got out of church….and I got out for a very long time.
To tell you the truth, I stand amazed that I am saved today. I honestly do not know how and cannot explain why. I fully intended to never go to church again and especially when those closest to me were devils wanting to wage war on me. So many misconceptions that were never based on the word of God. The rituals and so called doctrines that were observed were merely traditions….man made traditions…and don’t you dare change a thing. IFBs are reluctant to change. To a degree I lived a sheltered life. I was so miserable. I was so afraid to wear shorts because I was a guy. I grew beyond weary of having the “Holy Rollers” casting evil looks my way because of my wardrobe. “Come as you are” lost it’s value somewhere. You don’t scream at people and tell them that they are going to hell. You get to know that person, develop a relationship, and live the Christ filled life. You can Love the person but don’t have to partake in their interests. You may like red hymnal songs and I may like praise and worship and my other friend may like contemporary. It’s all the same message. You will be able to reach people on your platform that I wouldn’t be able to reach and vice versa. If you are Christian, live the life 24-7. Your kids and others are watching you even more so than you realize. Furthermore, love on those who are newborn babies in Christ. Mentor, help, reach out. Love each other and pray for each other. Study God’s word. Use the version that you best understand. Learn and grow to help others. I have reflected over the several months it took me to compose this message. Maybe I have PTSD from the IFB days. I still catch myself at times walking on a mine field ….walking on eggshells. Provide opportunities for spiritual growth. Continue to pray for each other.
I want to live my best life for Christ. Is IFB PTSD actually real? It very well could be. It’s like I still have flashbacks even thirty plus years later. I still struggle. I am no longer in the IFB movement. I feel better now in all aspects of my life. I strongly covet your prayers as I continue to improve each and everyday. God bless you all.