I would like to share my story and telling it from the point of view of a wan who grew up IFB. I grew up in New Jersey to two great parents neither of whom were religious in any fashion. About the time I was 5 or 6, our neighbor and long time family friend had passed away from cancer. She was a great woman who i beloved truly loved Christ. At that time the local IFB church met in her home while the church building was being constructed. I remember watching Baptism in hee pool and being invited to VBS at her house. After she died, my parents had gone to her funeral and were so loved by the message of the pastor . How they knew they would see her again and being glad she was free from pain and in heaven. A bit after this my parents joined this local church who was now in their new building. Most of my formative years are memories of this IFB church and the pastor. The pastor was very proud to call themselves independent fundamentalist ( not Baptist as they told us that was a secular term) the culture surrounded om forcing the families to homeschool their children regardless of ability,desire or competence. The only acceptable curriculum was ABeka Books, anything else was secular and not of God. My mother changed so drastically from jeans to long skirts and dresses. None of the women were allowed to wear makeup or have their hair dyed which often led to the women looking much older than they were. Slits in dresses were not permitted as that was consider “playing peekaboo ” . Music was only what could be played on the piano or organ and hymns only. Even as a young child I was drilled into their version of extreme modesty, so as not to cause my brother to stumble. Years later I realized how rape culture and misogyny were the core of the values. After all how can a child be held accountable for a man listing after her. But i remember even from a very young age being ingrained that my brother must not stumble because of me. It almost seemed to give an excuse for the men of the church and forcing all of rhe blame on the female. About the time I was 10 or 11 my family moved from north jersey down the shore area. As much more conservative area there were a plethora of churches to choose from. My pastor had told us to visit several and he would choose for us. Ultimately we settled on another IFB church he had picked ams directed us to. This is where i spent most of my time from 12 until college age.
We continued with homeschooling until mother was appointed to teach at the church school my freshman year of high-school. My mother had barely a high-school education and not at all certified to teach anyone. The church and school leadership was very controlling, legalistic and ruled by one man. During the time I was homeschooled, my mother was very abusive to me , i can remember the one and only time I tried to reach out for help. I spoke to my sunday school teacher who was also the youth pastors wife and told her what was going on. I wasn’t with “honor your father and mother” ” God won’t give you more than you are able” ” what soms have you committed that God is punishing you?” This was yet another example of the IFB protecting blame onto the victim.
During my time in that church there were so many instances of hypocrisy and legalism. We usually dreaded the yearly pastors conference because inevitably my pastor would return with more rules as if a competition to be the most holy church. Everything from stricter dress code to family dynamics. At one point the pastor said that no women should work outside of the home or church without permission of her husband or father ( or the pastor in absence of both) very little makeup or anything that could be considered vain. Very strict standards on music. If you wanted to sing a special you had to first perform for the pastor and be “approved” during my junior year at the church school we had a “formal” just dinner no musoc dancing or socializing outside of the dinner room . The female students had to attend “dress check” where the pastor approved of the girls outfits… almost like a private fashion show… this also went for the female teacher chaperones.
During my youth group time, I remember the focus was on sexual purity, modesty ans fulfilling God’s plan of being a godly wife and mother. Sex was never mentioned in mixed company but when it was for the ladies there was always the connotation that our entire worth or value was directly related to our virginity. The God couldn’t use a “whore” and regardless of the circumstances ( Forcible Rape, sexual assault or temptation) it was always on the woman to remain pure.
While IFB churches did come for a visit ( PCC,BJU,WCBC,Hyles) the expectation was that they were there for the guys ans if a woman did want to go she should seek a ministry related degree or just her Mrs. DEGREE. i had been coerced to attend one such school. I choose Criminal justice as my field of study and told by the pastor that he hoped God would open my eyes to a more “appropriate God honoring ” field of study.
My college career could take up another whole segment, but here are some highlights.
Obviously a very modest dress code , this seems to be the cornerstone of IFB. Always focused on the outward appearance vs the heart. There was never mixed swimming. Men and women could only associate in ” chaperoned areas” students wishing to get married before graduation needed permission of the school, both sets of parents, and respective pastors. ( the year i graduated there were 10 weddings the weekend following graduation, none of them are still married) . I remember my youth pastor coming with high-schoolers for college days and inviting me off campus for dinner with the church group. I needed the written permission of my parents ( I was a 21 year old adult ) I remember an instance when I got demerits for a family photo a maintenance worker considered pornography which was in my all girls dorm room. It was a photo of a 11 and 12 ( my sister and I) wrapped in a towel on the beach sitting on my dads back while he was sleeping. I remember the constant purity sermons for the female students the KJV only classes, that ministry majors are God’s chosen lights and the rest of us just need to get right with God. Having student life follow us to the airport on breaks to make sure no one changed into jeans before flying.
I think what really broke me was the constant purity pressure . For the men Sex was this awesome prize they couldn’t wait for, the ultimate award for a faithful man of God, for the women it was this forbidden fruit to avoid at all costs. I really could go on forever about the legalism and rules for rules sake . Shortly after graduation I moved out of my parents home and got the job of my dreams. A very good friend took me to her contemporary church and it was there I really understand God’s love and realized that I am saved by grace thru faith and not of works . Now I can say im a proud reformed fundy