My roots are in the IFB; my parents came from a relatively benign form of the movement, but even there the harmful effects were latent. My dad was considerably older than my mom, his second wife. My relationship with him was not cold or distant, but it was not the close relationship I have seen with many dads. I never went to him to have long, deep, intimate conversations. Partly because of this, and the isolationism engendered in the fundamentalist mindset, I became extremely introverted, and to thus day still often find it very difficult to communicate with most people.
When I was 4 we moved to Florida to a ministry where my half sister and her husband lived. It was not denominationally affiliated, I believe, I think it could best be described as old school Pentecostal. There was some tongue speaking and such things, but not as heavily emphasized as with some. They had a strict dress code, KJV onlyism etc., much like IFB in that sense. When I was 12 we left that place and returned to New York state. I think my dad, through various experiences was cynical and burned out with churches and people. For the next 7 years we really had no church, we only visited a couple. Mostly we had church at home, listening to Lester Roloff tapes. We went to my preacher uncle’s church a few times, but my dad had some friction even with him. My parents were deep into patriotism, and a lot of conspiracy theories and such, John Birch Society etc. We lived largely in isolation. I was homeschooled and was the living embodiment of the caricature; I had no interaction with peers at all during those very formative years between 12 and 19. Also during this time I became increasingly conscious that I was not born again. Due to my natural reticence and the nature of the subject, and not wanting to repeat a false profession (which I had made a few years before) nobody knew anything about this.
All of which goes a ways towards understanding our desperation for any society and sustained human contact. We began hearing a preacher on the shortwave radio. Long story short we attended a camp meting they held; it was uplifting to us, honestly, just to be around a church. Driving home after that camp meeting, I received Christ in my heart. It was glorious, but even still I was such an internalized person I didn’t talk about it.
Well, a year later we had moved out to live by that church. The preacher was deep into extreme conspiracy theories as well. For many years he didn’t even have a driver’s license, refused to use a Social Security Number or get ones for his kids, against marriage license…the list goes on. He was a southerner who loved the Confederate flag and espoused a devout “The South was right” belief, and disliked (in those pre-Trump days) the American flag. They were, in short, too independent even for most independent Baptists.
They had a street preaching ministry for the first several years we were there, being inspired by (wait for it) the infamous Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptists. They didn’t agree with the WB’s on everything, the funeral protesting for example, but the influence was definite. They had even protested together before they had a parting of ways. We would have signs and shout slogans like “God hates f*gs”–painful to remember, now.
Sunday mornings could be a laborious affair. The preaching could go on for 1-2 hours or so. Well, some of it was actual preaching. He could spend hours ranting, rambling, storytelling, spewing conspiracy theories etc. The churches today are a joke (meaning practically everyone except us), extensive racist rants, God hates many people not just their sin, Ruckmanism, pre trib rapture, extreme Trumpism…just a few favorite hobby horses.
As time went on and I was going through the process of rethinking many things, I felt increasingly out of place there. My extreme social awkwardness had been helped slightly there, but yet also hurt, especially as time went on and I discovered more and more I just wasn’t like them. Over time the church got smaller as well; they were just too narrow in their ways to allow for much of any dissent.
I do want to say that even in the midst of a good deal of toxicity, by the grace of God some good things were there and relationships had, but it was too little to overcome the rest of it. One member in particular of the small congregation really had it in for me, partly over the issue of my working on Sunday nights and not attending the second service. He confronted me about it, I didn’t give in; it got to the point he barely acknowledged my existence.
In the midst of this I was in the process of rethinking some beliefs and attitudes. Many of these had a long trajectory. I certainly had never been comfortable with the racism. I increasingly saw I was not like these people, personality and attitudes and outlook so very different. I had been listening to Moody Radio off and on for some time, early on with a rather critical ear, but increasingly I began to see that much I was hearing was sound and biblical and a refreshment from the extremism, divisiveness and isolationism of that church.
As with, no doubt, my departure from KJV Onlyism was perhaps the great Rubicon of my journey out of Fundamentalism the Movement. That had a long trajectory. Even from childhood, listening to Adventures in Odyssey which used modern versions, and a couple speakers over the years we liked even though they weren’t KJVers. The extreme Ruckmanism, inconsistencies and ahistoricity (you that read right 😁); as well as the strength and soundness of many non-KJV preachers and writers I was hearing from, put a huge question mark over the whole thing. Listening to James White and a couple others, and reading the KJV translators’ own preface, sealed KJV Onlyism’s doom in my mind.
Again, long story a little bit shorter 😉 I finally talked with the pastor. I’m sure he thought he knew at least part of why we were leaving. He was probably partly right and partly wrong. In any event he didn’t ask much, so I didn’t have to go into all the issues I had. So we parted on relatively good terms under the circumstances, for which I’m grateful.
Not too long after I found a good Southern Baptist church, and I’m still beginning to experience how good it is to be free from the shackles, to think and act for myself, to have the Scripture to be the one unquestioned thing by which all other things are questioned. I stumbled across the great Mark Ward[shoutout]’s excellent YouTube channel (like and subscribe) and through him discovered the RFP. Which has been a Godsend, to realize I am far from alone in this journey, that many have been where I was, are where I am, and, by the grace of God, are going where I’m going.
Soli Deo Gloria