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The Official Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Rulebook

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The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook, Known in Some Churches as Church Standards

  • Thou shalt obey the pastor at all times
  • Thou shalt obey all adults at all times if you are a child or teenager
  • Thou shalt obey your husband at all times if you are a woman
  • Thou shalt obey your parents at all times
  • Thou shalt obey the police and government unless the pastor says it is a sin against God to do so
  • Thou shalt tithe
  • Thou shalt give an offering
  • Thou shalt give a faith promise missionary offering
  • Thou give an offering any time the pastor says God is saying to collect a special offering
  • Thou shalt attend church every time the doors are open
  • Thou shalt read the Bible every day
  • Thou shalt pray every day
  • Thou shalt pray without ceasing
  • Thou shalt pray for every meal, but ice cream at Dairy Queen after church requires no prayer
  • Thou shalt only use the King James Bible — 1611 edition which is really the 1769 revision
  • Thou shalt only use the Scofield King James Bible
  • Thou shalt not have long hair (over your ears, collar) if you are a man
  • Thou shalt not have a block cut hairstyle if you are a man
  • Thou shalt not have facial hair if you are a man, but if you are a woman you can have facial hair
  • Thou shalt not have tattoos unless you have prison tats from your life before Christ
  • Thou shalt not take the hem out of your Levi jeans or alter your clothing in any way so that you look worldly
  • Thou shalt not wear pants (britches) if you are a woman
  • Thou shalt not wear shorts, but a woman can wear Baptist shorts — also known as culottes
  • Thou shalt not expose any flesh if you are a woman, especially your thighs, breasts, or back
  • Thou shalt only wear dresses with hemlines below the knees if you are a woman
  • Thou shalt not have any physical contact with the opposite sex if you are unmarried
  • Thou shalt not masturbate
  • Thou shalt not have more than one hole in each ear if you are a woman
  • Thou shalt not pierce any body part except your ear, and then only if you are a woman
  • Thou shalt not watch TV, but if you are a carnal Christian and must watch TV thou shalt only watch Little House on the Prairie or Bonanza
  • Thou shalt not go to the movie theater, but using streaming services is okay
  • Thou shalt always have tracts in your shirt pocket or purse, ready to evangelize at a moment’s notice
  • Thou shalt drive a car with church advertising stickers, IFB cliches, or Bible verses attached to the bumper
  • Thou shalt park down the street when visiting the local strip club or whore house lest the pastor know you are there and stay away
  • Thou shalt not dance
  • Thou shalt not listen to secular music, especially rock music, which is from the pit of hell
  • Thou shalt not listen to contemporary Christian music (CCM)
  • Thou shalt not smoke tobacco
  • Thou shalt not drink fermented alcohol — after all, Jesus drank Welch’s grape juice
  • Thou shalt not dip snuff
  • Thou shalt not chew tobacco
  • Thou shalt not cuss, but saying darn, shoot, crap, freaking, and fudge are okay
  • Thou shalt not date non-Independent Baptist girls or boys
  • Thou shalt not have any non-Independent Baptist friends
  • Thou shalt home school your children or send them to a Christian school
  • Thou shalt only read pastor-approved Christian books
  • Thou shalt never speak in tongues
  • Thou shalt only believe what the pastor says you are to believe
  • Thou shalt go soulwinning every week
  • Thou shalt say you have victory over sin, even if you are lying
  • Thou shalt adhere to the perception is reality rule
  • Thou shalt send your kids to the same Christian college the pastor went to
  • Thou shalt leave the church if you commit adultery, get a divorce, or get pregnant outside of marriage
  • Thou shalt  believe everything the pastor says even when you are certain he is lying, speaking evangelistically, or embellishing his illustrations
  • Thou shalt wear a bra if you are a woman, and it can only be a white, underwire bra
  • Thou shalt not mix bathe (Baptist for swimming with the opposite sex)
  • Thou shalt not go to amusement parks unless the youth group is going
  • Thou shalt not go to the prom
  • Thou shalt not show emotion unless praising Jesus from 10:00 am to noon on Sunday or giving a testimony during Sunday evening service
  • Thou shalt say AMEN during at the appropriate time during the pastor’s sermon, especially when he shouts, pounds the pulpit, or performs gymnastics
  • Thou shalt not be angry even though the pastor is allowed to be angry, but that’s because his anger is righteous anger
  • Thou shalt be for what the pastor is for and against what the pastor is against, because if you don’t, a bear might come out of the woods and eat you
  • Thou shalt never use your brain
  • Thou shalt ignore any science that contradicts the Bible
  • Thou shalt never try to fix your own problems because the pastor is the official fixer of all problems
  • Thou shalt takes notes on the sermon even if the rabbit wanders five miles off the trail or the sermon is incoherent
  • Thou shalt always tell the pastor what a wonderful sermon he preached, even when you have no idea what he was talking about
  • Thou shalt always tell Sister Bertha what a wonderful job she did with her off-key rendition of What a Friend we Have in Jesus
  • Thou shalt not use canned (taped) music for music specials
  • Thou shall not play the guitar or drums

Please be advised that this rulebook is subject to change at the whim of the pastor. He is the man of God who speaks for God. He alone is allowed to change his mind. This means that God changed his mind, yes?

Of course not.

This is the Christianity of millions of North Americans.

Is it any wonder that we are fucked up?

Feel free to add your own additions to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Rule Book.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

29 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ami

    Truly horrifying.
    I grew up with kids who were in churches like that one.
    My religious upbringing was pretty bizarre, but this stuff? Way over the edge. Ugh.

  2. Avatar
    Charles

    God changes his mind several times in the Bible. Fundies forget that God can do a sudden “I have changed my mind” crazy Ivan on them at any moment. This is why I love Jesus. He is his own man and refuses to be tied down or corralled by anything. If fundies really understood this, it would probably scare the shit out of them.

    • Avatar
      Penny Holgate

      All these Rules have nothing to do with Salvation.Jesus set us free from bondage called Legalism.Galatians5.This There rules but not biblical.This is a system of control it’s a man made book of rules. They might as well be Mormons.Sense they add their own rules and Bible.They are acting as a cult it’s not biblical.Gal1:8 They are teaching false teachings,And not the doctrines of the Bible.They are Just adding their own rules

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        The Bible is filled with rules that have everything to do with salvation. Twice in the New Testament, Paul gives long lists of human behaviors that preclude people from inheriting the kingdom of God. Jesus gives his own list in the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 24/25. Are you saying Paul and Jesus are legalists? And then there’s the OT’s 600+ laws, including the Ten Commandments. Are you saying God is a legalist?

        Can LGBTQ people join your church, teach Sunday school, preach? Can same-sex couples be married in your church? See where I’m going with this? Every Evangelical sect/church/pastor/evangelist/missionary/congregant has their own rules they think are “Biblical.” You just don’t like this particular list of rules because they run counter to your “Biblical” list. All of us, Christians and atheists alike, have lists of rules by which we govern our lives, and often judge the lives of others.

  3. Avatar
    Susannah

    Thou shalt not rock the boat.

    And the all important, “Thou shalt not, never, under no circumstances, not even in thought, criticize the pastor.” “God’s anointed,” remember!

    • Avatar
      Bill

      As I once told a liberal congregation, the IFB church I grew up in had an eleventh commandment in their Bibles, “Thou shalt not [fill in the blank].” Sarcasm, yes, however, I swear they half the time they invented it as they went along. UGH!!!!

  4. Avatar
    Steve

    We could literally sit here all day adding “standards” to this; these guys are constantly changing on a whim.

    But, I have a few, from the legendary Dr Bob of Longview:

    Thou shalt watch football on Monday night. Preacherboys should watch it in the college gym; anywhere else is worldly.

    Thou shalt wear the sweatshirts & caps of your favorite basketball team; they are only evil & worldly if you choose to go to college there. (Please note: if thou art truly right with God, the only acceptable team to pull for is Michigan State).

    Thou shalt not wear make up

    Thou shalt study various martial arts disciplines, as these are masculine. This is especially important, since the pastor needs his bodyguard detail rotated every so often. Women need not apply and should not study martial arts. (And yes, martial arts are ok, even though they originated from Asian sources; we’ll win those yellow devils to Jesus, eventually)

    Thou shalt go to KFC on Sundays after services. Unless you are a college student on a bus route. In that case, thou shalt work on your bus route until 3 am Monday morning, then get your sorry, lazy ass ready for your theology classes at our bible college that morning. Later that afternoon, thou shalt go to work. Thou can sleep at 11 on Monday night; everyone knows sleep is for fags & queers, not real men. Your pastor is burdened for America & hasn’t slept since 1976. What the fuck is YOUR problem??

    Thou shalt take your wife out to lunch on Friday afternoon; this is your allotted time with her. If she doesn’t approve of this, tough; she should’ve thought of that before she married you. The church shall pray for her to get right with her lord (and her pastor). If this doesn’t work, she shall make “the Sunday evening edition”

    Enjoy everyone! There are a lot more where these came from, lmao 🙂

    • Avatar
      Elle

      Lol on the not wearing makeup!

      I remember one of the missionary wives who was married to the man who used to be a division leader in the bus ministry at hac and fbc… and I always thought she looked and dressed so incredibly homely, almost as if she walked straight out of Little House on the Prairie set.
      I wondered how in the world that man could look at his wife much less have sex with her because why would you defile such a woman who looked so sheepish and innocent!! ? (The mind of an 18 year old girl that had been sort of “bad” with many boys in high school, shame on me)
      I never understood it. Then Hyles would yell from the pulpit that “If the barn needed painting”…and the men would hoopla with their Bibles waving in the air.
      I didn’t understand the extremes of it and was so glad for makeup, but why yell about it from the pulpit?! It was beyond comprehension in my little brain back then.

  5. Avatar
    Elle

    This is epic.

    All of it so true and I laughed out loud at some of them!!!

    Shaking my head, wishing I had gotten out of that place sooo much sooner than we did, you know when I should’ve used my own brain and listened to my gut.

  6. Avatar
    Ashlie

    I am curious why the Ifb doesn’t want Christians to go to the movie theatre? Many watch movies in their home….what is the difference? My mom grew up with this rule but never was told why. Could someone please explain?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The short answer is that going to the movies supported Hollywood. Going to the movies could also lead to you having a bad testimony before the world. If your neighbor saw you leaving the Cinemaplex, he wouldn’t know what movie you had watched, leading him to have questions about your faith.

  7. Avatar
    NJ Agnostic Atheist

    This is 100% the independent Baptist school I attended. Even my Southern Baptist Church wasn’t this strict!

    Another rule for students was that thou shalt not attend the roller skating rink upon threat of expulsion.

    Students may be expelled at any time, for any reason, if the president of the school deems the reason sufficient (my 2nd grade brother was expelled for defiance).

    Thou shalt believe in pre-millennial rapture unless your pastor believes in post-millennial rapture. In any case, we are definitely living in the end times before the 2nd coming of Christ.

    After I graduated from that school I didn’t wear a skirt for 2 years at my secular university! It wasn’t long before I traveled the road to liberal Christian to agnostic atheist.

  8. Avatar
    LInn

    Thou shalt not eat at a restaurant on Sunday. If thou dost sin and eat at a restaurant (due to the slothful disposition of thy wife), then thou shalt leave a tract for the server-never a tip.

    Thou shalt leave a tract in the restroom after thou hast used it.

    Thou shalt leave tracts in various and sundry places: the aisles of Walmart, in library books, at the doctor’s office, so that all may know the Good News of the Gospel.

    If you are a young woman, thou shalt wear knee-length dresses, with hose and heels at summer camp in the woods in the red clay mud when it rains.

    Thou shalt always obey the speed limit, EXCEPT when the Pastor says it is God’s will that thou shalt go 10-20 miles over the speed limit so as not to miss lunch at camp.

    Thou shalt leave for camp on Monday morning and return on Saturday afternoon, as thou must be able to give a long, tearful testimony at the church service on Sunday morning (exhaustion is of the devil).

    All of the above were part of the unwritten code at my Fundy church 40 years ago. I am still a very committed Christian, but I was thankfully out of the IFB world once I left for college (a secular university).

  9. Avatar
    Mark R

    “Thou shalt not have more than one hole in each ear” shall be amended as follows:

    WOMEN ONLY shall be permitted no more than one piercing in the earlobe of each ear. No other part of the anatomy (e.g. eyebrow, belly button, tongue) shall be permitted to be pierced.

  10. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Amendment – though shalt say amen during service but only if you are male.

    Thou shalt not speak in Sunday morning service if thou be a woman, unless you are the soloist and you want to give thanks and praise to Jesus for the wonderful song.

    Thou shalt be baptized by full immersion in this particular denomination of church, preferably this specific church, otherwise it might have been a false baptism that didn’t take.

    Thou shalt vote for GOP candidates only

  11. Avatar
    BJW

    This list also sounds similar to what Adventists practiced. Oh, as a new convert attending an Adventist college, I actually said, “heck” or “darn” around one of the older teachers (40 years ago). She actually got upset! One of my other professors did allow that saying “shoot” was okay, as she was used to people from Ohio saying it! 😉

  12. Avatar
    Dave

    I was brought up in evangelical churches which clung to much of this dogma. How I struggled to free myself from this oppressive thinking. Although I did finally deconvert I resent the years I lost trying to live under these ridiculous guidelines

  13. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    So men can’t have facial hair but women can? As a transgender woman, I find that interesting, to say the least!

  14. Avatar
    Cathy A Wallace

    I grew up in a similar church. However, after studying the Bible, I realized that it is about God’s love and grace, not keeping rules. I pray for all of you. It is also my desire that those who have become nonbelievers will respond with a yes to Jesus. I am far from perfect. Please reconsider Jesus and the Gospel.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Yes, Jesus. I’m saved now, right? sigh Do you realize how offensive your words are to unbelievers; people who struggled and agonized over leaving Christianity? Of course not. You have “found” True Christianity. Memo to former Evangelicals: be like Kathy. Memo to Kathy: fuck off.

      And before you move on to other people to evangelize, consider that many former Evangelicals know the Bible inside and out. I was in the Christian church for 50 years. I pastored Evangelical churches — IFB, Southern Baptist, Christian Union, Sovereign Grace, and non-denominational — for 25 years. I preached over 4,000 sermons. I spent thousands and thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible. Pray tell, Kathy, what are you going to tell me about the Bible that I don’t already know?

      I hope you have figured out by now that you have really stepped in the proverbial shit pile. Next time? Think, learn, and don’t be a judgmental asshole.

      Praise be . . .

  15. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    You aren’t any different than those of us who have been where you are Cathy. We were you at one time. I’m sure that if your God is all about “love and grace” he will know our hearts better than you and will fully understand in his 3-omni way.

  16. Avatar
    BJW

    Cathy, if you had read more of what Bruce wrote, you would see that your simplistic message isn’t necessary. The Bible has plenty in it of rules, and I doubt someone who believes in a burning hell forever can really get a supposed love message across. I would be more impressed if your god, who is supposed to be omnipotent, couldn’t just save everyone. A god who condemns people to an eternal hell for evil committed during a human lifespan isn’t worthy of worship.

  17. Avatar
    Randy

    Jack Hyles preached at our Christian school (1978) and Proclaimed that it was a sin for a boy to wear anything but white underwear, and also a sin if a boy didn’t have his hair buzz cut on the back ! I remember thinking what an idiot he was. I wasn’t surprised at all when I heard he had an affair with his secretary.

    Another rule our Church had not on your list; women shall not cut their hair. I got a good laugh reading the list brought back some not so good memories from my time in a IFB church

    I’m still a believer but cringe when I hear someone try to say what is sin and what is not.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser