If you are unfamiliar with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, please read the following posts:
The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook
Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Lingo, A Guide to IFB Speak
An Independent Baptist Hate List
Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps
How to Start an Independent Baptist Church
Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher
If I were to ask you what Independent Fundamentalist Baptists value most, many of you would say things such as: Jesus, the B-I-B-L-E, hard preaching, and potlucks. However, these four articles of the IFB faith pale in comparison to the one thing valued above all others: the virginity of teen girls and never-married women. Valued above Jesus? Yes, even above Jesus. Intact hymens are the holy grail of the IFB church movement. This fact is best illustrated by a dating couple who came to an IFB pastor and asked if they only had “butt sex” would that mean the woman was still a virgin? The pastor, of course, told them that anal sex was the same as vaginal sex. But why would this question even be asked? Why would anyone think that anal sex (or oral) was not “real” sex? Because in IFB churches, the only hole God made for sex is judiciously protected against the insertion of anything besides tampons. No penises, fingers, vegetables, or battery-operated devices are allowed. (And on the extreme end of the IFB church movement, some pastors believe that married couples should only engage in vaginal sex — missionary position — while thinking how wonderful it would be if Bro. Billy Bob’s sperm hooked up with Sister Mary Lou’s eggs.)
From their teen years forward, IFB girls hear repeated warnings about having premarital sex and losing their virginity. These girls are told that only whores have premarital sex and that those who let boys score with them are like dirty rags fit for the trash. I have heard countless sermons — and preached a few myself — that focused solely on causing teen girls and unmarried women fear, guilt, and shame. While the young horn dogs of IFB churches, along with their wandering-eyed fathers, hear purity sermons from time to time, most of such sermons are directed at what IFB churches believe is the weaker sex. Women are reminded that they are the gatekeepers. It is up to them to protect not only their own holy virginity, but that of the boys and men. This is why there are so many rules about how women dress. The goal is to destroy their visage and beauty, those things that cause teenage boys to have wandering thoughts about youth group girls instead of their pastor’s weekly Biblical tirade.
Despite the Baptist burkas, hot-and-heavy sermons, and puritanical rules governing dating and male/female interaction and physical contact (there are no gays in IFB churches), unmarrieds do have sex. And thanks to Just Say No sex education, some girls do become pregnant.
In IFB churches, there’s nothing worse than one of the church girls getting pregnant (especially the preacher’s daughter). Whether the girl is fourteen or twenty-three, it matters not. Becoming pregnant without the benefit of marriage is a deep black stain on the mother-to-be and the church, the girl’s parents, and her pastor. By spreading her legs before marriage and “allowing” Deacon Noah’s son to plant his seed, she has repudiated everything her church, parents, and pastor believe about the sanctity of sex.
With such extreme thinking, wouldn’t it be best for all sexually aware IFB girls to be put on the pill? That way, the threat of embarrassment and scandal for IFB churches, pastors, and parents is eliminated. Makes sense, right? Why not take preventive measures, especially since any honest IFB preacher knows that more unmarrieds than not will eventually do the “dirty” deed. When I was asked this very question years ago, I told the questioner that allowing girls to use birth control was akin to saying that it was okay to have sex. This same logic was used for drinking alcohol, using drugs, and other behaviors deemed sins. JUST SAY NO was the only proper response to temptation and sin. It didn’t matter that most married adult IFB church members failed to just say no when they were single. (Ask your pastor or his wife if they were virgins on their wedding day.) All that mattered was maintaining the virginal illusion that when young IFB couples walked down the aisle, their lives were living testimonies to the rightness of IFB doctrine and practice.
I want to conclude this post with several anecdotal stories from my days as a student at Midwestern Baptist College and as a young IFB pastor.
As many of you know, the college I attended in the 1970s had (and still has) a strict no-contact-with-the-opposite-sex policy. If you are not familiar with this policy, please read Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six Inch Rule. While an infinitesimally small number (I knew of four) of unmarried students kept the six-inch rule, the rest of us broke the rule with gusto. While some students could keep their virginity intact, other students scampered around the bases and slid into home. Those caught breaking the six-inch rule were usually campused (not permitted to leave campus) on a first offense. Further offenses, pregnancy, or whispers of sexual romps in cars, motel rooms, or the dormitory laundry room were harshly met with immediate expulsion. Not only were offenders shamed in front of their fellow students, many of whom were guilty of the very same sexual “crimes,” they were shipped home to their IFB churches, parents, and pastors to face further humiliation.
My first ministerial position post-college was as the assistant pastor of a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation in Montpelier, Ohio. During my seven-month stay at Montpelier Baptist Church, one of the girls in the church became pregnant. The pastor decreed that she and the father of the baby were to wed immediately. (My sister went through a similar circumstance, marrying at the age of fifteen.) Not only were they to promptly wed, but only immediate family could attend the wedding, and the girl would not be permitted to wear a white dress. The pastor told the pregnant girl that the color white was reserved for girls who were virgins on their wedding days. Her mistake was confessing her sin. Had she quickly and quietly run to the altar as other church women had done, she could have worn white and maintained the virginity illusion.
Years later, I attended a church service where a “loose” pregnant teen was brought before the church congregation and made to profess her wickedness publicly. Once she was sufficiently shamed, church members came to the weeping, shaking girl and embraced her, praising God for cleansing the girl from her sin. I do not doubt that many of these hugging super saints were guilty of the very same sin years ago. Sufficiently distanced from their own mortal sins, these holy saints of God likely felt no irony or guilt as they continued the shaming ritual.
Some IFB churches choose to make pregnant teens disappear. IFB parents who find out their daughters are pregnant will usually immediately (and frantically) contact their pastors to find out what they should do. Knowing that their daughters’ “sins” will sully their churches’ testimonies (and abortion is not an option), parents often choose to ship their pregnant teens to IFB group homes. These homes, which are frequently little more than prisons or reeducation camps, purportedly turned whores, sluts, and fornicators into blood-washed, white-as-the-driven-snow lovers of Jesus, the King James Bible, and the IFB way. Often, their babies are given up for adoption.
I hope readers raised in IFB churches will share their own experiences in the comment section. I have written here sounds out of this world to many people, but these stories and practices are repeated daily in countless IFB schools, colleges, churches, and homes. Since the IFB church movement prides itself on being the same today, yesterday, and forever (if it was good enough for Jesus and Paul, it’s good enough for me), the shaming rituals and abuse of years ago are often practiced today. As long as church teenagers keep having sex, there will be bastard children and women to ritually humiliate. Indeed, the IFB deity is an awesome God.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.
Connect with me on social media:
You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.
Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.
I was not in the IFB, but might as well have been. My family and their co-workers adhered faithfully to every teaching you have ever described.
I visited one of those “homes*” for “wayward” girls, back in the 50s. So cold, so quiet, so subdued the girls were: I came away horrified.
And then, a couple of years later, I learned more. When a girl is raped (as I was**) and becomes pregnant (as I did), there is a rush on to get her married before she “shows”. And then the newlywed couple is hurried off to a distant city until the child is beyond early infancy. All hush-hush. I didn’t realize until decades later, that a good percentage of my friends and classmates had also lost their virginity, one way or another, before marriage, and lived under the same cloud of shame that I and those girls in the “home” did.
*Scare quotes because those were no homes; they were prisons.
** And of course it had to have been my fault.
I am so sorry that you had that experience. These people are evil to have treated you like that. It was really brave of you to share that.
Thank you. The people were my parents and my pastor. Good people, in their own way, but Christianity seems to blind people to the damage they’re causing.
It was long ago; they’re no longer living.
Susannah, it does my heart good to hear the truth. When you say, ‘good people’, you are referring to some part of them that did not harm you? Because my parents are good people too and complete fucking assholes at the same time.
I wish you peace, joy and human love in your everyday…
Have any of these people ever read the Song of Solomon? I had someone inform me that kissing before marriage was a sin. I was not raised IFB but joined it because of my husband’s relatives on his mother’s side. They don’t even read their own holy book. I think that we should tweet some of the descriptions of intimacy in the Song of Solomon to these ridiculous pastors because these standards are not designed to help but to hurt.
Yeah. The Song of Solomon. My middle is as tall as the cedars of Lebanon, and you dear are my Mammoth Cave.
The forgotten book in the Bible—in the fundie mind—it is almost as obscure, uncomfortable, and useless as the Book of Galatians.
I have often thought that if one were to hold a fundie rally to vote on the book that most needs to be deleted from the Holy Bible, the Song of Solomon and Galatians would be the two big winners. They are kind of like Iowa. Everyone knows it is one of the 50 states, but no one can find it on a map and no one wants to go there.
Galatians is a great idea too. My husband has taken to protesting the religious right by posting bible verses they wouldn’t like. He posted James which I think they would also like to see tossed because it is too friendly to the poor and they love money too much:)
My mother-in-law was raised Catholic, and when her mother was on her deathbed, she made a startling confession. Apparently, when her Mom was 15 years old, she was “seduced”by her high school English teacher. She became pregnant, and when she told the teacher, he promptly skipped town. Her Mom’s parents shipped her off to one of the many homes for unwed mothers run by the Catholic church. The nuns there treated her horribly; they let her labor for three days with no medication and no help, refusing to call the doctor until the other girls couldn’t stand to listen to her screams anymore. She gave birth to a boy, but the nuns wouldn’t even let her look at him, much less hold him, before they took him away. A few days after she gave birth, the nuns drove her to the bus station and sent her back to her hometown. They told her that her son had been put up for adoption because her status as an unmarried girl made her “morally unfit” to be a mother, and she was to tell no one she had ever given birth. Her parents acted as if she had merely been away visiting relatives, and refused to acknowledge anything had happened. But my MIL’s mother spent her entire life wondering what happened to her baby.
My mother-in-law has tried to find her brother, but has not been successful. Given that he was born in 1944, there’s a good chance he’s already dead. She says that growing up, she used to wish she had a big brother (she’s the oldest of three girls her Mom had once she grew up and married.) It breaks her heart to know that she had one, and never got to know him. And she probably never will. It breaks my heart, too. :,-(
That is truly tragic. It is like these people use religion as an excuse to be mean to the truly vulnerable instead of using it as an excuse to be kind. The vulnerable then become blamed for their own abuse, and the guilty never see justice.
This is what Christianity is, Sarah. Why do we suppose it should be otherwise? Oh, because they claim it is! Baptist Doublespeak!
Now, dear brother and sister in Christ, bend over so I can beat the shit out of you, for your own good. This is going to hurt me so much more than you.
My ex-sister-in-law went through this exact thing when she was a young woman; she is bitter about it to this day
Virginity. The holy grail, that’s a good comparison.
I have seen many girls/women come weeping to the altar to confess the sin of pre-marital sex (or post-marital sex, in the case of one divorcée). It is amazing that the confession and weeping only come after being caught or getting pregnant. Fortunately, I didn’t see much public shaming. I think it was because it was the pastor’s daughter and the deacons’ daughters and granddaughters that were the ones who were having sex and getting caught.
What made it better was the fact the the two fornicators were “in love” and were already planning to get married, even before having sex. They realized they had a lapse of judgement, so getting married right away will fix everything.
We would have a time of prayer, then everyone would come forward and shake the penitent sinner’s hand. They’re would be crying and snotting, everyone would hug, then someone would announce how wonderful it was that the sinners had found repentance. After that, it was as if nothing happened.
p.s. I’ve added to my name, since I see a new Ian posting here.
I was raised in a Southern Baptist church and Christian school. When i was in High school I went to Bob Jones Academy in Greenville, South Carolina. While I received a good education academically, and I was not a trouble maker, I saw so much legalism.
The Bible does say that Christians are to be different than non believers, but what bothered me at Bob Jones was how they looked down at other Christian schools and Universities.
Many students at Bob Jones, especially ” staff kids”, were engaging in premarital sex. They weee so bounded by legalism that they rebelled. They had the “no hand holding, no kissing, no couples can go on a date off campus “.
I was an Academy boarding studeent and my roommates were University Seniors and Juniors. They were adults. Many University students were engaged….and they couldn’t go on a date with their fiance.
Bob Jones smothered their students with man made laws of legalism. The “dating ” guidelines were ridiculous and over the top.
It was a bubble of fundamentalism. Many people I knew rejected Christianity because of the legalism there.
I am still a Christian, and I believe the Bible teaches purity and sex for marriage, but that has to be decided in by the Christian. You can’t smother people with legalism and expect many not to rebel.
While I was at Bob Jones, I was grateful my upbringing wasn’t in an Ifb household. My parents were raised in legalism in the Ifb, and that is why we were raised in the Southern Baptist denomination. We were taught the Bible, but in a way that wasn’t oppressive and rigid in legalism.
For people raised in the IFB, i am sorry if you experienced abuse. I have known of many IFB Pastors who deeply abused their families, and who were too harsh with their churches.
It makes me cringe that many IFB churches are more cult following than JesuJesus following. What a bad representation of Biblical Christianity.
I would like to point out (re the graphic at the top) that these days the word “Fornication” is found ONLY in Christianese. It’s almost a recognition characteristic.
Thanks for writing about your experience in the IFB and as a Pastor. As someone who grew up in an IFB home and church, I want to get out the word about these self-righteous sinners. I’m writing a novel (genre: women’s fiction) about what you’ve written here about the number one thing this cult is concerned with, woman and sex.
In the novel, the main character is raped and sent away. I’d appreciate any information about the group homes unwed mothers are sent to. I’ve been searching for more information as to what these poor girls are put through so far from home and away from any family and friends.
Thanks for any information you can share, M. J. Patrick
I am from Africa and I grew up Pentecostal, which is not so different from IFB, nor any other mainstream christian church, and as a teen, we were taught that sex out of marriage was dirty and anyone who did it would likely go to hell. I recall we used to have events where participants were asked to sign “purity” pledges promising to reserve ourselves for marriage, problem was at the time, we were in our mid-teens and raging with hormones and basically forced to make pretend about our supposed purity all the while watching porn secretly, engaging in “quickies” in secret places and repenting about it everytime an opportunity was given by our “sex police” to do so; meanwhile we were told any form of contraception was akin to licentiousness and so was a no no.
Am 35 now, and after much reflection and study, I came to the conclusion that God is far more
liberal regarding this topic than Christianity will have him to be and while I abhor sexual abuse
especially that done by men of the cloth, I do feel it is unhealthy to rob teenagers and young
people in general their God given right to engage in normal, safe consensual sex since this will
only result in undesirable outcomes like STDs because Abstinence only cannot work, we are sexual beings and we will always be so and religious folk should quit blaming women for their dress code and just leave them the hell alone, women have libidos too and shouldn’t be blamed
for wanting to get laid and my heart goes out to every woman or girl who has been shamed by
church folk for getting pregnant out of wedlock, the treatment these women faced was uncalled
for and should be condemned in the strongest terms, being a mom is a right of any woman and
virginity before marriage is not what gives a woman her worth, but rather her humanity!
Appreciate the post Bruce!
I was raised til 14 as a Southern Baptist PK. My father left the SBC because he felt it had become too liberal. Enter the IFBs: I was gay and repented almost daily. I went forward at 16 and told the youth pastor. He took me aside and prayed for a long time. A week later he and one of the jocks wanted me to work weights with them. There were only us three. They made hints… a few months later my Youth Pastor had me in bed. He had done this before and after me. He left that church a year after I graduated to be the sports director for the middle schoolers at Tennessee Temple University. He is still (40 years later) a well respected, vocally anti-gay, member of ministry in churches.
Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. I am sorry that you experienced abuse at the hands of people who should have had your best interests at heart. That this man is still in the ministry is beyond disgusting.
Amazing hypocrisy on the part of these church people. That youth pastor should be in the friggin’ clink. I hope you can report him one day.
OH!!!! I cannot miss this one!
So. U want 2 make a little bit more $$$$ BRUCE ?!? Can U and Polly design a Christian Burka for the IFB crowd?!? Design first. Sales second. Mass production 3rd. Don’t forget. An IFB charter on Christian clothing line would make them look ridiculous and U 2 very wealthy. Just make sure to use a religious name for your e-store front.
Just saying …. someone should take advantage of these organizations. All proceeds donated to U know who. Take down one problem at a time BRUCE.
So how do these churches and more importantly their members deal with people who came from a truly non Christian background, were very sexually active , but truly convert to IFB beliefs and become valued members, especially if they are not married? Doubly so if they are not married women. Triply so for single moms? How do they marry into the Church body if it has such a high demand for perceived virginity?
Many IFB churches believe that anything that happened BC or BS (before Christ, before Salvation) doesn’t count. Jesus spiritually heals their hymens the moment they say the sinner’s prayer. Crazy, I know. 😜😜
I know of an IFB evangelist who has a sordid past, including having sex with minors. His first wife was barely 13 when he got her pregnant. He refuses to talk about his past, saying it’s “under the blood.”
Well at least they are fair in that regard. But how would the men feel about truly approaching such a non virgin woman even if her loss of virginity was in the BC days. I mean if you really want a virgin you really want one right. It seems Christ renewed hymens just wouldn’t make the cut deep down.
On the other hand they have to accept these converts as their movement needs new people and new people will not stick around for long if they are second class church members.
How much does all this confuse virginity culture though. Basically it’s okay she isn’t a virgin as she is a convert but you messed up one night but forever are a whore as you did it after being saved? What if a woman was raped and they truly accepted it wasn’t her fault. Does she get a technical virgin status?
On the other hand how do you know a guy is a virgin besides his word??
What if they did everything but vaginal, I mean does that technically count as a virgin? What about just finger penetration. If you pardon the pun here how much wiggle room is allowed on their virgins??
Yes, a woman called Doreen Irvine wrote a book ‘From Witchcraft to Christ’ some decades ago. She grifted for years in the UK,speaking at churches, conferences and in the media about her life of satanic orgies etc before jesus saved her. I heard her say that jesus told her, ‘You are now a chaste virgin in my sight.’ And, fundy though I was, the cynic (deeply ingrained in me sometimes,) thought ‘Well, clever, she would say that, she had to, in order to make herself respectable to all us shocked x-tians who were enabling her to make such a good living out of her story.’ Another cynic called it x-tian porn….good name!
Two girls from the fundamentalist Christian school I attended got pregnant while in high school and chose/were forced by parents to give birth. Both were summarily expelled from the school and expunged from the yearbook.
There was a teen girl who attended our Southern Baptist church a few times with a friend who was a member, and she got pregnant. A couple of the Sunday school teachers held a baby shower for her, but she didn’t last long. I guess she still felt the undercurrent of disapproval despite the kindness of a couple of Sunday school teachers.
I think deep down I knew that the atmosphere was fully about shaming women about sex. As teens we were scared to death with stories of pregnancy, disease, and even death if we dared to have sex. Plus, we were taught modesty rules about dress because we were gatekeepers and boys/men were created by God to be sexual aggressors. So watch out and cover yourself.
So, women are only baby producing machines who should not enjoy sex. It takes 2 to produce a baby. So DNA test everyone, that way you can find out who the father is and punish him as well.