Several weeks ago, a reader sent me an email, asking me two questions. What follows is my response.
For Independent Fundamental Baptists, I’ve watched a couple of Steven Anderson’s sermons, and I see the congregation agreeing and saying amen to everything pastor Anderson has said (even if it is rude and hateful). Why do the Independent Fundamental Baptists have to agree with their pastor?
While some people paint Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, as some sort of extremist within the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement (even suggesting he is NOT IFB), Anderson is typical of what I saw and experienced as an IFB church member and pastor. Granted, Anderson is more public about his abhorrent beliefs and practices than many IFB preachers, but he hasn’t said or done anything that is uncommon among Fundamentalist Baptists. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona.)
IFB churches typically believe that their pastors are chosen by God, ordained to be their leaders. Most IFB churches are led and controlled by one man, the pastor. The pastor is viewed as a divine oracle of sorts, one who speaks on God’s behalf. The pastor is a gatekeeper, the hub around which the church turns. Church members are conditioned and indoctrinated to submit to their pastor’s rule and authority.
Thus, when the man of God stands to speak to the people of God, from the inerrant, infallible Word of God, congregants believe his words are straight from the mouth of God. IFB pastors work for God, not the church, a belief that is often reinforced through preaching on subjects such as pastoral authority and the dangers of going against the man of God. So, then, it should come as no surprise that church members hang on their preacher’s every word, showing their agreement with shouts of AMEN!, THAT’S RIGHT PREACHER!, or PREACH IT!
Also, why do they seem to hate liberals, Catholics, homosexuals, Jews, etc?
Hatred of others is part of the DNA of IFB churches, colleges, preachers, and church members. IFB churches aren’t counter-cultural, they are anti-cultural. Congregants are taught to hate the world.
1 John 2:15-16 says:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Thus, it is not surprising that IFB believers hate liberal Christians, Catholics, LGBTQ people, Democrats, abortionists, atheists, socialists, and anyone else who believes or lives differently from them. In Steven Anderson’s case, he wears his hate proudly. Other IFB adherents hide their hate behind the closed doors of their homes or the safe confines of their churches. Whether out and proud or hiding behind an “I love Jesus” smile, IFB Christians hate.
Years ago, I made the case that there was no difference between Fred Phelps, of Westboro Baptist Church fame, and Southern Baptist luminary Al Mohler. While Phelps wore his hate on his sleeve and Mohler couched his hate in politeness and ten-dollar words, both were Fundamentalists and Calvinists with a “righteous” hatred of the “world.”
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.
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Steven Anderson is to the IFB what David Koresh is to the Seventh Day Adventists. The only difference is that Steven Anderson’s Compound hasn’t been burnt down by the Government.
David Koresh’s people were way, way different than mainstream Adventism. But Bruce is pointing out that Anderson has the same beliefs as other IFB preachers, he is just blatant about his hate. Anderson doesn’t run an offshoot of IFB churches, but embodies the IFB movement.
I sense a “not all IFB” argument. “Oh many of us are good, don’t lump us in with them”.
The “not us” Christians are arguably worse than the christians who hate people like me and want to eliminate us. The “not us” crowd stays silent while the “bad christians” use everything in their power to spread hate and become rulers. Instead of making an effort to stop the “bad Christians”, you stand around whistling with your hands in your pockets.
When we call out the sickness of christianity, and it’s overarching desire to control everyone, and the bigotry that is displayed openly, you suddenly gain a voice and jump up on the sideline and say “not us, we are the good ones”.
So it seems you are fine with what they do, as long as you gain from it, but if you are called out, you claim to be different.
Remaining silent is supporting the bigotry. If you really care, then gather up your “good Christian” friends and go confront these bigots that you claim aren’t like you. Disrupt their churches, call out their hatred, and hold your fellow Christian’s accountable.
But I am realistic. You won’t do that. Very, very few ever make that stand. Much easier to say “not me” and tell us not to look at Christians, instead look at god, and go on believing you are better than me and your fellow christians
True, Steven Anderson just says the abhorrent things loudly and proudly. But the IFB school I attended and the Southern Baptist church I attended? Those same ideas were there, but were whispered or cloaked in more palatable innuendo and suggestive language. We all believed that LGBTQ people were an abomination. That Catholics weren’t Real Christians. That women who were raped were somehow at least partially responsible. That non-Christians were evil and hell bound.
OC, the main difference between your church and mine was that at least, we didn’t believe God would torture people for eternity, but they would eternally die. Still a bad, bad fate for a god to give finite humans fumbling around trying to survive a puny earthly lifespan.