This is the one hundred and eighty-fourth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip from a service held by Tony Hutson, pastor of Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Hutson is the son of the late Curtis Hutson, editor of the Sword of the Lord. — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist periodical started by John R. Rice. In the video clip, Hutson shares a litany of things that offend him.
If following the “Biblical” standard is so important, why don’t IFB preachers and congregants dress like this? Surely, dressing as Jesus did would be best, right?
Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers are fond of saying, when confronted over their cultic, authoritarian, legalistic codes of conduct, that they are not legalists; that legalism is adding works to salvation. In this post, I intend to use a recent article by Bob Gray, Sr. to demonstrate that IFB preachers such as Gray are indeed legalists despite their protestations.
The first time I heard the argument that “legalism is adding works to salvation” was in the 1980s in a sermon preached by IFB luminary James Dennis, the now-retired pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio. The Baptist Temple (as it is commonly called), as is the case with most IFB churches, had a long list of rules (standards) church members were expected to explicitly keep. Anyone who was in leadership or worked in any of the church’s ministries was required to sign statement saying that they would obey and practice the church’s standards. Women, of course, were not permitted to wear pants, and men were not allowed to have long hair or facial hair. There were other rules detailing what entertainments and social activities were forbidden. These standards were the Baptist Temple’s version of the unalterable laws of the Medes and Persians (Daniel 6:8). Refusing to sign the form meant you were not permitted to serve in the church and were branded as rebellious and unsubmissive to the will of James Dennis — I mean God.
When thoughtful people would object to the strict rules, they would often say that the church’s standards were legalistic. Pastor Dennis’ response was to remind them that legalism meant “adding works to salvation,” and neither he or the church was doing that! According to Pastor Dennis, the church’s standards were derived from the Bible and were simply a statement of how God expected Christians to live their lives.
Legalism is salvation by faith plus works! It is salvation plus baptism, plus church membership, plus keeping the law, plus communion, plus confession.
The Seventh Day Adventist doctrine, Church of Christ doctrine, Catholic doctrine, Armenian doctrine, Armstrong World-Wide Church of God doctrine, the Mormon doctrine, and the Jehovah (False) Witness doctrine are legalism.
Right off the bat Gray establishes with no justification other than what he has made up in his mind that legalism is “salvation by faith plus works! It is salvation plus baptism, plus church membership, plus keeping the law, plus communion, plus confession.” Thus, Seventh Day Adventists, the Churches of Christ, Roman Catholics, Armenians [sic], Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all preach a legalistic, works-based false gospel.
Using his made-up definition of legalism, Gray then proceeds to share why he is most certainly NOT a legalist. Gray, the retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas writes:
Legalism is not a godly mother who insists that her daughter dress modestly. Legalism is not parents enrolling their children in a Christian school that believes as they do about separation from the world. Legalism is not a dedicated aged godly dad who takes his son to the barbershop instead of a beauty shop every two weeks.
Legalism is not a faithful youth director who insists his teenagers dress appropriately. Legalism is not a hard-working pastor who insists that his Sunday school teachers not smoke, not drink alcohol, no tobacco use, no movies, they visit absentees, and go soul winning.
Legalism is not the careful godly educator who forbids his students to dance or listen to bad music. Legalism is not the man of God who cries aloud against mixed swimming, in essence, mixed nudity, against vampire lipstick promoting drugs, and young males with their Billy Idol bleached porky pine spiked chili bowl hair do!
Right has not changed and wrong has not changed just because you enter into a different century. Black is still black and white is still white. Good is still good and bad is still bad. Legalism is not the faithful man of God who cries aloud against sin.
Was Paul a legalist when he told men not to have long hair in I Corinthians chapter 11? Was Paul a legalist when he told the ladies not to have short hair in the same chapter? Sit still and read the rest of the article before you become mad!
Was Moses a legalist when he said, “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal,” or when he said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery?” Was Paul a legalist when he said in I Timothy chapter 3 that the deacon should not be double tongued, or when he said a deacon should be the husband of one wife, or should be honest, or should be temperate?
Was Paul a legalist in I Timothy chapter 3 when he said the pastor should be sober, or the husband of one wife, or not greedy of filthy lucre? Was Titus a legalist if he obeyed the Apostle Paul in Titus chapter 2 when he told the aged men to be sober, grave, temperate, sound, loving, patient and the aged women to be holy and temperate? Was he a legalist when the told the young ladies to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, obedient to their husband, and the young men to be sober and of sound speech?
As a result in our day, we find ourselves not fighting the vehicle of formalism; as Dr. John Rice boldly put at the top of his SWORD OF THE LORD paper in a banner. We find ourselves fighting INFORMALISM. The pendulum has swung to another extreme with the same cry against the rest of us who hold our feet to the fire on being separatist and are being called “legalist.”
It takes more than facial hair to make a man. Your flowery shirts and glass pulpits are not impressing the Holy Spirit at all. Your “worship teams” disguised as a singing group are not fooling anyone. , especially the Holy Spirit of God. Your colored lights to get the atmosphere you want is insulting to the Holy Spirit. When you decided to secretly follow Rick Warren you had to embrace the tactic of calling the rest of us “legalists.” You are substituting convenience for conviction.
God’s people have a choice! You can be free inside of the walls or you can be enslaved outside the walls. It bothers me when I hear God’s people using liberty as a license to sin. Liberty is inside of the Laws of God and not outside of the Laws of God. Every commandment, rule, or standard of God has been given for one purpose and that is to build walls around his people especially the young people.
Liquor, dope, elicit sex, Hollywood, cigarettes, bad music, etc., enslaves and is addictive. God’s do’s and don’ts build walls of protection for his people!
If fundamentalism is not careful we will lose everything that is near and dear to us! Being a fundamentalist is more than believing salvation by grace, verbal inspiration, plenary inspiration, preserved inspiration, virgin birth, sinless life of Christ, security of the believer, and vicarious death of Christ. Being a fundamentalist also includes having some rules and standards to live by so we can be free.
Those rules are bricks in a mighty wall that has been built by our founding fathers so that we might have a place of freedom in this world of slavery. Rules and standards have never enslaved for the truth is they liberate for all that enslaves has been placed outside the wall.
We know cigarettes enslave so we put nicotine warnings on the outside of the packages so why shouldn’t God’s people put them outside the wall. The same is true of marijuana, liquor, and dope.
I thank God every day for an old-fashioned wall building Mama, teachers, and preachers! Thank God for wall building schools, colleges, churches, Bible Conferences, and leaders who stand firm inside the walls. This is not legalism but rather it is liberty!
We need the walls to remain strong so that our young people can stay innocent and remain fearful of an enemy that lurks on the outside of the walls of protection where there is the bondage of compromise. Give me liberty inside of the walls.
The rules must be consistent between the pulpit, parent, and peer pressures. If all three are going in the same direction and provide the same consistency the odds are in favor of the follower being allowed to make right decisions! Liberty or legalism?
James Dennis, Bob Gray, Sr. and a cast of thousands would argue that keeping church standards doesn’t save anyone; that their standards are simply a statement of how Good Christians® should live their lives. However, in the real world, these legalistic standards are used to determine who is and isn’t a Real Christian®. Real Christians® will live according to church’s standard, uh I mean the teachings of the Bible. Real Christians® will want to willingly obey their pastor’s dictates. (It is always the pastor who determines what an IFB church’s standards will be. His words are law.) Real Christians® will live Christlike before the world, willingly dressing and behaving in ways that make them stand out.
When saved people refuse to obey, there is doubt cast upon their salvation. These doubts, of course, are rarely uttered aloud. Instead, they become fodder for gossip or Wednesday night prayer meeting. We visited one church where a mother stood before the church and detailed the “sinful” behavior of her adult son who just so happened to be in the service. He quietly bore her excoriation, yet I have no doubt that he wished she would shut the hell up. I felt embarrassed for the man. I have seen similar behavior in IFB prayer meetings where the “backslidden” ways of this or that church member were aired as “prayer requests.” What is implicit in these things is that the person mentioned has a “doubtful” salvation. Those truly saved, would live according to the church’s standards. That they don’t is a sure sign that something spiritually wrong with them; perhaps they aren’t even saved.
IFB preachers who deny that they are legalists will often say, it is up to God to save them on the inside and clean them up on the outside. While this statement sounds good, in the real world, new converts are expected, over time, to strictly obey church standards. If new Christians are reading the Bible, praying, and attending church every time the doors are open, it shouldn’t take a long time for the newly saved to see the “wisdom” of following their church’s code of conduct. A failure to do so means the person is backslidden, not right with God, worldly, or some other negative label. If change is not effected, pastors and their devoted rules-keepers will begin to wonder if so-and-so is r-e-a-l-l-y a Christian.
It is actually quite easy to “test” whether an IFB preacher is a legalist. Just ask him if a lesbian Christian can be a member, or if a Christian woman who recently had an abortion can join the church. Ask him if a woman who wears mini-skirts and low-cut blouses can be a part of their club, or if a man with hair down to the middle of his back can lead the congregation in prayer. Such questions will likely be answered in the negative, thus proving that IFB preachers really don’t leave it to God to clean up people on the outside. That’s their job, shaping them into the kind of Christians “God’ wants them to be. Offenders will be called into the principal’s, I mean’s pastor’s office and educated about how the pastor, uh I mean God, expects them to live. Make no mistake about it, the message is clear: You say you are a Christian, then LIVE like it, and living like means following the church standards established by Christ’s representative on earth, the pastor.
I hope that former IFB church members have some stories to share about legalism and church standards. If so, please share them in the comment section.
I should mention that, according to the gospel preached by James and John, a case can be made for works being required for salvation. James said, faith without works is dead (has not life). I’m inclined to think that, according to some parts of the Bible, that there is a direct connection between how people live and what they believe. We reveal our character by how we live, not by what we say.
Our youngest granddaughter, who sticks her tongue out because Grandpa is sticking out his. Little did I know that by our little tongue game I was turning her into someone Lori Alexander finds disgusting.
What follows is a perfect illustration of what happens when Fundamentalism so permeates your mind that you see “sin” in the smallest of behaviors; even natural ones such as farting and belching. Of all the things Lori Alexander could write about, she decides to tackle the evil of sticking out your tongue. What’s next, the evil of nose picking, butt scratching, or pulling up your underwear?
As many of you know, I have two new granddaughters. One was born in July and the other in August. They are beautiful and fun to watch. We laugh when their little tongues come continually out of their mouths. When they toot, we think it’s funny. When they burp, we all laugh and are happy they got their air out so it won’t cause a tummy ache. All of their noises are so sweet to all of us. However, when grown women are doing these things, they aren’t funny or cute anymore. It is disgusting and they are not being discreet.
Sticking out your tongue for pictures and having tooting and burping contests are common among women today. I hear it directly from them. They think it’s funny. The Bible tells us otherwise: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11) Even as our children grew older, they never stuck their tongues out or looked like the girl in the picture. We would never have allowed this. They didn’t burp or toot on purpose in front of us either. (I actually never heard them burp since they had healthy gallbladders.) We taught them from a young age to have manners.
Godly women are called to be discreet and not do anything to draw attention to themselves. They are not children anymore and should not do childish things. It’s amazing that I even have to teach younger women this today. When I was growing up, we never did such things. We would have been mortified! If we had to pass gas, we held it until we were alone. (If you have a lot of gas, you need to find out to heal your digestive system and I am sure less sugar and more real foods with probiotics will help.)
I don’t ever remember having a problem with burping….I would have never stuck out my tongue for pictures, ever. When I see women do this, it looks disgusting. Tongues are meant to help us talk and eat to enjoy our food, not show off to other people, especially when they are coated with a thick white film which usually means they eat too much dairy and other unhealthy foods…
Be a godly feminine woman. Show discretion in all that you do and don’t try to gain attention by doing something that is ugly….
Armed with certainty, literalism, and an inerrant, infallible religious text, Evangelicals are capable of taking virtually any human behavior and turning it into a sin. In a Charisma News article titled Why Many Believers Overlook This Soul-Decaying Idol, Kimberly Wagner says that overeating is sinful, using Romans 12:1,2 as a pretext:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Wagner proceeds to Bible-shame everyone who dares to eat one Twinkie more than necessary to provide their daily energy needs. As Christians often do, Wagner uses her own legalistic struggles with food as justification for scolding those of us who consume more calories than we should. Wagner writes:
One of my friends was sharing why she no longer goes to the race track to gamble. She said, “I never wanted anyone to have anything they saw me do that might detract from my commitment to Christ. I want everything I do to be something that glorifies Him.”
As she was sharing that, all I could think about is how I’ve stopped battling my idol and let it gain mastery over me again. I told her, “If people looked at my eating habits, I would be ashamed. I’m not glorifying God … ”
How can I stand and teach the Word, challenge women to live passionately for Christ, when I have this unyielded area in my life? When I’m worshiping at the wrong altar? When I’m indulging in idolatry—feeding my flesh?
Food is not the problem. My heart is.
I love food. I love butter (and lots of it), cream sauce, chocolate, comfort food, creamy food, crunchy food, spicy food, sweet food, salty food, cheesy food, rich food, high-calorie-high-fat food. My love affair with food is unholy.
But true enjoyment of God’s gifts comes through the holy practice and consumption of those gifts—not through the perversion of the good. Food is good and necessary. But food can become an idol. I don’t just eat to live—I live to eat!
When I go beyond enjoying food within holy boundaries and indulge my flesh in unhealthy ways, when my cravings drive my decisions and I seek to find satisfaction through my belly, when gluttony becomes my practice, my approach to food is not glorifying God. In fact, it’s idolatry.
Simply put, Wagner’s love affair with food is “unholy” and everyone else should view eating in the manner she has deemed gluttonous in the same way she does. Is it any wonder that Evangelicals are such a fearful, guilt-ridden, unhappy lot? According to Romans 12:1,2, in light of the sacrificial death of Jesus, it is reasonable service to God for Evangelicals to zealously watch what they eat. God can’t be bothered with ending war, feeding starving children, or stopping sexual assaults, but he sure is upset when Brother Baptist and Sister Nazarene eat one too many chicken legs at their church’s monthly potluck. The God who always helps Pastor Bluster find his keys is the same God who counts every carb Evangelicals eat. Imagine a Jack Chick This Was Your Life final judgment where God calls on Evangelicals to account for Snicker bars and Mom’s vanilla wafer-layered banana pudding. I bet that Evangelicals who watch the Food channel are going to be in big trouble with God. How dare they sit around and watch food porn.
Sadly, many Evangelicals miss out on enjoying the fruits of their labors due to Pharisaical condemnations of certain behaviors. The Bible can be used to turn any and every behavior into a sin. Spend enough time listening to Evangelical preaching or reading Christian blogs and you will conclude that Evangelicals have Bible-driven hang-ups about virtually everything they do. Even if a behavior is God-approved, if their attitude or “spirit” is wrong, then that behavior is still a sin. This is why Wagner considers loving food a sin. Yes, humans must eat to live, but to LOVE food means we are turning food into an idol. Colossians 3:5 commands Evangelicals to mortify (kill) their flesh. Numerous Bible verses remind Christians that loving ones flesh (giving into human desires) brings judgment and death. Romans 8:8 states that those who give into fleshly desires cannot please God.
Evangelicals are even commanded to abstain from eating or drinking foods that might cause other Christians to stumble (fall into sin). Romans 14:21 states: It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. This means that Evangelicals must not only concern themselves with their own desires, but also the desires of other Christians. Can’t eat an extra helping of Granny’s apple pie at the church potluck because Youth Pastor Sinalot has a weakness for pie (and teenage girls). Mustn’t watch anything but Disney movies when Brother Horndog is around. Wouldn’t want him to get sexually aroused. Who knows what he might do if the spirit of lust comes upon him.
The Bible teaches that Evangelicals are to deny self, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. In fact, if Christians really want to show their devotion to God, they should eat like Jesus ate. That’s right, there is a straight-from-the-throne-room-of-God Jesus Diet. Doctor Oz has an article on his website that lists the foods that Jesus ate:
People back in Jesus’ time ate a mostly plant-based, clean diet. In that region of the world, lentils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dates, nuts and fish were all quite popular. For snacks, some even ate grasshoppers and crickets! All these foods provided proper and satisfying nutrition without excess fats or cholesterol. …. Our longer [digestive] tract, however, allows for more time to process the complex carbohydrates within plants. However, as we eat meat with little fiber, especially red meat, it has a higher chance of getting stuck within our intestines – causing constipation or bloating. In fact, because Jesus and people around Him ate a mostly plant-based diet with little red meat, there’s little mention of “constipation” in the bible [my favorite line]. …. Based on the Bible and historical records, Jesus most likely ate a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, which includes foods like kale, pine nuts, dates, olive oil, lentils and soups. They also baked fish.
Amazing what you can find in the Bible if you “look.”
And here’s the thing, Evangelicals go through similar Bible gymnastics for other behaviors that have been deemed sins against God. Recently, Calvinists have been fighting amoungst themselves over wine, beer, and cigars. One side says that in moderation it is okay to drink alcohol and smoke cigars. The other side says, absolutely not! These substances are “poisons” that harm the body — the temple of the Holy Ghost.
As atheists, we have much simpler lives. We are free to do what we want. While I am not suggesting that it is a good thing to go on a Hostess Ho Ho and beer diet, feeling guilty about overeating or eating the “wrong” (I thought everything was created by God) foods is a waste of time. Life is short, and we shouldn’t spend it obsessing over food. All of us are free to eat however we want. I have friends who are vegans, vegetarians, ethical meat eaters, and Golden Corral buffet grazers. Each to his own. If God is concerned with what I eat then perhaps he shouldn’t have allowed humans to invent such delectable foods. In fact, God should have created our bodies in such a way that we wouldn’t even need to eat, thus eliminating time spent eating and pooping. Imagine how much nicer bathrooms would be without food. No gaseous releases (farts). No turd streaks in the toilet. No more pee on the floor, toilet seat, and everywhere men have been known to splatter. No need for toilet paper either. Think of all the trees we would save!
I wonder if Wagner has ever read Ecclesiastes — you know, the verses that tell us to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Solomon understood that life is short and the best that man can do is to enjoy the fruit of his labors. And with that in mind, I think I will go and eat another one of those Rice Crispy bars Polly made earlier today. I love sinning…
Bob Gray Sr, retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, Texas
Bob Gray, Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple (LBT), Longview, Texas, is widely viewed as an arrogant, stubborn megalomaniac. Much like numerous other Independent Fundamentalist Baptist IFB) preachers, Gray’s ministry approach is simple: my way or the highway. While Gray, Sr. is now retired, having handed the keys of the kingdom to his son Bob Gray II, he continues preach conferences and write articles for his blog, Solve Church Problems, and other IFB websites. Now 70, Gray is proud of the fact that he has never wavered or changed his beliefs. The truncated, bankrupt gospel taught to him decades ago by Jack Hyles is the same gospel Gray preaches today. Subscribing to what I call the 4 W’s: win them, wet them, work them, and waste them, Gray has churned through thousands of converts building his kingdom on earth. (Please see One, Two, Three Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style) Those drawn into Gray’s pernicious form of Baptist Fundamentalism are sure to find themselves battered, bruised, and assaulted as Gray preaches to them what he thinks is old-time, Just-like-Jesus-preached, Christianity.
Knowing these things about Gray, I was puzzled when I read his latest blog post. Titled, The Danger of Being a Bitter and Cranky Old Man, Gray gives seven things he does to keep from being a bitter, cranky old man. I thought, does Gray have dementia? Here’s what he had to say:
1. Preach often about the love and grace of God. If you go back and listen to the sermons Dr. Hyles preached in the last years of his life you will find that he often preached about God’s goodness and God’s love. He made certain that his preaching did not reflect just a fighter’s mentality, but that it reflected a heart of tenderness and love as well. He didn’t lose his fight, but he didn’t lose his sweetness either.
2. Keep helping people. Dr. Hyles has seen what betrayal can do to men. He chose to ignore the betrayal of people who he had helped and just keep helping more people. Someone once asked Dr. Hyles, “What do you do when your personal converts have turned against you?” He answered, “I just get more converts.” What a great answer. I have converts who have turned against me. But, I have new converts who I won to Christ this past week. Rather than dwelling on the pain of those who have turned on me, I dwell on the joy of those who recently turned to Christ.
3. Don’t take every battle personally. This is important. Dr. Hyles did not allow himself to be the issue even though others often tried to make him the issue. He even tried to stop those of us who loved him from making him the issue. He said, “The issue is the issue. People want to make me the issue because they can’t argue the real issue.” When you allow yourself to be the issue you are dangerously close to becoming bitter and angry.
4. Remember the things that made you sweet before. I love to go back and reflect on the good things. I love to rejoice in what Christ did for me in times when I most desperately needed him. Oh the joy of returning to the places where God did something special in my life.
5. Stay sentimental. I once heard someone say, “Dr. Hyles thank you so much for taking us back to visit the places that were sacred to you.” Dr. Hyles replied, “Thank you for accompanying me to those places. I don’t go just for you to see them. I go to remember what God did for me there.” Sentimentality in moderation can keep you from becoming bitter.
6. Don’t stop needing God. Dr. Hyles once said, “I’m glad that I don’t have a bunch of millionaires who supplement or subsidize my ministry.” He said, “I have friends who have given a lot of money, but I have always rerouted most of that money to others. I never want to be in a place where I don’t need God because I have someone else who is taking care of all my needs. I want to stay needy because if I stay needy I get to rejoice in God providing. If you’ve ever been poor you know how wonderful it is when something comes that you weren’t expecting and desperately needed. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling. What a great truth. I love it that I still desperately need God in my life.
7. Stay in the book. The Bible is not just a manual for sermons we as preachers can easily begin to think. The Bible is the precious love letter from our Heavenly Father about his precious son. Stay in love with the word of God. May it never become merely your manual for ministry but always be a personal way to know your God better.
After reading these points, I thought, where was THIS version of Bob Gray, Sr. when he was pastoring the Longview Baptist Temple? Ask former members if Gray spent the bulk of his time preaching the love, goodness, and grace of God. Ask them if Gray had a heart of tenderness and love. Ask them how Gray responded when they voiced their disagreements. Ask them if Gray ignored personal slights. Ask them how Gray reacted to those who refused to bow before him and grant him autocratic power over their lives. Ask them what Gray did when people challenged his “pastoral authority.”
Gray concludes his post with this:
I get a little cranky at times. Sometimes I even get mean and angry. I would like to think that most of the time it’s on purpose, but I want to work at making certain that in my heart I’m still filled with God’s love and grace. I don’t want to be that bitter and cranky old preacher that Dr. Hyles feared becoming.
Buried in this paragraph is the real Bob Gray: a man who thinks that getting mean and angry has its place. And Gray is clear. When he is mean and angry, you know when he is assaulting church members with his rules-driven, Puritanical, cult-like demands, he is behaving this way on purpose. As with Jack Hyles and countless other Hitler-like preachers, Bob Gray, Sr. has no tolerance for those who dare to march to the beat of a different drum. When crossed, Gray can, and does, turn into a venomous viper, capable of killing others with his words. (Please see IFB Pastor Bob Gray, Sr. Shows His True Colors)
There is much talk especially on the Internet about pastoral abuse. Unfortunately much of this talk comes from disgruntled church members seeking to justify their leaving the church. Certainly there are cases of pastoral abuse, but in this day and age anything people feel infringes upon them personally is deemed as being
There is far too much being called pastoral abuse, which is nothing more than strong leadership. It is much like parental abuse. What my parents did in raising me would be called abuse today.
I am not justifying any kind of real abuse, but unfortunately the word abuse has been broadened in its meaning beyond reasonability. That said it is possible that sometimes a pastor could inadvertently be guilty of abusing his people.
As you can see, in Gray’s version of the world, mentally and emotionally abusing and manipulating church members is just “strong leadership.” Those who have, over the years, complained about Gray’s abusive behavior are “disgruntled church members seeking to justify their leaving the church.” Just remember, rule number one in the IFB Pastor’s Manual states: Always blame others. Gray has spent his 44 years in the ministry blaming sin, worldliness, liberalism, and compromise for the steady stream of people exiting the back door of the Longview Baptist Temple. Perhaps it is time for Dr. not really a Dr. Gray to take a hard look at his own life (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor) and stop blaming others.
Those who worship at Gray’s feet will likely say I am dead wrong about their demigod. Like the Texas blind salamander and the followers of Jack Hyles, Gray’s devotees refuse to see the man for who and what he is. There’s little I can do to bring such people to the light. I am friends with several people who, at one time, attended Gray’s church and Bible college. I have also corresponded with current and former LBT members. Yes, current members. These are members who dare not voice their disapproval of Gray, Sr. and his son’s fawning over the Hyles family. When the Grays and LBT one Sunday gave serial adulterer David Hyles a warm welcome, these devoted followers were shocked. Evidently, crossing Gray, Sr. will result in a lifetime ban from LBT. Fucking your way across America and committing numerous felonies? Welcome home, Brother Hyles. (Please see Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome and UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored)
Other posts about the erstwhile king of Longview, Texas, Bob Gray, Sr.
Nathan, Jaime, and Jason Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1989
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (I Corinthians 11:14)
According to many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers, 1 Corinthians 11:14 is clear: it is shameful and against nature for a man to have long hair. The late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, made it his life’s mission to rid American men of what he considered effeminate long hair. In a sermon titled, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Hyles stated:
God pity you people who call yourselves Christians and wear your long hair, beard and sideburns like a bunch of heathens. God, clean you up! Go to the barber shop tomorrow morning, and I am not kidding. It is time God’s people looked like God’s people. Good night, let folks know you are saved! There are about a dozen of you fellows here tonight who look like you belong to a Communist-front organization. You say, “I do not.” Then look like you do not. You say, “I do not like that kind of preaching.” You can always lump anything you do not like here.
In the booklet titled Jesus Had Short Hair, Hyles made the connection between male hair length and homosexuality. In Hyles’ eyes, men with longer hair were more likely to be sissified, weak homosexuals. Hyles wrote:
It is very interesting that as the trend toward long hair increases, the acceptance of homosexuality increases. This is not to say that long hair and homosexuality always go together, but it is to note the fact that both are on the rise in our generation. Several of the major denominations have now accepted homosexuals. In some cities there are churches for homosexuals pastored by avowed homosexuals. At least one major denomination has ordained a homosexual preacher and others are considering following suit.
IFB preaching against long hair on men found its impetus as men began to grow their hair longer in the late 1960s and 1970s. Hippies had long hair and were anti-establishment. IFB preachers viewed long hair on men as a sign of rebellion against parental and religious authority. As anyone raised in the IFB church movement knows, rebellion is considered a grave sin, one that is never to be tolerated by parents or churches. This view of rebellion led to the establishment of IFB group homes, places where frustrated parents sent their children to be cured of rebellion. Sadly, children sent to these homes often returned to mom and dad emotionally and mentally broken. In some instances, these rebellious children had been physically and sexually assaulted.
In the IFB church movement of the 1970s, the four big sins were: long hair on men, short skirts on women, pants on women, and rock music. Youth directors waged holy wars against these sins and pastors frequently excoriated church teenagers over their unwillingness to obey the rules. While the days of hippies, Woodstock, and free love have faded into the pages of American history, many IFB preachers still preach against long hair, short skirts, pants, and rock music.
There are numerous unaccredited IFB colleges and Bible institutes in the United States. With few exceptions, these institutions strictly regulate how men must wear their hair. I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-79. Midwestern had a strict standard concerning hair: short, off the ears, no long bangs, short sideburns, no facial hair, and a tapered neckline. This standard was strictly enforced, and men who let their hair grow too long were told to get a haircut. Ignoring this demand resulted in suspension.
While some IFB preachers, churches, and colleges have adapted to the times, many have not. Midwestern Baptist College is one such institution that still thinks it is 1976. Here is Midwestern’s male hair standard, as published in their 2013-14 student handbook (PDF):
Men are to be neat in appearance and dressed properly at all times. The hair is to be cut over the ears and tapered at the back above the collar. Sideburns are to be no lower than the middle of the ear. Hair must be no longer than the middle of the forehead in front. Men may not have facial hair unless approved by the Dean of Students. Such facial hair must be neatly groomed at all times. Faddish, worldly hairstyles will not be tolerated. The final decision as to the appropriateness of a hairstyle will rest with the Administration.
As a loyal, faithful son of the IFB church movement, from the time I was a child until the late 1990s, I had short hair. As an IFB preacher, I thought it important to model the hairstyle God approved. While I didn’t preach very often on men having long hair, my short hairstyle made it clear to church members where I stood on the matter. Not only was my hair a testimony to the notion that the Bible condemned long hair, but so was the hair of my three oldest sons. Jason, Nathan, and Jaime spent many years looking similar to children who were either being treated for lice or recently released from a Nazi prison camp. Not wanting to spend money on haircuts, we bought a pair of clippers and periodically gave them buzz cuts. No protestations allowed. Sit down, buzz, next. I am sure, at the time, they hated me and I don’t blame them.
Charles Spurgeon, a 19th Century English Baptist Preacher
Over time, my views on hair began to change. In the early 1990s, I grew a beard, much to the surprise of my fellow IFB preachers. By then I had distanced myself from the more extreme elements of the IFB church movement, and I began fellowshipping with Calvinistic-oriented Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptist preachers. These men, refugees from IFB churches, didn’t have as many social hangups. While they were still quite Fundamentalist, these preachers spent little time preaching on things such as male hair length and facial hair. Charles Spurgeon was one of this movement’s patron saints and he had long hair and a beard. I thought at the time, if Spurgeon had long hair and a beard, it must be okay for me to do the same.
Last Saturday, Polly and I drove to Newark, Ohio to visit her parents. While there, my IFB mother-in-law asked me about my hair. Since last October, I have let my hair grow. It is longer now than it ever has been. Mom, who attends a church that is anti-long hair on men, asked, So you are growing your hair long? I replied, Yes. She responded, Why? And with nary a thought, I replied, BecauseI can. I am sure she is disappointed that I am letting myself turn into a hippie. She later asked if I planned to put my hair in a ponytail like my former brother-in-law does I told her I didn’t plan to let my hair grow that long.
As it stands now, my hair has quite a bit of curl on its extreme ends, an unexpected result. I am not sure Polly likes my hair this long, but we have a hard, fast agreement: we don’t criticize each other’s hair styles. While we do, at times, defer to one another, both of us are free to wear our hair as we wish. Now that we have cast off the shackles of Fundamentalism, we are free to do what we want. As I have mentioned before, Polly and I missed out on the freedoms of the 1960s and 1970s. Both of us were members of hardcore IFB churches that strictly regulated dress, hair styles, and conduct. Now that we are no longer emotionally and mentally bound in IFB bondage, we are, to some degree, living, for the first time, the 1960s and 1970s. On the plus side, we are much wiser than we were 40 years ago. On the negative side, we also have bodies that are 40 years older. Oh to be wise and young!
How about you? Did you grow up in a church that strictly regulated dress, hair style, and behavior? Were you compliant or rebellious? If you were rebellious, how did the church and your parents respond to your rebellion? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.