The rampant sexual abuse and other assorted crimes and hypocrisy of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana which I discussed in part one are common throughout the IFB movement, and I think are fueled by the culture of the IFB movement. Many critics of the movement, and of First Baptist Hammond, in particular call the group a "cult". I'll let you decide on that, but many of the aspects of their culture are problematic, and lead to a mindset where outside ideas and people are shut out, leaders are propped up on a very high pedestal, and given ultimate authority over members. The culture also encourages unhealthy family structures where the father is king, and women and children are second class citizens. In this kind of environment, it's not hard to see why predators are attracted to this group, or created by it. It's a ripe breeding ground for them. For a good example of the IFB culture, let's take a look at the rules and atmosphere.of Hyles-Anderson college, the college owned by FBC Hammond, and founded by Jack Hyles.
Isolation from outsiders: IFB members often cut themselves off from the outside world, members are told not to associate with "ungodly" people. They consider anyone who is not part of the IFB movement to be "ungodly", even fellow Christians, regardless of denomination, or whether they are liberal or more mainstream fundamentalist.
Contact with any outsiders is limited to contact with family members, people necessary to associate with for work or business reasons, or reaching out to people to try to convert them. Even in those circumstances, members are warned not to get to close to the people. Outsider churches are seen as apostate, and not "Bible believing" I talk about this in my post on the guilty plea of Jack Schaap:
"I remember another instance where I attended a IFB denomination wide conference with my sister and brother in law, when the pastor who had converted my brother in law.when he was a teen in upstate New York. showed up and started talking to them. My sister introduces me, and immediately he starts questioning me about what church I go to when back home. I tell him the name, he questions further about it, and once he finds out it's a Southern Baptist church, he went ballistic. He turns to my sister and scolds her right there openly that it's her responsibility to make sure that I'm in a "Bible-believing" church. "
A good example of this kind of isolationism is the rules that were placed upon my sister and other students at Hyles-Anderson. In the IFB movement, young adults are not considered adults until they marry, so college students are considered little more than teenagers away from home, because the students aren't considered adults yet, they are considered susceptible to outside influence.
Some of the extreme measures they placed upon students to keep them from outside influence due to this view included requiring passes for staff for students to leave the campus for any reason. I do mean any reason, even if they were going away with family members, parents had to physically walk in and sign a form stating that the student was in fact leaving with them. The bridesmaids at my sister's wedding had to all get passes to leave the campus, even though the wedding was taking place at FBC Hammond, the church that owns Hyles-Anderson. When students went off campus to work, the job was already pre-arranged by the college, and oftentimes, the Hyles students would be working at that company as a group, in mass, and many times, their supervisor on the job was a Hyles graduate.
Isolation from the broader culture and lack of personal space: Students were subject to random sweeps of their rooms at any time. TVs were not allowed in rooms, and books and recordings would be read and listened to by staff members. Anything having to do with modern culture or music was confiscated, and the student would be subject to disciplinary penalties. Any material that passed review would receive a green and white sticker indicating approval by the staff member.
Interference in personal relationships and skewed view of marriage and family: Students could not go on dates alone. "Dates" consisted of mass outings where large groups of student couples would go to mass outings together with staff members supervising. At no time is affection ever allowed, not on these outings, or at any time. Students had to stay at least 6 inches away from people of the opposite gender at all times, and married students can not show affection on campus, and are discouraged from doing so in public at all.
Students were expected to marry before graduation, it was a common joke among the female students that when asked what their major was, they would say they were going for an "MRS" ("Misses") degree. Getting married was considered just as much of a normal and expected part of life as well, breathing. Not getting married before graduation was unthinkable. When a man wanted to propose, he had to first ask his girlfriend's father for permission to marry her. Upon marriage, the man becomes the ultimate unquestioned leader of the household, and the two students move off campus to a home, they both continue their degree, while the man works, and once they have children, the woman is expected to stay at home and raise the children (if she has not already graduated). Married women were not allowed to work outside the home, unless the husband becomes a pastor or missionary, then she can assist in the ministry.
Ministers and leaders are put on a pedestal:
Leaders and ministers are very highly revered, and men considered great leaders are revered even after death, and their teachings held as gospel. The faults of leaders are covered over, unless it becomes downright impossible to do so. One example of reverence for deceased leaders is this mural of the late Jack Hyles and his wife painted on the side of one of the Sunday School buildings in the church's Hammond complex:
Horrendous views on raising children and the husband/wife relationship:
FBC Hammond, as well as other IFB churches are big fans of authors Micheal and Debi Pearl, and their atrocious views on raising children, and on the husband/wife relationship. Their advice is so awful, they may become the focus of a separate article in this series.
I found this great article from liberal Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans on Micheal and Debi Pearl that includes excerpts from their books. Here's some of the highlights:
On "disciplining" children:
"....However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final."
"Benevolent" sovereign, my ass!
If you want to see the kind of impact that this kind of mentality has on children well until well after they become adults, check out the blog Who I Am Without You, or the series on her childhood by blogger Latebloomer. Latebloomer was raised into a family who followed the advice of their minister, Reb Bradley, a virtual carbon copy of the Pearl family. She also has a great 5 part series were she gives her rebuttal of Bradley's book "Child Training Tips"
Not only do the Pearls have horrible advice for raising children, their advice for marriage is no better.
"At one point, Pearl encourages a young mother whose husband routinely beat her and threatened to kill her with a kitchen knife to stop “blabbing about his sins” and win him back by showing him more respect. Sudden aggressive outbursts are part of what it means to be a man, according to Pearl. “The wisest way to handle the aggressive husband is by not taking personal offense,” she advises. “Avoid provoking him."
In this kind of culture, a place were people are isolated, controlled, and where psychological and physical abuse are considered normal, and where ministers are put on a pedestal and nearly worshiped, it's not hard to see that disaster is inevitable. The hypocrisy of Jack Hyle's affair, and the crimes against children committed by FBC Hammond and IFB leaders is nothing more than a destructive byproduct of this dangerous mentality.
In future posts, I will be examining other IFB leaders, institutions and churches. Micheal and Debi Pearl will be one upcoming post, as well as Bob Jones University, and the late Lester Roloff and the horrors of Hephzibah House. Check back for upcoming posts in this series.