I come from a sheltered Independent Fundamental Baptist background. I haven't shared this with too many people, because honestly it's difficult to talk about. However, I feel like I just needed to share and type this.
I live in the bible belt, where bible thumpers are on every street corner preaching the word, and we have more churches than bars. Growing up I thought that wearing nothing but dresses and skirts was normal, and that anyone who did not attend an Independent Fundamental Church(IFB) was going to hell. Great moral teachings right?
As I grew older, and as my dad got more involved in the church things got a lot more serious. I was expected to make commitments, in fact my whole family was expected to make commitments that didn't make sense. They were really nonsensical commitments that were not grounded in scripture, but instead grounded in the irrational sense that these were gateway activities that would lead us out of the path of God.
Things like women wearing pants, going to movie theatres, listening to anything but church music, girls spending unsupervised time with boys, and other radical things. There was also a lot of corruption in the church money wise. If you didn't tithe exactly ten percent of your combined family income, you would get a call from the church, and a talking to by the pastor.
The center of the church. This is only a portion of it, there are many other rooms, and offices in the building.
My dad was a deacon, and the summer before fifth grade, we left the church. I didn't much understand why at the time, but around that same time Russell Hirner, a well known leader in the church had been hauled off to jail for molesting 7 girls in the church, one of those girls was a close friend of mine who was in the same grade as me.
From an article:
“Longview Baptist Temple has been highly criticized over the years by non-members and ex-members of the church, and has been accused of being a cult or ‘abusive church’ based on various definitions. Some accusations include that of seemingly absolute control over the congregation by the leadership, in addition to a projection of ‘infallibility’ in regards to the senior staff and members already in good standing. It appears that this is, in fact, taught by the pastors and leadership. The church has been accused, among other things, of locking the main doors to prevent members from leaving during services, taking children back to the church to be baptised without parental consent and using various shock tactics. For example, brandishing a firearm on one occasion to flush out ‘communists.’(source)
I was there when a gun was brandished and fired. I was there when the pastor yelled from the pulpit, and I watched as my best friend's dad walked up to the pulpit and told the pastor he was blind, and I watched as he and his family were escorted out of the church.
They seem to not speak directly towards God, but instead listen to everything the pastor says, even if it tears your family apart. I'm glad I'm out of the church. And because of the church I'm a lot more cynical towards large organized religion.
But now they're affecting my sister. She's decided she wants to follow their rules, and it's her life to do as she pleases, but I feel like I have to make sure she's safe. I don't want to see her scared into a cult like environment due to peer pressure. Mega churches are not safe.