IFB Memories #3: “Don’t use the men’s room”

The AIDs epidemic was already starting to make headlines when my wife and I beganBR attending an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church back in 1983. The death toll was rising every year (and would peak at 42,000 deaths in the US in 1995) with no cure in sight. People were frightened. How was AIDs transmitted? Could it be contracted by casual contact? If you were around in the 1980s, you’ll remember that AIDs was scary stuff.

The pastor at our church didn’t meet the crisis lying down. Sermons increasingly began to reference AIDs as being God’s judgement on homosexuality. After a while, it seemed like the pastor was waging a one-man campaign. As the epidemic continued to ramp up, it became rare to hear a sermon that didn’t include a statement about the sin of homosexuality. I certainly know what the Bible says about homosexuality, but it became an obsession at our church. It became sin #1. But what about all the other sins against God? I got so sick of hearing about homosexuals during church sermons that I can remember getting physically agitated every time another harangue began.

The pastor often liked to mention that he worked as a medical lab technician* before entering the seminary and he knew a thing or two about blood. Boy, did he know a thing or two. Sermons that referred to the blood of Christ were usually peppered with incomprehensible medical jargon. With the AIDs epidemic seemingly spreading like wildfire during a California dry spell, the pastor shared his “insider’s” perspective from the pulpit on exactly where the whole thing was headed; the impending “truth” that the government was too afraid to reveal to the public.

According to our former medical lab technician, men would run the risk of catching AIDs every time they visited a public lavatory. The alarming scenario he laid out was that infected homosexual men would visit a restroom and would subsequently flush the toilet or urinal. As the water and waste swirled together in the fixture, small droplets of infected urine would mix with the surrounding air. Unsuspecting heterosexual men who entered the lavatory would inhale the contaminated vapor and contract AIDs. Yes, that hypothesis was preached as fact from the pulpit of our church to a congregation that was already skittish about the epidemic. For several months after that, I avoided public lavatories like the bubonic plague. It’s funny now but it wasn’t at the time. The moral of the story is, don’t allow yourself or your family sit under the preaching of a megalomaniac. If there are no checks and balances on your pastor (the pastor is an absolute dictator in many IFB churches), there’s a chance he could go off the deep end.

But some of our old pastor’s concerns were legitimate. Things have certainly changed since 1983 regarding homosexuality. In our post-modern, inclusive, pluralistic, tolerant society, sin is “out” and deviancy is “in.” Society has been tipped on its head. The exception is now presented as the norm. Old-school “morality” is pooh-poohed. Same-sex couples are now quite prominent in the popular media. Most anything goes these days. Whatever seems good to an individual is “right” for them as long as they don’t infringe upon anyone else. Christians are definitely going to catch increasing “heat” from secular society because of what the Bible says about homosexuality.

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Proverbs 21:2

*When I first began attending the church, the pastor regularly bragged that he had been a medical student before entering the seminary. A suspicious church member checked out the story and found the claim was untrue. After being confronted, the pastor tearfully confessed before the congregation that he had been a lab technician, not a doctoral student. Years later, the pastor made it known that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was considering him for Billy’s eventual replacement, which I also imagine was a pretentious lie.

6 thoughts on “IFB Memories #3: “Don’t use the men’s room”

  1. I liked this post. I think it resonated with me for several reason. Homosexuality is a sin that must be identified as such by the church. At the same time I’m weary of those who preach it as a hobby horse, something to rally people around but they forget there’s other sins. Or they forget the Gospel and their message is strong on condemnation but short on Gospel hope. Sorry to hear about your pastor back then who was caught lying. May we always share the Gospel and do ministry with integrity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jim. I’m happy you understood where I was coming from with that post. Yes, the Gospel got lost in the fight against “immortality.” The pastor’s masquerade was fine in his mind but the homosexuals, THEY were the sinners!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was on staff in IFB churches and went to one of their schools. I broke away when I was 22. I went SBC which wasn’t far away (at least where I served from some of the legalism). The IFB pastors that preached so hard against sin have proven to be something other than what they portrayed. It happens in any denomination. Integrity is key. I wish we had some more of it in this generation on all levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Matthew. I was VERY disillusioned with Christianity (or churchianity) after eight years in the IFB. After a 23-year hiatus we began attending a small SBC church with a new pastor. It was a nice change because the young guy was about God’s grace much more than guilt but he was also a very big fan of Roman Catholic theologians and mentioned them frequently. The pastor preached the Gospel of grace and then turned around and lifted up people who taught salvation by sacramental grace and merit. It didn’t compute. We’re now at a non-denominational church (with Baptist roots). My wife and I are really blessed by the pastor’s teaching.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “Church-ianity” is a term I used frequently as a pastor. I too am disillusioned. Since I stepped away from vocational ministry, I have struggled to find a good church. Part of me misses preaching to be honest. I’m glad you found a good place to worship. I know we will in time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Coming out of Catholicism and then fundamentalism, my views are somewhat unique. I’m really turned off by the extremism of fundamentalism (with its hyper-nationalism, KJV 1611-onlyism, and no CCM music as examples) but I’m also turned off by the ecumenism of “main stream” evangelicalism which embraces Catholicism. Neither do I believe in apostolic gifts for today. So I wouldn’t feel comfortable in about 95% of the Christian churches out there. So I’m glad the Lord led us to a church we can support wholeheartedly and I pray He leads you to one also.

        Liked by 2 people

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