Throwback Thursday: Jack Chick dead at 92

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 26, 2016 and has been revised.

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Chick Publications has announced that its founder, the mysterious Jack Chick (photo above), died this past Sunday (October 23, 2016) at the age of 92.

Several months ago, I posted my memories of Chick tracts. See here. Chick took a conspiratorial approach to Roman Catholicism and managed to blame every calamity that beset the Western world on the Vatican and/or the Jesuits.

“According to Chick, the Vatican was responsible for creating Islam, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He also accused the Catholic Church of having been responsible for the Holocaust, the founding of Communism, Nazism, and the Ku Klux Klan; starting the World Wars; masterminding the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Great Depression and the assassinations of U.S. Presidents Lincoln* and Kennedy.” – from Wikipedia

Whoops! The contributors to the Wikipedia article neglected to mention that Chick also claimed the Vatican created Freemasonry and Christian Science and that Jim Jones of the People’s Temple was a secret Jesuit who orchestrated the Jonestown Massacre in order to discredit Protestantism.

Certainly, the Vatican and the Jesuits were complicit in all manner of historically verifiable persecutions and skullduggery, but Chick’s claims were “off the charts” ridiculous.

Chick’s outrageous allegations against the Vatican and the Jesuits impeded the efforts of responsible outreach to Roman Catholics. Taking a cue from his conspiracy mania, could it be that Jack Chick was secretly a Jesuit agent, under orders to undermine credible Gospel witness to Catholics? No, I’m not serious, but who can argue with the end results? In the final analysis, Jack Chick was the Jesuits’ best friend by making outreach to Catholics look ridiculous in the minds of many.

Jack Chick, fundamentalist Christian cartoonist, dies at 92 – Associated Press article

Jack Chick – Wikipedia article

*Well, there’s actually some circumstantial evidence that the RCC may have played a role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. See my relevant post here.

Note from 2022: Some evangelical Christians of recent years have regrettably become enmeshed in conspiracy theory mongering à la Jack Chick.

Bill Gothard and the Institute of Basic Life Principles

A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard & the Christian Life
Don Venoit, Joy Venoit, and Ron Henzel
Midwest Christian Outreach, 2003, 384 pp.

4 Stars

I think I first became aware of Bill Gothard (1934- ) and his Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) when I began watching the cable television show “17 Kids and Counting” featuring independent fundamental Baptists, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and their large brood of children. The Duggars were disciples of Gothard and IBLP. The institute is a para-church organization founded by Gothard back in 1961. Its goal is to train Christians to live an increasingly sanctified and obedient life according to the principles spelled out by Gothard. Among other things, disciples are taught strict obedience to authority, proper hair length for men and women, no pants for women, no secular entertainment, no contraceptives, no alcoholic beverages, and wariness of all medical professionals. Circumcision and other Mosaic Law tenets are taught as being obligatory for obedient Christians. This type of rigorous legalism is extreme even for most independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) congregations, however, Gothard and the IBLP attracted many followers within the IFB movement.

I was perusing Amazon and stumbled across this Kindle ebook and gave it a whirl. The Venoits and Henzel of Midwest Christian Outreach wrote this informative exposé of Gothard and IBLP back in 2003. One new item I learned about Gothard from this book was his twisting of the doctrine of grace. Gothard taught that those who received God’s grace necessarily possessed qualities that merited God’s favor. Hence, Gothard’s legalistic doctrine of grace was similar to Romanism’s teaching that grace is merited.

The authors get into the weeds a bit with some overextended personal accounts by former-IBLP associates. Also, there’s little mention of examples of the specific legalities mandated by Gothard until the mid-point of the book, so the reader is wondering what all of the fuss is about for an unnecessarily long period of time.

As a former-IFBer, this book brought back a lot of cringe-worthy memories. Gothard and the IBLP had many cultish, controlling qualities. Disciples marched to the beat of IBLP’s training seminar manuals rather than following God’s Word. The authors reported that a number of fundamentalist churches split because of the militancy of those members who were also Gothardites.

“A Matter of Basic Principles” was published eleven years before Gothard was forced to relinquish leadership of the IBLP in 2014. Wikipedia relates that Gothard “stepped down from the IBLP after 34 women accused him of sexual harassment and molestation, with some incidents allegedly occurring when the victims were minors.” The Duggars followed another homeschooling para-church svengali, Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, who was forced to resign in 2013 because of a scandal involving alleged predatorial grooming and sexual abuse of the family’s babysitter/nanny beginning when she was 15YO.

Bill Gothard in 2002, age 67.

Jack Hyles and Fundamentalist Seduction

Fundamental Seduction: The Jack Hyles Case
By Voyle A. Glover
Brevia Publishing Company, 1990, 486 pp.

4 Stars

Shortly after my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983, we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church not far from our home. The IFB movement was quite prominent back in those days. Remember Jerry Falwell? Falwell was an IFB pastor, although not a “shouter” or “brow beater” as was the IFB norm. One of the other IFB “superstar” pastors of that period was Jack Hyles, who pastored one of the largest churches, IFB or otherwise, in the country at the time, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana (FBCH) , 23 miles south of Chicago, with over 15,000 in attendance on any given Sunday. Hyles trained young men to be pastors according to his strict formula at his Hyles-Anderson College and IFB pastors from all over the country flocked to the annual week-long Pastors’ School at FBCH to learn the secrets of Hyles’ successful “methods.”

Jack Hyles

In the 1980s, rumors of adulterous relationships began circulating at FBCH and within IFB circles, rumors involving Hyles’ son, David, and Jack Hyles himself. Evangelist Robert Sumner knocked over a hornets’ nest when he published a somewhat detailed exposé of Hyles in his The Biblical Evangelist newspaper in 1989. Hyles had been in a long-term, adulterous relationship with the wife of one of his deacons, Vic Nischik. Several men of the church went to Hyles regarding the allegations involving him and his son, but Hyles denied everything. A “100% for Hyles” campaign was started at the church with Hyles’ approval.

Attorney and FBCH member, Voyle Glover became convinced of the accusations against Hyles and wrote this book in 1990. In addition to presenting FBCH “insider” evidence of Hyles’ guilt, Glover informs the reader how Hyles had achieved cult-leader status and control at FBCH. Members were systematically indoctrinated to follow Hyles wherever he might lead and submit to him completely. Hyles’ sermons glorified himself rather than God. Brow-beater? Yup, Brother Hyles could brow-beat and bully his membership, individually and collectively, as well as any “loud and proud” IFB pastor. It’s difficult for non-IFBers to understand, but there was a cultish, Jim Jones/David Koresh-ish dimension to IFB pastors’ sway over their congregations.

Most FBCH members would not even consider the abundant evidence of Hyles’ marital infidelity presented by Sumner and Glover. Vic Nischik also wrote a book in 1990, “The Wizard of God: My Life With Jack Hyles,” describing some of the details of his wife’s affair with Hyles. The final nail in the coffin came many years later, in 2013, when Hyles’ own daughter, Linda, also confirmed the allegations.

Hyles survived the scandal, thanks to his loyal (aka brainwashed) congregation, although he was battered and bruised. Many fellow IFB pastors distanced themselves from Hyles and withdrew standing invitations for the “celebrity pastor” to speak at their churches. Jack Hyles died in 2001. His son-in-law, Jack Schaap, succeeded him as pastor at FBCH until he was arrested in 2012 for having sexual relations with a 16-year-old female church member. Pulpit bully, Schaap, no doubt had felt the same type of privileged impunity as his father-in-law predecessor.

This book brought back so many cringeworthy memories of my IFB days. Pastor idolatry was the norm in the IFB. Pastors were put on pedestals. IFB pastors controlled their people through manipulation and fear. The IFB movement has since declined significantly. It has nowhere near the influence it had back in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. The takeaway from this book (and this post) is not to idolize any man. We follow God and His Word and don’t put men on pedestals.

I had read and reviewed two books on Jack Hyles previously (see here and here) and desired to read Glover’s book, but it’s been out of print and used copies were über expensive. However, Glover recently made the book available via Kindle. The transcription to ebook gets a B+ although a drawback to “Fundamental Seduction” is the large amount of redundant material. Glover could have used a good editor. I would hazard that about one-third of the text could have been excised with no effect on Glover’s fundamental message.

Above is a disturbing 3-minute video of Jack Hyles manipulating and browbeating his congregation at First Baptist Church, Hammond. To Hyles’ right, in one “seat of honor,” is his wife, Beverly. To the left of Hyles, in the other seat of honor, is his secretary and mistress, Mrs. Nischik. Despite the close proximity, the two women did not fraternize and were not on speaking terms.

An IFBer criticizes Neo-Evangelicalism: Guaranteed to put you to sleep

Unchristian Christianity: An Exposé of Neo-Evangelicalism
By Dr. Jeff Farnham
Christian Family Press (Sword of the Lord), 2017, 212 pp.

1 Star

I bought this book from an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) publisher thinking it was going to be a critical history of Neo-Evangelicalism* from an IFB perspective, replete with dates and names, including references to Neo-Evangelicalism’s founders, Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, Billy Graham, Edward J. Carnell, etc., etc. Instead, the author soapboxes about how independent fundamental Baptists practice Biblical separation and evangelicals don’t.

I was a member of an IFB church from 1983 to 1991 and I would readily agree that independent fundamental Baptists do a good job of teaching and preaching God’s Word. Doctrine is key in the IFB. Attend an IFB church for several years and you’ll get to know the Bible pretty well. What the IFB gets wrong is that the pastors can get overly harsh to the point of being abusive. Many IFB church members cower under the pastor’s heavy-handed authoritarianism. I would go so far as to say the IFB is cultish in that respect. IFB pastors also tend to major on the minors. Differences over secondary and tertiary beliefs are sometimes presented as salvation issues in the IFB.

Dr. Farnham’s criticisms of Neo-Evangelicalism can largely be categorized as generalities, but when he does decide to focus on a specific separation issue, he predictably pontificates on the question of whether Christians can/should drink alcoholic beverages and devotes 35 pages to it. Farnham, like most IFBers, is also a KJV 1611-Only advocate and makes disparaging remarks throughout this book about modern Bible translations. For IFBers, arguing “separation issues” like alcohol consumption and Bible translations becomes their raison d’être to the exclusion of everything else and they become as disobedient as the drunken Christian with their self-righteous, circle-the-wagons, finger-pointing sanctimony. If I were forced to choose between an IFB church or a non-denominational, seeker, hipster church, I would…stay home.

I get Dr. Farnham’s criticisms of “big tent” evangelicalism. One need only watch TBN for a few hours to see there are very serious problems for what passes for “evangelicalism” these days. But the IFB has its big share of negatives as well. I’m one of those obsessive readers who tries to finish every book I start. However, I should have put this book down after the first chapter because I was so unenthusiastic that it took me over a month to finish it.

*Although IFBers use it as a disparaging label, Neo-Evangelical was a term originally coined by Carl Henry in 1947 as a banner for the break from fundamentalism to create a more “culturally-engaged” evangelicalism.

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #5: Chick Tracts

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 1, 2016 and has been revised.

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Jack Chick, d. 2016

I attended an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church from 1983 to 1991. Back in those days it was very common to see tracts from Jack Chick Publications in fundamentalist Baptist circles. Chick tracts were usually spread out on the information table of our church lobby, available for visitors and members. The tracts were illustrated like small comic books, but there was nothing comical about them.

Tracts, comic books, and books from Chick Publications contained information that was extremely critical of Roman Catholicism. I bought several comic books and books from Chick Publications, but many of the claims appeared to be outrageously irresponsible and without any foundation. According to Chick and the mysterious, alleged ex-Jesuit priest, Alberto Rivera, the author of several of the publications, every calamity that ever beset Western Civilization could be traced back to the Jesuits or a pope. This was going way too far.

Alberto Rivera, d. 1997

Unfortunately, Jack Chick’s sensationalistic half-truths and conspiracy theories (presented as fact) hurt the efforts of credible Christian outreach ministries to Roman Catholics. There is more than enough verifiable material regarding Roman Catholic doctrine and history to critique without resorting to exaggeration and fanciful and fraudulent extrapolations. Christians unfortunately began to lump together responsible witness to Roman Catholicism with Chick’s extremism. Chick was also a propagator of take-no-prisoners KJV 1611-Onlyism.

See Victor’s excellent post below for more details regarding Chick Publications.

Just as an image formed on a plane mirror is a duplication or reflection of the object placed directly opposite its surface, there is also a dangerous condition that can affect Christians contending for the faith which can make them start to reflect what they are contending against. A person opposed to a set of […]

via The “Mirror Image” Syndrome — The Kindled Flame Blog

Postscript: Chick Publications still offers its “Alberto Series” comic books, perhaps the focus of a critical review project in the future.

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #6: Thou shalt not drink!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 12, 2016 and has been revised.

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My wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church from 1983 to 1991. The pastor of our church, like all independent fundamental Baptist pastors, passionately disapproved of Christians drinking alcoholic beverages. I’m not 100% positive, but he may have preached against the “sin” of consuming alcohol more than any other “sin.”

I’ve read through the Bible many times and I’m very aware of the many verses that warn against abusing alcohol and drunkenness. But I’m also aware of the many passages that seem to permit moderate consumption of alcohol. The Jews grew grapes and made wine. Wine was a big part of ancient Jewish culture. Well water was often unsafe to drink and Jews used wine as their standard beverage. Our pastor claimed good Jews only drank unfermented grape juice, but there are many Bible passages that contradict that claim. Even Jesus referred to the danger of fermenting new wine in old wineskins (Matthew 9:16-17). It’s very doubtful Jesus changed water into unfermented grape juice at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-12). Would the master of ceremonies have marveled at the excellence of the beverage if it were grape juice? I can’t tell the difference between Welch’s grape juice or the generic brand.

Complete abstention from alcohol was the absolute standard at our church and it was a litmus test of spirituality. If you drank ANY beer, wine, or liquor, you were deemed to be an immature believer. I enjoyed the taste of a cold beer on a hot summer day, so I asked an older brother in the Lord if it was okay to drink non-alcoholic beer (0.5% alcohol). He said drinking NA beer gave the appearance of sin and advised to abstain from that as well. Hmm.

I knew Christians who would walk fifty-miles barefoot before they would allow a drop of beer or wine to touch their lips, but I saw some hypocrisy in that. What about coffee? That’s right, no one ever got drunk on coffee, but caffeine is addictive and it alters behavior. Is drinking coffee a sin? Also, a Christian might forsake a bottle of beer but enthusiastically chow down a half-dozen cream-filled donuts. Wouldn’t addiction to sugar also be a sin? Many of the congregants at our IFB church who shouted out hearty “Amens” when the pastor preached against alcohol were seriously overweight. They proudly never touched a glass of wine, but they were addicted to food. The pastor himself was obese. Which is worse, “defiling” your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, with a single glass of wine or with a greasy Big Mac and fries?

I totally agree; Christians should never be drunk or allow themselves to become addicted to alcohol. The Bible is clear on that. But moderation in all things. Too often churches get siderailed on the standard “pet” sins and behaviors and avoid addressing others. Yes, I’m very aware of the damage alcohol abuse has done in the lives of many people and their families. Some individuals can’t stop at one drink. They should obviously avoid alcohol altogether.

I realize many Christians will disagree with me on this issue. It’s up to each believer to do what is right according to their beliefs as the Lord leads. But for me, enjoying a single cold beer after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day is not a sin.


What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol / wine? Is it a sin for a Christian to drink alcohol / wine?
http://www.gotquestions.org/sin-alcohol.html

Is it okay for Christians to drink alcohol?
https://carm.org/questions/is-it-okay-for-christians-to-drink-alcohol/?highlight=alcohol

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #7: Apocalypse now…and I mean NOW!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 18, 2016 and has been revised.

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After we accepted the Lord in 1983, my wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. We were firmly grounded in God’s Word at that church, but the pastor also took the congregation down some strange rabbit holes.

Edgar C. Whisenant

In the early part of 1988, a small booklet was creating quite a stir at our church as well as at thousands of other evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Former NASA engineer, Edgar C. Whisenant, had written “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” Based on information from the Bible and using his own mathematical calculations, Whisenant had determined the Rapture of the church would occur sometime between September 11th and September 13th of 1988. 4.5 million copies of the booklet ended up being distributed.

Like most IFB preachers, our pastor often taught the Rapture – the taking up of Christians bodily into Heaven prior to the seven-year Tribulation that will engulf the world prior to the second coming of Christ. Most eschatology “end-times” teaching is based on the prophesies from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation although relevant passages can also be found in many other books of the Bible. The teaching of the Rapture of the church is taught primarily from 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

The little booklet began making inroads into our church and someone even began leaving bulk copies on the information table (right next to complimentary copies of The Sword of the Lord and Our Daily Bread). People were being whipped into a frenzy. Was it true? Were we going to be raptured in September? We turned to Pastor Joe for guidance. In one of his sermons, the pastor said he had studied Whisenant’s information for days and days looking for a miscalculation. His judgement? Pastor Joe said that while he could not endorse the booklet’s predictions completely, he also could not find anything that would contradict Whisenant’s claims. The result? Many people at our church assumed the Rapture would take place during the three days specified by Whisenant. When the days came and went our pastor said, “Well of course, ‘But of that day and hour knoweth no man’ (Matthew 24:36).” Hmmm. Shouldn’t he have been saying that previous to all the frenzy? I don’t mean to justify myself, but some of my disillusionment with the church, which led to me walking away from the Lord for 23 years, was because of this type of nonsense.

Many Christians study eschatology. If it wasn’t important it wouldn’t be in God’s Word. I generally don’t concentrate on it a lot myself, maybe in part because of the Whisenant fiasco, but I do appreciate other bloggers who keep me up to speed. Given all of the INCREDIBLY WEIRD things that are happening in the world recently, I think, yes, we may be approaching the end, but nobody knows for sure. If someone starts giving you dates, RUN, don’t walk, away. In the meantime, let’s be about our Father’s business.

For a PDF copy of “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988,” see here. Oh, the painful memories!

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #3: “Using public restrooms could be fatal”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 11, 2016 and has been revised. Speaking of epidemics/pandemics…

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The AIDS epidemic was already starting to make headlines when my wife and I began 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, Joe B, 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 AIDS and homosexuality were the pastor’s prime focus. 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.

In his sermons, Joe liked to mention that he had 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 AIDS thing was headed; the impending “truth” that the government was too afraid to reveal to the public.

According to our former-medical-lab-technician pastor, men ran the risk of catching AIDS every time they visited a public lavatory. How so? The alarming scenario he laid out began with infected homosexual men using a restroom. When they subsequently flushed the toilet or urinal, the water and waste would naturally swirl together in the fixture, releasing microscopic droplets of infected urine into 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 IFB churches), there’s a chance he could go off the deep end.

But some of our former 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 featured 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, pastor Joe 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 as Billy’s eventual replacement, another pretentious lie.

2021 Update: Pastor Joe B’s rants against homosexuals are beyond ironic in light of the revelation that he was arrested for child sex abuse and pleaded guilty in town court on June 2nd, 2021. See my relevant post here. This post is also sadly ironic because today’s COVID-19 virus is contracted largely via airborne transmission.

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #2: “Amy Grant is more dangerous than Adolf Hitler!” Huh?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 9, 2016 and has been revised.

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My wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983 and we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church in our town shortly afterwards. The church somewhat followed the Jerry Falwell/Thomas Road Baptist Church and John R. Rice/Sword of the Lord models of Baptist fundamentalism for those of you who can remember back that far. In other words, the church wasn’t as extreme as those in the Bob Jones III or Peter Ruckman fundamentalist camps, but it was nowhere near as liberal as the compromising “New Evangelical” churches that were also sprouting up. If none of those names mean anything to you then you definitely missed Christian fundamentalism in the 1980s.

We grew in the Lord to a degree at that IFB church, but there were also many things that were preached from the pulpit that didn’t seem to me to be in accordance with God’s Word. The messages were often VERY heavy into legalism, politics, and supporting the culture battles to “reclaim America for Jesus.” After eight years of becoming increasingly agitated and uncomfortable, we decided we could no longer sit under the pastor’s preaching. I was so distraught about the church and Christianity in general that I walked away from the Lord for 23 years, just like the dumb prodigal son. But the Lord didn’t forsake me and I returned to Him in 2014.

When I returned to the Lord, I purposely wanted to avoid the fundamentalist church scene. We attended an SBC church for one year and we’ve been attending a non-denominational church for the last six months. But I’ve noticed a lot has changed in the church while I was away. It appears fundamentalism has been pretty much relegated to the fringes while the dreaded “New Evangelicalism” is in the driver’s seat. In fact, things seem to have become so loosey-goosey that what passes for evangelical Christianity these days often makes those old “New Evangelicals” look like Bob Jones-style fundamentalists.

Don’t get me wrong. Those IFB churches had some very good teaching, but they also got very tangled up in Pharisaism. Every once in a while I’d like to take a walk down memory lane with you and reminisce about some of our experiences at that IFB church in the 1980s. I recently shared a memory about a couple at the church who objected to pork meat shreds in their egg rolls. See here. Let’s continue this intermittent series by examining how our IFB church viewed rock music and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM).

When we first joined the IFB church, one of the frequent messages from the pulpit was that all rock and roll music was of the devil. The incessant, hypnotic drum beat of rock and roll was linked to the frenzied, pagan rituals of African jungle tribes (sorry, but that was how it was described) and opened up the listener to demonic influences. And those lyrics! Talk about demonic! Rock music promoted the use of drugs, promiscuous sex, and even atheism. Before I accepted Jesus, I had accumulated around 300 rock and roll LPs. Yes, 300! But I couldn’t argue with the pastor. I knew very well that the lyrics of the songs on some of the albums promoted drug use and promiscuity. At the very least, I knew the worldview that was advocated on many of those records didn’t agree with the Bible. I dumped all of those albums in a large, commercial dumpster. All 300. Ach! That was hard! I loved my rock music.

In the early 80s, singer, Amy Grant, was becoming very popular with Christians in general and with a few of our church members in particular. Grant and other pioneering CCM artists were taking rock music and adding Christian-themed lyrics. Sure, the lyrics might have mentioned Jesus and God, but the hypnotic beat was said to be of the devil and opened up the listener to all kinds of dark forces. Well, our pastor caught wind that some of the membership was listening to Amy Grant and he didn’t go for that at all. The pastor saw the spread of rock music into the church as an insidious plot hatched in the very depths of hell. Amy Grant was evil incarnate or at least the pawn of Satan. The pastor proclaimed from the pulpit that Amy Grant was more evil and more dangerous than Adolf Hitler.

[Pause for effect.]

Yes, you read that correctly. The pastor actually proclaimed from the pulpit, with quite a bit of angry passion as I vividly recall, that Amy Grant was more evil and more dangerous than Adolf Hitler! I had liked one popular Amy Grant song at the time, “El Shaddai,” which I heard on a compilation cassette tape that another church member had put together for me, but I hadn’t bought any of her “demonic” albums. But was Amy Grant really more evil than Hitler? That kind of heavy-handed fundamentalist rhetoric from the pulpit really gnawed at me. Why couldn’t Christian artists use contemporary music to proclaim a Gospel message? Were songs with drums really Satanic? It was obvious some of the opposition to CCM music was because of generational and church-culture opposition to any kind of “rock” music.

Flash forward to 2016. Contemporary songs with drums and electric guitars are widely featured in the worship music of evangelical churches throughout America. Music with a rock beat is no longer viewed as innately evil by most Christians. Sure, there’s a lot of bad and even heretical CCM music out there, but there were also some bad and doctrinally questionable hymns in the old hymn books. Most Christians these days would react with a hearty guffaw if they heard a pastor compare Amy Grant to Hitler. Young Christians aren’t aware of the great drama that took place in churches over this music issue.

As in all things, Christians must be discerning. Yes, there’s a lot of secular music out there that is unabashedly anti-God and should be avoided by Christians. But some of it is simply innocuous. Labeling ALL music that uses drums, electric guitars, and contemporary melodies as Satanic would be viewed by most Christians today as a ridiculously anachronistic attitude, and rightly so, although I know there are some IFB churches that still teach exactly that.

Note of tragic irony from 2021: The pastor referred to above pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse in Pittsford Town Court on June 2, 2021. See here.

Victory Baptist ‘Fight Church’ founding pastor pleads guilty to child sex abuse 3 years after son owned abuse charge

My wife and I began attending Victory Baptist Church (now Victory Church), an independent, fundamental Baptist church in Henrietta, (a suburb of Rochester) New York, as new Christians back in 1983. We continued there until 1991 (way too long) when we could no longer stomach macho-man pastor Joe Burress’ megalomania. It was a toxic church environment and the fundamentalist pastoral bullying and authoritarianism soured me on “churchianity” for many, many years.

As I reported back in September 2017 (see here), Joe’s son, Paul, took over as pastor of the church in 2011 when his father came down with an illness. With his keen interest in Mixed Martial Arts, Paul raised many eyebrows with his role as one of the primaries in the “Fight Church” (2014) documentary. After his recovery from illness, Joe continued at Victory as pastor-emeritus and Sunday School teacher for senior members.

Accusations that Paul was abusing young women at the church began surfacing on the internet in 2014. Paul was eventually arrested in 2017 and charged with molesting three young women who attended the church. In 2018, he pled guilty to one of the charges as part of a plea deal and received no jail time. Paul stepped down as pastor of Victory at the time of his arrest, but continued as a member there.

An old proverb states that an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in this sickening twist, the tree was found to be in close proximity to its fallen apple. This morning, I was searching the news for stories for next weekend’s news round-up and came across the month-old article below.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/fight-church-founding-pastor-pleads-guilty-to-sex-abuse.html

This past June 2nd, 71-year-old Joe Burress pled guilty in town court to sexually abusing a female child. Two accusers had actually come forward testifying to abuse by Burress in the time periods of 2014 to 2017 and 2018 to 2020, but I suspect he was also allowed to plead guilty to only one of the charges as part of a plea deal. Both females were under the age of 14 at the time of the abuse. Burress is scheduled to be sentenced on September 2 in Town Court.

Below is a link to a video from one of the local television news channels regarding Joe Burress’ guilty plea. Note Joe’s demeanor as he exits the court building. Cocky and unrepentant to the bitter end.

The subscribers-only newspaper story below documents how three adult women have recently filed lawsuits against the Burresses and Victory for the toxic environment of abuse at the church dating back to the late-1970s.

Women say culture of secrecy at Victory Church enabled predators to abuse them as girls
https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/07/01/victory-church-henrietta-ny-lawsuit-women-accuse-sexual-abuse-child-victims-act/5325985001/

I declined to name names in my previous posts about “Victory” church, but the Burresses don’t deserve the anonymity.

Postscript: There is no acknowledgement of pastor-emeritus Joe Burress’ arrest or guilty plea on Victory Church’s Facebook page or website other than the page for his Sunday School seniors group, ironically-named, “Partners in Prime,” has been deleted.