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The Kingdom

Next to my bedside — with the cough drops, an inhaler, the Tivo remote, and several sets of ear plugs — is a small resin lion protecting a resting lamb. My mother’s favorite saying stands behind — a more contemporary reminder of Luther’s idea of vocation. And there’s a small Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beasta memorial to Elise’s 9th birthday in Heaven.

The scene reminds me of the Kingdom. That already-not-yet state of Shalom which God builds and calls us to join. This is what God intended from the beginning. He didn’t make us for violence. He didn’t make us for pain and sorrow. He made us for peace and that architectonic working-together. He made us for justice. He made us for action. He made us not for war, but for love.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we won’t hurt and we won’t ever need to fight.

In the last year and half, I’ve determined to study the real history of my religious tradition. The final product will come in time. But for now, I realize that fundamentalism — what many call the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult or “IFB,” for short — is a scam. A fraud. Another gospel.

It’s not just a variation on orthodoxy. It’s not just an “extreme” conservative Protestantism. It’s a cult. And even worse.

It hurts to say that. Because I was pretty intimately connected to it. Bob Jones University and all its variations was my life and my ministry. But Jesus isn’t there. God wrote Ichabod over its door long ago.

I now realize that everything that was good from my first 40 years was good because of God’s loud and generous gift, not because of any fundamentalist ideology. My family naturally was a large part of that gift. They taught me what love is. They taught me what Truth is. They taught me what justice is. They taught me what giving your whole self to God’s work is.

I recently found a blog that highlights Bob Jones III’s chapel sayings. Ugh. I remember hearing all those, and promptly ignoring them as the raving nuttiness of a stupid man. Thing is? We thought the same thing about Bob Jones Jr. And now I know that people thought the same thing about Bob Jones Sr.

What’s the deal? Why have we ignored the crazy? I used to wonder at my Mormon friends and how they could ignore the crazy of Joseph Smith. . . . Duh!

We ignore the still small Voice of the Spirit trying to call us away from the crazy because it’s so much easier to listen to the powerful people. But they are wrong.

We’re not supposed to fear, but trust, love and think.

We’re not supposed to take pride in our humility.

We’re not supposed to stand without apology, but stand in God’s promise.

We’re not supposed to be beautiful. Jesus is beautiful enough for us.

We’re not supposed work at being separated. He has sanctified us and is sanctifying us.

Sin isn’t contagious. Holiness is.

The prophetic books are not for someday. They are for now.

It’s not about our sacrifice. It’s about Jesus’ victory.

It’s not about identifying the sin and the sinner. It’s not about our obedience. It’s about acting in love toward other Image Bearers.

It’s not about achieving a pristine perfection. Jesus did that. Jesus fulfilled that.

It’s not about mincing between bicycle shorts and regular shorts or dicing time up into discrete promissory categories or trying to fetishize any possible reason a child could be culpable as a victim of a crime. “Personal responsibility” for them means blaming the weakest and the quietest because they are so easy to blame. A great big angry mob-boss God versus little ol’ me. The fundamentalists are the ones “sitting in the seat of the scornful.”

But God’s not angry at me. At all. Jesus took care of that. But the IFB can’t accept that. They can’t let go of that anger. Their arms are so full of condemnation, their backpacks are so full of rocks, their fingers are so busy pointing at the weak ones, that they can’t embrace Jesus.

That doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t have them. I can’t say that. That’s not my call. Even Luther acknowledged that God could cut through the spiritual aristocracy of the medieval Catholic church and redeem those trapped in that system.

But those trapped in the IFB aren’t building the Kingdom. I know that much.

My family tells the story about my grandmother who, when she and my grandpa visited Poland to make a killing in the whip business in 1928, went to a government office to file some paperwork. Another woman was sitting there weeping. Grandma asked her why she was crying. The lady explained that her husband had died, and she needed to get the title for her farm transferred to her name or she’d lose everything. Her crop was dying because she had spent every day sitting in that office waiting for one of those clerks to wait on her. But they wouldn’t. She had no power and they had no reason to pay attention to her. That was the last day before time ran out and her farm would be gone.

You can guess what Grandma did, can’t you? Of course you can. She marched over to the counter and yelled at the two men sitting there. “Get up now and help this woman, do you understand me?” And they did.

My mom says I’m a lot like Grandma. She was building the Kingdom that day. When she stood up and spoke up for a good lady who couldn’t speak through her tears.


26 thoughts on “The Kingdom

  1. OUTSTANDING! And thank you 🙂 Your gracious words about the hell of the mind we all were prisoners within are much needed, by me and anyone else who understands.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. Very well written. I came out of a 15 year experienced with the IFB. Been out for 2 years and I am so glad to see more people speaking up about it.

  3. Camille, I’m a friend of Grant’s, but I love checking out your blog once in a while! You always have something I can relate to. This song of the Getty’s was so fun for me to learn to play on the piano. It was syncopated for one thing, and I had such a hard time learning to do that after so many years of avoiding it! It’s one of many blessings that I’ve discovered lately! Thx for writing!

  4. Thanks for sharing this with us. Very cathartic for all of us ex-cult members of IFB. By the way, good to see you on 20/20 last night! We are doing great in PCA up here in NE. Became official members two weeks ago. What a blessing.

  5. What a powerful and well written post. Full of incite and written with grace. Wish I had the incite when I was your age.

  6. What a great show last night and this post is wonderful! Thank you for everything you’re doing to share the truth of what goes on in IFB churches. I have friends who are IFB and fortunately have not experienced these things. I hope and pray they never do.

  7. “Have we ignored the crazy?” heh

    I grew up in the South, but never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin until this week! (ashamed) I am so moved. The more we change, the more we stay the same. Folks love to use the bible and religion to justify the unjustifiable. False religion will always crucify the innocent.

    You looked good on your 20/20 spot. And you spoke very clearly. I’m sure your words resonated with many who have felt that “godly” pressure/manipulation. Thank you for your endurance.

  8. Thanks, Camille. I needed this.

    It serves as a reminder of where I cam from, of what I grew up in. I now work for a church that has largely been unscathed by the influence of fundamentalism, but views fundamentalists the same way they might view traditional, legalistic evangelicals—simply as misguided followers of Jesus who have slightly misinterpreted the gospel.

    I sometimes forget just how insidious fundamentalism can be and how important it is that God rescued me from that world in order for me to have any kind of ministry for his kingdom.

  9. Camille,
    I sympathize with your desire for change within BJU. Some things that have gone on there are wrong. But not all has been bad. I look back on my days at BJU with joy. The Lord built me up in my faith and showed me how to have a heart of compassion. Ironically, I just finished one of Berg’s “Quieting a Noisy Soul” sessions, and you could really sense his spirit of compassion for those who are suffering, which is all of us from time to time. By Berg’s own admission, his compassionate spirit doesn’t come naturally to him, but is something that God has done in his heart by the Spirit. While past administration may done some things wrong (as all humans do), I refuse to villainize them. To do so is to give oneself over to bitterness and to become the thrower of stones, not the binder of wounds. I am praying for all those hurt by BJU, but I’m rejoicing with those who have been built up by its biblical instruction.

    1. No stone-throwing here. At all . . . that’s a myth that perpetuates the power and abuse that happens within fundamentalism.

  10. Camille, I am so sorry that BJU hurt you. I have read many of your writings on your blog, including your Ebenezers, and I believe you to be a skilled writer with a bright mind. But I wholly reject your line of reasoning. Surely you can’t be claiming that everyone at BJU has bought into a grand lie created by fundamentalism. I know many faculty members who treated me with such compassion. Have they not helped to foster a community of compassion at BJU. Surely, you must allow that at least.

  11. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

    a time to be born, and a time to die;
    a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
    a time to kill, and a time to heal;
    a time to break down, and a time to build up;
    a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
    a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
    a time to seek, and a time to lose;
    a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
    a time to tear, and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    a time to love, and a time to hate;
    a time for war, and a time for peace.

    Christ, kind and compassionate soul that He was, Himself demonstrated that sometimes you have to turn over some tables, MP.

  12. But as Christ did, Grant, we have to harmonize Ecclesiates with James 1:19-20: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (ESV). Also consider Eph. 4:26-27: “be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (ESV). This kind of anger–the Christ-like kind–was sinless and selfless. Most of time my anger tends to be the opposite. I know I do not imitate Him every time I get angry. As a result, my approach to anger should be very slow and utterly selfless. Otherwise, the devil will have his dancing day.

  13. Also, I find it interesting that James 1:21 uses the plant-growing analogy (or at least the translation does), the same analogy that Camille uses for growing beleivers up in grace: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” In this case, anger is couterproductive to the santifying process: the Chrisitan cannot grow in a wrathful environment. Instead, the Word shrivels up, having been choked out by anger.

    1. Try a few more translations:

      Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. NIV

      Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. NASV

      With the way you’re wielding this verse (and James is a popular weapon among the work-righteousness ideology. Ask Luther about that one), MP, there’s no room for Jesus in the Temple.

      The same Grace that saves is the same Grace that sanctifies. If you don’t agree, we’re never going to see eye-to-eye on this issue.

  14. My use of this verse, Grant, does not convey a work-righteousness ideology. Grace is a work done IN me, not a work done BY me. As the Word is “implanted” in my heart, God shows me more and more of my life that must be submitted to Him. The clay is not a vessel with the Master’s molding. Does God need my permission to shape my life? No, He’s God afterall, but the posture of submission that occurs at salvation and throughout sanctification is glorifying to Him. Does anger that is quick and wrathful foster a posture of submission and brothely love? I hesitate to see how. By the way, this submission does not make me righteous. Rather, I submit to him because I was made righteous by Christ. How long is the “time for wrath” anyway? Surely time is up.

    1. You may be right, MP, but there’s an awful lot of negative intentions you’re assuming there. Unless you’re a mind-reader, you don’t get to make that call. God does. I’m fine with letting Him sort it all out. I’m responsible to Him.

      If all you’ve got in your arsenal is inferring negative intentions from me, move along. There’s nothing to see here.

  15. My comments were not an evluation of your intentions: I would never presume to do that. I’m not God, as you said. I simply was taking issue with your conception of Christ’s “real mad” episode in the temple. He, of course, never yielded to sinful, self-serving tendencies. I cannot say that of myself. More often I choose the opposite. All the more reason to proceed with caution when one uses anger. I would advise that to any believer, given the Scriptural passages included in previous comments.

    1. We will never be sin-free. Our motives are always sinful. That’s what “total depravity” means. If you’re waiting for yourself to have perfect motives, then you’ll never do anything. And, in fact, your doing-nothing is sinful too.

      That’s the Point. The whole Point. We don’t have to be perfect. Jesus was.

      I’ve explained this over and over and over again. You won’t let go. This conversation is now done.

  16. You continue to misconstrue my comments, cklewis. I never said that we would be sin-free, not at least until Christ returns. What I did say, over and over again, was that now that we are free from the bondage of sin, we can act righteously because of Christ. It’s His working in us, not our own work, that enables us to say no to self-serving wrath. Because of Christ in us, we now have new life and new motives too–to show the One who died for us how much we love Him. Are you suggesting that I just act out of my own ungodliess, without relying upon the Holy Spirit to direct my actions? How is that honoring to God? I don’t obey God’s commands because I’m trying to earn righteousness; I obey as an act of worship–to show God that He is worthy of my obedience. By the way, bluntly cutting someone off by saying “the conversation is over” is unkind and, to put it plainly, hypocritcal.

  17. Hey Camille,I finally saw you on a Youtube spot from the 20/20 program. You said it so well, how those in control make people feel so intimidated that, they won’t say anything, or speak up, because they’re so afraid to.That beautiful lady Tina, was so easily manipulated with false guilt, and controlled by fear. But who wouldn’t be, from growing up in a neglectful home, without maternal affection and protection, and with such devastating abuse. And all that, even ‘before’ a church member abused her, and a church pastor, turned against her like he did, and drove her away like a black sheep and a whipped dog.20/20 did the christian-church -world and society, and got the ball rolling, so that many, many christians will have this concete example , of how bad things ca get, in bad places, to possibly rethink, what ‘their values really are, and what their churches are doing toor for the members, either truly help people grow and heal, or the opposite- stunt,hurt, hinder and wound people. I think Tina’s a heroine for many to look up to, for the courage she has shown,to stand up and endure such an emotionally gruelling court appearance. She is so brave. I really believe God and many good people in America, are proud of her. I know I am. There was a very sad and lonely time, when Tina didn’t think or believe that she had any rights. Now she ‘knows’ she has. Hope to God many others who suffer in such dreadful churches, will wake up and realize that ‘they have rights too!’I really like what you said about ‘it’s the same Grace that saves us as is the same Grace that sanctifies us. That’s a profound insight and one that really sets the pilgrim free. Keep on keeping on Camille. You are on your way to even more wonderful insights and new and deeper freedoms.”For I will give them a new heart, and I will put a right Spirit within them.” “A heart of flesh for a heart of stone.” Ezekiel. He has made us a New Creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. And ‘He’ did it ‘for’ us and ‘in’ us. In response to our faith which He gave to us as a gift as well. What a Savour! Aren’t you glad! Peace, Barbara.

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