So, I was called by Jeff Fugate last night and he asked to talk to me about this parody account I run. I’m not sure of his original intent, but he was gracious and the opposite of antagonizing. He voiced some of his frustration, mainly that the attacks greatly bothered his wife and children. He also asked if he had ever done anything to personally offend me. We talked for about fifteen minutes and I was able to explain (very much abbreviated) my perspective and frustration with the IFB. I told him that since he was one of the leaders of the movement, I felt he perpetuated much of the very legalism I disagree with. Obviously, he denied putting standards or exterior actions above relationship with Jesus, but who admits to that? 🙂
All in all, it was a gracious and edifying conversation. I told him talking to him personally would cause me to think twice about the way I go about voicing my disagreements and calling out things I believe to be legalism or hypocrisy, and that I had already begun to do that (one of the reasons I am shutting down this account). I pointedly asked him to allow our conversation to also cause him to think twice and reconsider the way his tweets or statements about standards, books, music, etc come across.
The conversation ended with us both making the offer to visit over coffee if we were in each other’s area, and I will take him up on that offer if I get the opportunity. Although if I show up dressed like this, it might not work out… 😉
I have experienced conversations like this with many IFB leaders (pastors, SS teachers, youth pastors, etc) since I have left the system. The conversations normally go something like this:
1. I am asked what is wrong.
2. I am allowed to tell a vague story, as long as I don’t run down the MOG in the process.
3. I receive a vague apology for the “few” in the IFB who are mean-hearted. (Every now and then, I might hear specific names, but told that it is not the norm.)
4. I am told that I am always welcome to talk to them on a personal level, in spite of our disagreements.
(Many of the conversations end here, and everyone is happy!) 😉
5. If I ever have the opportunity to take them up on the offer (I always try), once they realize my tail is not between my legs, and I treat them as peers and no longer am scared to challenge them with candid, gracious disagreements, in almost every case I am pushed away nicely (quoting some verse about separation), or in some cases, very hatefully (quoting the one verse about a heretick).
6. If I am not pushed away, I am kept at arms length, and repeatedly warned not to talk bad about the whole IFB for the sake of a “few bad apples”.
7. For the few I still have an open line of communication with, the relationship is shallow, and fear of their peers and fear of disobeying their own teaching on “biblical separation” keeps them from getting too close and loving too freely.
This has yet to happen differently.
When push comes to shove, the system is ALWAYS chosen over personal relationships. This is why the movement is so polarizing. If you fit the system close enough, you do experience some form of love and community, although not necessarily Jesus-centered and definitely not authentic.
I have a theory about this. The IFB gives what I call “space grace”, which I don’t believe is true grace. Let me explain the two reasons I call it this:
1. They “graciously” reach out to you, and show a form of grace, but there is a limit to the grace. When repentance and conformity does not happen as they think it should, and they realize the fundamental difference, the space of grace runs out. When they see that you are not just hurt and rebellious, but actually love Jesus deeply and still listen to Christian hip hop and wear skinny jeans, their whole ideology falls flat on its face, so the space grace you once received is now gone.
2. At this point, they will show you grace because they promised they were not like those other “mean IFB guys”, but they only show it as long as you are not close enough too often, because it makes them uncomfortable, and sometimes angry. They show you grace from outer space, at a distance.
Personally, I don’t want to be the one who loves at a distance. I want to get in your world, walk in your shoes, in the messiness and brokenness of your life, like Jesus did in mine. I pray God gives me grace to see the disagreements and brokenness and still show grace and love.
For those of you who do not fit the mold of the system, and have pushed to make and keep relationships within the IFB, does this ring true?
I don’t want to take just my experience and judge everyone. Let me know if you have also experienced “space grace”. 🙂