It was an interesting week on Facebook since a passer-by snapped a pic of this church sign in my former community.
I promise you it’s not Photoshopped. It’s ambiguous, since there is no evidence of any candidate being a non-American. All we have to go on is the ongoing gossip about President Obama not being an American by birth. It is interesting to note that this particular church hears anti-gossip sermons on a regular basis and every year this church has a special event called “Honoring our Heroes” when they invite all government personnel to join them for service and a free lunch. The pastor, Tim Ruhl, has preached numerous times about how we are to respect the office of the Presidency and I have heard him ask for prayer for the President many times. I’ve also heard him preach about how his church has the “right bible” and how important he believes it is that people become members of churches that meet his qualifications of a church.
This pastor preaches about the importance of
- The King James Bible
- Soul-winning (door knocking)
- Faithful church attendance
- Church membership
- Being a Baptist
- and the list goes on.
During the years of preaching, the members are also lead to believe that if you leave “the house of God” (meaning the IFB), then you run the risk of your children dying, your spouse cheating, getting addicted to drugs, and so on. So it stands to reason that he should be, by all his qualifications on being a good Christian, voting for an IFB pastor to be president. Since we
know assume the pastor is a Republican (and much of his church), then it is up to us to assume his sign meant to not vote for Obama, and the only other choice in their Republican voting guide is a Mormon. (BTW, this church regularly hands out Republican voting guides before all elections).
- Mormon’s believe in the King James Bible
- They go door knocking
- Faithful church attendance
- Church membership
oh but they aren’t Baptists.
Well, I’m left wondering if they’re going to vote for Ron Paul. I doubt it.
Nevertheless, the media picked up on the image of the sign and went to investigate. One thing about the ChicoER is they don’t keep these articles posted for long, so I’m going to pull some quotes from it so we can keep it here. When asked if the sign was referring to Obama…
“Tim Ruhl, the church’s pastor, wouldn’t say, when the Enterprise-Record asked him Monday.
“You can take it a thousand ways,” he said, adding that it could mean “vote for the American way.”
Some people took it to be a recommendation to vote for Mitt Romney instead of President Obama — a reference to the notion that Obama was born outside America and is not actually an American.
Asked if the sign referred to Obama, Ruhl replied, “Thank you, sir,” and indicated the phone conversation was over.”
The journalist interviewed two other long standing pastors of the community about the sign, to which they were both disappointed. They know this kind of move is a huge risk for churches. The article goes on to say;
“Pastor Ruhl told the E-R a new message is put up every week on the church’s sign. He said the “Vote for the American!” message was removed after a week.
Asked if the church had gotten any comments on the message, he said, “a couple.”
Ruhl said the church did not want to offend anyone and that he was sorry if some found the message offensive.”
I find this article and his responses very interesting. And in this video at just about 3 minutes in he begins talking about reasons to have a bad day and he says,
“your president being re-elected.”
First of all, this pastor shouts vehemently about standing firm for that you believe in. If he practiced what he preaches he would have been honest about the sign. In this church, nothing happens without the almighty “Pastor Ruhl Approval”. So regardless of whether or not the words on the sign might have been someone else’s idea (an assumption by some), nothing gets on that sign without his approval. So why not just state his beliefs honestly? Why hide behind..
“You can take it a thousand ways,” he said, adding that it could mean “vote for the American way.” ?
He also has a 20 year history of preaching offensive things and has frequently said that people are offended at his videos to which he tells them,
“If you don’t like it, don’t watch.”
His preaching style is uncannily similar to that of his mentor, Dr. Jack Hyles. Dr. Hyles was the former pastor at First Baptist Church of Hammond, where his son-in-law, Jack Schaap, was dismissed from his pastorate for violating a young girl. Tim Ruhl and Jack Schaap both were taught and mentored by Dr. Jack Hyles. I’ve seen both Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap preach in person. It’s like watching Tim Ruhl all over again.
I’ve seen these three men (and several others from among the IFB) preach til spit came from their mouths, punching their pulpits til the wood gave way, and stomp their feet like Billy Sunday.
In a video, I saw Tim Ruhl make mention of ‘things” happening in other IFB churches and while expressing his disappointment as appropriately as possible, in the same breath, he says, “Not all Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches are like that.” Except, his has suffered from inappropriate behavior by former assistant pastors, including his own son, Jesse Ruhl. (at Minutes 10-13 http://vimeo.com/48053212)
I’m sure some of you might wonder if I’m ecstatic about these indiscretions, to which I can shout from the roof tops, “Absolutely not!” You see, while I believe it’s all a part of God’s plan to reveal the “Elis” of today’s world, it is never enjoyable to hear that young girls are being violated. It is never a celebration to hear that there are wives who are suffering the pain of spousal betrayal. These are all terribly painful situations to go through. However, it is in the church and community’s best interest that these things be revealed so people can make wise decisions about surrendering their children into ministries who are being sued for not handling molestation according to State requirements.
Not many church members know what to do when they hear of indiscretions in the church. It makes it even more difficult when they are living in a spiritually abusive environment and possibly suffering Spiritual Hostage Syndrome. Many times, the average church member who leaves and speaks up is accused of being bitter and divisive, but when Jack Hyles’ own daughter, Linda, spoke out, people started listening more intently. I watched her video and I can feel the hesitation of her disclosing such eye opening information. Her story affirmed what I, and millions of others, have lived through in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement.
I received a letter today from someone from my former church. I believe his heart is deeply sincere and as he petitioned me for specifics about why we left. I thought about what Linda said and the courage it took for her to speak about it on such a public venue. I sent this gentleman a video of me being interviewed by a former IFB pastor who now goes by “The Unconventional Pastor”, Bob Greaves. In the video he asks me about specifics that my family and I experienced and I declined giving details about our story, but rather chose to discuss experiences many people go through in an assortment of churches world wide.
I can understand why this young man is asking me for our specific story. Especially given the amount of passion I have in protecting people from abusive churches. I’m sure people have wondered,
“Wow! What in the world did Sisterlisa go through in that place for it to have upset her so much?”
You see, my story is not only mine. It is also my husband’s, my three daughters’, and my son’s. We have all had difficult situations in the IFB movement. We arrived in that church when we only had 2 children and our lives were an absolute mess. We had come out of a drug lifestyle and for a long while my husband hadn’t left that ‘world’ when I did. We struggled immensely. I was resigned to sign up for welfare just to survive. Over the years, I remained fiercely loyal to the church, the pastor, and his teachings. After my husband graduated from a recovery home, we both continued in the church with utmost vigilance. The church would often have promotions to give away free scholarships to their school for whoever brought the most visitors in a 6 week period, of which we won a couple of times. We were ardent soul-winners, pleading with everyone we knew in the community to come to the church. The structure of the program kept us out of trouble and we moved further and further away from that ol’ unhealthy lifestyle.
Over the years we began noticing things that we could no longer remain quiet on. The inconsistencies in the interpreting of the scriptures and the brazen behavior of leadership lead us to question deeper and deeper. I began looking back over the years we were there and remembering things that happened that I had not understood at the time. These memories started to make sense to me. It was then that I discovered something troubling, at the inquisitive heart of a wonderful deaf women who also attended the church. Together, she and I began digging deeper into the connections the leadership had with other organizations and the people they were doing business with. I searched the county courthouse records and found more troubling information that we, as church members, had not been privy to.
Then our children began to share concerns with us that we simply could not ignore. All of our children had suffered from mistreatment by other kids (I know..kids will be kids), but we knew we had to be our children’s advocates. We attempted going to leadership, but we found it only made matters worse for our children. The oldest two were pressured continually about giving more money to the church, living up to unbelievable standards, and a host of other things that I do not have their permission to tell you. We had to face the idea of possibly calling the police, but decided it would be best at that point to simply begin distancing ourselves.
We began missing church services a little at a time before we finally decided enough was enough and it was time to never go back. I know I’m still being vague here, but you have to understand that this is not just my story. I share it with 5 other lives who do not want to be so open about their pain. I want to respect that. For those who think we didn’t have a good enough reason to leave, it really isn’t your business what deep pain and trauma our family went through. We describe our pain as a betrayal. The depth of that betrayal is our own business. We trusted the pastor like a dad. We adored him and his family. We still have a Christian love for them and we pray they will someday be free from the bondage they have themselves in with their legalistic rules and religious piety.
It grieves me deeply to hear of two teen girls, whom I adore, being taken advantage of. It grieves me that wives were faced with such tragedy and betrayal against themselves. It breaks my heart to see the pastor’s wife have to face what her own son has done. I pray for them to heal and discover what true grace really is. I pray they’ll learn the importance of owning up instead of sweeping under the rug. Confession is good for the soul. Perhaps they’re afraid to be judged by the people. I know what that’s like. My husband and I were transparent about our former drug life and our very public testimony has always been looked down upon in the eyes of many people in that place. I know, because so many of them told me to my face.
Sometimes churches can be some of the toughest environments to be in.
Once we left, a few people inquired about why we left. We tried to be vague, but they were insistent. We shared a few things and sent a generic email to a few people about us leaving, but were met with hostility from church members. And even though we had officially withdrawn from the church roster, my husband got called to the pastor’s office. He took another local pastor with him (Ruhl didn’t know he was a pastor) and he was asked not to contact anyone from “his” church. There was much said in that office visit and that was the end of our communication with him.
Until about a year later when another ministry we were involved with began having deep difficulties with legalities that we couldn’t overlook. It was then that he got involved and supported those who were taking advantage of us, the clients, and the trust given to them from the community. It was a double betrayal. Those few years were incredibly stressful for our family and while we tried to move on, we were constantly met with hostile emails, intrusions on Facebook, assaulting comments on my blog, and uncomfortable encounters in public places. All by church members.
Even of those who knew some of this mess in detail, we did not gain any support from any of them. There was one or two people who remained friends with us, but refused to hear out our story and they remained faithful to their pastor even though they knew what was going on.
Rumors spread throughout the community about our family and it made it very difficult to move on. We did find support from other local pastors and that was comforting. One pastor said this to me,
“If only I could tell you just how many people have come to me for counseling after leaving that same church. You’re not alone.”
We did the best we could to pick ourselves up and move on. I dumped my old blog and started fresh with this one, yet harassment always seemed to find a way back to me. I’ve blocked several people on Facebook to avoid confrontations, only to see them open new accounts and intrude on my conversations again. I had to tighten my account numerous times and weed them out. It’s been four years and I still see them opening new accounts. I don’t frequent their walls with hostile remarks against them, but they always seem to find mine to dish out their latest disapproval for me, my husband, and our new life in Christ.
I do admit that when the IFB movement hits the news time and time again, I do speak up about it. Why? For the same reason good Catholics speak up about abusive priests. People need to know what abuse looks like in the church in order to Protect themselves and their children. Pretending the abuse doesn’t happen, doesn’t stop it from happening. It is of great concern to me that so many IFB pastors will assist one another when their family members violate children. Several have hushed the victims and their families into silence while allowing molesters to go free and serve in other IFB churches. They shift these men from one place to another, whisk many of the victims off to other churches (especially if their rapist got them pregnant)
I understand the desire to move on after making mistakes. My husband and I made mistakes early in life too. We owned up to our mistakes and faced them head on. We did what we needed to do to make peace with law enforcement and with our community. We turned around and gave our lives to assisting others with getting out of the drug lifestyle…for twelve years. Now we want to move on also. But when do the victims get to move on? When will these victims be able to speak about their stories, their pain, and how their truth has been silenced in order to protect the men who violated them? Assuming they want to… but will they be safe in doing so? Will they be met with the same hostility we faced? What kind of life is it to have to face the fact that someday people might mistreat these girls? I understand the fear of speaking up, especially if the parents keep these girls in those churches.
I would like to see the victims, including the wives who suffered betrayal, be able to move on. We can pray that law enforcement can put a stop to this unnecessary, and unethical way of handling abuse in their churches. But chances are these pastors will continue to do as they always have, therefore it’s up to us, the CHURCH, to speak out boldly and teach others how to avoid abusive leaders.
After 15 years in the IFB movement, it is my opinion that these pastors are unwise in handling the delicate lives of God’s little ones. This isn’t something we can just forget about and move on as if nothing happened. While they think their stories are totally unrelated, we know better.
There are many more victims of the IFB who haven’t come forward yet.
When will you speak up?
You can leave your review of the church on Google here. Others have.. (I promise I wasn’t the one who put that church sign photo on there. But it did get a chuckle out of me when I saw it.)
American Christians Can’t Claim Persecution
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