≡ Menu

Interview w/ Darrell Dow of Stuff Fundies Like

darrell-dowIn my post The Anti-Evangelical Hate Machine, I criticized what I consider a growing trend:  “…an entire movement bent on cataloging, ridiculing, scoffing at, lampooning, and mocking evangelical culture.” In that post, I referenced eight different individuals whom I believed fit into that category. By far, the most criticism I received on that post was from those supporting Darrell Dow. Darrell Dow is the creator of the website Stuff Fundies Like (SFL), one of the sites I linked to in that post, and author of the book Fundamental Flaws. Mind you, this was not support drummed up by Darrell himself, but a legit concern that I might be misrepresenting him and his work at SFL. So I approached Darrell about an interview — to clarify, voice concerns, dig deeper — which he graciously accepted. To be clear, my purpose in all this is to see Christ honored and His Body edified. I don’t seek to tear Christians down or defame the Church. This includes Darrell and the community at SFL. My hope is that our exchange helps that and furthers this cause.

* * *

MIKE:  How would you describe the primary purpose of SFL? Is it mainly satire, expose, theological, therapeutic?

DARRELL: The primary purpose of SFL is to foster community and start conversations. Sometimes this happens through satire and humor. Sometimes it involves talking about scandals and current events. There is also a good bit of theology that gets injected as the conversations go along and to the degree that having other people who understand your background is encouraging and therapeutic it is also a form of therapy. In short the answer is “all of the above” if you understand that this blog isn’t just one person writing it’s dozens of people having a conversation.

MIKE: I’d consider myself an evangelical, with wiggle room. Ex-pastor, conservative, Charismatic, somewhat ecumenical. I’m not a Fundamentalist, believe Westboro Baptist is not representative of Christ’s heart, and don’t know much about the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. So what would I need to know to “get” SFL?

DARRELL: I think you’ve answered your own question there. You’d have to learn at least a little about the form and function of how Independent Baptist Fundamentalism works. These are not evangelicals the way you probably perceive that term. For starters, anybody who identified as “charismatic” and “somewhat ecumenical” would be immediately removed from fellowship. IFB pastors happily verbally eviscerate people perceived as the least ecumenical from the pulpit as being “liberal” and the anti-Christ on a regular basis.

You also would have to understand the power structures and cults of personality that drive most fundamentalist organizations. If you’ve never belonged to a church or gone to a college where you were taught that disobeying the slightest rule of the leadership (sometimes up to and including how you make your bed) was a direct affront to God himself then it’s hard to explain. This shared experience of being in these low-trust and high-stress environments is one of the key factors that forms the basis for the community we have here.

On a side note, Westboro Baptist is not an IFB organization nor are they affiliated with any major Baptist movement, cooperative, or association. I don’t write about them at all because they are a completely unrelated faction — and you would know that if you had grown up IFB!

MIKE: My post, “The Anti-Evangelical Hate Machine” received a lot of traffic, as well as angry comments, from some SFL supporters. Where do you think I went wrong in that post?

DARRELL: As one who is often accused of painting with too broad a brush I’d like to suggest that your brush may have been a bit too wide. For example, I love Matthew Paul Turner. He’s a friend. We are not even close to being alike theologically or politically. Lumping the two of us together in the same list gives rise to the criticism that you posted your list without doing your due diligence in finding out exactly where the people in question stand.

I’m not generally antagonistic to evangelicals or evangelicalism. I am, however, opposed to people who are manipulative, cruel, petty, and unkind. If some of those folks happen to be evangelicals (or Reformed, or Episcopal, or Orthodox or Catholics…) then that label doesn’t justify bad behavior. Ultimately it’s not about hating evangelicals it’s about hating the things that people do to hurt other people. Neighbor-love is not optional in the Christian ethic.

stuff-fundies-like

MIKE: I’ve come to believe there is a movement to discredit organized religion, debunk Christianity, and caricature ALL Christians as haters, controllers, anti-intellectual, narrow-minded bigots. I’ve called this the Bash the Church Bandwagon. Do you see such a trend in society? How are you NOT bashing the Church by making fun of Fundamentalists?

DARRELL: This question assumes that every sect of Christianity is exactly as valid as every other sect. The simple answer is that I do not “bash” (although I’d use other words) the Christianity of fundamentalists. In fact, I’d really like to see them converted to being a lot more like Christ! My goal in pointing out the flaws, the missteps, the error, the cruelty, the heresy, and the narrow-mindedness is not to drive people away from the church but to draw them back from their small, splintered sect and back into fellowship with the larger community. Again, I believe that there is a basic misunderstanding about where “fundamentalism” (and more specifically the IFB) fits in the taxonomy of Christianity.

MIKE: Do you believe that Fundamentalism as it’s constituted today is inherently flawed, even evil? From your perspective, can a person genuinely follow Christ and remain a Fundamentalist?

DARRELL: This is a difficult question because it deals with the definition of “fundamentalism.” I can’t speak to everybody who self-identifies as a fundamentalist. But if by “fundamentalism” you mean Independent Baptist Fundamentalism I can only say that in most IFB churches I have seen there is so little Christ found in the songs, the sermons, and the standards that I don’t know if you can stay in that environment and fully enjoy what it means to be a follower of Christ. So much time is spent following men and man-made rules and programs that there is often space for little else.

MIKE: Several commenters on that aforementioned post (Matthew Paul Turner, for one) suggested I “missed” the spirit of SFL by not understanding it was satire. Also, many commenters on the SFL message board emphasize how healing the community is there. The Church has plenty of things we can satirize. And being able to laugh at ourselves is a good thing. But at what point does satire become slander? I mean, isn’t there a point at which laughing at brothers and sisters in Christ — even mean, misguided ones — is wrong? And  how does lampooning Fundamentalists contribute to healing? Do you ever worry that satirizing religious extremism could drive people further away from Christ and misrepresent the Universal Church, rather than heal the breech?

DARRELL: Imagine for a moment that you’re a child who every night as he lies in bed is terrorized by a terrible monster. One day you grow up. You leave home. You don’t talk about the monster because nobody else believes that it is real. Surely you only imagined it. Then one day you find a website where someone has taken pictures of that monster you used to fear and posted them adorned by funny mustaches. The monster used to scare you but now you can laugh at it. The laughter is therapeutic. The laughter conquers your fear. And then you find that there are hundreds of other people in the world who also were terrorized for years by this monster and others like it. Now they laugh at it too and you know that finally you’re not alone.

That’s what we do here. We don’t laugh at Christ. We don’t hate the church. We just laugh at the monsters.

Of course, the analogy breaks down (as all analogies do) because not every fundamentalist is a monster or at least their monstrosity varies in degree and intensity. Nor is harboring monsters the sole preserve of fundamentalist churches, other organizations surely have their own tyrants and despots. Satire is a blunt instrument that does only one thing extraordinarily well: it uses absurdity to demonstrate wrong-headed thinking and by doing so gives us license to laugh at thing that would otherwise cause us severe distress. It’s not all laughter, however. Sometimes we pause for a serious thought. Sometimes we’re angry at the harm that has been done. Sometimes we’re nostalgic for bright spots in days gone by. People are complicated: fundamentalists and ex-fundamentalists are no exception.

As for the charge that poking fun and exposing the error of a strange and terrible sect of Christianity will drive people away from Christ himself, I have only this to say: Christ is bigger than SFL. He is bigger than fundamentalism. He is bigger than than all the gibes and jokes and memes the Internet can produce. People will always find what they are looking for in a body of work. You find hatred against the larger evangelical community where I have intended none. Others may find cause to despise all Christians for the harm that a handful of done. But if any seeking soul wants to see Christ they will find him right where he has always been: waiting for those who search for him with their whole heart.

Darrell, thanks so much for taking time to visit!

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on Reddit
{ 148 comments… add one }
  • JB January 9, 2013, 10:38 PM

    MOST people who come and stay at SFL get the “inside baseball” or wouldn’t likely stick around….and anyone who comes to the site can see that. I am a conservative evangelical Christian who ardently believes in the FIVE historical fundamentals of the faith. I do not believe the site is to there to make fun of me or those like me. Rather it is there to take the mask off the face of of those who also claim to believe those fundamentals, and many more, while using them to beat people over the head and at the same time under their thumb….all in the name of God. That is why it is so toxic! It reminds me of father who only tells his child he loves him/her when he spanks them. It’s twisted.

    Having been through the IFB-abuse in more ways than one, I readily relate but also do not believe that ALL IFB churches are the same and don’t believe everyone on SFL think that either…including Darrell. Part of the abuse is not having a voice…, especially if you grew up in it. You can’t speak-up to the pastor, the principal or the parent. You either shut up and endure the spiritual/emotional abuse or as in my case speak-up and face the physical abuse. Many kids were shipped off to “homes” (think Roloff, etc.) where abuse was institutionalized. Without a voice the abused typically internalize anger and crazy as it may be, wonder if what they went through was really abusive because it is all they ever really knew. What SFL offers is an opportunity for a voice to be heard and it’s not always pretty….but often healthy. I know some may think this a bit too psychological but I believe it’s true and have heard conservative Christian theologians agree, grieving a loss is necessary to heal and anger is a part of that process. Many adults realize growing up in a spiritually abusive system they lost a lot and are angry at times. When a community like SFL exists not everyone there is in the same stage of healing and emotions run the spectrum. Yes, there are some at one end of the spectrum who have become bitter and may want to stay that way but unlike the abusive system they were in they at least have a voice and other readers/posters have the opportunity to express the freedom to decide to stay or leave. For some that is a lot of new found freedom.

    I don’t agree with everything on SFL. If I did it would be boring and I wouldn’t go there. I realize that a lot of people there (just as some of their abusers) are hurt. Some are helpers. Some are haters. Just like I won’t judge ALL IFB churches I won’t judge all SFL posters.

  • Bob's Your Uncle January 10, 2013, 5:41 AM

    I just though it would be interesting to point out that a discussion with this much hatred is actually quite rare on SFL – I am not thinking that’s where most of these people are coming from.

    News Flash! Still indocrinated Fundies don’t feel welcome at SFL! Shocking I know.

  • Loren January 10, 2013, 7:45 AM

    This was an awesome interview and Darrell really represented well the purpose and vision of those who read SFL. The monster with a mustache analogy was spot on.

  • Melissa Ortega January 10, 2013, 9:51 AM

    NEWSFLASH:

    For future MD site discussions, in order to alleviate confusion and elevate my importance, I will be posting as the Queen of Siam.

    There are too many Melissas!

    *goes off singing*

    • Melissa January 10, 2013, 9:54 AM

      LOL!

  • Missionary Style January 10, 2013, 10:46 AM

    I am a self-proclaimed fundamentalist, IFB missionary, ordained by Schaap, and I love SFL! Having witnessed (and tried to correct) terrible abuse by more than one missionary on the field, I was drawn to SFL because it reveals many of the things that I wish to avoid and even expose in my attempt to make our church and ministry more “Christian” rather than dominated by a movement or camp. It has also introduced me to a whole community of those who have been abused; sheep that, as a pastor, I am called to protect and heal, rather than shun. Thank you Mike and Darrell for providing an example of what I wish: that, even as a fundamentalist, I can still have a meaningful conversation with someone outside of my “brand” of Christianity.

  • Catholic Gate-Crasher January 10, 2013, 11:20 AM

    First, I have to say that I love SFL…mainly because the people are so nice and welcoming, and they have wonderful senses of humor, and they crack me up. Plus, they tolerate me even though I’m one of them-there Kat-o-Licks.

    I happened upon the site via a link to a link to a link…you know the drill. I stayed NOT because I want to bash IFBers — although I do live in the Bible Belt, and I know some very nice (and some not-so-nice) IFBers in Real Life — but, rather, because I’m fascinated by the ways people heal after spiritual abuse. The human spirit is amazingly resilient, with the help of God’s Grace!

    Spiritual abuse is very real, and it’s certainly not limited to the IFB. My goddaughter spent 23 years in a “charismatic covenant community” — about 60% Catholic, 40% Protestant — with a VERY controlling leadership who practiced spiritual abuse out the wazoo. She left years ago, but she’s still recovering.

    I myself was almost sucked into Regnum Christi, a cult-like laypeople’s group affiliated with the discredited Legionaries of Christ (a Catholic religious order founded by a notorious, now deceased pedophile; they are currently being reorganized by the Vatican, although many of us feel they should simply be disbanded). Thank God I’m not a “joiner” and have no extra time for weekly meetings, or else I might have drunk the proverbial kool-aid! (Plus, my inner radar kept telling me, “This is weird”; red flags kept popping up….)

    The very people who introduced me to Regnum Christi now run a support site for survivors of the group:
    http://www.life-after-rc.com/

    It’s not a satire site, and some of the people who comment there evince a LOT of bitterness, but who can blame them? They wanted a deeper, richer relationship with Christ, and instead their lives were shattered. Do they need the “group therapy,” the healing, they find at life-after-rc? Heck yes. Do they find it freeing to discover they’re not alone? Yes, again. It is essential to the healing process.

    When my goddaughter left her “charismatic covenant community,” she did tons of online research into other similar communities which had been investigated and (in some cases) dissolved because of issues involving spiritual abuse. (E.g.: the excellent series the Washington Post ran on the Mother of God Community in Gaithersburg, Maryland.) She no longer reads this sort of stuff, but, at one point in her journey, she found it very helpful and healing to do so. She saw that she wasn’t alone, that she wasn’t crazy, that other people had experienced the same craziness and reacted the same way. She needed that!

    No doubt some of my evangelical brethren will find these examples acceptable because they involve Catholic and Catholic/ecumenical communities…and we all know how depraved those Kat-o-Licks are! I mean, Catholic-bashing’s OK; it’s just evangelical-bashing that raises concern. (Just Kidding…sort of. ;)) But seriously…spiritual abuse is spiritual abuse, no matter where it occurs. It does not hurt the Cause of Christ to expose this stuff. It helps the Cause of Christ. The Gospel is served by truth-speaking, not by silence in the face of evil.

    Should cover-ups be the norm? In this age when laypeople (rightly) demand transparency, cover-ups are no longer even possible. The truth always comes out sooner or later. Shouldn’t it be sooner? And shouldn’t the evils be ventilated, processed, discussed, identified clearly, and condemned?

    They say sunlight is the best disinfectant. That’s why sites like Darrel’s are so important.

    Are the secularists waging war on Christians? Yes. Catholics and evangelicals alike are feeling that assault right now, and the assault is gaining strength. But SFL is not a bunch of secularists, and they are not waging war on anyone. They are just applying that disinfectant. This is a Good Thing.

    “Judgment begins in the household of God.” If we Christians do not expose and process our own problems, the secular media will. Don’t believe me? Just ask Cardinal Law.

  • Kapitano January 13, 2013, 5:13 AM

    A conservative is by definition someone who hates.

    That some liberals hate some conservatives is the red herring on which Durran builds his case.

    • Melissa January 14, 2013, 10:09 AM

      Now that is just plain ridiculous.

  • Not In The Clique January 15, 2013, 11:08 PM

    I have a DVD Christian movie called “The Moment After”. I also have the sequel called “The Moment After 2: The Awakening”.

    In the sequel, there is a scene where one of the characters (Adam) was hurt two years earlier by a friend claiming to be Christian (Charles), and this hurt had been brewing for two years. Well, the man of God (Jacob) tells Adam that the sun is going down. Adam responds with “I have a few hours left!” Jacob responds with “it is better to forgive”. Adam tells Jacob that he has forgiven Charles. Jacob then tells Adam “well, if you have, then bless him.” Well, Adam gets upset and angrily responds with “why would I ask God to bless him!” Jacob then responds with “we don’t bless with our head, we bless with our heart.” Well, Adam blows up and responds with “that’s easy for you to say!!!!” Jacob then responds with ” where did the easy part come in?”

    What I am trying to get at is that there are many people on SFL saying over and over and over and over and over that letting the sun go down on their anger is healing them. When you all finally are healed, you will be able to bless all those that have violated you, hurt you, trespassed against you, offended you, scattered you, injured you, and done everything else under the sun to you.

  • Dr James Ach January 16, 2013, 9:24 AM

    I posted a response to this article here. http://dorightchristians.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/darrell-dow-and-fundamental-flaws-of-his-fundamental-flaws-book/ Needless to say, Mike had it right the first time.

  • Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman) January 17, 2013, 11:41 AM

    When the conversation began, I had not realized that SFL was talking about CRIMES, which should be prosecuted. I thought they were talking about spiritual oppression, which is a nebulous concept, and in my previous post, I was trying to work out what that looked like. I hoped someone would say, “You dumpfcoff! It looks like THIS!” Instead, I was kindly ignored, and properly so, as my comments had nothing to do with the argument.
    I am so sorry for the victims of the crimes committed by some pastors.

  • Susan January 20, 2013, 12:18 PM

    I am 60 years old, and I was raised in abusive fundamentalism. When I say that, I mean the kind of fundamentalism that insists on drawing attention to the pastor and leaders instead of to Jesus. A fundamentalism that keeps people picking lint out of their navels instead of teaching them to live and walk by the whispering of the Holy Spirit. The kind of fundamentalism that gives the idea that “it’s we four and no more.” It was a fundamentalism whose condemnation combined with its blatant unrepentant hypocrisy repelled several generations of teenagers. I was in one of those churches that practices cult-like behaviors for eight years. Now, four years later, I am still recovering. Stuff Fundies Like was a crucial part of the beginning of my recovery, for all of the reasons that others have found it so.

    I haven’t been a regular on SFL for about two years because one day I realized that the wound care on that site had been efficacious, and I no longer needed intensive care. In fact, my last visit was about four or five months ago – I think. I have found a church community in Christ the King Anglican Church, and I can’t imagine going back into Fundamentalism. I thank God for Darrell and his ministry. It ministered to me in the way that only those who know where I came from can minister.

  • Blonko Marsby February 20, 2013, 6:02 PM

    One of the best comments in this thread:

    Melissa,

    Don’t apologize. You did nothing wrong. They will not read a comment completely if they see the beginning does not agree with them. Also, if you noticed, they like to twist peoples words, accusing anyone who disagrees with them as being supporters of the pedophiles in the church. I go through this every time I post the truth. As Matthew 15: 14 states:

    “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

    Also, Proverbs 14: 10 states: ” The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.”

    Proverbs 14: 13 states: “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”

    Melissa, the best thing to do is pray for us all.

    It’s hard to reason with those people. Anytime they start to have a sane conversation, someone will twist your words and claim “victim” status and “how dare you disagree with me” and revert back to solipsism. Any good conversations that I’ve engaged in that actually are somewhat productive always end up as worthless tripe. The site seems to be overrun by those who want to promote leftist political views and anti-fundamentalist views. The site purports to be a place to engage in the funny foibles of IFBs, but it seems like it is overrun with people who have a lot of problems with some of the most basic views that Christianity has held for 2,000 years. And that has nothing to do with anything related to IFB. If people want to promote those views, then go to town! No one’s stopping them. It just seems, at least in my opinion, to be a misnomer that the site deals with IFB issues when so many of the posters seem to have problems with some of the basic tenets of historical Christianity that are nothing related to IFB. And even when things that are more specifically related to IFB are discussed, the ethos always seems to be “How dare you disagree with me. I am a victim” (of whatever). I do think that it could be a place to discuss and heal, but those people are so wrapped up in each others’ experiences and bitterness that these people just NEVER get over it. They keep on feeding on each other and seem to only delve MORE into bitterness, similar to what that other poster said about the step-parent web site. Sometimes a person needs to actually step away and stop feeding into that which they purport to want to get away from.

  • Brian March 2, 2013, 10:59 AM

    What needs to be said is that many who are writing blogs that seem to reflect a spirit of “church bashing” are doing nothing but exposing the reality that there are religious groups that make grandiose claims of having authority and have no authority whatsoever. Except for the fact that there is freedom of religion in America, many of these places of worship have no authority to expect that other people do as they say. Yes, the name “church” is posted on many signs in America and that every church has the right to believe in its own way, but major problems have arisen as Independent Baptist churches have stated in their communities that they are the only Bible believers in the community. Why would a person trust their faith to a stranger? Or why would someone ever confide in a pastor who says “I am God to you?” This happened to me while I was in the Independent Baptist Church and I am no longer believing that this movement has ANY authority. I am at liberty to believe that the Emperor has no clothes.

  • climber70 March 14, 2013, 1:47 PM

    So, I am a pastor of a church that is independent, meaning our church governs itself with elders/pastors accountable to the congregation, and vice versa. We are baptists meaning that we hold to the historic distinctives that separated baptists from say, methodists or presbyterians (notably we practice credo-baptism). We are also fundamental and rigid in holding orthodox doctrine and practice as necessary for true worship and belief. So I guess we are Independent, Fundamental and Baptist…yet we soundly repudiate the man-centered philosophy and hyper-separation of most of the places that SFL mocks. I grew up in a much more rigid and separatistic form of church, and so I recognize much of what SFL posts are about. I am familiar with about half. For example, my pastor in my younger days was a strong youth who was for more separated than I am or the church I pastor, but he would never have allowed Jack Hyles to darken the door of the church because he would not have had anything to do with the heresy and man-worship there. I disagree with several positions my pastor had, but he was a humble man who believed the most important thing a church can do is to preach through the Bible expositionally. And so that is what he did and he didn’t really care who was to the left of him or who was to the right of him. There was no high control that I can remember. I never experienced abuse of power, we were taught to think clearly and to search the Scripture. So sometimes I read SFL and I laugh or get angry at sin in the supposed (IFBdom) but I have no desire to flee to “evangelicalism.” They too are troubled–In my opinion, there really is no safe “place” in a movement from sinful men and leadership problems. I see much of the same “spiritual abuse” in many mainstream “evangelical” churches. I have no desire to control people or to get people in God’s church that I minister to follow me, I am scared to death to have them follow me, I know my weakness and sinfulness. So I find myself between worlds. One the one hand, I think SFL has good information at times to expose a very dangerous and godless form of Christianity that masquerades as being “right.” But I still sometimes am puzzled because I have been involved in “IFB” my whole life and not witnessed half of what goes on according to what SFL reports. For example, the “fundamentalists” I am around use a variety of translations, attend “evangelical” conferences, sing modern hymns projected on the large screen, and have never been to FBC in Hammond, Indiana and have never wanted to go. My conclusion is that SFL must be referring to a subset (probably even a very large subset) of fundamentalism that is more about man than the glory of God. I am acquainted with that subset and I think it is terrible, but I think it would help if SFL could possibly explain that not every church or organization that is independent or historically fundamental, believes in separation over orthodoxy and possibly even practice if it seems to be inconsistent with the Scripture, is conservative, and is baptist is an “IFB er” (whatever that means). And further, that there is a healthy, growing stream of saints who are not captivated by the ridiculous and godless subsets of fundamentalism nor evangelicalism, but are interested in growing by grace in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, preaching and teaching the Bible as the only authority for faith and practice (as best we know how).

    • spinetingler March 14, 2013, 4:22 PM

      climber70: I believe that you are correct when you state that “SFL must be referring to a subset (probably even a very large subset) of fundamentalism.” I am not now nor have I been in the past part of that subset, so those who have will have to give you a better description/definition.

  • Lynn Beisner February 13, 2014, 6:54 PM

    I am going to give you the biggest compliment that I have given to any of my fellow Christians who are claiming persecution (Because God knows, we are the persecutors, not the persecuted.)

    Ready? You didn’t suck. You gave a person the space in which to say, “I have been brutalized by a form of Christianity and it was awful.” Allowing a victim of a branch of Christianity to speak out was brave and decent.

    Thank you.

  • Not In The Clique February 14, 2014, 8:15 PM

    Mike,

    I just received an email from you of a new comment by a lynn Beisner. When I clicked on reply, a porn site advertising medication helps for sex came up. I quickly went back a page. I then clicked on “all comments” and I didn’t get the porn site. I don’t know what happened but I am just letting you know.

    • Lynn Beisner June 15, 2014, 7:36 PM

      Mike,

      Just so that you know, it had nothing to do with me either.

Leave a Comment