My Backstory series offers stories about my upbringing and background. You can find the whole series under the category “Biography,” if you’re interested.
I wish I knew more about how my parents met. This is all I got so far:
My mom lived & worked in Connellsville. My dad lived in the same town, though he worked in Clairton. She worked at a finance company and meanwhile worked at raising her two boys. So they kinda knew each other; it was a small town and I think dad may have done some business with her office at one point.
Dad told me only a couple stories about his life as a man, beyond the Army stories or occasional mill story, or a caper involving him and his friend Ellsworth. He told me that long before he had any kind of religious allegiance, he prayed and asked God to give him a red-headed wife someday.
My mom had gorgeous red hair, a true red, almost carrot colored but not quite. She didn’t have the flock of freckles on her face that you’d expect; maybe as a kid but not as I remember her. She also had a tiny waist, a petite 4’11” frame, and a love for swing coats and high heels. [My mom will remain better dressed than I, with much better fashion sense.]
Somehow, my dad met my mom and she invited him to church. That’s about all I know.
He wasn’t particularly interested in “vacation Bible school” or church, though he found her description of the building’s wooden beams and ceiling rather intriguing. (She told him it looked like an upside-down ark on the inside, and it kinda did.)
Nope. He was interested in her.
Their first date was to see a double-feature: The Lady and the Tramp, followed by 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Presh. And as they say, the rest was history.
Well, there was a wrinkle.
My mom was attending an independent Fundamental non-denominational church in town (yes, that’s a mouthful; yes, that’s a real denomination). Actually, the string of adjectives read “independent Fundamental Bible-believing local church.” It wasn’t Baptist, so “non-denominational.” It’s a rare bird, actually — you’ll find plenty online about independent Fundamental Baptist churches (or IFB for short). Nosomuch the non-denominational or “Bible church” variety. I digress.
Mum’s church was full of good people; I met most of them. Dad felt rather welcome actually. He discovered that he had a thirst for learning more about the Bible, so his mission of getting my mom to date him by attending church ended up making him a Christian. He made a profession of faith shortly before he proposed to her.
And then all hell broke loose. But it’s midnight and I’m tired, so I’ll pick up that thread next time.
” Actually, the string of adjectives read “independent Fundamental Bible-believing local church.” It wasn’t Baptist, so “non-denominational.” It’s a rare bird, actually — you’ll find plenty online about independent Fundamental Baptist churches (or IFB for short). Nosomuch the non-denominational or “Bible church” variety. I digress”
This part makes me smile. Truth is, there isn’t a tissue paper’s worth of daylight between what they believe and what Baptist believe; they are just so cantankerous and contrarian that they can’t admit to being in a club someone else has already defined.
I think that’s a valid explanation of the motivation between the Bible and Baptist flavors of Fundamentalism. But there are differences — perhaps too small to count for people outside the culture, but important on the inside.
For example, the Baptist Fundys are much more clannish and exclusive when it comes to ministry cooperation. I didn’t realize this, having grown up around the Faith Bible Conference where (even though they were few in number) Bible Methodists and Free Presbyterians were just as likely to fill the pulpit as a Bible church guy from Ohio and the usual string of independent Fundamental Baptists.
It wasn’t until someone who was teaching at MCCS decided to become a missionary and registered with GFA (the mission board attached to BJU) that I saw how IFB churches exclude anyone who isn’t Baptist. The missionary guy just couldn’t get many Baptist churches to respond. He was often told that IFB churches would only support “Baptist” missionaries because they couldn’t trust his theology, because only Baptist churches were biblical, because GFA was too shady.
For all of its problems, MCCC was tolerant of diversity WITHIN Fundamentalism, so to meet people who were even LESS tolerant floored me. I met even more of them at BJU. And as we were leaving that world in the early 2000s, BJU abandoned any pretense of supporting non-Baptist fundamental pastors and churches. My friends in the Free Presbyterian or Methodist churches, along with most of the Bible church movement, were excluded from the life of the BJ seminary from 2002 on in the latest round of anti-Reformed and anti-“non-Baptist” witch-hunting.
I know you probably don’t care about that level of detail 🙂 and there’s no reason anyone outside fundamentalism should even try to understand that tiny shades of difference color people’s ability to function in that space.
But the fact that MCCC was NOT as separatist as it could have been was foundational to me being able to see the problems in that worldview and leave it.