I Fired God: My Life Inside---and Escape from---the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult

( 7 )

Overview

A compelling memoir and account of the Independent Fundamental Baptist church and its shocking history of religious abuse.

Jocelyn Zichterman was born, raised, married into, and finally, with her family, fled the Independent Fundamental Baptist church. Founded by the fiery preacher Bob Jones, with several hundred thousand members, IFB congregants are told they must not associate with members of other Baptist denominations and evangelicals, with an emphasis on secrecy, ...

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I Fired God: My Life Inside---and Escape From---the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult

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Overview

A compelling memoir and account of the Independent Fundamental Baptist church and its shocking history of religious abuse.

Jocelyn Zichterman was born, raised, married into, and finally, with her family, fled the Independent Fundamental Baptist church. Founded by the fiery preacher Bob Jones, with several hundred thousand members, IFB congregants are told they must not associate with members of other Baptist denominations and evangelicals, with an emphasis on secrecy, insular marriages within the church, a subservience for women, and unusual child raising practices.

In I Fired God, Jocelyn Zichterman systematically details the IFB's disturbing history, exposing a cult-like atmosphere of corruption, greed, and abuse. Having been initiated into its innermost circles, Zichterman knows that the gentle demeanor America sees in the form of the Duggar clan on 19 Kids and Counting disguises the truth about the darker side of the church.

With written documentation and sources so thorough that law enforcement has used her work as a foundation for criminal prosecutions, Zichterman exposes the IFB with revelations including:

  • The disturbing world of abuse within the IFB and doctors and teachers who cater exclusively to church members and fail to report physical and sexual abuse
  • The IFB-controlled Bob Jones University, which issues degrees of questionable value while making vast sums of money for its founders
  • The way the IFB influences politics on the local, state, and national level, and protects its abusive culture under the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An incendiary piece of work.” —Kirkus Review

“Zichterman’s compelling and moving book will appeal to readers of memoir.” —Library Journal

“This is one edgy, thought-provoking odyssey—from oppressed child to ultimate whistle-blower.” —Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
A damning memoir of life under the thumb of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, from former member Zichterman. Although it appears that the author's father is a seriously disturbed individual in his own right, the teachings of the IFB leave little to the imagination regarding the place of women in their worldview, where submission is their due--and they pay for even the smallest infraction with bloody lashings. Not that the boys went unbeaten, and Zichterman would sing quietly to her doll as her brothers got the rod. Under the guise of godly discipline, the IFB nurtured paranoia, "a clandestine subculture that breeds fear and suspicion," in which the members "have no idea that charitable organizations and government authorities exist that could offer them counseling and protection." So they remain silent, and the girls remain silent before the physical and sexual abuse. It is unnerving--even infuriating--to read of Zichterman's ordeal--all the fear, depression, guilt and pain, in a tone that is not so much unvarnished as vulnerable, the thrum of something evil playing right under the surface as she would curl up and weep at another episode of her father's wrath. When she was 18, her father was still whipping her, ordering her to remove her clothes before administration, in a grotesque sexual sadism. But Zichterman's story is more than a grisly tale of abuse. It is a glimpse into what is potentially happening in thousands of families caught in the IFB orbit. She eventually broke from the church, an act of heroism that it is difficult to imagine given such obvious brainwashing. An incendiary piece of work that will hopefully encourage other victims to escape the IFB's web.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250026262
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 725,036
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

JOCELYN ZICHTERMAN is an abuse advocate and whistleblower fighting against the IFB Church. Zichterman was a critical source and interview for the ABC News 20/20 investigative hour Shattered Faith as well as the "Ungodly Discipline" series featured on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. She has also been a source for The New York Times and The Huffington Post, among many other publications. Jocelyn lives with her husband and eight children.

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Read an Excerpt

1

 

IS THE DEVIL BEHIND US OR UP AHEAD?

My job [as pastor] is to execute wrath upon those who disobey.… Those of you who want to do right, we get along just fine. Those of you who don’t want to do right usually have a run-in with me. You know why? Because I’m ordained by God to stand in this position.

—Bart Janz, sermon, “God and Government II,” Holly Ridge Baptist Church, 2006

Escaping the Cult: August 1, 2006

I looked down at my hand and realized I was trembling. Terror. That’s the only word to describe what I felt. I forced myself to add another item to my long “to do” list, but the pen shook so much that my writing was nearly illegible. Taking several deep breaths and struggling to calm myself, I glanced out the window into a black, moonless night.

It was two in the morning and the house was silent. My husband, Joseph, and all eight of my children had gone to bed hours ago, but I couldn’t sleep. I hadn’t been able to for more than a week now, knowing that hour by hour the moment was drawing closer when we would leave everything we knew behind and head into a future as inscrutable as the blackness outside the window.

From my seat at the mahogany table in our dining room, I took in my surroundings. There was the china cabinet that held our most cherished wedding gifts. And the grandfather clock we had inherited from my husband, Joseph’s, late mother. This had always been my favorite room, and I was sitting in it for the last time. It was where I had read my Bible and prayed every morning over my breakfast tea for the past six years. Now, I realized, I was no longer sure I believed any of the words in the Holy Bible. I wondered if there was a God at all. But I forced those thoughts to the back of my mind. The only thing that mattered was whether we would all survive the journey ahead.

We had been planning it for months—carefully and quietly organizing our departure from the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church, like captives secretly plotting an escape from their guards—ever since I had spoken up about the brutal abuse I had endured as a child at the hands of my father, Bart Janz, an influential IFB pastor in Brighton, Colorado. Sadistic mind games and vicious beatings were a part of everyday life for my four siblings and me from toddlerhood throughout our teen years—beatings during which I was sometimes forced to lie naked facedown on my bed for hours while my father flogged me until I was bloody and could barely walk, sermonizing between each blow. Determined to keep his “house in order,” he wielded power with a Bible in one hand and a thick wooden dowel in the other. A chilling image of him rose up in my mind, eyes black and purple veins pulsating in his neck as they always did when he was in a rage.

I could almost feel raw, angry welts rising afresh on the backs of my legs. Fear surged through me, but I shook it off. There was no time to panic, no time to curl up in the corner and weep. I was determined to save my own children from my fate—from growing up in a community and a faith that not only tolerated but advocated torturing children to crush their will. I had to get them as far away as possible. And I had only a few hours to do it.

Breaking My Silence: January 2005

An overwhelming fear for my children had convinced me to end my long silence about my own past a year earlier. When I finally confided in Joseph, in early 2005, the stories tumbling out in an anguished torrent, he was horrified. He had joined the church at the age of thirteen without his parents’ involvement, and, not having grown up in an IFB family, he had no firsthand knowledge of the shattering physical and psychological damage fathers like mine did to their children under the guise of godly discipline.

Learning about my childhood sent Joseph into an intense moral struggle. He loved me and he knew I was telling the truth. But standing by me now would require abandoning his entire way of life. As a man in a fiercely male-dominated subculture, he had always been treated well. He was respected, even revered in the IFB. He had been a frequent IFB conference speaker as well as a professor at one of the most prominent IFB colleges for over a decade. At the age of only thirty-three, he had even received an honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University, the IFB’s worldwide headquarters, located in Greenville, South Carolina. So up to this point, the strongest reprimands he had ever gotten from the church leaders had come for failing to keep me sufficiently meek and submissive. He had spent years listening to IFB preachers warn that women were deceivers, Jezebels, put on earth to lead men astray ever since that fateful day when Eve handed Adam the forbidden fruit. He had also been indoctrinated in the IFB paranoia that the world beyond our insular community was wicked and that venturing into it was a one-way ticket to damnation. When Joseph ultimately chose to support my decision to leave the IFB, it was a turning point in our marriage as well as our lives. He knew he was in for the fight of his life.

My husband called my father at his home in Colorado and told him what he had done to me was wrong. But if he was hoping for a mea culpa he didn’t know Bart Janz. The man who had made my childhood a living hell now turned his full fury on Joseph and vowed to make our adult lives equally hellish.

He swore he would destroy Joseph’s career, ruin us financially, and make sure we never left the IFB. He called the IFB leaders at Northland Baptist Bible College, where Joseph was a professor, to tell them I was making wild allegations and trying to lure my husband away from “the only true church.” He painted us in the blackest light possible. The IFB leaders were powerful men and close friends of my father’s, and, as far as I can tell, they backed every move he made against us, informing Joseph a short time later that they were terminating his teaching position at the end of that semester. This only enflamed my father’s rage toward us and reinforced his sense of righteous indignation. We lived in a small, isolated town in the middle of the Wisconsin woods, five miles from the nearest two-lane highway, where nearly everyone belonged to the IFB. We had nowhere we could turn in our own community for help.

“I’m coming to deal with you publicly in front of the entire community whether you like it or not!” my father screamed over the phone. Joseph tried repeatedly to reason with him. When that failed, he threatened him with a restraining order, but it only threw fuel on the fire.

“This is going to trail you, buddy, for the rest of your life!” my father bellowed. “This is war!”

My Paralyzing Fear

All my life my father had warned me that he would kill me if I ever talked about the abuse I had suffered at his hands. My formative years were full of death threats from him, and somewhere in the back of my mind I had always expected him to carry through. It was just a question of when. I knew the man was capable of bloodshed. I had seen him torture animals to death, even beloved family pets, many times.

Now a new terror seized me: Would he try to do the same to my children? The thought was unbearable. One night a few months earlier I had been gripped with such a paralyzing fear that I had called 911.

“He’s coming! I don’t know what he’ll do!” I screamed into the phone.

The 911 operator tried to make sense of my hysteria. “Who’s coming, ma’am? Where is he coming to?”

“My father! I confronted him about abusing me and now he says he’s coming to my home! And I have eight children!” Months of stress had taken a heavy toll on my body and my mind, and confessing my fears to a stranger pushed me over the edge. I collapsed into uncontrollable, shuddering sobs while the operator attempted to calm me down.

My life had become like a scene from a horror movie, where you’re holding your breath and tensing every muscle, waiting for the monster to spring out. But for me the scene never ended. How many nights had I crept from my bed and peered warily out our windows? It was hard to see the yard in the dead of night and even harder to see the woods behind it, but I was convinced that one night soon my father would slip into them unnoticed to watch us from the shadows. The wind would rustle a branch, and I would freeze, sure I saw him lurking in the trees, ready to strike.

Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t survive one more day. But my kids … what would happen to them if I gave up? They were the reason I kept going, steeling myself, expecting at every moment to hear my father pounding on the front door and shouting my name, to see him burst in wielding his wooden dowel over us as my children cowered in fear behind me.

BAM!

The silence of the night was broken by the sudden slam of a door. My heart took off like a thoroughbred out of the starting gate. My body stiffened, bracing for the figure from my nightmares to come striding into my dining room. A moment later, relief swept through me as I heard light footsteps run down the hallway, away from the bathroom. One of the kids was headed back to bed, blissfully unaware of the danger surrounding all of us.

I closed my eyes and tried to think through the hours ahead. Had I overlooked anything? Forgotten any documents or essentials for the children? Was that a footstep I heard outside? I had been operating on no more than five fitful, nightmare-filled hours of sleep for months. No doubt chronic sleep deprivation was fueling my delusions and paranoia. But even in my addled state, I was clear on one point: The IFB was a cult, and getting our children away from it was essential. We had to break free.

Was the devil behind us or up ahead? I didn’t know.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Jocelyn R. Zichterman

Foreword copyright © 2013 by Melissa Janz Fletcher

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    This book was an amazing read for me. I can see the author has a

    This book was an amazing read for me. I can see the author has a great drive and truly wants to help people see the truth and bring the horrible evil to light.
    Half way through I found myself shaking just because it brought back terrible memories and triggers that my husband and I have gone through. We were also brought up in the extreme IFB culture. I'm greatful to be out and living in freedom with God. Thank you Jocelyn Zichterman for writing this amazing book!!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2013

    A Must Read

    Coming from the IFB culture,I will say this book was spot on in many ways.If you grew up in this culture this book may be triggering to you. To see our lingo and way of life in print is somewhat shocking but it needed to be done. I couldnt put it down! I commend the author for her courage and faith. I hope she will continue to speak for those who have no voice.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2013

    Truth is impossible for those in a cult

    Anyone in a cult like the IFB should get immediate mental help. The one star reviewers of this book are unChristian and completely sick. You are satanic abusers and should not be alowed to have children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2013

    Anonymous

    Did anyone bother to check Jocelyn's facts before accepting her story at face value? Jocelyn is a liar. The story is so "captivating" because she has embellished and axaggerated the few truths you might be fortunate enough to stumble upon.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    I read this book in one day. I am a member of an Independent Fu

    I read this book in one day. I am a member of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church, and was curious to see her perspective. The atrocities that this lady experienced at the hands of IFB 'Christians" are absolutely terrible. There is no excuse for abuse like this. Ever. I was heartbroken for this lady as she reiterated her horrendous experiences with people who deemed themselves 'men of God.' However, these fake Christians are not indicative of what God is really like. They are not proper examples of anything but perverted, power-hungry bullies. As a member of a Biblical IFB church, I am blessed to not have experienced the cruelties that Jocelyn did. My heart breaks for her because she never really discussed her own personal relationship with Jesus. The only thing her childhood and college experiences with the church did for her was hammer her down with rules and regulations. The love and grace of Jesus was sadly omitted from her church influences, and all that remained in her psyche from them was oppression, judgment, and hatred. For her to say that God exists, and that He or She is always there at the end of her book goes to show how desperately lost she is and in need of an encounter with the true Jesus of the Bible. There is no excuse for the way that she was treated. And there is no remedy for her brokenness aside from Christ. I will definitely keep this lady in my prayers. The IFB isn't the one 'true church' as she was so mistakenly taught as a child. Regardless of music, dress, or propriety standards, anyone who will repent and put their faith in Jesus alone as Savior is guaranteed a home in heaven. I hope that she can find solace in Him and that this book is a stepping stone in her process of recovery and eventual true relationship with the God who made her and loves her so dearly.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2014

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