When I met my Southern Baptist husband, he had never heard of Independent Baptists. I introduced him to a world he had never known. And honestly, we are a people like none other. At this point in my life, I don't necessarily claim the title of Independent Baptist, but don't tell my dad that. Because as strange as my upbringing was, I would not trade it for anything. I am thankful for wonderful Godly parents who made choices about how to raise their six kids based on what they believed the Bible said, with a little bit of tradition mixed in. As time has passed, many of our Baptist churches have changed and there is no real standard for what you will find in the average Independent Baptist church. But for those of us who spent the 80's sitting on hard pews, drawing on the back of tithing envelopes (which was strictly forbidden), we remember the way it used to be. And for the number of friends and readers who are not familiar with the Independent Baptist way of life, sit back and I will enlighten you. Here are the real Independent Baptist Distinctives.
- No Pants on Women. Let me assure you, I wasn't raised with nakedness from the waist down. But good independent Baptist women did not wear trousers in the 80's. We wore skirts and dresses and our beloved culottes (knee-length or longer, of course). Pants were for males and old ladies, because apparently once you became old, no one wanted to look at
your sagging bottomyou in pants and so you were safe. I did not start wearing jeans until my junior year of Bible college, and I thought I looked like a boy in them. This was the year they changed the rules to allow "modest, loose fitting slacks" on women. And we could not wear them until 1:00 p.m. Up until 12:59 p.m., they were still sinful.
- No Movie Theaters. Movies in your own home, acceptable. Movies in the theater, unacceptable. The truth is, I believe this started with the intentions of no movies at all. Do not support Hollywood because it is wicked (and that's still the truth), but with the invention of the VCR, the no movie thing went right out the window. We all brought Hollywood and its movies into our living rooms. Heck, it was cheaper. Still, I will say that my parents knew what we watched. There was no sneaking anything by them, seeing a rated R movie when we were only allowed to watch PG. I did go to the IMAX in high school with my family and we saw Jurassic Park. And I kind of thought we might be going to hell for it. Also, for the record, my first movie in a regular theater was not until 2008. So there. I am a freak of nature.
- No Mixed Bathing. This sounds far dirtier than it actually is. I don't know who got the bright idea to call swimming "bathing", but it indeed sounds scandalous. In reality, it just means that we girls didn't go swimming with boys. It means that every year at camp, there was a girls' swim time and a boys' swim time. We carefully clothed ourselves for our walk to and from the pool, because the sight of a scrawny eleven-year-old girl in a neon colored Walmart one-piece might just ruin a boy for life.
- King James Version Bibles. Seriously. Do not mock the KJV. I kind of love it. It's what I was raised on and what I have memorized my whole life. I do read the ESV and the Amplified Bible, and I love those as well. But Independent Baptists are serious about their KJV's. I draw the line with the people who believe that you can't get saved out of anything else. Those people are idiots. It's not sweet to say, but it's true. And you can use whatever you want to read from, but please do not tell me that you don't understand thee's and thou's. If you don't understand what those words mean, I recommend you return to elementary school. Unless you are in elementary school... in which case, you should stay there and learn something.
- Hymn Books. We loved our hymns. Bringing in the Sheaves. Come and Dine. When the Roll is Called Up Yonder. First, Second, and Fourth Verses only. The third verses are worthless for whatever reason. I don't even know why hymn writers wrote them. We Independent Baptists were too good for third verses. And so we ignored them. But please, whatever you do, give us those verses from the hymn book. Don't print them in a chorus book or project them onto the wall. We'll take our Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns Book, thank you. We will even buy new ones so that we can place a hymnal dedication label in the front in memory of Aunt Deloris and Grandma Sue.
- Southern Gospel Music. I know we are not the only denomination to like it, but we Independent Baptists do love our four part harmony, or at least three. We like fancy piano playing and shaped notes and convention songs. And please sing lots of songs about heaven and the blood of Jesus. We will shout and wave our hankies*. And run the aisles if we are in deep South. And bass singers and tenors are our favorites. (Sorry, Craig)
- Door-to-door Soul Winning. We like to go right up to people's doors and knock and ask people if they are going to heaven when they die (actually, most of us don't like it... most of us are scared to death of it). Sometimes they say yes. Sometimes they say no. Sometimes they slam the door. Sometimes they get mad and cuss. And sometimes they want to hear what we have to say. And sometimes those people accept Christ. This is why we keep doing it.
So this is me. This is where I come from. I am a little strange, a little different. I am 34 years old and I have still never been to a water park. (Seriously, who wants to spend a day swimming around in the dirt and urine of the masses? Not this girl.) But rest assured, if I ever change my mind, you will know how to find me. I'll be the girl in the neon colored Walmart one piece bathing suit covered by culottes.
*My clever friend Caryn, also a Independent Baptist preacher's kid, writes about southern gospel music and hankie waving, here.