I just completed my reading of Jocelyn R. Zichterman’s harrowing biography, I Fired God: My Life Inside ––– and Escape from ––– the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult.

I had begun the book about a year ago but had stopped reading because the content was honestly so disturbing I was struggling to push through. I recently decided to work through the book again, pressing through each increasingly difficult chapter which spoke of the abuse Jocelyn received in great detail.

“Jocelyn R. 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.” (Official Bio)


In the book, Zichterman describes her childhood under an abusive and predatory father and the network of churches which fueled, encouraged, and ultimately helped cover up the tragic situation.

Many critics of the book have called into question the broad criticisms and generalizations of the IFB movement as well as Zichterman’s unabashed use of the term “cult” when describing the Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement. Frankly, – as someone who has many dear friends and family within the IFB movement who could certainly not be considered extremist fundamentalists – I can say honestly that I do not necessarily blame Jocelyn for using these labels, given the horrific experiences that she personally endured from the hand of those under the banner of the IFB Church. While I wish there could have been more nuance at times, I understand that this book was written in the context of an experience that was more painful than anything I could never imagine.

Jocelyn details the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse she received within the movement as well as her eventual escape. As the title suggests, she ultimately explains how she eventually decided to “Fire” the “god” whom her abusers in the network cited as their authority.


I Fired God seeks to serve as an exposé of a twisted faction within the IFB network, not unlike the famous “Spotlight” articles regarding the prevalence of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The book, in many ways, exceeds in this attempt. Her very strong writing, attention to detail, and thorough explanations make for a fascinating and informative read.

To some, the alleged mass network of abusers and enablers exposed in this memoir may seem like nothing more than the conspiracy theory of a bitter ex-member. However, those who have researched the topic for any considerable amount of time can verify that Jocelyn Zichterman is not a lone voice on this matter. While I personally believe there truly are many good people who consider themselves to be IFB, it is no secret that there are likewise many who have operated wickedly in the history of the movement.

Jocelyn does well in exposing some critical flaws within parts the IFB movement and raises questions on some important issues. The book explores the systematic cover-up of her abuse, both by family members and key leaders within the IFB movement. She goes deep into the founding of the movement, her experience within it, and the ideology that, in some cases, fueled her abusers and suppressed her ability to receive help.


While the book does shine a much-needed light on certain systems and ideologies which breed abuse, some of the criticisms of Jocelyn Zichterman are directed not only at the worst elements the IFB subculture but at Christian orthodoxy itself. This was my primary issue with the book.

She often cites the “fundamentalist approach” to having a “literal view” of Scripture as the catalyst for many of the issues within the IFB, thus rejecting the ultimate authority of Scripture and failing to realize that the evil men described in the book were not following the Bible literally at all, but rather ripping passages from their context.

Also, in numerous areas – notably in the chapter entitled, From IFB to Liberal, Zichterman downplays the sufficiency and authority of Scripture on issues like homosexuality, abortion, Creationism and the character of God himself.

“I know for sure that God is not a fat, white, angry, Republican, Baptist, male pastor in the sky – with a wooden dowel in one hand and a Bible in the other.” She writes, “I know for sure that She/He/Energy/Source/The Divine is good, loving, kind, and compassionate and there is order and purpose in everything.”

In addition to this issue, my other problem with the book was the aforementioned lack of nuance when dealing with the IFB movement. While there are indisputably aggressive, cult-like and abusive subgroups within the movement, I would be hesitant to broadly label the entire IFB movement a “cult.” While some of what Zichterman describes I have seen or encountered, some of what she deems “typical IFB teaching” was foreign to my experience. This is not to discredit her experiences, but to say that the IFB movement isn’t quite as monolithic as described.

Zichterman fails to delineate between truly independent, Christ-centered churches and those dictatorial IFB pastors which worked in unspoken yet very real networks to foster and defend abuse among their congregants. Instead, the word “cult” is indiscriminately used to describe anyone within the IFB movement.


This is definitely a “take the meat, spit out the bones” type of book.

While I certainly wish that more nuance was used in many portions of the book and that Zichterman’s conclusions regarding spiritual issues were not unorthodox, I still believe that I Fired God is an important volume that needs to be read.

It is very well-written, and there is vital information for any reader about what types of environments cultivate abuse, how to identify and break away from a cult-like system, as well as useful legal and statistical data.

In the end, I Fired God is a gripping, emotionally impactful biography that – at the very least, will raise some deeply important questions about pragmatic leadership, cultural isolationism, and systematized abuse. While the author’s specific conclusions may not always be perfect, her willingness to transparently engage her traumatic past in an effort to help others can certainly be applauded.

I Fired God: My Life Inside ––– and Escape from ––– the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult is available in paperback and on Kindle.

I Fired God marks my first completed book of the Challies 2017 Reading Challenge. You can download a digital copy or order a hi-res print from Challies.com.

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