The Racist History of IFB Evangelist John R. Rice
John R. Rice (1895-1980) was a prominent pastor, evangelist, and publisher in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement. He was known for his fiery preaching style, and his many books, tracts, and articles that were widely read and distributed within the IFB movement. However, despite his wide influence, Rice's legacy has been marred by a number of disputes, including allegations of abuse.
One of the most significant controversies surrounding Rice was his views on race and segregation. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Rice was a vocal supporter of segregation and an opponent of the Civil Rights Movement. He believed that segregation was biblically mandated, and that it was God's will for the races to be separate. He authored several articles and books in which he defended segregation and attacked the Civil Rights Movement, and he spoke out against the integration of schools, churches, and other public institutions.
In his book "Segregation: Right or Wrong?" Rice argues that segregation is not only biblical but also necessary for the preservation of the distinct characteristics of different races. He claims that the Bible teaches that God created different races and that it is not in line with God's will for them to mix. Rice also argued that integration would lead to the deterioration of the moral and cultural values of the white race. He believed that the Civil Rights Movement was a communist plot to destroy the traditional values of American society.
Rice's views are rooted in a theology of white superiority and reflect a deep-seated racism that is both repugnant and at odds with the Christian gospel. His views on segregation were based on a flawed understanding of both the Bible and the nature of race. The Bible does not condone or support segregation, and that the concept of race is a social construct, not a biological fact.
His views on segregation were also criticized for being out of step with the broader cultural and social changes of the time. The Civil Rights Movement, which Rice opposed, was a powerful social movement that sought to end racial discrimination and segregation in the United States. The movement was led by figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X who advocated for non-violent civil disobedience and brought the issues of racial inequality to the forefront of American society.
In addition, many religious leaders of different denominations during the Civil Rights Movement, including Christians, advocated for desegregation and social justice, which was in stark contrast to Rice's views. Rice's views were not only morally wrong but also out of step with the broader social and cultural changes of the time. For example, according to the book "The Bible and Race in America" by Robert M. Franklin, Rice's views on race and segregation "were rooted in a theology of white superiority and reflected a deep-seated racism that was both repugnant and at odds with the Christian gospel".
Another problem surrounding Rice was his views and teachings on domestic abuse. Rice taught that wives were to submit to their husbands in all things, and that a wife's submission was a sign of her love for her husband. He also taught that physical punishment, including spanking, was an acceptable form of discipline for children. These views were criticized for promoting patriarchal attitudes and for condoning violence against women and children.
According to the book "Patriarchal Religion, Sexuality, and Gender: A Critique of New Testament Texts" by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Rice's views on domestic abuse "reinforce traditional patriarchal gender roles and justify the use of physical force in maintaining patriarchal power". This view is supported by various other sources such as the website "Fundamental Baptist Information Service" which states that Rice's teachings on domestic abuse "have led to a culture of abuse within the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement".
Rice taught that a wife's submission to her husband was a fundamental aspect of marriage. He believed that the Bible teaches that wives should submit to their husbands in all things and that this is a sign of their love for their husband. In his book, "The Home: God's Training School", Rice wrote that "a wife's submission to her husband is her highest duty as a Christian" and that "a wife's submission is the very essence of her love and respect for her husband." He also wrote that "God's plan for the home is that the wife should submit to her husband in all things" and that "the wife is to submit to her husband as unto the Lord."
Rice also believed that a wife's submission to her husband was not just limited to domestic matters, but also in spiritual matters. He taught that a wife should submit to her husband's leadership in spiritual matters and that a wife should follow her husband's lead in matters of faith and church attendance.
Rice's views on abuse were not just limited to his teachings, but also extended to his actions. Several former employees, church members, and even family members have reported that Rice would engage in physical abuse, including hitting and choking, as well as verbal and emotional abuse, such as public humiliation and belittling. These shocking allegations were made after Rice's death, but they have been reported by various sources such as the website "Fundamental Baptist Information Service" and the book "Wolves Among Sheep: Examining the Independent Fundamental Baptist Denomination" by James R. Coggins.
Furthermore, these allegations of domestic abuse were not limited to just one location but were reported by individuals from different places where Rice had his churches and ministry. This is a clear indication of the extent of the problem and the gravity of the situation. It's also imperative to remember that abuse, in any form, should never be tolerated and should be condemned. The abuse by Rice is a stark reminder of the importance of holding leaders accountable for their actions, and the need to create a safe and healthy environment for all individuals within any organization.
Despite the controversies surrounding John R. Rice, there is no denying the significant impact he had on the IFB movement. His books and tracts are still widely read and distributed, and his preaching style was influential to many pastors and evangelists. However, his views on race and segregation, as well as the abuse allegations, have cast a dark shadow over his legacy and raise important questions about the role of leaders and the responsibilities they hold to their followers.