The Legacy of the Worldwide Church of God

What it was like growing up in a cult and its impact on my life and others like me.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Up close and personal

I write this blog from my personal experience because I want the reader to understand how the Worldwide Church of God impacted my life. It was devastating for me to realize everything that I was taught about religion wasnt necessarily the truth. Especially so because I built my life around the belief that it was so. I will be 41 soon and it is only over the past few years that I have finally felt like I have found myself and lived my life with true meaning.

I come from lower middle class. My father based his income off the land. Farming, hunting, and fishing. My mother stayed at home and only worked through our church years. (I believe this was so she could tithe to the church as my dad was not a church goer and would not give my mother access to finances.) My father worked hard and let my mother handle household things which included for the most part raising me the daughter. My mother came from very strict Baptist parents. Some of my mothers ancestors were ministers and the family originally from Europe. My mother swears even to this day, with much pride, that there is Jewish blood in her line and so this leads me to believe that she still believes in the British Israelism ties the Worldwide Church of God taught.

It is ironic that my mother left her Baptist church after accusing the preacher of stealing money. I remember I was very young, around 5ish, when my mother began attending the Worldwide Church of God. I started learning from that day on how important religion was to my mother. Saturday sabbath keeping became very important. Pork and seafood were banned from the house. We read grocery labels so we wouldnt accidently get lard in our food. We were taken out of school to keep old testament holy days and also to keep from attending traditional Christian holidays. We stopped celebrating birthdays. I was told not to talk to anyone concerning our home life and especially not to my grandparents who strongly opposed my mothers views. My mother studied in her room for hours at a time. I spent a lot of time by myself, wandering the woods behind the house or in my room. I did occasionally play with neighbor kids but never participated in group activities with them. I was eager and longing to play with other kids. I would make up invitations to their houses and my mother would not check into those invitations very thoroughly. I think she was so emeshed in religious turmoil it was good to have me out of her hair.

I think this was where things first became difficult for me. I think about how it would have been if my mother were truly interested in me as a daughter and not so withdrawn inside herself considering religion. I dont speak of it often but I was molested as a child by older brothers of a neighbor child and in several instances by an uncle who continually exposed himself to me. The one childs parents were never home when I visited and I feel if my mother had checked into that she would have known. She never seemed too curious that I stoppped wanting to visit. The uncle lived next door to us along with other family members. My mother just assumed I was safer there I guess. But the result of this was the beginning of the shame and guilt I felt over sex and by religious standards how unclean I was. I remember learning about venereal diseases as a preteen and being terrified that I was going to die. My mother never discussed sex with me as a child or preteen. What I learned was from health class at school or in the sermons of the Worldwide Church of God.

I remember all too well a sermon I heard as a young teen. The minister told a story about a worldly girl who went to a party, dressed slutty and drank too much. She ended up being gang raped and choking on her own vomit. The minister went into detail about how all the alcohol was pushed back up her esophogus by the force of the rape. This is such an example of what we had to listen to as children. I was a young teen then but there were children of all ages listening. The moral of the sermon was that girls who acted worldly or hung out with the wrong crowds would die violently.

I remember that sermon I think especially because of my guilt. People had touched me inappropriately and I was unclean. Although I was techinically a virgin I had fornicated. And that was a sin. And sin was punishable by death. It didnt matter that I was just a child when it happened and it was not my fault. I still felt dirty and ashamed. Confiding in my mother about any of it was not an option. I thought I would be punished.

It is through my experiences I tell my children over and over that they should come to talk to me no matter what for any reason. I will never punish them for telling me the truth. I am on their side first and foremost. My oldest daughter recently lied to me. I knew she was lying and responded in a manner where she had to either be found out by her schoolmates or admit to me she was lying. I told her again that she could talk to me about anything and she finally admitted to me in a burst of tears that she had been lying. We then went on to work together to solve her problem, my daughter continually hugged me through the process, and I think we both benifitted. How I wish I could have talked to my mother. But she was beyond approaching. Our relationship was based on my being the good daughter and with that came being a good member of The Worldwide Church of God.

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