Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can't You See That I'm Dying?

I was part of a Tampa/Dade City church for twenty-four years. If I sat at this computer for a year and typed continuously, I couldn't begin to record the horror perpetrated on me and those I love.

At the same time, I have experienced God's amazing deliverance from destructive cult and the amazing concern from those who walked with me as I left behind a spiritually-abusive hell.
My history begins with my parents attending the church when I was pre-school age.
The pastor at the time tried to 'sever ties' with the movement called the 'Body'; being a young child, I didn't understand what this meant.
There was a woman in the church who was the 'youth-pastor'. I understand this was very 'unusual' for this organization of churches as women were generally repressed and thought brainless.
I was too young at the time to attend the 'youth' meetings (THANK GOD!!!)
However, the congregation would hear at the Saturday night meetings how 'amazing' the meetings were- they were so 'Spirit'-packed they would last until four in the morning! Oh, holiness was reigning!!
What they mostly consisted of was the 'youth' minister or her 'favored' young people sensing demons in the other young people and then hours of 'casting' said demons 'out'.
It is my belief that the Salem witch trials got a great revival in Tampa in the 'West' wing of the church. Had execution been permissible, these 'zealous' 'Christians' would have obliged the world in wiping out a few more heretics!
When I came out of the church, I heard from the 'young' people who had also left that the senior pastor had repeatedly warned this 'youth' minister that she was not to keep the youth over an hour. So, she told the young people that they would keep the length of the meetings a secret between themselves.
BIG RED FLAG HERE! Anytime someone wants seemingly 'normal' things kept from those in authority (i.e. when and where meetings occur, length of meetings, who was there, etc.) please do yourself a favor and spread the word- there is danger somewhere.
Time elapsed, and the senior pastor found out that he was dying of cancer. He elected a young man to take the church- believing he was circumventing this woman 'youth' minister from taking power.
There are events and happenings, layers of story that would take me days and hours to recount. If I have the time, I will come back to this part of the story in the second section.
Suffice to say, the woman took control of the church.
Almost twenty years later, the pure hell of this event still affects people's lives.
She was pastor of the church and principal of the 'church' school that now resided in Dade City, Florida.
One of the most debilitating things that stand out in my mind was when I was thirteen.
The school had a very stringent 'six-inch' rule between the sexes- of course I see the wisdom in this, but in this abusive environment the interpretation of this rule actually was:
THOU SHALT NOT EVEN LOOK AT THE OPPOSITE SEX, YOU LUSTFUL, CRAVEN CREATURE!
NO SITTING AT THE SAME LUNCH TABLE WITH MEMBERS OF THE MALE SEX!
IF THOU TALK WITH MEMBERS OF SAID OPPOSITE SEX, MONITORS AND SUPERVISORS WILL SIT IN THE OFFICE AND WHISPER TO EACH OTHER WHILE GIVING THOU EVIL GLARES.
And you can be sure the principal will be called and told what a sex-maniac you are.
A group of the girls were playing a clapping game called "Miss Mary Mack". The game consisted of children standing in a circle and taking turns clapping each other's hands in fast succession while reciting a rhyme.
(As you can tell, obviously someone pulled this game straight out of the kinkiest dating sex secrets section from Playboy)
We (the girls) were a few people short to form a circle. I called to one the boys and ask him to come help us making the circle (where my brain was I'll never know- I should have known by then what happened to those who touched boys)
I was reported to the principal.
She came to my house at 10:00 that night and told my parents that they had to come to the school for a conference.
In the office, she called me a 'female dog in heat' (a bitch) lusting after the boys and leading them into sin. She said she could see the lust demons coming out of my eyes and that I needed to be whipped to save my soul.
She took my dad's belt and whipped me, telling me to pray at the same time that God would save me from my lust.
I could hardly hold my head up for days.
And in such a manner, life carried on.
Anytime she came into the school, I would cower in my 'cubicle', pretending to be busy, so I didn't have to talk to her.
Usually this just got me in trouble: I obviously had something to 'hide'.
In 1996, a boy shot himself after having been yelled at by her.
I heard that there was a suicide note- but it was destroyed before the police could find it.
She told the church that it was "God's will" that this young man ended his life- obviously, God had "arranged' it to happen because he (the young man) would have defected from the church and "God saved him from this fate".
As I sit here and write this I can hardly keep from screaming. To blame this tragedy on a loving, caring Creator makes me hope she burns in hell for eternity.
There, I finally said it. My prayer is that God has mercy on her as He had on me; and in His mercy which is equally justice I hope that she finds out what the Scripture means about it being better to tie a millstone about one's self than to offend a little one.
I have heard from many other people, some of them still in their teens, that suicide was often the solution that seemed the easiest.
For about a year, it seemed the easiest solution to me, also.
There comes a place and time when you feel so 'dead' after all the yelling, lies, and rejection that it seems a good idea to just make it true.
If you are reading this and you feel that you would be at 'peace' if you could 'end' it all- PLEASE DON'T! THERE IS HOPE! Talk to a councilor, a real pastor, family member, somebody, anybody!
You are loved by God! You are a special creation- this world needs you in it- so, please, GET HELP! YOU ARE WORTH IT!
When my family of ex-church members get together and talk over all our experiences, we all agree on one thing: Thank God there wasn’t sexual abuse.
As I read back through all the accounts of sufferers, I mourn for those who were victimized that way. May God grant them justice and peace.
Today I opened the Bible I had used in the Dade City church days- in it were some ‘sermon’ notes I had scribbled during services.
As I sat by one of the ‘favored’ people, I had to pretend to scribble vigorously every fascinating, ‘God-inspired’ word out of her mouth, or be ratted on, then yelled at, etc.
One of the things I managed to scribble in between the words of "Worldly, Worldly thoughts and desires!" was this: "It will be a cold day in Hell before I testify again!"
I actually was able to laugh about it- thank God the absurdity of the situation overrode the pain!
I had been accused of being prideful because of quoting Lucado.
She had become so twisted that in the week before I left, she told the church that there was no need of reading the Bible, everyone just needed to listen to, and I quote, "The Word of God over the pulpit".
There was also the times when God would "reveal" things about different members divinely to her.
The actual trick to it all wasn’t all that mystical: she had her home and the church phone tapped.
I found out because I heard two of the young women (who lived at her house) talking together about how you should be careful about what you said on the church phone. Another friend found a tape in the church storage room in which the pastor ranted on and on about different members of the church.
I have also heard that different members of the church were sent to spy on each other to see if anyone had a TV hidden in their house. Only the pastor was allowed to have one- the flock didn’t have enough moral control to be responsible viewers!
And then there were the services where the "Dreams" were revealed!
She would have dreams about different members- in which ‘God’ revealed the member’s heart to her.
My heart was full of leprosy- because I was of the --- family.
I knew I was in for a bad time when she would glare at me from her seat behind the pulpit. She would stare at you in the most hateful way, all the while moving her lips. You knew she was ‘praying out’ the evil spirits that had taken residence in your soul.
And there were also the prayer meetings in which she asked God to bring an 'end' to those who had defected from the church.
I don't know what it sounds like to you, but to my understanding, she was asking God to kill them because they had the gall to disagree with her.
And then there was the evil sexuality of the flock!
As much as the woman thought about sex, she should have owned an adult store- maybe she could have put all that thought time to use.
I remember one time a family member and myself were being berated in her office for talking to a ‘rebellious’ member. In the middle of her tirade, she brought up the fact that one of her ‘favored’ members could no longer have sex with his wife because of medicine- induced
impotency.
I could never figure out what his impotency and talking to rebellious church members had to do with each other- like I even cared about someone else’s sex life. It was none of my business, and more importantly, none of hers.
She accused everybody of lust, heterosexual and homosexual.
If all her accusations were true, that church was the biggest group of lustful, wife-swapping, incestuous pedophiles under one roof.
During song service, she would walk up to different young people and say she saw ‘lust demons’ coming out of their eyes. Therefore, the poor humiliated people had to be ‘prayed’ through the clutch of their evil and there had better be some ‘coughing up’ of some demons into napkins if you ever wanted to get out of church that night.
As she was morally responsible for all these young lives, it was up to her to pick the young people’s mates for them. And you better take her choice and be grateful for it!
Thank God the young man she ‘picked’ for me fought her decision. There were never two more incompatible people on the face of this earth- we would have divorced in a year.
Young people were discouraged from pursuing college- Christ was coming back in the next year or the year after that and there just wasn’t time for a degree!
What there was time for was cleaning her five, six, seven, or even more buildings, all the while maintaining a regular forty hour job.
I remember at one time when she had seven offices that had to be cleaned bi-weekly. These buildings were up to forty miles apart and had to be cleaned in the same day.
To my knowledge, no one was ever paid a regular salary for doing this work.
Oh, and did I mention that she would ‘help-out’ only about ten times a year?
I would love to send her a bill for fifteen years of hard work.
Actually, I would love to see her have to do backbreaking work for someone else at no pay.
Let me not forget those poor souls who did ‘God’s work’ in the church-school. I really don’t know how it (the school) is still up and running. There are so many rules and laws being broken that surely some state or federal office is aware of it somewhere.
What makes me most infuriated, however, is the mental and emotional torture the older students are put through.
I’m not talking about church member older students, but rather NON-member students.
I have heard of two girls (thirteen and fifteen) who were pulled into the office and told to stop their lesbian activities.
Another boy was taken aside during a competition trip and asked point blank if he and another male student had had sex because the door was partially closed between their room and the supervisor’s room.
Two brothers were also made to change rooms because they supposedly were also engaging in bedroom activities.
I could go on and on, for a decade, and not tell every nasty, horrific thing that happened.
Since that is not my purpose in recounting all these incidents, I won’t try.
My purpose is to speak the truth, for as the Bible says, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free".
That is my hope- that all members of this Dade City church or any other spiritually abusive church will be free of the lies and horrors that have been perpetrated on them, or that they have perpetrated on others.


As a family member of mine put it, "No one walks away from a situation like that without guilt. We all came away from the church with cookie crumbs on our faces’".
If you are a member of a controlling church reading this, know that there is God and life away from the cult you are trapped in.
There are arms of forgiveness waiting to help you down the path of freedom and into the arms of the true God- not the god that a crazed narcissistic woman has dreamed up.
Find help!
Yes, there is life after that church.
I hope there will be justice, also.
As it says in Amos 5:24, "But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream".
God knows and he cares.
As I and others have said before-
"There is life after a controlling church."
I was very, incredibly blest in that I had a group of family and friends waiting for me when I came out of the church.

I also had the help of a wonderful psychiatrist.
He talked to my whole family for over three hours.
As we told him as much of our story as we could in the space of three hours, he told us that, based on our information, the pastor most likely has an Antisocial Personality Disorder. As I read over the many testimonies on this site, I began to wonder if that was a disorder in many of the other leaders.
Or was it just that, as in many cults, the congregation took on the cult leader’s personality.
As I read over the symptoms of antisocial behavioral characteristics, it was as if I was reading about most of the church: i.e.
1. Refuses to meld to accepted common social behaviors- total disregard to what is "lawful" and "law-abiding". (Everything the pastor says is "right" and "God’s Word". Church members have lied, cheated, renounced family because it was "God’s will".
2. No remorse when others are injured by one’s actions. (It was ‘God’s will’ that a young man committed suicide.)
3. Repeated lying perfected methods of deceitfulness. (The pastor would take other people’s stories and make them her own. When confronting my family member about a letter their ‘defected’ sibling sent them, she lied and said "God had revealed it to her in a dream". He hadn’t- I had told her of it the day before.
As I mentioned before, the congregation is eerily ‘taking on’ these behaviors- they have become their own twisted version of this pastor.
As I am on my journey of healing and learning to live anew, I find myself looking back over the progress of seven months.
When I first left the cult, I was not emotionally healthy. In fact, I was an absolute wreck mentally, emotionally, and most likely physically as well.
I would have panic attacks in the new wonderful church I was attending.
I had thought that if I could just leave, just get away from the horrific situation- all would well all at once.
Now, don’t misunderstand me- I was immediately relieved from the abuse.
When the abuse left, however, a healing process had to take its place.
A healing process that included a rage I hadn’t thought I was capable of, as well as mourning for the ‘lost’ years of exclusively doing a human’s will, not God’s.
I believe, and will continue to put my trust in Romans 8:28- "…All things work together for GOOD to those who love HIM…"
He promises ALL THINGS- all the rejection, rage, hurt… and the list goes on forever.
When I look back on twenty-four years of mental torture, I think of pain and rejection. As I look back farther and deeper, however, I also think of a few miraculous facts:
1. I have no family at all left in that cult.
2. God always, always let me know somehow, someway that He loved me.
3. There was always someone there when I needed them most. There are two I remember with all the gratitude in my heart: Scott, who, as I cleaned the business he worked at, would tell me how special and beautiful I was. After living in the desert of total rejection all week-and then to come in to see someone smile at you and mean it, and give you a brotherly hug when you looked down- it was like an amazing rainstorm of hope and joy drenching your soul. I hope that somewhere, somehow, Scott will know that he helped keep a despairing soul from ending it all.

God bless you, Scott.

Then there was Randy, who while on active duty in Iraq, e-mailed me hope and strong encouragement, till I had the strength to leave the terror behind.
You are the brother of my soul, Randy. If God were to bless you a third of what you blessed me, the world could not contain it. You were the hands of Christ to my life.
Behold what God has done! It is marvelous to my eyes!"

8 comments:

Margaret said...

I am so sorry to read of your experience. Our family has "been there, done that" in another similar group. Our website is www.geftakysassembly.com. I heartily recommend Wellspring Retreat and Resource center it you can possibly do it. They are offering 65% off to someone each month. (We don't have any connections with Wellspring or get any fee for the recommendation. My husband and I and another family member have been there and benefited from their help.) Blessings to you on your journey of recovery.

--Margaret

The Cult Next Door said...

Thank you so much for your kind words- it helps to know there are others out there who understand.

Rhoda said...

I too suffered a bit from the same people while attending the school before it moved to Dade City. I watched as she completely took control. She lied about me and accused me of things while claiming it was from God. I knew the truth but eventually, just to be able to leave the building, I agreed to the false accusations. Sadly, I knew what I had to do. I have wondered for many years how it could last so long and how no one else could be speaking out against it. It is good to not be alone! Thank you for your blog!

The Cult Next Door said...

Hi,Rhoda-
So sorry to learn of your suffering at the hands of this spiritual abuser-
I pray that the power of the cult is soon broken and can hurt no one any more.

The Cult Next Door said...

Rhonda,
If you would like to share your story e-mail it to toxicsheepnomore@yahoo.com.
God bless!

The Cult Next Door said...

Rejoicing once again in freedom!

Isabel said...

WOW. I too was in an abuse group here in Plano, Texas. We made the CNN headlines when a member cut the arms off of her baby girl.

Many of us are gone, but some remain. I left about 5 years ago, and I too find that writing about these things help to overcome.

Please feel free to visit me at

http://inalley.wordpress.com/

Blessings,

Isabel

The Cult Next Door said...

Thank you for your encouragement- leaving is hard- detoxicing from the experience is harder.