Monday, January 25, 2016

I too am a child survivor of Herbert W. Armstrong's church from 1960 on...

A reader here shares his/her story:

I believe my mother was drawn to the Radio Church of God broadcast because she was so emotionally unstable and unhappy. I think like all cults, it drew folk with deep emotional/spiritual voids. And folk with mental health issues. I remember being abused physically by my mother in the guise of "discipline" as taught by the church when it actually became a physical church that she could attend - the World Wide Church of God. The "discipline" progressed to a 2 by 4 board. I can't blame the church on all the abuse suffered at the hands of my mother, given she had begun the abuse years prior to her discovering the Radio Church of God. Both my parents came to the marriage with lots of unresolved baggage. Within three years, my mother had three children and a husband who worked late most nights. And she was Jewish, he Methodist. She raised in a pampered creative, city family life. He from a sheltered, poor farm upbringing.

I know I was damaged even before my mother started going to Armstrong's church. But her becoming part of it all, was devastating to us kids and my father. Before she joined the church, we had Chanukah and Christmas and of course all the other holidays and festivities that are considered traditional. I remember the day the men in dark suits came to our house. My Dad was at work. From that day forward, she stopped smoking, never wore makeup again and life was never the same in our house. No more birthdays, nothing. I was about 9, my younger brother 7 and my older brother 10. No explanation, nothing, Just all of a sudden everything changed. It further put a wedge between my parents and he recognized quickly that her church was "nuts". His response was to delve deeper into his job. To be abused at home and have such a volatile mother and then have to attend long church services with her and sermons about 'the Lake of Fire" and kids are sinful and need to receive the rod and the never ending sermons on the Book of Revelation and the tribulation and the end of the world - it was frightening to me. I had nightmares throughout my childhood. Even after her church became more mainstream and "normalized", she still hung on to some of the old teachings esp. regarding the world coming to an end. The last words I ever heard from her, at my last visit a few months before her death she said" It's only going to get worse". and I knew she was referencing the end times. For supposedly loving the Lord and being born again, she was miserable. And her minister never wanted to address the issues in our house and help with it. 

Anyway, I joined the army just to get out of the house, after I graduated high school. It took me years to be comfortable celebrating birthdays and holidays. Now, I love to celebrate those. I do believe her religion greatly affected my spiritual path which has led me to atheism. It has been an agonizing path. Living a human life without religion and all the camaraderie a church can provide, has been lonely indeed. My trust in people has been damaged. I do feel I am the victim of religious abuse. even hearing the word God triggers my PTSD. I have had to pay quite a bit of money over the years for psychotherapy. I'd have loved to have sent that bill to H. Armstrong.

You have my permission to print this 


Glenn said...

Thank you for your story. I hope you have found some peace in your life.

Byker Bob said...

Your story is an accurate period piece describing what it was like for a typical young person coming of age in Armstrongism during the 1960s. I am glad that there was such a thing as SEP back then, because it gave many of us the opportunity to compare notes and we found that the experiences which we were enduring were pretty much the same. The problem was that we lacked the power to change our damaging and miserable circumstances; tortured at home, and persecuted at school. In the face of random and excessive punishment, about the only thing one could do for relief and survival was to lead a dual lifestyle, to be one person at home and church, and to be a completely different person at school. Unless "they" actually break your spirit by raising you in such extremes, once you are free, and empowered, it then takes a lot of work and years of time to shed duplicitousness, and to put everything back together into one consistent, ethical life or persona, and also to learn how to deal with authority figures from an adult perspective. I've said many times that I learned my ethics from the secular world in my post-WCG experience, and that required even more lumps.

There were many things I experienced in my own journey to recovery. Well-chosen self-improvement books were helpful, and I also found the disciplines in studying the martial arts to be therapeutic. There were some months of hypnotherapy, which, believe me, bore no resemblance to how it was depicted by the church. But, recovery has been a continuing process at every stage of life. When you really get to know people though, you realize that so many (even really intelligent and successful people) have also had experiences which have messed them up, and a lot of them have survived and recovered from damages which, unbelievably, were even worse than ours.

Bad cycles can be broken. The human spirit is very resilient in most cases. But, we should also remember the people who didn't make it. I knew church kids who went off to war, and didn't return. There were those who developed addictions, and lost their battles to different substances. We probably all know people whose lives ended in suicide. There were broken marriages, and people who died of easily curable diseases. Broken spirits, depression, and despondency. Perhaps genuine and caring spiritual guidance could have reached most of these people. But, Armstrongism never was a nurturing church. It was always one size fits all. My way, or the highway. Fear on steroids. Each new day was depicted as possibly being the day on which you could lose your salvation. Fortunately, "they" were not the gatekeepers. Salvation was not theirs to withhold or to give. That was their big lie.


Redfox712 said...

What a terrible influence Armstrongism has been. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

I usually place armstrongism in a broader cultural context.

I admire this honest person for sharing this personal history and honest evaluation.
After seeing thousands of sad stories for the past decade and more I see just a few honest ones willing to admit that the abuse in their household would have been there in any case or that they would not have been millionaires anyway were it for the church or not. A lot of abuse real or imagined if applicable was also part of a larger cultural pattern prevalent in certain time and space, class, social economic background.

From a psychological perspective. If one is attracted to some system, there must be something that attracts, either stick or carrot.

This is not a put down for those who really suffered. I know there was and I did my time. Just pointing at some nasty broader cultural traits that spawned a theological mix like ours. It's like US gun violence. Every attack makes Smith and Wesson stock rise. It is ingrained in the US culture that it will not go away. A choice made by society as a whole. It is what keeps it together and separates one from the other.

As our associate pastor said now and then. "Not many wise men now are called......but it no where says we are to remain that way." I made my choice accordingly and admire an honest evaluation like this one.


Black Ops Mikey said...

her church was "nuts"

That sums up all of Armstrong rather nicely: It's a totally insane cult, particularly hard on children. It is built on a foundation of lies and saps resources to both aggrandize and fund leaders who are psychopaths.

Over at the Ronald Weinland False Prophet blog, the question has arisen about where the PKG members could go if they left. Personally, I saw the problems beginning with the church cult corporate structure and proceeding through postponements (trying to find dates for feasts is crazy), British Israelism and, thanks much to Gavin Rumney and Otagosh, realizing that much of the Bible is demonstrably populated with forged books (at best) and failed prophecies. I 'tried the spirits' (after renouncing alcohol) and attempted to make 'membership' in the various sects work. They didn't. There is something major wrong with every one of the leaders, even down to what might be considered the most benign sect of Armstrongism. I even tried a variety of Sabbath keeping churches including the CoG7D and those non Armstrongist Sabbath keepers which keep the Feasts.

My conclusion is this: There is no place to go.

It should be noted that in my youth I was a baptized Lutheran attending a Catholic School and oft attended services both with the Lutherans and the local Community Church, so I do understand what 'normal' congregations are like -- and Armstrongism isn't normal -- it's daft. Those of you who are still stuck in it should get an objective view by reading the Donna Kossy book, Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief, paying particular attention to chapter 3 on British Israelism with Herbert Armstrong mentioned prominently on the first page.

Anyone who embraces British Israelism is a kook.

If you are looking for an alternative to your particular sect in the cult, just forget it because they all are quite insane.

The illustration here of one survivor is illustrative of how easy it is for some people to accept something so foreign to human sanity that it looks reasonable from the inside, but it simply isn't.

As noted on Criminal Minds, a cult is a group that has a leader that is a charismatic psychopath.

And you NEVER want to get involved with a psychopath.

Allen Dexter said...

I got into it because my life was a nowhere scene. I was socially backward and unhappy. I didn't fit in anywhere, and here was a dynamic (to me) message that made me special, superior to everyone else who was simply "deceived." So, I became even more deceived than my neighbors who were just carelessly following along with tradition. Today, like this writer, I have found the peace of reason and secular humanism. I waste no time on trying to please any god. All gods are the invention of people who want to control and exploit other people.

Mark said...

In my opinion, that's the biggest problem with Armstrongism: it is a slow-acting poison that destroys people's spirituality; regardless of whether they stay or leave COGS.

Anonymous said...

NCK 2:59

"After seeing thousands of sad stories for the past decade and more I see just a few honest ones willing to admit that the abuse in their household would have been there in any case or that they would not have been millionaires anyway were it for the church or not."

I disagree with this. More children were abused in the Armstrong setting than if their parents would have been "in the world" because their parents had to appear perfect with their perfect kids. The kind of pressure put on parents made some of them seriously crack. That's where most of that abuse came from. I myself did not grow up in WCG but my ex husband and a lot of my ex friends did and I can tell you that they were some of the most messed up people that I've ever encountered.

"A lot of abuse real or imagined"....

You obviously need to do some studying on what abuse is. The abuse that occurred in WCG was very very real.

James said...

'I remember the day the men in dark suits came to our house. My Dad was at work. From that day forward, she stopped smoking, never wore makeup again and life was never the same in our house.

Yes indeed. Just like myself.

I look at the whole experience as an exercise in selfishness. I wanted eternal life and others had to pay the price as I followed that old drunk Herbie onto a path of self righteousness and course in general bullshit from a theological misfit.

One Sabbath I quit going to church and instead went to a bar in a test of my resolve and emotional balance. I found that I had the resolve and conviction that HWA and his circus freaks were just a sideshow that swiped wallets every Saturday at the carnival. Common thieves who use a sleight of hand like an Amway rep bent on selling you shit you didn't need.

The results of the wcg experience has freed me from the fear of some pissed off god. It also wised my ass up to what humans do to others. Enslave each other. Religion, politics, its the same crap.

Connie Schmidt said...

Black Ops-

I thought that you found a home at the COG7 . What was it about your experience there that left you disillusioned?

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief...PLEASE STOP WHINING!!! So, you didn't have Christmas, so you didn't have birthdays, so your mother stopped smoking. Who cares?!! These are the luxuries of a privileged civilization, the majority of kids in the world would not even be able to dream of. Minus the fact that your mother joined Armstrong, anyone else would tell you these are “First World” issues, and NO ONE WOULD CARE about your so-called “suffering” - they would think you were nuts. I am guessing your life would have been just as miserable with Christmas - probably even more so. Your mother should not have hit you with a 2x4, but I also grew up in Armstrongism, and NO ONE told my parents to hit me with a 2x4. You admit that both of your parents had issues and baggage going into the marriage. My guess is that your father worked late to avoid going home. It must have been a miserable home and a miserable marriage. But, if he knew that your mother was using a 2x4, and he didn’t do anything to stop it, he is also responsible. Your mother’s issues, and your father’s issues have absolutely nothing to do with Armstrongism. YOUR PARENTS HAVE TO TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY, and AS AN ADULT, YOU ASLO HAVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS, MOODS, BEHAVIORS. The problem with modern COG leaders and the adult children of former members who blame Armstrongism for their suffering is the same - you're all looking for someone else to blame for what you perceive to be the shortcomings of yourselves or someone else. GET REAL!

Anonymous said...

I just love it when insensitive morons like 8:37 hope on various COG boards and tell people to get over it. It people like him that are the ones who cover up the abuse of ministers and leaders in the church. "So what if you were abused. Life sucks, get over it!" Thats what abusive leaders like Pack, Flurry and Meredith are in position they are today treating people like shit. There is not a godly bone in any of them. Armstrongism thrived on spiritual, emotional and psychological abuse as well as physical abuse. All of the abuse allowed to go on because people were told to never talk about it and get on with their lives. I have two words for you asshole...FUCK YOU!

Anonymous said...

8.37PM, It was my observation that the church was a gold mind for some people. There were twisted, abusive, exploitive people that the ministers left alone and protected. Coming to church gave them access to hundreds of people to prey on. To them, church was like a hungry dog in a butcher shop. I remember for instance, women that were frequently asked out, even they typically abused their dates. They got away with this because of the shortage of women in the church. These women would rarely, if ever be asked out on the outside of the church. Which is why many people defend and are in love with the physical church. Regarding the 'get over it' comment, there's the Spanish proverb, that 'words hurt forever.' That is correct, that's is the reality, that's what God created. Those that claim otherwise are in denial or simply minimizing their sins. You are the one that needs to get real, and acknowledge and live in the real world. Regarding your 'advice,' don't quit your day job.

Karl said...

To Mr. Anonymous (PLEASE STOP WHINING!!!), Ignorant Idiot (8:37),

From my experience, one of four situations is usually true of people with your types of prejudicial, closed minded opinions. (1) They are still playing ostrich and have their head deep in a current spin-off cult of Herbie worship, or (2) they are of low intellect and just can't put the pieces together to see the con Herbie created, or (3) they are so traumatized by their life in Herbie's cult that they can't bare to face their truth, or (4) their parents did not adhere to WCG doctrines as Herbie dictated. In your case, I'm guessing a combination of three and fourth. Your rant simply reveals you as a narcissistic personality type. Instead of ##### who uses ridicule and insults to counter opinions different from your own. You evidently don't even try to understand those differing opinions. You won't face other people's truths of their childhood in Armstrongism in a way to actually understand because the risk of having to great that you might have to admit abuse in your own idealistic, rose colored memory of your own youth. You sir, have chosen to be ignorant. Oh, and by the way, you choosing to be "Anonymous" says volumes about your respect for yourself and your confidence in the lies you tell yourself so you can sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

I do not disagree with you. I have moderated my (usual) tone on this subject.
To me the main posting is more genuine than others I read in the past. Because of its unusual admission that a lot of it would have occurred in that time, age, circumstance despite any church. We all know of another church in which a lot of young boys suffered too.

In my personal non scientific research I found that many first generation wcg people had some kind of problem with their (absent) father. Perhaps it was hwa filling that role in some (dysfunctional) manner.

You at one time seem to have been attracted by a man with issues. Of course I am only guessing but I'm sure you have tried and answer for yourself what it was in you that attracted you to someone with obvious issues. That's why I said that wcg was obviously attractive to people with issues themselves. They were taking their isues with them also. And it it the word also that makes the main posting genuine to me. I am not denying just clarifying.


(I do need to do research on what abuse is?)

Now there are many who since the age of Romanticism regard any upbringing abuse, or at least an infringement on the freedom of the natural child.

I know that prince Charles suffered real abuse in his school in scotland in a manner unimaginable to west coast palm dwellers. I know that winston churchill suffered horrible abuse as a child.

I have seen palestinian west bank children watch their sesame street big beak strapped with bomb belts on television.

I have seen texan petites receive their first pink colored gun. Some 300 million people on the other side of the pond would regard this as child abuse. While others may just see this as passing the baton of freedom or something.

So I m not denying in any way that many people witness here and elsewhere that they were abused. I'm just saying that in many cases to only focus on wcg is proven to be too narrow. There is broader societal, cultural influence, personal histories also.

I know a couple of royals who were taught in school without any rules because of the suffering of the previous generation. They all hated that school and regarded the sending of them to that school child abuse in itself.

I regard home schooling child abuse. Other's see advantages.


Karl said...

To the OP, thank you for your honesty and opening up to us. It takes courage to face the truth and not ridicule it. Good on ya!

And, BTW, my guess is that Anonymous at 8:37 is a hit and run. Down inside he knows he's wrong and can't defend his position so he posts and then runs away. Maybe he ran away so he can prep for bible study tomorrow night.

Cindy said...

Aha, we have yet another Herbie-bot here to attempt to shame the survivors! Not this time! The responsibility for the PTSD and nightmares and lifelong fear issues lies exactly on HWA's bald, jowly head. He pulled all that religion bullshit out of his (and Loma's) ass, made it all up, and proceeded to ruin the lives of families, especially children, for the next 80-some odd years. Because the splinters perpetuate the worship of an incestuous pevert paedophile, his twisted belief system lives on, continuing to ruin children's lives. When wwcg was your *entire world* you live in fear, and teach your kids to live in fear. Wwcg is a cult, the splinters are a cult, and HWA was the puppet master. Do all of your family a favor and get into counseling right now; it's not too late to try to repair the damage...but you'll have to pull your head out of HWA's ass first.

4Blackburn's said...

You are so proud of your comment that you won't even post your name?? Wow! Also, so sad that you do not have the ability to feel empathy for another human being. Maybe the cult affected you more than you want to admit?? Also, the abuses above were a direct result of being in a cult driven religion- WWCG. If you can't see that, you need help!!

Byker Bob said...

People like 8:37 deep down know there is something desperately wrong with their system, but are trapped, and must constantly use will power to blind themselves and turn a deaf ear. Part of their internal defense mechanism sometimes involves coming here to confront all of us. But, there is hope for 8:37. Most of us, years ago, treated people who had " fallen away" as being perhaps less than, or as if they were the ones who had been deceived. There is just far too much evidence, and there are far too many survivors of the child abuse of Armstrongism for anyone to be able to successfully sweep it all under the rug.


Anonymous said...

8:37, you forgot to add, "I HAVE A CAPS LOCK BUTTON AND I KNOW HOW TO USE IT."


Anonymous said...

I knew people like 8.37 in the church. They were abusive themselves, had no heart, no conscious, and always blamed the victim. They typically hid behind the ministers skirts.

Anonymous said...

"My trust in people has been damaged. ... I have had to pay quite a bit of money over the years for psychotherapy. I'd have loved to have sent that bill to H. Armstrong."

The same thing can happen on an Internet blog. Can I send the bill to Apple?

Anonymous said...

Send it to Al Gore. After all, he invented the internet.