Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Every cult has its currency – ours was fear."



Medium Magazine has an excellent article up dated March 16, 2018 on what life was like growing up in the Worldwide Church of God.

I grew up in a cult.
And this is what it taught me about real life.

Go to the profile of Fleur Brown Fleur BrownEntrepreneur, writer, cause marketer. Passionate about the future of #media #entrepreneurship, freedom of identity & the rise of #personalbrand
Mar 16 

When my Mum lost her Dad in her early twenties, she was looking for answers and a soft place to land. A confusing time to be human, the 1970s was the era of the Vietnam War, equal rights and the disruption of all kinds of traditional values.
She found sanctuary in the Worldwide Church of God, an American fundamentalist religion that offered concrete answers for seekers; a road-map for the meaning of life, infused with a little self-help theory and some healthy eating tips. 
Aside from a conservative dress code and a ban on makeup, the church was full of fairly normal looking people. There were millions of followers at its peak — families big and small, rich and poor joined from almost every country in the world. 
----- 
Like most cults, there was a gnostic layer to the sharing of “truth.” Our church masters cautioned us against sharing church secrets with school friends, neighbours or other outsiders — they were priviliged truths to be revealed when they decided someone had been properly ‘converted.’ As a consequence, I kept my mouth closed at school and the church theories were rarely challenged. Later, I was often labelled mysterious and secretive. It took me years to realise this was not an intrinsic part of my nature, but something I had developed in an attempt to not draw attention to myself. 
 -----
Niceness is next to godliness
Another characteristic of cult life is the absence of authentic self expression. Cults have a powerful unifying mono ‘cult-ure.’ In ours, everyone was magnetically nice.
“Everyone is so …(can’t quite put my finger on it … ah there it is) … so nice!” was the comment I frequently heard growing up from neighbours, school friends partners — anyone who had a brush with someone from our Church group. It felt like heaven on earth for new recruits; who were often battered and bruised by life’s tribulations.
The indoctrination process was the best part of being in the group. New people were invited to dinner, quizzed intensely about their past, offered home cooked meals and support around the home, had their dance card filled with happy social events. Love bombed.
Niceness let the barriers down. It also stopped the appropriate boundaries from being in place whenever members felt uncomfortabke. But that seemed a small price to pay to fit in. In a dog-eat-dog world, who doesn’t want to be part of an intoxicatingly nice community — even, any community?
That community feeling was the thing I missed acutely when I left … and studies show this is a big reason many people exit one cult to join another. Sometimes the ‘cult’ is a corporation with a similar restrictive culture. 
This niceness nirvana cannot be comfortably sustained. There was a ‘Stepford’ feeling to our community — and our emotional kaleidoscope had a limited spectrum. Some feelings were more spiritual than others – self-reflection, sadness and anxiety were encouraged and rewarded with praise – anger, joy and celebration were considered self indulgent, less spiritual, Ungodly. Birthday celebrations were an example – the pinnacle of self focus – and were banned, along with the ‘pagan’ celebrations of Christmas and Easter. That caused me no end of embarrassment at school and kept me away from forging deep connections with my non church peers.

Read the entire article here:   I grew up in a cult.  And this is what it taught me about real life.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everything written here I can relate to. This article is on point. Regardless of how certain COG apologetics thiel about this article, I can tell you that the author hits home totally.

The statement:

Even after leaving, I discovered an unfortunate blindspot for arrogant, egomaniac, nonsense pedelling hypocrites. Paradoxically, trusting everyone else seemed impossible — not surprisingly I believed everyone had a manipulative agenda.

is something I struggle with every hour and every day. Trust has been stolen.

You simply cannot trust people who built a living on a religion based on fear and condemnation. You simply cannot trust people who continue to support and peddle - and enable - a religion whose "prophecies" never panned out. But for us with backgrounds like the author - it is even more difficult to trust people outside of the religion. The WCG has caused life to be extra-ordinarily difficult to manage for those who grew up in it's claws.

I could only wish that COG elites and hirelings we report on daily would understand the hurt and the pain they have caused. If they understand the pain that they have caused when they step in to people's lives forcing people to lose jobs, friends, and income in the name of God. But I am convinced they are so sure that they are somehow doing what "God" wants them to do, that they are blinded to the reality of the pain they enable and support and increase time after time and day after day. I know when they read passages like this they snicker and mock, and think things like "They are so lost, they don't know what they're talking about. I'm so glad I didn't end up like them, because I know the truth". And while they gloat in their pride, self-confidence and ego, they are blind to compassion, care, and love in it's true form. I would say I feel sorry for them. But it's not just feeling sorry. It's beyond feeling sorry. I can only hope that someday they will see that life's not just about rules and law and do's and dont's, and lording over people and basically being a huge bully obsessed with power, government and authority. Until they begin to see that - they're just tall children wearing suits and ties who haven't grown up who mistreat people who trust them.

They'll never get another "Mr." out of me. Respect is earned. They done lost my respect decades ago. Their authority is an illusion, a bubble popped with the needle of truth.

Anonymous said...

What a well-written article! It describes so much of what I felt when leaving the church. That thinking gets so deeply embedded in your brain that when you read certain COG leaders stuff it brings it all back again and you start thinking, "well, maybe it was all true" even though you know it is not. It is hard to dump all of the engrained programs the church embeds in you, but when you are free and clear it is such an awesome experience.

NO2HWA said...

Anon at 4:57 wrote:

"I could only wish that COG elites and hirelings we report on daily would understand the hurt and the pain they have caused. If they understand the pain that they have caused when they step in to people's lives forcing people to lose jobs, friends, and income in the name of God."

These men truly do not care. They are all narcissists that think only about themselves and their grandiose ideas. They see themselves as so important that God reveals things to them in dreams and revelations which they expect people to believe. Other simply do not care. It is more important to be head than it is to care where the chips may fall

Anonymous said...

I can partly relate as I was in the church for just 7 years and never became a baptized member and also didn't accept the Hebrew feast days & "lost tribes of Isreal". So I suppose some here had it worse than I did.

Ed said...

The fear of being thrown into the lake of fire is what motivated me to join the WCG cult and that same fear also kept me from leaving for the 13 years that I was imprisoned in its clutches. I think that most of those that remain are kept in by that same fear.

Anonymous said...

" It is hard to dump all of the engrained programs the church embeds in you, but when you are free and clear it is such an awesome experience."

It is still hard to this day not to hear those songs in your head or catch yourself humming one of those all-too-familiar melodies before slapping yourself. Or to see an arena or convention center and not think of the old-style festivals. It would be SO easy to slip back into "cogmode.exe" even though that program was put in the recycle bin. But I'm so glad that now there's an "antivirus" cleaning out the hard drive.

"These men truly do not care. They are all narcissists that think only about themselves and their grandiose ideas. They see themselves as so important that God reveals things to them in dreams and revelations which they expect people to believe."

Can you imagine if everyone took a dream and began to think that dream was divinely inspired? Or if a revelation was inspired? It seems to me that Deuteronomy 18:22 warns people that such thinking can get them in pretty deep trouble, and that such thinking can be quite presumptuous. When someone elevates themselves to such a high level in their heads, it's easy to rationalize irrationality. You can't reason with them though. They've slipped too deep in the mud that they're blind and stuck.


Anonymous said...

"The fear of being thrown into the lake of fire is what motivated me to join the WCG cult and that same fear also kept me from leaving for the 13 years that I was imprisoned in its clutches. I think that most of those that remain are kept in by that same fear."

Not just the lake of fire.

not limited to just remaining, COG life had the fear of....

pissing off the minister, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, acting the wrong way, shaking hands the wrong way, criticizing a policy or doctrine, causing division when you weren't really causing division, closing your eyes during a church service, snoring during a church service, forgetting the offering, dressing wrong, your hair being too short or long, accidentally using a euphemism, being told to quit your job, being told you're suspended, being told you're disfellowshipped, being told to divorce your spouse, being told to separate from your bf/gf, being told you're not manly enough, being told you're not feminine enough, losing your salvation, accidentally observing a holiday somehow, accidentally eating pork or seafood, accidentally eating leaven during DOUB, keeping Pentecost wrong, sitting in a "RESERVED" seat without knowing it, accidentally glancing toward the mothers' room and getting the stink eye, being hauled out by a deacon as a kid, being paddled as a kid, crying during church as a kid, dancing too close to another teen at a YOU dance, being left behind as a mortal as a kid when your parents became spirits, never getting married, never having sex, never having a life, how to pay bills, how to make it, how to get enough groceries, how to possibly make it to the feast, what to do if the car breaks down, breaking the Sabbath, did I say pissing off the minister? not being invited to NTBMO, Gerald Waterhouse speaking, corrective sermons, ministerial visits, unannounced ministerial visits, doctors, getting sick because you can't go to the doctors, the weird people at church, having to get time off at school or work for Feast, accidentally calling 2 minutes early for festival housing, accidentally applauding for special music, arriving late for church, doing you assigned duty wrong, being late for passover, being too noisy at passover, or speaking to a minister when you are not supposed to, demons, bad spirits, people with "demon problems", worldly people, pagan churches, the Catholics, the cross, cathedrals, protestant churches, pentecostals, satan, being deceived, not making it to the Kingdom because of Makeup, dress, attitude, not tithing enough, not helping enough, or being a slacker, and pointless, long, boring sermons.

Anonymous said...

I stopped attending services over 30 years ago, but I still feel the mental mis programming. I've come to the conclusion that I'II never be able to completely shake it off. I can minimise it, but not totally eradicate it.
It's a life sentence.

There's no doubt in my mind that the ministers responsible knew perfectly well that they were twisting members minds.

Near_Earth_Object said...

"These men truly do not care. They are all narcissists that think only about themselves and their grandiose ideas." - NO2HWA

If one scratches down into the substrate, I believe one would find that there is a reason why these men do not care, are narcissists and have grandiose ideas. I could draw apt comparisons to David Koresh and attribute this to "the spirit of Millerism" but I think the answer is more direct.

First,the causation, I believe, lies in the hierarchical system that was used to implement church administration in the WCG. These men believe they have an office that confers on them great authority, that God backs up their decisions no matter how bad, dreadful and harmful to lay members. And in the Judgment, God will not hold them accountable for what they have done. In their world, it is impossible for them to make a bad or harmful decision. (Have you ever heard of a Millerite minister admitting to error in his official role?)

Second, many of these men were trained to be autocrats when dealing with lay members. They were told they were specially chosen for an AC education. They were told that they were receiving an education in Godly leadership. In fact, instead of leadership they were taught oppression, instead of care they were taught arbitrariness, instead of service they were taught domination.

This practice of church tyranny was not taught so much by lectures in the Science Lecture Hall or portable classrooms but by the rigid caste system that permeated the institution of Ambassador College. AC was four years of total immersion in a hierarchical caste system with lay members at the lowest stratum.

These men did not come out of AC with an overtly, snearing disdain for the lay membership. The "take away" for the AC graduates was much more subtle. It was a thoroughly imprinted attitude that lay members were "dumb sheep" and "the cream of the crud." The ministry was profoundly self-important, as taught at AC, and the lay members were persona non grata.

The Brits used to say that Britain's battles were won on the playing fields of Sandhurst. For the WCG, the ministry's misdeeds were proofed in the rigid caste system of Ambassador College.

Anonymous said...

"Aside from a conservative dress code and a ban on makeup, the church was full of fairly normal looking people."

What does she consider normal dress? Baggy pants half-way down your butt? Suits are not "normal"? They might be formal, but they are still normal.

Women look a lot more normal WITHOUT makeup.

Anonymous said...

1) If people were motivated primarily by fear, then they were not converted.

2) The bible says "perfect love casts out fear". So, even if people started with fear, i.e. excessive concern for SELF, they should have grown up and grown out of it. Sad, I guess so many started out with fear and never got past that. Shame on them.

Anonymous said...

"There's no doubt in my mind that the ministers responsible knew perfectly well that they were twisting members minds."

So, who was responsible? Just a few at the top? 90% of them? Makes a big difference. I'd say most of them were themselves deluded.

Anonymous said...

8.47 OM
Where they deluded? According to people who study the criminal mind, the answer is no. In George Simons book 'In sheeps clothing,' criminals 'see but don't agree' with ongoing complaints.
Herb ministers know it's wrong and they know it's condemned in the bible. I've sometimes seen the guilt on ministers faces when people have complained. So yes, yes, yes they understand.
This is true of all thugs.

Anonymous said...

Perfect love casts out fear. Then every one in the WCG and its off-shoots must have no love because all of us where filled with the fear of the lake of fire. The leadership used fear to control and manipulate the members isn't that the opposite of love? Anon 8:45, you are accusing the lay members of having no love and being unconverted because they have fear in there hearts but you miss the point that it is the leaders that where/are putting that fear in them.

Anonymous said...

"1) If people were motivated primarily by fear, then they were not converted.

2) The bible says "perfect love casts out fear". So, even if people started with fear, i.e. excessive concern for SELF, they should have grown up and grown out of it. Sad, I guess so many started out with fear and never got past that. Shame on them.


Your response is ignorant, judgemental, and pathetic.

If you thoroughly examined many of those that were motivated by fear, you would have noticed that the majority of those who were subject to the conditioning literally were children who grew up in the environment. Are you expecting children to be converted? Are you expecting children to have the ability to have grown up and grown out of it? Even if they were adults, your statement of growing up and out of it is victim-shaming. If you did not have a fear of what would happen if you did not tow the line, then you would be considered rebellious and disrespectful. You say many never "got past that". How ignorant. How can you get past something so prevalent in the culture?

You say "perfect love casts out all fear". True. What in the COG was "perfect love"? Were the doctrines loving? Is ministerial abuse loving? Is throwing people out for trivial matters loving? Is constant berating from the pulpit loving? Is denying medical care loving? What exactly are you referring to in the church when you say "perfect love"? Surely it can't be the ministry! If it is, to whom are you referring to? Is it perfect love to constantly threaten the lake of fire for not giving enough? Or doing enough? Is it perfect love to consistently say this or that may keep you from the Kingdom? How is it you can say perfect love casts out all fear but gloss over the very conditions that cause fear?

You mention excessive concern for self. Again, this is ignorance looking past the problems as those who created the culture of fear were ONLY concerned with themselves. Their income, their power, their authority, their respect. If there was excessive concern for self, it started with HWA and trickled down the ranks right down to the impoverished giving everything they had because of the constant belittlement from the pulpit that they were not doing or giving of themselves. Your statement is nullified by your ignorance.

Before you open your mouth to speak of things with such a cold, compassion-less, victim-blaming response, you should take a moment to really analyze what the reasons are for why people had and have fear in the COG's. But what I say may fall on deaf ears, because I have the feeling I may be talking to one of the ministers responsible for creating the climate of fear in the first place. If not, and you are a COG member trolling us, then your attitude is just as much a part of the problem then the ministers. Victim-shaming the abused is pathetic, weak, and cold.

Before you begin to cast judgement on those who have been spiritually abused by the culture of the COG's, have a little compassion, understanding, and care. NO ONE can just grow up and grow out of the culture. The experience for those growing up in the cult has been traumatic for many, causing anxiety, panic, major depression, among many other disorders from abuse. They do NOT need to sit here and read this absolute drivel.

Anonymous said...

A very well written article!

It's yet another piece of evidence that adds to the overwhelming proof that the WCG was a poison and a dangerous, deceptive and harmful cult that killed many of it's members.

As for a few comments I read, I'll say this-
We will always have 'still-brainwashed' cult defenders among us, who try and convince us that the victims and freedom-fighters are the problem.

Connie Schmidt said...

Fleur Brown wrote:
"New people were invited to dinner,... offered home cooked meals and support around the home, had their dance card filled with happy social events. Love bombed."

Well , at least there was that. Todays COG is devoid of any fun, camaraderie, friendships or "love bombing" and has devolved into a zombie like state of loyalists who are " checking the box" and hoping things miraculously get better. There is not much love, or fellowship in any of the COGs.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:45, you are accusing the lay members of having no love and being unconverted because they have fear in there hearts but you miss the point that it is the leaders that where/are putting that fear in them.

Did I say they have NO love? No.

You miss the point that regardless of how bad the ministers were the members still have their own responsibilities. They were constantly told to go to the bible and develop a relationship with God. If they failed to do that and to grow in love and were primarily motivated by fear then I still say SHAME on them.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 5:10 AM, calm down, count to ten a few dozen times, go for a long walk, and then try to think logically. Then get close to Jesus so you can cast out fear like the bible says you should.

Jeremy Lin said...

I don't really feel like new people are invited over for dinner anymore and if they were, it was often out in the restaurant, not a home cook meal. That would be too much effort. Plus, while everyone wanted to get into other people's business, they were often secretive of their own.

However, I certainly did not find people being "nice" to new people. I remember when I was attending Mississauga congregation that I was consistently one of the few individual who made an effort to say hello to people and to just have conversations with them, whatever that may be. This made Vladimir Weston look bad though, even though he was not aware of it. Not that any of it matter at the end of the day. I do find that I have a hard time trusting people after leaving LCG. It seems like everyone had some secret agenda and even if they did not have a secret agenda, you start to feel like they did because you had one or two experience where a private conversation and information was used against you or was told to the minister.

I remember sending an e-mail to a brethren named Nancy once (she past away already but use to attend at the Chinese Cultural Center at Scarborough. The major intersection was Shepherd and Markham Road) and she forwarded it to the ministers. I had nothing to hide per say and I defended the content of that e-mail when Vladimir Weston but why she felt like it was ok to just forward my e-mail to the ministry when what was say was said in confidence. Anyway, what is past is past. It is a shame that most of these individuals waste their lives away being so dogmatic about so much and in the end, they will probably end up holding empty bags.

Jeremy Lin

p.s. I am posting details about where people attend and names because of one individual who stupidly said, "can you give specific? Time, place, events, dates, etc)

Anonymous said...

We will always have 'still-brainwashed' cult defenders among us, who try and convince us that the victims and freedom-fighters are the problem.

Even worse, we still have those who think you have to blame the ministers for all your own mistakes or else you are a brainwashed cult defender.

Anonymous said...

I think someone who had a lot of fear got triggered by one of the comments.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the WWCG from the time I was 4. I never had anything else to compare anything to as far as outside religion. One grows up reading the passages in the bible with the interpretations that were taught in church by the ministers, in sermons, bible study, YOU, YES, the correspondence course that was sent out. I left at 18 because of the hypocrisy I saw every week. When I reached 22 I began to think what if I get "left behind"? I was living outside the country at the time and when I would think about it, the fear of not being considered worthy of the place of safety and so far from home really began to grow in my mind. Once I returned to the states, I began to go back to church, became baptized and followed right along as before. It never occurred to me that the words in the bible had any other interpretation other than what I had heard my whole life. After all, wasn't this the true church, wasn't this supposed to be the only one God was working in? If a person believes that they already have what's required for salvation why would they go looking for another something else?

I moved around several times and usually ended up in my home area. The last time I returned from being out of the area, I thought I could just pick up where I left off with my church family. The surprise was mine, these people, some of whom I had known since I was a teenager, acted like they had no idea who I was and wouldn't give me the time of day. I left because I was tired of starting all over again with people who should have been like family to me and weren't. I decided I no longer had time for such people, I was in my late 30s at that time.

I have to say that my spouse joining up with Pack's pack has caused me to really look at what the bible says and it was surprising to me to find out it didn't say what Armstrong said it did. I have learned a great deal, one of which is just how wrong, damaging and hurtful these groups are.

Anonymous said...

Poor, abused soul ! I fully understand why she prefers growing in a family of two homosexual fathers or two lesbian mothers, or in a family of alcoholic, marihuana smoking hippies. Or with a baby mama mother who brings various boyfriends who hang around for a little. Or similar...