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.
Fleur BrownEntrepreneur, writer, cause marketer. Passionate about the future of #media #entrepreneurship, freedom of identity & the rise of #personalbrand
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.