“Now begin in the middle, and later learn the beginning; the end will take care of itself.” ~Harlan Ellison, Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman
I thought I had left this cult after two years, after my baby died. I now realize it has taken more like ten years. Ten years of slowly untangling myself and family from the gnarled grip of a cult called Charismatic Fundamentalism*. Only I didn’t know at the time that it even had a name. I didn’t consider then that spiritual leaders could misguide; that spiritual teachers might be dead wrong; that spiritual authors might have no expertise; that spiritual family members could betray.
I blindly believed and trusted; I was seventeen. I was seventeen when I met my future husband and we became highschool sweethearts. I was seventeen when I went off to college three hours away, and eighteen when I came back and got married, partly due to strong encouragement from certain family members who practiced something I now know as “patriarchy”. It was silly to waste one’s time at college, we were told, because the End Times were here, and Jesus would be coming within years, maybe just days. We had been peer counseled to avoid contraceptives and stick with natural family planning; after all it worked for the forty and fifty-some year old couple who counseled us. I was nineteen when I became pregnant seven months into our marriage. I was terrified while certain family members were thrilled and my parents were disappointed.
I was nineteen when our baby girl was diagnosed with a fatal heart anomaly, and we were encouraged to pray, pray, pray for healing which would certainly come because God had promised it. We should not tell people who would not pray at all, or who might pray “wrongly” about the baby’s condition; that would show a lack of faith and block God from being able to work to heal the baby. We should keep living as if everything were perfectly fine and normal, because it would be. God had given visions and dreams of promised miracles of healing to some in our small group.
I was twenty when the baby was born; when my baby, our baby, died in our arms from a fatal heart anomaly. I was twenty as I stumbled through grief and twenty-one when my next baby daughter was born and I nearly starved her because I was warned that breastfeeding was the only way to go. I was twenty-four when my son was born, and the time in between the two children had been basically a sexless one in our marriage, out of fear of unwanted pregnancy. I was twenty-five when I was convinced that homeschooling our oldest was God’s will, since public schools were essentially dens of Satan, and we were excitedly advised to attend conventions, co-ops, and meetings where large families “put God first” and wore long skirts and their hair up**.
Romans 8:15, “ The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
I was twenty-eight when my health fell apart and my last baby was born, and after attempting unsuccessfully to homeschool from bed, my husband and I took a tour of our local public elementary school. We were impressed, and three years later we still love it, Common Core and all. I was twenty-nine when a “family meeting” with certain members resulted in the poop hitting the fan; the final straw breaking the camel’s back, and we were deeply hurt but finally free! Free of the manipulation, free of the emotional highs and lows, free of the drama, free of the legalism, free of all the fear intrinsic in a cult. And now I’m just angry.
Angry that now I’m free, so many want to pull me back into it. Angry that abuses continue to be hidden or glossed over for church or personal image-enhancement. Angry that abuses continue to be heaped on me, by those who claim to love me. I am angry about the blatant hypocrisy, angry about the abuses of Scripture, and angry about the droves of hurt and lost souls that continue to be piled higher and deeper without any “spiritual” person’s notice.
**I have nothing against homeschooling, skirt-wearing, or wearing one’s hair up, but I take much issue with the Christian homeschool culture at-large, which is based in much part on Fundamentalist teachings and legalism.
A few of my favorite resources about cults/spiritual abuse, how to leave such a group, how to love a loved one in one (say that three times fast!), and support for those who leave such a group:
*Love and Death in The House of Prayer [IHOP Kansas] (Unfortunately, I can relate to this article quite a bit. The group I was with followed IHOP and Rick Joyner’s teachings among others. We didn’t have “marriage prophecies”, but emotional outbursts and supernatural experiences like the dreams and visions described in the article were common. We left these teachings behind with our baby at the cemetery)