The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

The Heavy Coat of Lies

By Colette
comunsens@hotmail.com

Schizophrenia: a common mental disorder characterized by a dissociation of physical and mental functions, a loss of contact with material reality, and a frenzied state as a result of emerging fantasies.

What I have been reading on this web site are stories of people who, in the telling of their truths, are extracting their minds and pasts from the grasp of lies constructed and maintained by the Worldwide Church of God. This is another story of how the Ministers of the Worldwide Church of God covered violent truths by their own lies, destroyed a family in doing so, then turned the other cheek to place the blame for the violence on the victims; myself, my mother, and my younger sister.

I've been telling lies since I was a child, my breathing regulated by the religious pristine holy-white fence-posts planted at miniscule intervals around my reality; large enough to stick your ten year-old head through and small enough to get stuck if you tried. I told stories that were lies that were my only truths because the reality of the childhood offered to me, as a child member since the age of three or so of the Worldwide Church of God was a lie layered in sumptuous garments of truth. I knew, somewhere in my little girl body that it was all a lie; an elaborate costume tailored to fit the needs of the lie and not my own. I knew that my only way of avoiding suffocation under the heavy brightly coloured Joseph coat, was to tell my way through the layers, silently, secretly, while learning to perform the lie as convincingly as possible.

I was very good at this performance. Part of me still perceives life as performance.

On the outside, I was a model Church child. Quiet, obedient, respectful of my elders, appearing silently accepting of every single regulation that controlled not only my social activities, my education, and leisure time, but also controlled the most basic of bodily functions: the food I could and could not eat, the clothes I could and could not wear, the words I could and could not speak, the Words I could and could not read, and the body, and what was happening within that body, that I could, and mostly could not, feel.

Oh, I had it down good. Inside, I was a seething, angry child, choking on guilt for having any feelings at all. And so, my stories, intricate plots of heroic girls in fantasy lands scribbled furiously in the dark over a period of several years, wove authenticity of feelings for me from the fabric of lies; my feelings had one function; to serve the lie, the regulations of the Church as adopted by my mother.

(Even now, feeling is Indulgence. It is the one lie that, try as hard as I might, remains inscribed on the cell membranes of my body.) And so I tell, because I heard somewhere that History is not written by the losers but the winners. And none of us are winners in these kinds of stories.

And yet we don't tell for fear of being called liars, by those who have washed their hands of history, once re-telling it to satiate their own longings for redemption and naming those who don't fit into their tellings, liars.

When we have ceased to tell our stories, they will have won. And so I tell because I do not want to tell, again, and always for the first time, the story of four women silent and broken repeating cycles of fragmented families from habits of non-feeling and non-remembering, the story of us hating each other for feeling, the story of us accusing each other of misunderstanding, the story of us never crying and trusting each other, the story of us never being able to feel enough to love, the story of us stomping to the march of blame that will keep us bound in silence against each other.

And so I tell because I have lived enough lies to learn that if I don't tell stories, they will be told for me.

And so I tell, because They called her, They called me, and They still do, a liar.


My mother's wedding to fellow Church member Phil Darbyson was sanctified, in January of 1989 when I was fifteen years old, by the Vancouver Island, Canada, pastor, Bill Rabey. Mom was an exemplary member of our congregation, always serving, always putting out, always ready to provide meals and shelter for anyone in need despite the fact that she was a single mother raising three children on welfare-induced poverty (the upper half of our rationed-once-a-day-glass of milk putting gasoline into Bill Rabey's Cadillac). She played hymns for years, both in the Victoria congregation, as well as the Upper Island congregation when we moved to Courtenay, she accompanied Special-not-so-special Music vocalists and instrumentalists, and the most wonderful of all of her gifts as the Church saw it, was that she had produced three fine, outstanding, obedient, silent and submissive girls! That was, until the weeks following the wedding.

During their brief engagement he proved himself to be worthy and capable and called-by-God into the destiny of Everyman as Provider as preached by the Church. He was gentle. He was soft-spoken, his eyes a bright early sky-blue, his hands, almost delicate in their swollen sickness and almost effeminate in their gestures curling calmly through the space around his stocky body. He claimed proudly his Irish heritage in ruddy cheeks that flushed with little effort and an easy smile of laughter. He cooked a chicken better than my mother. He knew what to plant in the garden next to what to plant in the garden to keep certain bugs away. He caressed the fur of his animals like fairies might gather dew drops for breakfast. He liked to doodle almost as much as I do, he listened calmly when I played his favorite quiet, piano songs, smiling and nodding his head. He wanted to play at being our Provider.

Afterwards, not even a year later, They will say it is her fault for having believed him.

During the two week-"honeymoon" in Israel, the soft-spoken Phil returned with my mother as a furious, spitting, foaming at the mouth bull of a man. At first, my sister and I just thought he was tired, in his older body, from the trip. For about a week.

He made us very quickly understand that was just doing his job, his rightful, God-given authority as a Man. To be the Head of the Household. This meant that every sigh, breath, piece of tissue on your body, the smallest word, the slightest action, had to pass by customs to be examined, turned over in his fat hands before receiving the stamp of approval. If you happened to forget this for one split second, the time it takes for the fly swatter to come swishing, squashing down, you needn't have worried; you would be reminded and punished accordingly. At first with biting, scathing, burning words that got under your skin and set white spots in front of your eyes to blind you for days accusing you of ungodly disobedience, assuring certain Hell-Fire for your stupid-bitch-of-a-fucking soul.

But he was just trying to "get our attention" and show us the Right Way, you understand, to Send us Back Directly to Go. Do not pass, do not collect your 2oo dollars. Or, according to him, Eternal Life, since he was the Head of the Household, holding the keys of holiness and we, as women, were bound to his Rule.

For awhile, in the beginning, I tried to make a map of his fury; like if I could organize events, justify the Voices through circumstances, understand them with the discerning eye reserved usually for members of the psychoanalytical profession, then I could then label and let lie. Mom thought that with caring and intelligence and God-given direction, she could play this game and emerge with a new person and new rules, and a new marriage.

For awhile, we had tried to find these rules, tried to stick to the them, not realizing that it was much more important for him that we be wrong, than that we follow the rules. So he changed them constantly. He had to have a reason, you see, to punish us.

Gradually through the months, as he realized my mother was adopting Accommodating Silence as a survival technique, he began to put those fat hands to grasping use. He also liked to throw things. Sharp things. It was at this point, that I realized the same qualities that had been so adored in me as a ideal Church child, silence, obedience, and submission, were the same qualities that were being used as fodder to his fire of sick, psychotic, irrational fury. To remain silent, was to accept the violence. And after a particularly brutal session of verbal and physical insults against my mother, witnessing the destructive manipulative power of blind anger, I learned how to deflect the wounds with words that bit back. And I haven't shut up since.

But you understand, he was a God-fearing man, God never punished those who were right did He; the righteousness of his anger was proof of his godliness, even the Ministers understood that. They only punished the wrong did they not? They didn't punish those who were right, of course, they too, were God-fearing men, just like him. So he made sure we were always wrong. Especially her. And she never let him down. Ever.

Except when she did, finally, at the end; letting him down by embracing the one truth that saved her, me, and my sister, by refuting the only Thing she had accepted to be true up until that point until it proved to be a liar, the word of the Church; the one truth that he told into a lie to convince Them she was a liar, the one truth she grasped like the sides of her clothes when he scraped the sides of her self into carrot salad spiced with the raisons of his psychosis, until all that remained was the tender center core, the one truth that erupted from somewhere so deep after silence after silence shooting out survival into the packed station wagon and out again into a hurriedly purchased house; the one truth that she stuck to the insides of her eyelids so she would not forget when They told her she was a liar for believing in it; that one and only truth she, after all, knew to be true; and that being, that she and her children deserved to live.

She had called for counseling weeks after their return, in a first desperate hopeful plea that the Ministry would be able to turn this violence around. The violence only escalated with the frequency of the counseling. Was he afraid he would be found out? Perhaps. She was not prepared for what was to happen next. He wore the clothing of her reality during those counseling sessions, using the one Public Voice he had, that soft, soft, calm, reasoning warble that had seduced her in the first place, to convince the Ministry it was my mother who was psychologically imbalanced. One day he had his hands around her neck, screaming red in the face eyes popping out like a fish caught on a line because she had forgotten to unthaw a chicken for dinner, the next day, "But Oh, Mr. Rabey you must know that she just can't speak to me without raising her voice! I mean, I can't even talk in my own house. She lies to me, hides things from me, can you imagine? Please help me, I really want to save this marriage." One day he is condemning us all to the Eternal Lake of Fire because we had forgotten an unstated rule and kitchen utensils are flying around the room like they've a life of their own, the next day, "But I just don't know what to do anymore, she just won't listen to me Mr. Rabey please help me."

They believed him. He was a man. She was a woman. Too bad for her. They told my mother she had to make it work, to try a little harder, or she would be disfellowshipped. The "case" went from the regional pastor, John Stryker (who has since left the church), to Bill Rabey (now in the position of W.C.G. pastor in Ottawa) to British Columbia provincial pastor, George Patrickson (now director of Canadian W.C.G. "ministries"). The harder she "tried", the worse the accusations, the louder the multiplication's of the voices, the harder the shrapnel sprouted from unseen places. Soon it was like playing an ozzy-rules video game for your life with no buttons. There was a 30.06 hunting rifle under his bed, the one she slept in, the one he refused to share with her from the start. We all knew this.

There was no choice at one point. We chucked school bags into the station wagon and left him screaming murder in the dust. George Patrickson, sitting in his little air-conditioned office in Vancouver clinking ice in his glass, set down the proclamation of punishment; a disobeying member is disfellowshipped. Why do you think there are no options? There's Lots of Options. You can stay with him, and try harder. Or, really, with sufficient proof that the marriage is really not working, we could perhaps try to get the marriage annulled but that could take many, many months, because you understand, the decision would have to be made by those Higher Up in Power those, who of course know nothing nor care nothing about the specificity's of your life and the life of your children as they sit in some Church office on the mainland, many months during which time you and your children would have to remain under his roof. And who knows, during that time, you just might try hard enough to make it work. Or, you could move out with your daughters, and you would be Put Out Of The Church. The command has been proclaimed; you have a responsibility to this marriage made under the eyes of God. You walk out of this marriage into the safety of your house, respecting your right to life and the rights of your children to life to live without the risk of bruising, verbal assaults, or perhaps murder, and you will be justly punished for disobedience; separation and divorce are abominations in the eyes of the Lord. Take your pick. There are many options.

They didn't understand that at that point, there was one option; life. My mother chose life.

We were disfellowshipped, (although we could attend services if we sat with him) and we lost all contact with the only social community we had known as other members were "warned" of our evilness and spread the news about our "disobedience".

The first lie George Patrickson, Bill Rabey, and John Stryker told her was that it was her fault. The pain was her fault, because she could have left sooner. In other words, it is her own fault, for upholding the trust that the Ministers demanded from every member, and believing They would do Their jobs as God's servant leaders.

The second lie They told, was in the silence in the aftermath. Phil Darbyson was never made accountable for his abuse and violence, for his lies and hypocrisy; worse, he was not only free to attend services, go to the Feast and participate in social outings, he was also made responsible for certain services within the Church, and during the fragmentation that followed in the W.C.G., he attempted to begin his own congregation.

The third lie They told, and that They still tell, was that They were just doing Their Jobs. I don't know what They thought Their Job was during this violence and in the aftermath of this violence, but it certainly wasn't what I had been brainwashed into believing all those years in the Church that it was: spiritual leaders of a flock of spiritually growing God-fearing people, who were called by God into the vocation of leadership for their serving capacities, discerning spirits, generosity, kindness, and faith in the goodness of their God. I know now that the job that They were indeed doing, for which They were (and still are) paid handsomely at our expense to do, was to uphold the glossy image of the Church, no matter what the cost, and no matter who's life, self-worth, sanity, and skin was sacrificed in the process.

What stopped Phil from causing serious bodily harm, I know now, was the possible consequences of visible proof on my mother's body. He was very careful. But it could have happened. And if it had

would the Ministers still say that they were just doing their job? Her bruised body would have been on their hands. In a way, her bruised soul and self, my bruised soul and that of my sister, despite what blame they tried to place on her skin, is under the flesh of their own hands. And there it will stay, I hope poisoning their consciousness, until they can make atonement within themselves, for assuming responsibility for failing an abused, violated family, dispossessed of their basic human right to exist and to have a voice, as women and not just as the slate upon which one very mentally ill and violent man thought he could scratch in his own warped versions of reality.

Their maintenance of the lie, throughout the violence by Their disbelief in the obvious pain of one woman, by Their obvious disinterest in the truth of that pain, by refusing responsibility as spiritual leaders to make accountable the perpetrator of violence, was in itself, an act of violence.

And I will never forget.

Postscript;

Although Phil Darbyson is no more a part of our lives, the consequences of his abuse and the silence enforced by the Ministry have reached far into every corner of my life to uproot, destroy, and fragment what was left of my family. Although the marriage was "officially annulled" by the Church three years following, at which point my mother was "allowed" back to attendance, she has since cut off any ties with what she recognizes at an abusive, mind-controlling Power-hungry Church. She is still wrestling with post-traumatic stress in her personal and professional life. My younger sister ran away after high-school in 1993 to Europe to escape the after-effects of the trauma she and my mother were still living and has returned only twice to Canada in six years. She does not keep in contact with her sisters. My older sister, who had moved out three years before the violence, has recently married the older son of George Patrickson, who is still re-telling the "truth" to cover his own white-ass and his paycheck and his reputation to his daughter-in-law: needless to say, the two families do not interact at all. As for myself, I was caught for several years in a cycle of abusive relationships and self-abusive patterns founded in burning anger that I have only recently begun to transform, creatively, into self-and-other empowerment through my work as a visual and interventionist artist and social activist against violence. I know from experience, as well as from my studies in trauma that psychological, verbal, or emotional abuse, often seen as the lesser of the evil of bruising physical abuse or sexual abuse has its own parameters of violence that are equally as destructive and painful for the victim. There are no marks. There are no blue traces that are a witness to the happenings. With the Ministry attempting to cover up the facts by disposing of the audio tapes made as a last-ditch attempt to convince them of the abuse, by perpetrating the violence of silence, I, reinforced by years of zombie-training in the W.C.G., began to doubt my own voice, and my own realities.

I have recently applied to the Canada Council for the Arts requesting funding to devote the coming year to a creative project which seeks to provide the space for other lost stories of pain occurred through religious abuse. If anyone would be interested in collaborating with me on this project, feel free to contact me.

I mourn the loss of trust in those I had been taught, for almost the entirety of my life, to believe in, and as a consequence, I mourn the loss of trust in figures of authority of any kind. I mourn the loss of years of my mother's life. I mourn the loss of the last years of my childhood that forced me to grow up, way up, way over my head. I mourn the loss of my sister's voices, as this period in our lives has been silenced by disbelief. I mourn the loss of belief in the inner voice of my being as those we trusted preferred to believe, not our own voice of truth, but his lies. I do not have to mourn the loss of my truths. For they are, and always will be, stories of truth that write themselves on the membranes of my cell walls since the day when his hands threatened to destroy my mother and my family and I learned that silence could hurt, hurt so much more than words, that my words could hurt, hurt so much more than silence those who wear the heavy coat of lies.

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