I Couldn't Find God!
A member of the Worldwide Church of God cult from February 1973 until November 1987
My association with the WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD (WCG) began when I renewed an acquaintance with a friend of mine and her loud witness through her tremendous personality change for the better; I had been Catholic since birth and now I could not accept the Catholic dogma that. the pope was infallible...because then HE was God. I had never read the bible and was a biblical illiterate, so I started reading the bible like I would any book, from front to back. As I read the Old Testament and found commands to Israel, which I assumed meant me as well. Point by point I found my friend's church to be doing what the pages of my bible showed me to be "the truth". Now I realize my bible illiteracy to be a trap that many others also fall into.
As my search progressed, I ordered literature from Pasadena, the church headquarters. My first booklet was: THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT CHRISTMAS. I went to my local library and found the material that Herbert W. Armstrong (the author and founder of the Worldwide Church of God) had referred to in the booklet. There was historical documentation for what he had written. So, satisfied that the booklet was indeed the PLAIN TRUTH, I proceeded in my studies more at ease and trusting in the church, because I reasoned they had told the truth in that booklet and they are much more learned than I am, surely as the correspondence course and the other booklets showed this was God9s one and only true church as they had proven to me...or...as I THOUGHT I had proven to myself.
Finally I became convinced that I should be baptized. Immediately following my baptism, a man called a deacon asked me for my name and address etc. I wondered why and asked him. He gave me a brush off answer which I accepted and forgot about only to recall it 15 years later and realize the significance of it. (I realize now that that card was. the beginning of the file (dossier) that the Worldwide Church of God keeps on all the members and those that come into contact with it.
Looking back I can see that ridicule was made against Christian churches that believed in a trinity and worshipped "three gods", thus proving their paganism and idolatry. After being in for years, I began to realize that under that rationale, we in the Worldwide Church of God worshipped "two gods", the Father and the Son, although only vague lip service was given to "Christ" and His sacrifice was diminished as we feverishly worked for our salvation. (Jesus was a word that was made fun of, often referring to those that used it a lot as "Jesus freaks")
We were taught that the world was evil and "Satan's system". We were to be constantly on the alert for Satan and his demons. The fear and power of Satan was stressed much more than the love and power of God. Isolation set in. One by one I dropped my friends, all but a special few that perceived me to be in some kind of trouble and realizing that it had something to do with my new association with the Worldwide Church of God who remained there for me and did not argue with me during the 15 years of my membership in the Worldwide Church of God. They, not I, showed the true love of Christ with their unconditional love that I knew so little about.
Worldwide became my social life, my world, my entire existence was wrapped up in the doctrines and beliefs. I became what is termed a "true believer". I would have died for the "church". I was totally committed and worked at bringing others into "God's truth". By the time I was in for 15 years all three of my sisters were in and had married men in the cult. My immediate family was all in except for my husband and oldest daughter.
Those years were spent in a frenzy of bible studies, services, personal bible study, reading the unlimited amounts of literature pumped out by the Worldwide Church of God. We were expected to read all of the literature put out each month besides study our bibles and pray etc. The personal. bible study that should have freed me up from the bondage of the Worldwide Church of God was stifled because whatever did not make sense to me according to Herbert W. Armstrong's teachings, I turned on myself and decided that there must be something wrong with me that I could not understand it. If I could not fit it into the "frame", I never questioned. That the frame might be wrong.......you see only scriptures that fit the "frame"; are ever stressed in the Worldwide Church of God. Others are ignored, with many scriptures never being covered at all in the 15 years that I was a member. It is like building a house, and framing it out over and over; but never putting the walls or the windows in! I later found out that others in the Worldwide Church of God had done as I had done, blamed themselves, because they could not understand.
We received many double messages from the pulpit, such as: Ye must become perfect, (but you never can)and study at least an hour a day,(but don't you dare learn any new truth as that must come from the top down through the "Apostle".)
As I tried to obey ALL .commands, I studied and studied and finally about 10 months before I was thrown out, I submitted 37 bible questions to the local minister. These had collected in my notebooks for years and remained unanswered with many getting close to some of the "sacred" doctrines that Worldwide Church of God adhered to at that time.
Meanwhile, my latter years in the Worldwide Church of God had become a living hell as my cult induced values and standards of perfection were used .against my husband. He could do nothing well enough or perfect enough to suit me-as I strove to "convert" him, so he could also have the "Holy Spirit". (only those within the Worldwide Church of God have the Holy Spirit) (We really believed that!)
I had followed all the cult rules to the letter. The problems in our marriage, I reasoned, had to be coming from HIM. I knew I was in "God's church" doing all the right things according to the teachings of "God's one and only church" and I had the "Holy Spirit" and he didn't. I saw that we had no fruit of God's Spirit in our home. I counseled with the minister over and over who strongly encouraged me over a long period of time (years) to divorce my husband.
When I finally filed for divorce, the minister claimed I'd refused to counsel with him, and he disfellowshipped me over the telephone! I believe the real reason for my disfellowshipment was the 37 questions I had submitted, and a call and letter that I had made to headquarters complaining about the minister's brutal handling of some of the gentle people in the church, whom I loved.
I had just destroyed my home, thrown my husband of 27 years out, and then I was thrown out of "God's one and only true church on the face of the earth" by a phone call from the local minister. I couldn't believe it. I hung up the phone. Unbeknown to me, at this time, my ultimate, total limits, mentally and emotionally had been reached. I instinctively knew that I must not be alone. I called my sister. She told me to call our former minister, which I did. To this day, I can only remember him telling me not to call Pasadena as upset as I was right now...to wait. He kept talking, but all I could hear was his voice and not the words.
My head was hurting. I could not comprehend that a minister of God had lied to me, and that I was thrown out of "God's one and only true church. If he was a minister of God, he could not lie to me, and this is God's church, so he has to be a minister of God, but he lied to me and I can't be thrown out because I'd followed his advice and obeyed the church through him, but I was out and he did lie.
Everything went on tilt...my head felt like it would burst from the pressure. My sister came, a friend came. I couldn't communicate very well. The pain in my head was like it was either going to collapse in the back or explode. The physical pain was incredible. My mind was like a game of pinball with the thoughts going from pillar to post and exploding as they hit and bounced around. Nothing made sense. I could not believe what had happened. I was crying and shaking and screaming, but it was like no one could hear me. Sleep didn't come that night or the next, or the next. People came and people left. My sister came and made me food to eat. It was all like a nightmare to me. Finally, in desperation. being aware that I must sleep to survive, I called my doctor and explained what had happened to me. He prescribed some medicine and mercifully I got 20 to 30 minutes of sleep at a time.
I laid, in bed totally devastated for three days and three nights. When I drifted into a moment of sleep, the events and lies that I had been told, swam in my head so that I would awaken and be driven to write them down. I felt compelled to write it all down in the sequence that it had happened. Somehow. I would have to make Pasadena aware, so that I could get back into "God's church". I knew that I would have to explain and document the lies so that Pasadena would understand and help me.
(A letter was sent to Pasadena begging for an investigation and rectification of the things that had happened. but has never been answered. It was sent certified with a receipt requested, and I know that Joseph Tkach Jr. had the letter on his desk, because I spoke to him.) I threw myself on the mercy of Headquarters. Pleas, letter, and phone calls to headquarters were met with snarling sarcasm and twisting of our words. The spirit was wrong from the TOP DOWN! There was no love, no mercy, no Galatians fruit. Those that say they are apostles are not!
Instead of mercy, to my horror, the local minister went after the rest of my family members and disfellowshipped them all. One sister got disfellowshipped on her answering machine, one for refusing to discuss me, and another for standing for the truth as she saw it. The brother-in-laws were not ever talked to, but were notified by word of mouth, or by letter. Lies were told from the pulpit. Reputations were smeared. Names were told publicly to the entire congregation. We were all marked and disfellowshipped.
My family was worried beyond my comprehension about my survival at this point. I was only feeling. They had been observing me each and every time I had spoken to the minister ,and I had relayed his counsel to them and asked them to help me figure it out. (his counsel would change from session to session) Some of them warned me not to counsel with this minister because they could see how unbalanced he was, but I knew that under the "church governmental" rules, that I MUST counsel in regards to divorce. One could not get divorced without permission.
My family traveled with me throughout the many counseling as I tried to find an alternate route to divorce. (I did not really want a divorce, but saw no recourse.) They had seen my struggles in a way that I was completely unaware of. They now feared for my sanity, for they saw the severity of the stress that was upon me. One of my sisters called a former minister that we had all loved and trusted. She explained to him what had happened. He would not call me, he said, because of the "church government" and being that I was a disfellowshipped person. I was not to be talked to. She began to cry, and he told her at that point, that he would however, answer his phone and talk to anyone that would seek him out. So at my sister's pleadings, I called him.
I panicked after being disfellowshipped, thinking God had spued me out of His mouth, that I must be of the dread "Laodecian attitude"....lukewarm. I LOST GOD IN MY MIND. I found that I could not separate God and the "church". GOD AND THE CHURCH HAD BECOME' ONE, IN MY MIND, and try as I might, I COULD NOT SEPARATE THEM. My old minister assured me that I was NOT cut off from God, but that I was no longer under the protection of the church. I told him what had taken place and the lies, and he then warned me not to talk to my family about the minister because it would jeopardize their staying in the church. I was relieved and comforted. I had it from the same authority, a minister of God in "God's one and only true church". that just because I was disfellowshipped, did not mean that I was cut off from God.
Several things began to bother me about that conversation....the protection... where was it? Why was my family in danger?...They'd done nothing but minister to my needs. I didn't HAVE to say anything about the minister, everyone knew how he was. My Precious Moments bible fell open to a page that said the "Good Shepherd". I found John 10 in my bible. I could not read any other of the scriptures, but I found John 10, and I read it over and over before I could sleep each night. I began to get to know my true Shepherd. I started to see God's incredible love for me.
I realized that some how, some way, without my knowledge or informed consent, I had LOST GOD. I realized that I had had a (A) personal intense relationship with God and now (C) I couldn't find Him. I had gone from A to C with no knowledge of passing' "B". What was "B"?
I began to realize that something outside of my awareness or control had taken place, and something I did not understand had happened to me. (I had been brainwashed, brought under mind control, or thought reform, whatever you want to define it as, but at this point I did not realize it was the planned intent, done by A PROCESS of conditioning and programming over a period of time.
It was only later when I read books on mind control and cults and thought reform, that I recognized the techniques that had been used I began to research the Worldwide Church of God and all that I could find written about it from the outside Christian community and also persons that had been members. As I read account after account and talked to innumerable ex-members (there are thousands of them) patterns began to immerge and I recognized the methods of mind control that I had been subjected to over the past 15 years. The repetition, word association, buzzwords, etc. that permeated the cult via the spoken-and written word struck me. Later, I recognized the criteria set down by Lifton, as having been used also by the Worldwide Church of God.
My story has a happy ending however. MY husband and I decided to give our marriage another try and we are happier than ever the 4 plus years since my disfellowshipment. My sisters and their families were either pushed out, or left and all my children came out. One child had fled from me after I started muttering about "mind control" and returned to me having left the cult, only after being told not to speak to her own mother any more by a minister in the Worldwide Church of God. All my children came out. Some of my friends saw through the lies and hypocrisy and left also.
I know such is not the usual, and that a disfellowshipped member usually languishes in isolated grief.
The God I had a personal relationship with before the Worldwide Church of God experience, never forgot me, even though in my human frailness I transferred my loyalty from Him to a man made organization that became my "god" for a season. The Great God has my gratitude for bringing me and mine out of what none of us had any idea was a man made power cult. He did for us all, what we were powerless to do for ourselves.
Yes, I lost God in that group, but He never lost me or any of my loved ones. It has not been easy overcoming the experience. I have found that the more help that I give to others suffering from the same or similar experiences, the more help I gain. We must not stop in educating the general public about the dangers of the cults.
I still have periods of mourning for my lost friends and my lost 15 years and the loss of time with my children. I still feel feelings of rejection (but I remember that HE did not reject me) and feelings of depression that I have to fight. I also feel the mental and emotional and spiritual rape, the betrayal of what was so good (God's true Church) and struggle to feel the pain of the "TRUE REALITY".
I believe that God gave me a miracle in dropping my Precious Moments bible open to the page of John 10. I was so destroyed that before finding John 10 in my bible that night, I could only hold the bible and weep, I could not read a scripture at all. The picture of the Good Shepherd drew me to the scriptures that led to my healing. I believe that the Hand of God was with me and The Holy Spirit ministered to me. If a feeling can portray anything of God's Holy Spirit, I was filled with it as I read John 10 over and over and over.
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