by Michelle V.
I am a victim of a drive-by shooting. I have been shot.
Ok, so it was the car that got shot...and it was probably a high-powered BB gun, not a real bullet. And it was probably some punk kid out for kicks, not an anointed member of an inner-city gang.
Nonetheless, I am a victim of senseless, random violence. I'll never forget the sheer terror at the sound of the shot hitting the back window...the way time stood still and everything seemed to move in slow motion. I'll never forget the sweep of emotions through my body as I realized what had happened and the fear and rush of adrenaline as I became aware of the danger present and tried to make sense of the event. Thankfully I was not alone in the car. A friend and I were leaving work late one night last week and it was her turn to drive in our weekly carpool. The back window of her car was completely shattered.
Throughout the past week since this incident, I have tried to make sense of an act which cannot be explained. I've struggled to understand why someone would choose to inflict such suffering on another human being. I've marveled over the fact that we could have been hurt much worse and have been thankful that we were not. I also slowly realized that the feelings I am struggling with are faintly familiar. I have felt this way before. As I reviewed The Painful Truth website today, as I occasionally do, I finally made the connection between this random, senseless act of violence and another time in my life when I was a helpless victim of evil.
As I looked through various articles and postings on the site I was struck by the recurrence of words which were descriptive of my recent experience. Words like "accountable", "abuse", "afraid", "apologize", "bitterness", "blame", "evil", "fault", "forgiveness", "hate", "hurt", "painful" and the big one "WHY?"
I want the police to find someone and hold them accountable for the abuse they inflicted upon me and my friend. How dare they make us so afraid? I want them to apologize so I can be rid of the bitterness I feel. Someone is to blame for this evil I have experienced. It is their fault!! Do I owe forgiveness for the sheer hate that visited such hurt on us that terrible evening last week? It is at times too painful to recall. Why would someone do this to us?
I was shocked to realize these are all the same issues that I and many other ex-WCGer's have struggled with in the context of our experience within the church. This brought new clarity to my personal journey out of and away from that experience as I realized what we suffered and were subjected to was an impersonal, random, senseless type of abuse. I realized I was a helpless victim of "drive by religion".
In so many ways, the abuse and pain we suffered at the hands of Worldwide Church of God and it's overpaid minions was completely impersonal. Few of us were ever singled out personally for mental torture and emotional abuse. Rather we were nameless, faceless victims of the system as we subjected ourselves to the mind control and rigorous demands of the Worldwide Church of God. One of the identifying features of a cult is the way its members are stripped of their individuality and personal worth. We became "members" and "co-workers", the latter term calling to mind a huge community of ants toiling laboriously as identical, nameless, faceless entities. It's not hard to imagine this is how HWA viewed us...his loyal followers...as he surveyed his worldwide kingdom of faithful church-going tithe payers from his plush Pasadena offices. It couldn't have pricked his conscience too much(if at all) to spend all those hard earned tithe dollars so extravagantly when he had no concept of where the money came from.
He never saw the broken down heaps of automobiles rattling their way into the parking lots all over the country week after week. He didn't witness the church children passing down clothing to their younger counterparts year after year. He never sat at their tables and dined on whatever their meager budgets allowed. He never offered friendship and comfort to those who lived a life in isolation, having turned their backs on family and friends. He never personally sat at their deathbeds and held their hands as they suffered and died from lack of medical care.
Yet he and his loyal staff of "ministers" are responsible for it all. It is they who are accountable for the abuse we suffered which made us afraid of God. They should apologize for the bitterness us ex-WCGer's must struggle to overcome. The blame for the evil which was perpetrated upon us in the name of God lies at their feet. It was not our fault...we were random victims of an impersonal crime. Forgiveness may not be possible in the wake of so many left hurting...suffering the painful after-effects of our association with this cult. The answer to the question "Why?" is very simple. Because they wanted to.
Why did that person take aim at our car and pull the trigger, shattering the windshield? Why did Herbert and his minions take aim at our vulnerabilities and weaknesses and pull us into his cult, shattering our lives? Because they wanted to. Nothing more, nothing less. They never set out to specifically ruin our lives and make us miserable. They simply didn't care. We were nameless, faceless victims and the thrill of accomplishing their goal, the acquisition of vast amounts of material wealth, overshadowed the actual consequences of their actions. Just like the punk who shot out the back window of my friend's car got his jollies and never considered that his little prank could have injured or even killed one or both of us.
The most unsettling part of our drive by shooting mishap was our utter disbelief of what had actually happened to us. Immediately after the car was shot we pulled into a gas station to survey the damage. The spot where the shot hit the window was perfectly visible and it was quite obvious what had happened. However we both stubbornly refused to accept it. Finally, after the police examined the car and confirmed our worst fears, we accepted the reality of what had happened. I realize now that it was a method of coping with the random, senseless nature of the crime. Just as it was difficult to cope with our gradual awakening in the past several years of what Worldwide Church of God was all about. It seemed so personal, so invasive and abusive on an individual level, but it really wasn't. We were all nameless, faceless victims of this impersonal crime which was perpetrated on a worldwide scale.
I still want someone to blame. I still want whoever pulled that trigger caught and strung up by his toenails. I want him to know how that one split second in time has changed my life forever. I want an apology. I want to demand restitution. But I've realized that it isn't likely any of my desires will ever be fulfilled.
It's the same with our journey out of and away from Worldwide Church of God and all it's spawn. There won't be many, if any, apologies. It's unrealistic to expect any restitution. The terrible injustice of it all weighs heavily upon us. We must learn to shrug it off, secure in the knowledge that it wasn't our fault and we aren't to blame. We were all nameless, faceless victims of random, "drive by" religion. To quote a well-worn clich,...sometimes bad things happen to good people and there is no explanation.
I'm more aware now of my surroundings as I'm leaving work late at night. Perhaps I was lulled into a false sense of security living in a city which touts its low crime rate and friendly atmosphere. The same way I was lulled into a false sense of security within the Worldwide Church of God which touted it's love and spirituality. Things aren't always what they seem and when the truth is revealed it is often difficult and painful to accept. I don't want to wonder if someone is lurking behind a bush as I walk to my car late at night. I don't want to worry about driving through certain areas of town or to be terrified of breaking down and finding myself stranded. I also don't want to be perpetually suspicious of any religious institution or people who claim to be christian. I don't want to be cynical, distrustful or jaded about organized religion. Unfortunately this is the reality of being a victim of random, impersonal, evil acts.
I can live with it, now that I know the answer to the burning question "Why?"
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