Exit and Support Network

I Still See the Branches of the Cult in My Life

I grew up in the Worldwide Church of God in the 1980s to early 1990s. My parents are wonderful people who wanted the best for my younger sister and for me. They both had a heart for God and to do the things of God. They made the mistake of getting involved in the WCG, though. I think things can have really long reaching effects, like one small seed leads to a huge tree sometimes. Even things that seem unconnected I think can have connections today. I think we were part of the WCG in sort of a typical way. We attended everything we were expected to attend, my mom and dad poured thousands of dollars into I guess whoever ended up doing Armstrong's laundry at his mansion, and we tried to "do the right things." I was always terrified of not getting to go the safe place ["place of safety"], not that I understood that exactly. We did the trips and conferences, and we did without so the "church" could have what it had.

We gave a lot of money, didn't participate in actual good holidays like Christmas, instead going to the crazy cult meetings and so on, and went about our lives. I felt like a freak at school. Before my sister was school age, I was the only one. They would put me in another room while they made ornaments for a Christmas tree that the other kids decorated. I was asked about what I got for Christmas and said nothing, or said that Christmas was of Satan. That sounded pretty strange coming from an 8 year old, but hey, this was our life. For all the "moral superiority" we had as "true believers," I felt nothing but a shaking fear of God, panic, an outsider, and plain old weird.

My dad committed the sin of getting cancer. (Honestly, that is how he was treated when he got sick.) We lived in a very poor way, and a "minister" told us my dad must have gotten sick and this must have happened to our family and that we were poor because God didn't consider us holy enough and we had been "hit" by this. Naturally, the WCG gave nothing back to us in the time of severe need when my dad was ill and my sister and I were young children, and it wasn't "holy" for my mom to work, though she had to anyway or we would have really been suffering even more while my dad was ill. We had no choice; we were desperate. But we weren't "in God's favor." So all the thousands of dollars that my mom and dad had given to the "church" we never saw any help or support, only condemnation and criticism when my dad got sick. There was no compassion for it, not from anyone higher up. We were judged too for being poor, even though giving a lot to the cult was considered a sign of "holiness." We had nothing, so we were criticized by the higher ups about that, too. Crazy. My dad, of course, saw a doctor about the illness. (I guess a further sign we were not only outside God's favor but also sinning.) He survived it all as a young man, which probably was a miracle because some of what was done to heal him was experimental. And this is twenty years later and he's healthy still and had no reoccurrence.

He recovered, and I honestly think some of the people were disappointed because we "went outside God's will" for the healing because of getting medical care. Shortly after that, for that and for other reasons, most of which I believe had to do with people isolating away from our family in the WCG, we left. My sister and I were isolating at school because we were not to associate with the "nonbeliever," and they sure as heck thought we were strange too because of what we believed and mostly avoided us, too, and then in the WCG our family was treated as unwelcome and cursed and were avoided. Crazy, huh???

We weren't involved at all with any type of religious organization after this and my parents never have been since then (surprise, surprise). I wish my family would be compensated, but honestly because of the mind manipulating style of thinking and my family's struggle for livelihood over the years and the mindsets, they aren't going to insist on, fight for, or try to get their money back. They don't look on themselves as worthy of it, it is an embarrassing thing that they bought into, and they are afraid of being even more screwed over than they already have been. Does that make sense? They wouldn't expect a good outcome, and no one "made" them give their money up. You were going to the Lake of Fire if you didn't, though, which was the lingo. Manipulation isn't the same thing as force. I still think the people at the top were culpable and still owe the former members. But too many people died, suffered sickness, and were screwed out of retirement.... there are too many that deserve it [compensation] and too huge numbers for something realistically to happen. I wish the organization altogether would fold and give out the money, though, to members who gave so much. I mean my mom and dad could hypothetically prove what they have given with tax records and stuff. It's nice that the "new" organization, if legitimate, is "spreading the real gospel message." If that's true. I'm not sure what their motivation is. It used to be money. So is it now Jesus or is it still a crock of nothing??? I think people should receive in return what was manipulated from them. I thought of those scams where elderly people were manipulated on the phone into giving the scammers money from a few years back. The elderly people weren't forced, but they were manipulated, and the scammers had to pay up. This is no different.

Anyway, the story didn't end there. We stayed out of organized religion of any type for the next decade. At the end of the decade, I was in college and happily going about my life when I accepted Christ and became a Christian. I joined a kind of church that was very genuinely Christian and mainstream and normal. I was later baptized as a Christian and have lived as a Christian woman since 2001 when I first confessed Jesus as Lord in my life. I met my husband, and we got married in 2006. I can see the branches from that cult unfortunately still in my life. I am now 27 years old. I question if I am saved, if I am really and truly saved, though I did confess with my mouth and believe with my heart that Jesus is Lord and my Savior. I deal with doubt every single day and whether or not I am "doing things right." I think this is branches from the cult and the occult.1 It did harm in my formative years. I am trying to break that pattern of thinking, and I am also struggling with being in the Word. Something in me just is almost afraid to study it. Then I remember that we weren't supposed to examine the Word ourselves in that cult. Sigh. It is still hard. I felt not quite at home in the body of believers (real believers in Jesus, not the ones we were supposedly in the cult). I struggle in my marriage for joy and peace. If I feel joy at all, I expect the rug to be pulled out from under me and expect to be kicked for really feeling it. The peace is a struggle.

I think that in this time the Lord is fighting for me to really heal, though. Completely. During those years, I was also sexually abused at school by a fellow student (an older boy), and I felt totally responsible. I didn't come forward because the attitude in the cult gave off the impression that I was damaged goods and would be considered "unholy." I accepted responsibility as if I had engaged in premarital sex willingly rather than was victimized by someone, if that makes sense. And if you had sinned in the area of sex you were "worse" than if you had done something else sinfully. I entered into sometimes-abusive relationships afterward as a teenager and college student, feeling unworthy. All the "superiority" I had been taught I had was nothing. I felt like a freak and a loser constantly all through my childhood and young adulthood. I think the fear of God striking me down was enormous, that He was displeased by me unless I was just so. It is hard sometimes to receive that God really and truly loves me, gave His Son for me that I would not perish but have eternal life, and that I am His child, holy and dearly loved. This is a hard concept for me somehow.

Now I am ready to deal with some things. There has been a huge struggle in my marriage to experience proper sexual intimacy with my husband, struggles in my mind about Jesus, a struggle for peace and joy and feeling worthy of God's love and that it is true and real, and a feeling of isolation and strangeness about myself as a person. And I'm dealing with the sexually abusive and physically abusive past I had. I struggle with Christmas. I am glad my husband and I will get to put up a tree (not to worship it) and celebrate Jesus' birth together. When I have sung Christmas carols (some songs I never knew until I was grown up), it is amazing. Jesus really gave so much, and I don't have to be perfect to receive it at all.

By Melody - Child survivor of WCG
November 6, 2004

Note: Healing From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse has many articles to aid in our recovery.

Footnote by ESN:

1 See our section: Prayers for Freedom From Spiritual Strongholds (very effective in gaining liberation from strongholds and oppressions due to involvement in any harmful, abusive group or occult practices)

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