- Eating out with the brethren in restaurants.
- Eating with the brethren in their motel, hotel, condo, or RV.
- Going to the church activities planned out for us by those in charge.
- Enjoying site-seeing in the area, often with the brethren along side us.
- Enjoying the breathtaking and beautiful scenery.
- Getting away from the troubles of the world and/or troubles in our life
- Uplifting sermons about how we were “the elect” and the rest of the world was lost.
We can see from the above that all these enjoyable times we remember centered around “food and fellowship” with people of like beliefs in a vacation-like setting that pictured the Millennium and an “escape” from the normal problems. In almost every case these people represented our “family” to us. Hundreds and even thousands of “brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers”–always with a smile on their faces and an extended handshake and/or a hug–were there for us. We had lots of time to share our trials with them; laugh with them, cry with them, encourage them and pray for them. We loved them and we knew they loved us. What better feeling could there be than that?
Were They Our True Family?
But were these people really our true family (our blood relation)? In most cases, no. They were a ready-made family created by the dynamics of the system we were ensnared in. Almost everyone who has spent time in a Bible-based cult (aka a mind-manipulating or high demand group) will say they experienced the same emotions of “family love, togetherness, and excitement.” But this doesn’t make it genuine or long-lasting. How many of us exited the group, or were thrown out, only to find out this “family” was no longer there for us in the same way? And even if some people exited with us, didn’t we stop having as much in common–except for perhaps those “wonderful memories” of the times we had spent together in what felt so much like perfect love and closeness with God?
Those that don’t have, or never had, close, loving family relationships can deeply miss what they had in the group and look back on what they feel was the “wonderful time at the Feast of Tabernacles.”
Most everyone has a need for personal relationships. Religious cults have always known this and they exploit those longings as much as possible. But being in such long term, intense relationships with so many people at once also has its drawbacks. Many former members can relate strained relationships, anger, disappointment, painful feelings, and even incidents of cruelty they received over the years from certain of these “family” members in “God’s one true church.”
Did We Learn About a Loving God?
And what about what we were taught about God? Did we learn about a loving God, full of grace, mercy and forgiveness of all our sins, or were we taught about a God that would swiftly punish and curse us if we didn’t follow all that the “government” (HQs) told us to do?
Did We Enjoy All These Things?
Looking back, did any of us really enjoy sitting through long, drawn-out two-hour sermons, every day, for eight days? (Not to mention two services on the first and last day and the Sabbath. Did our children enjoy it? Was it relaxing to be hyper-vigilant about making sure our youngsters were keeping out of trouble and that our teens weren’t developing a bad attitude?
Did we enjoy having limits set for us on how far we could venture away from the feast site during the week and feeling disappointed if we never got to go see “such and such” historical site because we ran out of time?
Did we enjoy the stress (and sometimes flared tempers) that often ensued in our mad rush to get everyone in our family ready for services on time? Did we enjoy getting sick at the FOT? Most of us came down with something, either at the feast, or after we arrived home. (It is hard to stop the spread of germs when one is in a large crowd of many hand-shaking people for eight days.)
Did we enjoy arriving home and having to face how we had no money to pay the bills? (Oh, some might say they never worried about such things, but they were usually the exception with a paid vacation and a steady, good-paying job.) What about going back to the reality of the stresses we were enduring before we left for the Feast?
Creating Good Memories of Our Own
Is it truly emotionally and spiritually good for us to go through all of the above (no matter how happy it made us feel) when our leaders had only one goal in mind–the control of our minds and the possession of our money? Can’t we create good memories of our own today? How about going on a vacation when the children are out of school, knowing we can plan where to go, when to get up, how long to stay, and to spend within our budget? (Even coming home with some money in our pockets, because we don’t have to drop all our “excess” in an offering.) Who else should we be closer to than our own immediate families? For some exiters this is impossible due to their continual involvement in the group. But some can find love and “family bonds” with close friends who are accepting and fun to be with, and some find a renewed closeness with a mate who truly loves them. Others simply enjoy peaceful and relaxing–or exciting and new–activities outdoors this time of year.
Whatever it is, we can eventually replace the “wonderful memories” of the FOT with our own wonderful memories, knowing we are now free from the burden of performance.
By T. H.
Exit & Support Network™
Note: This article is not meant to negate a Millennium in the future when the Lord Jesus Christ shall reign on the earth; when peace and joy shall abound, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 51:11)
Comment: The Scriptures show that the command to “dwell in booths” applied only to the native born in Israel (Israelites): “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:” (Leviticus 23:42) Yet HWA tried to make us think this verse meant we were to leave our homes and live in motels, hotels, tents, etc. for 8 days. Furthermore, the Law required that the Feast of Tabernacles was to be kept in Jerusalem. Refer to: Do you obey the Feast of Tabernacles? [offsite article]
MORE INFO: Worldwide Church of God had their first feast in Belknap Springs, Oregon, in 1945. By 1998 they were calling the Feasts “optional” and by 2005, they were already phasing them out, only having “special worship festivals during the summer and fall of the year” by certain local congregations. In 2006 their “worship calendar” included Roman Catholic / Lutheran observances such as Maundy Thursday (also known as “Holy Thursday”), First Sunday of Advent and Last Sunday of Advent. They also have referred to Pentecost as “Whitsunday.” However, some WCG congregations overseas (i. e., Philippine congregations) still observe a “festival” either immediately before or after the Feast of Tabernacles. This time is described as a “grand celebration” and “great family reunion.” (Worldwide Church of God Philippine Update, October 6, 2007)
UPDATE: As of 2018 GCI (formerly named WCG) asks its congregations to celebrate (as a minimum) the days/seasons of Advent, Christmas, Holy Week and Easter.
Related Articles / Letters:
Mystical Manipulation (How it is Used in Herbert Armstrong Groups) (shows how the Feast of Tabernacles is used to control members in the Armstrong groups)
When We Attended the Feast (what did they do to our minds?)
Holding on to a Pipe Dream (October 2020 letter to ESN)
We Thought the Feast Was “Better Than Christmas” (November 29, 2007 letter to ESN)
Long For a Get-Away Similar to the Old FOT (September 30, 2004 letter to ESN) (includes detailed reply)