One of my vivid memories from my childhood was in about the 7th grade when we were given the assignment to write an essay on the topic of “What Christmas Meant to Me.” I am sure that anyone who spent any time as a child in Worldwide Church of God understands. Although my grammar and spelling were acceptable, I received an F on the paper. And my mother got called in to the principle’s office for a “parent teacher conference.” They thought that I was being belligerent and making up wild tales on my essay. Weren’t they in for a surprise when my mother calmly admitted that everything in the essay was true and correct! My essay explained the origins of the holiday and why we shouldn’t celebrate it. I explained how the Feast of Tabernacles was a much better idea. My essay was about how Christmas really meant nothing to me at all, other than it was a time of year I dreaded.
- Christmas meant watching other children celebrate.
- Christmas meant wearing the same old clothes back to school after the winter break, while all the other kids came sporting their new outfits they had found under their trees.
- Christmas meant listening to my parents fight (Dad was not a member of the WCG).
- Christmas meant that we still had 10 more days before school resumed.
I went on to explain how Christmas is a “pagan holiday” kept by people who would end up in the Lake of Fire, and soon! (after all, the world as we knew it was coming to an end before I would be graduating High School) I had no idea what my poor teacher must have thought. I didn’t know I had a “bad attitude” or needed counseling. I ended up keeping the “F” for the paper. Then I, of course, got grounded for 6 weeks for failing Language Arts.
Our family wasn’t the standard WCG family. My mother was an avid attendee who kept all the rules to the best of her ability and tithed regularly to the WCG. She started going to services when I was about 5 years old. (My siblings were 7 and 3.) My Father had nothing to do with any kind of religion. He didn’t stop my mother, though, provided she always take us three kids with her to any and all WCG functions. So she always did. We endured years of driving 50 miles to attend a 2 hour sermons [sermonette plus sermon], all the while being on our “best behavior.” We dreaded Saturdays. My mom had to find ways to keep the holidays while still “honoring and obeying” my dad. The days of unleavened bread were always entertaining. Mom couldn’t have even a bread crumb in the house, yet had to send a sandwich with Dad’s lunch every day. So she kept the bread box in the back hall, right by the back door (this was approved by the WCG). She made his lunch outside (at 5:00 in the morning). We went through what all the other members’ children went through in dealing with the holidays that no one had ever heard of and not being allowed to do any Friday night or Saturday school functions.
Another memory I have (but wish I didn’t) is the one when my daughter was 18 months old. It was the time of year when the WCG pastor “blessed” all the children in the WCG. It wasn’t a baptism, just a blessing. My mother asked me if she could bring my daughter to services and have her blessed. I figured it couldn’t hurt, my baby was too young to understand anything anyway, so I consented. It meant so much to my mom. I attended the service with my mother (the first one I had been to in years), and I felt very uncomfortable, unwelcome and out of place. I endured 2 hours of chastising and listening to the man ask for more money and then it came time for the “blessing.” When my mother proudly approached the stage with her first born grandchild in her arms, amidst the other people with their children, the pastor announced over the loud speaker that “no child that was not of parents that belonged to the ‘church’ would be blessed that day.” Since I wasn’t a “member” and neither was my husband, that totally blew my daughter’s chances of being worthy of a blessing. My mother slunk back to her seat and explained to me that the pastor didn’t mean any harm and he knew best. I asked her how she could believe in any “church” that acted like that? Didn’t God love all his innocent children regardless of what religion their parents were? And didn’t they owe her at least a little respect? After all, she had been a member of the WCG for over 20 years. She had no answer, but told me to be quiet and not disrespect the pastor. I didn’t want to embarrass her or cause her any more grief than she was already dealing with, but I couldn’t get out of there fast enough when that service was over. I never stepped foot inside a WCG service again.
A little over two years later, my mother was at a regular Saturday service when she had her fatal ulcer attack. She was very, very sick. One of the WCG church ladies drove her to the hospital. She died a few days later. Not one single person from her congregation showed up for the funeral. The only one who had checked on her was the lady who drove her to the hospital. I asked the lady where all my mom’s friends were and why they weren’t there. She explained that WCG believes that the spirit is in limbo after death, awaiting Jesus’ return. So there is no reason to grieve or attend the funeral, but that she would be missed. In other words, Mom wasn’t there to give the WCG anymore money, so they were done with her. We never heard from anyone in the WCG again.
My daughter helped to open my eyes and my heart to the Lord for the first time in my life. By the time she was 4 1/2, she was asking questions about God. She was already developing a relationship with Him that was so pure and sincere. She wanted to go to church so she could learn more about Christ, so we set out to find a church that I could deal with. I wanted something the exact opposite of WCG for my daughter. And I found one. It was a wonderful little fellowship that met on Sunday mornings. The greeters were so nice, offering us donuts and juice (my daughter loved it right away) and welcoming us to their service. They sang upbeat songs with a live band. The pastor was a warm and sincere man who taught “lessons” that would actually help the congregation with every day difficulties. Donations were accepted, but no one knew who gave what. It was all anonymous. There was laughter and singing and good friends made there. My child thrived–as did I. After we had been attending regularly for a few months, I sat down with my pastor and briefly explained my past and asked him many questions. He patiently listened and answered my questions, and then prayed with me. I had found the exact opposite of WCG. My heart was full of the Lord’s love. No fear, no guilt, just love.
By Rebecca – Child survivor of WCG
Note: For more articles on Christmas go to: Should we observe “pagan” holidays? (Q&A)