I have just read some stories from former members of the WCG on your site and it inspired me to write. I was in “the church” for most of my teenage years and had a most miserable time. My parents started attending when I was 13. The first few weeks they went by themselves and I stayed home alone. I didn’t mind this and was happy to have the house to myself. Eventually they told me that they wanted me to go each week with them. After two weeks I knew it was not for me. Being an only child I would often get my way and thought that I would not have to go if I put my foot down. After a few weeks of not going, a minister came around and spent an hour telling me what God thought of me for not obeying my parents and how I would be left behind at the end time and so on. After that I attended for a month or so then I decided that was enough. Again, I told my parents that I am not interested and again the minister came around. He did not win me over this time, but did I suffer because of my rebellion.
On the advice of the minister, my parents adopted a very forceful approach. They had not up to that time ever hit me in anyway. One Friday evening my parents told me that I was going to services with them tomorrow and if I gave them any trouble I was going to be spanked. They then showed me a paddle that they obtained from somewhere. (Most likely from the minister) My stomach was in knots at the thought of being spanked and I was a very worried boy. I was also a very stubborn boy and the next morning when asked to put on a new gray suit for services I bluntly refused. I now had two reasons for not wanting to yield. The new suit had short pants, and any boy my age, would not want to been seen in such a suit. In the end, my dad tucked me under his arm and gave me 5 or 6 firm whacks with the paddle. I could not believe what happened. Dad had actually smacked me for the first time that I could remember. I was sort of in shock. I went to my room crying and put on the suit. When I had the suit on, I felt and looked like an eight year old. The shorts were long and baggy looking and I had to wear gray knee length socks with them. I felt so sick inside and pleaded with Mum and Dad to change their minds. When I asked why I had to wear the suit with shorts, they told me that the minister had told them that it would bring me down a peg or two and help me to realise that I am still just a boy who should be doing what his parents say. (Note: Back in 1981 in Australia, it was not “cool” to be seen in a suit at 13 years old. To been seen in a suit with shorts and long knee length socks was just humiliating.)
I sulked right up until the time we had to leave. Then I mistakenly made one last effort to stay home. I refused to get in the car. That was the last straw, Dad went to get the paddle and Mum went to her bedroom. I don’t think she could bear to watch. Dad forcefully took hold of me and held me over his knee and gave me a very long and hard spanking. While being paddled, I squirmed and wriggled about, begging in tears for Dad to stop. Eventually, Dad stopped hitting me when I promised to get in the car. When we arrived (school gym), services had just started, as I made them late. I sat there, backside throbbing, feeling very angry and also very confused. To make my day worse, after the service the other so-called Christian church boys, laughed and teased me about my shorts and long socks.
Over the next six months I continued to wear the suit to services, scared stiff that someone from school would see me. I was also spanked many more times by Dad. Once by my mum. It did not hurt much, but was so much more humiliating for me. I grew out of the short pant suit by the time I was 15 and was glad that it was replaced with a suit with long pants. I recall my last spanking at 15, for swearing. I hated the minister whom I held responsible for my misery and therefore paid no attention to what he said. At 18 I finally felt too old to be treated like a little boy and I stopped attending services. To my surprise, a year later Mum and Dad quit the WCG as well. In 1987 we finally celebrated Christmas together again.
I later found out that my mum and dad felt awful about the way they treated me. The day I turned 20 Dad sat me down and we had a heart to heart talk about the “church years.” We were both in tears by the end of it. He felt so guilty about all those spankings he gave me, and seeing my dad in tears over it, really choked me up. I had already forgiven him years earlier but he had been carrying the burden. They were hard years, but we came through okay. I feel sorrow for those who are a part of those “family destroying” offshoots.
By Chip – Child survivor of WCG
Note by ESN: The WCG for many years told their members to follow The Plain Truth About Child Rearing, a dreadful booklet written by Garner Ted Armstrong. (Update: GTA died of pneumonia at age 73 on 9-15-03.)