Have You Ever Been in an Abusive Church?
Fantasy based on Religious Abuse in Childhood Church
I grew up in an abusive, cult-like church.
It taught racism, sexism, homophobia and practiced child-beating to "break children's rebellious spirits." I felt pretty broken when I left, but I don't think they completely destroyed my spirit.
I was brought into the church by well-meaning parents who feared to "disobey God." They heard a man on a radio program. I was 6 months old at the time, so my input wasn't considered.
The man said he was a prophet of God! He began yelling proclamations of doom, and my worried parents believed him. I suffered many emotional and physical abuses under this "religious regime."
I’ve struggled to rid myself of the misinformation and life-crippling teachings from the time I left the church, about 17 years ago.
Tell Me Your Story for future Nina's Story Books
There are many people out there who are also struggling to recover from religious abuse. If you are one, I would love to hear your story. I have written one book in the Nina's Story trilogy, and I am currently working on the second. I have created an intriguing fictional world in which to tell the secrets of cult-building. I care about what you've been through, and I want to make this your story too. I would love to weave into my books, real life experiences of religious abuse, in order to help those still mentally held captive by monstrous leaders. Just seeing the NEED to get out is a daunting task for someone (as I was) who truly believes with their whole heart, that the church leader is speaking for God. Often getting out doesn't change a person's thinking. They still carry the doubts, worries and fears around - even if they no longer physically belong to a cult.
Some confused and fearful people in my church committed suicide because of these issues. This happened close to the time that I left the church. Another friend’s suicide, years earlier when I was single, had shocked me into realizing that I should not take my own life. I had been contemplating the idea because of my misery in the church. I think an important qualification of a healthy organization is the ability to refrain from driving its members to kill themselves. Yet I know that there are many, even today in our "enlightened" world that are still trapped in churches like the one I grew up in.
After the leader of my childhood church died, changes were introduced to bring the church into the mainstream. This brought a fierce backlash from members that feared the changes. Organized religion seems to be set up for abusive situations. The nature of many churches - and the goal of so many pastors is to tell you what God is thinking. We want so much to know this, that we fall for their tricks over and over again. I admit that some of the pastors are brain-washed themselves, and are convicted that their twisted teachings are from God. Someone taught them and they are sincerely passing on the misinformation. Even so, we don't have to continue to follow them in their delusions. It is up to us to realize what's happening. When your mind has been kidnapped and held for ransom, it is often torturous to let go of the kidnapper. You have come to see him as your protector. "This sinful world" becomes your enemy. I've been there. It's a tragic shame when the movement of your mind is at the mercy of the puppeteer's strings.
The entrapment of followers is successful because of the leader's often insidious, yet charismatic and captivating way of convincing them that if they don't obey his teachings, God will punish them! An angry God may “cast them out of His kingdom" - or into Hell when they die. If they dare to leave the cult, they may be disowned (disfellowshipped) by all of the church members (even close family members). My church promised no Hell, but rather a complete annihilation of the rebellious soul. They said that the "incorrigible" would be tossed into a lake of fire and be forgotten ashes under the soles of the righteous.
I had a hard time with that as a little girl. I felt like I was living in my own private horror story. I didn't want to walk on the ashes of my "unconverted" school friends, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents! So I prayed all the time that they would all become "converted" like me - or that God would please change His mind about the whole terrible system. I remember asking God to please, please change His mind! I was terrified, mortified, and contemplating all of this at the ripe old age of five.
Often leaders of cults teach hatred and judgement for those who are different from you. I tried my best to be judgmental, but it didn't sink in with me. I do remember trying to warn people to change their "evil ways." When I was about 2 years old, I felt compelled to admonish one of my dad's clients with the proclamation that, "We don't eat cigarettes!" Well, I thought he had to be warned! The church preached against smoking. Oh, not because of health issues, just because God didn't allow it. (Actually, I think they were more worried that money spent on cigarettes would be money not going to the church).
I got more "rebellious" as I got older and I was told that I couldn't date people whose skin tone didn't match mine. What? The church was predominately composed of Caucasian people. Supposedly God didn't approve of "the races mingling." I didn't understand that at all, but I was lectured, punished and kicked out until I complied.
I can't help but think that it would have come in handy, if the power-crazed church leaders in my horror story had LOOKED the part! I could have run and told the proper authorities that I needed rescuing - and they would have believed me! Just one look at them would have told anyone - these are scary-ass Zombies! But instead of Zombies terrorizing me, there were these pleasant looking, friendly people, dressed nicely in suits and ties. Their obedient wives wore prim and proper appropriate dresses. Think "Stepford Wives" only dowdier because they were not allowed to wear makeup. A man's hair mustn't be too long! A lady's hair mustn't be too short! Women were seen as so far beneath men, that some husbands actually made their wives walk behind them. But they all smiled on the outside and were so proud to belong to "the only church that obeyed the true God."
It was a horror story for me. But for some, the horror is not over. The empathy for others, that I felt as a child, has stuck with me. Maybe it's gotten even stronger. I can't completely enjoy my freedom unless I know I am doing something to help others that lived, or are still living what was my hell-on-earth.
If you've come out of this type of abuse, I am relieved and happy for you! At first, depending on how deeply you believed and how thoroughly your brain had been washed, it can be pretty scary on the outside too.
You are not alone. I understand. It gets better. It often takes time, and it's important to be patient with yourself. There can be repercussions from this type of abuse that contribute to depression and feelings of being lost. A cult gives you the feeling of belonging that you may not get anywhere else. I think the price for that is too high, though. I'd rather allow myself to think for myself, rather than to "belong" and pay the outrageous dues of being controlled again.
Some people never do escape - never do trade it in for freedom - because thinking for themselves is even scarier to them than being mentally imprisoned. I don't judge them. I understand that too. Remember the movie "The Shawshank Redemption?" Many of the prisoners felt completely lost after being released. Trying to acclimate back into the outside world was too much for some. This can be just as tough when you are suddenly out of a cult, and thinking on your own. Sometimes it's just too hard to be free. But I promise the rewards are worth it - if you can get through the "detox" stages. Usually, it doesn't happen "all at once." It's an evolutionary process (oh, I'm sorry if that word makes you cringe - I still have flashbacks like that sometimes).
Even though being controlled by a cult is now a part of my past, it is still a way of life for many. I have written my story, not in the usual biographical form, but reinvented as a chilling romantic fantasy. No real names are used. It is based on my childhood experiences in a horrific mind-manipulating church. My intention is to help others who have experienced the same type of abuse.
If you want to tell me your story, I'm listening. I would love for you to be part of my research for future books. More importantly, I would like to be your friend. You can leave a comment here - or send an e-mail to the contact email address located on the website below.
Thank you! Fly, be free! It may be scary at first, but it is well worth it! Your mind is a wonderful thing to use!