I was 4 years old, watching my parents open the mail. There was the familar A4 envelope from the Church, and they eagerly opened it, pulled out the letter on top of the magazine and placed it on the table.“Is that GOD?” I asked excitedly, pointing at the photo in the top right corner. My parents looked at each other awkardly, then Dad said “No, that’s Mr Armstrong.”Confusion filled my little head, and I couldn’t understand this as all the adults totally obeyed everything this man preached, and copied everything he did.
When I was 6 years old, the TV cameras came to our Church. The minister knew they were coming, and told us all that we MUST NOT talk to the TV people. He told the adults to make sure all the kids stayed right away from them too, and use necessary discipline if we failed to comply. Already by then, I found the Church a fearful place, and thought all the rules were not fair, in fact I thought alot of us were struggling because of it. I was bitter and resentful that we weren’t allowed to go near the TV people – I wanted to run up to a reporter and say “Help me!” The show was ’60 Minutes’ and they were investigating claims against us saying we were a cult.
A few months later, ’60 Minutes’ were back again.
By the time I was 8 years old, my mind was full of falsehoods but at the time they were my absolute truths. The Church took it very seriously that they now had a generation and a half of poor souls born into it, never knowing any other way. What an advantage that gave them. I’d had 8 years of hearing teachings about the Man being the head of the household, that only Men could be preachers, and women had to please their husbands and totally obey him at all times. Submit was the word. “Submit yourselves to your husbands”. Women were expected to wait on their men hand and foot, and basically be a 1950′s housewife.
So, little me at 8, held no aspirations for her adult life other than being a good wife and housekeeper. So little me practiced making her bed perfectly.
Part of the great indoctrination was capturing us kids all together and taking us off to camp. The first camp was for 8-13 year olds and I got booted off to it at 8. I was scared and missing my mum. We had to rough it in the bush, doing things we’d never done before. Sleeping on the ground with no pillow. Abseling. Use a compass. Use a leaf or two to wipe after you toilet on the ground. We had basic amenities at camp base, and one night I had to get up and use the toilet. After trudging along in the dark, I get there and open the door with relief, but SHOCK!!!!!!!!!! Before was a naked man, it was Mr WhatsHisName! He was bending over drying his toes and didn’t see me, but I felt instantly unpure and guilty. I remember just relieving myself in the bush instead, still shaking. Terror gripped me, for God would punish me for seeing a naked man.
The second camp was for 13-18 year olds, and by then we had a new General Pastor. He had changed some of the rules, one of them being you could now hug someone for 3 seconds. Any longer, and you would be a sinner as any kind of affection just leads to sex, and only married people are allowed to have sex anyway. This camp went for 3 weeks,a very long time when you have very long days, and lots of Bible Study group sessions.Somehow, we did end up enjoying it, or we thought we did at the time at least. Looking back now, I shudder at the whole experience.
Petticoats. Long skirts and dress. Pantihose. Girls had to start wearing them very young, I can’t even remember not wearing them. Females had no right to relax, be cool and comfortable, or have fun without a care in the world. Prim and proper, rounding your vowels, behaving like a Lady. Fail with any of this and you were not going to find yourself married, and you were thought of as being ‘rough’ and ‘easy’. High necked tops, no cleavage to be even hinted at. No makeup, no hair dye, only prostitutes do that.There was no such thing as rape, and really, in my young mind, as it was always the woman’s responsibility to not tempt the man. It never occurred to me that this really means men are so pathetic and weak they cannot control themselves at all, or that it was just totally ridiculous.
Fast forward to 19, I’m in love with a boy my parents don’t approve of. He’s half Greek, very extoverted, dresses wildly in standout colours and doesn’t really care what anyone thinks of him. All those aspects drew me to him and he wasn’t fanatical about the teachings we grew up with. My mother thought he looked like a gangster and didn’t like his lack of refinement. My parents argued and argued about it with me, and got nowhere. One night they were discussing me while they did the dishes, and I was eavesdropping in the hallway. What I heard was going to change everything. They were going to make me choose either my family or him.
My heart was hammering in my chest and I couldn’t breathe. How betrayed by them I felt. How disposable I felt. Anger rose up within me and I had to make a decision before they had a chance to have that conversation with me!
The next morning after they both had gone to work, I rang my best friend and asked her for help. I was going to run away. She came and helped me pack and waited while I wrote a letter of explanation to my parents.
It wasn’t long before my boyfriend and I shacked up together, and little did I know it, my life was about to change completely. #cultlife #expectations #rules #