Sandra’s story

Sandra’s story

The following is an email I received from Sandra, a former member of the International Church of Christ. Sandra has given her permission for her story to be republished here.

 After visiting your web site I felt compelled to write to you about my experience with the ICC. Except for a couple of friends that left the movement right after I did, I have never met anyone else who has gone through the hell of being involved with this devious, mind-controlling group.  Back in 1992 I was living in Connecticut with my now ex-husband. We had been married not quite a year when he was approached on the naval base where he worked by a member of the cult who invited us to a Sunday morning service. After a couple of weeks of debate (and numerous phone calls from this "brother") we decided to go. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the group and their seemingly total acceptance of newcomers. Although I felt a twinge of apprehension, my husband was totally taken in and sold on the ideals and beliefs of the cult. So, trying to be the "good and obedient wife" I went along for the ride.  It was a whirlwind two weeks of bible studies and meetings with church leaders. I was urged to confess all my past sins to these people, some who at the time I had only known for a few hours, and give in totally to the idea that they were the one true church of God and my only hope of salvation. I was asked questions like had I ever cheated on my husband and did I have a history of homosexuality. Though I adamantly denied this, I always felt skeptisism from my study partners. (after all, I was still "in the world" and capable of being deceptive. ;-)  Anyway, after what I consider a very brief 14 days, my husband and I got a phone call around 11:00 one night to let us know that we were to be baptised *that* night. I was really apprehensive, but finally decided to go ahead with it (or risk being hounded to death by my husband, church members, etc.) After the baptism, I was immediately appointed a discipler - a woman whom I had only met once! - and told that I would be meeting with her weekly to discuss the progression of my faith.  On our first meeting, she very nicely laid into me, telling me that I was too independent and needed to change my way of thinking. EEEK! By this time all the bells and whistles were going off in my head, telling me to run fast and never look back. Change my way of thinking? That was way to close to mind-control for me. I was chastised for being 10 pounds overweight (by this woman who was easily 80 pounds overweight) and shown scriptures about gluttony. I was grilled on how much money I made and told that I should be giving much more than I already was to "further God's work". What had I gotten into? But since my husband was so gung-ho about the whole thing, I started to feel like maybe I *did* need to change who I was and fully become part of the group.  Things went okay for the first 3 or 4 months - I denied myself of my "worldly" friendships (big mistake), and immersed myself in building relationships with my new "sisters". Suddenly, I had no time for my family or work because the demands of the church had grown so great. We were expected to drive almost 2 hours one way to attend the mandatory Sunday and Wednesday services, not to mention the Thursday night bible groups and other planned activities. I felt like these people were sucking me dry of all my emotion, energy and finances so I would be fully submissive to them. I guess I began behaving like they wanted me to, because I found myself being privvy to personal information about new recruits and being included in "discipling sessions" with members who they felt were "falling away". What an eye-opener *that* was! I couldn't believe the self-righteous attitude these supposed "Christians" had, especially when it came to "evangelising". I was told by the evangelist's wife that when we went "reaching out" to people to look for those who seemed "sharp" (aka made lots of money and would be financially beneficial to the cult.) When I asked didn't everyone deserve to be saved I was sharply and swiftly reprimanded for raising objections to this"woman of God's" orders.  Now I really began questioning the motives of these people, and myself, too. I desperately wanted to leave, but they had instilled such a fear of going to hell if I did that I stayed. By this time my husband had been completely brain-washed, and everything I told him in confidence he made known to the group. I can't tell you how betrayed I felt - my own husband telling my personal feelings to these strangers all in the name of God! And then when I complained about it, *I* was the one made out to be the bad guy. But this was just the beginning.....  The following year we got some news that I felt was a reprieve from this nightmare - my husband was being transferred to Virginia in October and there wasn't a thing he could do about it. I finally felt like I was getting away from these control freaks and could go on with my life. But, no - there was a church that had just been started a few months before right in the town we were moving to! And my husband felt compelled to call the leader to tell him we were moving down there. Great. Now I felt totally alone - I would be moving to a town where I knew no one and would be expected to build relationships with these people I desperately wanted to be rid of.   One of my first experiences with the Greater Norfolk Church of Christ was a late night trip out to Virginia Beach for a baptism. We rode with the evangelist and his wife, and a young couple whom we had met with only once or twice before. The evangelist asked how we felt we were doing spiritually. I had said that I was working on a couple of issues, to which he snapped "Here we DO NOT work on things, we fix them and get right with God so we can be blameless". Then he asked the couple (who had only been in the church for 2 months) how they thought we were doing. The young wife quickly rattled off that she felt I needed to work on building relationships with my "sisters" and be more outgoing. What a laugh *that* was! I am one of those people who will talk to anyone, stranger or not, and had already had several people over to my house in the first 2 weeks we had been there. I politely disagreed with her, saying I felt I had been making an honest effort. At this point the evangelist pulled the van over to the side of road, climbed into the back, and got in my face yelling at the top of his lungs at me for being disrespectful and disobedient. I was absolutely shocked! And to top it all off, my husband just sat there like a statue, not coming to my aid or sticking up for me. I didn't know whether to cry, yell back, or fling the door open and run for my life. So I just sat there in stunned silence for the rest of the ride. Then when we got to the baptism I was instructed to "get happy" and "come out of myself" for everyone's sake. Truly my descent into a hell of self-doubt and hopelessness had begun...  For the next few months I just went through the motions of going to church meetings and making friends within the group. I became particularly close to one woman, Carol, and from some conversations we had I got the impression she felt the same way I did. When I finally got the courage to tell her that I was seriously considering leaving, she just nodded her head in understanding. Now I began to feel that there might be hope after all. But things at home kept getting worse. Several times I refused to attend Wednesday night services, and my husband would go into tirades, screaming at me that he would not be "yolked with an unbeliever" and that I was going to go to hell if I left. I had become so numb by this time that even if I truly was condemned I didn't care anymore. I just wanted out. And finally, the next summer, I had had enough - I broke away for good.  For the first month I couldn't even answer the phone - cult members would call me at all hours of the night pleading with me not to leave, not to walk away from God. All I could do was pity these poor people - they had been deceived just as I had, but they were too blinded to see it. One morning I was getting ready for work and had to call the police to have my bible talk leader removed from my front porch. She was standing outside banging on the door, yelling and crying. What a mess! Then when they realized that I wasn't coming back, they went to work on my husband. My friend Carol was still in the church at this time, but she would call me and let me know what was going on. My supposed "friends" were telling my husband that the reason I had left the church was because I was having an affair with someone "in the world" - why else would I leave the one true church of God? I couldn't believe it. Thankfully, he didn't either and within the next few months had fully broken away from the cult. But by then it was too late - I felt so betrayed by him and the things he had let these people do to me that I had no respect for him and couldn't stand to be with him anymore. Consequently, our marriage ended after four and a half years.  Two years after leaving, and several counseling sessions later, I'm a happy person again. My life is so full - I moved back to Colorado to be close to my family, I have a boyfriend who truly loves and respects me, a great job that I enjoy immensely, and real friends who accept me as I am. I don't attend any type of church anymore - I've grown very skeptical of organized religion in general from my experience, and don't wish to have anything to do with "Christianity". That may seem a bit extreme, but I'm truly okay with it.  I know this letter is really long, but thanks for taking the time to read it - writing this all down has been very therapeutic for me! Please feel free to e-mail me if you wish.  Sincerely,  Sandra 


Back to other articles about the London/Boston Church of Christ.