Pain From A Cult
By Brian Jones, [email protected]
- First Contact
- Getting Acquainted
- Two “Interventions”
- My Birthday
- An Uncomfortable Conversation
- Tom Returns
- Having Serious Doubts
- An Evangelism Workshop
- Slowly Detaching Myself
- One Last Visit
I want to write about my experiences with the Boston Church of Christ. It is my hope that doing so will help to get rid of some of the pain I went through there.
First I want to give background information on myself. My background is I come from an emotionally devoid family of Jewish descent. Being Jewish ended when I was Bar Mitzvahed at 13. Being part of a family ended when I was conceived. I have spent most of my life alone and lonely. God was mentioned as an afterthought. He was never disrespected, but he was never respected either, so the end result was that I had neither people nor God in my life, except for my grandmother. She hugged me, told me that she loved me and made me feel protected. When she died I was 13 years old. At 13 I was only loved by one person and that person was gone.
For the next 15 years I lived but was very alone. I had nobody to love or hug me. All the things my grandmother did were no longer a part of my life. During the spring of 1997 I would spend my only times of peace at a local park and a neighbors house. At the neighbors house I would lay in their hammock and feel at peace. I would look up in the sky and see peace. The couple in the house had graciously offered me the chance to use their hammock any time I wanted to. The man of the house would come out every once and a while and shoot the breeze. It was nice to have a talk with another man. I never really knew what that felt like. He would call me bud. I felt loved even though it was only for a moment.
There was also a park that I would go to when the weather was nice. It was away from my house and while there I felt that nobody could hurt me. The park is so beautiful and peaceful. I would go there and ask God to take away the pain. Either with humans or in a box. Whatever came first. I was ready for both because I was so lonely. I just wanted the pain to end. I would pray for two basic things: both involved being loved by a man. I had no real father, brothers or close friends. I just wanted to either be loved by a man or die. My number 1 prayer was to be hugged by a man and told that he loved me. My number 2 prayer was to have a guy friend who would call me up and ask me how I am doing. And really care to hear the answer. This was my history before I met a member of the B.C.C.
The wife of the man who invited me to use his hammock whenever I wanted was a member of the Boston Church of Christ. I didn’t knew her very well. I did notice that on Wednesdays after more than 12 hours a shift as a nurse several miles from her home while pregnant she would go to church. I thought that was very strange. After working all morning and afternoon she would drive 15 miles both ways to church. I wasn’t sure if she was committed or crazy. I never went to church, so I figured that it was just something that I didn’t understand. When she decided to move closer to her work, I offered to help in the moving process. That was my first real introduction to the church.
The night before their move three or four of the church women came over with eight or nine bowls of food. I was amazed. They were so thoughtful that it surprised me. They didn’t want their pregnant friend to have to cook the night before her move. They seemed like a real family to me. Each person mattered.
The next morning when I arrived four or five men were already there helping with the move. They were from the church too. They seemed to be a real family. When I was in the truck I started talking with one of the men. He was a preacher in the B.C.C. named Tom. He was nice, kind and friendly. Needless to say that I did not know many men like that. When I heard that he was a part of the church I said that I always wanted to attend a church service. He said that he was preaching tomorrow and would I like to come? I said sure.
The next morning I met Tom at the same house and we drove to the service at a local high school. He complimented me on my clothing. He sounded impressed that I was wearing nice clothes. The way he said it I felt good-looking. I spent most of my life feeling like the ugly-duckling. Nobody ever said that I looked good before. It was a welcome change. When we arrived he introduced me to everyone he knew. I felt like I was an honored guest of the king. Everyone was so kind and nice that I felt like I never wanted to leave. I think he noticed me feeling a little out of place so he gave me a hug. That was probably the first hug that I received from a man in about 10 years. It was nice, real nice. To feel love from a human being felt good.
Looking around during the service I noticed how friendly everyone was to each other. They hugged each other, asked how the other one was doing and said they loved each other. I never heard that before. I felt like I was in a parallel universe. People in my world do not act that way. They act mean, selfish and hurtful. That was my norm. The opposite seemed too good to be true. For the moment though it was nice to see. It kept my heart going. I wasn’t so alone if I could be near these people every week. It was a gift from God.
The church service was upbeat, positive and friendly. Tom had a way of speaking that could make the comatose sit up and take notice. There they also had communion. I never had that before so I did not know what to make of it. Jesus was never a part of my life. When they started talking about what he means to “our” lives I was very self-conscious. I was even more uncomfortable when the plates went around. I felt that I couldn’t avoid taking it without unwanted attention. I also did not want to partake in it as it made me feel weird but I just grinned and bore it.
When the church service was over Tom invited me to go get some pizza with him and his family. There was the two of us, his wife, three sons and a few of their friends. We had pizza, smiles and nice conversation. I was grateful for all of it. When he dropped me off later Tom hugged me. He said that he was glad that God had brought us together. So was I.
In the weeks ahead I got into the habit of going to Tom’s house and riding with him to Church. He usually went early on Sundays to help prepare for the service. One day I asked him about mid-week service. Was it something I could go to? At the time mid-weeks were divided between singles and marrieds. At the moment he was teaching a class for married men during mid-week service. He thought I would benefit from the singles mid-week classes. He also mentioned a singles retreat of the church’s that he was chaperoning. Later he offered me money a member had donated to the church for people who couldn’t afford to go to the retreat. I said that I don’t like to go away with people I just met. I said that I wanted to get to know them first. He seemed fine and respectful of my feelings.
Mid-week services seemed very cool. My first service was in a singles class after they came back from their retreat. They seemed very happy, friendly and excited while talking about the event. They talked about how much they enjoyed it, how much they liked the speakers and how they grew “spiritually” from it. They seemed to have the happiness that I was dying for.
One thing I noticed when I first started but shrugged off was they all seemed to say the same things — buzz words, if you will. I grew “spiritually”. I got closer to my fellow brothers and sisters (in Christ.) My friend came with me and he really enjoyed it. It wasn’t feeling the same things that was suspicious. It was that they all seemed to say the same things, word for word, almost like they were being trained on what to say. I was so enthralled with the appearance of happiness that anything else seemed trivial.
The main mid-week services were fun, bonding and a learning experience about Christianity. Upbeat songs were sung. Love was expressed. Church events were planned. I felt that I may never have to be alone again. I had hope and didn’t want to give that up for any reason.
With that in mind when an usual mid-week was occurring, I didn’t think twice about it. Tom got up and told a story about a man in the church. He was found to have been guilty of sin. A story was told about how this man was an alcoholic. When he was confronted by the elders about his sin he refused to give it up, so he was told that in accordance with Matthew 18 the issue would now be brought before the church. Tom read a letter from the church elders saying the story and asking members to pray for the man’s soul. There was a letter read to the congregation that the man himself had written. In it he admitted his sin, guilt and pridefullness. And announced that he is going to rehab to recover from his addiction. Also he had a wife and children in the church. So members were asked not to repeat the story because kids talk. Since the focus seemed to be on helping the man and his family I didn’t see anything wrong with what was done. The church really seemed to be a place of love. It seemed like a place where I could be loved. I looked forward to the future.
A few weeks later another “intervention” occurred. It involved a woman in the congregation who had committed sexual sin. Tom read a letter from the Boston Church elders condemning the woman in front of her “brothers and sisters” for what she had done. What she had done was meet a man in another part of the church and dated him. They slept together and the elders found out about it. When they were “discovered”, they were chastised. But unfortunately they were prideful and vowed to continue their relationship, so bringing it before there respective congregations was the next step of Matthew 18. The letter from the church elders started with the quote from Matthew 18 about a brother sinning and what to do about it. It went on to discuss her sin and asked the members to pray for her soul.
The next letter read was from the lady. She admitted her pridefullness as well as her sexual sin. She asked for forgiveness and promised to repent. Next came the preacher’s prayer for our “lost” sister. The prayer went on forever. If he didn’t go on for ten minutes it certainly felt like it. He went on endlessly that we should pray for our fallen sister that Christ will lift her up and show her the error of her ways. The prayer must have had the word sexual sin in every other word. He didn’t just make his point. He kept making it and making it, forever! Nobody in the audience said anything. They just listened to the preacher go on and on. I felt liked I was witnessing a public rape. It was torture for me, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for the lady. I mean she had her sexual life paraded before her entire group of friends.
Later I found out the guy involved had the same thing happen in front of his branch of the church. I talked to one of my church friends about it. He said that he knew the woman and it made him feel squeamish too. But he said that the only way to deal with a problem is to get it out of the darkness and into the light. That is what Matthew 18 is all about, he said. He also talked about how Satan is always trying to get us. And how we always have to be on guard. He implied that doing this was a good thing and that it was in her best interest.
A few weeks later it was my birthday. Birthdays for me are usually painful because I never felt like my birthday meant anything — it was always a source of pain, a reminder of not having a family and feeling alone.
When it came up in discussion with Tom, he invited me over to celebrate my birthday with him and his wife. I felt for once that I was not alone. I couldn’t believe that a guy who just met me cared enough to want to celebrate my birthday. I went to his house and had a nice dinner and conversation. After the dinner I went up to the mid-week service with Tom and his wife. The service was nice as usual. When we broke up into smaller groups after it was over I saw a woman come over to me and start singing happy birthday. Tom had bought me a cake, some shaving cream, razors and a few other presents. I felt like the most loved person in the world. I never thought that I would ever feel that way. It was nice to have the love of a man. It was like having a father. I didn’t feel so alone anymore.
It was around the time of my birthday that Tom and I were talking outside of his home. We were just shooting the breeze and I said how much I appreciated him in my life. At that point he gave me a hug and told me he loved me. I responded that I love him too. I felt like I was his honorary son. I was loved and hugged by a man whom I respected. I had found a little piece of happiness through love. It felt good.
Later Tom had a doctor’s appointment. I went with him for moral support. It was after that meeting that things changed. I waited for him in the waiting room — his appointment was very quick. On the way back to dropping me off we talked in the car. I think we talked about religious issues. I asked him how specifically the Bible has changed his life — what about it made him do things differently than before he started studying the Bible. He started to tell me how much he slept around and a few other specifics that I didn’t care to hear about.
When I changed that subject, he honed right in on it, and he went for the jugular. He started talking about how I didn’t get it — he said that I was in denial, and had the attitude that I was wrong for not agreeing with him. He was pretty intense. I thought we were debating an issue. I was wrong. He started to become very agitated and aggravated over the discussion. I got the impression that the more I didn’t agree with him, the more upset he got. He was having a nutty. Boy could he do that well. (I forget his exact words, but it was the attitude that I just didn’t get it. I had to learn, etc.)
Since I am a glutton for punishment I kept “ya butting”, I guess I wanted his approval so much that I didn’t want him to be mad at me. The more I didn’t agree the madder he became.
After that came to a head, I asked him if we could hang out in a park near my house and read the Bible. He said yes and proceeded to steer the conversation back to the subject of sexual sin, a subject he discussed many times in all his Sunday sermons from that point on. He said that all men committ sexual sin daily. He went on to give very graphic examples. He opened the Bible and showed me passages chastising the sexual sin of men. Much of which seemed to be his “interpretation.” He, of course, expected me to automatically agree. He got me so unglued and agitated I didn’t know what to do.
Then after he upset me greatly, he said that he had to go. I was so unnerved that I didn’t want to get in the car with him, so I told him that I would walk. He hugged me and then went home. My mind was in shambles. The first man I ever really loved turned on me without warning. I didn’t know how to respond. I went back to the abyss. The Bible would call that being in the darkness. That is certainly how I felt.
I talked to a guy I had met in the church who was in the campus ministry. That was a big mistake. I told him minus the name about a guy who had upset me in the church, why he upset me and how he upset me. I figured that I would get sympathy and understanding from him. I was wrong. He told me very nicely that I was told Bible-appropriate advice. When I said how hateful he was, his response was that good spiritual advice can seem hateful. The basic message was that as long as it had its roots in the Bible, a person can do or say anything he wanted to. I saw more evidence of that later.
He was basically saying that it was all my fault because the Bible can not be wrong. This man’s lack of understanding sent me deeper into a depression.
I next talked to a friend outside the church, a friend who was raised as a Christian and had gone to church. She helped a lot. She made me feel like I was wronged and not the one being wronged. I was starting to get out of the abyss — she was the voice of normalcy in a world that didn’t have any. She said Christianity is suppose to be a positive, self-improving experience. It is not suppose to make you feel worse. She encouraged me not to let that one man stop me from learning about Christianity or the Church. At the time I doubted what she said because he was the church — if he said anything, it was treated as Gospel, as though God was speaking. He had a very strong personality. Everyone knew that to cross him was to be “punished”, verbally speaking — everyone but me, it seemed.
Tom was a very unusual person. When he felt good physically, he thought nothing of telling people what to do. That seemed to be his job in the church: to tell other men what they should be doing. But he got sick very often — sinus problems, mostly, that made it very hard for him to breathe. My heart went out to him when he was ill. Even though he caused me a lot of pain, I still loved him and wanted him to be happy. At the time I didn’t forgive his cruelty, but amazingly I was able to put the pain he caused me aside. I could never forget the only man I felt ever loved me — he hugged me and made me feel loved. Nothing else seemed that important.
Right before Christmas he was due to go to Florida to visit relatives. I guess I was inspired by Jesus’ ability to forgive, so during the last midweek before he left I walked up to him and said “Regardless of anything I still love you.” I hugged him. It felt so nice to feel loved again. He said he loved me and that when he got back we would talk. The way he said that sounded very ominous.
Lucky for me, and I guess unlucky for him, when he was in Florida he became ill again. He returned to Boston the same way. Whatever talk we were going to have never materialized. He was so sick that he couldn’t make the Christmas Party.
I had a ball at the party. It is what I saw there that made me “forget” the pain Tom caused me. The men and women there were so loving to their children that it made me want to cry. I never saw that much love before. One man there named John had three sons. During the night they all came up to him and he hugged them. It was almost like they were taking turns. He was so loving to them that it really made me want to cry. I wanted what they had — love. My heart ached to be touched, loved and told that I am loved. The way people there acted seemed to be a real tribute to Jesus.
The church was constantly saying “What would Jesus do in that situation? That is what you should do.” During the party people acted that way. I desperately wanted to be a part of that. Nothing else mattered.
After Tom came back from Florida and felt better his sermons returned in full force — as shocking and inappropriate as ever. He preached worthy of a Southern Baptist — “amen”ing all over the place. He discussed the sins of materialism, status and sex, being graphically specific on all these things as he was prone to do. During one sermon he talked about commercials where the women actors turned him on. I think he was trying to show that even he was susceptible to sins of the flesh. I was so amazed that he had no problem discussing being turned on by another woman in an audience with his wife, her friends and their sons.
His sermons from that point on had one common theme: sexual sin. I suppose I should have realized that, if he didn’t even think of his own family’s feelings, why would he care about mine?
The last mid-week I went to made me realize that I shouldn’t go back to midweeks and maybe the church overall. We were all in a High School Auditorium in the beginning, then we broke into groups of men and women. The men were “lead” by Tom. There was also a man there named Mike acting as what I call co-preacher. (When I say co-preacher I mean it was his job, it seemed, to amen everything Tom said. One part coach, one part fellow mind controller.) It is very hard to dismiss what’s being spoken when everybody you care about is agreeing to it. That is how they get you. They get you to care and then make you feel worthless if you don’t agree with everything they say. And I mean everything.
The whole meeting was about how men are always committing sexual sin. Basically, to have a groin was to be committing sexual sin. He asked the guys what sexual sin was. They told him exactly what he wanted to hear in graphic detail. That made me realize that this is not the first time he came up with this subject. He told about how when he was a boy he constantly committed sexual sin by sleeping around. Mike who was amening the whole time looked at the floor the whole time sexual sin was being discussed.
What was particularly disturbing was he was talking about this with an 11 year old boy in the room — one of the men brought his son there. He sat at the other end of the room, but in hearing distance nonetheless. He basically heard that it was sinful to be male. I also thought again that the men in there were zombie robots. They said what was expected of them and nothing more. I knew I didn’t want to be anything like them, but I didn’t want to give up the only love I received in my life from men. I felt that if I left, it was a one way ticket back to loneliness and the abyss.
New Years Eve 1997/98 came around. That time of year depresses me because I usually spend it alone. The “House” Church had a party that went to about 7 P.M. that night, after which I went back with my friend, John, and his three sons from the party to their house. We hung out, read the Bible and talked about life. He was very understanding and loving — what I always wanted I had that night. He was so encouraging that I never wanted to leave. I knew that, once I left, I would probably never get that love again. He told me that all the things that he would fear in his life to happen had happened and he lived through them. He talked about everything in his life and how he was grateful to God for giving it to him. He said that whatever was going on in my life God was the ultimate, and that my parents were inferior to him. The way he said it I believed it. Whenever I feel lonely and scared I remember that time and what he said.
The rest of the night was a lot of fun. We talked and joked. It was nice. I left shortly before midnight after giving him a big hug. The first time I felt at peace and happy at the beginning of a new year. It was nice to feel that way.
The next few months were pretty painful. I tried studying with other people. I thought that would be a good way to learn more about the Bible and get to know people. The messages I was getting was — stick to a few set people and stop moving around. I was giving the guilts by Tom and others about how I was not “serious” about studying the Bible. I was only using it to make friends, Tom used to imply. I started realizing this church wasn’t normal. I couldn’t understand why studying the Bible and making friends was a bad thing.
Later I realized the problem was they figured out I had no intention of getting baptized. The resulting attitude from them was I was not “serious” enough about studying the Bible. The message was that if I couldn’t play by their rules, I didn’t belong there.
When I studied the Bible with another of my friends, one of the only non-judgmental friends I made in the church, the subject of women’s roles in life came up. There was a passage about women being submissive. I thought that was strange. He clarified the passage by saying that it was only meant to apply to Bible teaching — that women were only meant to teach other women, and they were meant to be taught by men. I questioned it, saying what’s wrong with learning from women. He said that he would not want to be taught spiritual lessons from a woman.
I thought at that moment that he was very sexist. I realized that this lesson was not something that I could live with. Some of the most important lessons in my life were taught by women. I enjoy learning from them.
I also know enough of life to know certain things. If an organization can keep one group of people down, how long before I get treated the same way. Another time I asked a woman in the church about women’s roles in the Bible. She whipped a Bible out and started quoting passages, showing and teaching me the whole time. It was cool. She is a very smart lady.
Her most interesting comment came after I made one to her. I said that “I enjoy hearing womens opinions.” Her response was that “That’s good. We do have opinions.” That comment said to me my opinion of the Church’s sexism was not that far off the mark. The way she was so ready to say what was on her mind, it was as though no one ever asked her opinion.
Another time I went over the “family church” leader’s house to ask him a biblical question. At that time, Tom was over his house and we talked. When I talked with the leader, Tom came with us. That was not my idea. I thought, “oh God I am in for it now.” I was half right. I was in for it, but from the family church leader.
The family church leader started to answer my question. When he asked me how often I had been reading the Bible, the conversation turned ugly. When the leader heard that I wasn’t reading enough to his satisfaction, he lit into me something fierce. When I read the Bible enough, then I will have my questions answered, he said angrily. You would have thought I’d murdered a baby.
The leader monopolized the whole conversation while Tom was pretty much silent. From the look on Tom’s face, he didn’t care for that role. The leader mentioned that he only said these things because he cared about me. I wished that he didn’t care. On the way home I thought, how dare he tell me how often I should read the Bible. I hate it when anybody assumes anything about me. I thought he was a pompous jerk.
Not long after I was encouraged to go to a workshop about re-learning evangelizing. They had Bible-regurgitating tests and pressured people to bring friends to Church the next Sunday. If a group count didn’t match the amount of people already estimated, verbal scoldings were divvied out.
One preacher said we (the leaders) aren’t telling you how many people to bring. You come up with the numbers (as a group). He was particularly obnoxious. His sermons during the time were lessons in mind control. He talked about his daughter complaining that she wanted to spend more time with him. He said he would, but she has to learn that the “Kingdom” comes first. He was basically saying — never mind your family; we come first.
He also discussed the Boston Church of Christ being called a cult. “They don’t know what they are talking about. We are committed to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The devil is out to stop us every chance he gets.” He was a very good mind controller.
For all the Church’s talk about the lost, my opinion is the real lost are the men and women in the church. I met men who had the worse family lives you can imagine. One man was left in the middle of nowhere at 8 years old by his alcoholic mother and had to find his own way home. Another man had a grown son that threatened to kill him. Another man had spent years as a drug dealer. These were people who had serious problems. As I know from personal experience, a connection to any loving group can seem better than being alone. The Boston Church of Christ takes advantage of people’s vulnerabilities. They get you to care about them. Then they use your desire to be loved to control you. And, if you show any sign of an independent mind, they try to squash it. They say you are not “humble” enough.
Weeks went by and I felt more and more like I didn’t belong. The more they talked about baptizing me, the more I wanted to run in the other direction. Around that time I went out to dinner with a number of the “brothers and sisters”. It was okay enough. The part I remember was how much they used the buzz words of the church. It was almost like an unspoken connection — I am one of you. One man and one woman talked to each other about their latest sins, as though that were normal conversation.
Shortly before I decided to leave the church I asked Tom if I could ride with him to Church. During the ride he started talking about sexual sin. The conversation wasn’t even going in that direction. Out of nowhere he started to discuss sexual sin’s relationship with mental illness. He was the one with mental illness, I thought. I realized he was crazy and that I shouldn’t be near him again. But he was the Church. What he did the Church did or excused. I realized I didn’t fit in, but I didn’t want to give up the love either.
Another event occurred around this time that made me realize it was time to stop going to the church. During a Bible-talk one of the “brothers” told me about the Church’s web site. When I went to the internet, I searched for the site. What I found was something different. I found a website that described the church as a cult. It had articles like “Has mind-control come to Beantown?” I knew after reading that article that it had. I actually already knew from my own experience. These article confirmed my thoughts of the church. I realized I wasn’t crazy. What I thought was wrong with the church WAS wrong with the church — the mind control, obsession with baptizing and absolute authority from men like Tom. If the church was so honorable and good, why was it getting kicked off colleges nationwide?
I also realized that all the problems I had with the church that also were being written about by other people — they were not a coincidence. It was a psychological relief for me to believe that I was not crazy. The church’s bad behavior was not my fault. It was theirs.
For curiosity I asked people in the Church about it. One never heard about it. Another man did. He mentioned that he and his discipler downloaded those articles and looked at them themselves. His response was not surprising. He said “That Satan is everywhere, trying to keep people from doing good.” As much as I still loved this man I knew at that moment he was one of them.
Another Bible study I went to included me, Tom and two other man. General Bible issues were discussed. One in particular was about sin. Tom said that sin was like cancer that just eats away at you — until you change the sin it will keep eating away at you. He asked me if I had ‘cancer’ in my life. He asked me how long was I going to go on with it in my life, and did I want to get rid of it? I said yes. He told me that he loved me. I said that I love him too. We finished the talk and the prayers, after which we hugged. Up to that moment I made a point of not seeing Tom. I felt uncomfortable around him. With the hug I felt as good and loved as when I first met him. When I hugged him I never wanted to let him go. It felt good being loved. I missed it.
I decided to go to one more singles event before leaving the Church permanently. One weekend the married members went to Rhode Island. That Sunday night one of them returned to preach to all the single members. He spoke to an audience of a couple of hundred people.
He started out by saying thanks to all the people who had watched the married members kids. He said that at the retreat they prayed that more single members would join them next year as married people themselves. He then talked about the retreat — how everyone had a great time. He mentioned discussing things that improve a marriage. One topic was sex. The man’s father and mother-in-law were the guest speakers: Al and Gloria Baird. He said, “Only in the ‘kingdom’ would you talk about sex with your father-in-law.”
All I could think of was, “Yuck! that is disgusting!” Everyone in the audience said amen.
Later, he talked about the bad things involved in being single, particularly the risk of sin and especially (you guessed it) sexual sin. He went on to describe sexual sin in a way that would have made Tom proud. I thought it was particularly distasteful with young kids in the audience, but no parent walked out. They allowed him to talk about sex with kids under 9 years old listening.
One positive thing from that night was seeing a guy who I had known only as an acquaintance. He came up to me and said hi. He gave me the warmest, most loving hug I ever had. When I was in his arms I felt so safe. The world could have ended and I wouldn’t have cared. I never felt that way in my life. It felt like hugging God. It gave me such peace that I went for another hug at the end of our talk. That hug made me feel equally safe. I knew when I left that the hugs would be the most painful thing to leave behind. The hugs from that man in particular. When I get lonely today I remember those hugs.
When I finally did decide to leave, the one I spoke to about it was my main discipler. He was very understanding. He said to do what made me feel comfortable. He was not like the other men — he said that, if this church is not for me, I should try another church. He was basically saying, don’t give up on God. That is how I knew he was different. Even with specific issues he would say logically that the church believes in living by the Bible. He would not say “If you leave then you are going straight to Hell.” He acknowledged that others in the church would not have liked him saying that I should attend another church. I got the impression that he agreed with my church assessments, but did not want to say so. He struck me as being as lonely as I am. He said that he was willing to keep in touch. We did talk for a while by phone.
A month or two went by after I stopped attending church. The loneliness that I knew would resurface did. It was excruciating and very painful. I was going through hug withdrawls. I had no one else to hug and that made me very lonely. It got so bad that I called up my former discipler and asked to go with him to Church the next Sunday. I figured that if I went one more time then the loneliness might not be as bad. If I could just be around them once more and be hugged.
That Sunday I went to Church. The subject of the sermon ironically enough was people who have fallen away. The preacher speaking said it was always good to actively seek out new people for the “kingdom.” But to realize that not everyone will come aboard. Don’t fixate on people who have fallen away. Realize that it happens and go after people who want to be saved.
After the sermon I saw two of the men I had studied with. They were very friendly. One of the men said (without knowing that I was there) that during the sermon he thought of me. He asked me if I liked the sermon. I said kind of. He joked “You can’t just say yes.”
During the service four teenagers got baptized. This man’s son and his son’s friend were two of them. Before they were baptized, the head of the teen ministry came on stage to talk positively about the new converts. The first thing he said while referring to the teens was ‘job security.’ The whole audience roared with laughter — one of the few pangs of truth that was spoken at the church. My friend invited me over to his house for the baptism party. Since I knew that this was going to be the last time I would probably ever see these people, I went to the party.
It was very nice. There was pizza, soda and cake. Wall-to-wall people paraded around the house. At one point they all gathered together and talked about the new disciples — how they had grown and matured spiritually. It was innocent enough in the beginning. Then one of the men started talking about how humble the boys have become. It puked me out. To me, they were saying how good it was that they are following our mind control. They squelched individuality and originality in people of all ages.
When I left I looked at the house one last time. I took in everything I could, knowing I would never have those hugs and love again. I am not sorry I left. But I never had hugs like that before. I never had men who hugged me and told me that they love me. People in my life are cold and unfeeling — unless they can get something out of me, they don’t usually bother. Tom called me a few times trying to connect, but kept getting my answering machine. I called him and left messages saying that I love him, will miss him and forgive him. I haven’t spoken to him since.
The Boston Church of Christ brought me a lot of love in six months — more than I had in my entire life. Unfortunately they brought me a lot of pain too. Most of my life has been a series of Jeckyll and Hyde people encounters. I looked at the church as an escape, the one place that I could be loved. For a while they gave it to me. But they wanted too much back from me — they wanted me to believe in Jesus exactly the way they did. The same went for reading the Bible — it was either their way or the wrong way. Ironically they were the ones who taught me about Christ and to believe in him and his ways. But that wasn’t good enough for them.
My analogy is that the experience was similar to a relationship with an insecure woman. Just being with her isn’t enough. After three dates you have to marry her and spend all of your time with her. The B.C.C. was a spiritual equivalent of that. Ironically if they had just left me alone and stopped pressuring me to conform to their ways, I might still be attending their services. I might even have been baptized by now.
I advise anyone reading this article not to join the B.C.C. The B.C.C. is an emotional cult. The more time you spend with them the more emotional pain you face. The cult didn’t cause the pain that I am dealing with in my life, but they did make a bad situation worse. They tried to use me to fullfill their seating quota, and they caused me a lot of pain as a result.
If you are in the church right now I recommend getting out. Save yourself as soon as possible. They are not worth the pain they cause.
If anyone wants to discuss my experiences with the B.C.C., or their own, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].
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