Glynn Washington tells us what it’s like to grow up black in a white supremacist Jesus Cult.
We are Silenced, a new community forged by ex-members of various COG groups, most of whom were raised under the oppressive thumb of Armstrongism. Our site silenced.co was forged for the expressed purpose of bringing a social media presence across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites to combat the growing COG presence on these platforms.
Our goal is to cast a layer of transparency upon the remaining splinter cults derived from the Worldwide Church of God, and to tear the curtain of secrets church leaders hide behind while they are fleecing their flocks of their livelihoods, hopes, dreams, and sanity. Silenced is waging an information campaign to alert the public of the dangers these groups pose by outlining its history along with their past and present crimes.
We have great admiration for the existing anti-COG/recovering COG community and we wish to help in whatever way we can. Robert’s blog is a fantastic resource for those with a story to tell, and the handful of other sites out there are fantastic as well. We give our heartfelt thanks to Robert for sharing this little introduction with you.
Silenced does not take a stand on any specific religious or doctrinal beliefs. Rather, we simply recognize the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong are harmful and have ruined countless lives, something that atheists, freethinkers, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Hindus should all be able to agree upon.
We recognize the risks inherent for some to publicly show their support for a site that stands against Armstrongism, especially those who may still have strong connections to these cults, but nevertheless, we have a newly-launched Facebook fan page and a Twitter account where people can keep tabs on our progress and any new content.
Thank you all and best of luck!
I don’t remember a lot about exact dates (I’m 75), but I think I yanked my wife and small children out of the Baptist church and into Radio Church (later WCG) around 1961. She became “the Unconverted Mate.” Just the use of that old epithet gives me the creeps, but I’ve had lots of time to repent of that ugly attitude.
I had dragged her and our small children from Catholicism to Southern Baptist-ism. She was actually the first to respond to Herbert Armstrong. She had heard “The World Tomorrow” on XERF, Del Rio, TX. She sent off for The Plain Truth (then a small black and white folder) and “Does God Exist” and “7 Proofs God Exists” — also black & white — odd shaped and hard to store and keep track of.
We lived in Fayette County, TX, near Schulenburg. Each Sabbath I would pack peanut butter sandwiches and kool aid (we were poor as church mice), load up the children, and drive 167 miles down old Highway 90 (before I-10) to sabbath service in San Antonio, TX. It was an all day event — we left at dawn and got home well after dark. A few times my wife accompanied us, but she refused after I scolded her for putting on lipstick before sabbath service — I said something like…”none of the other women will be wearing it, you’ll look weird”. Later I was “given permission” to attend sabbath church in Houston, only 110 miles but much of it interstate, as I-10 had been completed as far as Columbus, TX by that time.
Frank McCrady, a “local elder” at the time, counseled me that my marriage was “on the rocks”. He tried to convince me I should skip every-other sabbath to stay home with my wife and children; but I was just too hypocritical (read: “dedicated to G-d”) to do that. We had seven children before we were divorced in 1983. Neither she nor I have remarried and she owns the farm.
I was booted (“disfellowshipped”) from WCG in 1974, but I would drive over 100 miles to find a sabbath service in which I felt I would not be recognized. I snuck in as the opening hymn was in process, ducked out before the final “amen”. I had learned by that time how to circumvent the security system in place to keep out the unconverted and unapproved, manned by deacons.
In 1978 I went with Garner Ted and Ron Dart to CGI (Church of God International). I stayed until Ted was sacked for an alleged peccadillo — I think in the late 80’s. I was “booted” from that outfit around 1988 for “living in adultery”, but they were lackadaisical about maintaining security; so a few other adulterers and I sort-of continued in a home fellowship for a year or two.
As an educator I’ve always urged students to avoid blaming others for downturns that will come along with all successful individuals. “If it’s going to be it’s up to me…” Therefore, I look at my history with WCG as a good thing, not a bad thing. It was an episode that helped me become successful in the other things I’ve accomplished in life — a 30-year lesson learning experience (read: how NOT to behave!!). Had I not known Ted or his father I would have missed an important dimension in acquiring skills needed to see through fallacy.
I have not been involved in any religion of any kind since 1990 and consider myself a “sovereign state” (anarchist — but I think it is important to understand what anarchy actually means before making judgements). I do not call myself “atheist” (which itself is more-or-less religion as I see it); but I believe you have an absolute right to believe and proclaim as you see fit, and I will not denigrate any thesis you put forth.
I was born in 1966. I grew up in this church, and I will regret that the rest of my life. We lived in Monroe, Louisiana. I think back on those days and only wish it had never happened. My parents were I guess weak minded, or something, they never questioned anything, just did as they were told. The first blow to my family, and I guess childhood was that my mother had been married before my father. The church did not allow second marriages at the time, so my parents were filing for divorce. I was around 9 years old. This really stressed my parents’ relationship. But, before it was all done, the church changed their view on it so they did not have to divorce. But the damage was already done.
As time went on I don’t think they ever really got over the fact they must still be living in sin. We did all the holy days, none of the holidays, and we were distant from family like Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents etc. My parents said they were not chosen as we were to go to the place of saftey, and they might hurt me or my brother if we got to close, because they would be jealous. We NEVER went to the dentist, or doctor, and all illnesses were treated with home remedies. When I was 13 and got super sick during the Days of Unleavened Bread, with tonsils and severe flu. Still they only got pills, no shots or surgery.
My mother felt like she was such a bad person because of her first marriage. Our pastor would come a couple times a week to see her, and fortify her fear and depression. I never understood why we changed pastors so much, but the last one I saw was Brisco Elliot! I was 16, and he was the new pastor. I am 44 now. He was very hard on my mother: she had gained weight, smoked cigaretts, and remember we still had the issue of the 1st husband. He did not like the smoking. A month before her 47th birthday, Mr. Elloit came to the house to put oils on her and pray. I still to this day only remember a few times in her life when she was happy. Well, because of the weight gain from trying to quit, and still smoking he decided to use some tough love on her: he kicked her out of the church. Being so brainwashed this crushed her: she was so worried about not going with her family to the safe place, and that we would not get to go because of her. She would tell us, the others in the world would kill me and my brother to get her and dad to switch to their religion, and all she wanted was for us to be safe, and because of her past sins we would not be.
So on May 17th, we went off to school. It was her 47th birthday. My brother and I got home as usual at 3:45. Mom took a nap in the afternoons during the soap operas she loved, but, because of the nap never saw me come home! I had asked some of her friends from the church to come over that afternoon, but none would, so I quickly as a teen could made a cake from mix. And she loved stuffed peppers, so I tried to make that too. Well, the cake slid over some, and the peppers did not look like hers, but they were done. I went to her room, and when I opened the door I was met with a sight I will never forget. My mother had shot herself in the head.
I have not been to a church since, and my brother still lives with me after all these years. I have to say the next few years were very tough. The church had nothing to do with us, and as I said we did not even know our family! I have emailed the church and written angry letters from time to time. The last email I got from them said for me to just grow up: things happen and we move on from there.
I am no longer able to keep my mouth shut, I have to do something, this CULT almost destroyed my life, and it DID destroy my family.
I was born into the Worldwide Church of God (Houston East) in 1976. I have mixed feelings about the experience. I was spanked (with a belt, never a paddle) frequently, couldn’t associate with school friends outside of school (although there were a couple of exceptions), had to abide by all of the restrictions on diet and of course, the Sabbath, which prevented me from participating in extracurricular activities and, along with the Holy Days, made me an oddball to my public school mates. Mr. Armstrong died when I was 9. In the first grade I told all of my friends there was no Santa; that their parents were lying to them. It caused quite a ruckus and led to an intervention by the school faculty. I believed the doctrine of the church. There were truths (commonly accepted by many outside of the WCG), such as Christmas having origins that were prior to Christianity, and the Sabbath originating in Genesis that made sense to me, even as a little kid. The Feast (despite the homework that I usually fell behind in rather than avoid activities) was the highlight of the year; I loved it, especially the freedom of the Piney Woods in Big Sandy, and the forested, natural environment that contrasted greatly with the heavy industry of southeast Houston. I had many friends in the church, adults too, who were talented and kind to kids (the skilled pianist and children’s choir director had a gift for humor and was very maternal). My closest friend early on was the red headed daughter of the other regular pianist in our area, also a very warm lady with a pleasant smile.
My mother was strict, but very loving. Each spanking was followed by a hug and an explanation; that the purpose was the development of character, though in the moment I hated it (and maybe her, and I suspect that sometimes the spankings were more the result of frustration and anger than a principled discipline). My father was not in the church, and worked in industry. He did not interfere with my mother’s beliefs, but made sure we were vaccinated (and we were not burdened by the tithing system, though my mother was allowed to save for the Feast and contributed her own income when she had it).
As an early teen the doctrinal changes began and accelerated after a few initial reforms that were welcomed. The well liked children’s choir director stopped attending in 1992 and was ostracized. It was very upsetting. I thought of her like an aunt – no much closer – it’s difficult to describe the kind of solidarity and connection one can have to people growing up in such an insular group. She’d come to believe the church was a off base doctrinally and had embraced mainstream, nondenominational Christianity. Not long afterward, we heard that the other pianist and her family had left the church for Global. This was also upsetting, but was to set up a kind of contrast, and in 1993/1994 I started a dialog with both, through the mail. Each implored me to study the Bible and I found myself agreeing with many things both would write, and hating the disunity that made my core social group (with an intensity of belonging I’ve never experienced anywhere else – work, school, people I enjoy hanging out with at home) unable to be friends any longer. Eventually my mother also went to Global, and later to Philadelphia. In 1995 I went to Big Sandy as a freshman at AU. Having grown up regularly experiencing that campus, I felt an overwhelming nostalgia and a sense of loss. It was apparent things were falling apart rapidly, and it did not have the same atmosphere. Everywhere the zeitgeist was one of apostasy, and people embracing the ideas I grew up thinking were at best erroneous, at worst the work of the Beast (or the Harlot). I went to services with Global, and made friends with people who did not. My RA was in United, but my primary social group all transitioned to the position of Mr. Tkach, very happy at that age for the freedom that brought. For me, having grown up in public schools, it wasn’t a problem, but it was odd to be at Ambassador, among people who had previously believed, but were now more the anti-WCG than the WCG they claimed an allegiance to. I remember roaming the campus and thinking about my past and the fun my family and friends had had there. The services on campus were on Saturday, but they were alien to me. There were Protestant hymns, banners proclaiming “Jesus!” were marched about, the sentimentality was ratcheted up compared to the rather sedate mood of traditional WCG services. I played viola in “God With Us”, an evangelical musical choral/orchestral production, but it was conducted by Ross Jutsum. Then there was the time he got the students to come to a showing of the old Feast videos from the 80s to reminisce… so I’m sitting next to the same people listening to the Young Ambassadors sing that I should “Remember [my] Creator in the days of my youth, before the time of trouble will appear…”
I fell in love with my best friend, a freshman from Colorado, who seemingly loved me back, but even in the bizarre atmosphere of new paradigms and change at the site of and among the people who had once embraced Mr. Armstrong’s thought, we could not broach the subject of homosexuality. He resolved the issue by cutting me off entirely, and I went through my first depression. Over a decade later he contacted me and told me he still loved me. It was difficult to process that someone was rejecting me because they loved me, and he only confirmed what I knew at the time, even if I tormented myself with uncertainty.
Then the college announced it would close, and in frustrated moment, I called my dad and asked to come home before the end of the semester. I didn’t even withdraw. The registrar had to email me and ask where I was.
I became an atheist, no an antitheist. I was very angry and felt duped and betrayed. What was I supposed to do now? I reconnected with a friend from elementary school, who’s parents were intellectuals and very left leaning socialists. They had participated in the anti-war movement in the 1960s and had strong views that in some ways were similar in intensity to what I had grown up around. In a way the similarities were striking. They understood the pagan origins of Christmas, and were opposed to war, and subscribed to a revolutionary worldview that in some ways paralleled the ideas of New Testament Christianity and The World Tomorrow.
It was after being immersed in this milieu for awhile that I began to wonder about what the Worldwide Church of God really was. Something had to cause it (as HWA would have said). Then I noticed the timeline of the church. It began during the Great Depression, it intensified and grew during the tumult of the 60s, and then it dismantled its own beliefs from the top, just as the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were doing right at the same time. I wondered, perhaps, if the WCG wasn’t reflecting a much broader sweep of history.
America spawned many new millennial, apocalyptic religions during the Industrial Revolution, and the origins of the WCG can be traced to William Miller and the Great Disappointment. I began to wonder if doctrine in the WCG, taken figuratively, was perhaps the result of a reaction to these events in history. This feeling was only confirmed when video of old WCG productions from the 80s became available in 2009 on YouTube. If you watch (especially films like the 1985 Behind The Work), you’ll notice the themes are really political, and the religious rhetoric serves mostly as a canvas to make the image real to a religious audience. Also, I noticed that mainstream Christianity often serves the status quo, and supports imperialist maneuvers of the United States. This seems to be what the metaphor of the Harlot riding the Beast is all about.
I find myself wondering if WCG was exploiting events of history to prey on people legitimately concerned about current events in their lives, or if it was well meaning, but steeped in a crude kind of religious consciousness that could not understand events any other way. R.D. Laing writes about the delusions of schizophrenics being allegorical, and the Wikipedia entry on David Icke (a bizarre conspiracy theorist who believes the world is run by lizard aliens) comments on the allegorical possibility of his strange ideas.
Today my mother doesn’t speak to me or my brother (as ordered by Gerald Flurry in 2005). Well, she might not speak to me because I stood up to her in a way that didn’t respect who she was in my life. It happened around the same time so I don’t know why exactly she is not responding to me, but I shouldn’t have asserted my independence with the language that I did. I was never baptized, so she is probably just hurt and hiding behind an order that she’d already submitted to for my older brother.
I read these blogs and I have similar feelings, but I also feel alienated and I notice many of the same problems in modern life that led my mom to the church in the first place.
I wonder, does anyone else ever wonder about the historical context of WCG, from a sociological, rather than a religious perspective?
There was a magazine that ended in 1934 called The World Tomorrow. It seems very similar in perspective, but it was a socialist journal (but religious, not atheistic.)
Is it possible that in a country where socialism finds very little expression, similar sentiments come out in cults like the WCG and the Witnesses?
My mother sent me Steven Flurry’s “Raising the Ruins”. Check out this HWA quote:
“Nimrod, grandson of Ham, son of Noah, was the real founder of the Babylonish system that has gripped the world ever since – the system of organized competition – of man-ruled governments and empires, based upon the competitive and profit-making economic system. Nimrod built the tower of Babel, the original Babylon, ancient Nineveh, and many other cities. He organized this world’s first kingdom.”
HWA was wiped out by the Great Depression. Is it possible that what we have experienced is a religious reaction to having been brutalized by an economic system?
For me, for it to make sense at least, helps a lot with the emotional scars and losses that cannot be fixed.
It’s Christmas morning here in Australia. Anyway I first posted here on Friday, July 24th, 2009 and I just wanted to submit an update. So here follows another moment purging of my pent up angst, in this wonderful sharing environment where I know people will “get” where I’m coming from.
I’m sitting here with the eldest of my three sons – Tom, 12. Tom suggested I write my feelings down again, in this
“safe place” after I had a bit of an emmotional meltdown. I got quite worked up last night (Christmas Eve here in Australia) about my parents and the WCG “no Christmas experience.” My feelings were churned up this Christmas Eve more so than ever, as I was having flashbacks to how I felt at Christmas when I was Tom’s age.
When I was Tom’s age my parents had just left WCG, and consequently my childhood family was celebrating our first Christmas. It’s amazing how when your children are going through the age that something sigificant happened to you… that it brings back the memory that you had of your own experience at that age.
Anyway I was getting more and more stressy last night as my parents were coming over to celebrate Christmas with my children and I — and I really didn’t want them at my place. They are in consistent denial about how the WCG impacted on me and themselves, and I detest “putting on appearances.” I am upset and I couldn’t express it to my parents… the people who I REALLY need to hear my grievances.
But I long ago came to the conclusion that they will not listen, they do not want to know me and they’ll project their own conclusions about my life as they like. Well, I rebel against the misrepresentation of life as they do it. I rebel against the bullshit way they live a lie. I am blatantly honest about everything. My parents were walking through my front door and I had to put on a front to create a pleasant Christmas celebration for my children and husband. All I really wanted to do was bail them up and give them an idea of how much pain they caused me then and now.
My darling husband and Tom came to my aid… and helped me through the night. They hugged me and loved me and let me sook and let me vent, and gave my soul some comfort. ‘Cos thats what hurts… my soul was bruised by my parents’ WCG choices. Anyway I’m honest about the pain and angst it gives me, and that honesty helps me heal. Thirty years after my parents left the WCG I still struggle with the repercussions of my childhood WCG existence.
When I went to visit my perfect grandfather— the most beautiful human that walked the earth on his death bed— I sat next to him and held his hand and we talked. He still had a month or so to live. He started to cry… it was only the second time in my life I heard or saw him cry. He told me he was confused about what was going on in “the church” and I asked him what he meant. He had been back and forth from the nursing home to the hospital for a while. He said, “People keep coming to me telling me different things. Some say we can work on the Sabbath and some say we can’t, and it is scaring and confusing me; I do not know what to think about it.” Here was an 80 year-old man dying of cancer, who would never work again any-damn-way! He was the most perfect human I will ever know, who did not know how to read and write, and had to rely on others any way for what the bible says, and these a-holes from both sides were at his death bed fighting for him as a member of their church. It made my blood boil!!
I hugged him and told him of his life, and pointed out what kind of person he was. There was never a person I met who had a bad word about my grandfather— every one loved him: the most gentle honest beautiful soul in my lifetime. I told him of what a wonderful father, grandfather, great grandfather, husband he was. I told him he WAS the reason I knew there was love in the world. I told him if there is a God in heaven, he would know my grandfather and of his great ways. Don’t worry pop pop, what ever the truth is, you are in it, you are it, you are love. I held him and I told him this and it was the last talk I ever had with him. The next time I saw him was at his funeral, and my dad and my cousin gave a wonderful eulogy, and many many people came to see him off. But one person there, a minister (I don’t remember his name) talked of how no matter what was happening in the church my grandfather stayed true to the church until the end, even though others tried to tempt him. I could have gotten up and beat the crap out of that man for turning my grandfather’s funeral into a recruiting tool!! That was the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t know it then— I have so many more things I could say… later maybe. But when I watched that young lady talk on YouTube about her grandfather’s funeral it brought back all those old feelings.
It’s a good thing to share what we walked through in this life with others. It’s good to know others know what we and out loved ones went through.
Hi Mr. McNally,
Your name seems very familiar to me. I think I might know you and that we went to the same church once or twice. Anyway, I wanted to tell my story. I know that many people have all kinds of stories about growing up in the church. I can relate to almost all of it. Mine is a story of abuse and eventual dis-fellowship by the church. Not only were the hearts and minds of people distorted in a way that harmed them, but some of us were seriously harmed in less subtle ways. The amazing thing to me is that it took me over a decade to realize that I wasn’t the one who was wrong, but what was done to me by the church leadership was wrong. I was so indoctrinated and afraid that I kept thinking that they were right and I was wrong. Obedience and submissiveness was so highly valued by the female members that I struggle with this in my life to this day, even though I “left” in 1992 at the age of 14.
What happened to me was atrocious. During the time that I was in the church, I suffered several years of abuse that was known to several people in the church and was covered up until I pulled the plug by telling a school counselor. The people that covered up my abuse got in trouble with the law, but not the church. One minister can’t live in the state of California because of the incidents that happened so the church just moved him out of state. The church actually sanctioned keeping me in a situation where my abuser still had access to me because the alternative probably would result in me losing contact with the church. I went along with it like a good WCG girl. I was only 12 years old. I trusted those people to take care of me. However, I was further humiliated by having to tell the details of my abuse to another person in the church who was grooming me for further abuse. I didn’t realize this until years later after “detoxing” from church doctrine and learning that this adult male who was developing a relationship with me was also acting inappropriately with friends of mine.
There was more to it. Even through all of that, I still wanted to be in the church. I wanted to be saved. About 2 months after being placed in a children’s shelter as a result of what I told my school counselor, when I needed friends most, I was disfellowshipped from the church. I was told that I was a “bad apple” by an elder because I was hanging out with a boy from my high school outside the church. On top of that, my mom wanted me to have sex education that was not sanctioned the church. In his opinion, I should be ashamed of myself for these things and needed to be punished by the church. He came into my home and made me feel ashamed of what I was doing to my friends by doing these things. I carried the guilt of hurting my friends by what felt like choosing certain behaviors over them for years, even though that wasn’t the case at all. I loved them very much and still do.
It hurt a lot to have them allow the people who abused me to continue to attend church and cover up what they did while I wasn’t allowed to attend services or go to any YOU (youth group) events. For years people thought I made a choice to leave because everyone was told lies about me. They heard that I left because I wanted to date outside of the church. This wasn’t at all the reason I was no longer there.
When I left the church, I had yet to realize all the damage that was done to me. Not until a few years ago did I understand the impact of the spiritual abuse that I underwent. I was abused for years under the guise that this is what God wanted for me and that I was bad & wrong for not immediately forgiving what was done to me. There was a minister who counseled me and kept me in what he knew to be an abusive situation for 2 years. He counseled my abuser too all the while telling me that they were working on making it better. Yet I was still being abused and told that I should pray for my abuser and learn forgiveness because that is what God would want from me. Needless to say, I lost all faith in God back then. Fortunately, I have been able to sort all of it out for myself.
No one has all the answers. We are all on a journey to find answers and I have no right to point fingers at anyone’s journey. I do have the right to point fingers at those that caused me harm to protect and heal myself, not to prove myself right. One thing that the church teaches us is that only perfection will be rewarded. I have learned that people make mistakes. Those people made huge mistakes and harmed me greatly. I have no ill will towards anyone anymore. I guess I learned how to really forgive (not the BS forgiveness that was fed to me by that minister) and that has set me free. Thank you for giving a voice to those who are trying to sort this whole mess out.
A reader from Arkansas writes:
Hello, Mr. McNally. I saw your web site where you listed yourself as a former World Wide Church member. I am a former United Church of God member who is reviewing Karen Armstrong’s book, The history of God. It’s very informative to say the least.
How did you get over your fear not keeping the Sabbath? I’m really wrestling with that commandment. I still feel that eternal damnation is at my heels.
I’d really appreciate your input.
As long as you still think of yourself as a believer, then you’ll be wrestling with various “commandments,” because you’re trying to figure out what God wants you to do, and you ascribe special significance to things like the Ten Commandments. Eventually, I came to the place where I saw the Commandments as I see the rest of the Bible: not divinely inspired, but rather a work of folk literature created by humans. In this light, the Commandments are really just “suggestions” from a time and culture that no longer exists. And while some of them may still carry ethical validity depending on how they are interpreted, that in no way vindicates them all.
If you think you would enjoy reading an irreverent parable that discusses this concept in a humorous way, I recommend Kissing Hank’s Ass.
A young person recently wrote to me with a seemly simple question: “Is the Worldwide Church of God a cult?” I’ve decided to repost my response here.