For the past year and a half, I’ve written a blog about escaping what my therapist and I have called a cult; the tedious and emotional recovery; and then the admittance of the diagnosis my therapist gave me: depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (all from my cult experience). Yesterday, Robin Morgan wrote a wonderful piece of satire on the Women’s Media Center blog called Exclusive: Faith-healing: A Modest Proposal on Religious Fundamentalism where she proceeded to examine fudmantalists against the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). What’s funny is that this piece of satire struck home with me, a recovering fundamentalist, who has been diagnosed with mental conditions based on my seven year long participation in a fundamentalist cult. Morgan’s joke was more serious to me than I wanted to admit. Upon further studying, though, I began speaking with college professors who were cult experts (some of whom were involved in very prominent cases and in communication with well-known, but now dead, cult leaders over the years) and talking to hundreds of people on the web asking them to share their personal stories. I’ve now started to consider this: perhaps my group and many others are so difficult to categorize (as cult, or new religious group) because they are so similar to the modern fundamentalist church. Maybe the modern-day cult is just your neighborhood fundamentalist church. And maybe that cult, or destructive group, or new religious group (pick a term, whatever term) with abusive teachings, public humilation, and totalitarian hierachical power structures has long been invading our politics, our schools and our doctors offices. Fundamentalist churches, often known as evangelical churches, are very common in America and globally. The only trouble? They look absolutely normal. They’re often not easy to spot from the outside, at least for people looking for an upbeat, contemporary place of worship with solid family values. Fundamentalist churches typically are very vague about their system of beliefs and sometimes they have very little accountability structure. They may be led by a preacher or pastor who has almost no one he has to report in to or be held responsible to for his words, teachings and his finances. Worse yet, sometimes this preacher or pastor has very little academic training and little understanding about historical and cultural norms in Biblical days (thus the homophobic rage that comes from those pulpits). Read more here…
It’s come up dozens of times while I’ve been blogging: Lisa, why didn’t you just tell your pastor that you were hurt?
Well, I did.
Over and over. I called and got no answers. I wrote letters and ensured they got them. I got no responses.
I’ve come across this issue time and time again with so many readers out there who want to do the “Christian thing” or the “right thing” as they see it–if someone has offended them, they feel (and I felt) that it makes sense to go talk to your pastor.
What happens when that pastor does nothing, or just gives you lip service? What happens when that pastor just accuses you of being immature, unforgiving or offended?
Sometimes, we’re perfectly reasonable, mature, and able to forgive when we approach someone we think might be an intermediary between ourselves and another party. I was. Yet, my pain was denied and worse yet, the things that the pastor did to me were denied too.
Yet again, for months, I’ve contacted pastors that are related to matters on this blog. When I let them know that dozens and dozens of people have been hurt by Nathan Davies’ ministry, they simply say, “Give the person my contact info and we’ll talk.”
So, I do.
Later, I usually ask the person how it went and they’re honestly, truly disappointed.
Instead of receiving some advice and an apology for the deeply hurtful events that happened under this pastor’s roof, they’re told they should overlook it, forgive and be more mature.
What’s so important about the hierarchy of pastorship that a senior pastor can’t be open and honest about hiring and keeping on a cult leader (or, call him an abusive pastor)? Why are pastors so seemingly power driven and money hungry that they can’t admit openly that harmful (or even criminal, at times) events are transpiring under their church’s roof? This particular church I’m referencing, Glad Tidings Assembly of God, also known as Church of Glad Tidings, has had youth leaders sexually molest kids and has housed Davies’ cult-like ministry (or House of Pain, can we say?). Yet, no public disclosure has taken place. No letter was sent to the parents of youth group members, saying, “We’ve had leaders convicted of molestation. Please report any misconduct your child reports to the proper authorities.” I’ve recently been informed that the Church of Glad Tidings did, in fact, prepare letters to the parents and a press release following the sexual molestation case. After that, an Advisory Board was set up to oversee Master’s Commission (since the youth leaders were actually Master’s Commission students). The Advisory Board interviewed staff members independent of Nathan; however, after a few years, this Advisory Board eventually disolved into a financial oversight board.
It also must be noted that Master’s Commission students rarely interacted with the pastors and church staff at great lengths of time. I often wonder how much the church staff knew about our situation as students. I have a feeling they probably didn’t know what we were going through as students at the time.
Is it a liability issue? I’ve wondered this for years. Are churches like this afraid of a lawsuit? Losing all their money? Their reputation?
Is it a pride issue? They don’t want to seem weak and vulnerable?
Do they want to protect their ministers reputations, if they’re under fire? Innocent until proven guilty, perhaps, but when hundreds of kids come forth saying they underwent severe mental trauma, I think that’s cause to look into the guilt factor and take it serious.
How can a person with any conscience really excuse, deny and cover up all this abuse? Worse yet, how can one stand before God with a clear conscience knowing they covered up acts to protect someone on their staff, while damage has been done to hundreds of kids?
Shame on any “man of God” or “woman of God” who can not publicly offer an apology and consolation to a hurting young person. You’ve only made the wound worse.
A note here: After receiving new information on Glad Tidings on the sexual abuse cases, I’ve given this a post a lot of thought. I think Glad Tidings handled that situation responsibly and if informed, would have probably taken action to stop Nathan’s abuses. Unfortunately, it seems they were unaware of the abuse until after the Davies’ left. Upon them leaving, students came forth one-by-one over the years. The pastors have chosen to deal with each person directly, instead of issue a mass statement. When I’ve talked to them, they were very helpful, though out of touch with much of what occurred during my time there. I just simply think they didn’t know.
Life is good. I wake up as late as I can, brew some coffee and read the news. The coastal breeze blows through my windows cooling me off. The day is open to any possibilities, and I lavish in the fact that I don’t have to do anything or ask permission to leave my house.
It’s a dirty word that godly leaders hate to use, but they do it anyway, for our own good.
It’s for our benefit that they ask us to submit, to obey, to be subject to what God tells them.
That’s what I was taught for years. And it’s total MANIPULATION, CONTROL, AND ABUSE.
I pulled out my journal from 2002.
It was a notebook I kept in Master’s Commission, during my Second Year. The first year I’d be considered a “leader” and a “real discipler.”
It was also the first year I was put to work in the offices of Master’s Commission and had to stay up at all hours of the night discipling young women. Yet, I paid tuition to do this.
Several thousand dollars.
In this notebook, I kept journal notes ranging on the subject of dating to how tired I was performing Hell’s Alternative (a play our Master’s Commission wrote terrifying “sinners” into accepting Jesus).
On this particular page I’d opened, the infamous phrase nearly highlighted itself: “SUBMISSION BEGINS WHEN AGREEMENT ENDS.”
Nightmares of Nathan haunting me with these words are going to flare up tonight.
I’ll bet you a dollar.
I’ll probably be standing over my own grave, next to Satan, with Nathan cursing me saying, “Submission begins….when agreement ends! Remember Lisa? If we don’t agree, you should SUBMIT! SUBMIT WOMAN!”