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Cult like Charismatic beginnings...now what?

On: Wednesday, December 14, 2011

  I grew up in the 70's Charismatic movement in Northern Illinois. I was 13 at the time. We did not go to "church". Instead we had "prayer meetings" every Friday nite at someones house or in the basement of a large Catholic church. The leadership consisted of 12 group leaders who would sit in front and face everyone. We would sing all the cool church songs from the 70's & read the bible. The service would always lead to everything from speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, personal prophesies, visions, people being "slain in the spirit", etc. Pretty weird stuff for a teenager to experience.

  As the years progressed, the "group" leaders decided that we must all live closer to each other. My parents moved down the street from the main "leaders". The "leaders" started to get more controlling. We had to pray each day and ask the Lord what we should to that day, make out a "schedule" & back everything up with scripture. Before we could do this schedule, we had to be "clean". That meant that we had to remove the "demons" that controlled us. This was done by rebuking them & the blowing them out of our bodies. Yes I know that was freaky but it's the truth. Once the demons were "confirmed" loosed from our bodies, I could then submit my schedule to my parents & the leaders. This was an everyday thing. They in turn would pray about it & ask God if this was from Him. This was called "confirming". If the leadership had a personal prophesy for you, they would require you to pray about it even before you read it or heard it from them. It would be used to expose your weaknesses or to point out your"problems".

  By this time I was a senior in High school. This process got worse. It was to the point that I had to pray about everything, from going to a movie to playing outside. If my parents or the leadership prayed and got a "different" answer from God then I was not allowed to do it. Needless to say, I faked most of it and the leadership never knew. I know this sounds so much like a cult and to today's standard, it probably was. At that time it was all we knew.

  Fast forward to today. I still belong to a semi-Charismatic church. The control is not the same. The "gifts" are still present but not as overwhelming. The songs are different. I would say that the manipulation is more subtle. Most of that is done thru the music.


UPDATE:
 I have recently decided to stop attending church. This decision was the best decision I have ever made. My advice to anyone who reads this is do NOT be blinded by your church or pastor. Seek the truth, read your bible, be skeptical & question everything. After all, it is your life.

21 comments on "Cult like Charismatic beginnings...now what?"

brian said...

Mark, my background is Penetocostal, too. My grandfather was preacher but I was not indoctrinated to this extreme, which in my opinion is harmful. I grew up around people who claimed to hear from God and thought I was left out. It wasn't until I was an adult I figured out these people weren't hearing from God any more than I was. Once I put aside the notion of hearing God speak to me audibly and began to seek that "still small voice" (ironically through meditation) that I truly felt I was hearing from God-from inside of me.

I

Mark Bishop said...

Brian, I know this was extreme. That is why I struggle with "religion" today. It's like I could never quite measure up. So I guess my journey begins too.

Thanks Brian

Crocoduck said...

Wow, I loved the part about Blowing out the demons. I'm glad you found reason and didn't have to spend the rest of your life enslaved to such crazy false beliefs. Take care my friend.

mark bishop said...

Thanks Crocoduck, life just gets better without the needed freakishness that this brought.

Tim Garcia said...

I have a Pentecostal background, too, (the UPCI, of which @davidkbernard is now the general superintendent, and how you and I first "met" just recently on Twitter -- I'm @trellus, btw) ... included in my church: speaking and tongues and laying on of hands, people shouting and dancing and running to and fro, literally, in the church -- a very spirited bunch. Our church did not have those dramatic control measures that you seemed unfortunate to have experienced, but I did experience my own breaking away as I began to read more, especially in high school, and began to question the authority of their interpretation of the Bible and their general worldview.

mark bishop said...

Thanks Tim for sharing your thoughts. Why are you still with the UPCI?

JeffLiss said...

These Charismatic movements...so much emotionalism. All they're doing is indulging their "feelings" about God. Ever notice how many people claim to be able to speak in tongues -- but have few have the spiritual gift of *translating* what's being said? Turns the biblical ratio of speakers-to-translators (Acts 2:7-8) on its head.

Why not try a faith that affirms that faith and reason are *both* necessary in equal measure:

"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2)."

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

Mark Alien said...

To their defense, most will say that "speaking in tongues" is also a way the HS speaks through you when you have no words to pray. Do I believe that, not for one minute. Why do you think Catholicism affirms reason?

Jeffrey Liss said...

Off the cuff, I guess I would say that faith is the source of our desire to know God; reason is the faculty by which we choose God.

The Church affirms that both faith and reason are required for the contemplation of truth, because it must, at all times, testify to the truth of the Gospel. We can only testify to what we know to be true, otherwise we testify falsely. Therefore, we must possess the ability to know what is true. Whatever the desires of our hearts, our minds must be capable of informed judgement. In the case of charismatic movements, the emphasis is on the former rather than the latter.

Beyond that, I defer to Fides et Ratio and the Catechism, in which the Church explicitly affirms reason, the ability to know God by the light of human reason, and the importance of science and methodical inquiry in all branches of knowledge.

As for speaking in tongues, while I place no limits on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I think there are far more people who wish they had that particular gift than there are who actually have it.

@Biblesage said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences of the Church. To too many people church had become a way of expressing their own desires (like manipulating others) or satisfying their own needs for spiritual experience, therefore even going as far as faking (like speaking in tongues). In all these things the REAL reason for the establishment of the Church has been "left behind" while the teachers and THEIR followers are in one way or the other "raptured" to their own ecstasies.

I grew up in a very calm and collected church where none of the things you described happened. Yet the basic requirement of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been sadly neglected, even ignored and the status quo had become, like in ALL branches of Christianity, the preaching of Christianity!

I left the church seven years ago and, like you, consider that the best decision I could ever make regarding my own spirituality. (I must say I miss the organ and the great Hymns that are around with the church for centuries) I indulge myself completely in the Bible and quietened the voice of radio and TV around me to finetune myself to the whisper of God's word.

I not only left the church, but God also drew me out of Christianity altogether, after convincing me that He's not only the God of Christianity, but indeed of ALL religions, and that Jesus not only Atoned for Christians, but indeed ALL of humanity, no matter to what religion they belong (1 John 2:2). For this reason I started the website http://biblesage.com and try to post a meditation there everyday.

Many people think I am mad or whatever because of my posts on the website, but after being schooled for the past 28years by the Lord, I exactly know who I am and where I am heading to. My God bless you in your endeavors.

Ben Williams

John Smith said...

Mark... first of all, thank you for this reasoned and heart felt post. I am surprised how much you and I have had similar experiences, and some similar reactions. I too came out of the charismatic renewal of the 60's, and as a young teenager experienced the control and conformity pressures that were part of that movement. I think the people, at least in my own local church, who promoted it were good intentioned, but misguided.
I also had some experience with a group of charismatic American Baptist in Southern California (where else!) who moved together into house communities. While they provided some real "shelters" for abused and hurting people in these places, again there was subtle (and not so subtle) manipulation. In the end, the thing imploded and many folks were hurt and alienated, emotionally and spiritually.
BTW, my experience with those who have walked away from the church, if not the basic aspects of the faith, is that most did so not because of intellectual issues, but wounding. This was certainly my struggle.
I think the thing that allowed me to keep my faith in Christ through all this was to remind myself that I had chosen to follow the ways of Jesus... love, forgiveness, hope, self-giving. (Those ways seemed so different from what I had experienced.) While I have done those Jesus-things (very) imperfectly, I continue to be "looking unto Jesus" rather than those (myself included, I am afraid) who so poorly reflect His love and caring.
In spite of it all, I ended up in church leadership. I was a pastor for 45 years. The good thing out of my experiences was that I tried to lead a church that focused on love, laughter, acceptance, and service.
And now, retired, I am focused on living out the Christ-life as best I can... working with immigrant workers in our community and volunteering overseas working with street kids and older orphans. And still hoping for the Church to come to Christ!
My view of the church: its like Noah in the ark. If it wasn't for the storm on the outside, I couldn't put up with the stink on the inside. ��
So... again I thank you for your story. I understand somewhat how and why you got to your present place... realizing that none of us really can comprehend the experiences or thoughts of another.
But I'm thankful for what you have written, and hope for you the best.

~John Smith (yes, that really is my name).

pat said...

Mark, I was so disturbed to think of how your childhood was the cause of you leaving the church. In fact, it seemed as though it drove you away from a loving fellowship that could add to your faith and support you through hard times. I am not saying that you are not a Christian anymore. But one of the sweetest things about being part of the body of Christ is that you GET to be a part of a small group of believers. My church is so far from perfect. What I like about our church(it is a large church) is that I can email my pastor and in a nice way tell him hat I disagree with something he said this morning. My group of friends really annoy me sometimes. I'm sure I annoy them more:). But I think that we are all a bunch of wretched sinners who desperately need a savior to allow us to be in a right relationship with our heavenly father. None of us expect each other to be perfect so we have grace and mercy for each other. My husband and I teach a young marrieds class at our church. I think they need us to speak into their lives. So when they miss, I am thinking, "Hmmn, you are missing a time of connecting with other people just like you who are searching just like you."
If you live close to us, we would invite you over for dinner and talk about life issues. That's just how we live. Not perfect, but running after God and abiding in Christ to make sense of this life we have been given. And I just don't think we could do this alone without other believers. Maybe find another church. I don't think they are all trying to manipulate you. They just want to love on you, maybe.
By the way, Twitter is obviously over my head. I did not think about how dumb it was to hashtag "atheist." Won'tdo that again, but again, maybe it was a good thing. Maybe God wanted to use me to give you a gentler perspective. Sorry about your childhood. Didn't sound too nurturing. But I bet they were trying to do their best.
With love,
Pat Cooper

Mark Alien said...

John,
Thank you for your comment. I do agree that the reason most people leave is intellectual not wounding. I spent many years struggling with what was said & the evidence that backed it up. The just didn't jive.
I think a lot of Christians would be very intimidated by going through the processes that I did. They want God or Jesus to control their lives but are not willing to go to the extreme of actually doing it. It may seem a little of kilter but is it really? How far will one go to allow the very God they believe in to control every aspect of their lives? Most will choose whatever is most comfortable to them. They choose their "type" of god.
So in the end, who is the one who is doing it wrong? Who is to say one way is better than the other? I chose to leave the church not that I was angry or was hurt. I left because of the many questions I had that could not be answered with out "God said so" or "just have faith" or "only God knows the answer". Those were never a good enough for me.
My conclusion was that man made God in his image to feel that there was something guiding their lives. Some kind of purpose or hope to help them cope with their semi-complicated lives. The search for God will go on for centuries to come but for me, I have no need to, I have all the evidence I will ever need.

Mark Alien said...

Pat,
Thank you for taking time to comment on this post.
People cling to whatever religion that gives them purpose in life & hope for some distant happiness. Whether it's financial, family, culture, friendship, community support or just an afterlife. Man makes their God to help them fulfill their needs. I do not think they really want to know the truth. They will never look ask questions or look to see if the stories in the Bible are true. They will go along believing with blind faith.
When I started to truly be honest with myself & to take off the blinders of faith, I realized things just weren't what was told me. I studied the Bible & the evidence from many sources, secular & religious. I was surprised by what I found. The Bible just was not inerrant, it had so many historical inaccuracies, contradictions & more, it made me take an honest look at what I believed.
I am still trying to learn & will continue to do so until I am no longer here. I would hope others would too.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, very familiar. I was in an Evangelical halfway house for men coming out of jail, and or drug & Alcohol addiction. The councilors thought I had a demon of Alcoholism and would lay hands on me once a week to rebuke and cast it out. This place was insane, but I had to complete the "program" or go back to jail, so like you I pretended to drink the "cool-aid" but I knew these people were full of crap. I was there half a year before they said I was ready to return to society. Never again. Today I don't belong to any church, although I do attend different services from time to time. But I do still have my faith in God as I understand Him. No one else tells me what I should or shouldn't beileve. I do and follow Him the way I beileve He wants me to. I make my own decisions. I make mistakes, but I learn from them. In a nutshell I do my best to live by the Golden Rule.

Mark Alien said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for your story. I appreciate you being open about your experiences. I am sure you learned quite a lot from that.

Just to be honest. You are drinking the "kool aid" still. The only difference is you are the one making the kool aid & drinking it slowly. Don't just believe because it makes you feel better about yourself. If you really want to know the truth, do your research. Dig deep. Do it w/ an open mind & you will see the truth. Question everything, accept only that which can be proven. Don't take it for granted that it was from god. Be skeptical, be honest & use common sense.

Beth Anne said...

Wow. On behalf of all Christians I'm incredibly sorry you had to experience that. That was nothing short of abusive and wrong. That's NOT the love of Christ and it's not even biblical. Just like there are extremists in other religions, there are in CHristianity as well. As for me, I believe what I do soley on my own accord. My Dad is Atheist, mom is agnostic, brother is Mormon, and sister is Wiccan. I've studied (intensely) all of those paths, and still do at times. To become Christian, was an incredibly thought out process for me. I doubt everything, and also believe one should question everything and everyone. I even teach that to my kids...they are encouraged to question me. Although they follow my lead as far as faith goes, when they get older they know they will need to decide for themselves. There are no "grandchildren" of God, only children. They know they will need to REALLY believe it, otherwise it's best to not- and I will love them no matter what. Infact, I even ask them pretty tough questions for their age, and some of them they can't answer...but will someday. ;o) You and I, although different, have a lot in common. I don't think any of our "beliefs" can be proven because if so, we wouldn't really have all these issues or debates- we would know it like we all know the sun sets every night. So for me, I research, question, and go where the evidence leads. I have periods of serious doubt, and periods of great reassurance and peace. I things science can't explain, and things the bible can't explain. But I think it's important to accept that most of these topics..don't have an answer that can be proven. That's the point. We get to look at all the same evidence, and make a choice.

Beth Anne said...

And how brave of you, to take this step. Best of luck to you!!! I hope to be able to watch your journey for some time, so keep up the blog!

Louie Vetter said...

Experiencing a bad meal is reason to stop going to a certain restaurant but not a reason to stop eating #dailybread

Mark Alien said...

Louie,
It seems everyone "claims" their "meal" is the one & only meal that should be enjoyed and if you try any other "meal" & not like it, well, you ate the wrong "meal"
See how nonsensical that is? Your "experience does NOT trump mine. It just shows that most people look for a "god" until they are satisfied w/the god they have found. Truth then trumps facts & turns into faith.

Dian Wells Matlock said...

Excerpts from "Come Walk with Me to Glory" by Dian Wells Matlock
This particular quote is taken from chapter 2 of God’s Plan for Man. I find it to be extremely practical and thought-provoking support for the validity of our book of life, the Holy Bible.
The following reasons are sufficient to prove to an unbiased mind that the Bible is an inspired revelation of God: 1. Its Wonderful Unity. Over forty different authors wrote the sixty-six books of the Bible during a period of over 1,800 years; and they all had one theme—the creation and redemption of the human race by God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
These books of the Bible were written by men from all walks of life such as kings, priests, judges, lawyers, princes, shepherds, soldiers, courtiers, statesmen, musicians, inventors, singers, poets, preachers, prophets, fishermen, farmers, tentmakers, publicans, physicians, rich men and poor men. They were written in various lands of three continents—Europe, Asia, and Africa. They were written in different ages and by many men, some who never saw each other or knew what the others wrote on the same subjects, yet when their writings became one book, there is not one contradiction among them.
Suppose forty medical men, each in a different land and age, would write forty books on how to cure a disease, what kind of cure would such a collection make? How much unity would one find among their writings? Collect together forty books of man on any subject and one can see many contradictions and controversies among the authors. Some will be found trying to prove how the others are wrong and why his theory is right.
This is all too apparent to those who have read different authors on any one subject. There is no unity of thought between the books of men on any subject. But there is perfect unity between the books of the Bible, which speak of hundreds of subjects in the realm of religion, politics, science, etc. This proves there is one Divine author for all sixty-six books. Who but a Divine author could produce such a work?

This Bible of ours is full of revelation, inspiration, unity, and superiority. It is unequaled in its benefits to men or in the wisdom, truth, and value it provides for us to live by. When you hold your Bible, you are holding onto God, for He clearly says in John 1:1 (AMP), “In the beginning (before all time) was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.” Take your Bible more seriously. It’s the most important document in the entire world because it contains the will and testament of our holy God.
Hopefully you get a clearer picture of how divine the Bible is, with perfect harmony throughout, especially after seeing the time, distance, and difficulties it took to put the book together. My personal path in pursuit of a faith-filled walk with God led me through much foundational study. God’s Plan for Man provided me with a great deal of insight.

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