20 years is a long time. A lot of indoctrination. Three times a week, every week, sitting in church having those beliefs reinforced -its quite effective. So how did I finally work up the nerve to leave?
It was a gradual process. For a good year or more I just started missing more and more. We had a new pastor and while I wanted to like him some things he said during one-on-one counselling really made me angry. Then my husband took a job as an overseas contractor. He grew up in the church and is still quite involved. With him not around to keep me attending and keep me in check, I missed more and more and finally told him I wasn’t going back.
The seeds of my “backsliding” were nearly a decade old, however.
You see, I was very close to my paternal grandparents, especially my grandfather. As soon as I was converted and convinced that ONLY people who’d followed the “Acts 2:38 plan of salvation” were truly saved, I started “witnessing” to my grandparents. I desperately wanted them to reject their Baptist doctrine and get re-baptized in Jesus name and get the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
My grandfather was a sweet man and never really said much about my efforts. My grandma, however, was understandably more vocal about her feelings. And they weren’t good ones. She was quite insulted that I was insinuating she was anything less than 100% “saved.”
Then my grandfather passed away.
According to the UPC doctrine, he was lost. Right that minute burning in Hell and would be suffering there for all eternity. This was the first family member I’d lost after my conversion and it hit me hard. I was nearly hysterical. I had nightmares. It was pure torture thinking of this sweet man, whom I’d loved so dearly – and who loved God btw – burning in never-ending fire and torment.
I would probably have stopped attending church then were it not for my husband, who simply wouldn’t allow such a thing to happen. But I was most definitely disillusioned with the whole thing. I alternated between thinking prayer was pointless – after all, I’d prayed hard for my grandfather – and trying to get God to help me feel better.
Over time I came to grips with the “fact” that my grandfather had died lost. Mostly I think the human mind just can’t continue to dwell in a state of such pain. I blocked the thoughts out of my mind. But when I did have to think about it, I was forced with a choice: Either this belief is wrong, or my grandfather is right now suffering in Hell.
I was having marital problems. We went to the pastor for counselling, and – surprise, surprise – he completely took my husband’s side. I am an executive in a start-up company so I’m expected to work a lot of hours. But I get to work from home. My husband was jealous of the time I spent at work plain and simple. The pastor’s response was that there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to sign off when my husband came home from his job and not open my computer back up again till the next morning.
I completely ignored him.
Finally my husband took the overseas job and within a few months I’d stopped attending all together.
The further I got away from the UPC church, the more my critical thinking skills returned. I completely rejected the idea that my grandfather was in Hell, along with every other person I’d ever loved and lost. And as I began to really notice the bad behavior of Christians in general, I realized it wasn’t just the UPC I didn’t want to be a part of, but Christianity as a whole.
I was taking martial arts classes and briefly investigated Buddhism. But as soon as I read about white lotus flowers appearing miraculously under the feet of the instantly-walking newborn Buddha I knew this was not for me. It seemed all I’d be doing was swapping one miraculous diety for another.
Eventually I realized I wanted something more nature based, and here I am.
I’m very glad I found your site! I, too, am a former member of the UPC, and left when I was 23. I am still a Christian, but I converted to Orthodoxy and found a lot of peace in getting away from the deceit, manipulation, and control of oneness Pentecostalism! I found your site while looking for Lee Stoneking and holy magic hair (hilarious) on google. In the 5 years that I haven’t been Pentecostal, I have been able to step back and see the lies I’d been taught my entire life. I have pondered why a malicious gossip that wore dresses and never cut her hair was more highly valued over a woman who wore pants but dedicated her life to helping the poor. I’ve considered why my uncle, who is a Pastor in the UPC and drives a Jag/lives in a mansion, has kicked people on shoestring budgets out of his church because they failed to pay tithes for a few months. Etc. I now appreciate the beauty and the godliness of people from all walks of life. I finally feel like I am a real Christian since I am committed to following the message of Christ: love. I ache for the people who are entangled in this cult and feel that there is no way out. Maybe your blog can help open the eyes of the few who look beyond the lies of the UPC hierarchy.
I am so glad you’re here, too! And I am glad you are able to step back and see the lies. It’s so hard when you’re in the middle of it, and it’s drummed into your head every week that you should never speak against the leadership or even question them, to really step back and see how crazy it all is. Really, ONLY the people who do XYZ and dress just so etc. are going to be saved? A loving God is going to send EVERYONE else to Hell, even those who love him but have a different interpretation of the Bible? It just doesn’t make sense.
By the way, I have been planning a post on Holy Magic Hair, but I want to record just a few pertinent clips from that sermon so people don’t have to sit through the whole 45 minutes to get the point… I have to do that, and set up a youtube account, etc. But it is coming soon. It’s too good not to share. There’s a bigger point, too, about how they get women to line up with their standards by manipulating us, making us feel we’re somehow superior so therefore we should allow ourselves to be subjugated. It’s quite twisted!
I can’t wait to read it! My brother told me about it a few years ago, and I like to revisit it to remind myself how far I’ve come. 🙂 I’m about to read your backsliding post. Fun fact: I’m related to “That Crazy Pentecostal Girl” through marriage. So yeah.
Thank you for your blog. I was afraid I was the only UPC fundi that had turned to paganism. I was an assistant UPC pastor for 5 years in the Central Valley of California.I was a 5th generation Apostolic. Read the Bible thru every year. I preached, taught the bible and gave counciling. But I found the more I studied and read the Bible the less sense it made. The contradictions, cruelty and lies I found began to make me question not only my upbringing as an Apostolic Christian but in the Bible itself. I began studying other religions, some much older than Christianity. I asked myself if god was at the beginning and he had all the answers then why was Christianity so long comming? It made more sense to me that the older the religion, the more pure it wold be. So I started seeking older religions and found Paganism. I left the church about 10 years ago and have been on this path ever since.