Being A Woman In The UPC (United Pentecostal Church) 14

This is the second article discussing how the United Pentecostal Church and it’s teachings caused trauma in my life. I’m laying bare these old injuries in an effort to understand, and hopefully, heal from them. You can read about what caused this need here


“Are you sick?”

The question, in its incredulous tone, cut deeper because it came from a guy I’d once had a crush on. Today, Feminist Me would possibly snap back that I don’t exist in the world to be pleasing to your eyes, but back then I was a 22 year old girl with truckloads of insecurity. I had been attending the local United Pentecostal Church for a few short months, and finally bowed to the pressure to stop wearing makeup.

Makeup had been my very last worldly stronghold. Switching from pants to skirts wasn’t a huge deal – even though many people around me voiced disapproval, and I’d spent money I didn’t really have to revamp my wardrobe. Jewelry came off fairly easily, too. As much as I’d enjoyed wearing jewelry – often a lot of big, clunky pieces – the absence of it wasn’t an obviously defining look. And while I had decided not to cut my hair anymore, it would be months or even years before it grew out enough for that choice to become obvious.

Going without makeup was an entirely different story.

All of my life I suffered from something called “allergenic shiners.” Dark circles around my eyes that can be anywhere from mild to “Who punched you?” depending on how inflamed my allergies are at any given time. These circles made me super self conscious, and most of my teen years were spent trying to find the right amount of concealer to make me look normal.

Here’s what they look like as I’m writing this – this is on the milder side:




Taking away the option to cover these circles did more to me than telling me I couldn’t wear pants or jewelry. Those were subtle methods of control, subtle ways of stripping away my agency and individualism and forcing me into an “acceptable” mold. But stripping the covering off of my ugly circles told me in no uncertain terms that feeling good about myself was ungodly. God Himself meant for me to look like I was ill or hadn’t slept in a week, and He doesn’t make mistakes. Covering up those circles insinuated that He did, and was an insult to His very Benevolence.

The Psychological Effect Of These Changes

In this society, women are judged on our appearance. It’s wrong and unjust, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Joining a cult like the UPC is a huge life change, especially if you’ve not been involved in any type of church prior to this. As you’re making this life change, as a woman you are also stripped of control over the very thing that this society uses to judge you. Your appearance must begin to conform to the rules of the church. The overall effect of all of this change impacts you on a very deep psychological level – so deep you may not consciously realize it at the time.

While you’re in this state, you’re not only listening to 3 sermons a week that reinforce what’s happening to you, you’re likely also being set up with someone to “disciple” you and teach you a weekly bible study. You’re encouraged to start cutting off friends who won’t accept your invitations to join you in your new church, or at least pull back temporarily until you’re “stronger in the Lord.” These people can’t be trusted because Satan will use them to pull you away from God. They aren’t “in the Truth” and so anything they say is suspect, discounted. And you’re to avoid TV and all “worldly” music and media for the same reasons.

In my case the person discipling me was an older lady I’d met prior to joining at a local political meeting. She quickly became the only person I felt safe in confiding in. She was the one who insisted that God meant for the world to see my dark circles. I spent hours and hours with her outside of church services, being taught what God expected of me.

If you add all of the above together, they’re classic (and powerful) brainwashing techniques. You’re torn down in order to be built back up in the image of the cult. Every step you take down this path further cements your identity as a cult member. Because you’ve sacrificed so much of yourself – turning back would be admitting those sacrifices were in vain. And that’s something psychologically very difficult for humans to do.

Logic Is Overridden

I was far enough along this path that when I heard the pastor say that the brand-new Clinton administration (this was early 1993) was ungodly specifically because “He’s putting so many women in positions of power,” I chose to ignore it and many other red flags.

By that fall, when my boyfriend (who was in charge of bringing kids to Sunday School on a bus) kicked me out of meetings with other Sunday School-related leaders (all male of course) I got mad but didn’t break up with him. By the time we got married, I insisted that his name go before mine on the printed napkins because it wasn’t a woman’s place to go before a man, even though the bride’s name is expected to be first.

When a female visitor danced lewdly in altar call one night, my “discipler” and I stood in front of her so that the ministers on the platform would be shielded from the sight and “protected from temptation.” I never wore skirts shorter than mid-calf, sleeves shorter than my elbows, or allowed any cleavage to show for the same reason. I didn’t want to be responsible, you see, for some man’s sin.

The Pedestal Is A Gilded Cage

In marriage counseling before the wedding, the pastor told us that the husband is supposed to be the leader and the wife is supposed to submit to him. In my mind that meant a partnership that was 51/49. In my husband’s mind it was “I’m the authority.” He was told that the husband is to be the “source” for his wife. The source of her strength, her guidance, and her spiritual understandings.

Meanwhile I was told that God had placed me, as a woman, on a pedestal. I dressed differently than “the world” because I was more precious to Him. He wanted me to stand out, to be a beacon to all those lost sinners who’s pride wouldn’t let them give up their worldly attire. If I looked unattractive to them, so much the better. I was morally superior anyway.

It took a long time to realize that the pedestal is actually a gilded cage.

For nearly 20 years I stuffed feelings of inferiority, ignored the part of me that felt ugly and unworthy because I had to fit this mold. I tried to convince myself that this made me a better Christian. Superior instead of inferior.

But it never really worked. My wedding pictures made me cry – not from happiness, but because I looked ugly. Year after year, I avoided being in the pictures of my kids birthday parties because seeing them made me feel like a monster. And since food is the only vice acceptable in the UPC, I gained a lot of weight as well. Needless to say this didn’t help matters.

Sometime in the middle of all of this, out on a date night with my husband (we’d gone to a bookstore for coffee where I’d seen fashion magazines on the shelf) I mentioned that I really wished I could wear just a little makeup. His response was to say in a panicked voice that he’d be happy to call the pastor – at nearly 11:00 at night – and go for counseling right then. This was a sign of just how freaked out he was as he’d never allowed me to speak directly to the pastor about questions before. Asking anyone besides him would be a sign that he wasn’t doing his job as my spiritual leader. That night the bars of my golden cage seemed a lot tighter.

His Sin, My Responsibility

Again, since I’m anonymous on this blog I’m going to get really personal.

After years of marital problems (some of which were that I wanted sex more often than him, and my drive “overwhelmed” him) I stopped wanting it. You can only take so much rejection before it has an effect on an already fragile ego. Still, I had to go through the motions as denying your spouse is a sin. (Or at least, it was when it was me turning him down. When it was the other way around, not so much.) You can only do this so long before you really begin to dread any physical contact whatsoever.

It became a huge issue because I wasn’t meeting his needs. He pouted, he had emotional outbursts. He accused me of defrauding him. And he used guilt, lots and lots of guilt. Long story short, I had to bite the bullet and put out every so often, no matter how I felt about it, or risk him leaving me. And since independence was so frowned upon, I of course did not have the financial means to support myself. I was trapped.

Some feminists would call the sex I was guilt-tripped, manipulated and blackmailed into rape. I’m still debating about that personally. As unpleasant as it was, it seems to diminish the experience of someone who was physically forced over their objections to equate the two. But I undoubtedly felt that I had no choice, and no control over my own body.

Some of the ways I was guilt-tripped included him coming and “confessing sin” to me. Sometimes it was that he couldn’t “keep thoughts pure” or that he’d had to take matters into his own hand, so to speak. Once it was “I have a problem with pornography.” Which after my tearful apology for causing such a dreadful problem turned out to be that he’d watched a few videos online. Not that he was bound by addiction or anything.

The Pattern Is Clear

When you put all of these things together, there is one overriding pattern to it all: Control of my life, my body, my appearance, my decisions, my EVERYTHING was taken away from me.  Yet I was still responsible for the sins of others. There is nothing good, benevolent or healthy about it. I was oppressed. I suffered spiritual and emotional abuse.

And that is not ok.


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14 thoughts on “Being A Woman In The UPC (United Pentecostal Church)

  • SirenSpell


    I was indoctrinated in the Apostolic church as well for 22 years. I was raised in the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, basically the same–we even fellowship.

    I’m trying to find myself and do some research on the path of paganism. Your blog is wonderful. I relate to so much of it. Do you have any advice for me or insight to offer?

    Thank you.

    • admin Post author

      I swear I replied to this, yet it isn’t showing.. grrr… My sincere apologies for the delay.

      What I was trying to say was that the good and bad thing about paganism is that there’s no single path. It’s very much find-your-own-way. Is there a particular culture, pantheon or deity that speaks to you? If so, research them and their history and mythology.

      Unfortunately too many people (In my opinion) go exclusively on experience and “gut feelings.” The deity I follow, for example, is The Morrigan. Many others follow Her and claim things about Her that do not line up with Her portrayals in Irish lore and history, On the one hand, if it works for you and you’re not spreading misinformation to others, then have at it. On the other, if gods are real and have real agency (and even that is a matter of opinion for some, but I believe it to be true) then you don’t have much of a relationship with Someone you only think you know. Make sense?

      A really really good place to start is with John Beckett. He’s one of my absolute favorite Pagan authors. His blog is here: . He’s got great information for beginners that can work with whatever pantheon/ path that calls to you.

      He also has a new book out that I highly recommend:

      Beyond that, you and I have an advantage as former pentecostals. Yes, you’ll get a significant amount of blowback from former churchmates and possibly friends and family – to them, anything not-Jesus is of course Satanic so you’re literally dealing with demons. I can assure you that IME that is not true. Though it may take a while to get past that fear.

      But you and I have a lot of experience connecting with Spirit, and that is a powerful tool on this path. Don’t be afraid to use it.

      I hope this helps. If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know!

  • Carolyn

    I am a lady I attend the UPC also. It’s not a cult,my pastor never makes us do anything. You must have had a preacher who wanted to control everyone, this isn’t so in all UPC Churches. No one makes me wear long hair, or dresses. I never wore makeup when I attended another religion. I am sorry you had such a bad experience. But I never heard you in your writings say anything about the Lord. No one can force us to live a holy life style it must come from loving God and what scripture tell us how to live. You need to find another UPC church where the pastor loves his saints. It am as sorry for your bad experience in this one church, but many have and are still finding life and liberty from sin, and drugs and etc. as they say don’t judge all with the same judgment just because one is bad. May you find peace in love and in truth.

  • Anonymous

    But did you have a relationship with god himself? Sometimes people are so worried about the doings of getting saved not the initial point of being saved. I attend a Pentecostal church and I am able to wear pants and make up with no judgements. I go to church not because I have to or am forced but because I want to be there. I have a relationship with god . Church is to help me grow. The god I know and love doesn’t care if you wear makeup or pants or cut your hair.

    • admin Post author

      Yes, honey. I was very “prayed up” and got to know your God very well. I was I. The UPC for 20 years. Sometimes he just isn’t all they make him out to be.

  • Anonymous 2

    I grew up UPC. I can’t relate so well it’s scary. It is traumatizing. The thing about UPC and other cults it’s that they brainwash you so much, you being to feel like or have grown up knowing that you are 100% right. If someone tells you otherwise it’s “Satan” if a baby cries in church and distrusts service, it’s “Satan” pulling your attention away. If someone tells you you are wrong it’s “cute” they simply don’t know the truth they aren’t part of “THE church”. Anyone outside THE church is ungodly.

    “We don’t do that”, “we don’t teach that” BS they say, but they do, they imply it, they tear you down. I believe so many women in THE Church are overweight because caring about what you look like is sinful.

    All the women and girls were pulled into an all girl sermon one day to tell us that we needed to wear control top pantyhose and cross our hands over our chests when we prayed because men might be tempted. And like you said, of course that was our as women’s problem (I was around 15 or 16 at the time). You are taught as women that men are the provider that it’s the woman’s job to have kids and be the husbands helper.

    One day at a youth gathering one of the guys got mad at me grabbed me by the throat held me against the door and slapped me across the face. (This was a guy I was being pressured into by my family to marry… and when I say pressured I mean even he said “WE WILL BE MARRIED” and would say things like “I’m not going to leave, you know your mom won’t make me”… when he would come into my bedroom… he was right). So, he slapped me across the face and the youth leader calls me and says that he doesn’t want to “make waves” in the youth group. Everyone insisted that I needed to apologize to HIM!!! So that we could move forward. It’s 15 years later he’s still never once said sorry! Not that I have contact, but no one ever hounded him to apologize to me. No one told him HE was in the wrong, no one ever even asked if I was OK. I wasn’t… psychologically. All that was said was because I was being so stubborn and wouldn’t apologize that there was something WRONG WITH NE, they shed tears and prayed for me because I was so filled with pride and sinning by not forgiving him.
    My family is still really good friends with this guy.
    I have hundreds of stories like that but another in particular was at church camp. There were hundreds of mosquitoes outside. I had just gotten a new car and my friends and I went in the car to get away from the mosquitos so we could eat our food without getting a mouth full of bugs. I was in the driver seat my brother in the passenger seat. In the back was my best friend and brother’s girlfriend and a new guy we had met that was visiting from out of state. Never mind that we were parked right next to the picnic tables, right in front of the tabernacle in plain sight of anyone who cared to look. And while it was night time there were street lights on all up and down the area we were and the lights from the church and eating area. Again we were surrounded by people, some 50-100 at that. Three men came at us like we were trying to smuggle drugs over an international boarder or something. They had huge, blinding flashlights in our faces they ripped open my door and screamed at us to get out, that we “knew better” to the new guy “I don’t know how they do things where you’re from…” etc etc long speech and made me and my brother’s girlfriend (the girls of course) go in front of the entire camp (a few hundred +) and apologize because we had sinned and done an awful thing. Meanwhile all the time not thinking it was my brother and I in the front, if we had wanted to kiss (which was not allowed obvious until marriage… as meet touching was sinful) we would have had to have been leaning over the seats diagonal to reach the other people. Plus I mean eww, my brother was in the car. Plus I was way too terrified, broken down, and humiliated of my body (as I should have been, as we were taught) to consider myself attractive enough for someone to want to kiss, in the first place!

    Trust me, there are people who know your pain, feel your pain, and are just as psychologically messed up once you realize your whole life has been a lie. That if there was such a benevolent, amazing, wonderful god they preach of them why would he send you to hell for wearing pants or make up?

    My biggest question is… if everyone came from Noah… as god killed the rest of humanity (which is so lovely turned into a child’s bedtime story) then how the ever loving Christ are there so many different races? My mom says the tower of babble and I say… so there is historical writing of everyone’s language being changed, but nothing even once of skin color change over night? Bone structure changes? That all magically just happened? They are out of there ever-loving cult minds!

  • Eric Christopherson

    I left for good about a year ago, but i had only been in a couple years. At first there was a certain music and romantic style type appeal, and then Acts 2:38-39, my new John 3:16. But, The last straw was when i found out that other Christians were not saved, only Apostolics, and we needed to recruit/evangelize them. But for sometime, i had doubts about the changing pentecostal rules over the decades, but also those that remained for women, while men pretty much looked however they wanted in our UPCI church. Even as a man, i had a few actual nightmares about women having long uncut hair, buckets of it on top of their head. Also our pastors didn’t really believe you were totally “saved” until you made it to Heaven. I guess God’s grace, faith, and the blood of Jesus were not enough. There was alot of crying in the church services, and not much joy in the north where i attended. The pastors coached/commanded people to speak their prayer language (tongues). I could tell some tongues was real/actual (source unknown), and other tongues was bs. I had given alot of money to the church, trying to do the right thing for God. The pastors tried to convince me i had received speaking in tongues, but i had not. I could write a book about it all. The main lesson i learned is that you can have really nice, sincere people, who are very messed up in religion. Since then and through the process, i have received many answers in the Urantia Book about Christianity, positive and negative, but at the same time, i don’t think people will find all their truth in one place/book etc. Quiet meditation has also helped. I am sick of organized, high-control, money grabbing organized religion of any kind. The Quakers seemed less of these bad ways. It was hard at first for me to leave the UPCI. This one sister with a really big loud mouth and pompous strut around the church helped me, when she bellowed out one day, “My children don’t talk to me that way.” I know people that really have been filled with God and they are kind and sincere, but some are still messed up because of church. I am not saying all church life is bad, but it often can be. I thought being “apostolic” Pentecostal was my last stop in the wonderful world of religion. God had other plans. And you know what, I don’t think God enjoys church very much either. And as far as God is concerned, I consider the Source of Life a Mother and Father. I could never figure out why all three parts of God at the highest level would all be male. I hope i don’t sound bitter, am not. Just disappointed in the large amount of bs and high-control in the church world. But you know what, I still believe in a loving Creator who is also fed up with churchianity and pastor-centered churches.

  • I escaped

    Hi, thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear about all you’ve been through. I’m writing my story as well in an anonymous YouTube channel, which has been really helpful for my healing and understanding of what happened. I wanted to jog my memory about the upci’s institutional inequalities toward women with this article. I forgot that women’s attire was supposed to be a Beacon. If you want to glance at my story (in progress), it’s at

    Best wishes for your continued healing