I haven't written a post in a long time because I'm so far removed from the controlling, abusive church I was once involved in and the very manipulative family member I had is no longer around. The 2 subjects I've learned so much about - control and manipulation - are still a part of my life because I'm hyper-vigilant now in these areas. I don't want to ever be in these situations again!
I've been watching a new show on TLC called "Breaking The Faith" and it is all too familiar. Even though these young girls have long un-cut hair, wear no makeup, and wear dark, plain, all-covering dresses, I can still relate. The dress code we had was not as intrusive, nevertheless we had one. We were told to wear panty hose (even in the summer, even with sandals), wear skirts below the knee, and pants were not allowed at church... just dresses, skirts, and suits...very expensive suits. That is...until the pastor's family members decided they wanted to wear pant suits to church, then we were given a lesson on what pants are appropriate. Pants were only allowed with a jacket or suit coat. My daughter was once "written up" because her jacket didn't have a collar and it wasn't considered an appropriate suit coat. I've come to realize that if you are an adult and anyone is trying to tell you how to dress, it's a form of control. I understand that there are dress codes for work situations, but I'm referring to someone outside of work situations - a pastor, a controlling boyfriend, etc.
**Control is never okay, whether it be a pastor, a so-called friend, a family member, a boyfriend, or a spouse. It takes away from who you are as a person and leaves you feeling like an empty shell. Leaving controlling situations is a process and you have to find yourself again. I highly recommend you go to counseling or therapy if you have found yourself in a controlling situation and begin the road to recovery.
In the show the "prophet," the "man of God," is still controlling the people from prison. He is in prison for sleeping with minors that he calls his wives, but that doesn't stop him from calling and giving them their marching orders. The people in his group or the "crick" as the young people who've left call it, gather around the phone to hear the messages he has "heard from God." All of the people gather and listen as if it were God Himself calling. I've noticed that the "prophet" is always taking something else away from the group in order to maintain his control, and he is always telling them they will disappoint him or God if they do certain things.
Several of the young boys and girls have left the group and the show is about their life outside the "crick." I've been amazed at the similarities to what I and many others have experienced in leaving our controlling situations. The young people really have a hard time because these things have been engrained in them since birth. In passing, the girls will say things like, "We weren't allowed to play with dolls, we weren't allowed to eat sour cream, we weren't allowed to taste candy or even eat sugar." I've heard the boys say, "We weren't allowed to play any sports at all." They were told it was God's will that they work and not play. Even though the young people are out of the group, they still live with a gripping fear that if they take off their "crick" approved clothing and dress like a "gentile" that they'll go to hell. They're afraid if they try sour cream on a taco, they will be doomed. It's so sad for me to watch and I hate the control that they've been under. I fear that they'll never be able to be "normal" after the extremities they've lived under. I'd love to go to them and try to help them. Hopefully someone will.
Their practices are to the extreme and so many people could never relate, but the people leaving controlling, abusive churches today can absolutely relate. The pastors are not as extreme as the "prophet" on this show, but they use the same tactics. They modify his approach enough to make it not appear as a cult, but they slowly, over time, brainwash good church-going people just the same.
Instead of making the children wear long dark dresses, parents are told, "Don't let your children dress as if they are going to a picnic. Young boys should wear a suit and tie to church and always wear their shirts tucked in." There reasoning sounds so Godly - they are honoring God with their dress. And I say...how is that any different from the extreme cult I've talked about above. It's all still control and it's all still based on fear that you will disappoint God. The pastor's today will talk about eating organic and being healthy, but it's all still the same. It's his way of even controlling what you eat. He knows that if he can control your money and your food, he's got you.
My hope is that these controlling churches will continue to be spotlighted and that people will see the truth and free themselves. Just as when the girls from the show are asked how they feel leaving...I want others to say along with them, "I feel freedom."
God never intended for a man to lord over you. He gave you - you, yourself - the freedom to make your own decisions. He is not a harsh God waiting to scold you if your skirt is not long enough. He cares about YOU. You, the person He created and loves more than you'll ever know.
On this New Year's Eve, ponder these things and go into this new year free of demands placed on you by controlling people. Be your own person. Love yourself for the person God created. Throw the fear these controlling men have led you into right out the window. Put things you don't understand on the shelf and dwell on one truth that's most important - God loves you. He loves you just the way you are and He doesn't want you living in fear that if you make a mistake you'll disappoint Him. And just as I've watched this show and have seen these young girls think they will go to hell for cutting their hair or eating sour cream, I want you to see that God would NEVER be the way these wolves in sheep's clothing have made Him out to be.
The message is simple...it's not about what you eat, it's not about your money, and it's not even about how you dress. The message is...what really matters is that God loves you more than you'll ever know! He loves you to the moon and back and more!