I did not suffer horrible trauma. I did not commit unspeakable crimes in the name of god but I submit that any person that uses stories of an afterlife, stories of "the foreign", "the different", "the worldly" in order to coerce desired behaviors, in order to protect a certain way of life, is playing the same corrupt game.
My story is mild, common, mundane. My only terrors were some nightmares about hell, a misunderstood attraction to death, and a fear of abandonment via god stealing-my-parents-rapture. I only share my story to add another hopeful note to the chorus of those once conflicted by religion who now sing a new song.
Ignorance leads to fear.
And as often quoted from Yoda in Star Wars:
"Fear leads to anger
Anger leads to hate
Hate leads to suffering"
There are many appalling stories coming out in the last couple decades of extreme church leaders denying their members basic human contact with their "sinful" families, cult-style stories of manipulation and control not allowing people to leave. The inherent belief in the infallible anointing of god on a preacher and condemnation of dissenters contributes to lone ministers being able to set themselves up in such positions of power, free to commit corrupt acts.
These corrupt ministers preach fear as opposed to love (do they themselves fear to lose? Lose control, lose power, lose love, lose admiration, lose followers? I suspect they have succumbed to the fear in their own hearts).
The people who escape suffer much in the loss of friends, separation from spouses and children, and years of adjustment learning to release feelings of guilt and terror that simple things such as joining another church, a woman cutting her hair or mowing the lawn on Sunday aren't going to be cause for god's wrath (I harbored this worry a few years, while arguing with myself against such silly superstitions).
There are actually some well-meaning people in the movement who follow a code of honorable behavior and aren't sociopath extremists, but controversy has followed the movement throughout its hundred year history. The history of the Apostolic Pentecostal movement is as wide and many-faceted as the varying denominations of Christianity itself.
Recently the Dalai Lama posted on twitter "If our goal is a happier, more peaceful world in the future, only education will bring change."
Education is the antidote to ignorance.
Many UPC churches prefer their members, especially the women, to remain uneducated, or at least to shun secular education as a corrupting influence, but there were other factions who balked at this idea. Mine was one of the more moderate factions, splintered off from the UPC mid 20th century. I was surprised to recently learn that most all of our church leaders were graduates of the local, highly esteemed Tulsa University, holding bachelors and masters degrees, so perhaps our leaders' honoring of education contributed to our groups breaking with the UPC.
I was also blessed with parents who read. My father read the newspaper every day, and was quite proud of his collection of National Geographic magazines. Our den at home was a library in and of itself, ten-foot tall bookshelves filled to the ceiling on three walls. My mother was once an English teacher, and her best friend in church, who sat with us in every church service and I cherished like a grandmother, was a staunch advocate of education as well.
Mom and I spent many hours in the Tulsa Central Library, a grand building that was built just a couple years before I was born. The smell of books, paper bound in heavy stock, the humid clean scent of the fountain with blue tiles, tossing a penny in for a wish. Many good memories I made there.
I went to public school, although we did move from the big city that was being corrupted by hippies. My high grades were praised, and when I got old enough and brave enough to question a church teaching, I was advised to look it up for myself using the concordance.
I studied my bible and formed my own ideas about our dress standards and other subjects that I disagreed with. I found scripture to support my more liberal ideas about dress codes especially, and I grew in skepticism that would eventually lead me to leave entirely.
Perplexed when my parents refused to complete the paperwork that would get me into college (girls need to be good Pentecostal wives, not wild heathen partiers), I moved away at age 17 in order to establish my independence for college admission, but that's a tale of angst for another day.
Society itself has moved to embrace education of females over the past 200 years, and though the church often drags its heels in fear, the young can make progress.
My hope lies with coming generations, that every successive iteration becomes more tolerant of differences, more loving, less afraid, more willing to loose the reins of control, so that humanity can continue to build a functional cooperative society, blessing each other instead of bending to fear. Only by education will humanity be free.
Part 3: Emotion