Churches are commonly misconstrued as righteous institutions. While this may be the case for some, it is not true for all. I intend to walk you through what I endured while attending an unholy place of worship, beginning with the mistreatment of members, and ending with the destruction of my family.- A. Goodyear
For centuries, a good portion of society has remained oblivious to the corruption that can lurk inside churches. As a child, I awakened to the horrors and manipulations of a misguided church and the aftershocks it could impress upon a family.
At the age of eight, my parents were recommended to a church known as Lighthouse. In the beginning, it was wonderful. My dad was an overtly passionate children’s pastor. My siblings and I would smugly sit up front while the other children would watch our dad, awestruck. My mother became very close to the other pastor’s daughter, (mainly because they’re the same age). So, while my dad was teaching us and playing biblical games, my mother sang in the choir with her new best friend. It was all rainbows and unicorns until the church shed its skin, allowing us a glimpse of the dirt and grime it breathed.
Things began adding up, in a bad way, though they started out small. For instance, when a family couldn’t make it to a service, they had to call out. Enough absences led to the potential expulsion. Ironically, once worshipers entered the church, they were locked in for the duration of the service. It would take an extraneous excuse to miss a session. In fact, I never witnessed someone escape a service with a chance at re-entry. Alongside entrapment, I also witnessed something I wouldn’t be able to call anything other than slavery.
Lighthouse is a rehabilitation church. Most of the followers are convicted felons on probation or parole. The pastor and his wife did not help these men when I attended. They were fed donated, expired foods and given old crusty hand-me-down clothing. They also had them clean the whole building and do all the renovations on their home (outside of the church) for free. The members of the church program renovated the pastor’s kitchen, living room, bathroom, and back patio. While this may sound like a program for instilling hard work and experience, the members were never guided towards finding employment or furthering their education. The church should have actively helped them fill out job applications and a GED. Instead, the church used them as personal unpaid slaves, fed with scraps and draped in tattered cloths.
Despite these horrors, my biggest issue with the church stemmed from the personal hell it visited on my family. At first, my mother was elated, we couldn’t bring her head down from the clouds. She ignored the tell-tale signs of cult behavior. Somewhere down the line, we stopped going to church as a family. My dad would opt-out and stay home, while my mother would make us children go with her. The pastor had the audacity to blame my father’s disillusionment on my mother. He told her, “You have the soul of Jezebel in you!” Biblical-speak for whore. After a few more services and many more insults, the pastor pushed my mother into conversations with single men… Coaxing her to replace my dad. It was understandable, as a puppet influenced by outside sources would just be useless. Months passed, and the pastor’s plan worked; mom eventually had an affair.
It wasn’t much longer before it all became unbearable and the unholy straw broke the camel’s back.
When I envision it now, all I see is myself, shoving pillows over my ears, pleadingly turning to my older brother as if he would have the answers. He didn’t, but we still got overheard a version of them, shouted across the house as my mother cried and my father screamed, “DIVORCE!” Wide-eyed, I looked at my brother, who didn’t seem surprised. Then again, I wasn’t really either. There’s the answer.