HOW DANGEROUS IS CULT INDOCTRINATION?

Every now and then, we come across a story that not only moves us, but puts a finger on the “root” of the problem that affects many within a cult environment.  Jonathan’s story is one of those stories! He hits with amazing accuracy the root cause for the destruction of marriages and families within the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult (IFB).  You will also realize that the attitude taught regarding women is the same attitude that is taught in muslim religions…this attitude is NOT biblical. If you read my book, Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse, you will find out that what women have been subjected to throughout history, was not God’s intended plan!

I applaud Jonathan’s honesty, humility and strength in making himself vulnerable. His vulnerability sheds light on issues that many are struggling with but, like Jonathan, don’t know WHY.  I truly believe his story will help countless thousands to see the “root” of indoctrination within their relationship so that they can begin to extract it and heal their relationships.  Here’s Jonathan’s Story as posted on his blog:

The Perfect Storm – Part 1

Many of you know that for the past 18 months, I have not done much blogging. In fact, for the past 18 months my life has been characterized by a series of intense struggles in a cyclical pattern with two dominant and alternating themes, sometimes concurrent: struggles in my marriage, and struggles with God.

About month or so out of HeartChange, I had a premonition that dark days were ahead. I had a vision of gathering storm clouds just visible on the horizon, and I knew struggles like I never knew before were imminent. It took 10 more months before the storm hit, and it gathered in intensity the entire time.

Then The Storm hit in October, 2011.

The Storm lasted 13 months. I am not proud of what happened during this time. But I can’t change the past, so I will own it, learn from it, and move on. And blog about it.

No one knows how they will respond to real life issues until the moment they come face to face with the problem staring him down. Yeah, everyone says that they’ll do this or never do that. Wishful thinking. There is not a person alive who is not capable of the most abominable acts given the right set of circumstances, regardless of previous convictions and bravado.
Take for example the American practice of eugenics during the 1920′s. It began as a means to cull American society of its “lesser desirable” elements, a “noble” aim in the eyes of the intelligentsia of the day. There were many forced sterilizations during this time, based on IQ, physical features, family histories of deformity and disease, social class, and even skin color. In the eyes of those who created the system and implemented it, they had the noble aim of making the human race better. The consequence of these actions was mass suffering, not just within our own shores, but also in Europe. Hitler’s primary source for inspiration for his murder of 10 million people were the eugenics programs in the United States. The Land of Free and the Home of Brave, where the words of Emily Lazarus echoed from shore to shore:

“… Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

for many became the land of shattered dreams, the simple dreams of family and children. And we gave birth to a true monster in our pride and arrogance so that a few people could sleep well at night, deceiving themselves into believing they were acting out of the best interest for American society and the human race at large.
So don’t bother arguing with me that you will never do this or that. You can, and you will, when the right set of circumstances leads you to that decision point.
Landfall

The leading edge of the storm started off calm enough, deceptively so. The light faded so gradually that by the time I realized I couldn’t see a thing, the full fury of the storm hit. 

In mid October, 2011, I announced that I wanted to leave my wife. I felt stifled, hampered, held back, hurt, and very, very afraid. God had been silent for a while already. She had no idea this was coming. She had even thought that the year previous was the best we year yet. I blind-sided her. I talked to our pastor first, knowing he would be apposed. We went through some counseling with him and his wife for a while. It seemed to help somewhat, but it didn’t change my inner-turmoil very much. God was still silent, and I didn’t have much hope or faith that things would turn around.

What I was afraid of I will not touch on here. Suffice it to say I gazed into the abyss within my own soul, and something truly terrifying, sensed but unseen, watching from the lightless shadows, stared back. It blinked.

Lowering Barometric Pressure

The wind screamed like the wail of a banshee, threatening to scour away my sanity while the storm surge tried to drown me. The towering waves that rode the surge had as their singular aim my crushed corpse.

As The Storm intensified, the pain within me grew. I began to feel like the song from Serenity, an Austrian symphonic metal band, entitled Fairytales. Parts of the song resonated, though not all aspects of the song applied. But the hurt expressed in the song – that’s what I felt.

There were things that happened early in our marriage that hurt me deeply. These I could not let go of, and over years of our marriage the wounds never healed, and everything that happened, every word spoken, every action taken or not taken, I viewed through the prism of that pain.  I had asked God for help dealing with it over the years, and my pleas were answered with silence.  I had asked him to take it away. No response. I asked for aide in overcoming it. Silence. And yet I knew that if it could not be taken care of, it would destroy my family.

In the last year God was more absent then ever before. My cries for help bounced off the heavens and back at me, their echoes seeming to make mockery of my faith.

In May, 2012, the crushing weight of the storm and the pain became unbearable. I had to talk to someone. I tried to talk to our pastor again, but he wasn’t available. I was reaching critical mass, and if I could not release some pressure, I was going to snap. I would be lying if I said I had not thought of hurting myself. Debating what followed as right or wrong is now no longer an issue. What happened is in the past, and there is nothing I can do to change that.

I had no one else around here I felt I could talk to, so I went to FaceBook, in a private group, and blew off steam. To my friends in the area that may be reading this, I am sorry. My state of mind was such that I truly couldn’t think straight. I said things I shouldn’t have said. I characterized my wife as a monster. I trashed her. I decimated her. I destroyed her. And most of what I said, I can’t even remember saying. It came out, and then it was gone, like poisonous gasses escaping from a volcano, reducing the pressure in the core, but at the cost destroying all living things nearby.

And then my wife found out about it. I prefer to think of what happened as her getting exposed to the poisonous fumes. To say she was hurt does not do justice to how she felt.

This happened again in July, when I entered a period of intense depression following a nine day hospital stay due to an accident at the dump involving a four inch rusty bolt going into my knee but not through it, rather angling down and damaging the top of my tibia. Six hours after the initial injury, an infection had set into my leg and the pain was so intense I could no longer walk. I had a high fever, alternating severe chills and sweats, and less than 24 hours after the initial injury, I found myself being transported by ambulance to the hospital, where I was admitted immediately. They put me on very heavy antibiotics, four different kinds at one point if I remember correctly.

The Eye

Sunshine. Dead calm. Too calm. No sign of life anywhere. Not even the tweeting or birds or the buzzing of insects. The sun warmed my skin through the tattered remnants of my clothes, teasing me with hope.

Late July, maybe August, I entered a period where I seemed to do better. I can only guess that I past through the eye wall at some point. But it didn’t last. The Storm merely gathered in intensity and proceeded to hit with greater strength. I came close to losing my mind. The inner pressure was so strong that I felt like I was going to be turned inside out or disintegrated.
Plunging Back Through the Eye Wall

The world went dark once again. As the last ray of daylight faded in the west, The Storm resumed it’s onslaught. The counter winds ripped at what the first half of the storm had left. It didn’t seem like the storm could get any worse. I was wrong.

September saw my inner turmoil intensify. I thought I hurt before. But not like this. The first half of the storm had stripped away any shelter I had. I was wounded and raw and exposed to the elements. The best thing I could do was try to tie myself to something so I wouldn’t get blown away, but I couldn’t find any rope. God was still conspicuously absent. My faith was in shambles. My marriage held together only because I hadn’t physically left.

I had one lucid moment in late September where I recognized the signs of impending mental break. My mood swings became increasing erratic and my job performance suffered. The smallest things would get me angry. My short term memory was all but gone. I think I was within weeks, possibly days, of snapping. And I remembered my job’s Employee Assistance Program, which provided free of charge a certain amount of counseling and referrals to continued counseling if needed. I called and got plugged into a counselor very quickly. Call it providence if you want to, but guess what the name of my therapist is? Hope. Through Hope’s guidance I began learning ways to constructively deal with my issues.

I also made contact with a friend of mine in Texas, and he said come on down so that I could get away for a while. This I did in mid October. I didn’t care what happened at this point. I needed to get away from my wife for a while and think. My mind was such a mass of confusion that I could not objectively look at anything. He told me about his church. Miracles happened at there, he said. Literally. They had a program for people who were going through hell. I was able to attend twice. I would have gone three times, but my visit had to get cut short due to circumstances beyond all of our control. Whether a miracle happened there or not, I don’t know. But going to Texas helped. A lot.

While there, though, the storm hurled all that remained of its pent up fury. One phone call from my wife resulted in my openly declaring that we were now officially separated. I had no intention of returning home at that point. Going back to the area I worked, yes, but not to my home. By the end of the week she stood down on something she said, but I still had no intention of going home. For all I was concerned, it was over. I didn’t know where I was going to live, but I figured I would find some accommodations, even if it was a drafty garage.

Finally, after some pretty intense discussion and sharing with my friend, I came to the conclusion that I would return home and try again.  I’ve been back for two weeks now, and the winds are dying down.

Where God is in all this I still don’t know. Maybe He protected me through The Storm. Maybe He just watched from distance to see what I would do. I don’t know. When I decided to come back, I told my friend that I still didn’t know what to do with God. But I was going to try to recover the marriage, with or without Him.

Daybreak

Sometime during the night I must have passed out. I awoke to the sun rising in the east. The wind had calmed, the waves were gone, the surge had retreated, and birds were singing.

The Perfect Storm – Part 2

I chose to make this blog post in two parts because to understand the central part of my post, I needed to recap my previous 13 months. That, and it was getting long even for one of my posts.My attitudes toward my wife have not been very good for the last 8 years of our marriage. I had been able to suppress my frustration, resentment, anger, and bitterness better at times than at others. After HeartChange things got better for a quite a while, the weed having been cut and even burned to the ground, but the root that fed the problems had not been exposed and purged. It regenerated and came back.

An action on my part that resulted in my hurting someone else came to light this past week. I had forgotten all about the incident (as had the person I was very rude to), but I wrote her and asked for forgiveness, which she granted. She took the opportunity to point out some things in my life that she thought were not entirely kosher, and I accepted her words and admonishment. I think best in writing, so in my reply to her I was trying to explore why I had all of these negative feelings towards my wife (which is something my friend brought up), and then it hit me:

Epiphany

I was a misogynist. But oddly enough the scope of my misogyny was limited to and focused on my wife. I have stood up for and helped console and even championed the right of women to be equal with men (in my own limited scope of impact) to the point where I thought I may be a feminist. I did not believe anything was the matter with my treatment of my wife because I never tried to control her, or prevent her from going somewhere if she wanted to go, or buy what she needed, or even get a job if she so chose. That she didn’t always avail herself of the opportunities presented wasn’t my problem. Or so I thought. The problems all stemmed from the hurt and pain I went through early in our marriage. Or so I thought.

In an instant I had a book’s worth of information run through my mind. The attitudes and actions I displayed – they all led back to what I learned in the IFB, the Independent Fundamental Baptist church.

First, let me apologize in advance to some people who will likely not understand or realize the enormity of the problems at hand. I have no desire to hurt you. You know who you are, and I love you regardless of how things turn out after you read this.

I am going to list a number of common thoughts among different groups within in the IFB system. Many I myself never believed. Some I believed until about 3 years ago. Some I held against my wife. But here they are:

  •  Women are inherently evil.
  •  Women are devious and cannot be trusted.
  •  Women’s minds are weak. It was woman who was deceived in the Garden of Eden, and they cannot be trusted to make right decisions.
  •  Women are agents of the devil. A woman can corrupt a godly man even if the man is on his guard.
  •  A woman must not be allowed to have her own personal identity. Her identity is to be found in her husband and in Christ.
  •  A woman must be under the protection of a man. If she has no husband, she should live at home until such time as she marries.
  •  A woman must never teach men.
  •  A woman may never be in a position of authority over a man.
  •  A woman may never hold any ecclesiastical office in a church.
  •  Should a woman find herself in a place where she must speak to men in a church, she should announce that she is there under her husband’s authority so as not to overstep her place.
  •  Because women are inherently evil with weak minds prone to sin, they can only redeem themselves before God through bearing children.
  •  A woman may never refuse the sexual advances of her husband. She belongs to him, and her body belongs to him.
  •  A woman must always obey a man regardless of whether that man is her husband, father, pastor, or someone else in the church. God placed man in charge, and the woman’s place is to obey without question. If a hierarchy is specified, the husband or pastor may be listed first, then elders in the church, her father, and so on.
  •  A woman must defer to her husband’s opinion on any given matter.
  •  A woman must not question her husband’s decisions.
  •  A woman is not to challenge any interpretation of Scripture. She is to believe what her husband and her pastor teaches, with all meekness.
  •  If a man has an affair, it is his wife’s fault because she did not do everything she could to keep him sexually satisfied and happy.
  •  If a man goes after another woman, it is the wife’s fault because she did not keep her body looking appealing enough for him to desire.
  •  If a woman is raped, it is her fault. She was somewhere that she shouldn’t have been, or she was wearing clothing that was “provocative” in nature, and as such invited the rape, even daring men to rape her, and the man is excused because he was enticed.
  •  If a woman feels any pleasure during a rape, it is no longer rape but consensual sex, and the man is excused.
  •  If a woman is raped, she must have somehow subconsciously signaled to the man that she wanted sex, and therefore she is indirectly responsible for her own violation, and the man is excused.
  •  If a woman has a “reputation,” whether said reputation is true or not, she is responsible for her own rape and the man is excused.
  •  If a child is sexually assaulted, such children were impure to begin with, and as such attracted the assault. Children who are pure are immune from sexual assault.
  •  If the sexually assaulted child is an adolescent or even young adolescent woman, she invited the sexual encounter because it is well known that step-daughters, whether they know they are doing it or not, flirt with their step-fathers, and therefore the step-father is excused from raping the child.

I could add more, but I think you get the gist of what’s wrong in that system. Not every church teaches this litany of filth. Some teach the more extreme items listed above, some the more mild. Some are pretty decent about it. But all of this evil. And most of these are teachings I have heard first hand from pulpits, Bible professors, chapel speakers, seminar speakers, Christian counseling mini-seminars and Bible college classrooms, and all in a co-ed setting. There are a few points which I have received second hand, but from multiple and credible first hand witnesses.

The IFB claim to elevate women and honor them, placing them on a pedestal of high honor, almost angelic in their reverence for the “pure” woman. But let one feather be perceived to be slightly out of place or her halo not quite bright enough for the most scrupulous observer, and she will be the torn down off that pedestal and forever be tarnished with a “reputation.” There is such rampant depression among the women in these churches that it is epidemic. And no wonder! They live everyday of their lives being told they are worthless just for being a woman, let alone the guilt and shame heaped on them by the bully-God these churches preach. But you will never get them to admit to being depressed because to the IFB, any form of depression is a sin, a sign of not fully trusting in and relying on God, a sign that something is wrong with them spiritually.

And it doesn’t matter how liberated a man feels in his view towards women. If he is in these churches and institutions and hearing these things, even in much milder form, daily, weekly, regardless of how he believes himself to be a lover of women’s rights and equality, he is going to absorb some of this into his psyche. Which is exactly what happened to me. (And you might ask why I didn’t leave the system sooner. Well, when you’re taught that all other Christian denominations are either corrupt or compromising the Truth, there aren’t too many places a guy believes he can go and remain a “good” Christian.)

I had not realized that the mistrust I bore my wife had it’s roots in the IFB system. I did not know the extent to which their poison had permeated me. Having had my eyes opened, I am now mortified at what I have done to my wife for the past 8 years. I saw her as controlling, manipulating, deceiving, selfish, devious, untrustworthy, corrupting, and a tether preventing my soul from flying. And can there be any wonder I thought this given the poison seeping into my soul for all those years?

In the end, I will own my wrongful attitudes and hurtful actions towards my wife. They are mine, and mine alone. I cannot say that this one epiphany has cured me completely. Years of attitude will take a long time to heal and undo. But I have a start, a place of enlightenment where I was able to understand something about myself that I would never have known otherwise.

This storm I went through was brutal. But it led me to this epiphany. And perhaps God will show Himself again, let me see that He had always been there, that he guided The Storm so that I would come to the understanding that I did, that He protected me from the worst of it.

4 comments
  1. Rita said:

    Jonathan, thank you for the courage it took to share your story. God did not abandon you and never will. What you are freed from is the indescribably distorted sense of God that was taught to you. The Spirit of God is within you and has brought you to where you are able to let the truth overcome those teachings. You will be in my prayers.

    Like

  2. Kelly said:

    This is the truth! I was in an IFB church for 16 years, when I went there I was trying to gain confidence with who I was as a women of God, what I revived there was far far from that! Finally left with my 2 daughters 2 years ago and have never felt more free! I felt more like an Amish or Muslim or FLDS then a Christian! If you are even remotely considering leaving the IFB church movement DO IT NOW!

    Like

  3. Jonathan,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I was an IFB pastor for 25 years and I am very familiar with IFB teachings on women. It is a wonder that there are ANY women in the IFB church.

    I left the ministry 9 years ago and left Christianity 4 years ago. My wife and I have been married 35 years and I can honestly say our marriage is much better without God and the Bible. We are learning what real freedom and love is and we are also realizing how much damage the IFB church did to us. (I am a victim and a victimizer,having been raised in the IFB church)

    I would encourage you to be open and honest, not only with yourself but with your wife. It sounds like you are trying to do this. I wish you well and I hope you find peace. For people like Cat and I, peace came when we became free of God, the Bible, the church, and religion.

    Bruce

    Like

  4. kittybrat said:

    Jonathan, your struggle and epiphany are momentous! This is a worthy posting for all to read, particularly any who have been harnessed with the resin of the IFB teachings. These teachings harmed you, and harmed your wife by proxy. GOOD for you to recognize what was done. Only when one realizes the problem, can the problem be addressed with clarity.
    thank you!

    I wish to add something, and hope you will not be angry. God did NOT abandon you, Jonathan. You outgrew him. He does not really exist. That is to say, you came to this epiphany on your own, because you used your mind. And that, Jonathan, is beautiful!

    Like

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