Linda (Hyles) Murphrey’s Story

From the Author:

Linda Murphrey is a popular inspirational speaker and expert in human behavior as a Certified Personal and Professional Development Coach, a Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and a lifelong student of interpersonal dynamics. She has been educating, speaking and mentoring people on how to reach their dreams, thrive in the midst of change and fulfill their highest destiny – both professionally and personally. A seasoned sales and business development expert, business owner, speaker and inner success coach, Linda offers a vast breadth of experience and expertise. She has served as a consultant to individuals and numerous corporations by instructing and impassioning executive management, sales professionals and entrepreneurs to plan and realize their goals.

Linda has currently written and released several chapters of “Healing from a God Who Wasn’t.” The book is Linda’s journey from religious fear and entrapment to freedom and truth.  In these chapters, she delves into her personal life growing up in a 50,000-member cult. Her chapters are a guide for victims of toxic faith searching for “religion rehab.”  I recommend these chapters for anyone who has been involved in any religious bondage, no matter the religious sect. Cults all operate the same. The abuses are the same. Her personal story as the daughter of Jack Hyles not only reveals the shocking details of the secrets she was forced to keep, but they also teach lessons to the reader that will help them to heal and grow. For more information or to purchase any of her chapters please visit Linda’s website:  lindamurphrey.com.  Here is Linda’s Story (similar to her TEDx talk in April, 2012):

headerEarly in my life I learned that there was one thing that would always, without fail, kill a festive mood at a dinner party. And that was to talk about me – to talk about my life, my life as the daughter of a cult leader. There was very little that was jovial or lighthearted about the first twenty-eight years of my life, and it is a story to which few people can possibly relate. So I avoided that topic at all costs. It was too painful, and I knew no one would understand. I became a master at diverting attention, diverting the conversation onto somebody else and away from me. I so rarely talked about my life that, on the unusual occasion when I would slip (after someone had  pushed me to divulge), rather than just casually and comfortably sharing – I vomited the story! And it went something like this:

*****

I grew up outside of Chicago in Hammond, Indiana, where my dad was the pastor of a church that, through the years, evolved into a mega-church with a proclaimed membership of 50,000. It operated and still operates under the guise of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. But those who have left, the followers who have tried to leave, the outsiders, and even the media recognize it as a cult – an organization centered around one man and his belief system.

There were very strict rules that I (and all members) adhered to in order to avoid committing the many proclaimed “sins” – women wearing pants, drinking alcohol, rock music or even Christian music with a beat, men having long hair, movies, dancing, etc. You name it – if it was fun, it was probably a sin.

Every member was in complete obedience to my father. They didn’t dare disagree or be disloyal, for fear of being publicly ridiculed, punished or banished for doing so. They didn’t go on a vacation without asking my dad’s permission, and if he had said to “drink the Kool-Aid”… I’m not kidding, they would have. My dad’s influence spanned across all states and in other countries. His teachings and methods permeated hundreds of churches across America, influencing tens of thousands of people.

My dad lived a double life: one of a righteous family man and dynamic religious speaker in the public eye, but one of sordid secrets privately – secrets that only my siblings, my mother and I knew. He hated my mom, treated her terribly, and even turned his own children against her. He told us she was crazy, and we knew that in order to make my dad happy, we must hate her too. Our home was full of turmoil, hatred, stress and strife. As a little girl, it was isolating, intense and frightening.

My dad was unfaithful to my mom. He had a mistress for many years, a woman on staff who was also the wife of a Sunday School teacher. He built her family a beautiful home right around the corner from our house. You could see their home from our back door. It was all just craziness – living one way, preaching another.

My older brother became another version of my father. As Pastor of a church in Texas, he was found to have been having affairs with fourteen different women in the church. He later divorced his current wife and married one of the fourteen. My father tried desperately to cover it up; moved him to another church where he was later found to have had seventeen affairs with different women. He recreated what he had seen my dad live. And my dad did nothing but lie for him and cover it up.

I felt like I had one main responsibility as a child. It was simple, but daunting – to keep all the secrets. And there were so many. You see, he had taught us that the best way to please God was to please him because he was “God’s man.” And he taught us that in order to please him, we must keep all the secrets. We could never even tell our best friends what went on in our home because it might be the cause of the destruction of his ministry. I literally feared for my very life if I ever talked about my dad’s ministry or about what went on in our home. I feared God would kill me for any disloyalty to God’s man. The greater the secrets, the greater the fear – and the greater my determination to keep quiet.

I’ll admit – the money from my dad’s ministry was rather enticing as a kid. Tithes and offerings from such a huge mega-church, as well as from my dad’s book sales and speaking engagements, created a lavish lifestyle for our family. My father (under “his” ministry) owned blocks of buildings in the city where the church was located. In addition, there was a college campus, two high schools, two grade schools, a cemetery, and other properties/buildings. And, even into our adult years, he owned us. He owned our homes, our cars, our furniture, our careers… he owned our lives. We didn’t dare cross him because we were too afraid we’d lose everything.

He died an extremely wealthy man, evidently a multi-millionaire, but left nothing to his children. Instead, he left everything to the organization, which my younger sister and her husband led until August of 2012.  During the time that my brother-in-law and sister controlled the church, they perpetuated my dad’s legacy: the strict rules, the undying loyalty, and the desperation to keep all the secrets.

I never understood why I was the only one of the four kids who was so tortured by the hypocrisy, so disturbed by the mind control over thousands and thousands of people, and so determined to find a better life. Why was I the only one that insisted on answers to my questions? And, why was I the only one that ultimately broke away and completely cut ties with the brain washing, the oppression, the fear, the secrets, and the life that had never been…my life?

I finally walked away when I was about twenty-eight years of age, then being estranged from my entire family. And, other than my oldest sister, I did not see my family again until many years later at my dad’s funeral.

*****

Okay, see what I mean? Not a story to share in casual conversation at a dinner party. Or maybe ever. So after leaving my dad’s organization, I decided that I would never talk about my past at all. For one thing, who would understand? For another thing, it was too hard. It hurt too much. So I made a mental note in permanent marker: MUST NEVER TALK ABOUT MY LIFE! And for many years, I didn’t. I couldn’t.

However, wonderful things have happened through the years.  Therapy, deprogramming, freedom from the mind control…and I began to heal and learn and accept and forgive. I even learned to be thankful for that bizarre life that I had lived, because I realized I had learned some amazing lessons not only from being there, but from having the guts to leave. I now have values that are deeply carved into my very soul from my experiences. Values you don’t get from reading a book, or from a workshop, or from another person. Values that are only this deeply engrained when you’ve lived what I lived.

Because my dad was a cult leader, I now embrace three values that no one will ever take away from me. The first one is freedom:

  • Freedom to explore my own interests.
  • Freedom to live within my own value system.
  • Freedom to determine my own value system.
  • Freedom to believe what I believe, and never stifle what I believe.
  • Freedom to disagree.
  • Freedom to ask questions, and to require honest answers.
  • Freedom to learn who I am.
  • Freedom to love who I am.

The second value is truth. I learned pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be very “free” until I dealt with what was true, and that was hard for me. Truth was a scary word for me, because for my entire life, I had never been allowed to face truth and speak of what went on in our home. I had never even told my best friend everything that went on in the Hyles household. Being truthful was one of the scariest things I could think of, but it was necessary in order to be set free.

I learned that “secrets grow in the dark, but when exposed in the light of truth, they begin to lose their power.” Mary Vernon (my dear therapist in Dallas, Texas, who nurtured me and who loved me through many years of healing) used to say to me, “Linda, you are only as sick as your secrets.” So slowly, I stopped keeping secrets. And as scared as I was in my late twenties, I finally began to deal with what was true. I finally began to speak what was true, and eventually, learned to live openly only in truth.

The third value is courage. Did you know that you actually cannot live in freedom or truth if you have no courage? Courage is a requirement for both. You may desire to live in complete freedom and complete truth, but if you’re lacking courage, you will live in neither one.

In my late twenties, I’ll admit – I only had a tiny shred of courage. It wasn’t much. But it was all I needed. My desire be free and honest was so great that my small shred of courage was enough to allow me to walk away. I have a plaque on my desk that I have had for years and it’s gone with me everywhere I’ve ever moved. It says, “The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage.” Those words have always resonated with me.

I knew I wasn’t going to be happy unless I was free, but I knew I wasn’t going to be free unless I could muster up some courage to get out of there and begin facing truth. I had to cling to and act upon that tiny shred of courage in order to finally leave a cult, the only friends I’d ever known, my childhood connections, my history, and my family…knowing that in doing so, I would finally have what I had longed for my entire life – freedom and truth.

Freedom. Truth. Courage. Three words that may seem a bit trite and over-used by some people. To me, they are the air that I breathe – values upon which I insist on living and loving in my life.

Oh, and one other thing that I actually now value? Sharing my story. Talking about me. Who would have thought! I now recognize that it is through sharing my story that I can so passionately share with others my values – values gained after twenty-eight years in an emotional prison that kept my heart under lock and key and, kept my soul shackled by fear and kept my mind from knowing…what I knew.

You know, I sometimes wonder if perhaps living in the absence of our values is what can most clearly determine what indeed our values are. For me, I believe that the absence of and the denial of these values, is what ultimately created the presence thereof. For so many years, I was denied freedom, truth, and courage. And now? I will never let them go.

Not to worry. You’re still not going to find me at a dinner party talking about my childhood. That’s not going to happen. You won’t find me sitting around with strangers or mere acquaintances, elaborating over the fact that my father who took a wonderful church and turned it into a 50,000-member cult. I still know that’s a mood killer. I get it.

But you will find me here, and in other appropriate settings, especially if I can help someone – talking about my life…with sincere gratitude for all that I’ve learned…in spite of and because of living in the absence of freedom, truth, and courage.

And thank God, I now have all three.

From the Author:

Since coming forward with her story in 2012, a lot has happened. Linda has published four chapters to her book, Healing from a God Who Wasn’t. Her brother-in-law, Jack Schaap, now the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, is sitting in federal prison for taking a minor across state lines for sex.  Needless to say, this has created much emotional turmoil in Linda’s life. Because of Jack’s arrest and her coming forward to speak the truth, she has been attacked and maligned by people within the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult from all over America. Complete strangers, some of them pastors! What a sad testimony to the fact that brainwashing blinds people to truth. Not only this, it causes them to act hatefully and maliciously toward those who dare to speak truth and expose the lies they have believed. What a sad testament to the fact that religious leaders can control the minds and hearts of masses of people. Cult followers choose to remain blind and attack and discredit the source of that truth rather than to accept it.

Linda came forward to release the truth that had been kept from the public for over fifty years of her life.  These secrets made her sick, very sick. And what she discovered was that, in the hearts and minds of thousands, her dad is STILL an idol that is revered and protected. Unfortunately, as I have expressed so well on this blog and in my book, Religion’s Cell, “Mankind has a tendency to act in accordance with what it perceives to be the truth, not in accordance with what the truth is in fact. . . Bringing to light the error in the perceived truth sheds light on the real truth. However, because perception is fact in the minds of many, revealing the truth can bring a person under the verbal attack of the masses, especially if they are truths that debunk religious dogmas, doctrines and behaviors or expose abuse.”  I was right.

Despite the attacks and hate mail, Linda still speaks truth. She remains committed to “speaking the truth in love.” Secrets only make a person sick and the mind, a battleground. Telling the truth takes courage and frees a person to be who they truly are instead of a clone of the cult system and a keeper of secrets. The time has come for Linda and victims everywhere to break free of the shackles of bondage to fear and stand strong against the darts and arrows hurled. There are countless thousands suffering bondage and abuse within the religious systems of the world and they need people to come forward, exhibit freedom, show courage, and tell the truth. That time is now. Thank you, Linda, for telling your story!

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