In my book in progress, Two Steps from a Commune, chronicling my entrance into, and exit from a cult, I have uncovered many memories, stories that have laid dormant in my mind for years, that when viewed through the lenses of freedom, are tragic and scary. The level of control our leader had over us is unbelievable to me now, but at the time, we believed it was right, wise, our umbrella of protection, and more importantly, God’s will.
“Obey them that have the rule over you” was a lesson we heard often, always followed up by, “I’m not saying this for my benefit, but for yours…”. That reminded me, always, of being a young child, and right before my mother applied a hand-picked switch to my hinder parts, she would say, “This is going to hurt me more than you.” Really?
If you’ve read my blog and watched my videos, no doubt you have gleaned how deep the level of control the pastor/leader had over the individual lives of the people in the church. Who we dated was entirely his choice, what kind of clothes we wore, what authorized hairstyles we could wear, even down to our…underwear, was often scrutinized.
This excerpt from my book is one short example of how far reaching that control could go, and still be considered completely normal by those in the cult. To this day, when I ask people in that church about these situations I have documented, their responses will be something to the degree of, “Yes, I can understand why they would do that.”, or “I don’t see a problem with that, they are watching out for our souls.”
It takes a steady stream of indoctrination to be able to respond in that manner, after this following true account.
By this time I was able to enroll my son in the Church’s private school. This, of course, was a huge honor, both to my own ego and for my son. (Remember: Public School is of the devil. Check.) The only parents whose children were in public school were A) too poor to pay for tuition, or B) bad parents that didn’t care about the souls of their children and gave them up to Molech.
The private school required the kids to all wear matching uniforms – and being Apostolic Pentecostal made this easy on us. We shunned looking good (Well, except for the Armani suits and Sacks 5th Ave outfits the leaders wore…), we shunned individuality and personal freedoms, and most especially, pride. (Don’t look at the ladies hair though…They have pride for miles of buns and braids…) Ensuring that each child wore the same thing took out the opportunity for one child to look better than another. On the surface, there is a good principle at play, but it became another censorship and control mechanism.
If you had children in the church school, you had to attend Family Class – which was put on by the pastor’s wife on Sunday Mornings during Sunday School. At that time, the church had Adult Sunday School at 9:30 am while the kids were in their Sunday school classes. When they got out at 10:30, the church kids came back into the sanctuary to be with their parents, and the normal Sunday AM service began.
During Adult Sunday School, we went to the Upper Room for our Family Class. (I’m not kidding, they really called it the Upper Room.) It was there we were taught principles of parenting. And, I have to admit, many good principles came out of these classes, always taught by ladies who had reared several children (All Pentecostals of-course) and had the experience to teach the younger generation.
There were the normal topics – such as being on time, keeping your children clean, and fed, and taking time to be with them, stay engaged in their homework, and projects, and schooling. And there were the, of course, darker moments, about when to spank your kids, what would cause them to get in trouble at school, what those punishments were, etc.
It was heavily encouraged for parents to come to the school to spank their children if they got in trouble during the school day. Looking back now I truly believe the church had a spirit of publicly shaming people. (More on that later…) If a child wore improper clothing items like the wrong colored socks they could be disciplined, sent home to change or receive detention.
The most sinister moment in these family classes came one Sunday morning when the pastor’s wife was teaching on the topic of acceptable clothing for the children, specifically the girls. The topic came to pantyhose (Pentecostals love these), socks, blouses, skirts, and…underwear.
Because the girls dressed down in front of each other, the topic of underwear was dwelled on, and it was this class where they taught what types of underwear our daughters could wear, and at what ages. I remember them teaching that up to a certain age, only solid, standard briefs were acceptable, nothing stylized, patterned, and certainly no lace. And until the girl was graduated from school, no bikini, boy shorts, thong or other types of underwear could be worn. Violators would be told to go home and change, and if continued, expelled from the school.
(Regardless of whether or not we as parents think our children should wear certain types of underwear, the sinister side is that church/cult leadership was dictating and monitoring this. I too wouldn’t let my young daughter wear certain types of clothing, but that is my position as her father.)
At the time, I’m sure I was nodding my head and amen’ing the non-preacher. (Sarcasm added due to their hard stance on women not being places of teaching authority over men…) Later, I became very concerned, and started asking the question “What are they going to do, flip up the girl’s skirts to check the underwear?”
Well, it came one day (story recounted to me by the victim, nearly a decade later) that a young lady was wearing un-authorized panties – and a fellow student told the School supervisor. That young lady was taken to the bathroom and had to raise her skirt for the school supervisor to inspect her panties. Sure enough, she was sent home, in trouble for breaking school clothing policies.
Had this been any other school, any parent would have called the police and reported that behavior to the authorities. And school teacher or supervisor looking at your children’s underwear would be considered extremely odd, inappropriate, and sick.
But when control sets in, you come to see this as keeping your children safe. Guarding them against the spirits of lust that inappropriate clothing would cause them to have. These people aren’t sick for looking under the skirts of your children, they are guardians of their souls.