Recently I was reminded of several events of home invasion that took place during my time in the cult – the independent Oneness Pentecostal church I belonged to for 15 years, that illustrates the overbearing control some pastors and leaders take over the flock, the congregation, the members, and how that control ultimately leads to invading your personal life, your home, and sometimes, your person.
I would be remiss, due to recent comments, not to mention that not all Oneness Pentecostal pastors and churches do all of the things I mention in my blog. However, I believe the Oneness Pentecostal movement as a whole is a cult, and it’s doctrines lead to abuse and deception, and while I will disclaimer that not everything I write about is attributed to every church, it is pervasive in the system, and this is evidenced by the hundreds of interviews and contacts I have had from United Pentecostal, independent Oneness, and other Oneness Pentecostal people, not just my personal experiences.
First, let me start by asking the question, “Does the church belong in your home?”
It is no doubt to me, that your home life should be reflective of your Christian faith and convictions. We shouldn’t have a double standard for our ‘public’ life, and our ‘private’ life, but there definitely is a distinction between the two. And, as Christians, if we believe that God dwells in us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells in our heart, our being, then surely, God is in our home.
But does the Church belong there, and when I say Church, I mean the rules, dogmas, and wishes/commands of the pastor. For instance, in the Oneness Pentecostal church, women are forbidden from wearing pants, as they consider it unholy. They teach, that anything that splits the leg is men’s apparel. Of course, then they go on to demand women to wear pantyhose..which splits the leg – but I digress.
It so happens, that this teaching prevails upon the homes too – for it has been taught, Don’t you think you can go home and wear pajama pants, and pants at home just because no one can see you. Again – this never made sense to me, because if the point of Holiness in dress standard is not to cause other people to lust after you and slip up (morally) – and no one is there to see you…what does it matter what you wear? But again, I digress.
Monitoring Your Behavior
Around 2010-2011, in the church I attended at the time, the pastor was coming against the ‘dangers of the internet’, and no one can doubt there are bad things on the internet if one goes looking for them. The approach was, and he asked me many times how to do it, knowing I was a computer nerd, to require church members who were in any way involved in ministry, Sunday School, Bus Ministry, Music, etc., to put a software on their home computers to block things that were considered ‘wrong’. It was strongly encouraged that the whole church participates with this program, and probably the majority did. We simply did what our pastor told us to do.
That list of ‘wrong’ of course, was focused on pornography, violence, alcohol, and streaming of movies, television, etc. What was intrusive was that it wasn’t up to you install this software, or to control your own behavior. The software could only be installed by elders in the church, who came to your home to do it.
These elders installed the software with a password you could not be given, and the software could not be removed from your computer without their permission and password. Furthermore, it sent nightly emails to the pastor of your online activity, alerting them to you trying to access things that they didn’t want you accessing, and even telling them if you tried to uninstall it.
One young man in the church told me, ‘They did it with my tablet but as soon as I got it back I factory reset it.‘ They wanted this software on any phones and other mobile devices that could access the internet as well.
Of course, over time that demand settled, I would guess the majority of people got new computers and devices and never reinstalled it. I would also guess, the sheer volume of ‘monitoring’ time it took the pastor and his son (the son is now the pastor) would be overwhelming. Micromanaging people is a daunting task.
I too had the software on my home computer for a while, but was tired of the restrictions and eventually reinstalled Windows to remove it. As a web designer with many ‘wine’ based clients, the software blocked me from going to websites that were about wine and it was constantly a major challenge to my business.
What has made it worse was that around 2015, the churches non-accredited private Christian school (which is just a fundraising and indoctrination arm of the church) went digital and changed curriculums, which required families with children in the church to purchase Chromebooks for their students. I’m a huge fan of digital, so this was a brilliant move to me, having children living like they were in the Little House on the Prairie times – they needed to be introduced to modern technology – but then the insidiousness of Home Invasion began anew. It was required that monitoring software is placed on to each Chromebook (which was not Church/School purchased) so that school staff would be alerted to any young person infracting the church rules.
And even more ridiculous was the infractions. My good friend, who has disowned me because I now speak out against this church, was in charge of setting up these Chromebooks and told me ‘Kids were trying to look up Odyssey on there, or the weather, so I would call the School supervisor and tell her, ‘um’, you might want to go check on ….’.
This again is the Church invading the personal and home lives of its members, using control and fear tactics to keep people inline, teaching that absolute obedience to the pastor is required to be ‘righteous’ before God. It is truly mind-boggling that a group of people (myself included for 15 years) would give another flawed and angry human being this level of control over their lives.
Letting the Preacher In
The second event wasn’t really an event, but an understanding, something the preacher would say from time to time to drive in the point of having the ‘right spirit’, or attitude of respect and obedience to the ministry.
“You should have the attitude that if I wanted to come to your home, and look through your drawers, and cabinets, and rooms, you would let me.”
This was such a devious teaching because as all of Satans lies, there is always this thin layer of truth covering the stink of rotten meat. In layman’s terms, the principle was that we shouldn’t have anything in our lives, and in our homes, that we would want to hide should the pastor come over. But, they spun in such a way, that by osmosis, you would believe that he had the right to inspect your home whenever he wanted to.
It was this attitude of authority – that the preacher was God incarnate, the vicar of Christ, the authority of Jesus, the harbinger of His will
In Family Class, which if you had children in the Church’s (non-accredited) private school, you had to attend, they taught at times on what kind of underwear your daughters could wear.
In marriage retreats, several times it was covertly (via euphemisms and vague references) taught what types of sexual behaviors were allowable between husbands and wives. My pastor taught against masturbation, oral sex, and other ‘behind closed doors’ behavior as if he had any business being there.
In other cases, several times in the church I attended, and in reports from other UPC church attendees (or previous/ ex-attendees) the Pastor would come to the person’s home after service, if that person wasn’t in church, and demand to know why he wasn’t there, all in the spirit of love and concern for his soul, I’m sure, and make sure they attended the next service.
My last example was my old pastor telling my wife how much weight she could lose. She had been dieting for some time after having our first child and was working to remove some of that extra baby cushion. The pastor met us in the middle aisle of the sanctuary, made some small chat, and then told my wife, who looked and looks great by the way, You’ve lost too much weight, you need to stop.
As the majority of my work is now focused on high-control and cult style systems, I must confess this writing is as a warning to you, who may read this, that if you or a loved one find themselves in a situation where this level of control is being demanded, it is a cult, and a very traumatic and dangerous situation to be in. It will be equally traumatic to exit but exit you must.
As with all cults and high-control systems, your exit will be just as painful as the realization that you are being controlled. Having your best friend disown you because you speak out against it. Having friends cut you off for ‘questioning’ the control. Children may move away from parents, and parents may deny their children unconditional love, conditioned on their obedience to the system.
As with the pyramid image above, these systems are a #1 – ‘We tell you what to do’, and this will often involve your vacations, jobs, purchases, finances, etc. Be wary and avoid these places, run from them, and if necessary, get your family out of them. They may not be willing to come, but over time, if you show unconditional love, they will see the difference between the offer of Freedom that Jesus gave, and life has for them, vs. the demands of bondage these evil men require.