Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Was Born and Raised in a Doomsday Cult

I was born and raised in a doomsday cult.

I was also born and raised in a working class neighborhood.  Went to public school.  Played kickball and baseball and jumped rope with neighbor kids. 

Our neighbors knew that we didn’t do birthday parties and Christmas.  They also knew that we didn’t play outside on Friday night and that we went to church on Saturday instead of Sunday. 

Our neighbors accepted us as just having “a different religion.”

“But they’re good people,” they were quick to say.  “You might disagree with their beliefs, but you can’t ever say they’re bad folks.”

All kinds of people join doomsday cults.  Good people who have the intention of making a difference in what can be a dark and dismal world.

These folks want the pain to end.  They want suffering to end.  And the only way it can possibly happen is for a supernatural power to set things right.

While they might refer to themselves as ‘God’s one and only true church,’ or the ‘only church with the true message about Jesus Christ,’ they never think of themselves as being in a doomsday cult.

We were no exception.

My parents married right out of high school in 1970, a time of political and social upheaval.  Given the era and their ages, I suspect that these young people were looking for a rock-solid absolute around which they could order their lives. 

Enter The Plain Truth Magazine. 

One day, my father stumbled upon Herbert Armstrong’s teachings through a news magazine that depicted modern life as death, despair, and destruction.  Fortunately, all of the horror depicted in the magazine was part of God’s plan for mankind.

Kinda like Time or Newsweek, but with a heavy emphasis on the Apocalypse.

The Plain Truth magazine was replete with photos of atomic bombs and nuclear tests, crying people, starving people, people hurting – and then God’s answer: a wonderful World Tomorrow where God would defeat Satan, and war would end forever.

Anyone would be hard pressed not to at least be a little sympathetic to that message in the middle of the Cold War.

With a little help from some ministerial visits and correspondence courses, my parents grew to believe that they were specially called by God to help usher in this World Tomorrow through allegiance to God’s one and only true church, the Worldwide Church of God.   They were baptized. 

They stopped eating pork.  They stopped ‘keeping Christmas’.  They started worshipping God from sundown on Friday night until sundown on Saturday night.  They started tithing, and in some years, that meant 30% of their pre-tax income.

They started spending the majority of their time with fellow church members.

Their relationships with their family members and neighbors didn’t end completely, but folks found their new practices peculiar.

But this would make sense, counseled the ministers.  After all, we are a strange and peculiar people.  They aren’t being called by God at this time.  You are.  Of course they don’t understand.

A few years later, I was born.

One of my earliest memories is sitting on a blanket in a room filled with folding chairs, looking up at panty-hosed legs, playing with Fisher Price Little People, and listening to Herbert Armstrong’s voice. 

“And this gospel of the Kingdom SHALL BE PREACHED,” he’d scream while pounding a desk “in ALL the world for a witness unto ALL nations and then shall the end come.”

Now Herbert Armstrong wasn’t in the room.  But his Voice was.  He was on a cassette tape playing at the front of the assembly.  But there was a microphone.  A man would get up and talk, and then he would sit down.  And then the Voice.

I wasn’t aware of the cassette tape.  I believed that God was standing in front of that microphone.  Everyone was taking notes and staring straight ahead.  It had to be the Voice of God.

Unbeknownst to me and my family in this pre-Internet age, Herbert Armstrong was in quite a bit of trouble at his headquarters in Pasadena, California.  The state had placed God’s true church into receivership, and Herbert had left the state, and later?  The country. 

It turns out when you get a quarter of a million people to give you nearly 30% of their pre-tax income, you do pretty well financially, but it might be difficult to call yourself a non-profit corporation.

A lot of people close to the Headquarters of the Worldwide Church of God saw the corruption and gave up.

But we didn’t. 

We were told that we were being persecuted, that the government was taking away the separation between church and state, and that the End Times were coming to pass the way Herbert Armstrong said they would.

And we became more committed, if such a thing is possible.

I never heard the word ‘cult’ until the mid-nineties.  I was in my late teens.  My grandfather was in the hospital, and in the waiting room, I picked up a New Yorker magazine, thumbed through it, and learned of a place called Jonestown.

I’d never heard of Jim Jones.  How in the world could something of this magnitude happen and it not be covered in the Plain Truth magazine?

At the time, the most compelling part of the story for me wasn’t the mass suicide or the dead bodies.  

It was that those people were in Guyana in the first place.

One of Herbert Armstrong’s favorite topics was the Great Tribulation.  “No flesh,” he would declare,” will be spared that great and terrible day of the Lord.”  And then the production team would cue the atomic bombs and the explosions, just in case we might wonder exactly what the great and terrible day of the Lord might be like.

Fortunately, we were the elect.  And as such, we were going to a Place of Safety to be shielded from such atrocities.  That is, if we were faithful to the end.

We would have sold everything and followed Herbert Armstrong to meet Jesus Christ in a cave dwelling in Petra, Jordan, which is where Herbert Armstrong believed this Place of Safety to be. 

We would have gone to Guyana. 

Although Herbert Armstrong died in 1986, we in the church continued to follow his teachings well into the 90’s.

Through a series of events that take a lot of energy to recount, I left God’s one and only true church with the emotional support of some dear friends.

As you might imagine, I floundered for a bit.

I moved to a new city to start over.  I was pretty happy, and I pushed everything about the Worldwide Church of God and Herbert Armstrong and Sabbath-keeping and Holy Days and all of it completely aside. 
Well, almost completely.  I started having anxiety attacks and incredibly scary dreams.

The answer had to be spiritual, of course.  It always had been before.

I started going to a completely different kind of church, and I liked it.  I liked the people there.  They were nice.  I said little to them about my experience.

One guy stood out in particular.  We started dating…and then exclusively…and then we got married.

And for a while, it was really great.

And then after a while, he started wondering if he had made a huge mistake.

I became convinced that to be a good wife, I needed to be everything that Herbert Armstrong had said good wives should be.  I started reading some of my old literature from Worldwide.  I considered going back to Sabbath-keeping and ditching my birthday and Christmas.

In the Worldwide Church of God, women were trained to be Stepford Wives.  

And I was no exception.

Slowly, the old programming took hold, and I became convinced that by leaving God’s one and only true church and marrying my husband?  I chose Satan.

If you ever meet my husband, I really doubt that the first thing that will come to mind is ‘Satan.’  Or ‘demon’ or ‘false prophet.’  (He did get a D+ in conduct in the fourth grade, but that’s not exactly Prince of Darkness material. )

It became harder and harder to keep our life together. 

One day, when I was looking for a Sabbath-keeping church in my area, I came across a website called The Painful Truth

Ex-Worldwide members had written their stories, and none of them were edited for content.

My husband came home from work to find me sobbing in a fetal position.

He read the site with me.  He was dumbfounded.  “I had no idea,” he kept saying over and over.  “I had no idea.”

For three days, I did nothing but read.  I didn’t eat.  I didn’t sleep.  I read.

And I cried.

This was April 1999.

My husband learned of a special retreat for people who had been through something called ‘spiritual abuse.’  It was called Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, and it was in Albany, Ohio.  It was a place where I could get some perspective on what had happened to me.

I spoke with Dr. Paul Martin on the phone at length.  He assured me that they knew all about the Worldwide Church of God at Wellspring.  He told me that what I was experiencing was quite common.

Most importantly, he believed that he could help us.

Now in the Worldwide Church of God, psychologists and psychiatrists were always viewed as avenues for demons to enter into your mind.  So it might make sense that I was a little concerned about having my head filled with…well, demons.

“I’ll take you there,” said my husband.  “If you ever want to leave, you are free to go.”

The fact that I even went is a testament to how much I love and trust this man.

Ron Burks, my counselor, and I talked a lot about PTSD.  I learned that the condition was due to trauma, and that sustained trauma over many years can cause symptoms like anxiety attacks and nightmares.

I learned these things weren’t my fault.

After a week of treatment, my husband flew in for the weekend.   We left campus and went to Marietta, Ohio to celebrate his birthday.  When we got back to the Lodge, the staff had a cake for him and some flowers for me.

I was really touched.

One day, Ron and I had a session about the nature of narcissistic personality disorder that left me in shock.  Herbert Armstrong used people, and my family and I were some of those people. 

While that might have been self-evident to everyone around, it was news to me.

I was in shock.   God’s one and only true apostle was an absolute fraud.  He had kept our family from having relationships with each other and with their extended families and neighbors.  He had nearly destroyed my marriage.  

He had practically destroyed me. 

After this session, one of the Wellspring RAs, Jay, asked me if I would like some lunch.

“Sure,” I said absently, and I got up to make it myself.

“No, no,” he protested, “sit down.  Let me.  Would you like a ham and cheese sandwich?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Would you like it toasted?”

Asking me if I wanted my sandwich toasted may have seemed inconsequential, but it stood in stark contrast to how I had tamped down my wants in order to serve Herbert Armstrong’s wants. 

What I wanted was important.  What I want is important.  And it is good to want things.

I learned that my existence and worth as a human being was not predicated on following Herbert’s rules. 

And then there was the Bible.  I didn’t want to be afraid of that book any longer.

Bible study was never a part of Wellspring’s curriculum, but I deduced that Larry Pile, the main workshop leader, was a Christian.  One afternoon, I asked him if there was a book in the bible that dealt with spiritual abuse.

“There is!” he exclaimed.  “The entire letter to the Galatians is about false teaching.”

I asked if we could read together, and he agreed to explain his thinking on the matter.  He also reminded me that these were his thoughts, and that I was free to look at the material  anyway I wanted.  We read two chapters together before I had to stop.  I was just weary.

I came home from Wellspring and slept for almost a week.

I kept reading the Bible, but with different eyes and with a different voice in my head. 

I started really liking the stories that Jesus told.  We didn’t spend so much time on these in the Worldwide Church of God.  When I read them, Jesus emerged for me as a character with a quick wit, who was cunning but not deceitful, and who was overwhelmingly compassionate.

In short, I found him miles more compelling that Herbert Armstrong.

A few years later, when our children were small, I went back to Wellspring for a week.  For a refresher course.  Just to remind myself to relax and enjoy the little things in life.  

But on this visit to Wellspring, it became overwhelmingly apparent to me that there were thousands of groups of varying sizes just like the Worldwide Church of God all over this country.

My counselor, Donna, and I talked more about what I wanted.

“I think I want to write,” I said.

“So write,” she said.

I told her about some story ideas I had. 

“I don’t think people really understand spiritual abuse,” I said to her.

“I don’t think they do either,” she said.

“There needs to be a story…or a movie…”

She smiled.  “It would have to be made by someone who thinks outside the box.”

“What’s a box?”

That summer, I started writing my novel, and I reassembled some of those dear friends who provided emotional support for me when I was leaving the Worldwide Church of God.  We went camping together like we had many years prior. 

One of my friends was now a filmmaker in Los Angeles.  “What are you working on?  You’re always working on something?” he asked me.

“A novel,” I said.

“Pitch it to me.”

So I did.

“That isn’t a novel,” he said, “that’s a movie.”

I told him that I didn’t know how to write a screenplay.

“Well, I do,” he said.

I crammed my novel  into a screenplay.  The first draft was 189 pages.  I was thrilled to be done, and presented it to my filmmaker friend.

“Oh, you’re not done,” he said.  “You don’t know this yet, but a page equals a minute of film, give or take.  We’ve got to cut some stuff out of there.  This isn’t The Godfather.”

And he gave me notes on the script.  I revised.  And he gave me more notes.  And I made more revisions.

Twenty-two revisions later, I reconnected with an old friend, Storme Wood, who had been doing film and video production for a number of years and was itching to direct his first narrative feature.  We met for breakfast, which turned into lunch.

“I didn’t know you wrote screenplays,” he said, cautiously, when I told him of Paradise Recovered.

“Well, I do now,” I said, and I handed him the script.

After reading it, Storme came to visit, and I took him to meet with friends of mine, also spiritual abuse survivors.

As an aside, spiritual abuse survivors are everywhere.  If we assume that the 3,000 distinctive cult groups in America have an average of 200 members, and if each of those members has twenty people in their immediate circle who has been hurt and abused, we’re talking about twelve million people who have been hurt by spiritually abusive leaders either directly or indirectly. 

And those estimates are incredibly conservative.

I had become acquainted with a group who called themselves Apostolics Anonymous.  They met together on Wednesday nights in a local tavern.  Despite the fact that I was never in the United Pentecostal Church, I found that we had a great deal in common.

To his credit, Storme spent a great deal of time gently listening to their stories.

When we got in the car to leave, he had tears in his eyes.

“I don’t care if I sit in the back of this production and pay bills and crunch numbers,” he said “we have to make this movie.  For them.  For all of them.  For you.”

My husband and I scraped up a little over $100,000.  With that tiny bit of money by Hollywood studio standards, plus a lot of sweat and sacrifice, Storme and I made that movie together with a team of people who also sacrificed to tell this story.  Many of them were survivors or friends of survivors themselves.

Paradise Recovered isn’t my story, but it is about me.  But it isn’t just about me.  In our test audiences, we heard women and men wonder aloud if we had been documenting their lives with a camera when they were growing up.

After experiencing our fictitious aberrant group,’ Prophetic Watchman Ministries, International,’ spiritual abuse survivors (regardless of affiliation) told us that we ‘got it right.’

When we were handed the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature at Oklahoma City’s deadCENTER Film Festival, the festival director hugged me and said, “Thank you for sharing this film with us.  It was time somebody said it.”

We had the pleasure of being  part of seventeen film festivals around the country.  We won a number of awards.  Many film festival directors called us and told us how much our film meant to them personally.

And when we watched the film with a handful of cult survivors in my living room, their tears of joy and promises to pray for us meant more than any accolade or award.

Wellspring gave me my life back and gave me the courage to be who I want to be.  It was there that I learned that I have a great deal to give the world.  I still falter.  I still have an anxiety attack from time to time.  I am still experimenting with faith.  But I have a voice.  And I use my words.

And I write every day.

In addition to sharing profits with all of the filmmakers who helped in this effort, my new production company, By The Glass Productions, has designated at least 10% of the producer’s profits to Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center for a Victim Assistance Fund. 

Healing is possible.  As Greg Sammons, the current director at Wellspring, told me recently, we are always in recovery.  But it gets easier.  It gets better. 

And life is very rich and very, very good.

Paradise Recovered is distributed by Monarch Home Entertainment and will release on April 24, 2012.    You can pre-order Paradise Recovered on Amazon.com or put it in your Netflix DVD queue.

Your support of this film will help survivors like me find the healing they richly deserve.  Thank you.


  1. I've told you this many times before, but I am so glad you made the Paradise Recovered. It opened my eyes and helped me see that there were other people like me. I didn't know about Wellspring when I first left the cult, but I really wish I would have. They would have been a tremendous help. It's wonderful that you are helping them. I'm sure they can use it.

    1. Wellspring is a lifesaver for many, including me. Thanks again, Mary. I am glad you are in my life.

    2. ..but it doesn't happened to me.I was baptized 1970 by the Worldwide Church of God and until now I follow the teaching of Mr.Armstrong as our daily guidance in doing things especially when it related to spiritual understanding.My life and our lives(my parents and brothers and sisters)has a good life,no sicknesses that last long,not reach but has everything that life basically needs and we have a quite life,no Christmas,no birth days,No valentines,No new years celebration,Never going back to Sunday worship but keeping the Sabbath until now as well as God's annual holidays from Liv.23,that Mr.Armstrong teaches and the result of keeping Mr.Armstrong Doctrines makes all our lives successful and fruitful.Sorry to hear all your bad story.Life is full or trials especially this end time- but keep praying and stay put in the Church of God because this is the temple of God where he will return suddenly- and those cowards and double minded will be at the lake of Fire together with false Prophets and teachers.

  2. I remember reading Herbert Armstrong's stuff in the early 80s. It's bizarre to me that he impacted people in the way you describe. I remember just reading his stuff and thinking "hm, that's interesting."

    1. I'm sure it does seem bizarre. Because you weren't on the inside, you weren't privy to the incredible amount of control in his group. The testimonials at places like The Painful Truth (www.hwarmstrong.com) and The Exit and Support Network (www.exitsupportnetwork.com) corroborate my story.

      Cults systematically recruit members through rather innocuous looking materials that resonate with them. When people have invested time and energy in the group, a sense of inertia starts to take over until people cannot bring themselves to leave. And if they do leave, they leave everything they have ever known.

  3. Andie, reading this give me GREAT insight to what's going on behind your film. The day we met, you spoke after my speech, and you barely touched on what the film was about but it was enough for my mind to spark "Sounds familiar...wonder how close that is to the way I was raised..." I found it on facebook before I found it on Netflix, and what really clued me was the cover for your film. Not the picture of the main characters....the one above it. What the family was wearing. *Remember several years ago when that Borat movie cam out? I was at a friend's home (term used lightly) and they were watching a part where he attends a religious service, mocking them and they were none the wiser. The small crew of kids in the room found it hysterical, I had to leave. It was way too close to home for me, the closest I have EVER seen my childhood portrayed. I cried and became angry at that moment for a thousand reasons. Fast-forward several years to when I saw the photo on facebook-just the cover photo, I paused....it wasn't familiar, it was identical. Sometimes I can't dip into that part of my life, I become so frustrated at how anyone can suggest that ONE idea/faith is meant for everyone. I have a respect for differing opinions that is just simply NOT reciprocated back to me. You and I have been trying to lunch date it....it might turn into a breakfast-becomes-lunch kinda thing if we let it. The term Spiritual Abuse is new to me, very very new, only heard of it because of this film. I'm pretty interested in this AA group...is this still going on? Is it local? And a light-hearted question for them meant to make someone smile...ask them if I would still be invited even though I was raised in Trinity Pentecost?

    1. I think that Apostolics Anonymous no longer meets regularly, but I'd be happy to get something going again! And yes...you'd be more than welcome.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. Although I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call the churches in my experience 'cults', my wife and I have experienced a measure of spiritual abuse.

    I totally connect with your references to Galatians and the stories of Jesus.

    I'd read the entire Bible through more than once, but was mostly unaware that I'd been interpreting it through the lens of my Evangelical/Charismatic programming.

    After my wife and I left organized religion a few years ago, we began to read the New Testament again, this time with less-biased eyes. Galatians, in particular, was a breath of fresh air, issuing a scathing indictment against religious bondage, and inviting us to freedom.

    Anway, thank you so much for sharing your story, and for the movie (can't wait to see it!) - I expect you'll end up helping a LOT of people get free.

    1. I don't think all organized religion is bad, but I do think that people who've been hurt by abusive churches can do themselves a huge favor by just taking a break from church. Thank you for your kind words, and here's to freedom!

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  6. Andie ~ Thank you so much for sharing your story and validating what so many lived through. Having grown up in Worldwide Church of God (1961-2003), I was alerted to your blog via Heidi Korthius on Facebook's WCG Survivors. Sharing this with others, including my children, will hopefully help them understand my experience a little better. Btw, your references to Jonestown & Stepford Wives really resonated ~ two touchstones I've always found deeply moving. Kudos for expressing your healing voice through this blog, and pursuing your creative dreams with "Paradise Recovered"!

    1. Rhonda:

      Thank you for your kind words. While my independent film team created a story that is accessible to anyone regardless of their spiritual situation, I hoped that Paradise Recovered might help families and friends understand the pain that their loved ones go through after being involved in a destructive cult...as a sort of safe space to discuss issues with the help of characters.

      I'd love to hear your thoughts after seeing the film. You can share them on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/paradiserecovered), or you can share them with me privately at andieredwine@gmail.com.

      Thank you again for taking the time to write. I am glad that you found a safe space here.


  7. Dear Sweet Andie,
    "And a child shall lead them." Who'd a Thunk?

    I have focused on my children and what they experienced in the WCG. Until reading your blog I did not think about what it did to me as a woman, a person, a friend, a daughter myself. Whew!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your feelings and insights. God has shined special "light" on you. Kudos to you for sharing it with all you can.

    The depths of scars and nightmares are impossible to explain to any who has not "been there done that."

    I am pretty good with words myself, yet find myself unable to come up with the words that explain how much all this you have done means to me personally!

    Thank you, Sweet Girl.

    Susan's Mom

    1. Dear KJM:

      I am so glad that you got to see our film at one of the festivals. :) We all carry around some pretty private pain about our experience when we have been a part of a destructive group.

      You matter. Thinking of your smile makes me smile. My very best to you and your amazing family.


  8. Oh, my goodness, Andie!!! You put into words what I've been struggling through for years ... anxiety, depression, nightmares, panic attacks. It took a long time to realize where they were coming from and, finally, now in my mid-40's, I am seeing a counselor about how to break free from the impact the spiritual and psychological and mental abuse I suffered through for 33 years in WCG and Ambassador College (and throw in an abusive ex-husband who was targeted to becoming "ordained" eventually). I didn't realize how much anger I had turned inward - blaming myself for everything, that it was "my fault" for being so gullible and being duped (although, when you're born into it, logic tells you it's not your fault).

    Thank you so much for using your words to describe what, for many of us, there are no words to describe. I love the phrase you used - "experimenting with faith." 3 years ago, I started having panic attacks when I thought about going to church on Sunday. And, I was a weekly Sunday School teacher for kids. One day, I just couldn't go back, even though it was a lovely church with lovely people. Just the thought of organized "church" sent me into waves of panic. I found myself wanting to withdraw from the world and hide.

    It's been a struggle, but I'm coming through it. I think the hardest thing to get over is the guilt and shame and self-blame that HWA's "voice" continues to bring up in me. And, the wondering of "what if I'm wrong?" Thankfully, God's voice is becoming much stronger than the old, angry, shouting, condemning voice of Herbert. And, God's voice continues to encourage me to "just be for awhile and trust me that I'm not going to beat you over the head with a stick because you're confused." I think God's blessings and grace have been more evident during this time of struggle than at any other time in my life.

    I could go on and on, but I won't. I can't WAIT to see your movie, Andie, and I will definitely be ordering it from Amazon.

    Many blessings to you and your family as you continue the journey of healing.

    Thank you.


    1. Dear LWR:

      "It's been a struggle, but I'm coming through it."

      What great words to read. I have some tears in my eyes.

      No shame. No guilt. No self-blame. You are perfect just the way you are.

      Being gentle with yourself is one of the biggest keys to recovery. I am honored that you took the time to share your feelings and thoughts with me and those who might read this page. Recovery is worth the effort!


  9. Andie:
    Thank you for your article. You do have a way with words and your story resonated with me very deeply. I appreciate that you can find humor in that experience. It allows one to keep your sanity while going through that transition.

    Growing up as a "Preachers Kid" in WWCG (along with a Theology Degree at Ambassador College), I was steeped in that religion and bought into it for many years.

    The ensuing personal journey to experience God, not just understand doctrinal teachings, led me to a fairly dramatic departure from that organization. Turns out the Ministry has a dark side that comes out if you start challenging their control, or worse, catch THEM in sin.

    Your journey of leaving all that you know for freedom is not for the faint of heart. It brought me to my knees...which is exactly where I found the beginings of tapping into Real Faith as a living part of my experience and not just an intellectual understanding. I have since gone into the "unknown" in different aspects of my life with more of a confidence that somehow it all works out and to try and enjoy the ride along the way. (we were very "serious" Christians, wouldn't you say?) :)

    The irony of all of this is that there was alot of good in that church and I had many good memories and friends. But in the end my conclusion was that it was a Fear - based proposition....people were convinced to follow because of the consequences of not doing it. It attracted control - freaks.

    It fell apart because it was founded and rooted in Fear which is not God's spirit. (II Tim 1:7) Anything (an idea, institution) that is going to survive long term in joy must have a spiritual principle that it is tied to. You know it is true when it produces fruits of Love, joy or peace. The main fruit they (and many religions) wanted was obedience.

    BTW, I forwarded your information to my mom (who is a ministers wife in United in Ohio and she loved it, as well).

    I will look for your movie and watch it. Congratulations on pulling that off. What a journey!
    Thanks again,

    1. Dear, dear Rick:

      Thank you for taking the time to write. I can only imagine what your pain must be like.

      I have always said that the people in the Worldwide Church of God were some of the finest people I have ever known. That they were duped by a con artist like Herbert Armstrong and that they suffer with anxiety and depression and PTSD as a lovely parting gift upon exiting this church makes it all the more angering.

      Freedom is far more precious when you have paid a price for it, and brother, we paid a heckuva price.

      Thank you for your congratulations. We made this film for folks just like you and your family. We are looking forward to hearing what you think.


  10. wow - and thanks. I too was a WWCG refuge! (just kidding on refuge)... I have struggled my entire life with íssues´. I will look for your movie. Thanks again and again.

    1. Hello, Lesa.
      Thank you for writing. There is another side to this mess where life is amazingly wonderful.
      Here's to healing and recovery!

  11. I grew up in WWCG and now to go one of the "splinter" groups. I'm sure some of you who felt abused will try to pull the - she's in the cult so she doesn't know her own brain (which would make you ridiculously judgemental so I would hope you wouldn't do that), but my experience growing up in WWCG and now where I attend was MUCH different than your experience. I know there was abuse and I find that incredibly sad for those that experienced it. I am blessed and thankful that my experiences with our church were great ones...both for my and my family in general. The way I believe is very different from most people, but I don't feel abused and I don't feel like my identity has been stripped away. There is no perfect church and never will be with man in charge. People get on power trips and shape the Bible to their own liking and I know sometimes it was a minister-to-minister or congregation-to-congregation difference...which again I find sad. For all those who used to go to WWCG and feel such persecution, I am truly sorry for you, but please keep in mind that there are also terrific stories from people who were and are happy, and are well rounded people who don't follow a harsh, demanding, abusive God.

  12. Dear Erin:

    Thank you for writing. I'm glad that you don't suffer from anxiety attacks and PTSD and have dealt directly with some of the pain that many of us have dealt with.

    I truly believe that people should be free to believe whatever they want.

    Also, I have often said that the people I grew up with were some of the finest people I have ever known.

    But it is because of these power trips you mention -- because of this pain and abuse -- because of the people that hurt that I speak out. Just because you do not feel abused or feel like your identity has been stripped away doesn't negate the experience of others.

    I wonder what would happen if you asked questions or disagreed with your current leaders. I wonder if the people who love you in your current splinter would also love you if you decided to leave.

    It is because I am truly sorry for the pain of others that I have genuine outrage that it happened. I am outraged that Herbert Armstrong, for example, used the Tribulation's eminence as a fundraising measure in his co-worker letters, and I am angry that people who served him now have no money, no retirement, and no recourse.

    Again, thanks for writing. It's important to have all sides to a story. I'd be happy to continue this discussion further.

  13. Andie, I'm in awe of your level of self disclosure. (Not that there's anything bad about it:)

    One type of damage I suffered in WWCG was to try to become invisible. If there's nothing to see, there's nothing to be a target.

    I'm still a work in progress on this as well as some of the indoctrination. Therapy and a very liberal church is helping to make inroads with this.

    God bless you for being a voice to those who are still finding ours.

    By the way, saw the movie in Indy and have it on pre-order. Can't wait to share it with some friends and family members:)

  14. Thank you, Michele. Obviously, I'm not going to disclose everything - not sure that would be healthy for me or for my family. But I have to say that getting this out there feels pretty good.

    We're all works in progress. I often say that if we all had good therapists and a Sunday afternoon nap, there'd probably be peace on earth.

    God bless you for looking for your voice. I know how rocky the journey can be.

    And thank you, thank you for supporting our film! Know that by doing so, you support hurting people. Feel good about that.


  15. I've put it in our Netflix queue...so glad you shared! God bless.

  16. Andie, I can't begin to tell you the level of respect and love I have for you. Then I read this story, and realized the timeline. The help you gave to others when you were struggling so much yourself is nothing short of amazing. Thank you will never be enough. I love you!

  17. Andie, I'm a 62 yo guy with tears in his eyes after reading this thread. I'm a 1972 AC grad who remembers waiting for Petra and that terrifying booklet 1975 in Prophecy. Finally escaped mid 90s with life in ruins. Looking forward to seeing your film. I have a letter entitled "I Became Irritated..." under Child Survivors on Exit Support Network.

  18. Hi, I see some similarities between Worldwide Church of God and Seventh-Day Adventism. I was raised Seventh-Day Adventist, but floundered while in my twenties. Dating guys who were controlling and did not tolerate my beliefs didn't help, so I decided to stay single and return to the church. My career and dating choices were then dictated by the church--more or less. Over the past couple of years I finally left and was deciding to join Worldwide Church of God; reading your story has convinced me WCOG is not dissimilar from SDA and that it would just be joining another cult. Someone has also been trying to get me to go to JW services, but I don't want to spend any more of my life in such organizations. I'm going to be 32 years old, I just want to live my life, have an enjoyable career, and meet a nice guy. Too many years of being controlled, now it is time for some autonomy and doing what I want to do:)

  19. Also, I need to check out that retreat center...maybe it will help my sister and I as it helped you. We have both been struggling with symptoms similar to PTSD, and depression. I'm trying to go back to school and can't even concentrate. One delicious occurrence, though, is that I am starting to remember and make decisions about what I want in life, from large scale (career) to small scale (favorite genre of books.) Even reading fiction. "Sister White" of the SDA felt that fiction rotted the mind. Annoyingly enough, there are plenty of people in SDA who weren't as strict as my family, they devoured Harry Potter and so forth with glee. I hid my copies:)

  20. Andie, I'm a former childhood member of the Worldwide Church of God from my birth (1977) to approximately 14 or 15 years of age when I was excommunicated. I've had a terrible time due to the isolationism and blind devotion by my parents that really, really made my childhood abnormal. I've never been able to hold a fulltime job, I've got all the symptoms of having PTSD and multiple other personality disorders, all of which are linked to isolationist membership in the WWCG. I'm finally trying to find a way through all of this, I'm starting to see a little bit of hope since I've found a psychiatrist in the area that finally is considering alternate diagnoses for me than the standard 'depression' or 'obstinate-defiant disorder' that they've given me since my parents started dragging me to see them around age 14.

    I've got a wiki page, where I'm trying to compile as much factual evidence and accepted psychological/psychiatric text references as possible to take in to my psychologist at my next meeting, a few months away. If there is anything you can add to the list that I have going at http://bismaninfo.hopto.org/dwiki/index.php/WWCG I would be so grateful if you could email me any references. I need help, I have never been able to function in society, largely in part due to this cult, and partially due to other childhood abuses that I haven't written about just yet.

    I'm in the process of creating a blog post about that, also, but it's going to be lengthy enough (once I'm done writing about my parenting) so that I'm expecting it'll take at least a week to finish. If you could offer anything, like I said, I'd be very grateful.

    I think more than anything, if I could find a reference to the version of Abnormal Psychology that is alleged to have a direct reference to the Worldwide Church of God as the prime example of a cult whose isolationist tendencies recommend any professionals to escalate an identified case with those former or current members to a trauma psychologist would be the most helpful. I'll certainly settle for anything, though.

    Thank you so much for speaking out on this. Best wishes.



  21. Visit United Church of God, get the webcast schedule, attend and get closer to god. UCG unites people around the world by the grace of God.