Tag Archives: church

3 Life Lessons I Learned in Church (Or, the Hilariously-Sad Realization that I Grew Up in a Cult)

“Here’s an easy way to figure out if you’re in a cult: If you’re wondering whether you’re in a cult, the answer is yes.” ― Stephen Colbert, I Am America

They say hindsight is 20/20. Never has this cultural idiom been so true to me as the moment that  I realized I grew up in a cult. After conducting some personal and academic research about the characteristics of a cult, the scales fell from my eyes and, hallelujah, I could see.

It wasn’t as earth-shattering as I would have expected, in some ways, it was like I always knew. I just had to step out of the cult closet and see for myself.

A few characteristics of a cult include financial mismanagement, abusive behaviour, and attempts to control members through manipulation. During my time in my childhood church I experienced and/or witnessed each of these concerning behaviours. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t the kind of horror movie cult that was sacrificing babies, or drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. Generally, it wasn’t even all that bad. But on the spectrum of church to cult, we had more in common with a cult than the typical church.

I learned a lot from my recent revelation, and I wanted to share what I learned with you. Below, I’ve included three life lessons I learned in church, or, as I like to say, the hilariously-sad realization I grew up in a cult.

Life Lesson #1: Your Time is Valuable

“If God is up at five in the morning for prayer… (dramatic pause)… Then you should be, too!”

Time is arguably our most valuable commodity, and it’s your time that a cult will take the most of. For most cults, controlling your time is almost as good as controlling your money. Since I was quite young I didn’t donate a lot of money, but let me give you a breakdown of how I spent my time:

There are 168 hours in a week. We sleep about 56 hours, and work about 40 hours each of the five workdays. That leaves about 72 hours left to do what we like. In our cult, we were told that our time was spiritual money in our spiritual bank account. If we had free time we weren’t doing enough for the Lord.

In a given week we would spend 19 hours in prayer (both communal and private), 6 hours in service, 4 hours doing street ministry (aka knocking on people’s doors and handing out pamphlets), 10.5 hours of driving ministry (picking up families for church programs), 3 hours youth ministry, 4 hours outreach ministry, and 5 hours in worker meetings or music practice. That left 19.5 hours of free time for 7 days, or approximately 2.7 hours of free time per day. To put it another way: if our free time had been money we would have barely made enough to support a child in a third world country.

When I finally committed to not go to church (cult) anymore, I suddenly had time to do what I wanted. It was as if I had discovered my belly button for the first time as an adult, which would be mind-blowing, to say the least.

Life Lesson #2: Question Everything

“When you come in here, turn off your brain.”

Ignorance is bliss, but cult ignorance? That shit is magical.

The first thing a cult takes away is your ability to question. You are not allowed to question leadership, the lack of faith healings, or the way money is being managed. You are discouraged from receiving a secular education and told to “turn off your brain” so the spirit could lead. Asking certain questions could get you ex-communicated. This meant that the Leaders would restrict any communication/contact between the ex-communicated person and the rest of the church congregation. This delicate practice was meant to somehow force the individual into repentance and to return once again to their (dysfunctional) church family.

In order to demonstrate your “true faith” you were required to leave your logic at the door and take everything on faith, no matter how absurd some of the services would get (running around the building and shouting at the top of your lungs was a frequently occurring event). While this kind ignorance was truly blissful, it quickly got out of hand.

Growing up in a cult was a lot like growing up in a tiny magical bubbleMy tiny bubble consisted of a small intimate group of people that saw each other every day. Like most charismatic churches we believed in faith healing, prosperity, and gifts of the spirit (speaking in tongues).

However, we also believed we could:

  • change the weather
  • drive cars without gas
  • teleport
  • pray back a woman’s hymen so she could re-lose her virginity on her wedding night (honest truth)
  • pray away the gay
  • chase demons out of the church (this actually involved physically running around)
  • pray over adult video stores to close them down (it actually did close down two weeks later, BTW)
  • repel bullets through prayer (when the persecution came)
  • pray people out of the grave.

It was a strange, wonderful, magical bubble, to say the least. But it was also a bubble that needed to burst.

For me, the pin that burst the bubble came the day we were asked to pray for a specific group of people to die.

We prayed, and they died, further justifying our beliefs in our magical powers.

It was scary, scary to be in a group of people you love and have grown to know over decades, then, one day, to see them all pray in mindless fervour for someone to die.

This is when the magic ended, I no longer viewed the world through the foggy haze of my magic bubble. I suddenly realized this was all crazy and I had no choice but to leave.

Life Lesson #3: Know When to Walk Away, And Know When to Run

“I don’t trust people with an education, they think too much with their head.”

As cliche as it sounds, things aren’t always meant to last forever. Leaving the safety and security of the community was hard. It was like a divorce; a divorce where you had to separate yourself from every single member of your family one by one. Although I came out relatively unscathed, there were people who I cared about who lost everything: family, money, and community.

The loss of community was the most heartbreaking. It left many bewildered and asking themselves a multitude of questions: What had been the point of all that hard work and time? Why did we pray so much? Why did I give away so much money? And why did I needlessly hate myself for natural body functions? Masturbation jokes aside, after leaving, or rather running, from the cult that I grew up in I learned that I don’t need their edification in my life to have purpose. I could live and make my own choices, without fear that God or church will disapprove. In my cult-free life I have found joy and purpose. Plus, there’s no one trying to steal my money anymore.


The writer of this post has chosen to remain ANONYMOUS.

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(Gay) Mawige Is Wat Bwings Us Togever Today

As you already know, June 26th saw the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges- an agonizingly boring name for what was one of the most momentous decisions in American legal history.

Effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the ruling was met by many Americans with resounding applause and celebration that often seemed to border on being downright aggressive.

But we’re not here to talk about that. Nor are we here to talk about the outcries and horror and disgust from the ever-dwindling minority of marriage equality opponents. At least- not the nutjobs.

The pastor who promised to set himself on fire if the ruling was made (though he swiftly retracted that oath), the folks claiming that gays cause hurricanes, the ones who hold up picket signs reading “God hates Fags!”-

-these are not the people I want to talk about.

I’m referring to the non-crazy (but by no means less angry) rank and file of the opposition here. Your conservative uncle. Your Wesleyan Aunt. Folks who’d never shriek obscenities, or claim the impending wrath of God, but who’d still shake their heads sadly and call this ruling a “tragedy” or “evidence of our culture’s moral free-fall”.

These folks:

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Why Ben Carson Shouldn’t Be President

The past two decades has not been kind to American Christians.

In spite of the Bush presidency, largely supported by Evangelicals, the former administration’s efforts were focused on the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than at home. In 2000 only a single state recognized same-sex marriage. Today only 12 states do not, and gay rights have rapidly moved from a fringe issue to a widely accepted stance. Support for Roe V. Wade has seen a slow but steady increase, and belief in evolution has seen similar growth- even among conservatives.

With these defeats, it would be understandable if conservative Christians claim that their once mighty “Shining city upon a hill” has fallen into disarray, with the forces of secularism closing in for the final siege.

Enter Dr. Ben Carson, 2016 presidential hopeful, and, to hear many talk, one pale horse shy of the second coming.

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2014’s Cultural Battleground – Kat’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

jianghomeshibannerThe Jian Ghomeshi scandal was a big deal for most Canadians. Ghomeshi felt like someone we all knew, someone who had been a regular presence in our homes (and cars) as long as he had hosting Q on the CBC.

In October, the CBC put pressure on Jian Ghomeshi to go on a leave of absence. Shortly afterwards, he wrote a post on Facebook accusing the CBC of firing him over his preference for rough (but consensual sex). Many fans believed Ghomeshi when he claimed the women who had accused him were liars who just wanted attention.

Given his popularity, I understood why people jumped to defend him when the first few allegations of sexual violence came out, but there was something about his Facebook post that just felt wrong. It seemed unlikely that anyone, much less more than one person, would make a sexual assault accusation just for attention. As I started to do my own research on the topic, I quickly realized that false rape reports are so rare that they are almost non-existent, and that the tendency to believe Ghomeshi over his (at the time) anonymous victims spoke to a much bigger systemic issue.

injusticesystembannerIt’s really hard to care about how terrible our justice system is unless someone close to you has gone through it. In this post, I discuss some of the things I noticed when I visited someone close to me during his stay in jail. Despite firmly believing that this person deserved to go to jail, that experience opened my eyes to the way prison (and the bureaucracies surrounding it) take damaged people and make them ever worse. As someone who works in special education, it made me even more angry to realize just how many of the adults in prison are individuals with special needs.

problemwithpuritybannerThe conversation around the purity movement tends to be very divisive; feminist websites like Jezebel have called it creepy, while many Christian communities staunchly defend the practice. Since I consider myself both a Christian and a feminist, I wrote this post to point out the really great intentions that are (usually) behind the purity movement, while still drawing attention to the damage it can cause.

duckdynastybannerAfter the Duck Dynasty star spoke out against homosexuality and was kicked off his show, my Facebook wall started to fill up with “I support Phil” memes. This made me really, really angry.

Having grown up Evangelical, I understand how many Christians feel they cannot accept homosexuality as something that honours God. Personally, I no longer accept that dogma, but I can understand it. I didn’t even write this post to argue with that branch of theology. I wrote this post because I was furious that Christians are happy to defend a millionaire because he broke his contract and got kicked off his TV show, but are unwilling to acknowledge that homosexuals are being killed and actually persecuted all around the world.

voluntouristbannerI’ve written many posts that address the Christian community. I do this because I still consider myself a member of that community, and I want to call out the issues that I believe are distracting from the message of love we claim to be sharing. Despite my many critiques of the church, some of the most amazing people I’ve known are Christians. I wrote this post about my experience living in a missionary community in Niger, where I was surrounded by people who I truly respect.

This post also addresses “voluntourism”, since my own selfish motivation to move overseas was something I felt personally convicted about during my stay in Africa. Recently, however, the discussion of the voluntourism trend has made westerners afraid to express interest in foreign aide at all. I believe both extremes can be damaging to international relationships.


Looking back, it’s sometimes scary to think about how much I have shared with you guys. It’s always a vulnerable step to publicize our personal opinions, it’s even more so with details about our personal lives. Intimidating as it can be, I’ve loved how many amazing discussions the blog has opened up in my life. Your comments (in person and online) have helped me reevaluate my own biases, and challenged me to think more deeply about the social, religious, and political issues we love to debate here at Culture War Reporters.

So here’s to a fantastic year. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.

– Kat

Sure, There’s The Afterlife [But Wait, There’s More!]

When deciding to write about this topic, I had to be honest with myself and admit that things have gotten pretty darn personal around here in the past. It’s not like I haven’t shared with you and potentially anyone else in the world with an internet connection that I think Ingrid Michaelson has “amazing” breasts. The main difference here, I think, is the general way I feel many of my peers [ie. fellow young Christian people] discuss faith, which is to say, rarely.

There appears to be a common sentiment of live and let live. “I’ll respect you if you respect me.” Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s great, it’s just that it all too often results in us [refer to my definition of peers above] not really talking about something that’s ostensibly important to us. All of that’s a topic to possibly be unpacked for another time, though, because today I’m going to try tackling the benefits of faith. To be more specific, the benefits of faith sans salvation. Continue reading

Fame Day: Liberation Theology (Can the Church be a Force for Social Justice?)

I grew up as an Evangelical Christian. There are many wonderful people I love who strongly associate with that title, but at this point in my life I no longer consider myself one. As I’ve struggled with certain tenants of the Evangelical movement over the last few years I’ve also struggled with the urge to write off Christianity entirely.

As I’ve gotten older and moved away from my previous home and (wonderful) community, I’ve started to realize that the “brand” of Christianity I was raised with is certainly not the only one out there. I also discovered that the emphasized conversion message that I was brought up in is actually a relatively new aspect of Christianity. While this method had a real heyday in the 80-90’s (think altar calls), here in North America things seem to be evolving yet again.

While I’d love to share more about what I’ve been learning regarding the evolution of Christianity sometime soon, for this post I want to focus on a branch of theology that I didn’t even realize existed until pretty recently: Liberation Theology. Continue reading

Fame Day: The Presbyterian Church

Yours truly has not had many good things to say about organized religion, yet today we celebrate just that. Or more specifically, the Presbyterians, who voted on June 20th to divest its holdings in three companies (Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions) associated with supplying Israel.

In fact, the Presbyterian Church has gone so far as to

1. Call upon all nations to prohibit the import of products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

2. Call for the boycott of all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian Territories, including AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories Beauty Products, and all date products of Hadiklaim, The Israel Date Growers Co-Operative Ltd, often marked by the brand names: King Solomon Dates and Jordan River (not Israeli products from Israel).

3. Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action to all other PC (USA) councils and entities and invite and strongly encourage those groups and organizations to endorse this boycott until significant progress toward Palestinian rights and independence can be reported to the General Assembly or the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (note: formerly General Assembly Mission Council.)

4. Direct the Stated Clerk to inform our ecumenical partners of this action, both nationally and globally, and call upon them to join in the boycott of these companies.

-Presbyterian Mission Agency

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