Tag Archives: commodity

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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Nestlé and BC Water: Why the Problem is Much Bigger than “Not Charging Enough”

When British Columbia residents heard that Nestlé was only being charged $2.25 per million litres to bottle up our water and sell it back to us, we were furious.

I, for one, wanted to do what this panda is doing.

We weren’t just angry because Nestlé has a terribly track record in their dealings with developing nations.

We weren’t just angry because B.C. is “renting out” access to our water for far less than other provinces.

We were angry because water is a part of B.C. culture. Continue reading

Lisa Nakamura Part 1: Tumblr Activism and This Bridge Called My Back 

On Thursday and Friday UVic hosted Lisa Nakamura, Collegiate Professor from the University of Michigan, to speak about her research on Digital Media and Race, Gender and Sexuality. Nakamura has been writing about digital media since 1994. While she has written several books about race and the internet, some of her shorter pieces focus on things like “The Racialization of Labour in World of Warcraft”. In order to feel qualified to write about platforms like World of Warcraft, she spent hours playing the game herself.

On Thursday, Nakamura’s talk was titled “The Digital Afterlife of This Bridge Called My Back: Women of Color, Feminism and the Internet”. She began by giving a brief overview of the book and explained why it matters so much.

As an anthology that prioritized written work by women of colour, This Bridge Called My Back responded to the whitewashing of feminism long before movements like the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag began to highlight the problem. This book also introduced the concept of intersectionality, which has since become a key element of feminist theory.

Unfortunately, since it’s original publication the groundbreaking collection has struggled to remain in print. According to Wikipedia,

“The anthology was first published in 1981 by Persephone Press, and the second edition was published in 1983 by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. The book was out in its third edition, published by Third Woman Press, until 2008, when its contract with Third Woman Press expired and it went out of print.”

The book’s struggle to remain in print made it an “artificially scarce commodity” and drove up the price. At its inflated price, the book’s authors might even have been unable to afford their own work.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.48.27 PM Continue reading

Some Thoughts On Advertising

There are certain things in life that can be avoided.

For all our howling about vapid, synthetic pop-songs we do, at the end of the day, have the ability to simply turn the radio off. For all our wailing about trashy, stupid television, we have the ability to just point our remote and switch off the TV. Even people who annoy us we can at least avoid.

But that’s not so much true when it comes to advertising. Unless you’re living in an underground bunker somewhere in Colorado, it’s not something you can get away from.

Why you’d even be reading this blog, I don’t know.

Between telemarketers, logos, TV and radio, billboards (including mobile ones, which we have in Vegas), and the internet, there’s really no escaping. Even if you’re sitting alone in your house, it’s all around you. You’ve got company emblems stitched onto your shirts. Manufacturer’s names written on your underwear. Go to your kitchen, and you’ll find advertisements on the back of pasta and cereal boxes.

I’m only here to offer some food for thought; I won’t be taking up myself the war cry that advertisements and commercials always play to the lowest common denominator. Sexuality in the crassest, most objectified form, greed, gluttony, envy, passivity, sloth (not the kind shown above)- it’s all there, and thrown at us every waking minute of every day of our lives. What does that do to us?

Most people who work with this line of thought point to the movie Idiocracy as a dark prophecy of the world to come.

In this movie, a man is (accidentally) cryogenically frozen and awakens in a dystopian future where advertising and trashy TV has resulted in the average human IQ dropping well into the double digits. While it’s not a masterpiece in and of itself, and it’s suggestion that dumb people have inherently dumb kids is just plain wrong, the fact that more and more our society seems to be moving towards Idiocracy is downright eerie.

I will, nonetheless, offer an alternative for you to ponder.

What if advertising is actually raising our BS awareness? Information on the internet is usually either (at best) misrepresented or (at worst) outright falsehood. We don’t seem dumber as a species for it- on the contrary, we seem more skeptical and discerning. Perhaps we are, in fact, becoming tougher to fool. Naturally I can’t point to any cause-and-effect relationship, but it’s certainly something to think about.

Of course, there’s the dark alternative to that as well.

What happens to our psyches and society when we’re constantly on-guard against everything? Is that paranoid cynicism really healthy for us? What does it do to us to hold everything in contempt as just another scheme to take away your money? Even if we tone that down a bit, what does it do to us to walk through life constantly being sold things? Cradle to grave, confronted by sales pitch after sales pitch- how can that be anything but damaging?

Again, this isn’t to simply rail against advertising. There’s plenty that advertising, well, I don’t want to say “does right,” but certainly does “well.” Managing to communicate messages or ideas in the shortest amount of time using the smallest amount of words and images is, well, impressive. The ability to remotely encode associations, emotions, and reactions in the human mind through slogans, catch phrases, campaigns and the like is undeniably clever, even if more than a little Orwellian.

Imagine if all that money, research, and manpower was put towards something actually constructive. Imagine even just a quarter of all advertising dedicated to communicating positive messages. How much more of an intelligent, healthy, compassionate society would we be? If nothing else, it would mean some telemarketers could do something more fulfilling with their lives than shilling out cruises in the Caribbean.

It’s just something to think about.