Tag Archives: grief

Celebrity Mortality and Actual Emotion

everythingdies

New Avengers #1 (Vol. 5). Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Steve Epting.

Yesterday morning it was announced that British actor Alan Rickman had passed away from cancer. At the very beginning of this week it was revealed that musician David Bowie has suffered the same fate. As social media was filled with mournful statuses and 140 character eulogies I couldn’t help but be drawn back to a post I wrote almost three and a half years ago called “Celebrity Mortality and Actual Loss”.

In it I drew a comparison between Michael Clarke Duncan, and other such famous people who had died within the past month or so, and my grandmother, who breathed her last in the ICU of a Toronto hospital just the day before. When rereading it in preparation for this post it was impossible to ignore the bitterness that lay right beneath the surface, the pain still so fresh from the loss I had just experienced.

It’s been a while since then, long enough for the years to dull the hurt and extinguish any anger I might have once felt towards a world that appeared to haphazardly allocate its sorrow. Now, years later, my Facebook feed filled with dozens of Ground Controls hailing Major Tom, I find myself on the opposite side of the spectrum, feet terrifyingly close to being planted firmly in indifference.

Which, understandably, makes it look like I’m not doing so hot on the scale of emotional maturity. Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

ISIS, Gaza, Ebola, and Robin Williams: Dealing with Grief on the Large and Small Scale

This week I emerged from my happy little language cult in a tiny remote Quebecois town.

I emerged to discover a lot of sadness.

I had already been hearing bits and pieces about the deaths in Gaza and the lives lost to Ebola before I even left Trois-Pistoles, but the last few days I’ve also been hearing a variety of horrific rumours about ISIS. Last night when I started researching for tonight’s blog, I thought I would look into the veracity of those articles.

That was a bad idea.

At the time, I had a hard time finding coverage of the things I had heard about from any reputable sources. And the things I did come across were highly disturbing and meant to be provoking. I’m not actually going to link to anything I came across in my search, because I don’t want to see those images ever again. I don’t know when or where those photos were taken. I don’t know if they are fake or real. All I know is that they made me very very angry. And they made me feel very, very powerless.

Continue reading

I’m Not Sad About Nelson Mandela Dying

Death, or the thought of death, has been on my mind as of late. Seriously, though, we’ve had two posts in just as many weeks on the demise of a cartoon character, and before that a CWC discussing funerals which was brought on by the passing of Gordon’s grandfather. There was also actor Paul Walker’s fatal car accident two weeks ago.

Which is why, in a way, the following status on Facebook yesterday didn’t really shock me:

statusda

There’s going to be a lot of Facebook in this post; you have been warned.

In part it’s because the fact that people do die has kind of been on my mind, but also because the last time I heard anything about Nelson Mandela he was in the hospital for lung problems. Naturally I was concerned about him and probably even prayed for the guy, but honestly no more than I put in a good word with the Lord for the homeless Chinese woman I saw begging yesterday [I had no change to give her, before you jump to the conclusion that I’m a prayer-over-action kind of person]. Continue reading

I Don’t Know If Anyone’s Said This About Boston Yet

I’ve made it a habit not to report on a lot of the bigger news events due to the fact that, with so many people writing about them, someone is bound to have already said what I want to, and probably much more eloquently as well. When it comes to something as thoroughly horrific as the Boston Marathon bombing, I’m even more hesitant to do so, especially because of how delicate a topic it truly is.

I write this post with a great amount of trepidation, and with the hope that I can add to the discourse that’s resulted from this tragedy.

The following image appeared in my Facebook feed this past Monday, April 15th, and I immediately shared it upon reading it. I did this as a knee-jerk reaction to the sentiment communicated, and in spite of the fact that, as a friend of mine commented, “it says it in a stupid and borderline offensive way.”

This was posted soon after the bombing, long before the third victim had passed away.

Continue reading