Saturday, 27 September 2008

Fessin' 'bout dressin'

Testimonies aren't a part of COG culture - at least not a part of any COG culture I've been part of. Whether the retreads in the Tkach sect indulge between cheery praise choruses is something I'm not aware of. Mormons testify, ratbag Evangelicals testify, but not us.

So when I ran across a testimony in the Bible Advocate by a former WCG member, it was time to pause and wonder.

I was a creative and sensitive child — the kind experts say is likely to become homosexual, primarily for failure to bond with the parent of the same sex. Brought up like this, a youngster may acquire gender identity disorder (GID) and become sexually confused in life.
In elementary school, I once went secretly to my teenage sister’s bedroom and found pairs of her nylon stockings in and around the wastebasket. I took a few of them back to my bedroom and put them on under the covers. Rubbing my feet and legs together, I felt the pleasurable slickness of the nylons. Then I hid them in the back of the lowest bureau drawer.
The next few evenings I occasionally wore them under an afghan wrapped about me. Family members may have known I was cross-dressing, but nobody said anything — not even Mother. She might have felt that I was in big trouble, but didn’t know what to do.

I don't want to gainsay Howard Mesick's sincerity; it takes guts to tell a less than flattering tale on oneself. But is it really helpful to relate this kind of thing?

Howard also mentions the late Richard Wiedenheft, one of the genuinely decent WCG pastors who left in the so-called "rebellion" of 1974.

I seriously considered suicide as a teenager but did not want to end my existence. I listened to The World Tomorrow radio program and was impressed because its beliefs seemed to follow what was in our Bibles. Persuaded that I could escape the pain and find a fulfilling life now and forever, I confessed my sins to God, asking His forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit... But I was still deceived about some things. The Armstrong church’s atmosphere of rank and privilege did little to help heal a man with family and personal baggage as deep-seated as mine.
Leaving Armstrong’s church, we attended the service of a distant congregation pastored by Richard Wiedenheft, often driving over one hundred miles on Sabbath to enjoy his interactive Bible studies. Or we drove to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to learn from sermons given by Bruce Chesney in a church there.
Mr. Wiedenheft eventually dissolved his church and encouraged its members to enter the Church of God (Seventh Day). After I joined this body, I had a religious experience. Standing by myself in our living room, I felt peace and assurance that God’s kingdom was not one of competitiveness and power structure, but of cooperation and eternal helpfulness.

Howard Mesick's observations about "rank and privilege" certainly ring true, and COG7 is a healthier place than WCG by far, judging from the experience of many who have attended there. His subsequent health problems have doubtless given him time to consider a great many things.

I’ve been institutionalized for the past sixteen years due to a paralyzed left side and other handicaps. Through all this, God has remade a confused, frightened, depressed soul into a trusting, rational person.

Testimonies: they still repel more than attract, and it's hard not to harbor suspicions about the psychology that underlies them. But as for Howard, I can only wish him well.

You can download the BA here. The article appears on pages 18 and 19.


Dennis said...

Being open and as honest as one can be is near lifethreatening to most. While discretion is advised, as they say, because there are those who use one's openness against them, it is healing to the person.

On the other hand, I find those who are very open about what may, for them, have been puzzling topics, feelings and ideas that go against the 'Norm' (like Norm knows:) are much more mentally healthy and realistic.

EVERYONE wears masks, which are painful to remove and can take part of your authentic face with it, but that can heal. We're so afraid to take them off. The trick is not to care what the reaction is by anyone else. Once you get to that point, you're free.

Any minister that congregants trusted to listen well know the many lives people live. I think I have met a good number of mask wearing COG members and we had very nice talks about it all. People only let you into their lives when they trust you. Many are not worthy of that kind of trust and would't know what to do with it.

Ministers were far far less likely to share their authentic selves because the culture of the church was way too dangerous for a minister to be authentic than for a member, in my experience.

Ministers were always first of all people and members. Some forgot that and spent a lifetime filling a role and loosing their soul.

Ministers who didn't listen well were left out of the loop of real lives lived because, in some way, they could not be trusted to hold a confidence or be helpful. No one risks that or does more than once.

I have always admired the open and honest types, and I think it is a type of person. You'll see that the higher up the food chain one looks , the less open and authentic one tends to be. Those at the top have the most to loose by being authentic so wear the most masks and trust the least.

Every human being labors under someone, somewhere finding something out about them that will either embarass them or cause great harm, however that is perceived.

Anyway, topic gets too long, sorry. I admire the man. You can bet that being that open would draw others to himself who would feel very comfortable talking to him and trusting his reaction would always have their best interest in mind.

Jesus is shown drawing a circle around the woman (that's my take on it) "taken in the very act..." So where's the guy? The circle, was perhaps a symbol of protecting the woman from those whose masks were showing.

Anyone can judge, poke fun of, scorn or condemn, but it takes an authentic person to listen well to others and keep them safe in doing so.

Anonymous said...

actually I find testimonies to be inspiring and let's others know, "I'm not alone, I'm not the only one who's done this".

Every person in the world has a testimony whether it includes religion or not. A testimony is simply the breakdown of your life. Some choose to target one specific area (such as a traumatic injury or crime) while others such as myself talk about many aspects such as growing up in a wcg cult, marrying a felon and supporting him through years of hard state prison....and the list goes on and on.

I think the first guy's testimony about cross-dressing is perfect for wcg survivors and those still trapped in the bubble. I personally know guys that hid their homosexual feelings growing up and were miserable. Thankfully now they embrace it and have found that they are not only homosexual but also atheist. Great combo, huh? :) Sex and sexual feelings/acts was and probably still is a serious thing in the cogs. I can guarantee that most if not all teens I grew up with secretly masturbated and probably as adults still do. The cult taught that this was an absolute SIN. There's so much sleeping around and adultry going on it's sickening.

So yeah.......let those with the courage to testify their life get it out!! It's helping them heal.

Dennis said...

Speaking of sharing.

Major milestone..

I turned over my Clunky Gold Ambassador College ring that I wore for 25 years, to a coin shop and and traded for American Eagles.

I have to say it was an strange moment to watch it thrown into the box with all the other recently sold gold for meldown. I watched it go, had a few thoughts and left.
Everything ends.

I'll regret not selling it to Gerald Flurry for $5000 I know :)

Purple Hymnal said...

"Mormons testify, ratbag Evangelicals testify, but not us."

Thank god!


Anonymous said...

People who leave larger organizations like the SDA or WCG churches sometimes hang out at the COG7 for a while before wandering off elsewhere.

Having met a number of COG7 people, I must say that not all of them are "spiritually healthy." They have their full share of faults and sins. Former WCG members who go there naturally tend to praise the COG7 for a while, but it does not last. The COG7 gets to brag that it got some former members of a bigger group, but, again, it does not last.

Read in HWA's Autobiography about the COG7 being small, powerless, divided, etc. That was how HWA saw it decades ago. The COG7 has not shown any noticeable improvement since then.

Leonardo said...

I truly feel for folks like Howard - as many people from a wide variety of similar backgrounds and circumstances tend to gravitate toward fundamentalist organizations like the classic WCG in search of meaning, purpose and personal healing.

But the largest percentage of them find out in a very painful, personal kind of way what the history of mankind has taught us for centuries: that religious certainties and promises which sound "too good to be true" often are, and end up being horrific nightmares, actually CAUSING more wounds than they were intended to bind up.

I think this is at least one reason why the WCG tended to have a higher than normal rate of suicide among its adherents. Of course, such tragedies were often silenced and swept under the carpet in order to maintain the illusion that the Church was just "one big happy family" - but they happened all too frequently.

Sincere and objective observers simply cannot ignore the large amount of rotten fruit produced through the decades by HWA and his WCG.

“Facts are stubborn things - whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence” said one of America's Founding Fathers, John Adams.

Let's also consider the insightful words of the famous Russian novelist Dostoyevsky, who once said that to continue to deceive oneself proves “a most futile and unprofitable pastime.”

Richard said...

Wow -- you certainly would never read a testimony like this in most COG publications. Certainly not a signed one.

I've been in WCG groups since 1995 where people occasionally presented testimonies. One man struck me with the comment that he mistakenly thought he only had to be a "good Christian" on Sabbath -- but the changes in WCG showed him otherwise.

Yet here's the strange thing: I've seen that man in UCG recently.

Anonymous said...

No testimonies? How about the Spokesman Club Number 12 Heart to Heart speech? I've heard some that would be good material for a Catholic confessional.

VonHowitzer said...

So Dennis, are you saying that Gerry is "Lord of the Rings"?


Byker Bob said...

Wisdom lies in knowing how much to share, and when. There is such a thing as too much information. Generally, if you can share things in confidence, one on one, at key times, you can often help others over some of life's rough spots.

As an example, I don't want to be known soley as an ex-cultie. So, I am cautious about who I might share that information with. However, there have been times that it has been beneficial in helping others for me to share that I was once a member of a horribly toxic and abusive cult (hope you all guess the name!)

By the way, I must comment on one poster's "state of COG-7" comment. The leaders of COG-7 blamed HWA for their lack of growth because, on a whim, he picked the best church era from prophecy for himself, and tarred and feathered COG-7 with the dead Sardis label. They apparently never recovered from this instance of "Christian" name calling. Anyone who was ever a member of WCG realizes in retrospect that, although there were probably isolated instances of brotherly love, the main characteristic of WCG was Naziistic, Pharisaic, Nicolaitane worship of law and authority. Very little humanity or "Sermon of the Mount" type fruits, ever. I agree with Purple Hymnal when she states that WCG worshipped the "demiurge" (see "Gnosticism" in Wikipedia) without actually realizing it. Heh heh heh, and they accused the Catholic Church of having been hijacked by gnostics!


Doug Ward said...

Thanks for posting this, Gavin. I met Howard Mesick over 30 years ago, when he was still in WCG and I was a student at a local college.

He and Cathy invited me over to dinner one Sabbath, and the next day they took me to see the Franklin Institute. I remember them as being very kind people. But I don't think I've heard a thing about them since I graduated and left Philadelphia in 1979 (until now).

Richard said...

Having met a number of COG7 people, I must say that not all of them are "spiritually healthy." They have their full share of faults and sins.

Uhhhh -- and who doesn't? (Rom. 3:23) Which denomination doesn't?

I've been listening to COG-7 podcasts from Oklahoma on Sabbath for about three months now, after attending a congregation in Kansas City during a road trip. At least based on the sermons, COG-7 leads other COG's on my scorecard by a wide margin.

Anonymous said...

Richard said...

I've been listening to COG-7 podcasts from Oklahoma on Sabbath for about three months now, after attending a congregation in Kansas City during a road trip. At least based on the sermons, COG-7 leads other COG's on my scorecard by a wide margin.


Well, that is easy if you compare the COG7 to some of the worst things around, like the PCG, for example. While listening to broadcasts emanating from Oklahoma, be careful that you don't accidentally listen to Gerald.

Actually getting to know real people from the COG7 over a period of time is the acid test. That is when what HWA said will start to make sense.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I agree with Purple Hymnal when she states that WCG worshipped the "demiurge" without actually realizing it."

You got that right!