Awakening from the UPC
Posted by: Tj ()
Date: December 04, 2005 07:15AM

As a sixteen and a half year member, believer, devotee of my local United Pentecostal Church I listened with absolute acceptance as my pastor preached “Deceiving and Being Deceived” following the horrendous events in Jonestown, Guyana in 1878. He hammered his primary point, being that the followers were as doomed to damnation as Jim Jones. I nodded in absolute agreement. Are we not told to “weigh the spirits” and to “rightly divide the Word of God” and “know them that labor among you”? Of course each of those lost souls was responsible for following an angel of darkness.

I had already been quietly dealing with inklings of doubt brought to the fore by my attempts to absolutely prove our “standards” scripturally for my Sunday School class of teens. I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with my findings, as they seemed to dispute not confirm our firmly held rules and restrictions.

I listened to a tape of that message over and over in the years following, and then, early one morning, I awoke from sleep and sat straight up and said “Carl! If we’d been in Guyana we’d be dead now!” We had endeavored to be that obedient, although an increase of tithe from 10% to a sliding scale depending on your income had really shaken my husband already.

The reasoning for this increase was a building fund for a huge building. Our membership was declining, we had more room than we were using, but the pastor wanted an edifice. Like many I could share the excesses of the pastor’s lifestyle juxtaposed against the poverty of many who supported him.

I have memories of communal “Pentecost Sunday” meals with choice dishes on the “pastors” table (seating our pastor and visiting pastors and families) while everyone else ate a lesser menu. Many love offerings were taken for many preachers and pastors, including our own, many of whom lived much better than those “sharing the love.” It’s typical. The explanation was that the worker is worthy of his hire, the feet of those bringing the gospel are beautiful. Frankly those are issues of little consequence when you consider there is a cancer growing in The Body of Christ.

Guyana haunted me for nearly a decade, that message ringing in my mind. I never attended another service at a UPC after my “awakening” moment.

I believe their core message, but I don’t accept the exclusionary attitude toward those who don’t. I believe, as my UPC pastor taught me, that when a member cuts itself loose, it dies. This was his message, that if the little finger is cut off, the Body heals, the pinkie dies. However, I do not see myself as that lone digit today. I am grafted in to the Body at LARGE outside the UPC. It is the UPC that has cut itself off, sadly, and many good people who love God will suffer for that.

I benefited from my experience with the UPC. I learned the scriptures and heard inspired teaching and preaching. I learned to love God.

But I have suffered much from my experience in the UPC. It has taken me decades to trust any spiritual leader again, and I’m still ambivalent to some degree. I am less able to openly enjoy fellowship and welcome others into my life. I left the UPC feeling violated at the end and I’m still feeling scars throb.

I absolutely believed that if I “trained up a child” according to the “way” I was being taught there, my children would never depart from it. My daughter obeyed the rules, but she did not learn the principals. She has had a life of sex, drug abuse and alcoholism. She bore and deserted two children, one of whom is permanently brain damaged with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I endured eight years not knowing where she was or if she was dead or alive. Thank God for twelve step programs; thank God they are not “of the devil” as I was taught, and thank God she's nearly eighteen months clean and dry.

My son learned principals, and because of the application of those principals in his life, he has done very well for his God, his country, his family and himself. However, he did not follow his first career path choice into professional sports, because that was “of the devil.” This has caused a strain in our relationship.

My husband and I did not survive as a couple, in part because he could not deal with the loss of absolute control when I learned the difference between subjection and submission, abuse and love.

Reading this site has been very therapeutic for me and I appreciate the opportunity to purge my soul in the hope of helping others recover from the harsh side of the UPC experience.

Las Vegas, NV

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