Interview with Jen

United Pentecostal Church International

What would you like to be called and how old are you?

My name is Jen, I am 36 years old.

What is the name of the cult you were in?

United Pentecostal Church International

Where was it located?

The local church I attended was in the Saint Louis, MO area.

How many people were a member of it?

The organization boasts millions. Our local congregation

ran approximately 175 people.

Were you born into it or converted or other?

I was eight years old when my parents divorced and my

Mom converted and became a member.

How did people become members?

You have to follow their three step salvation plan which

consists of repenting of your sins, being baptized using

specific words, and receiving the Holy Ghost by “speaking

in tongues”.

How many leaders were there?

In our congregation there were two official “leaders” but

several other ministers who held licenses in the UPC.

Who kept the leader(s) in check, or was he the only authority?

The main pastor at our church was pretty much his own authority.

He was also the leader of the cluster of churches in our county, so that

gave him even more power.

What happened if someone questioned his authority or what you believed?

If you were caught questioning the beliefs of the church, different things could potentially

happen such as, being “sat down” from any ministries you had on the platform, escorted to

 the altar for prayer, and elders coming to you with lectures and literature written by the UPC.

Where did they get their information?

The UPC will tell you they get their beliefs from the Bible….

 In all reality, most of their doctrine comes from their current General

Superintendent,  David K Bernard.  Pretty much whatever that man says is viewed as

Gospel.

What were some of the strangest beliefs?

There are so many! I always thought the strangest/most hypocritical

was the teaching members couldn’t own a TV.  In many houses,

including my own, we had an old computer monitor hooked up to a

video camera that played back VHS tapes.  This arrangement was

considered appropriate, but having an actual television and VCR was taboo.

Men wearing shorts was also a no no. Which I always thought, how is a woman

wearing a skirt to their knees okay, but a man wearing shorts was wrong?

I think a lot of the more modern churches today are now okay with these examples.

Which is also a little funny how it is “okay” now but wasn’t twenty years ago.

What were some strange practices?

Loudly speaking in tongues, congregational foot washing, and people running

around the church with no shoes on. just to name a few!

Were members punished for asking questions?

In our personal experience, when we started asking questions, another couple

and ourselves had to be secretive about us meeting and researching the Bible

without UPC sponsored material so we would meet two hours before service in a

small classroom at the church. We feared the pastor finding out we were

questioning things and were worried we would be reprieved of our “ministries”

such as music.

When did you notice things were different than other religions?

As soon as children are old enough to go to camps and conventions which is around the age

of eight years old, they are ingrained that their religion is different, the only true religion..

 So, I pretty much knew my church was different from day one. Also, when my mother started

attending a UPC church she explained to me this church was different from the Baptist

church we had previously been attending because they taught the whole Bible, not just

part. The UPC is gifted at indoctrinating their members into thinking they are far superior

and better than any other church, they thrive on being different.

To you, what is the difference between a cult and religion?

To quote Mike Rinder who said it perfectly: “the difference between a religion and a cult

is what happens when you try to leave.”

Were there any books you regularly read about what you were being taught?

If you are a devoted member you read all of David K Bernard’s books.

I wasn’t so devoted,  so I didn’t read a whole lot of UPC books.

I did have several of their Bible studies memorized as my mom and

Step dad were always teaching them at our house to new members.

How did you get out?

It is a bit of a long story (so long, I am currently in the process of writing a

book).To be rather brief,  I wanted to know exactly what I believed in order to

teach my children. I was questioning some of the more extreme beliefs

already, but was doing them as to be submissive to my pastor.

My husband and I started doing some hard studying going topic by topic using

Nothing but the Bible, digging all the way back to the original Greek it was

written in.  Once we started noticing sever several discrepancies and

inconsistencies between the Bible and what they were teaching, we had no

choice but to leave.  We couldn’t raise our children in such falsehoods

Leaving my extended family and close friends behind was one of the most

difficult things I’ve ever done.

What was everyone’ s reaction when you left?

My mom and step dad were devastated.  They sincerely feared for our

souls. Our “friends” were the same.  It’s the equivalent to them of watching

their loved one cliff dive off the side of the Grand Canyon without ropes

They honestly felt like we were dooming ourselves to hell by walking

away from “the truth”.  It was actually heartbreaking to do that to them.

The responses I received from my so called friends were eye opening.

Most were not supportive or respectful of our decision. They said things

such as I made them want to vomit and they hoped I never slept again.

Three years out and I never hear from any of those people.

And when I started speaking out openly about their religion, most

even unfriended me on social media.

How does your family feel about it?

Thankfully,  since we have left, we have had the opportunity to share with

most of our family the information we found and have very few still left

in the organization.

How did you adjust to the world? How has this experience changed your life?

My life has changed drastically in the three short years since we have been out.

At 36 years old, I finally feel like an adult! I can now make my own choices about

clothing and hair styles! Sounds so silly now, but I felt so overwhelmed going

clothes shopping for a long time because the idea of being able to wear whatever

I wanted was so different! Not to mention, I had never bought a pair of jeans!

I had no idea what I was doing, I had many fitting room meltdowns. The first

time I had my hair dyed I cried and almost threw up! Now, it’s kind of my

thing to go with leaving members to get their hair cut for the first time as moral

support.

What kind of help do you wish was available to you to help you ‘ deprogram’ ?

Thankfully, I do have an amazing therapist now and am currently going through

 EMDR therapy for PTSD related to my cult experiences.  I am also in a couple of

support groups on Facebook with other who left the same or similar cults.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your experience?

Don’t discredit people’s personal experiences.  You never know what they are going through.

Honestly, it would have been easier in so many ways for me to stay in my cult, in my comfort zone,

But now, having left, and doing so sincerely and not strictly from rebellion how I was always taught

people who leave are doing, I see how small minded those beliefs are and what a tiny world they live in.

I want to help as many people as I can get out by just hearing my story. Hopefully I can reach someone

else who may be as oppressed and miserable as I was. I am finally comfortable in my own skin and am free to be me! It is truly life changing! I also have a blog documenting some of my experiences since leaving, feel free to read and share!

https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.wordpress.com/

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Updates

The first thing I would like to let you, my reader know, is my name. My name is Morgan, not Cult View. I am a cult survivor and am a person. I hid my identity because I had another blog in 2011-2012, similar to this one where I shared my personal story. It was called “I am a survivor”. I told the truth and those who knew me personally threatened me. I was scared of that happening again. So, I felt I needed to hide behind a fake name to stay safe. However, after much reflection I felt that I should empower myself by revealing my name. This project is about empowering those who left by giving them a voice. If I do not feel empowered, how can I empower others? So, it is nice to meet you.

I apologize for not writing lately. I am a person who connects with each story and I could feel the pain of each person who bravely told their stories. It had such an emotional impact on me that I felt overloaded in the sense that I wanted to make the pain go away. Every story I read, I wanted to reach through and hug them and let them know they were so brave. I even told them this in writing, but it didn’t feel like it was enough. I began to question the point of this project. So, I took some time off to learn better coping skills and to come up with a way to be even more impactful. So, I am back and better than ever.

I really believe you will like these ideas. I wanted to make this project more collaborative and I have added another voice. I believe she is an incredible person and I look forward to her input and unique perspective. I have also posted a call to all those who want to share their own ideas or stories. Even if it is just a source that you feel can help someone, please share it. I want to hear from you. I will be creating a section for guest authors and feature the submitted posts there. Please follow the rules in the previous post and submit through the contact page.

I am also thinking of changing the name of the blog to something more exciting. If you have any suggestions, please submit them through the contact page. I am looking forward to what we create together.

Calling all who have a story or idea

I am currently going to open a session for those who would like to submit a story, thought, or post to share on this blog. I value the readers and want to hear from you. Please contact me through the contact page to discuss your thoughts. You could be featured as an author. I am curious what other’s perspectives are and how they can impact this project. I am also looking for other things that should be included, but are missing as of right now. This project is meant to be a place people can come to an have access to all the needed information on escaping and healing after. If you have suggestions or want to write a guest post, use the contact page to message me.

The rules are as follows. Only those submissions that are in line with the values of sharing information and promoting those who have been impacted will be accepted. Nothing that is derogatory to those who have escaped (or thinking of leaving) will be tolerated or published. This project is to help those who were impacted to share their voice and to help those who may be wanting to leave a cult. We are inclusive and do not want to ostracize those who are dealing with the trauma of this abuse. All entries will be grammatically corrected as needed.

I want to make this a more co-operative project as I am adding an editor this week. I know that she will bring a unique and purposeful perspective to this project and allow the message to continue to blossom. She escaped a cult and has shared her story through an interview. I have gotten to know her over these last few months and count her as a friend. This project and those who it impacts can only benefit from her added voice.

Introspection: It is my choice

Trigger Warning

All my life I was taught that to get into Heaven, one HAD to forgive those who hurt them. To be forgiven by God Himself, we had to forgive those around us, no matter what they did. When I was molested, I was forced to forgive the man that hurt me. When he raped me, again, I was forced to forgive him. If I had refused to forgive him, then I was at fault, not him. Forgive and forget was the mantra drilled into my head. It is the mantra drilled into many children’s heads.

One of the hardest things for me to get over has been seeing my former pastor and his wife living in a way that they taught was compromising or against the Bible. In previous posts, I discussed the rules which were very harsh. No pants, long hair, no makeup, no jewelry (except watches) no TV (later only what was approved), no sports, etc.

At my 13th birthday party, I was watching two people play tennis next to the park. I told my mom I wanted to play and she went and got the assistant pastor (later became the pastor). She told him what I had said and he said it was strictly forbidden since I would have to wear a short skirt. He quoted Bible verses and when he left I felt dead inside.

When I was around 15, I wanted to go to prom (when I was old enough). What girly girl doesn’t want to get all dolled up and dance the night away, like Cinderella? I was told that dancing was of the devil and that we did not participate in that. A friend and I came up with having a church prom, which was basically a formal banquet. We had a dress code and it was fun. But I could not go to my school prom.

When I was 16, I was caught listening to the pop radio station and was reprimanded for listening to devil’s music.

At 16, I was caught reading unapproved books and was threatened with violence.

At 17, I was embarrassed by my pastor’s wife for having a skirt that you could see through in certain light.

At 18, in college, I wanted to pierce my ears and I had cut my hair, when I went back to church, they tried to pray the demons out of me by laying their hands on me.

The stories could go on, but I recently saw a picture of my former pastor and he was wearing a wedding band, which was strictly forbidden. A few days later, he was at a football game with his son, I was told to quit the marching band because I was performing at football games. I saw a picture of his wife and she had cut her hair, I had hands laid on me for the same offense when they noticed I had done that. Then I noticed she had pants on, which when my family found out I was wearing pants, they condemned me to Hell.

While they have children now, I find myself struggling with jealousy at the fact that the same people who FORCED me to wear certain things and act a certain way by using the fear of going to hell are allowing their own children to do the things they preached against ten years ago. It is so hard not to be offended and angry at the fact that I was not allowed to do the things they are doing now. I hate that as an adult I am jealous of a child, but it is mostly due to the fact that they are having the childhood I wish I had.

I know that ten years can change a person, and that having children totally changes a person’s perspective. I am happy that they have learned to raise their children differently than they forced others to raise their own. I am glad that those children do not have to live the same life of humiliation that I did for wanting to be normal. I am glad that they are more open to allowing people to express themselves in a different way rather than forcing them to conform to the rules or be damned to hell. For this reason and this reason only, I chose to forgive them and let the pain of my past go.

Interview

United Pentecostal Church

 

What would you like to be called and how old are you?  

Miss T., I am 28 

 

What is the name of the cult you were in?  

Pleasant Hill United Pentecostal church 

 At some point, I started going to a different church Oloh united Pentecostal church 
Where was it located?  

Pleasant hill UPC is in Foxworth Mississippi 

Oloh UPC is in Oloh Mississippi, I believe. 

 

How many people were a member of it?  

 At pleasant hill, I’m not exactly sure. 

At The church in Oloh, there were roughly 15 members 
 

Were you born into it or converted?  

Converted the summer before being in 10th grade 
 

How did people become members?  

I just showed up one day with a friend and kept going, that’s how I became a member. Most people speak in tongues, though I have never spoken in tongues. 
 

How many leaders were there? 

At Pleasant Hill, maybe 5. 

At Oloh, 2-3 

 

Who kept the leader (s) in check, or was he the only authority?  

Everyone answered to god. Although, what the pastor said goes. He is. Considered a man of god, gods vessel, so you must go by what he says. 
 

What happened if someone questioned his authority or what you believed?  

No one questioned his authority as far as I know, but I am really quiet and didn’t talk to many people. They did kick quite a few people out of the church from not listening to him though. 

 

 

Where did they get their information? (Bible, God, Music, etc.)  

Bible, god. And the Occasional other book. The KJV bible was mostly the only book they read and went by. 

 
 

What were some of the strangest beliefs?  

You can’t cut your hair. You can’t watch TV. Listening to any music other than Christian music is strongly discouraged. The very strict dress code. You can’t wear a swimsuit, pants, shorts, jewelry, makeup etc. 

 

 You must speak in tounges to get the holy ghost. You must speak in tounges period. Even though, according to the bible, if there is no interpreter you aren’t supposed to speak in tounges. If you don’t speak in tounges you don’t have the holy ghost. 

 

Having Christmas trees is discouraged. 

 

You must be totally separate from the world. You are not to be a god, and not participate in any worldly things. At the time, they seemed to truly love everyone. But, they were very judgmental. They did not accept anyone that was different. 
 

What were some strange practices?  

Foot washing. Anointing people with holy water. Having prayer cloths. Being in the middle of a prayer circle pretty much, with everyone’s hands on you. The style of worship to a certain point is strange. 

 
 

Were members punished for asking questions?  

Yes. 

 

When did you notice things were different than other religions?  

From day one. We were to not live “for the world” we were to only live for god. We had to be separate from the world and live “holy” lives. Outward worship is strongly encouraged. Hands raised, dancing, praying out loud, etc. 

Even though the bible says not to pray out loud. 

 
 

To you, what is the difference between a cult and religion?  

I am not sure if there is a difference.  

 

 

Were there any books you regularly read about what you were being taught?  

Other than the bible, No, but I did research online to find out more about it. 

 For the most part, we only read the bible, and our research came mostly from the bible. 
 

How did you get out?  

I quit going to church. I was the only Pentecostal in my family, so leaving the church wasn’t the hard part for me. 
 

What was everyone’s reaction when you left?  

My parents were a little surprised. 

People I went to church with avoided me and quit associating with me. Before leaving the church, I was going to Oloh UPC, and after service everyone would be talking to each other, and they avoided me. They said that they wanted me to give me space and to not push anything on me, but they were really avoiding me. 

Seeing how people you went to church with all the time avoid you, told me that if you are living differently than them, they did not want to associate with you anymore. Now that’s some loving church folk right there. Ha ha yeah right. 
 

How does your family feel about it?  

They were surprised but didn’t say much until I came out and told them I didn’t believe in god anymore. Before i came out to them, they treated me the same for the most part. (They were not Pentecostal and rarely went to church at all) Needless to say, all hell broke loose. My husband was the scapegoat, and they threatened to kill him. They treated us totally different from that point. We were pretty much outcasts. My family wanted nothing to do with us. I had finally found myself and my one true love, and they couldn’t even be happy for me. They were so focused on me not believing in god, instead of being happy for me, I was told by my family that I was about to be a widow. My husband makes me the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life. And all they care about is that i dont believe in god, they blamed my unbelief on my husband. 
 

How did you adjust to the world?  

It was really strange trying to adjust to the world. It felt weird. Not bring around people I was friends with at church, I felt like an outcast. I just lived one day at a time 
 

What kind of help do you wish was available to you to help you ‘deprogram’?  

I wish i could have read other people’s stories of how they dec-onverted, how they adjusted to their new lives.  
 

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your experience? 

When I got involved in the Pentecostal religion, I became very judgmental. To the point where I pretty much was convinced my own family was bad. For the most part, I quit associating with people who weren’t in my church and locked myself in my room for hours at a time, just to avoid my family. 

Church family tried to force the holy ghost upon me and speaking in tongues. I am a very quiet person, so them trying to force me to be more outward in my worship was going against everything about me as a person. They tried to get me to be more open about my worship, even praying out loud. That just has never been me. I am a very quiet person.  I felt like They trying to change who I was. 

At one point they kicked out a young girl that went to the church because she wore pants.  
 

De-converting is hard, but there are people that have been where you are. You may be struggling, but You are not alone.  

 

*Read more of her story here: https://misstishere.wordpress.com/?wref=bif

Introspection #1

I have had a couple people want to know about my perspective or have me write more about my experiences. So, I just thought I would write about a behind the scenes post.

I find music to be very healing to me, as I am sure a lot of you do too. So, as  I sit here reading the interviews, reading the survivor’s stories, I have to have something in the background that keeps me grounded. As there are many different artists  I love to listen too, I feel that I should share this particular song, as it is what inspired this whole project.

When I first heard this song, it was around the beginning of August. I had just discovered the artist and I was in love, so I wanted to know what else he had published on YouTube. So, I put his playlist on and this song came on. I froze. It spoke to the deepest part of my heart.

When I heard this song, I was researching different ways of reaching people that were affected by cults and the impacts that it had on their lives, there was not much. So, I was contemplating making this blog in interview people, to give them their voice. For them to share their stories to help others. Then this song came on.

 

“All my life, I’ve been fighting.”

 

“I found peace in your violence. Can’t tell me there’s no point in trying”

 

“I’ve been quiet for too long.”

 

This song inspired this whole blog and I listen to it while I work on it. So, I hope you find it as inspiring and healing as I do. Enjoy-CV

 

What song(s) inspire you? What helps you heal?