Righteous Anger

I grew up in a faith healing cult.  They believed that there was no need for doctors, since the Bible says, “I am the Lord, thy Healer.”  If you got sick, and prayed to get well, and did not, it was because your faith was not strong enough.

In my formative years, I watched as about 100 of the church members died.  Although the church was nearly 2,000 people strong in its heyday, and I did not know everyone’s names, I knew most of the ones that died at least by sight.  Many of them were friends of mine, or younger siblings of friends of mine, or close friends of the family.  And the weird thing is, the ones that died were scorned, (or the family of the baby that died was scored) for not having enough faith.

Being extremely lucky in that I had some intelligence in me, starting in about third grade, I started to spot logical inconsistencies in the doctrine of the church.  Around the third grade was the stage that I first considered turning my parents into the authorities.

The only two things that deterred me were the possibility of going to a strange foster home and being away from my younger siblings.  I thought that I probably would end up at my dad’s parents (who were not in the church and were quite sane), but the possibility of never seeing my siblings, or ending up in a foster home deterred me from contacting the authorities, or simply even speaking up to a teacher at school.  I don’t know why I never brought up my thoughts to my grandparents, but I guess I was just a terrified little boy.

The preachers at the church and my parents ingrained into me deeply a vivid fear of hell, the sort of fear that would give me awful mind numbing nightmares that occurred almost nightly.  Throughout most of my life, most of my dreams have been ‘bad dreams’, and it is only quite recently that this ugly pattern has been broken.

My father was a ‘song leader’ and one of the preachers at the church, and when in the company of others from the church, a pious man, indeed.  He learned Greek and Hebrew enough to translate the original language of the Bible text and taught classes on that to other church members that wanted to learn.

At home, or any time away from other people, it was a different story.  He ruled the house with an iron fist, and seemed to some sort of twisted satisfaction out of making my mom cry.  We all lived in fear of him.

Although we were spanked, and occasionally even brutally with a belt or a paddle, it wasn’t the fear of physical violence that we were afraid of.  Rather, it was just the meanness in him, and his sharp attacking tongue.  I don’t know where his anger came from, but he was a very angry man, with a short fuse.  He’d rationalize all of his monstrous actions with a Bible verse, here or there.  I remember dreading coming home with a near perfect report card, because I knew there was a good tongue lashing coming up for the A minus.

The bottom line is that my dad was the essence of the word hypocrite.  Cheerful, nice, helpful and a saint while in the company of church members, but a ‘holier than thou’ tyrant at home.  He was manipulative, and controlled everything that happened in the house when he was there.

Needless to say, I got angry.  All of my siblings did, too.  I was angry that if I didn’t stop to repent of sins every few minutes, and if I happened to die, I might go to hell.  I was angry that my ear infections in both ears didn’t heal, and persisted for 7 years.  I was angry that I had to carry a handkerchief to wipe the puss coming out of my ears, and that I had to be sneaky about it so no one would see, and tell the school nurse.

I was angry that I was the best athlete in my class in third grade, but was not allowed to play basketball (yeah they start at third grade in Indiana).  I was angry that I was not allowed to go play touch football or team sports with the neighbor boy Tommy next door (“Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers.”)

I was angry that in first grade, when I heard the word ‘fuck’ spoken for the first time (by a girl on the bus), and asked my dad what it meant, I was beaten.  I was angry that when I was seven years old, and did something wrong at my grandparents, my dad pulled down my pants in front of all my aunts, uncles, and cousins, with my privates showing, and spanked me.

I was angry that every answer to every logical fallacy or inconsistency that I spotted and questioned my parents about was, “because the Bible says so,” thereby remaining unanswered.

I took it all out on my brother, 20 months younger, and sometimes my sister too.  I copied my dad’s manipulative behavior, often goading my brother into hitting me, so I could hit him back and say he started it.  When we got in trouble, I usually made it look like he was the culprit.

I dealt with it by becoming a total bookworm.  Having no TV at home, I lost myself in the fantasy world that was reading.  I read at least a book a day.  Reading was my escape, and reading was my therapy.

This anger hit a new high in sixth grade, when we moved from the Ft. Wayne area to Indianapolis, so my dad could be the #2 preacher at a satellite church.  I knew that I was not like other kids at school, because I had to go to the office during Christmas and other holiday school celebrations, and had to sit in the hallway if they watched a movie; but it did not hit home how weird I was until I was the new kid in school.  It is natural to seek acceptance by one’s peers, and since I didn’t have that the anger kicked up a notch.

Finally, at some point in my teens, I said to hell with it, ignored my parents and did what I wanted.  They finally left the church when I was in my late teens, and I got to go to a doctor, and my ear infections of 7 years were finally gone.

But, the anger persisted for several years.  It started to subside once I went to college, got away from my parents, and did only exactly what I wanted to do for the first time in my life.  What I wanted to do was do every drug I could get my hands on, drink as much as possible, and rarely attend class.

My anger has continued to subside since my college years, and now, at age 34, I have nearly none left.

At least that’s what I thought, until my youngest brother, who I love deeply, started to get involved in a church very similar to the one I grew up in.  Now, I rise up in righteous anger.  I foresee his path in that church, I’ve already lived it, and I am angry indeed, and feel helpless as to what to do.

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13 comments
  1. Jessica said:

    That breaks my heart to hear about your little brother. Is it the same faith based type of teachings? If so, it is evil and I hate it. What does he say when you tell him the stories of what it was like growing up? Man, that is so frustrating.

    Wish I knew what to say to give you comfort. Sorry Josh.

  2. That’s the problem, I guess no one expected my dad to go back apeshit into it after he got out of it, and no one expected to tell him the dangers. From my bro’s perspective, I very much doubt that he understands the similarities of what he is in now compared to what we were in, but it’s crystal clear to the rest of the siblings. You have to remember that he’s 15 years my junior, and by his formative recollections, my parents were out of it totally. Part of me blames myself for not being a better father figure to him as my dad has the mental maturity of a middle schooler, but, after all, I was not a parental figure, and I was still dealing of issues of my own at the time. I pulled myself to sanity (finally) only recently by a love for truth and logic, and by surrounding myself by people who were smarter than I, and by getting their advice on issues I was not sure of. My little bro is definitely a smart guy, so his cognitive gifts are my last hope.

  3. So your dad is the one pulling him into this? Wow, that almost makes me more mad. It’s one thing for your brother, who is at the perfect age for cults like that to be alluring, to fall into it. But, for your father, who saw all the harm it caused to step back into it is insane! I know he’s your dad…but I kind of feel like he needs to be hit around with a bat a couple of times. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t let anger get the best of me. Your brother will get out of that scene eventually, I just hope it doesn’t take what happened to my family before he wakes up.

  4. Amanda said:

    I also grew up at Faith Assembly. I attended from birth until at 11. I am 28 now. I have some very scary and vivid memories about the church. They spoke of Dr. Freeman as if he was God. Though he died the year I was born, it was as if he was still alive walking around in our midst. It was as if he would walk through the door at any second. I remember the “spanking rooms” as we called them. If one of us misbehaved, my father would take us to the room and spank us. The rooms were sound-proof. I remember the cold concrete walls and flourescent lighting. I also remember realizing around the age of 10 that I needed glasses. I could not see the chalkboard at school. I told my parents and they sent me to be prayed for. I was terrified and refused to go to the front of the church. My father chastized me and told me that I had doubt, a mortal sin. He said that if I went up for prayer with doubt in my heart, I could be struck dead by God’s anger. I remember being terrified of taking communion. I didn’t want to drop dead because I had committed an unknown sin and didn’t repent before I took communion. These are a few among the many memories I have. I was only a child but it deeply affected me and still has an impact on my life today.

    • Lori said:

      Dear God! I am not alone…I have been avoiding this part of my childhood! I am taking a philosophy of religion class and have found you people that survived this crazy upbringing. I struggle to understand why I can’t fit in and now its all clear! We grew up in fear, people were dying around us because they screwed up! My dad’s friend went to jail when their baby died. What about that boy 3 rows up to my right that had a arm so deformed from a break and his parents never took him to the Dr. to have it set. Oh, Ya! I remember the spanking room, been in that line a few times. It was fun to stand there humiliated, looking at everyone else wondering what bad thing they did or watching the closet door open to see if the kid was crying from the spanking they just got. I still believe in God but I have spent the second half of my life so far trying to put meaning to the first part. Its hard to believe any leader. There is a generation of people out there all messed up from this! Remember all the pregnant women and babies! The nursery was huge! I loved going to the nursery with my mom! It is nice to know I am not alone….I wish you well!

  5. innertubes said:

    You just brought back some memories that I forgot. Totally forgot about the spanking room. Man, my ear infections sucked, but it had to be way worse not being able to even see!

    I was mortified of communion too. Was afraid, that after I repented right before taking it, that I’d accidentally commit a sin that I had not thought of.

    I can see your last name on the email (public can’t), any chance that your Mom’s name was Sharon??

  6. Sarah said:

    Hi Josh… stumbled on to your blog when looking up some info on Faith Assembly. I think my sister has actually talked to you before in regards to the project you are working on to compile FA stories. Anyway, reading your blog brought back memories, some long forgotten. My family being a part of FA is a part of my life that I really need to deal with. It is helpful to know others that have gone through similar experience and are willing to share what they learned in their journey.

    My memories of FA are not very clear, considering I was pretty little when we left. But my parents went on to more cults after that. Still trying to sort everything out.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for writing about your experiences. I would really be interested in reading/seeing the end result of your project. And while I might not have much to add, I’d be happy to share my experiences.

    Oh, and I hope you can get through to your brother. Very hard to watch a new generation start walking down that road.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Sarah, I appreciate it. If your sister is who I think she is, we were corresponding, then she got busy at work, and I haven’t talked to her in quite some time.

      I have not done a lot in the project lately, but it does tend to come and go in spurts 🙂

  7. Anonymous said:

    Josh,

    I came across your blog when I was Googling “Faith Assembly” mostly out of curiosity. It has been very interesting reading about your experiences with the group. I was young when my family was involved in Faith Assembly but I have many memories about it and your posts and those of the commentors have brought back many more memories I had forgotten about. I can still see the negative impact Faith Assembly and many of the corresponding beliefs have on my family to this day. I’m curious about what Mr. Nei you are referring to in some of your other posts since it is definitely someone I’m very closely related to.

  8. innertubes said:

    The Nei’s I speak of were Mike and Diane. We lived close to them in the Ft. Wayne area for a while. Caleb Nei was my age and one of my church buddies.

    I’m curious as to how he’s doing, if you’re related to him.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Interesting. I’d love to correspond with you more off of the comments section if you are able. Do you have my email address from when I registered to comment? I don’t really want to post it on a public forum.

  10. innertubes said:

    Yep, coming at you

  11. Hello, Josh. I am Caleb’s wife. I am very sorry that the abuse and twisting of God’s word created such a terrible and damaging experience for you. No child or adult, for that matter, should ever have to go through that. This is absolutely the opposite of everything that truly is God’s heart. I always say that a parent who is a Christian is responsible for showing God’s character to their children. It is more important than anything they say or do. When a parent is full of hypocrisy and anger, it brings terrible consequences. It says, “God is angry. God is hateful. God wants you to be weird. God is sadistic. It is really is deception. I will pray that God heals your heart. The God I know is patient, kind, gentle, understanding and definitely full of love.

    1 John says that perfect love casts out all fear. God’s love is greater than anything. I pray that his love will capture your heart. I just started a blog and funny enough I found your blog by trying to google an old song that Caleb wrote called You Are My Comfort. I wanted to put it behind my blog on God’s comfort and love to drive away our fear.

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