A Woman's Fundamentalist Experience

I could write quite a story about my experiences in a very strict fundamentalist sect; but because it is so painful to me, I will try to keep it short.

To sum it up, the church I belonged to believed it was wrong for women to cut their hair, wear make-up or jewelry, work outside of the home, wear pants, or have friends not in the church (this went for both sexes); also it was wrong to allow your children to join school organizations, play sports or seek higher education. Many believed it was wrong to play music or have televisions.

It goes without saying that they abstained from tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc. It was also generally believed by all that going to a physician was a sin; it wasn't "faith", and medicine was wrong. (A few of these "commandments" were debated within the church.) This is just the tip of the iceberg. The members are also not supposed to read books other than the Bible; even commentaries & Bible dictionaries are regarded as evil, since they weren't written by one of their members. They are convinced that theirs is the only true church; that they alone have survived since the Apostles & carry on their traditions. Everyone outside of the little group is "the world".  

At any rate, we lost a child due to ignorance. A stillborn baby. And it is happening all the time. How can this happen, you ask? Because you are told this: if you lose faith and take your child or you to the doctor, God will take vengeance on you. Basically, taking your child to the doctor when they are seriously ill is a guaranteed death sentence, because God will take their life because you lost faith. Their only hope is NOT to take them to the hand of man.

Dozens of gory stories are used to support this idea, and should you waver, your doorstep is filled with brethren who all have a nightmarish story to tell of what happened to so-and-so's child when they took him to the doctor. You are defying God's will if you turn to a physician. This is the God they believe they serve!   What happens when someone goes and ahead & goes to a doctor & survives? They must publicly repent in front of the congregation & ask forgiveness. And they had better hope that God doesn't strike them down with something way worse than what they went to the doctor for.

They live in fear. I lived in fear. The rules were so varied and so many, I was convinced I was going to Hell no matter how good or perfect I tried to be. Only perfection could enter heaven; and yes, you had to make yourself perfect.   The more I read as the years went by, however, the less sense it all made. I had read the NT so much I could practically quote it front to back.

I was also staying in an extremely mentally (and sometimes physically) abusive marriage due to the belief that I would go straight to Hell were I not to "accept" what God wanted me to bear. Death would be my only escape from my situation. To top it all off, anyone that ever thought that any other church could possibly harbor true Christians was blaspheming. Denying Christ's only true church. So basically, to doubt the inescapable fact of "one & only church in the entire world" was equivalent to losing one's soul in an unforgivable sin.

For years that one "fact" kept me from admitting what I knew in my heart to be true. I essentially had to ignore what I read in the Bible in favor of the majority opinion within the church. When everyone you know & love, all your friends, etc. are in the same church, (seeing that it is "wrong" to have friends anywhere else) it is nearly impossible to leave that & venture into the unknown. Your entire world consists of the one big church family.

God, however, had other ideas for me. Finally my abusive husband decided that "HE had had enough!??" and left & filed for divorce. I was devastated. Not only was I left with a houseful of children to care for; I hadn't worked out since I was young, naturally. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown; God, however, did not leave me comfortless.

It's been a long road out; sometimes I wonder if the shadows will ever go away. The panic attacks have stopped, though; and I can honestly say I have never been happier or more blessed than I am now. I had no idea life in Christ could be so wonderful. I thank him each & every day that he helped me escape from the situation. It's been a few years now; I wonder from time to time if I would even be alive now, had things continued on. It is doubtful; I had some serious health problems to contend with that I had refused to seek medical aid for.  

I hope this can help someone else; it had to all be for something. Helping others in similar circumstances would be the greatest thing I can think of.

Posted April 13, 2002


August 23, 1997
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