Ali's UPC Experience

A bit of background about me; I was born and raised in a Southern Baptist home, went to church regularly and lived with my mom and brother in west Texas. I never dated anyone, that was of my own doing, just not interested in that sort of thing. I attended various youth ski trips, fund raisers, youth rallies, etc. with the SBC.

My junior year of high school I began dating my now husband; I will call him Scott. Well Scott's parents were\are Pentecostal preachers. I really had no idea what this religion was, but attended church with him on occasion, mainly just to see him, not because of the church. The more I dated Scott, the more I saw how this church was, but then again I was only 16 years old. He was my first boyfriend.

One thing led to another and, well I ended up pregnant at 17 with Scott's baby. It was, well very surprising to say the least. Me, being the good girl and him being the preacher's kid. Well, Scott's mother took me aside and told me that I had to become Pentecostal to be part of their family, that church was their life and it came before everything.....Being 17, I said ok no big deal, I can do that. (I was still a senior in high school.)

So we married...I 17, He 18 at another church (Baptist) in another town; neither of our parents were there. Nobody really accepted the fact we were bringing a baby into the world.

Well, this is when it all started to snowball........I was told to get rid of all my pants, shorts, make-up, anything "worldly". I had an image to uphold as a Pentecostal preachers daughter-in-law. Ok I thought, no big deal, I can do that. So, I did, not even thinking twice about what I had done. I quit wearing make-up, quit cutting my hair, quit going out, watching tv, listening to anything but Christian music, quit contact with anyone other than people that were in the church...all to please my in-laws, in turn pleasing my husband, or so I thought.

Here I was 17 with a baby, wearing older women's clothes, long dresses, no make-up, and living someone else's life. I did whatever people told me to do whenever they told me to do it, no questions asked. I am a people pleaser still to this day. (I think this church preys on people like that because they know stronger people won't tolerate their beliefs and brainwashing.)

Anyway, I went to church 6 DAYS A WEEK....SIX DAYS A WEEK! They were starting to get to me, telling me the things I needed to do for "GOD". If I did one thing he would be pleased, did another he wouldn't let me into heaven.

I honestly believed that if I wore pants I was going to hell; how sad is that? I really thought my friends at school were all sinners and going to hell from what I was told at church. I was literally scared to do anything in fear of what my eternal life would be.

Oh trust me, they make it all appear to be "love" in the church. They all talk so nice to you and tell you how pretty you are in your long dress, how pretty your long hair is. But once the sermons come, forget it. You are damned if you even think about cutting your hair; it is a shame to God to do that they say. Harlots wear men's clothing and women only wear pants to get other men is what I was told.

And the whole mother-in-law story...mine is a doozy. My mother-in-law (who should be in submission to her husband according to the UPC) wears the pants in that family. She always gets her way, and if she doesn't, you can guarantee that she will put on some act, poor me, pity me sob story to make everyone feel sorry for her until she gets what she wants. She has brainwashed (or tried to) my own children into thinking the toys they play with aren't pleasing to God. Who is she to judge?

Submission is a BIG deal of the UPC. All you hear is the way you are supposed to dress to please God and to submit to your husband, and of course your pastor. That meaning, if you do ANYTHING that he tells you not to do, in turn you are not pleasing God and will not go to heaven. I can't stress how demeaning it is to sit there and listen to people tell you how bad you are and what a sinner you are because of the way you dress! It is hard to get over, and it has been 10 years for me and I still feel guilty when I buy a pair of jeans.

I had to leave this church, no matter what, I was determined not to raise my boys this way (I have 3 boys). I was physically ill all the time, I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep and ended up going to the doctor; he told me I had a colon disease and if I didn't end the stress I had my health would continue to deteriorate. It scared me.

I started reading the Bible A LOT, the scriptures that were shoved down my throat, the demanding I speak in tongues, or I wouldn't get to heaven....the dress, the submission...I did research, none of this is right, none of it is true..But sadly to this day, I still think about it and wonder if they are right. How sick is that?

I eventually went to a 12 step program to help me get through all of my problems with church...I still hadn't had a drop of alcohol my whole life, yet they tried to blame the 12 step program on me leaving the church. After this course, I wrote a letter to my father-in-law. I stated the specific reasons I was leaving, what they had done to hurt me and the reasons they couldn't keep anyone in their church.. OH yes, NOBODY stayed at that church; everyone ran. They still do sadly.

I slowly quit going to church so often, eventually just went on Sunday mornings and nights then just Sunday mornings. And to think I felt guilty! My father-in-law (the UPC preacher) told me to give the church another chance...which I did, on numerous occasions. It was funny in a way because he TRIED to preach without being so controlling yet he couldn't do always left me with a guilty feeling at church, that is not what GOD is about.

Eventually all this got to my marriage. I am not even going to start to touch on the abuse I have had as a UPC's kids' wife. It is horrible. I told my husband I had to leave...we either had to split up or MOVE from there. So we did. We moved where I am now, where my family is in East Texas. I told him I would be willing to try the UPC church here, hoping it would be different. It wasn't. They were really nice, don't get me wrong, my kids loved it, which is great, but my main concern is the brainwashing and constant belittling people to make them do what you think God wants them to do.

I quit going when the UPC preacher here came into my home (a very nice man). I asked him questions...I said "be honest with me, I want to know what you believe..not what you preach, regarding standards and the way women should dress." He said, and I quote, "I don't preach much on standards but deep down you know when you get right with God you won't want to wear those things or makeup." That did it....I knew then what they all thought and believed.

First of all I just wanted to SCREAM!!!! I didn't, I am a quiet person who respects people, especially my elders. I just didn't go to church anymore. I eventually visited all the different religions around town....I didn't find one I liked, therefore haven't really been to church. I don't have a church home and I believe it is because of what I lived with for 8 years at the UPC church in west Texas. I have no doubts, I am not putting total blame on them, don't get me wrong. I know I need to get over it and move on, but it's not that simple. People who have been there understand. I hope someday I will find a church home who will not condemn everyday normal things and I will feel safe there; until then, I won't go to church.

Thanks for letting me share.


Posted March 4, 2002


August 23, 1997
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