I sit on a dark orange pew awaiting the sound of music to begin. It is a time of joy, excitement, and sheer wonderment or so I am told. I wait for the "honor" and "privilege" of hearing words of wisdom from a man who has long been identified as an "Apostle of God." He was revered and, in many ways, praised as if he were the second coming of Christ himself. He is not to be challenged nor is he to be disrespected. He will have your abiding attention and his words are to be taken as if gold were being given to those who desired it the most. Because you were much richer for it. Your life was much better off now. But most importantly you are on the right path. The only path to knowing God.
Regardless, I continue to sit. I look around at all the people carry on with idle conversation and I simply get lost in the white noise clamoring on in the background. The musicians tune their instruments. People begin to take their seats. I look up on the stage where men sit in line in pleather chairs, proclaimed ministers of the Body of Christ. They look down on the congregation and I look up on them among the rest. The music begins to play. Business as usual on a Saturday or Sunday night.
People are now clapping their hands. The music gets louder and the singers range higher. The building begins to shake and the vibrations given off by the band shook the foundation. It is now a time to dance, shout, and give praise to the Lord. Time to lift your hands and jump up and down. With all of this, now the "Holy Ghost" creeps in.
People are now speaking in tongues. They are falling over and shaking violently. Everyone is now in a state of pure spiritual bliss with everyone now coming to the altar with eager and tearful eyes for a minister to place their hands on their heads. They want to feel the spirit of God enter their souls so that they can experience heaven, even if it is only for a little while. The shouting continues. The band gets louder. All the while, everyone feels one with God.
And I feel nothing.
I stand there, gazing at everyone else as they lose their minds. What they saw as a light into heaven I saw as a brief moment of insanity. I could not bring myself to lose control like that. I simply couldn't. Even as much as I wanted to. Despite this, I blended in seamlessly. I pretended to feel the spirit of God under the notion that He wants me to be saved. That He loves me and that I am special. Out of all the people in the world, He chose you they would say. I should be thankful and happy. I should be complete.
But I wasn't. I was in a prison filled with amber walls and religious paintings. I was a "church mouse," as one used to call me, that wandered hollow halls and dwelled in a sanctuary filled with those who were broken. It was a ward for me and those who felt safe and who would deem to call me "brother." We were a family brought together by the Lord. The pain of realizing that we were not was unbearable at times, but new revelations are not guaranteed to be painless. I would know, for it was the reveal of what lied behind the curtains that both broke me and saved whatever was left of me.
I had eventually come to the conclusion that we were brought together because we couldn't handle life for what it was. We wanted something to believe in, so we allowed ourselves to become enslaved and stripped naked with their ideology penetrating our hearts. Because the thought of anything else was terrifying. After all, we were the Lord's sheep and He was our shepherd, so say the scriptures. We were safe from an unforgiving and sinful world. We were loved and nothing the world threw at us could stop us from ruling and reigning with God.
Jesus is coming and we must be ready. Any day now, He will take us in His glory when the end comes and we will embrace eternity, while everything else dies and turns to ash. Read your Bible. Pray. Overcome. So many years and so many sermons.
In the end, I could not take it anymore. I left what I knew was a cult. I was told that leaving would cost me God's covering and that I am now leaving everything up to chance.
So much was lost, and yet gained. Friends are now long gone. Family ties are loosened, in a sense. My identity was now tattered as I sprawl to pick up the pieces to build something new. Nevertheless, nothing would stop me from ever acquiring what I truly longed for. The freedom of mind was my treasure that I continually set sail to find.
In many ways I have it. But the weight of what was instilled in me still burdens my shoulders. I carry in me a man damaged and without purpose. Purpose is the key isn't it? What is this existence without purpose? Just existence, I suppose. And I also suppose that those who still attend that place have their purpose. But at what price?
Their minds are far gone, some of them. They are nothing more than drones programmed to do what is "right" according to the Body of Christ, even if it is blatantly wrong. How many relationships have been destroyed? How many have fallen into personal despair as a result of their indoctrination? How many more will suffer and prefer to live in a mental cage out of fear of what is out there? How many dreams crushed all in the name and glory of God?
In the end, it was never about morals or salvation. It was and always will be about control to empower those who claim to have special reverence from God and the exploitation of people who are desperate to find purpose. And I pity them, even as I struggle to understand what my purpose is now.
This is only a glimpse behind the veil of years passed, much has changed but one thing has remained. If I live the rest of my days without knowing who I am and what I should be doing with my life I shall always have my freedom. No longer will I be a pawn of religious abuse and idioms. And for anyone else who is struggling with this, I only hope that you as well will find the same without your mind being enslaved. And in the end, I am alright with chance. Chance was all I really had to begin with.
It was that moment that I realized chance was the ruler of us all that I was set free, but not without the memories of my identity being stripped away and the years that followed.