#PinkHairDontCare

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So the other day I’m sitting in my therapist’s office discussing one of the most traumatic moments of my life, and kinda laughing it off because it almost sounds silly. I wasn’t discussing being molested or raped- not to say that’s not a discussion, it absolutely has been for many years, in fact, it has monopolized many a’therapy session. So much so that I have blown off other traumatic moments because when you compare them, you kinda can’t top sexual abuse. Well, that was my mainframe, anyway… But let’s not compare apples and oranges…. trauma is trauma. These moments can define you, and they did define me in many ways. I’m working towards living MY life and not basing everything off of my past.

SOOOO I’m discussing the days leading up to my baptism into the (cough* CULT *cough) ICOC. I was 15, it was the summer before I started high school, my parents FINALLY let me dye my hair pink, and I really wasn’t buying “the god thing”. My parents/teen leaders expected me and my sister to go to Teen Camp, and we did… At this point my closest friends had been kept from me for months. You know how I was a bad egg because I questioned, and am not easily silenced. The “church” decided it was better to isolate me… and they were right. Being left out was awful. It didn’t make me believe in god, it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Like I was broken for not having the same blind faith as everyone else. It came down to being treated badly and either ignored or rebuked, or I could “study the bible” and be baptized and be treated kindly.

At this point, you have to understand that I literally didn’t see life beyond the ICOC. I didn’t dare to imagine it. I was RAISED drinking the koolaid. I felt like it was wrong, but what did I know? I was trained from the get go to believe that this was the only way to live. So when I questioned, I felt like I was “in sin”. It was scary and lonely and confusing. No one sympathized. Even the kids who rebelled still had some sort of faith in god. I was the only one that didn’t. So I told myself that I was wrong, and I should at least try because if I TRY, if there is a god, he will “soften my heart” and I will have my friends back, and my parents would be proud of me. That’s what I did. I studied, (studying The Bible in an ICOC or ICC church is pretty intense. Over the course of a few studies, you have been brainwashed into believing that the only way to achieve salvation is by confessing your sins to someone *who’s going to share with other people*, having a specified discipler and being baptized by someone in the ICOC/ICC. You’re eventually expected to distance yourself from family members that are non disciples.) memorized and regurgitated. After passing the “Prove It” study, my disciplers informed me that I could be baptized by next Sunday, but I had to dye my hair back to a normal color because I was” too noticeable and that’s sinful. God doesn’t like that sort of thing.”

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Remember how I was 15 years old and I had been begging my parents to let me dye my hair pink for like 3 years??? And FINALLY they said yes???? But, guess what, my cool pink hair was sinful. Just like my personality “made the boys struggle” (You guys, I wasn’t even cute, boys didn’t like me. I was awkward and mousy and plain. Flat chested, short… I wore glasses and read books. TRUST me when I say that I was not the girl that “made boys struggle”.) I was infuriated! Of course to be saved I had to conform. After deliberation and prayer, I bleached out the dye, and was dunked into the Pacific Ocean that Sunday. I really hoped my first breath after my baptism would feel like my first, that I would feel cleansed and new. It was a devastating slap in the face to see that I felt exactly the same. Only… pissed. These people have been lying to me my whole life. (I know some of you feel like your baptism meant something, and, OK I’m not saying nothing changed for you, I’m saying it didn’t work for me and it wasn’t for lack of trying.) Never mind the fact that at 15, how much sinning could I have done. I was actually on the more angelic side of the spectrum when it came to actual “sinning”. Realistically, I just wasn’t a bad kid. And after fuming for a few minutes and receiving awkward hugs, responding as honestly as I could when people asked me over and over, “How do you feel?” (probably just to reaffirm how they tell themselves they felt after the baptisms. In fact, I remember asking my best friend the same question before I was baptized, if she felt new, I would, too.) to which I answered, “cold.” I thought, “And I dyed my hair for this?”

Jenna and her rad blue ombre
Jenna and her rad blue ombre

Just over a year later I “fell away”. Afterwards I pierced my belly button, my nose, and tongue. At 18 I started getting tattoos, but I stopped dying my hair. Weird, right? I don’t remember consciously deciding I wouldn’t dye my hair again, but it’s been roughly 10 years and I finally dyed my hair a few months ago, nothing crazy, just blonde streaks. a month or two later I went a little further and went very blonde ombre… kinda dipping my toes in. I remember that feeling, the change every time you look in the mirror. New. Baptized.

And that’s the revelation I had.

For years I have avoided “ceremonial” signals of change. I stopped believing in these big moments that signify transformation.

And then, I decided it was time to dye my hair pink. Why? Because I want to, and I’m an adult now, so piss off! (Yes that was a drop Dead Fred reference) And guess what… I absoFUCKINlutely LOVE my hair! (I especially love that my husband dyed it for me #keeper) Also, we decided that all the kids should rock colored hair, because, why not?

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F.Y.I

 

Welcome!

I’m  just writing a “welcome” blog now for 2 reasons:

1. A lot of people recently registered to this blog, and since I have no “website building skills”, there is a lot you wouldn’t know about this website unless you’ve been following me for the last year or so.

2. Things have changed recently, and I feel I should address those changes. (Yes, I’m referring to the cult)

HELLO

Hi, My name is Justine and I started blogging because I needed a place to pour out my heart. As a mother, step-mother, wife, health coach and writer, my hands were very full, my time extremely limited, and the ‘vacations” I require in my head to write or read were diminishing. Making a commitment to this blog was a commitment to myself.

You will notice that in the beginning my blogs were centered completely around health and parenting. As I have become more comfortable, I have written more personal and therapeutic posts.

HEALTH and PARENTING

Half of you are here because you are on the road to health, or you’re a parent and *hopefully* felt refreshed by my candor on the struggles with parenting. I have no shame in saying that my pregnancy was a bitch, I hated every minute of it, and think labor is the most disgusting experience of my life. I have no desire to repeat either endeavor, therefore, my tubes are tied. I was blessed with 2 amazing step children, whom, along with my daughter and my husband complete me. They inspired me to get healthy, you see I was “skinny fat”, and over the last few years have made the life style change and commitment to eating whole, real, non-GMO and preferably organic food. This was a huge change for my husband and my step-son and step-daughter (and the in-laws) *See my blog for details: http://healthymama.net/fast-food-fight/ * but it has made a huge difference in our energy, attitudes and certain behavior issues we were having with one of our little rascals.

***I used to be associated with a health company, however it would seem they do not appreciate blogs about their products so I am removing all information pertaining to this company. I apologize, it appears I was not in “compliance” when I posted that my husband and I had no wedding debt thanks to “this company”(…. It’s true, I made $9,000 in a couple months which paid for our wedding.)

THE CULT

The other half of you… actually at this point maybe more than half of you are here because you read one or more of my blogs about the International Church of Christ (ICC)/ International Christian Churches (ICC). I want to start this subject by saying that I never imagined my little blog could cause such a stir. Upon writing the first blog about my past with the ICOC, “Because The Bible Says So” * http://healthymama.net/lets-make-parenting-less-of-a-dictatorship/  * Some feathers were ruffled, but all in all, it was not a big deal, so MONTHS later… maybe a year later, I wrote “So… I Grew Up In A Cult…” * http://healthymama.net/so-i-grew-up-in-a-cult/ * and holy WOW! Facebook blew up (I am friends with a lot of members and former members) I started getting lots of emails and tons of views on this particular post. The emails were (mostly) people saying Thank-You for being the voice of those who were burned so badly by the ICOC. I had no intention or writing another blog on the subject until I was accused of lying, and to back me up, and to gain closure, a few people asked me to share their stories, too.  Although I’m a Pisces (typically a go with the flow kind of person) my moon (emotions) is in Aries, which is code for: I’m a stubborn f*ck. So, being accused of lying only ignited my Aries emotion. The more I was challenged, the more my fire was fueled. After a few weeks of compiling stories and quotes, I posted “Queen of the Damned (Recovering from Cult Life)” *http://healthymama.net/queen-of-the-damned-recovering-from-cult-life/ * and this one has been read over 1,000 times, in less than 5 days. Which is insanity to me, but, I’ll be honest, I get it. Not only was I validating hundreds of people’s pain and suffering, I evidently struck a chord with current members. If someone else had written it, I would have been sharing it all over Facebook and Twitter saying “OMG! Someone gets it! Someone else feels the way I do! See, I’m not crazy!!!”

I want you to know something, I am proud to be the voice of former Kingdom Kids. I wish someone had stepped out a long time ago, because I needed this fellowship to heal. I have decided to take my role a little further. I have started a Facebook page called ICOC Recovery *https://www.facebook.com/icocrecovery * and I encourage you to “like” the page so we can start some healthy dialogue. If you don’t feel comfortable posting publicly, feel free to private message me. I am here for you. I believe it is my calling to be support for people in need (there is that Pisces nature), if you need to tell your story, TELL ME. (I only posted stories that people specifically asked me to publish) If you need help getting out, I will help. If you disagree with me and want to tell me how the ICOC/ICC is the only way to god, go for it. I enjoy a healthy debate.

I have definitely had my character attacked by people in one of these organizations in order to discredit me, and I fully understand. They are scared. Their church is young, made up of young impressionable (sheeple) people, and I know from experience that they don’t want me to shake their young one’s faith with my facts, memories and reasons. It must be scary to see a little fish make such a huge wave, especially when you’re trying to rule the pond.

I want to make it clear here that I don’t believe in god, but I don’t consider myself a soul-less heathen. My heart is good, and I know it can be hard for Christians to see good in someone who doesn’t believe same way, it’s OK. I won’t lose sleep if you condemn me to hell. Just bear in mind, I know The Bible (as my best friend said, “You give her a book, she’ll read it!”) and YOU can’t condemn me to anywhere, Jesus said. If you are curious to know my personal spiritual views, click here * http://healthymama.net/the-god-thing/ * I also want to make it clear that I am an LGBT advocate, and I do not tolerate racism, sexism, bigotry or hate.  I believe in love, and I hope for everyone to find their other half, regardless of race, color or sex. Love is love, and it is beautiful. For more on this, read “Stop! Hating is bad” * http://healthymama.net/stop-hating-is-bad/ *

I hope this has cleared things up, and I am working on making some sort of an archive for all 60-ish blogs, and to make this website easier to navigate. If any of you happen to be tech savvy, I would love some help 😉

****If you are reading this because you have had a similar experience, have history with the ICOC/ICC, or you need help leaving, I am going to post some resources here for you. Free to email me at isahealthymama@yahoo.com or find my “recovery page” on facebook www.facebook.com/icocrecovery Here are a few blogs and websites from people who have left the ICOC/ICC and have shared their experiences and knowledge:

http://www.reveal.org/ <— This page has the truth about the ICOC.
http://www.spiritualpornography.com/ <— Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate, she named it Spiritual Pornography because that’s what Kip McKean called it when you read anything negative about the church. They post information it might be harder to find, such as Kip’s (supposed) resignation, and letters written to the church.

http://henrykriete.com/ <— Here you can read what REALLY happened with Henry Kriete and his family.
http://ministeriolatino.blogspot.com/ <—- Here you can read a blog from a former member of Kip’s current church (City of Angels International Church of Christ). He has written actually experiences between himself and Kip, AND other “leaders”. A very interesting read. He came across my blog and actually recognized someone I had written about (I kept it confidential).
http://www.tolc.org/ <—- Here you can read Henry Kriete’s letter and other letters written to the church. You can also click “debate” and you will be transferred to http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=ICCdiscussion&nav=start&prettyurl=%2FICCdiscussion%2Fstart where you can interact with current and former members.

 

Queen of the Damned (Recovering from Cult Life)

When I posted my last two blogs about my experience in the ICOC (http://healthymama.net/?p=356 and http://healthymama.net/?p=38), I did not expect the backlash… although it amused me… Nor did I expect to have so many emails from former Kingdom Kids and ex ICOC members saying “THANK YOU!” To be honest I didn’t expect this particular blog to be read 133 times in one day, or 100 + times every following day for a week or so. That has never happened before, and I wrote them for my own benefit, I felt like I needed to. As I read through the stories and emails my mom called me “Queen of the Damned” I am a huge Anne Rice fan, so I was flattered, but upon considering what she meant, the title rang true. We are the damned, at least according to “The Church” and as far as I am concerned, they damned us. Some people who are members of at least one of the churches have forbidden their members from reading these blogs, they called them lies. I’m afraid I have news for you: First, I don’t have any reason to lie, secondly, if you continue reading you will see that this has not only been MY pain, so many others where hurt like me, WORSE than me. Saying I am lying is only giving me more incentive to keep writing. If you REALLY thought I was lying, you wouldn’t be afraid of your congregation reading this. You would not be worried that what I say may ring true… Maybe instead you would see my pain and you would take a good hard look at your church and make damn sure that you do not do it again. Look at me and see YOUR children. See every Kingdom Kid that turned their back on these churches, NOT because we were “godless sinners”, but because we were broken, over and over again. Remember when you split apart my family because I had a voice, because I didn’t conform. I am not the only one. Dozens of people have shared their stories with me, and a few have asked me to share their stories here. To be their voice.

Something so empowering happened as I read the messages, former Kingdom Kids telling me how they thought they were the only ones who felt the way I do, that they couldn’t talk to anyone because no one else understands. Here are just a few responses I have had so far:

***I am keeping these relatively anonymous, even the current and former ICOC/ICC leaders and regions will be kept private in this post, some of the things you will read are still happening***

“So I just read your blog and it kinda really touched home for me. … and honestly I want to thank you for you voice because I was in the early stages of being completely sober and I was starting to find myself when I was found by this new church ICC (Kip’s) and I was actually happy before I started going and now I just feel like everything I do is wrong. I can’t say no again, they make me feel guilty when I do. My clothes are “bad” all this bullshit. I cant speak up and its honestly the same shit like when was in the teens all over again….. I’ve been trying to fall away and its so crazy because apart of me still believes its black and white, heaven or hel …. and I don’t even know if I believe or if I just feel the guilt… I feel obligated to be there because they tell me that’s what God says. They want me to get a divorce, they told me to fast and pray about it. I thought the Bible says divorce is wrong? Our leader gave me a curfew. If I miss “one meeting of the body” they say I am in sin, and I’m in sin if I can’t tithe and they want to know everything I do with my money. When I noticed some shady shit I talked about it and they told me I was in sin! But they look the other way! They prey on college students, they want them to quit school or their jobs if it interferes with 3-4 church meetings a week, but we still have to tithe. And they don’t want me to spend time with my friends who are not in the church! If I had not read your blog, I don’t know what I would do, but now I see that it is wrong, and I felt it in my stomach that this place is bad.”

“Growing up a Kingdom kid was hell for Me Just like most of us. .. In my experience not only did I not have a voice I was going through my own battle … not knowing it I was suffering from bipolar disorder … Always being told everything I was doing was wrong, that my feelings condemned me to hell and feeling ashamed for the way I felt. It drove me crazy, I mean really crazy …. I am choosing not to go in to detail about my childhood due to the fact I dont want to re-live it at this time. Being a kingdom kid drove me to a life of doubt confusion, I couldn’t trust anyone. Now as an adult, found myself lost and still holding on to my teachings from when I belonged to the ICOC still living with the fear of going to hell because of the life I live so when I ran in to an old friend I wanted to believe that this new found church (Kips church ICC) was different… It’s not different, Teen, it’s worse. They are obsessed with tithe and have a double standard. When I confronted my leaders on sin that I saw, I was told that it’s not my place to say anything. I eventually went directly to Kip Mc Kean, and do you know what he said? That my leader is Mexican, and has a different style of teaching, and etiquette, and because he is my leader I need to respect and submit to him. He knows there are problems in the (*blank*), Region but he’s choosing not to do shit about it! I felt like I was back in a nightmare. No one will listen to me, it’s like I’m the only one that sees people sleeping around, dressing inappropriately, and being two-faced hypocrites. The same people that I have seen living double lives are the same people who told me that I was in sin for liking the link you posted of your blog, which speaks the truth, that I better take it down because I am going to hell and I am making these poor kids who are dropping out of college because they are being brainwashed, struggle. They are struggling because they know it’s true, too!”

Reading these words my heart sank. It confirmed rumors I had heard about the new church, and poured salt on my already very open wounds. Everything she said rang so true to me, because it’s nothing I had not heard before. If I wasn’t the victim, then someone else I knew had been through it. As a teen when I would bring up inconsistencies between The Bible and the church’s rules, or at least the Teen Ministry’s rules, I was told that I was in sin, that I was causing dissention. I was told not to ask questions. Looking back I see that these “leaders” did not have the answers, so they preferred that we didn’t think.

“I just read your blog…I FUCKIN LOVE IT!!! No truer words have ever been spoken. I have to put it all down too! As the acid from those years still eats away at my soul. Thank you Justine…everyone should know the truth and you are, if not the best one of the best people to speak on it. Speak on it…forever! They fucked me up good too! Anyways, thanks for opening up those old wounds, I guess I need to mend em up a little better this time, lol.”

A common theme, I “opened old wounds”. I know. As I wrote I cried. Just because it’s easy to say, doesn’t mean it doesn’t pour salt on my own wounds. I have established in previous blogs that I process out loud… does this count? I think it has taken this long for me to realize that SOMEONE has to talk about it, and who better than me? Let’s heal together.

“Thanks for sharing, Justine! I’ve suppressed so much of it- if not all of it. Reading your posts brings back so many (bad) memories! It was so suffocating, forced and controlling. I’ve made it my goal to never feel that way again, or subject my children to anything that would make them feel that way.”

Over the years as I have run into ex members of ICOC and grown up Kingdom Kids, and many have since become parents, most of them have expressed concern over raising their own children the way Kingdom Kids were raised. A lot of the teen leaders at the time didn’t have kids, so they didn’t think twice about what they were telling us, but when they began having children of their own, they realized that it wasn’t OK. As a parent myself, and a former Kingdom Kid, I have to say it does help me, even the slightest bit to hear these apologies, to be validated.

Dating in the church was a very strange situation, I’ll let my friend tell her experience:

“There is so much I can say about my experiences with that “church”, but I’m going to talk about my horrible “love” story. Let’s see I must of been 13, not baptized yet when I met this boy at a pre-teen/teen event, I fell for him instantly. It would be a few years before we both went through the intense process of the study of “kip’s notebook” and then getting baptized, but after we were both disciples, we were allowed, and encouraged to go on “dates”. I didn’t just go on dates with him of course, I had to say yes to any “brother” that wanted to go on a date with me whether I wanted to or not. Finally, he works on becoming my boyfriend, which means he proved that he was godly enough to date, and lead spiritually. He asked me out on New Years Eve in a room full of friends and teen leaders. Once we are officially boyfriend and girlfriend it was like a dream come true, a dream that would turn into a nightmare. I cannot express how happy I was. I was so in-love with this kid, I can’t even think of the right words to explain how in love I was, everyone that was around knows how I felt about him. The two of us became lab rats that were put on pedestals in a bazaar cult universe. Not much changed in our relationship once we were official, except I no longer had to go on dates with other brothers, (woo hoo!), and we held hands. We never even kissed! I didn’t care at the time, I was just happy and in love. But when I say we were lab rats, this is what I mean: We were each told, separately of course, to wait to kiss until the other kissed first, completely eliminating kissing all together. In fact once at a wedding he kissed my cheek (my effin cheek!) while saying goodbye, then was rebuked by a leader waiting outside. Example of being on a pedestal: once we were dating, we became like teen royalty. We lead prayers together. I had to start speaking at teen events more, which I hated, and I’m not a public speaker! It was like they were turning us into the example they wanted everyone else to follow, but we just had to do what we were told. If we deviated at all, we were rebuked. Even so, I was happy, I was the only one in our region with a boyfriend, and I really thought this was forever… then the “church” rips out my hearts and puts it in a blender and makes me flick the on switch! Long story short they made me break up with a kid I had been in love with for years just to hide the real story… We still are unaware of the true story, I know he had gotten himself in some sort of trouble with the police…. I didn’t find out till a few years later that he hadn’t cheating on me, however, they told me that he had been cheating and then acted like I had a choice on whether to break up with him, or not. Obviously, I had to… they didn’t actually give us real choices. We either obey, or we get rebuked.

I made the decision to “fall away” shortly after, not because of my broken heart, but because I got a job and was so excited to give a tithe and when I gave my hard earned money I was asked for my pay-stub… Because of course god wants to make sure I calculated my 10% right, before taxes! Leaving was so eye opening and heart breaking at the same time. My dad acted like he respected my decision then later came into my room, threw a bible at me and told me “I’m a dog who eats his own vomit!”  Even my discipler (whom I loved) turned her back on me, I remember her asking me if I had been having sex. Like, I must be having sex if I don’t want to be a part of this madness anymore. Here I am alone, my family is shunning me, I just ended it with a boy who I loved so much, I hadn’t seen any of my friends in a couple months (I was not allowed to have friendships outside the church, so once I left I had no friends) and the person I look up to, now thinks I’m all of a sudden sexually active (with the boy I was just told was cheating on me and had to break up with) just because I fell away.  To say the least that was a lot for my sixteen year old self to deal with.”

I remember this happening, I was friends with them, close friends with both of them, and I remember how confusing and eventually painful it was for both of them. After she was forced to break up with him, she was forbidden to speak with him. She wasn’t able to ask him what happened, she was left to wonder, and be hurt, for years. Luckily they did reconnect years later, they were finally able to dissect what they had been through, and recover.

“This is freakin amazing! There were so many things I didn’t know how to put into words because I was so young! And the fact that when I tried to speak no one would listen because there was so much secrecy I don’t think anyone knew how to REALLY deal with issues. I know from the “brainwashing” it took me years to be able to communicate with my mom and family about the sexual abuse I encountered there as well as many other things. The worst part about it is that when I was at pierce college I ran into a “church club” that I thought would be fun to join and it was icoc run! Like wth? I ran out as soon as I could. It was like the freakin twilight zone.”

This particular message requires an explanation, while I knew some of the things that went on in the ICOC were bad, some of us were molested:

“My mom started attending the LACC after a guy saw her attempting to read The Bible and invited her to a bible study. She seemed super excited to go since she was looking for God. I was about 3 years old. That’s when I pretty much started going to the LACC, enrolled in all the children’s activities, camps and classes my mom could get me and my siblings in. Now, when I was a little girl I had extreme nightmares and would see creatures. I suffered extreme paranoia and anxiety. Whenever I would tell my class leaders at LACC they looked at me like I was crazy! They tried to hush me from “influencing the other kids” as well as talking to my mom about the things I would say as it if were a behavioral problem. From that point on I learned to keep things to myself. It always seemed as if you weren’t supposed to talk about your problems. When you tried to get help you were shunned or rebuked. This became a problem when I was 12 years old. I went through puberty quickly and my mom thought it was a good idea to move me up to the “teen ministry”. A family came over for bible study one night with a 14 year old boy who was interested in me. From this point on I was pushed to go out and spend time with him and whenever he called I was told to answer, be nice, and tell him that I loved him! It was ridiculous. After about 6 months of us being together he verbally and emotionally abused me, cheated on me with multiple others girls and I was still told I was treating him disrespectfully. We dated on and off for 2 years. I tried to speak about it, but no one wanted to hear. After that ended multiple guys in the teen ministry tried to “talk to me” while making it seem (to the leaders) as if they were trying to be brothers to me and watch out for me. Two of these guys were 18 years old and I was still in Jr High. One of them sexually abused me for months and then disappeared out of nowhere. I was so used to being quiet I never even told any of the leaders. They didn’t seem to want to know; I was just another number in the congregation. The numbers only mattered to them when you were quiet and didn’t make waves. I never did, but they pretty much excommunicated my sister and my dad. They had questions, they lived life how they wanted to. I remember the teen ministry having teen bible studies at my families house and whispering to my mom that I was allowed to participate but my sister could not and that my dad couldn’t come downstairs. That was nonsensical! How can you ask to use our home for a bible study and request half my family to not be present? LACC divided my family, they forced me into relationships of abuse that make it difficult for me now to communicate properly in a loving relationship. I’ve read the bible more than once and large part of their actions and teachings are not supported in there at all. I did not feel love there, community, peace, or comfort. They made up rules as they saw fit and destroyed my life along the way. If it wasn’t for the loving people I have in my life now that actually try to be Christ like I would have killed myself, because the majority of my life up to 2 years after I left that church I was severely suicidal with no self esteem.”

It hurts me because this young lady is like a sister to me, and I am so sad to know these things were happening, and that she didn’t feel like she could be honest, because from the time she was little, she was shushed when she spoke her truths. I do find it interesting that Christian churches tend to blow off the idea of seeing spirits or demons, even though these things supposedly happened often in The Bible. It is so important to bring children up in a loving and safe environment, and when you are a part of these churches, they do become your family, they say “It takes a village to raise a child”, well this village fucked up quite a few children. I know as a fact that this girl’s mother knew her children saw “things” ghosts of some sort, I know because she herself suffered from the same thing when she was younger, one of the reasons she is so spiritual now, to protect herself and her family from this curse. I also know that her older sister saw them too. How wrong that she wasn’t validated from such a young age, what does that teach children? That adults are not to be trusted. That no one cares. Who cares if these Kid’s Kingdom teachers didn’t believe in spirits? Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Speaking of which, let’s address the molestation, you didn’t see it? Well no kidding, these things happen behind closed doors, in whispers. Who’s job was it to protect her? Well, her parents thought that YOU were, her parents TRUSTED YOU.

She was not the only child who was molested while our families devoted their lives to the ICOC:

“All I had ever known was ICOC. Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Bible studies at my house, bibles on the bedside tables; this was my life and I trusted it fully. I had no reason not too. I loved being a kingdom kid… until I started to think for myself. Keep in mind I left the church when drugs became more important. (Age 12) Before that I was protected from a lot of what was going on behind the scenes. There are two examples that come to the forefront of my mind when I think about past pain. I was a kingdom kid that had the will to be the best for God. I prayed all the time. I was taught not to make a wish on shooting stars but say a prayer instead. I was pure at this point and the only prayer I had was for my mom to repent and come back to the church. I did not what her to die and go to Hell. I would lay awake at night wondering if I was going to hell. I knew my mom would if we all died today but would I also? I started lying at a very young age. I had too. My babysitter’s daughter on a daily basis was molesting me. I was 5. She was 7 or 8. She was a kingdom kid too. At age 7 I was again molested by a babysitter while in the care of ICOC members. I couldn’t tell a soul. I was 7. I had no idea what was being done to me. Trust that I know now and no longer shame myself for it (no thanks to the church.)

By age 11 I wanted to study the bible. All of my friends were going into the teen ministry and I was in the pre-teens. I did not care how old I was, I knew the difference between right and wrong and I wanted to do the right thing. That was enough for me. Apparently it was not enough for ICOC. I was 12 when the church assigned me a discipleship partner. I couldn’t wait to get started on the studies! I wanted to be baptized so bad! The night of my first study I couldn’t wait. I paced the floor waiting for my disciple to pick me up. We were going to go to Starbucks. I had my bible and my notebook ready to go. We sat down and I began to open my journal to write down my first set of directions when she stopped me. She spent the next hour telling me that I was not in any condition to be a disciple. She suggested that I work very hard on loosing weight because God does not save the gluttonous. I was to fat to be a disciple in ICOC. With every word she spoke a crack formed around my spirituality. I was the first time that I stopped believing. I stayed in the church for another year but never attempted to become a part of it. In 2000 the church put on a Christmas performance put on by the kingdom kids. I had no interest in performing but we were all encouraged to try out for vocals. I sat in the back with my feet up doodling in a notebook when my name was called. Up to this point, you only sang in front of the church if you were a leaders kid or a professional. My name was called so I put down my notebook and made my way to the front of the auditorium. I took a deep breath and began with the first stanza of Silent Night. The room went silent. As I finished I looked up and saw a room full of wide eyes and jaws on the floor. It felt good to be recognized for doing something well not doing something wrong. The coordinators huddled in a circle and began assigning kids to each roll. As they read off the lead vocals I hardly paid attention until my name was called to be the lead vocalist for the angels. I would sing an entire song solo in front of our congregation as well as the Santa Barbara ministry. I was ecstatic! This sounds like a success story right? Well, there is no happy ending to this tale. Minutes later I was pulled aside and told that I would not be allowed to perform in front of the congregation because (get this) I was not baptized. Seriously? Seriously. They gave the roll to another girl that was about my age. She was baptized… and… wait for it, at least 100 lbs heavier that I was. Oh the irony. Needless to say I was done. I haven’t held onto this pain… I just covered it up with alcohol and drugs for years. I am now 25 years old and 4 years sober. I haven’t been a part of ICOC for 13 years. My life is pretty fucking great. Turns out I can be a good person and not go to hell even if I am not a skinny bitch disciple. Cheers!”

This is yet another example of molestation, bullying, and disrespect. Where Jesus teaches to be like the children, ICOC treated children as second class citizens, and pawns in a numbers game. Worse, still, being baptized was the carrot they dangled over our heads so that we could do things we otherwise were not allowed, be it dating, a “disciples only slumber party”, a part in the holiday play, or even the ability to move up to the “Teen” group with your friends. An example of children having no choice but to trust the church because it was all we knew, and as you can see some of us were put in very unsafe situations. I myself have blocked out some of the horrors, and have been reminded throughout the years, I have heard stories of abuse my sister and I suffered, but I don’t remember. I supposed it’s the only way for me to maintain my sanity. As you can see, some were bullied more than others, but I think we were all victims of power-hungry self-righteous  zealous sinners.

When I was in the teen ministry I went on a date with a boy, and he touched me inappropriately, I told my discipler, and she talked to the leaders (great job on her part) although, I was taken in the back after church with the boy, and he denied it, so they called me a liar. Actually, worse, they said that it must have been an accident, and he obviously would never do that. So either I was a liar or I was crazy, but whatever the case HE did nothing wrong. I felt pressured to agree, because I knew where they stood already. I also knew better than to talk about those things ever again. As I grew up, I knew better than to tell someone when I was uncomfortable, I was taught from these things (and many other similar situations) that I shouldn’t rock the boat, and that MY feelings are invalid. I mean, I felt like I couldn’t say “no” because I had already been taught that my personality, and my body ask for this kind of attention. So if I were to say no to a drunk guy at a party, and he gets offended because something I had done had led him on, I am the one at fault. What is this? Some kind of Republican idea of deserved rape? I end up looking like a slut because either, I’m a slut if I sleep with this guy, or I’ve led him on and risk getting raped, which I clearly deserved for having a “flirtatious” (I call it friendly) personality.

One of my friends, a former Kingdom Kid, told me that one of the (current!) leader’s son’s has been sleeping his way through the Teen Ministry, in case you’re wondering, he is an adult (divorced), and these girls are under age. And, yes the leaders know… and they actively fix the problem by removing the girls. Because, obviously the leader’s son is not the problem…. What is going on here? Why are these things happening in a supposedly safe place? Are you rethinking sending your kids to the Friday Night Event? Or Summer Camp? Knowing these things I would not feel comfortable allowing my daughters to be in a situation like this. I don’t know how to fix problems like sexual abuse, but I do know, if these girls felt like they could say something, they would have. As it happens, they don’t feel like they can.

One of the my friend’s and current members of the ICOC has reminded me that it’s not “The Church” that is at fault, it’s people who made mistakes. Yes, I agree, but I also feel that the church should take responsibility for putting inappropriate people in leadership. A few years ago I ran into a former teen leader who supposedly had a crush on me while I was a teen (this is bothersome, considering he was in his thirties, and I was in the teens until I was 16.) At the time, I was 18 or 19, and he came on to me… We hooked up, I think in my brain it was an “eff you” to ICOC, but about a year later, I come to find out he has been restored into Kip’s church , and in the same text message thread, he asked for a picture of my boobs. He obviously repented. It was understandable for a former member to treat me like a piece of ass, but a current “disciple”??? I can’t even get over it. He has friend requested me on Facebook, multiple times, and I just can’t say yes, he is a hypocrite, and what’s worse is he is a current leader. Again, I know this isn’t the churches “fault” but still, if you claim a title in this church, you represent it. So is it fair for either church to be upset with me fo telling my story, or anyone else’s? Nope, think of this as insight, take a look at your members, pay attention to your children. On that note, I would like to share a poem my little sister wrote when she was a teen, who, by the way was told she was “too fat” to study the bible, in my opinion she dodged a bullet.

“I lose

When I say, “No”

My heart can’t go

To watch you see

What isn’t even me

To know I’m lost

And think you’re not

To play this game

But know the end

While I descend

I cheat and lie

But don’t know why

I contradict

To love myself

So take your pick

I’m lost and know it

But can’t control it

I’m right and show it

So don’t blow it

I lose

Whenever I turn around

I lose

Whenever I see a frown

I lose

To know that I’m not “it”

I lose

To know the truth I live

We don’t deserve the life we get

So enjoy it ’cause it’ll be gone before ya know it

It’s not worth it to me

To try and be somthin’ I’m not

I want to see. but God has a plot

To seek and save the lost

Well, guess what… I’m not!

I know the truth will set me free

So leave me alone and let me be

I’ll come around if it’s his plan

It might take a while

So just hold my hand

I live by feeling

Emotion is ruling

The tears are flowing

To see what I’m missing

To hate how I’m feeling

So I will try

To love the One that always loves me

I lose now,but not at my peak

You will see that I will win

Happiness is my goal

So don’t be a fool

Help me please…”

As children we were expected to be perfect, we were trained, guilted and pruned to become what the church thought we should be. Instead of being nurtured and encouraged. If my sister at age 11 felt like she just couldn’t win, imagine how every other kid felt. It’s no wonder that we all rebelled. And it’s amazing to see that we have each come into our own, and became amazing resilient adults, who stand up for our children the way the church never did.

****If you are reading this because you have had a similar experience, have history with the ICOC/ICC, or you need help leaving, I am going to post some resources here for you. Free to email me at isahealthymama@yahoo.com or find my “recovery page” on facebook www.facebook.com/icocrecovery Here are a few blogs and websites from people who have left the ICOC/ICC and have shared their experiences and knowledge:

http://www.reveal.org/ <— This page has the truth about the ICOC.
http://www.spiritualpornography.com/ <— Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate, she named it Spiritual Pornography because that’s what Kip McKean called it when you read anything negative about the church. They post information it might be harder to find, such as Kip’s (supposed) resignation, and letters written to the church.

http://henrykriete.com/ <— Here you can read what REALLY happened with Henry Kriete and his family.
http://ministeriolatino.blogspot.com/ <—- Here you can read a blog from a former member of Kip’s current church (City of Angels International Church of Christ). He has written actually experiences between himself and Kip, AND other “leaders”. A very interesting read. He came across my blog and actually recognized someone I had written about (I kept it confidential).
http://www.tolc.org/ <—- Here you can read Henry Kriete’s letter and other letters written to the church. You can also click “debate” and you will be transferred to http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=ICCdiscussion&nav=start&prettyurl=%2FICCdiscussion%2Fstart where you can interact with current and former members.

 

 

So… I grew up in a cult…

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Being authentic is extremely important to me… now. This wasn’t always true, well maybe it has always been true, but I pushed the real part of me back and put on a front, a mask, with a big cheesy smile plastered right in the middle. This is how I survived, although I certainly wasn’t living. I have talked about the “church” *cough* cult *cough* I grew up in ( http://healthymama.net/?p=38 ) and how badly it screwed me up. Thinking back, I don’t know when I knew there was something wrong, but I think I was born questioning and pushing boundaries. Not every “Kingdom Kid” (that’s what they called us, the kids who grew up in The International Church of Christ “ICOC”) is as scarred as I am, and some were burned far deeply than I was. I am just the vocal one. A lot of the Kingdom Kids have let it go, they are “over it”, some still believe in god, some found other churches, and others completely turned away from any form of religion… and a few have been completely deluded and brainwashed and have been baptized, became “disciples” (basically a hoity toity way of saying you are a Christian, because that’s how Jesus refers to his followers, the term “Christian” was only used a few times in The Bible.) devoted their lives to “evangelizing” (recruiting) the “world” (everyone who is not already a disciple). Many of whom have also cut off their families, and friends unless they are part of ICOC or ICC ( International Christian Churches, the relatively new faction, an offshoot of the original church, led by Kip McKean , who was asked to step down from leadership, so he started a whole new church, and recruited a lot of the disciples from ICOC in a time where the church was very weak thanks to a lot of very shady going-ons.). I even know families who are divided between the two churches… and “The World”. The saddest thing for me is to see these adult Kingdom Kids, my would be, once upon a time brothers and sisters, and to experience their judgments and feel that complete disconnect. I wonder if they went back, or stayed because they need to feel a part of something. ICOC really was a huge family in it’s prime. I grew up in those rooms, in the bowels of The Shrine Auditorium every other week, and then sitting in those red cushioned chairs during huge church conferences. I was there the night we rented out The Rose Bowl, and the monumental night we filled The Staples Center (this was when the church had to come together to address Henry Kriete’s letter to the ICOC http://www.tolc.org/kriete.htm ) I went on “vacation” to “Shake n’ Bake” (an annual retreat to Palm Springs were we had marathon church services and classes) I went to summer camp Kingdom Kids from all over California, for as long as I can remember. These people were my family, some are still my best friends. I got married about 3 months ago, and I had 9 bridesmaids, 6 of them were Kingdom Kids, and all 6 of them have as little to do with ICOC/ICC as possible… this is difficult as 3 of them have family that are leaders or are just active in one or the other church. As you can see, I have maintained relationships from ICOC, and to be honest, I am thankful for the church for giving me such amazing friendships, and teaching me how to be a friend, how to forgive, and instilling an integrity in me I may have otherwise never found.

My wedding, all my beautiful bridesmaids, and my hubby
My wedding, all my beautiful bridesmaids, and my hubby

Unfortunately, this integrity, and ability to make deep lasting friendships came at a huge cost. For years I didn’t know myself because I was not allowed to be myself. I was taught to be a model Christian, and was brainwashed into following not The Bible, but my leaders to a fault. The problem with following people is they all have their own ideas on what you should say, think, feel and do. And they didn’t give you the option to make your own decision, they flat out told us. And they were wrong. I know many of them came into the church with their hearts in the right place, but over time things got really fucked up. We were not really allowed to be ourselves, and were forced to live a “Fake it til you make it” mentality. I knew that I had to put on a smiling face, and hug everyone I saw and met, even if I felt uncomfortable, even if I didn’t want to be touched, especially by strangers, my job was to make everyone around me comfortable, at the expense of my own comfort. This was the beginning of me ignoring my intuition, and second guessing myself… the beginning of me not being true to myself, when I began willingly putting myself in situations that were not healthy because I was TOLD to. I did not have the option to say “no” when I was asked by my “discipler” (kind of like a sponsor in AA, or a mentor) or a leader to do something, I was rebuked if I didn’t follow their directions or advice. We were not given the chance to think for ourselves, and if we did, and we spoke our thoughts, we were rebuked, belittled and shamed. There were really dumb rules, like, if a fellow kingdom kid asked you out on a date, you had to say yes, even if you didn’t want to. They said dating was about building friendships, but we all knew better, and certainly knew what a date was, and whether we wanted to date someone or not, and that did not help me as a young adult when it was time to say no…

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I had a particularly rough time because my dad is not only sober, but he has worked in rehabs my entire life! So I had the strictness of church, AND the strictness of “The Program” (in Alcoholics Anonymous there is a book they call The Big Book, not to be confused with The Bible, but equally as important when you are an addict, and it has a 12 Step Program that you follow to help you to stay clean.) I think the fact that my dad had already been in the Program, when he found the church, a church that prided itself on many of the same things that AA does, you see, ICOC may not have  12 Steps, but we did have The First Principles, which were mandatory studies that you had to go through in order to get baptized into ICOC, some of them were really intense, like “Light and Darkness” where you confess all of your sins. Even if you are only 12 and you have yet to sin for real. You literally catalog your sins, as many as you remember, (focusing specifically on sexual “sins” because the church seemed to have an obsession with sex, although they preached purity, they had people share during communion, and more often then not they chose people with a history of promiscuity and they would tell the entire congregation, and cry, and feel totally “ashamed”.) don’t worry, they give you guidelines, so you don’t miss anything, and then you apologize to whomever requires an apology. In AA there is a step where you basically do the same, and make amends to anyone you have hurt. There are a lot of similarities between the two, but a few of the main similarities is having a sponsor (discipler), a fallible, human who is there to keep you accountable, and help you when you struggle with anything that can lead you to “sinning” or in AA’s case, using. Another is the importance of fellowship, in AA you are encouraged to go to as many meetings as you can make it to, and surround yourself with other people who are in Program, ICOC encouraged us to go to church, midweek, or Bible study several days a week, and discourages maintaining relationships with people who are not part of the church, unless you are converting them, of course. So, as you can see, this environment made perfect sense for my dad. But if you are not in Program then the church was probably a little extreme. I grew up kind of meshing the 2 groups into one, kind of like some kids have the confusion between Santa Clause and God, well that was me, I thought that drinking alcohol was a sin, and was confused when I saw my friend’s parents drink a glass of wine at dinner. No one ever really explained anything reasonably to me, all I was ever told were absolutes, I lived in a world that was black and white. It was either, be good, or go to Hell. We were not Catholic, but the guilt trips were laid on thick! To further my confusion, my dad and step mom were perfect examples of what a Christian should be, they held Bible Studies in our home, never swore, or used god’s name in vain, they were never late to church, or missed a service, they were consistent and very strict, they “Shared their faith” (invited strangers to church). All things that you might expect in a Christian home. My friend’s from school, had parents who were very lenient, and although they went to youth groups, my church told me those other churches were not “real” churches, so all my friends were going to Hell, even though they were not “bad”, but, you know, I saw their dad drink a beer, so….

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I still have a really hard time when I talk to people who claim Christianity, but don’t follow The Bible, you have to understand, I was brain washed, I grew up believing that you lived your religion, and you put it before anything else. So, forgive me if I roll my eyes when you tell me that you only go to church on Christmas eve and Easter… when I grew up, we went to church unless we were vomiting, and we went 3 days a week! I had to go door to door inviting people to church (humiliating), I was not allowed to wear spaghetti straps, and my family prayed before every meal. I talk to people who are “Christians” but they live with their boyfriend… and these same people hate homosexuals for no other reason than they think The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. I knew people who were basically forced to get a divorce because their spouse didn’t go to the church, and “You can’t be yolked to an unbeliever”. This church was a mess, a hypocritical mess! But I still don’t think you’re a Christian if you don’t follow the rules in The Bible. Yeah, I’m still confused my my strong feelings.

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Some of the kids may have had it harder, as they were not born into the ICOC, their lives were flipped upside down when their parents took the (baptismal) plunge. Some of these kids flat our refused to have anything to do with ICOC, and were dragged to events sometimes because parents were considered to be in sin if their whole families were not part of the church. This was a particular issue when us Kingdom Kids were in middle school and high school, we may have been the perfect kids before, and as such we helped our parents climb the spiritual ladder to leadership status, but once we began rebelling, it was our parents who had to take responsibility, and eventually, lost their status, and in some cases their jobs if they were part of the ministry. But don’t worry, the church was really good at “fixing” problems. When a minister’s daughter ran off with some guy she met on the internet, the church kept it really hush-hush and moved the entire family to another region to continue leading. Another time, an Elder’s son confessed to basically pretending to be a disciple (as we all did on some level or another) and from my understanding wanted out of the church, he was given a secret baptism so his family could maintain their status, and so his discipler, the leader of the Teen Ministry didn’t look bad. When I was 15, not long after I was baptized, I broke down and tried to “Fall Away” (leave the church), I was really close with our regions minister’s daughter, so her mom took me out for coffee and bribed me to stay, and when I agreed it was never spoken of again. What did that teach us?  That secrecy is OK as long as it was the church’s idea? That the church will cover for you if you’re valuable enough? That the church really only cares about their numbers, and how much were were tithing.

 

I don’t think I ever really believed in god, I think I was told what to believe, and told not to think, and for a while I just went with it. But when I was 11 I started questioning, and I never stopped. I was told over and over that the I was not good enough, that my personality was too flirty, but if I turned off, and shut down, I was told that I was being selfish and having a pity party, and needed to be “out of myself”. I left the church when I was 16, (my family was actually black listed) and was struggling badly with an eating disorder. I went to rehab, which is where I started to discover myself (fitting, as the company was called Center For Discovery). this was the first safe place I had ever been, I was allowed to tell the truth, say what I felt and thought and I wasn’t told I was wrong, in fact, the opposite, I was totally nurtured for the first time in my life, my lack of faith in god was not ignored, it was validated.

The years following rehab were growing and learning years, they were some of the hardest years, but during that time, little by little, I started to shake off the fake me, even if people didn’t like it. I started standing up for what I believed, even if it completely contradicted what you believe. I finally found my voice, the voice that said, “Don’t touch me.” When he put his hands on me, the voice that stood behind my sister when she came out, and has not stopped fighting for equality. The voice that told the truth when I was miserable and pregnant and hated life, and has continued telling women that pregnancy and motherhood is not all rainbows and unicorns. This voice speaks up when something is not right, and sometimes blows up when I am angry… If I had not found my voice, I would still be stuck in a miserable, lonely relationship, far away from everyone I love, not living, surviving.

I am thankful for my upbringing in The ICOC because I feel that it opened my eyes to how fallible people really are, that right and wrong is not black and white, that there is a gray area, and it’s something inside you that tells you if it’s OK. We have a conscience for a reason and I don’t need a book or a person to tell me how to live. I am so comfortable with doing what feels right to me, and saying no when I need to, validating myself when no one else will, because that’s a life lesson we all need to learn… if we are unhappy we are giving someone else control, someone else is calling the shots, maybe it’s not your church, maybe it’s your mom? Whomever it is, it’s not their life, and I am giving you my blessing to stand up for yourself, and follow your heart and TAKE BACK YOUR LIFE.

*I am not encouraging you to tell everyone in your life to fuck off, I am encouraging you to find yourself and follow your heart, not someone else’s plan for your life.*

****If you are reading this because you have had a similar experience, have history with the ICOC/ICC, or you need help leaving, I am going to post some resources here for you. Free to email me at isahealthymama@yahoo.com or find my “recovery page” on facebook www.facebook.com/icocrecovery Here are a few blogs and websites from people who have left the ICOC/ICC and have shared their experiences and knowledge:

http://www.reveal.org/ <— This page has the truth about the ICOC.
http://www.spiritualpornography.com/ <— Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate, she named it Spiritual Pornography because that’s what Kip McKean called it when you read anything negative about the church. They post information it might be harder to find, such as Kip’s (supposed) resignation, and letters written to the church.

http://henrykriete.com/ <— Here you can read what REALLY happened with Henry Kriete and his family.
http://ministeriolatino.blogspot.com/ <—- Here you can read a blog from a former member of Kip’s current church (City of Angels International Church of Christ). He has written actually experiences between himself and Kip, AND other “leaders”. A very interesting read. He came across my blog and actually recognized someone I had written about (I kept it confidential).
http://www.tolc.org/ <—- Here you can read Henry Kriete’s letter and other letters written to the church. You can also click “debate” and you will be transferred to http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=ICCdiscussion&nav=start&prettyurl=%2FICCdiscussion%2Fstart where you can interact with current and former members.