This website is intended for people affected by the Worldwide Church of God, Living Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God; or any other splinter group. However, these essays may be helpful to anyone who was once involved in a Bible-based cult.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Easter, and other Pagan Holidays

Today is Easter Sunday. On the television they are playing a Catholic mass. Everything about it seems so foreign to me: the organ and choir music, the images of Jesus on the cross, the prayers that everyone recites together. The Christian message, that Jesus died for our sins on the cross, is completely alien to me.

I actually feared the concept of Easter as a child. The Worldwide Church of God deemed Easter a Pagan holiday. I remember getting a chocolate easter egg from a teacher at school and feeling as if I had committed an unpardonable sin by eating it. It is important to note that the word 'Pagan' and 'Satanic' were interchangeable in the Worldwide Church of God.

It is true that Easter is on the Spring Equinox, and that Pagan religions of Europe had celebrations on all of the Equinoxes and Solstices. It is also true that, in order to convert Pagans to Christianity, the Catholic church absorbed Pagan holidays into their customs. The Worldwide Church of God deemed nearly all holidays Satanic; Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentines Day, St. Patrick's Day.

I believe Armstrong condemned these holidays for a few main reasons:

Fisrt, to keep members of 'the church' from ever being able to visit, fellowship with or convert to other Christian churches.

Secondly, to alienate 'church' members from any family members who were not in the Worldwide Church of God. Holidays are when family -- who may not see each other very often -- gather together. Members of 'the church' were unable to accept Christmas presents or go to family get-togethers on any of these holidays.

Thirdly, because we were not allowed to celebrate these Pagan holidays of the world, the Hebrew Holy Days of 'the church' became very important. Armstrong tried to make all of our happiest childhood memories center around the 'the church' and it's practices.

For instance, the Feast of Tabernacles was the most important time of the year for me, as a child. For a whole week, my family would stay at a hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota; USA. We would get presents, like 'normal' Christians would get at Christmas; we would go out to eat at restaurants and fellowship with other members of 'the church.' Most importantly, sometimes my grandparents from the UK would come to the Feast in Rapid City.

Although I have finally accepted the fact that the Worldwide Church of God was a bible-based cult*, some part of me still misses going to the Feast. All of the warm, family memories most people have for Christmas, I have for the Feast of Tabernacles. I believe this is why, when my family first left the Church, I studied hard to convert to Judaism. Those Holy Days were so important to me -- and my identity -- that I could not let them go. If it were not that I lived 100 miles away from the nearest Jewish Temple, I believe I would have converted by the age of 16.

Watching these Christians celebrate Easter on TV makes me realize I don't really know what true Christianity is. I was taught to fear Catholics, and in fact all Christians who celebrated these Pagan, Satanic holidays. I remember physically fearing the Lutheran church my grandmother went to. I was scared to go in the building, as it was filled with what I was told were 'false idols' -- images of Christ and the cross. I was scared to even look at the imagery.

Not only were we taught to fear and distrust all forms of Christianity by the Worldwide Church of God, we were also told that demons dwelt in all other churches. We were taught that Satan was in control of the world, and anyone who was not in the Worldwide Church of God had demons in control of their mind. Only those in God's one true church (the Worldwide Church of God) were not under the influence of Satan.

I was taught all this as a small child, and it effects me to this day.


Jason said...

WOW! What an amazing blog. I'm a Bible-Based Catholic (meaning if the Scriptures differ with what the Church says I default to the no HAIL MARY prayers for me) and my wife is a member of WCG (she went to Ambassador University for the final two years of its existence).

She divorced me on June 3rd and I cannot tell you the pain this has caused me. I recall very heated arguments with her early in our marriage about all kinds of stupid things. She constantly challenged me about my Faith on trivial matters ("Why do you guys stand up when the Priest reads the Gospel? Why do you do the sign of the cross? Why do you kneel down?") when none of that really MATTERED.

Even putting up a Christmas tree our first year together was a challenge.

My wife's sister and husband are still with one of the whacky spinoffs of WCG. They never come to family gatherings, they don't celebrate birthdays, etc. etc.. At least they are still married which is more than I can say for myself, sadly...

Any way...

My wife left me over another man with a hard heart. She claims she has "forgiven" me for what I have done but that she's moving on. This is the biggest problem I have had in this whole deal. I am convinced that the reason she cannot truly forgive or seek forgiveness is that WCG *NEVER* instilled that in its members.

GRACE and FORGIVENESS are what Christianity is all about. Having been a Christian longer than she has even been alive I certainly understand that concept.

I also had to laugh at the comment about WCGers being afraid of Catholics. I think my wife is scared to death of me to this day.

She also hates that I actually *KNOW* the Bible. She gets mad when I nail her for cherry-picking Scriptures out of context. "Well just because you can memorize things doesn't mean you know what it says!" she would yell.

So, when I went to her Pastor (Rodney Schuler, "Summit Life Church," a WCG Ministry, in San Antonio, TX) to ask him to help us while she was having an affair on me I got very little help. He even went so far as to yell at me. "Don't you tell me what I need to do or how to do my job!"

He's a real piece of work. Not a man of the cloth at all. A buffoon at best, an arrogant, prideful, self-serving deceiver at worst. He wound up calling me a liar until I played the tape of her admitting her affair. Then he called WCG HQ and asked for help. They advised him to cease talking to me.

So much for doing the Lord's work.

Here we are a year and two months later... A broken family, wounded children, and for what? I can't imagine any other church acting in this manner. Certainly not a Christian one.

Needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting into, but now at least I can see why she is the way she is...

I'm not perfect. But the friction between us at least has a source that I can no identify. Thank you for sharing your experiences with those of us on the "outside" looking in.

Pray for my wife that she will soften her heart and return to me. She has removed the protective covering I provided her. I fear for her now more than ever.

D.M. Schofield said...

I am so sorry Jason for what you have been through. The WCG has destroyed so many lives and marriages. Unfortunately many people never manage to admit that WCG was the problem, even if they leave 'the church'.

No one wants to admit that they were spiritually exploited by a cult for tithe money. It is the hardest thing in the world to admit, and she will have to come to the realization herself.

The more you (or others) try to tell her that WCG is a cult, the further you will be pushed away. WCG taught me anyone who spoke badly of 'the church' was under the influence of satan.

Again, I'm so sorry for what you have been through... and your children too. You will be in my thoughts.

Jason said...

Thanks, DM.

Keep doing what you are doing. It is a great help to many.

Jason said...

I even called the Pastor's boss. He was throwing Bible verses at me and I would throw three times as many back. The guy had no grasp of the Scriptures yet he apparently runs three WCG churches.

So sad.

The higher up the chain you go in WCG (or GCI as it is called now) the more incompetent and inept (spiritually and scripturally vacant) the people you find.

This is disturbing to say the least.

Jason said...


I was thinking that perhaps I should leave her Pastor's last name off and just say, "Pastor Rodney."

Can you do that for me so I don't get sued?