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.
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.