Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dear FGAs

I am sure, you, like me, joined the COG filled with zeal and enthusiasm. We were going to make the world a better place - to win the world for Jesus. With the best of intentions, we sacrificed, gave up everything. As the years passed, and more and more "strange truths" entered our canon, our "radical prophet" led us down paths that were harmful to ourselves, and more egregiously, to our children. But we didn't notice, so twisted was our sense of normalcy.

Today, our children are grown. Tragically, some have felt they had to take their own lives. Some struggle, not fitting in anywhere. Some have gained a measure of success. Some have been very successful.

If your children have succeeded, perhaps you're tempted to pat yourself on the back, "it's because of the way they were raised, the opportunities the 'faith life' afforded them." Maybe others realize, like myself, that if they succeeded, it was in spite of how they were raised, not because of it.

Maybe you don't want to look back at your life. "It's in the past," you think. "We should 'forget those things which are behind.'"

But, could that just be an excuse for denial? An unwillingness to face the horrible truth? A resistance to dealing with the cognitive dissonance of the truth clashing with your image of yourself as a "good person"?

How much have our decisions affected the lives of our children? Do they still suffer? How have they adjusted to the real world, after being raised in an environment where their "normal" was anything but normal? Imagine the gut-wrenching feelings of abandonment, of being used, of missing out on a normal childhood. They see their peers, and they can't help but compare their upbringing. Do they wonder how their parents - the ones they loved and admired - their first role models - could have raised them so? What can they say when someone asks them innocent questions like, "Where are you from?" or "Where did you go to school?"

Have you talked with your children about their childhoods? Have you asked them how they feel? Have you sincerely apologized to them for the abuse they suffered, whether it be physical, sexual, or psychological? Or for the neglect - educational, medical, financial or otherwise?

Or do you feel you are not to blame, because your "heart was in the right place"? "God looketh on the heart." And besides, it's all in the past? Or perhaps you and your children have put your personal histories away in a box, compartmentalized, and agreed to never open that box, never speak of it.

It's hard to face, terribly hard on the ego to admit we were part of a harmful organization. We were duped. We were exploited, as were our children. The Family was not the best place in the world to raise children. We failed our children by not protecting them. And by continued association with the group, we were complicit in the abuse others suffered.

To realize that the cause we sacrificed for, that we gave years of our lives to, was nonsense that resulted in harm to the ones we love most in the world is shattering. Horrifying. Paralyzing. It shakes us down deep in our hearts. We can lose all equilibrium.

But it must be done. It must be done for our own sake. To face reality. To learn. To grow. To mature.

And more than even for our own benefit, it must be done for our children's sake. They need parents who love them, who support them, who they know will have their back. Who are going to be honest with them. Who they can trust.

Children naturally love their parents. Imagine the difficulties they must face when talking to their parents who still cling to their own righteousness and to the righteousness of The Family.

Our children need parents who are mature, who face their mistakes, apologize, learn from them, and grow. Let's be those parents.

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