I can’t help but wonder how my fairly bright, for the most part- honest, kind, compassionate, hard working – family got so enmeshed in this out of the mainstream religious group.
Here’s what I came up with:
My paternal grandfather died very young, leaving my grandmother with 13 children to rear during the depression, my father was next to the youngest at 5 years old. My grandmother was a big woman (I am 5’10” and have had aunts also this tall) stern, honest, religious –a very strong woman (she had to be). She was a Methodist, back when the Methodist also ‘shouted their hair down’.
From what I have learned, this Oneness group started out with a great deal of emotion, caring, and a desire to get as close to God as possible, but without a lot of the legalism now such a big part of it. I can see how the early Pentecostal group would be attractive to a single Mom with almost nothing to call her own and 13 kids to care for.
I remember stories of her praying while bags of groceries magically appeared on her porch and praying for money for shoes for her kids and finding a couple of dollars in the ditch beside the road. I also heard stories of her whipping the kids with a razor strap on their bare behinds –they could not afford pajamas or underwear so slept nude and were a prime target for discipline at nite. 🙂 My dad says he immediately started bawling and did not get whipped as hard as his stoic older brother. 4 of her 5 sons became Oneness preachers. One a National foreign missions director, one a state district superintendent for over 20 years, one a lifetime minister who started 3 churches, one (the youngest) a local minister. Admittedly, they were ALJC (Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ), not UPC (United Pentecostal Church) –not sure even Grandma would accept the legalism of today’s group. She was killed in a train accident when I was 10 years old so I guess I’ll never know how she would have felt about all the changes.
My maternal grandmother also lost her husband early on; my mother was 16 when her dad died of a stroke. Neither grandfather had been in the church. My maternal grandmother was very short (under 5′ tall). She was very kind, sweet, loving. She had come into Oneness with her own mother when my mom (her youngest) was around 6 and my grandfather was being a bit of a womanizer; supposedly my mom has a sister about her age somewhere. He was also a non practicing Catholic and there was almost no contact with his side of the family b/c of the difference in religion. So, I can see this kind, sweet, grandmother being led into this with her mother, seeking peace from a difficult life. As a child, I sensed she didn’t buy into some of the ‘rules‘, suggesting I needed a haircut (at least bangs) and buying me pants to wear in the cold weather and shorts or pedal pushers in summer.
So that’s where it started for us. My family had a bit of drive and made a place for themselves in the churches; this encouraged their children in turn to remain where there was a sense of belonging and maybe a bit of importance. Later, some were successful in business and/or education and they tended to not stay so close to the group. By the 3rd generation, many were no longer in the group –some had switched to UPC (more power, more people, etc.), some stayed in ALJC (either out of loyalty, or to remain significant). Some opted out altogether but tended to not go to church anywhere else and just attend the group church occasionally –it is difficult to accept somewhere else when you have been indoctrinated so intensely. By the 4th generation, the group was losing ground and only the diehards were staying, but this is a big family and a not so big organization, so it is still easy to find someone in the organization that knows someone in the family, particularly in the ALJC.
So, I have answered my question, “how did my family get sucked into this?” I was one who stayed longer b/c I am typically pretty loyal and obedient but also b/c I gave myself and my family a bit of lenience with some of the rules throughout the years.
If we had never been born into this and my grandparents lived today never having heard of this, I would like to think there would not be ANY of us in this today.
Why would anyone want to be a part of this? I guess it is b/c it is promoted as a way to draw closer to God and also a way that one can actually do something important or be someone important –after we are ‘King’s Kids’.
Hopefully, now that I have gotten that out of my system, I can keep moving forward in God’s grace without the baggage – maybe.