*WARNING: This contains material which may be triggering to some*
As I spent the rest of my growing up years as the pastor’s daughter of this church, many different things happened. A lot of them were things that I did not understand at the time but later came to understand, and now feel very shocked over.
One of these situations was when a 14-year-old girl in the church was seduced by a thirty something-year-old man with a 12-year-old daughter. This family had moved in from somewhere else, and my Dad was not aware that he had been a pedophile with teenage girls previously.
In those days it was not looked at in the same way it is now. Still, he seduced this young girl in the church and began having an ongoing sexual relationship with her. He would pick her up from school without her parents knowledge, and take her to his home where they would have sex, or to her home, when her family was not at home.
When my father found out about this, it was called “an affair” and both of the parties were punished equally with church discipline, meaning that neither one of them could participate in any kind of leadership in the church services for an extended period of time. The girl was young, and had not been participating in the services other than to play a rhythm instrument in the congregation. She was not allowed to do this anymore at that point. The man was involved in church leadership and he was also placed “in discipline.”
It was not until many years later as a grown woman that I realized how horrible it was for that young girl to be punished, as if she had done equally wrong as this thirty-something-year-old man. She was just a child, just having come into puberty. She was taken advantage of by a grown man. Not only was this horrible child abuse, and not only was it not reported, but the girl was disciplined, punished and shamed just as much as the man. She was the victim, and yet on top of being victimized, she was also made to feel that she was somehow at fault.
Sadly, she developed a pattern in her life of being with abusive, controlling men. To this day she is in a marriage where she is treated as a second class citizen. I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had she received compassion and been pointed to counseling instead of being condemned.
In another case, a child I grew up with was obviously troubled, had anger issues, and very bad social issues. It was known that her dad had been in trouble with the law various times for exposing himself in public, masturbating in public, and wearing women’s underwear in public.
He had supposedly repented, and regularly played an instrument in church, as well as singing with his wife. As this girl grew into her young teenage years, her rebellion and anger grew. At times I was the only person near her age that would even talk to her. I always felt sorry for her, feeling like something was wrong.
Often she would sit and talk to me in detail about her feelings of anger toward her family. Eventually she shared that her dad had molested her sexually. As a young girl her age, I did not know what to do. I told my parents about it, and they called her in privately to talk to her about it.
She shared with them that she had been molested, but as they pressured her to make sure it was true, she changed her story and lied, saying it never had happened. As they continue to talk with her again she began to cry and say that it had happened, but eventually under pressure said that it had not happened. In their inexperience with such situations, they never did anything about it.
Eventually, she had a one night stand with a man who was sleeping around with different women in the church. Finally, she left the church and married some guy she had met. The last time I saw her she looked like she was about 80 years old. She’s been using drugs for years and cannot seem to break free from it. She’s been homeless living under a bridge, she’s been beaten by previous spouses, she’s terribly addicted to drugs, and only a shell of who she once was.
She gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl, and signed custody of those children over to her mother. While those children were growing up, her dad repeatedly got in trouble with the law, for flashing people in parking lots while wearing women’s underwear and a woman’s wig.
Because my dad publicly exposed his deeds to the congregation, and eventually ask him to leave, they haven’t attended my dad’s church for many years. They attend another UPC (United Pentecostal Church) church in the area. Those children grew up, and recently the girl turned 18, left home and the UPC church, and publicly came out and said that both her grandfather and her brother had molested her sexually.
I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if her mother’s reports of sexual abuse had been taken seriously. What would’ve happened if she had gotten counseling and help, as a young teenage girl? Would any of this further pain have occurred at all?
During the time that she was still at home, her parents welcomed a close relationship with a young adult woman who was in her early 20s. This woman eventually began to show sexual attention to their young son, who was about 14 at the time.
Again, my father, as pastor of both the woman and the boy, dealt with both of them equally. He strongly rebuked the woman, and called the boy in for a “counseling session.” He described to our family how he talked to this boy about the fact that this woman had kissed him, what feelings it must’ve stirred up in him, and how he would’ve felt her female curves pressing against him while she was kissing him. Neither of them ever said that there was an actual sexual act that occurred. Still, she was seducing a 14-year-old boy, and should have been reported. Nothing was ever done about it. That boy grew up into a man and left the church.
Although there are countless other stories that I could share, I will skip forward to my adult years. At a time when my own children had suffered child abuse at the hands of their father, I had them in counseling with a professional children’s counselor.
Another woman in my dad’s church asked me for the name of the clinic where my children were being seen. She had just separated from her drug addict husband, who had been very abusive to her son. She wanted her 15-year-old son to receive counseling, to help him recover from the situation. I gave her the name and number of the clinic where my children were being seen.
As a “good saint”, she told my dad that she planned to take her son there. He told her not to take her son to a professional. He told her he would do any counseling that her son needed, and then he privately rebuked me for giving her this information. (I won’t go into my reaction to his rebuke in this post.)
His “counseling” of that teenage boy was to have him come out and mow his lawn repeatedly, and gruffly try to give him some advice. He also had the boy hang around while he worked on different projects, helping with physical labor. That was all the “help” the child ever received.
This young boy was being homeschooled by his mother, but she now had to go work a full-time job. He was left at home bored, and began to wander the streets. My dad publicly rebuked him about this from the pulpit, in front of the entire congregation. This was a very shaming and humiliating scenario, with a lot of loud amens from the congregation.
The child was now branded, and as one might expect, he simply ran the streets more than he had before. He never graduated from high school, but soon got a job. He then proceeded to impregnate different girls, eventually receiving drugs from his dad.
The last I heard about him, he was regularly shoplifting, robbing different places to support his drug habit, and sometimes selling drugs. He had children by different women that he was not taking care of, and couldn’t hold down a job. His mother’s only child, she is left with this heartache and a distant relationship with her son. She tries to do what she can to indoctrinate these little children he’s procreated, whenever she gets a chance to bring them to church. She often has to clean them up and show them nurturing that they’re not getting at home.
My heart breaks every time I think of this story. Could he have been saved, if only he had received the professional help he needed? Why does ego get so involved in these spiritually abusive cultures? Why does a pastor think he can be everything in all ways to the people he pastors? When did pastoring become ruling instead of just preaching?