Prior to both of us moving to Texas, Jon (my stepdad) had warned my mom that his adoptive mother (Laverne) was a “religious kook”, but even with that warning, I had no idea how difficult her beliefs would make things. Looking back, I realize that Jon didn’t really start to make a noticeable break with his spiritually abusive past until well after his adoptive mother died.
His adoptive mother had been mostly Southern Baptist throughout most of her life, with some brief involvement in the United Methodist Church when Jon was very young. After her divorce from her second husband, she converted to a Trinitarian Pentecostal church that was vastly different from the previous Baptist congregation.
It didn’t take long to become obvious that Laverne was very controlling. She had some serious mental issues, and I don’t think that her religious beliefs helped matters much. Some examples of her unhealthy influence:
- She insisted on getting on the phone with my mom one night before the move had even occurred, inquiring about her state of salvation and try to pray her through a salvation prayer (in her book, Mom’s salvation was questionable at best, because she wasn’t the “right” denomination)
- Laverne tried to order Jon to attend only a Baptist or Pentecostal church. She also tried to tell him he had to agree to re-baptism if he started attending church regularly, regardless of whether that was what the church in question taught
- She was taken aback, but backed down a bit after Mom told her that what church he attended, if any, was his business and she couldn’t make demands
- Laverne found it necessary to attempt to “teach” Mom and me how to pray properly (incorrectly believing that just because our denomination uses a prayer book, we use only those prayers) and to also criticize our use of non-KJV Bibles
- One day, she stopped by the house in tears because she had the idea that the rapture was going to happen at any time and Jon wouldn’t be taken – Mom was able to calm her down but later remarked that she was amazed at how caught up people got into that particular teaching, which is vastly different from our church’s end times teaching
- In what I think was a last-ditch effort to convert Mom and me, she insisted on having us go to church with her on a “Friend Sunday”, and seemed to be fervently hoping to get one or the other of us up front during the altar call
During this time, Jon had attended the church mom and I were going to a few times and liked the rector. However, he still harbored a lot of serious hangups that I don’t think his adoptive mom was helping and was very gun-shy about actually participating in the service in any way.
The move to Houston for the next three years and some family drama related to the UPC would have an impact that took awhile to get through. I’ll get to that in my next installment.