Spooky Greetings on this fine Halloween Day ~
It is no secret to people who know me well. I was raised in what was aptly categorized a religious cult. I wholly agree – it was a cult. Though I made life-long friends growing up in that group (not to mention, knowing more about the bible than most mainstream ministers), it cost me a lot. And I am not just talking about money.
As my siblings can attest, I had my first Christmas in my mid-20’s. We grew up as – well…odd. No holidays – at least not the common ones. In fact, it was a sin to celebrate worldly holidays, especially Halloween. After all, we were The Chosen Ones. No other people in the world were God’s people. It was just us and our fellow believers, people who also belonged to “The Church”. I was part of the elite converts. No one else’s beliefs would ever gain them approval with God. I believed it with conviction.
Growing up, I was taught I would be richly rewarded for being so different. Ministers in high positions promised the day would come when my family and I would be swept away to a place of safety along with very few other humans – fellow members of The Church. We were among the few worthy to escape the tribulation that God had in store for the entire world. All sinners who celebrated those evil holidays would be left behind to die horrible deaths. That was enough to convince me to stay with the cult well into my 20’s.
Halloween, being a play day for Satan and his followers, was never part of our lives. We didn’t so much as eat an orange cookie in that 24-hour period of time. That was okay by me because I knew if I ever sinned in that way or departed from those teachings, a lightening bolt would surely strike me down. It seemed like a fitting punishment for doing something I knew was wrong.
We lived separated from the realities of American life. There is a cost one pays for intentionally being so different – rebelling against evert facet of society. That price goes up once you enter high school. But I was solid in my hardcore religious position. Being told it was the cost of being God’s children, I willingly paid.
Among other hefty sins back then was Participating in Valentine’s Day, dating “outside” The Church, and doing anything from Friday night (sundown) to Saturday night (sundown). That was our Sabbath. We were not even allowed to watch television during those holy hours. No working, school events, sleepovers, or anything else that was considered worldly. That time each week was set aside for God and churchgoing, and that is exactly what I did, year after year. It was also forbidden to eat pork, shellfish and other common foods. That was a practice I never quite shook off. I still eat by the “clean foods” principles of the Old Testament, though not for religious or spiritual reasons.
As I got older, a whirlwind of “rebellious” questions entered my mind while earning my first college degree. That was uncommon for women in The Church. After all, our place was at home, cooking and cleaning – taking care of whatever man The Church approved us to marry.
After college graduation, a marriage I never should have entered, and a lot of common-sense thoughts that started hitting me in my early 20’s, I started to stray from my beginnings. I may have been 26 years old when I really celebrated Christmas for the first time. I also bought a Halloween costume that year, and ate holiday goodies till I was sick. That was a time of great fear because I knew at any moment God would strike me down for my unholy departure, rebellious acts that could never be forgiven.
I have matured a great deal since then. Thankfully, my entire family did the same. Once I began breaking free of that cult, it took well over a decade for me to really understand myself and what I wanted in life. A lot of mistakes, anger and rebellion came out of me in my early adulthood. I had to learn that our world was not flat, and that God (if any there be) most certainly did not have the unforgiving and harsh set of rules I was taught.
Some of those early teachings did turn out to be true, at least about the darkness that seems to control the hearts of people now days. But the hell-fire-and-brimstone method of those lessons bred un-health. Even though sone blessings came from that way off life, my family and I had to find a way to balance it all out in the real world.
Since then, my family has all come to true Christianity. I have great respect for my parents for making so many positive changes, as they were both raised in religious cults too. Same holds true for my siblings and all those who broke free of the religious bondage. That said, I also respect that some still believe in those old ways. To each his own.
To this day, I remain neutral on religion. I believe in treating people well. I do not believe I am the only “right” one anymore. At Christmas time, my living room looks like Santa’s sleigh crashed in it, and I made sure to raise my kids with all holidays intact. Halloween is one of my favorites.
I do not begrudge anyone their own belief system. I do tend to shy away from those who feel they need to judge others for believing differently. That is just arrogant, in my view. No one can possibly know what lies beyond this life. I once thought my way was the only right way, too. I could not have been more wrong.
As for Halloween, I no longer believe it is anything to do with Satan or sin. I simply see it as a make-believe holiday that provides an occasion to eat carmel apples and wear fun costumes. Like anything in this world, some will read more into it than that. Let them. You will find me at home with my husband passing out candy and watching scary movies.