By John O.
Ex-Worldwide Church of God Pastor
December 28th. It’s fun being a child, and I am eight years old. My younger sister Becky and I are still playing with our Xmas gifts. The tree is still up and the lights are still twinkling. My birthday was only a month ago and I got presents then too. Boy, am I lucky. Becky’s birthday is not until next July. She’ll have to wait. But we share our toys. I love my mom and dad. I love my sister. I love our whole family.
Mom and dad love us very much too. They always listen to us when we have something to say. Then they always think about it, and try and help us to make up our own minds as to what we want to do. I hear that’s the way loving parents supposed to be. They teach us to stand on our own feet, and they are always there to help us when we make mistakes. They are good people. We love our parents. I always want to be just like my dad. We think that mom is the prettiest girl around and dad is the handsomest guy. They always smile at us and tell us that we’re special. We feel wanted and loved. We’re happy in our family home.
January 4th. The tree is down now, but we all look forward to next year, all those presents, and our happy family. Today a package arrived in the mail. It has a lot of paper stuff and little books in it. Mom said that it was something dad had sent away for. My dad comes home, kisses mom and hugs Becky and me. My mom shows dad the package after dinner, and my dad reads all the stuff that’s in there. He has suddenly lost his smile. I hear him talking to mom long after we’ve gone to bed. He didn’t hug us goodnight. Why?
March 8th. Dad comes home and eats his dinner quietly. Mom is not talking too much lately. She seems to smile less and less. Dad hardly smiles at all. They always talk a lot after we’ve gone to bed. We miss our hugs.
April 14th. This evening, dad calls us all together. He and mom sit while Becky and I stand up. He tells us that he has discovered the plain truth about life. God, he says, has shown him the truth through a group that God has led him to. Dad tells us that our ideas of God are all wrong. God, he says, demands certain things from all of us, and since we are such sinners, we must give into God and His appointed government. Mom nods her head in agreement. She and dad have talked a lot about this.
April 20th. Two men arrived at our house this evening. I don’t like them. They’re not happy people like we remember mom and dad once were. They are stern and cold. These men are not loving. They tell mom and dad to send us to our rooms. Mom and dad obey and then talk to these men alone for about an hour.
April 25th. It’s a Saturday and Becky and I wanted to go play today, but dad said no. Mom said to go get dressed in our best clothes because we were going to a meeting that was ordered by God. We go to the meeting and listen to some men yelling at us. We’re no good, they say, we’re sinners and need to go to God to get forgiven. They alone will tell us how. I’d rather be playing. What’s tithing?
May 16th. Dad said that we’re taking these services of God too lightly. We’re old enough, he said, to listen to the speakers who are anointed of God. We can finally learn something from these men about how evil our lives had been, and how we are now learning not to be pagans. What is an apostle?
September 12th. Tonight we listened upstairs as dad told mom that their bills were getting too high. He said that tithing and offerings came first, but after all that was paid, there was little left for anything else except food. He said he owed a month’s mortgage on the house. He’s going to sell mom’s car so he can continue to tithe.
September 25th. We were sent to bed at seven o’clock at exactly the time when those two ministers came to the front door. I still don’t like them. Becky and I listened, as always, and we heard a lot of yelling from the men. Dad answered a couple of times quietly and mom said nothing. They needed his finance statement, they said, with a list of all the money he spent every week. Then they said that they would show dad and mom how to tithe properly. What does “carnal” mean?
October 15th. Today a woman, called a realtor, came to our home and looked around. We heard dad tell mom that the only way we could reconcile with God is to sell the house, and with the little profit remaining, send in that money to church headquarters to pay for back tithes owing. We are going to lose our home. I don’t think I like this God.
December 13th. We’ve now started to live in a small, cheap apartment. It’s not all that clean. I don’t like our neighbors because they’re always picking fights with us. Becky and I share a bedroom. Mom and dad are fighting. Becky is crying. I am hurting.
December 25th. No Xmas this year. Dad told us that it’s pagan and against God’s law. Becky and I miss our tree and our presents. What’s wrong with Xmas? The ministers say the whole world is pagan. If that’s so, then what’s wrong with keeping Xmas since everything else we do in this world is pagan? Why do we stop for Xmas? At school they think we’ve gone weird. I don’t like this God of theirs at all.
December 28th. The minister said last week that we’re special to God and we’ll rule over nations with a rod of iron. We will beat any nation into submission that does not comply with the laws, statutes and ordinances as set out by the church. Yes, he said, we may feel deprived right now, but in the future world – ruled by church ministers and deacons – we’d have all that we want. I hope this future world comes quickly.
January 17th. Becky is sick. We couldn’t afford to keep the heat on all the time this month and now Becky is coughing. The ministers came and performed something called God’s divine healing. No doctors, they said. To spend all that money would show lack of faith. God’s power was stronger than any medicine. When they finished, they looked for a moment at our small apartment, shook their heads, and left. They didn’t like our little home at all, but it’s all we have now. Becky is still coughing. I’m worried. I want our old life back when things were happy. What’s anointing?
February 2nd. Becky is much worse and mom is crying. She wants to take Becky to the doctor but I heard the minister from the other end of the phone yelling at mom to have faith and rely on God. Tonight I saw dad drink from a bottle. I’d never seen him do this before. I think he was crying later and praying in their bedroom. I love my sister. I want Becky to get well. Please God . . .
February 15th. Becky died. The minister told mom and dad at the funeral service that they both lacked faith, otherwise Becky would have lived. This was God’s testing and they had both failed the test. After the burial and back at the apartment, dad says we must continue to submit to God’s government otherwise we’ll all suffer the Lake of Fire. Dad’s drinking heavily now and mom’s sobbing. I miss my Becky. I miss my little sister. I miss my best friend. I hate this God.
March 18th. Dad’s been laid off from work because of drinking. Mom’s taking in laundry and I’m helping her. Let’s hope our washing machine holds up because it’s making a loud clanging noise. Everyone makes fun of me at school because my clothes are old and we can’t afford to get new ones. Dad got his first unemployment check today. He gave some money to mom for the rent and food. He bought himself a large bottle of whiskey. He only buys the large bottles now. Mom cries every night, and there are many nights where I cry too. What’s alcoholism?
April 9th. The ministers came this evening and told us that we were all in the hands of Satan, and that sin was living among us. They told dad he was a hopeless, drunken alcoholic and that he was too far from God to be blessed again. While they didn’t mind his drinking, they said, it was wrong if that deprived the church of its monetary dues. As such, he was headed for the Lake of Fire. He should develop more character, they said, and then he wouldn’t drink too much. He was obviously too far from God and His government. They asked why he had stopped tithing.
April 27th. Today, I met a couple of my church friends whose parents had left the church. They all felt good about it, my friends told me. They all felt free again. They told me that the church and its ministry were nothing but a bunch of bullies that were in the religious business for their own ego and money. What’s a cult?
May 4th. All the ministers ever talk about is getting close to God, and this is done by loyalty to the church government. Maybe they’re right. Maybe that’s the reason I’m suffering. Maybe I’ve been rebellious and disloyal. Maybe I’m just too far from God? I don’t want to be thrown into that Lake of Fire.
November 15th. Today is my tenth birth date, since we don’t keep actual birthdays. Mom and dad are much the same, life is sad, and dad works off and on. He still drinks heavily but sobers up to work. Mom cries off and on. None of us smile now. Mom and dad don’t laugh or cuddle up together anymore. I don’t get any hugs or squeezes. It seems so long ago. I don’t miss Becky so much now. Maybe sometimes. I’m still hurting from time to time. Maybe God will help me . . . please, God? I’m sorry I’m carnal. I’m sorry I’m still pagan. Please don’t hurt me anymore.
December 4th. God has answered my prayer. God has seen fit to take away my pain. He showed me that dad keeps his whiskey bottle under the sink. Last week, I took a sip, and it eased the pain. Praise God! Today, I took two sips and the pain was even less. Dad never knows how much is left in the bottle. He’s always too drunk to tell. I can take this whiskey OK, but I don’t want to drink too much because I don’t want to be like my dad anymore. He’s just a old drunk.
January 18th. Life could be better but at least it’s not painful. No one’s caught me sipping from the bottle and no one suspects what I’m doing. Dad still works occasionally to pay the tithes and drink. Mom has taken a counter job at a store to pay the rent and food. I’m on several big sips a day now and it feels really good. Each week I find I can handle more and more. But, I space my drinking so I don’t get too much at once. I have a few sips in the early morning before mom and dad get up. The ministers still come by occasionally but always stay only a short time. They say that they care about our salvation, and they always ask about the tithe money. But who cares? It’s not my problem, and I generally feel good each day. Tell me . . . what’s a third tithe year?
April 27th. Today my dad died . . . and they called it a suicide. He jumped off a downtown building when he was drunk. Why did he do it? Why? Doesn’t he know what he did to us? To me? Where am I going to get my whiskey now? Where?