My life paused for a moment the other day when, while sorting out old junk, I came across a little essay I wrote back in 1995 when the pain of my years of cult experience was still somewhat raw. I post it here for anyone else who has been through anything similar (and untold thousands have). It is a bitter tale. It was also written before the post 9/11 upsurge in Islamophobia throughout much of the Western world and I don’t know if I would have chosen a Muslim character if I wrote it after 2001. The point of choosing a Muslim holy man was to try to distance the tale from me emotionally so I could write it in the first place. It is to be read as an allegory, of course. The sexual abuse represents the totality of the authoritarian abusive and life-destroying control experienced in the cult.* It comes in the wake if gross injustices by power-freaks who try to blind themselves to the suicides, family breakups, other deaths and torments they caused. And no doubt continue to cause behind the public view. A tale of life behind the closed doors of a religious cult and on the moment one learns that one’s friendships in the cult were conditional on your identity as an extension of the cult-leader.
From: Neil Godfrey
To: ’ email@example.com’
Subject: A story
Date: Friday, June 09, 1995 1:57PM
DONT TELL ME, TELL GOD.
(Or: “So? Tell someone who cares.”)
An Islamic holy man had 2 daughters, Dot and Sue.
Dot ached to share her pain with someone. She tried to tell her sister. Yet as soon as her sister sensed that she had something negative and unwholesome to say about her father, she backed away. Dot sensed that she could not tell Sue, and Sue did not realize that she was only salving her sister’s wound with the acid of isolation and loneliness.
The father was pleased that Dot showed such a good attitude by not spreading rumour and gossip and undermining his authority or the unity of the family. This allowed him to devote himself to the great calling Allah had given him. Allah continued to bless his work with many changed lives. No-one could deny the father’s fruits.
Sue saw her sister sobbing one day. “What’s the matter?” she asked. Dot could no longer contain herself. She poured out all that her father had been doing to her, a sordid tale of unspeakable and ongoing sexual abuse that she had kept to herself for years.
Sue was nervous. Her body and mind tensed with fear and doubt. Quickly she sent up a silent, desperate prayer to Allah for immediate guidance. Then she spoke:”Dot, I feel for you. It does appear that our father has wronged you. But whether what you say is true or not, I see that you have bitterness in your heart. This is wrong. We cannot deny that our father is Allah’s holy servant. Never lose sight of the fruits of his work. What you are saying, true or not, is really a complaint against Allah himself! I will pray for you. But I forbid you ever to repeat this negative and ungodly talk about our father to me again. If you do I will have to report you for speaking against him and undermining the unity of this family. If our father really has done all this to you as you say, then go talk to Allah about it. Not me. It will only upset me. I don’t want to hear of it any more. Go and repent before Allah is angry with you for having such a bad attitude over this real or imagined wrong.”
Dot was hurt even more. She did talk to Allah about it, but she still ached to know that her own flesh-and-blood also cared. Dot did cry out to her sister one more time.
Her father heard that she had spoken and immediately kicked her out of the family and into the streets. Dot wandered her desolate way to a high cliff. From there she cast herself down to her death.
A few years later Allah came down in a dark, billowing cloud to judge the world. He rewarded the father for putting Him and His work above all else in his life, and rewarded Sue for her loyal support of His holy man. They were both given thrones either side of Him in Paradise.
The bitter and divisive and evil-speaking Dot was raised back to her tormented life and thrown into outer darkness to wail forever in agony for her bad attitude.
All others who hated to see, hear or speak any wickedness – even to the point of the deaths of their very own kin — were counted worthy to live in Paradise forever.
- The analogy was appropriate given that the cult leader, Herbert Armstrong, was credibly reported to have been guilty of incest with one of his daughters.
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One thought on “Don’t tell me about it, tell God!”
Neil, it is great that you brought this up! Sexual abuse is the most pervasive abuse on the planet. We are just scratching the surface on this type of abuse of infants and toddlers. They are too young to know what is happening to them, too young to verbalize it, they can’t hold onto the memory of what happened to them at such an early age, it gets repressed, and is the foundation for more depression and dysfunctions in this world than people know. This experience of cults and family sexual abuse, I’ve had both. It made me what I am today, a strong person.