Gretchen’s Story – Part 5

“Past and present behavior, and undesirable feelings are to be confessed. However, the information gained about you can be used against you to make you feel more guilty, powerless, fearful and ultimately in need of the group and the leader’s goodness. This environment is set up by the unreasonable demand for purity.”

There was a heavy emphasis on the sinful, terrible wicked state of the soul whenever it wasn’t trusting Christ. Trusting in Christ was something that you could slip out of at any time. If your actions didn’t line up with any of the perfectionist ideals of the Assembly, you were most likely not trusting Christ and were letting sin reign in your heart and life.

One family had a chronically ill wife and many children. They worked very hard to care for their family and home on a very small income. They did all they could do to be at all the Assembly meetings, but it was impossible.

A family who wasn’t at all or most of the Assembly meetings (often up to 20 hours per week) was considered uncommitted or struggling, both by themselves and by the group. No matter how hard this family tried, their best was never good enough for the Assembly ideals and they were always “damned if they did and damned if they didn’t”.

In actuality, this family was doing an incredible amount of work, doing the best they could with the resources they had, and were not struggling or uncommitted to God at all. When someone is treated like they are second class citizens and taught that their sins keep them from pleasing God, it creates intense (but false) shame and guilt. This was how the Assembly treated anyone who didn’t fit into their mold.

Instead of looking to God and living life to the fullest for Him, Assembly members were taught to turn inward. They were told to constantly scrutinize their inner thoughts, motives and actions. They were constantly shamed and humiliated to believe that they were worthless sinners and failures and were encouraged to pray Psalm 51 daily (a psalm of repentance and contrition). Repentance was taught as the major key to victory over sin.

It’s true that the Bible teaches that men are sinners and that repentance is an awesome gift to restore our fellowship with our Creator. The Assembly took these ideas, as they took most other Biblical ideas, to an incredible extreme.

That is why someone who is in the Assembly mindset can look like such a strong Christian to those who don’t understand the teachings and twistings of the Assembly. Some basic biblical truth was taught and then it was twisted and stretched to fit the ideology of the Assembly and the Assembly life and mindset for that point in time.

Bible truths were warped to further enslave members to the Assembly groupthink and to further alienate them from how healthy Christians live.

I got involved, at my husband’s insistence and to the dismay of Assembly leaders, in organizing a home-school gym class. The leadership was alarmed at the amount of time it took for me to take our children to these Physical Education classes and tried to shame me because I wasn’t able to attend many of their meetings due to my broken down health.

The leaders would rather have my children be denied a good healthy activity, if I couldn’t come to more meetings, than for our family to have time to be involved in healthy activities. They were more interested in controlling us than in our well being.

I quickly saw that the many different Christian families at this P.E. class had something that our family didn’t, and I wanted the kind of relationships that those families had. The Assembly was very much against home schooling, because it strengthened the bond between parent and child, and because many of those who home-school are healthy Christians. The Assembly wanted us isolated from mainstream Christianity. They didn’t want us to see the truth in action.

My friendships from this gym class spawned some of the beginnings of my realization of what the Assembly really was. I found true Christians who accepted my family and me and appreciated the service that we gave at the gym class.

I had one friend in particular, who inadvertently showed me how to believe in my God-given abilities to succeed. This was something the Assembly annihilated in our lives. The rediscovery of my God-inspired gifts and talents was the beginning of a New World opening up to me.

Your service was never appreciated in the Assembly. The Assembly taught us that we were evil and that we were nothing but failures. That is how they kept us bound.

When I began new friendships in the larger Christian world, I found people who didn’t look at other people as evil. That may seem simple; but it is a profound difference between a healthy Christian and a person caught up in cult thinking.

A healthy person sees others as made in the image of God (sinners, yes, but full of evil, no). A person influenced by cult thinking sees others and the world around them as evil. A healthy Christian sees the world as a beautiful, safe place created by God for the enjoyment and enhancement of the human race; full of challenges and some evils to be avoided, definitely, but full of evil and a place to avoid as much as possible, no.

One Christian researcher told me, after reading the Assembly Reflections website, that in its demonization of the world and people outside the group, the Assembly was closer in it’s thinking to the Taliban than it was to Christ and true Christianity.

»» Gretchen’s Story – Part 6 

»» More on the demand for purity in the Geftakys Assembly

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Margaret Irons and her husband Steve and three children were in the Fullerton Geftakys Assembly for twenty years. We left in March, 1990. We are still recovering and learning in Orange County, CA.

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