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Retreats


Markkasan
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Since my deconversion 8 months ago, I've been thinking about my religious days from an outsider's perspective. What ticks me off the most is my experiance at a retreat one weekend.

 

In New Jersey, there's this Christian retreat called Keswick. It's a collection of dorms, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, and various classrooms out in the middle of the Pine Barrens. It is also the site for an addiction treatment center for people addicted to drugs, alcohal, pornography, video games, etc. I went there with my church some time ago for a weekend retreat. Most kids in the youth group saw it as a chance to socialize and be with friends, and the flyer that was given out did nothing to contradict that idea. Basically, to all outside appearences, it was no different from a YMCA, aside from the prominent chapel on the grounds.

 

Anyway, we arrived on Friday evening and on Saturday morning we had to go to these seminars. This was the first hint of fundie indoctrination. Topics included "How to talk to Jews" and "Dealing with annoying parents." I thought, no biggie. I didn't really think about these seminars at the time, but now that I look back, I can see how they sought to soften us up for what was about to come.

 

Every now and then we would go to services in the chapel. This bearded seminary student, who we all admired because he was so well spoken, got up and led the worship. This consisted of trendy-sounding "praise and worship" songs. For those of you who may have not been exposed to them, these songs are basically rock songs with lyrics by Jeezus, incorporated. Then the leader spoke. Now that I look back I can see a uniting thread throughout his sermons. They basically said the same thing, only in different ways. He said that we were all flawed. He said that due to this, we would die of spiritual death (hell, although he didn't actually say it.) This was pounded into us. We had no idea what was happening. He was very skilled at slipping ideas past your mental defenses and into the dark spots in your head.

 

ON Saturday night, before the service, we had testimonials. Various people got up and spoke before us. A heroin addict told us of how he got clean after finding Jeezus. He was quite emotional about it, for good reason. A young woman told us of how she had an abortion when she was younger. Right after, she met an evangelist who converted her to the church. (Note that the fundie will always try to convert you when you are at your weakest.)

 

Then the service began. I swear, it was something out of the Manchurian Candidate. The lights dimmed. The leader told us that if we were willing to accept Jesus, to go to the alter. This was the culmination of a weekend rush of brainwashing. First the seminars, then the services stressing our need for Jeezus, and now this. It was all very calculated. The leader went to the piano and played a slow, weepy song. People started to cry, out of guilt, maybe, out of fear. The atmosphere was very sad, and a chain reaction occured. About 7 out of 10 people cried their hearts out. Many flocked to the alter, embracing, saying "I'm sorry" for wrongs committed, praising God.

 

IN essense, Keswick was one long brainwashing, from beginning to end. They took advantage of our fears of death, of guilt over past wrongs, and turned them to their advantage. They hammered fear into our heads, of spiritual death. They manipulated us, screwed with our minds. Someone else in this forum talked about "spiritual rape." That phrase is very apt to describe what happened. We were violated without our knowing. It was spiritual date rape.

 

 

Have any of you had experiances with retreats? Alter calls? Attempts by fundies to use your fears in your darkest hour to convert you?

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Topics included "How to talk to Jews" and "Dealing with annoying parents." I thought, no biggie. I didn't really think about these seminars at the time, but now that I look back, I can see how they sought to soften us up for what was about to come.

 

 

I went on a retreat once and one of the seminars was entitled "What's wrong with sex?"

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I've been on several retreats, but I was already "born again" when I went to them. For Christians, it's a good time to "charge your batteries," getting away from worldly influences to make sure the brainwashing really sticks. I remember one teacher saying that God should be in charge of everything in our lives, even which pair of socks we choose to wear on a particular day. I was a pretty extreme fundy, but I never did pray to God to ask which socks I should wear. Even at my most brainwashed state, I figured I could make that decision on my own.

 

Christians definitely love to take advantage of situations where people are at their weakest; that's how they got me. Of course, they don't view it as malicious, they think they're genuinely helping people, but still, they speak of funerals and other tragic events as good "witnessing opportunities." I remember how great a "witnessing opportunity" 9/11 was proclaimed to be at the time. :repuke:

 

Actually, with cases like the guy you mentioned with a heroin addiction, I have to admit I think Christianity is good for this; the last thing I'd recommend to a guy like that is to give up his faith. I've seen numerous people relieved of crippling addictions after becoming Christians. I don't know if the same is true with other religions, because I don't have any experience with them, but I think it probably is. As the old saying goes, religion is a crutch. But some people need a crutch and are better off with it. Maybe in time they can learn to walk without it.

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I went to brainwashing at the behest of my parents, yearly; it was called "Summer Camp."

 

Every single year the brainwashing repeated itself and kids who had quite recently been happy go lucky normal kids doing normal kid things, would become convinced they were no good evil spawn, bawl and praise jesus and repent and beam with glazed expressions that they had 'recommited' themselves to the lord

 

Camp had its fun moments, I think we got 1 hour of free time a day, but we had long services 4 times a day including campfire, for an entire week.

 

During one of the services, I suddenly had a gushing bloody nose. There was nothing I could do but put my hands to my face and embarassedly try to find my way out to a restroom. The pastor in the front literally SHOUTED at me over the microphone to "sit back down," publicly, in front of the audience of hundreds. All eyes turned to me. I was instantly furious. I took my cupped hands away from my nose and looked him angrily in the eyes with blood dripping from my nose, and he realized his mistake and I hope he was as mortified as I intended him to be. But what if I had simply been needing to urgently use the restroom for any other valid reason - like if I was about to get sick ? No no, that would not have been permitted; I would have had to just sit there and throw up or soil myself, praise Jesus.

 

Nowadays, I distrust the motivations of anyone who desires to become a pastor. I think they have control issues, delusions of grandeur and narcissistic impulses.

 

Oh wait, there's lots of ex-pastors on this forum who probably don't deserve that statement :)

 

I'm just recalling all the pastors I've known - especially YOUTH pastors. I can't think of a single youth pastor I've known who didn't exhibit seedy qualities.

 

OK back to brainwashing topic at hand.

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