Best picture of 2021: I grew up in a Catholic commune. Here’s What I Know About America’s Religious Beliefs

The only time I saw Brother Sam in person, he was marching like a soldier as he preached, with sweat dripping from his temples and his Bible a heavy brick in his right hand. his.

It was 1978, I was five years old, and my family went to Lubbock, Texas, to attend the Body Conference, which we call the semi-annual gathering of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of members. members of the Body, or Body of the Lord, a vast network of charismatic communities made up almost exclusively of Brother Sam.

My family lives on a Body Farm, mostly off-grid outpost on the north shore of Lake Superior, where I grew up singing, clapping, shouting, and dancing in the aisles of the Tabernacle like King David. In our internal community, Practice led by the Holy Ghost such as speaking in tongues, visions, prophecy, laying on of hands and faith healing, calling the altar, mass conversions, baptisms in rivers, and even deliverance of demons are as common as eating or sleeping, or for us children, playing with smooth stones in the icy water at the edges of the woods. Back then, if you ask me if the church scares me, I would be confused by the question, and I said no. Come to think of it, I was scared all the time.

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If this is a live chat, you can stop me here, as many have done. “So you grew up in a cult“you can talk,” you might say, hopefully opening any conversation with a warning that my religious experience must be the only puzzling, aberration of the Church. orthodox, sane catholicism of the United States. After all, unlike The Body, most denominations and church networks do not require parishioners to sell their possessions and a half-tenth, or even all of their savings. simple food, no TV, no holidays, no toys. Perhaps most importantly, most people in 2021 don’t believe in psychic warfare reminiscent of the Dark Ages; they are not warned by spiritual leaders that they are being oppressed by the devil and the Devil at every turn. If you are a Christian, you may want to put as much distance as possible between The Body and whatever church you belong to. If not, you need to be assured that my experiences with religion have been extraordinary – memoirs are made of.

But, just a few years ago, Franklin Graham, son of “America’s Pastor”, Billy Graham, declared any criticism of former president Donald Trump the work of the devil. The following year, one of the president’s closest evangelical advisers, Paula White, openly commanded “all satanic pregnancies are miscarried.” Opinion polls in recent decades show that about half of all Americans continue to believe that ghosts and demons are very real, and although some recent numbers suggest that number may be lower among Democrats, the percentage of Americans who believe in the devil has increased from 55 percent in 1990 to 70 percent in 2007 – As of 2018, even Catholic exorcisms seem to be on the rise. About half of all Americans believe that the Bible will influence US law, and 68 percent of white Protestant Protestants believe the Bible should take precedence over the will of the people. In other words, if you find yourself talking to an American Christian, chances are they have been raised in fear of doing the wrong thing, choosing the wrong side, and believing that doing so could have consequences. nightmares in this life and the next. . Chances are the fear is so ingrained that it is no longer considered a fear. Fear is simply the lens through which they see the world.

I had a friend from college who liked to call me Jonestown after she heard my story. But she grew up in Kentucky like I did after my family moved out of cohabitation, and the longer I’ve known her, the more I understand that her childhood preachers are virtually interchangeable. with Brother Sam, that’s the only difference between her. church and mine is devotion, degree of commitment to doctrine. In my church, we were instructed to live our beliefs one step at a time, then another, then another, but they were all similar to the beliefs my friend had. Long after my family “left” The Body, whether we held a home church, attended Body Conferences, or attended regular Mass in Pentecost, Baptist, and Methodist churches, I was 19. age and was in college before meeting a doctrinal challenger. I grew up and since then have had similar experiences in urban Virginia, rural New Hampshire, and upstate Indiana where I live. The categorization of American Christians into the imaginary realm of believers and non-believers, of dangerous, extravagant, irregular churches and a secure, fundamentalist religious majority is a terrible mistake and as dangerous as extremism itself.

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In fact, religious extremism already if not the afterward One national standard throughout my life. In my experience, you only need to stress most Christians for a few minutes before you encounter many “strange and sinister” beliefs that are said to be indicative of religions. This is why getting rid of religious extremism in America is so difficult, and often takes a lifetime – like trying to stay sober in a brewery, I imagine. If more than three-quarters of all American evangelicals believe that we are living in the End Times described in the Bible, it is not only likely but also inevitable that some that believer will act and remove themselves and their families from the corrupt, material, Babylonian World. Likewise, if the Bible was written by the finger of God, as I have been taught, then question it – question anything about the church and its leaders, in fact. church religion, from the authenticity of the teachings taught by people like Brother Sam to the sincerity of what is true. -clean politicians are being praised on the podium, can make a believer vulnerable to invisible “powers and principles” that surround us like vultures, eager for the our destruction.

Samuel Drew Fife III is an ordinary man who wields extraordinary powers against his followers. His parents were blue-collar Floridians, and like many veterans of World War II, he returned home to them after the battle emotionally and spiritually, cultivating an existential void that must have filled his duty. The task of building a normal life for oneself becomes difficult. Conceivably, only something as grand and puzzling as God could fit the breadth of that void, rocking the shaking world in fervent black-and-white certainty. Such is the experience of millions after the wars of the 20th century – this is the rock on which Latter Rain and subsequent Charismatic churches were built.

In 1957, in a Baptist seminary in New Orleans, Sam will learn to weaponize his own fear and transform himself into a savior of souls in the spiritual battle he imagines raging. around him, and the devil is an important part of this upbringing. In 1960, he submitted a graduate thesis to Tulane University, describing his personal anointing with the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the “rain” of the Later Rain, and detailing the interpretation. study his success, as he saw it, of Jane Miller, a psychopath. sick mother of six, because of her demons. Many mentally ill people, after hearing the tapes of Jane’s deliverance, flocked to Brother Sam for treatment. I grew up listening to those and other similar tapes, and finally, more than a decade after Brother Sam’s death, when Jane Miller tried to free me from her own demons at a Congregation. Conference on the Body in Chicago, it felt like he was there during the ordeal. . After all, he rescued Jane, and she is rescuing me.

In 1971, as soon as my father returned from Vietnam, Billy Graham gave a message in Dallas, Texas called “Devils and Demons,” and that same year, Brother Sam began preaching about The End of Ages has been a big part of Billy’s life. Crusade. Both men and many, many other preachers such as Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, and Jim Bakker, all technically outside the Body, and Buddy Cobb, John Henson, and Doug McClain, all inside the Body, saw pollution, disease, a war-torn world as proof that the Great Tribulation was coming quickly. All teach the full biblical dual concepts of essentialism, of believer/unbeliever, of us/them. And nearly all will fall in love, accused of a variety of crimes from fraud to solicitation to sexual misconduct to kidnapping, though believe me when I say those fallouts don’t. never meant the end but a beginning, a new wave of pastors, rebranded, admired and reinforced now by social media, and every bit eager to use Use fear as a weapon in an endless crusade for power.

I may have grown up with Jane Tapes, but millions of Americans have interrupted similar messages from countless other pastors, orthodox or not. Not every form of radicalization of Christianity ends up with Kool-Aid cyanide in Guyana. Rapid development and QAnon’s influence is another potential outcome, evidence that a legion of pastors has spent decades pushing loyal Americans toward paranoia, conspiracy theories, and ultimately the destruction of a government that they claim to be on the wrong side. If from 15 to 20 percent Americans believe that the government is controlled by a group of satanic pedophiles, and that an apocalyptic storm will soon wipe out the evil elite and restore the “right leaders” to power. right, the pastor of America is why. The Body becomes The Move becomes the IMA, or International Association of Ministers: corporate, as benign and dull as a toast to the untrained eye, but keeping the conventions in Lubbock and elsewhere , still nurturing a generation that, at this very moment, believed what I had believed for so long, understood the world outside the shelter of the church as hostile, cruel, and terrifying – a worldview which I still struggle with all the time.

Even decades after my last Body Conference, when I started as an ER nurse, every time I was assigned to a patient who had hallucinations of ghosts or Devils, I had to banish beliefs in they. I usually get through the hours of those shifts in a sustained adrenaline rush. I remember in particular one patient who attacked her husband with a chainsaw and saw ghosts in the corners of the locked hospital room where I was caring for her. “Here he is!” she continued to whisper, pointing behind me, her eyes registered there, her expression shifting from glare to terror and back to glare. I also had to concentrate not to feel that presence, slow my breathing and repeat to myself, “She’s just sick, that’s all. Just sick, just like any other patient.”

Read more Salon’s best life stories of 2021. Best picture of 2021: I grew up in a Catholic commune. Here’s What I Know About America’s Religious Beliefs

Bobby Allyn

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