Friday, October 2, 2009

Zealots or not?

My husband has left me for a religious cult. No....really...he's gone. He left without his cell phone, laptop or car. Someone picked him up and away he went to an unknown location to spend the next 3 days being indoctrinated in "The Word." He will be surrounded by ultra-religious people who will be praying and laying hands on each other and generally "glowing" with their religious fervor. I just hope no one brings snakes.

He didn't want to go. He was really in a no-win situation. In our state, possibly others, there is a multi-denominational spiritual retreat that is extremely popular. A person has to be "sponsored" to attend and there is a lot of secrecy about what goes on there. Hubby has managed to avoid going for the entire 10+ years he has been a pastor. And honestly, it wasn't an issue at our last church. People at our last church attended the retreat, but that retreat location wasn't the same. People enjoyed attending, but didn't walk away from it saying it was life-changing.

But the Retreat in our new area seems different. When we had our meet and greet with our new church, the very first question asked of Hubby was "Have you been on Retreat?" When Hubby answered no, he was actually told, "Well, this is a Retreat Church." But we have come to find out it is not. A lot of the people who have attended the Retreat have alienated other members of our church by being so clique-ish. The Retreaters constantly ask me when I am going to go. They walk around talking about it in whispers and with sidewards glances so the non-Retreaters can't hear what goes on there "in case they ever want to attend." They judge non-Retreaters as having a lesser faith then they themselves. And apparently, the only way to get the full Retreat experience is to go in completely blind and unknowing, to just give yourself up to God.

So you can imagine the rush that occured when Hubby agreed to go. He agreed because he doesn't feel he has a right to tell the Retreaters to back off unless he has actually walked in their shoes. So Hubby agreed and the secrecy intensified. I was asked to do this and that to prepare him for his journey. The Retreaters held meetings behind close doors to discuss what they were going to give Hubby, or say to Hubby at the actual retreat. And on Sunday, everyone who had attended the Retreat kept walking up to him saying, "I'll see you there! You won't know when you are going to see me, but you will." It was all just so high school.

So anyway, Hubby is gone and not allowed to call home (how is that possibly Christian? Family is supposed to be the backbone of Chrisitanity). He will be kept in religious meetings and prayer sesssions and hear testimonies from dozens of people from 7:00 AM until well after 10:00 at night. He is cut-off from tv, computer and the world. Sounds like a cult to me. And if you are wondering how I know this since it is all so hush-hush, remember the Retreat in my old city wasn't like this at all. The program is supposed to be the same, unless it has been truly bastardized by these people.

I just hope Hubby doesn't come home with the "glow."

And I hope if someone offers him Kool-aid that he will run far, far away.


charli-tan said...

And they say that we Pagans are scary? Our retreats are just nudity and chicken blood! KIDDING!!!

I wish you lived closer. Scratch that, I wish WE lived closer to YOU!

Jeannie said...

That does sound odd. I suppose they could say it's like Jesus going off into the wilderness but it's not really. Can you get in touch with him if there's an emergency?

Forced spirituality is never right. Even if nothing is specifically wrong. It's like Michael Jackson sleeping with kids. Even if he didn't do anything inappropriate, it's still inappropriate.

catherine said...

Why does it always seem that certain southern religions are slightly wacked in the least and downright freaking scary/cultlike in the worst. Is there something in the climate that makes them think that only their religion counts and the rest are evil sinners and must repent?
Maybe God thinks they are nuts too and keeps smacking them with hurricanes and tornados but they are too absorbed to understand.

Anonymous said...

Your husband is a pastor. Wouldn't he want to come out of a religious experience -- no matter how bastardized by humans -- with a renewed 'glow'?

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, sounds like "True Blood" where Jason Stackhouse got hooked up with some scary 'fang haters' who hid behind Jesus. Wow! I'm kind of speechless! I mean it just wouldn't be a secret hide away retreat if he doesn't come back with a special secret cross with mystery symbols on the back or maybe a spin ring that when it lines up right signals flocks of angels to stab demons . . . oh, wait that's "Supernatural" with Sam and Dean.
Really, how do you keep a straight face?

Anonymous said...

As you may have figured out, I am a not very religious person.

I'm sorry but this just sounds so juvenile and pathetic.

As the minister, isn't your husband supposed to be the religious leader in his church? The congrgation should be taking their instruction from him, not dragging him to something that only the 'chosen few' get to go to. How is that going to make for a united church and a happy and inclusive place for all??

And whether or not this retreat is a good thing or not, people should not be treating it as some super sekrit club for the populr kids and ostricizing others. How Christian is that?? Arrgh. I think my head is going to explode.

Sorry for the rant...


Amy said...

I have gone on the retreat that you are talking about (or at least some form of it). I was freaked out over the whole no cell phone, etc, rule and only went on with the stipulation that if I didn't like it, I would leave. I kept my phone with me, but I turned it off.
I have to say (in my state), there was no laying of hands, speaking in tongues or really anything very charismatic. It was a lot of discussion, prayer, and a few testimonies. Think Bible School for adults. They ask you not to use cell phones because they want you to really focus on your relationship with God without all the outside "noise". I was able to be reached for emergencies and I was able to reach my husband when he was gone (by calling the retreat center). I went in with a terrible attitude, but ended up staying and really got a lot out of it.
Not saying it is like that everywhere or for everyone, but honestly, it was nothing crazy at all.

Living in Muddy Waters said...

Amy, I know people from our old churches who had very similar experiences to what you had. I know that the program is very helpful to a lot of people. But THIS specific location and the people in OUR church who have attended just take it to an uncomfortable extreme.

To be clear to everyone, I support my husband in his spiritual retreats. Last year he went away for 8 days (with my blessings) and came back changed (for the better). I just feel like here it is a clique, and many other church members have called or contacted me this week to tell me to be strong in my refusal to attend the Retreat, that they too feel that it goes to far here (without my prompting).

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sorry if I was over strident in my comment last night.


Amy said...

It's a shame that some people take a good thing and twist it. I'm glad he called you!

Bubblewench said...

That is too damn funny. Odd too.