Chapbook Chapter Three
Sex Saved Me From a Christian Cult
This is a true story
Chapter Three: Beyond Belief
I knelt there with my hands pressed fervently together, murmuring Hallelujah again and again. Mumbling quietly in a darkened room surrounded by low chanting was, of course, an excellent way to induce self-hypnosis: although that thought didn’t even occur to me until Pastor Scott himself mentioned it at a later meeting. His intention was to scoff at the notion preemptively, but instead he planted within me the first seed of doubt.
Did you know that you’re actually more likely to join a cult if you’re smart and educated? I didn’t. I was bright, an autodidact at that time, and a wounded creature in search of meaning and solace. Though I hadn’t been looking for religion, like everyone else on the coal-face of The Church I was trying to fill a hole I wasn’t even really aware of.
The Church lured you in with the promise of all encompassing love, and when you first joined they appeared uninterested in your money. They just wanted you. Like any good cult they set out to cut you off from the outside world, inch by inch. You were to be “of the world but not in it”
The Sunk Cost Fallacy is very real. When you join any costly group, they tempt you incrementally, using all sorts of psychological tools. You enter the labyrinth willingly. Before you know it, you’ve given up such a lot, the thought of having lost friends, family, money is too much for some. Even acknowledging the reality that you have been tricked and made foolish is painful, too painful for many. Nobody is more defensive than the victim of a con. The notion that it was all for nought is so painful, you thrash around trying to believe in the con for as long as you can.
And after all, I’d been raised Catholic. They weren’t asking me to believe dogma I’d never been exposed to before.
I remember Andrew talking of how he’d lost his fiancee to The Church. For him, the sacrifice had to be worth the cost. I barely escaped the same fate. I like to think my unconscious mind was looking out for me, trying to find a way out of the trap I was setting for myself. Although it may also have been plain good luck.
Anyway, the people on the coal-face believed Pastor Scott, and their sincerity was palpable. They were hoodwinking others, not because they were liars or cheats, but because they wanted with all their hearts to believe in him, and in The Church. I already liked these earnest, genuine supplicants. I wanted to believe they had a key to the secrets of the universe.
I never really had a handle on Pastor Scott. I didn’t like or dislike him, though I was intimidated by him, more or less by osmosis. But, as a basically honest person myself I had the unfortunate trait of believing what others told me. It took a long time and several hard life lessons to learn to analyse people’s words and pay attention to their actions, to question them even when it feels rude or cruel. To say no when I feel comfortable saying it. Most importantly, I learned many years later to never believe a rumour or a statement unless you were actually in the room yourself when it happened, or had seen the irrefutable evidence. But that’s part of another story.
So there I was, my knuckles white with heartfelt supplication, mumbling Hallelujah on my knees, while the boys pressed comfortingly close on either side, hands upon my shoulders, whispering their prayers into the still, warm air around me.
And the next moment I was face down, thrumming, some sort of sound wrenched from somewhere deep within me, and with no real awareness of how much time had passed. I emerged from the trance state vibrating very slightly, gabbling and utterly confused.
The experience seemed to be truly spiritual. And perhaps, despite a wicked man’s designs, it really was. Though I dismiss The Church as charlatans, and organised religion as our human attempts to explain the currently inexplicable, still I do not deny there is surely more to life than the simple materiality we experience. And whether a door was opened by self-hypnosis or not, on that afternoon in Cumbernauld I felt something which I do believe touched upon the divine.
I hung somewhere, barely aware of being me. I perceived a light piercing me, it was hot without burning and it speared all the way through me from the crown of my head, through my core and all throughout my body. I was filled with luminous warmth. I would have gladly stayed kneeling all day with no desire to awaken. This was euphoria. I’ve tried to recreate the experience, unsuccessfully, and not recently. Perhaps one day I’ll find the courage to try in earnest once again.
When Robert roused me and helped me to stand I was disorientated. They told me only a few minutes had passed, but for me it could have been an hour. My fingers and toes buzzed with a sort of electrical pulse for hours. It was astonishing. I felt alert, alive, awake. The very roots of my hair were faintly electrified.
To be clear, I’d been given nothing to eat or drink from Church members, prior to this happening. For those of you who may be wondering if I’d been slipped something, food and drink was always offered after worship, not before. And I did consider that possibility before dismissing it. Besides, I’d dabbled a few times in a few different drugs, and this was not that.
I’ve never forgotten the peculiar joy of those moments after the event. As in a half remembered dream, the blissful calm I felt for hours that day has lived in a secret place deep inside me, to be examined sometimes in the darkest parts of the night, or in quiet moments when the only noise is my own breathing.
Whatever happened that day, in a modest wee house in Cumbernauld, it left me with a yearning to feel it once again. As I felt it slip away from me as that day wore on, I became melancholy. I had almost been given something profound, and lost it again.
They called it “Receiving with Power”. After that, of course, I was in.
Their next move was getting me baptised, as quickly as possible.
And getting me away from my friends and family.
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship ceremony since 2002. If you’re reading this anywhere except Medium, this work may have been plagiarized.