My experience being apart of the UPCI
I was born and raised in the church. When my parents first arrived in the United States they craved community. I was not born yet it took a few years for me to enter the picture. Before I did my mom was a hardcore catholic. She once told my Dad that she would die a catholic. A few years later she was a dedicated member of the United Pentecostal Church. The persuasion of the church is a story worth noting as many people who were once devoted to their faith are swift in their devotion to the doctrine.
From the time I was born my parents were dedicated to the church. They would attend service four times a week. By the time I entered the picture my mom was a sunday school teacher. I was bred to be a devoted pentecostal I was fed the doctrine from a young age. I can name every scripture and witness tactic from memory. I went the Sunday School every single Sunday I never skipped a service. I wanted to listen to sermons and I devoted my life to the church. I don’t say I devoted my life to god because everything that was told to me and studied was from a man after all. My life was sacrificial and was not for myself but to amplify the doctrine. I was told from a young age what I must wear, how I should cut my hair, what I must watch, what I must listen to, and who I could and could not be friends with.
I spent my years surrounded by adults. I was barely around many children and I felt the need to be dedicated to providing the gospel. I was the local kid at school telling you to dedicate your life to Christ. I was so devoted to the word of god and following the teaching of the UPCI. At the age of 10, I was a part of the adult choir in which I was screamed at and ridiculed every rehearsal for years. I was a part of the youth ministry and often lead dance groups. Eventually, when I had enough of being criticized and torn apart I was reminded by the pastor that still echos in my head today, ‘that we all have to do things we don’t want to do’. The emotional manipulation still scars me today as I was so dedicated to being of service at such a young age I thought it was my purpose in life to be a sacrificial lamb.
I wish I knew then what I know now, that those words were abusive. Oftentimes when I part took in church events not because I wanted to do it but because I was forced to be a ‘leader’. I was constantly reminded and put in my place to be a good example. That the young girls of the church looked up to me for a reason.
There were not a lot of women in leadership as the pastor often spoke about how women will always be second to men. That woman should listen to men and to the man of god. There was no place for a woman to be a speaker or minister because men are the highest in the ‘hierarchy’. These same words are used today in describing misogyny and patriarchy that condemns women. That reinforces the social normative oppressiveness that brainwashes women to be silent. That forces women to be subjugated to men to be submissive to men.
I listened to every sermon and every man that would be perched on the alter would often just reiterate these same words. I came to realize that the UPCI doesn’t care to help those that need help. They are an organization that uses its influence to prey on marginalized communities. They use fear, shame, and judgment to make people fearful and open their wallets. As I became older something broke in me and it started with awakening to the abuse I went through as a child.
I never found it strange how the pastor was so close to the children. I became desensitized to the way the pastor would beat kids in the church basement. I became desensitized when I first saw the instance of abuse to someone I knew. I had opened the women's bathroom to see him with a young boy with his pants down whipping his bare behind. I became desensitized to the grooming that took place with me and how he would show up at my apartment, for my school events when I never asked him to. How he would want to get close to me. When he would walk around with his shirt off in the church office. When he made me sit on his lap or when he wanted to spend time alone with me to touch me. It wasn’t like these things were entirely hidden they were known but no one did a thing.
No one ever dared to raise their voice to the man of god or questioned him. A lot of the instances I mentioned are just a few instances of abuse I witnessed and experienced. I witnessed years of this man and organization spreading hate speech in the name of god to justify their hatred. He preyed on the vulnerable because that was his in. Preying on young kids in this false hope of mentorship when he was simply just a pedo. I watched as adults turned a blind eye and my family was torn apart.
In the years of listening to pastors and ministers saying rape is justified and gay people are evil and bound to hell I increasingly questioned the doctrine and what was being taught was not the gospel. Everything was rooted in judgment and shame over and over and over again. The reminders are that if we do not submit our life to christ our life our souls are doomed to hell.
Nothing was rooted in love.
Nothing was rooted in healing.
The doctrine was created to take control and personal power.
I found that I was getting sick. Sick and tired of seeing abuse being justified and witnessing people abuse their authority over children. The years of brainwashing put me in severe depression and the years of abuse resulted in PTSD. I left the church quietly and without saying much because I was focused on healing. I realized a part of my healing is talking about what I’ve been through. I am finally able to talk about it.
I swore growing up that I would always stay devoted to this doctrine but I came to realize the reality of the church. This doctrine is rooted in patriarchy, misogyny, and homophobia.
At 18 years old I left the church and thus started my journey to healing.
I write my story now after years of being silent In truth, I finally made it to the other side to talk about what happened to me. Dogmatic religions are not for me anymore. We live in a world that preys upon our personal power. To bind us to submission with fear.
Today I take back my power.
I am not afraid anymore.
What I seek now is justice.
I decided to finally write my story when I came across the Reddit page of ex-Pentecostals. To read more about others' experiences with ‘the church’ be sure to click the link below.
Below is a podcast that brilliantly breaksdown the history of the creation of the U.P.C.I.