Church experience

My first experience with the Chicago Church of Christ was in August, 1992 when a church leader approached me in the student center to come to a Bible study. I accepted, not realizing what I was getting myself into at the time.

I had been reluctant to write anything about it, but the recent expose on ABC’s 20/20 and The Northern Star’s articles on the subject have given me the incentive I needed to tell my story.

Since I was in a very short time, my own experiences aren’t nearly as dramatic as some, but it may give some insight into the church life.

For the most part, they’re very nice, friendly people. However, they’re also very close knit and have virtually no contact with other Christian groups or activities. For example, you’d never find them at an abortion rescue or pro-life rally, nor would you see them at conferences with mainstream born-again Christian groups.

The first thing I noticed about them was that they wanted you to come to their Bible studies nearly every night. At first when I’d tell them about something else I had planned for the next night, they’d look at one another and say “Well, I think we have a meeting in Chicago tomorrow, perhaps the night after.” I remember thinking “Don’t these guys ever take a break?”

During these meetings there would usually be no more than me and maybe one other new guy and several longtime members. They were heavy into “discipleship” and emphasized strongly that I should willingly follow their lead.

They asked me about some details of my sex life and all my sexual sins. I told them about all the girls I had been with and where I knew them from, not realizing until very recently that they keep a “sin list” to be used against you at a later time if need be.

Once at a Bible study Mike recounted in slow, graphic detail the crucifixion of Jesus. He then told me that every time I sin that’s what I do to him. Although I believed that to be true, I told him that I had to use my reason and logic to get over the emotional response that they were trying to evoke from me. He told me that there was something wrong with my heart and that I needed to find out who God was.

I told them that if I could go out of town on my rare weekends off to visit friends and family, I’d find a good born again Christian church to attend, not just a social group that calls itself a church. I was surprised by their sullen faces and strong reluctance, not realizing then that they believed that only they were saved.

Through that time I was told when I asked that they were “nondenominational” but I sometimes heard a reference to the “Church of Christ.”

I told them that I was confused over their doctrine that salvation can easily be lost through sinning, and that I wanted them to meet my Christian sister Jacqui from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. They scoffed at the beliefs of “those Moody people” and didn’t like my idea of a debate over the salvation issue with her.

Nevertheless, I invited her over for Sunday church service. The night before when she arrived, I began to describe the beliefs of my new “nondenominational” church. She quickly realized who they were and warned me they were a cult. I persuaded her to go with me the next day, and we prayed together the night before for guidance.

The next day after the church service, they didn’t even introduce themselves to her and avoided her. After getting me, alone Mike asked me to come to a Bible meeting the next day.

The next day when he called, I told him that I felt I had to leave the church. When he asked why I told him that I needed some time to myself to find other viewpoints on Christianity.

Leaving the Church and everybody cold turkey was painful for me, but I knew I had to get away. I still haven’t found all the answers yet, but as a Libertarian and a Christian I have a new motto for myself, one that I think everyone should follow before getting involved with a cult or religion, that is, “Obedience to God, but independence before men!”