Many ex-Followers tell the media that they left the church because they were tired of seeing children dying, but I don't remember anyone leaving for that reason. Sure, many Followers are upset about it and secretly disagree with it. But they don't leave for that reason. If you read this, and you’re an exception, please feel free to respond and tell your story. I don’t claim to know what everyone is thinking or feeling.
Here is a list of the top five reasons I believe people leave:
1. Freedom. A young women comes of age, eighteen years old, graduates from high school and finds no suitable husband. We are raised to know our place as women, and that is in the home, as somebody’s wife. Women are not to move out of their parents’ homes and live independently, they are to go from a father ruling over them to a husband. Related to this, we have been witness to hundreds of wedding ceremonies where young women – usually seventeen or eighteen years old – are asked if they will “love, honor, and obey” their husbands. That always pissed me off. To think I would have to obey one of those ignorant boys – ew!
2. Divorce. Divorce is not accepted among the Followers. If a couple divorces, regardless of who is at fault, typically the woman leaves church, via shunning. If a man commits adultery, the Followers interpret the Bible to say that his wife can either forgive him, or divorce him and live a celibate life. If a woman commits adultery, the man can throw her out and get a new wife. If a man feels his wife is disobedient he can use physical punishment. Not every man does this, but plenty do. If a man wants to divorce his wife, he can usually just do it and wait until she leaves. Once she has left church, he is considered “free” to remarry. Women can only remarry if their spouse dies.
3. Sin. Some people leave because they want to do things that are unacceptable as a Follower. Some identify as homosexual, which is not tolerated by the FOC. Some, mostly young men, want to date around (have premarital sex) without being tied down as a husband and father.
4. Faith. There have been a number of families who have left to become “born-again Christians.” I know of maybe two ex-Followers who say they do not believe in God. We believe, but come to realize that the rest of the world is not necessarily damned to Hell just because they weren’t born into that Oregon City group. Followers often have to go through counseling or some other form of “de-programming” to realize that they can accept Jesus as their personal savior and be assured of salvation. We were taught from early childhood that the only way to heaven was to be baptized by a preacher who was “called” to preach by God himself with many outward signs, such as speaking in tongues, seeing visions, etc. This preacher would have to be called from inside the Followers of Christ church since the rest of the world is damned already and this man’s “calling” would have to be confirmed by other Follower men of good standing, through dreams or visions of confirmation. While some Followers leave to attend other churches, others leave for less reputable causes (divorce/freedom) and then come to find a personal relationship with Jesus later. I think most ex-Followers consider themselves Christians.
5. Apathy. After attending a “church” where there has been no religious teaching for more than twenty years, many people just don’t see the point of going. This one probably is tied to the desire for freedom as well. Why let this group control you? Many apathetic Followers still attend church but do as they please behind closed doors. After all, they would be giving up too much to officially leave – friends, family, and security.
So these are the motives I know of why people leave. In my next post, I write about why people stay.