I didn’t start out to become a leader of cult, but it isn’t a bad gig. Just don’t take yourself too seriously. Looking back, I know when it started. I fell in love with the power to control and manipulate people. After only four years as a pastor, my interest in religion and ministry was waning. In fact, I had come to question everything that I once believed. I contemplated stepping down as pastor, but I struggled to let go of the power.
The power started subtly enough. Like many conservative churches, I emphasized the importance of a strong male figure in the home. Wives need to submit to their husbands. Children also need to learn submission and they require regular discipline. Children were never “too old” for discipline. And we all know there is only one kind of discipline that works, corporal punishment. The idea that wives also needed punishment was hinted at, but never spoken plainly. The stronger the message of adult male dominance, the more the church grew. Surprisingly, much of this growth was among young, single mothers.
As the church grew, the members wanted a school that would reflect their values. We opened the K-12 school with almost 200 students. I insisted on uniforms. Boys would wear slacks, button shirts, and ties. Girls were required to wear pleated skirts and knee socks. Naturally corporal punishment was used in the school. The parents/members insisted on that. In order to protect ourselves legally, we required all parents to sign a consent form allowing any teacher or administrator to use CP.
It wasn’t the school where I started to test the limits of my authority. Even before the school existed, I had started pushing the envelope during family counseling sessions. Many families have discipline problems with their teenagers. I started probing the manner in which discipline was performed, particularly if there were teenage daughters in the house. I would interview each of the parents and the teen individually about the discipline. I usually started with the teen. I found their hesitation and embarrassment highly arousing.
I particularly remember one 15 year old girl named Abby. I could see her cheeks blushing deep red, even though she hung her head so strongly. She was squirming and stammering as she told me how punishment was performed at her house.
“Whenever I am in trouble, my father tells me to go to his study and prepare for my punishment” she pauses and glances at me.
“Go on” I tell her. “how do you ‘prepare’?”
“When I go into his study I take off all of my clothes and fold them neatly on his desk. Then I kneel on the floor and wait for him. I feel like a dog kneeling on all fours and waiting. Sometimes it is over with quickly, other times he makes me wait for a long time. When he enters, he already has his belt in his hand. He waits while I recount how I have misbehaved and need to be punished for my behavior. After I have ‘asked’ to be spanked, he starts. I hear the whistle of the belt as it moves through the air and then the crack as it hits my bottom. I hear it several seconds before I start to feel it. Then comes another and another. I always get at least 10 whacks with the belt. One time, it was 30. I had marks on my bottom and thighs for a week.”
I also interviewing her mother, and it became a template I followed in later interviews.
“Does your daughter receive regular spankings?” I wanted to start with easy questions to answers in order to get the mother talking.
“How are these spankings applied? Does your daughter have to remove her panties?” “Unless it is very minor, her father insists on bare-bottom spankings.”
“What does he spank her with?”
“Usually his belt. If it’s minor, he might just use his hand. When it is really bad, he has a special strap and a rod.”
I insisted that moms provide as many details as possible. “What position is she ususally spanked it?”
“Can you show me?”
She, like most mothers, agrees, bending forward and resting her hands on her bent knees.
“Do her private parts show in this position?”
“Usually, depending on how far she bends over.”
“Do her private parts ever get hit during her punishments?”
“I wouldn’t say usually, but certainly sometimes.”
“Is it on purpose, or an accident?”
“I’m not sure. Knowing my husband, probably on purpose.”
“Do you think her punishments are too harsh or too lenient?”
“Usually, too harsh.”
“Does you husband spank you as well?”
I conclude by talking to father, and suggesting stronger punishments, particularly for the daughters.