I was born in 1950 (and yes, I’ll save you the time, that makes me 72) to a family in the midwestern US. My father was from Kansas and my mother from Indiana. My father was a preacher in the 2×2 church prior to marrying my mother. Both families (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) were – as far as I know- also members of this church, as well as at least one uncle being a preacher also. The only surviving Indiana convention is on my grandparents’ (deceased of course) farm. There were three Indiana conventions at one time.
I spent roughly 40 years or so in “the truth,” and left in 1992. I grew up on a farm, attended meetings regularly, went to school and participated in zero sports as ball games and any after-school activities (dances– God forbid) were frowned upon.
Enough of my background as I would like to reiterate some of the other requirements necessary to be numbered among the “few”. Workers regularly broke off antennas (yes we had antennas in those days) at conventions, and there was strict adherence to no playing cards or TVs expected in the home. The dress code was enforced with rigor as well. Women’s dresses were to be about a hymn book-length from the floor- but not to the floor as that was considered worldly. Any dress mid-knee or above would get you tossed or at least reprimanded by the sister workers, and men just dressed normally (rules were made by men, obviously ).
Women’s hair was to be uncut and piled in some sort of bun (hence the bun church) on top of the head with absolutely no makeup, earrings or jewelry (plain wedding band being the lone exception). Men again – normal haircuts but not too long (that would get you a-talking-to by the workers). I was told to not come back until I had gotten a haircut when I was attending college and couldn’t afford a cut. When I was a child, black stockings for women and a mustache for men were also in vogue but this seemed a carryover from the Old Country and eventually faded, and mustaches were even frowned upon at one point—maybe now, for all I know.
As you can see, the outward appearance is considered vital to the wooing of outsiders into this enclave, although in reality, it has the opposite effect. I remember very few converts in the 40 or so years I was a member. We always excused that as “well they just weren’t honest of heart or they would be drawn,” and so they rely heavily on guilt-tripping the children.
One other area that sticks out in my mind is the origin of the church. We were told that it was a long succession back to the disciples—when in reality, it was started in Ireland in the late 1800s. I always wished someone would have asked George Walker to name some of the workers in that long line when I was a kid, but when this revelation came to light, we were told that a stump remained until God revived it (no mention of the billions of lost souls for almost 1900 years though).
Now you might think that these restrictions and the origin would be my main issue with this church, but actually, they are not. As ridiculous, unnecessary and unbiblical as they are. the one thing that makes this control possible is the claim of exclusivity. We were also told that this was the only true way and that all other churches were false, and those people were going to hell. The one thing that made this the only true way was the fact that the preachers gave up everything and went out 2×2 (hence the 2x2s). This in effect made the preachers God’s gatekeepers as no one entered heaven unless they heard the ”truth“ from the workers. This claim is the key to complete control over their members, especially the children.
Children do not have the capacity nor the proper reference points to refute or affirm such claims and when their salvation is literally held over their heads depending upon their adherence to arbitrary rules such as dress, hair, jewelry, etc., etc., it creates a fear that generally guarantees compliance. This spiritual bludgeoning can, and often does, have lifelong consequences. Many children have had their salvation questioned, and in fact, been suspended from “taking part” (code for – your salvation is on hold, pending compliance). A little public shaming generally accomplished that goal in relatively short order and then, and only then, could they resume participating.
And on a related note, I have a question. When a person (mostly children) ”make their choice” at convention, they are required to wait a year (next convention) to be baptized. I have always understood that they are on probation (I was) and under observation for that year to determine if that profession was genuine. My question is this: are they saved during that year, or is their salvation again pending approval by the workers? Will they ever know if they have done enough and is any of this scriptural?
Salvation does seem to be elusive at best and depends entirely upon words, actions and workers’ approval- although this is a bit of a paradox as no one ever seems assured of their salvation. Again, at the heart of this deception is the claim of exclusivity, and I challenge anyone to produce one verse in the Bible that supports this claim (I will discuss Mathew 10 with anyone).
When we come to the realization that we are blood-bought and secure as we accept God’s free gift of salvation, it brings freedom from all bondage that includes all “you better or else” edicts from any church leaders, and that includes the workers. This salvation isn’t dependent upon anything we can do, have done, or promise to do, nor is it within the discretion of any man to grant or take away. Any service we render from that point on is motivated by love and gratitude and has absolutely zero to do with our salvation. Bottom line—we are saved by grace—plus nothing, and our complete allegiance is to Jesus Christ and no one else.
We are now attending a wonderful small Bible-based church that has many ministries including a great youth ministry that’s turning out some amazing kids and some are now involved in ministries in foreign countries as well as their schools. I write this for basically two reasons.
I am so burdened for the people who have been spiritually damaged by this false claim of exclusivity. They know that some things are not right with this church, but are stuck in spiritual neutral because they aren’t sure where to turn and doing nothing seems the better option. Of course, they are written off as “unwilling for the truth” and are the subject of many gossip sessions back home. But once you make that break, even family become distant relatives at best. Believe me, there are good churches out there, so don’t give up.
The other reason I write this is to ask that the workers and members stop and consider this false claim of exclusivity. You are judging another man’s servant (God’s), and we know where that high-minded attitude landed the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. We can judge actions and words using the scripture as our yardstick, but God knows the thoughts and intent of the heart and is therefore the final judge of all his creation. This is terribly damaging and in fact dangerous to the body of Christ as they claim the moral high ground by judging others, and I fear that (particularly the workers) will be held accountable for a false representation of God’s word.
This has been my experience. Good day and God bless.
June 5, 2022
As a postscript, I had never heard of the “living witness doctrine” until I read this book, but then again, all church history was sort of fuzzy and carefully avoided by the workers. Questions were deftly sidestepped by the workers, and anyone asking too many questions was quickly labeled a troublemaker and some were shown the door. This doctrine was adopted in about 1907 and, I believe, transformed this religion into a cult overnight by elevating the workers’ status to the “gatekeepers of heaven.” In one fell swoop, it relegated every Christian not associated with them to eternal damnation. That unbiblical falsehood is still being taught today.
Revised August 17, 2022