The devout worship of God—what Dave Schaible calls love—is something else to Alice: fear. Alice (not her real name) left First Century 14 years ago, when she was 18.
Alice says she had been sexually abused by two older brothers; both her parents were dead, of medical problems she now believes were treatable. She was depressed to the point of attempting suicide, and had lost her faith in the church. “I realized that I was being lied to,” she says. She had, for example, been forced to walk around her whole childhood with terrible vision. “I was told if I was leading my life right, I could see,” she says. “That it was punishment from God.”
An aunt who had left the church invited Alice to stay with her in Colorado. Alice was warned by her family that if she got on the plane it would crash, which freaked her out so much that her aunt had to fly a son to Philly so he could fly back out with Alice.
Even in Colorado, she says, the stranglehold of First Century was a form of post-traumatic stress. Leaving the church can feel like not just a shift in lifestyle, but the loss of existence, given that members, most of whom live in Northeast Philly, go to school and socialize and worship with each other almost exclusively. Most marriages occur within the church.
In Colorado, Alice went to a doctor for the first time, and was vaccinated. Yet she continued to be afraid. She often had terrible cramps; a relative offered aspirin. Alice didn’t want to take it. Her aunt told her that if anybody asked, she made Alice swallow the aspirin. As she took them, Alice prayed: Please don’t let it work. I’m sorry I took it.
Over coffee, Alice says she’s better now. She’s relocated back here. She works in the medical field, wears glasses, worships at a new church, and would like to create a halfway house for others who want to make the leap away from First Century but are afraid.
“I hear about people leaving all the time,” she says. They need a halfway house, she adds, to help get the ominous warnings of what God will allow to happen to them, drilled in by the First Century faithful, out of their heads.