Netflix has begun its Halloween offerings, which include another disturbing season of Haunted. The series gives survivors of hauntings the chance to tell their stories while the episode reenacts the events cinematically in the background.
The latest string of short episodes offers a surprising story that barely touches on the spiritual realm, yet remains disturbingly tragic.
The episode titled Cult of Torture touches on one man’s story of growing up in an abusive Christian cult and it’s one of the most surprising episodes to date.
But are the details of Cult of Torture based on real life? Here is some information about The Worldwide Church of God and New Bethany Home for Boys.
What is the Haunted episode Cult of Torture about?
Imagine that you’re a normal child until one day your mom watches a televangelist and decides to rip you away from everything you’ve ever known to join a church that firmly believes being a homosexual is sinful and can be tortured away, James Swift did more than just imagine.
When he was 6, his parents moved him to live with the followers of The Worldwide Church of God and that’s when the nightmare really began. A random man of God set his sights on this family from the very beginning, spanking James’ little brother when he felt his orders were ignored.
Later, this pastor would approach the Swift’s and accuse young James (at 6 years old) of being gay. And in the world of this drastic church, that was a demonic sin to end all sins.
But they had a solution, they could take away his food, and try to make him respond to the touch of a woman, even if this woman was his mother. When he was 15, they sent him to be “cured” of his desires at a place called New Bethany Home for Boys, where he was locked up, fed dog food, hung from the ceiling and forced to stand for hours, electrically shocked while looking at photos of men kissing, and he was even violently sexually abused.
When they finally let him go after 17 weeks, his dad kicked him out because the home had accused James of not trying hard enough to be “cured.” At this point, the boys’ aunt took him in, and James slowly started to realize there was nothing wrong with him or his desires.
But a look at James shows that he is still recovering from this trauma.
Who is Herbert W. Armstrong?
And the man responsible for the church that would scar James forever? Herbert W. Armstrong. What’s his story? He is featured under Heretic of the Week in the Catholic Herald. So what did he believe?
Armstrong lived by the doctrine that one shouldn’t celebrate Christmas and that Queen Elizabeth is actually the heir of King David rather than Christ. A prolific radio host, he raised millions but after he died, the church wiped his teachings from their doctrine even though a few “splinter groups” still follow his teachings today.
According to Swift, the reason Armstrong lost all of this is that it was discovered he was a pedophile, abusing his own daughter.
Does the Worldwide Church of God that Armstrong started still exist?
In a word, yes it still exists but not in the way one might think. Brittanica explains that the church (also called the Radio Church of God) has now moved into a more mainstream version of Christianity, but not before its founder took them down a crazy path that they are still trying to recover from today.
When Armstrong began the church that would later be considered a cult, they had some pretty bizarre and ritualistic beliefs. According to Religion News, church members held a Saturday service and observed all of the Jewish dietary restrictions that those of the Old Testament times followed. Unlike the standard Christian doctrine it is now trying to return to, Armstrong advocated for a 30 percent tithe rather than 10 percent.
Armstrong encouraged his flock to believe that they were the only true church. And even though the church claimed to believe in God and Jesus, they also believed their members were the only ones going to heaven. Not only did they not celebrate Christmas, but they also rejected most other standard holidays as well, according to the Catholic Herald.
What was the New Bethany Home for Boys?
So what happened to the New Bethany Home for Boys? According to Louisiana Voice, those in authority over the home were never even criminally charged for the abuse they inflicted on both boys and girls in different locations, though Swift does explain in the episode that the homes were eventually shut down when the abuse was discovered.
Surrounded by beautiful woods, the inhumane and evil treatment of the children there was incongruous with the scenery. The coverups still continue in political circles, even if the horrific homes are now shut down.
A survivor of the horrific abuse incurred in the home explains on her blog Victimized No More that while “his homes were up and running, he was receiving $750.00 per child who was living there.” She further says that the man who ran the homes was, “a child abuser and pedophile who… abused young girls and boys.”
This letter was written in 2010 in response to a church who was still giving money to the New Bethany home and the church even though it was no longer running.
The idea of the tithe the church collected being used to promote the heinous and large scale abuse is disgusting, and the idea of it happening after the abuse and neglect were made public is even more so.
One can only hope that more men and women like James can come forward with their stories, and find the healing and reparations they so deserve. And that evil men like Herbert W. Armstrong can be held accountable.
Haunted Season 2 is now on Netflix.
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