Author: Ben Appel

As a Gay Child in a Christian Cult, I Was Taught to Hate Myself. Then I Joined the Church of Social Justice—and Nothing Changed

I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, in a fundamentalist Christian community called The Lamb of God. What began in the mid-1970s as a small group of born-again hippies who played music, prayed together, and proselytized to whoever would listen about Jesus’s unconditional love and mercy, descended into authoritarianism in the 1980s after its founder linked up with the broader charismatic renewal movement that had been sweeping the nation. The Lamb of God’s doctrine became explicit—Christianity good; Islam, feminism, secular humanism, and Marxism bad; and the rules strict—complete submission of all members to the leadership, and of all wives to their husbands. My father was one of the five male leaders, or “coordinators.” My mother, though she had at one time been considered for the corresponding female role of “handmaid,” was never officially appointed to the position. This meant that she was excluded from the leadership’s official meetings, segregated by sex, in which coordinators and handmaids would discuss the goings-on of their underlings—who was having marital problems, who was doubting the faith, who …