Editor’s note: Soon after this was published on Tik’s original blog he was contacted by Ellen (not her real name) who immediately apologized for being the bait that helped draw him into the group. Of course Ellen, according to Tikie, was just as much, if not more, of a victim than he was. Ellen was not to blame for Tikie’s involvement and he asked us to make this certain point. Tikie’s theory about how people ensnare themselves in sociological cults, which he discusses later in this blog, makes this perfectly clear. In short Ellen was a victim of MCM, no more, no less.
Saturday October 1978: Ellen
The rain pelted hard against the window panes as I walked down the winding stairs. Reaching the first floor landing I could hear the blaring television from the empty TV room of the fraternity house.
Auburn had a game scheduled that afternoon with the University Tennessee in Knoxville some six hours away. The social chairman of our fraternity had organized a bus trip that would drive members to the game for the weekend. About half of our fraternity and their dates left for the all night bus trip (translation: a drunken all night brawl) around midnight the night before. From my perspective it did not seem like the trip there and back would be much fun unless your idea of entertainment involved a shower in Miller Beer and having someone vomit all over you and with no way to get cleaned up. The rest of my fraternity brothers had either headed home for the weekend or were perhaps holed up somewhere studying or sleeping off the previous night’s fun.
For once the house was as quiet as Auburn’s Draughn Library. So rather than heading there I settled down for a study session in the deserted social room. No sooner had I opened my books than there came a loud knock from the front of the house; which I found both startling and strange.
Startling, because apparently the knock came from a metal door knocker on the front door of our Greek columned Frat House. Until that point I did not know that such a door knocker even existed. Strange because no one, at least not during in my two years of living at the house, had EVER used the elaborately carved front door. Ever!
I opened the door and there, framed by that door, stood a gorgeous black-haired, dark-eyed girl. Next to her, ramrod straight, stood a tall blond guy. Both had their arms full of colorful flyers and posters. Each wore the preppy style clothing that had swept the campus this fall ( for you youngsters we were just moving out of the John Travolta/ polyester suit phase!). He with penny loafers, khakis and a buttoned down shirt; she wearing tight pants and a form-fitting black sweater.
And me being 19 years old, well, I am not ashamed to admit that her figure and looks had me nailed!
She smiled, he smiled, [rows of white teeth!] and she said, “We are with a new group of kids from UT Martinsville who are establishing a college outreach at Auburn and wondered if we could put a couple of posters up?”
The blond guy reached out to shake my hand and soon we were sitting in the social area with the pair peppering me with questions.
I guess I grew up early but even as a nine or ten-year old I noticed that people’s conversations tend to center on themselves, their experiences, their feelings and interests.
It’s just the way most people are.
My early social success, and many of my later ones even today as President of a large company, center on the fact that if you focus on what interests people, and on what they have accomplished, you can get them to do almost anything for you and they will think you are a WONDERFUL conversationalist to boot.
Now these two very good-looking people caught me way off guard for they kept pushing the conversation towards me, my interests, my experiences and what motivated me in school and in life. I found this both disconcerting and exhilarating at the same time.
The whole conversation stuck me as an unusual one and this should have been a warning for me.
Well with this very pretty girl showing a great deal of interest in me I stayed engaged in the conversation. Her beauty, warm smile and charm lowered my guard. Her handsome side kick showed a great deal of interest in everything I said as well.
Looking back on it I should have asked myself, “Why are two perfect strangers so immersed and mesmerized by my story?”
Over the following years I came to stark conclusions about their attitude towards me that day; but I’ll save them until later-on.
I finally managed to turn the conversation back to them.
“What kind of outreach brings you to Auburn?” I asked them.
“And who is this Bob Weiner and the Praise Band that your poster is advertising? ”
“And why set up yet ANOTHER campus ministry at Auburn?”
This last question was an important one because Rat Riley and Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) had a huge following at Auburn. In addition the Navigators met each week in differing locations on campus, Intervarsity had a thriving group and the Wesley Foundation, with its massive near campus center, attracted a large assembly of kids every Saturday and Wednesday night. The BSU (Baptist Student Union), one of the groups I hung out with, had a huge membership. And the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (the FCA) had a number of high-profile varsity jocks attending their twice weekly meetings.
Good Lord Auburn served as the brass plate of the Bible Belt and yet these guys were building a new church here?
Both of them, it turned out had come from Martinsville TN and had spent two years there with Maranatha Ministries building out that campus ministry. Before that they worked with the same Maranatha Ministries in Paducah, Kentucky.
They told me that they followed Jesus (I thought it odd that they always used the name Jesus, never Christ or Jesus Christ the way I had learned to do as a kid) and that they had sold out to Jesus. When they spoke of Bob, their leader, they became animated and excited.
“He is really something else, a dynamo, and he leads people who really want to follow Jesus… just the way the original disciples did two thousand years ago. You will love Bob!”
For some reason, and I don’t think that either of them intimated this, I came away from this conversation thinking that Maranatha Campus Ministries and Maranatha Music (the newly minted Christian Music Company that produced songs that I loved) were one and the same thing.
But that assumption was dead wrong.
They found out that I served in the student government and that I also served as the newly elected president of my social fraternity. They acted impressed and excited about this. I did not consider the implications of this strange enthusiasm about my leadership position in the frat. In contrast, the Baptist Student Union leader, Chris, actually counseled me against taking on this new role as President.
“Too much risk and time involved,” he had counseled.
After talking awhile they told me God had given me strong leadership gifts. They said that I should see my leadership ability as a gift (which I believed and still do believe).
But later that night it struck me as odd that they would say all of this without really knowing anything about me.
Then Ellen (not her real name), asked me, “Are you really using all of your potential in the way that God would have you use it?”
What a loaded and carefully aimed question she asked!
I had to answer that I probably had not done so. Her question went right to my soul because I had grappled with this since high school.
I still grapple with that question today.
They asked if I would come to a service that evening at the Maranatha House: an old fraternity house the group refurbished over the summer. In addition they mentioned that the Maranatha sponsored rock group, the Praise Band, continued to play ‘gigs’ all over campus.
“Could the Praise Band perform this Tuesday during lunch at the Fraternity House and could our leader, Bob Weiner, speak afterwards?”
Again I made the mistake of thinking that this was a band sponsored by Maranatha Music and that thought really jazzed me up.
Now technically the social chairman and social committee of the frat had to approve such a request from an outside group. But I thought, “This fraternity could use a dose of Christian music and if Bob Weiner is anything like these two I am it sure could do this Fraternity some good.”
Over the next few years I would see this decision to allow the Praise Band to play, and Bob Weiner to preach, at my fraternity as the best decision I had ever made and one clearly inspired by God.
But now I see the decision that day as a very sad one, and one that would bring heartache to many, including myself.
But I have long since realized that we make our decisions and mistakes and live with them ourselves.
However, I often wonder what would have happened if I had given Ellen and Randy the boot that day.