Randy, Sam and I walked up the stairs to the second floor of the MCM House.
The upstairs had the same fresh paint and new carpet smell of remodeling as did the downstairs. At the top of the stairs I caught glimpses of bedrooms through open doors. Most had futons or sleeping bags strewn on the floors.
We walked to the end of the hall and entered a fully furnished room. It had a bed, a chest of drawers, a mahogany desk and stacked bookshelves. Three empty metal chairs faced the desk. A young man with wire rimmed glasses perched on his nose, wearing a turtle neck sweater, with thinning hair brushed to one side of his head stood to greet us as we walked in.
He had the look of a scholar and the air of one as well.
He greeted me and introduced himself as Marty. Marty had been the administrator at MCM’s Ole Miss University ministry and now held this post now at Auburn.
We sat down while Randy told Sam and Marty about me. Sam, the associate Pastor of Auburn’s MCM, and Marty, the administrator, proceeded to pepper me with questions while Randy looked and observed the session.
Have you accepted Jesus as your savior?” [“Yes,” I answered, “When I was 10 years old.”]
“Is there sin in your life?” [“Yes.”]
“Are you engaging in immoral behavior?” [“I don’t think so…uh…I am not sure.”]
“Is Jesus Lord of everything in your life?” [“I think so, but based on what I heard from Ellen, Randy and Bob I am not so sure now.”]
“Are you sharing your faith in Jesus…are you bearing fruit and bringing people to Jesus?” [“No, and that is what made me want to listen to Randy today and then come here after hearing Bob talk tonight. I am not bearing fruit and want to do so as a Christian.” ]
This went on for about an hour. I was starting to doubt my salvation; although none of them challenged my faith directly. They just continued asking direct and simple questions of me.
Then Sam said, “Tik, we prayed about you this afternoon and asked God to open your heart to His Word. The Bible is not something you read on Sunday for it is actually the Word that John speaks of in John 1:1.”
He pointed to the scripture in his open Bible.
He quoted John 1. “It divides right from wrong. The living from bad living, evil from good. It is the light that shines in the darkness.”
He then quoted Paul, “For the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.”
“You see Tik we are going to see what Jesus, the Word incarnate, says about your life. Not man’s interpretation, not what we think about your life and how you are living, not how man views your life, nor the traditions of man, but what God Himself, Jesus, says about your life. ”
Marty then opened his Bible and read, “What profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” And then this verse: “For whoever would save his own life shall lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake shall gain it.”
“But,” I said, “I thought that was referring to the martyrs. What does that have to do with me?”
“You see Tik,” said Sam leaning towards me and speaking in a hushed tone, “we prayed about you intensely this afternoon… and the Lord [with emphasis]… gave us a WORD about you: that you have a worldly man pleasing spirit. That you are both smart and ambitious and have been given tremendous talents, but are using them to promote yourself… to satisfy your own ego rather surrendering everything completely to Jesus”.
Now remember, I was pretty naïve. This miraculous word that God gave them hit me hard.
Did they actually believe they heard this all directly from God? Or was it all plain old manipulation?
Now I believe that the old trick fortune teller’s trick deceived all of us in that room that evening.
The carefully crafted questions posed to the subject, followed by an affirming play back of the answers given ut with subtle twists, that pointed towards a pre-determined answer, provided by the subject himself, reeked of the fortune teller’s trick.
Just as a fortune teller combines employees all of these tricks to get the subject to believe in that a super natural power is at work so did the MCM team that night. Don’t mistake this for an accusation of witchcraft on my part, far from it. What happened that night has an earthly psychological explanation, nothing more, and nothing less, than that.
You see Sam, Marty and Randy deceived themselves first and then they deceived me. I believed they actually believed that God was telling them these things. I certainly did. We all wanted to believe it and so it became true to us that night.
I shall show later that this dual deception of both the victim and the victimizer represents one of the keys to understanding how MCM, and other sociological cults ensnare people and then hold onto them come what may. For the victim WANTS to believe what is being told to them. They work to actively entraps themselves in a psychological net woven by both the victim and victimizer.
I think everyone in that room was sincerely and completely deceived. No one was purposefully lying, at least not that night.
For you see, I had poured my guts out to Randy and Bob Weiner that very day after the Praise Band concert at the frat house. Later that afternoon Randy then met with Sam and Marty where all three of them of discussed everything I shared about my life earlier that day. They then used this knowledge to script both the questions they posed to me and the affirming commentary they provided to my answers. They seemed sincere in thinking that these conclusions came from God.
But they did not.
These conclusions came from Randy and Bob’s interrogation of me earlier at the frat house.
I am certain of this.
Because later at MCM I found myself doing the same thing with prospective converts. Having God “convict” them with my careful questioning. And my knowing questions for the prospective convert were born from what that they had told me, or others, in previous sessions. And you will see this unfold below as I relate what happened that evening.
Randy summarized the issues that I had:
1) Personal ambition that kept me climbing the ladder in my frat and in school; and,
2) my concern about my lack of closeness with God; and,
3) my lack of fruit, spirituality and holiness.
Then abruptly Marty, the MCM Auburn administrator, cut in with this questions, “Tikie tell us about your family.”
And I did.
I told them about my strict Korean War vet workaholic straight arrow Dad. About my eight brothers and sisters. About my devout mother and grandmother (both hard shell Baptists).
Marty steered the discussion into my sports participation and overachievement in high school that carried over into college.
Randy chimed in, “You know Tik you mentioned you were always vying for your Father’s attention. ”
He looked at Marty and Sam and they both nodded.
Randy continued, “First I think that you have a spirit of oppression on you because of your worldly father’s neglect. You have substituted the passion and wish to succeed in life for the wish to please your Heavenly Father. We are going to drive those demons from your life tonight so you will be free of these chains and set you free to use your talents for the Kingdom. ”
Marty chimed in, “In Matthew Jesus tells us what acts we must take for salvation.”
He read from the Bible slowly, “One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
And then he read, “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”
“You see Tik”, Marty continued, “you tell us you want to be good- but no one is good who is NOT keeping his commandments. Are you keeping his commandments? Have you left everything? ”
I said I had not and I knew I had not.
Then Marty quoted from the book of Peter, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win.”
I was ripe for all of this. I knew my life did not stack up to the example given in the New Testament. I knew that they were right that I was very ambitious, I had not given Christ everything; I had not left everything behind.
This was all true. And they were using this truth as a weapon against me.
“You see Tik Jesus said ‘For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?”
“The problem with you Tik,” said Marty, “is that you have never counted the costs. You never gave everything to Jesus. You have never asked him to be Lord of Everything. Are you willing to give it all up? To count everything as lost to live like Peter and Paul? Are you ready to be a real follower of Jesus, a doer of the word. instead of a fake pretend Christian who hides his bushel in the dark?”
It was all hitting home.
I thought back to Bob’s quoting Jesus in the frat house, “I will deny you if you deny me.”
I thought about the last four years of my life and the youth pastor in my home church who got fired for having interracial Bible studies. I thought of the hypocrisy I saw at that same church. MCM members seemed to live the Christian life of the early first century church (or at least what I thought it might have been like) and that contrasted starkly with what I saw at Auburn’s Christian student groups like BSU and CCC (Cru).
These guys were, “Sold out and on fire,” as Bob had put it. Randy was here from Martinsville, Sam from Paducah while Marty hailed from Oxford MS and they seemed true examples of first century Christians.
“But,” I said, “I asked Jesus into my heart. I am a Christian. I just need to get my act together. ”
Marty looked at me for a moment, and the other three leaned forward. One- two-three, the seconds moved slowly as we all sat in silence.
“Not everyone,” Marty quoted the Bible, “who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.”
I started for this contradicted what I had learned in the Baptist Church.
“What about John 3:16?” I asked. “What about the phrase whosoever?”
Sam answered: “Tik, Jesus was talking to a religious leader Nicodemus. A VERY religious man.”
He opened the book of John and showed me the earlier verses.
It was true- funny I had never read the earlier parts before John 3:16..
“This guy Nicodemus was praying to God all the time.”
Then he read, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will go to heaven.”
“Find me a place in the Bible where it says say a one little prayer and then are immediately saved.”
You see the problem was that I knew enough about Christianity to understand what they were talking about: that I had sin and was sinful (I still am by the way, as are we all!).
But I did not know enough about the scriptures they were quoting, nor about theology or life, to win this battle.
Of course I could have countered with some pointed questions like, “What about the thief on the cross?” or, “What about the parable of the worker who comes late and earns as much as the workers who worked all day for the master”?
But own ignorance, and, weirdly enough, the very ambition and smarts that they chastised me for, helped them point me down the road to bondage.
Here were the milestones on that road I walked down that night:
- I was a Christian but without a deep knowledge of scripture and theology. For goodness sake I did not understand the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism and had never heard of Pelagianism. For Maranatha was hyper Arminian at this point, almost Pelagian-like with bits of whacky Latter Rain Pentecostal theology thrown into boot (of course the theology of MCM would veer crazily over the coming years and had little logic to it regardless).
- I knew enough scripture for them to wound me- but not enough about it to understand the context of the verses. A great read on this twisting of scripture by Christian based sociological cults is the book “Twisted Scriptures” by Mary Alice Chrnalogar.
- My own guilt at not living up to ideal First Century Christianity. I knew I did not measure up to Jesus This was impossible of course, what I really needed was a month-long deep study of Romans and Hebrew. For who can measure up to Christ? NO ONE!
- They love bombed me while playing on my guilt. But at the same time same time they made me feel special. They pointed out that God had a really special plan for me and that I could be on the inside of something really great playing out on earth today. This took advantage of what anyone who knows me understands is a giant weak spot for me: my ego!
Marty said, “The problem is Tik is that you are a lukewarm believer in Jesus. But you are not a follower of Jesus. Oh you are religious, just like Nicodemos. But Jesus makes it clear that only those who have given who have given everything up will have eternal life. You told us you have NOT done this. You have also told us you are NOT bearing fruit. For Jesus said that He will chop down and burn all the trees that do not bear fruit. That He will separate the wheat from the tares and burn the tares.”
Marty leaned forward again and said in a low tone, “Tik- you are NOT a Christian! Christian means little Christ and you know in your heart, you have told us in fact that you are NOT a little Christ. You are NOT keeping his commandments. You are NOT, therefore saved.”
The other two begin praying softly in whispers.
“You are breaking your Heavenly Father’s heart. He is calling out to you; calling your name; and you have ignored him and are living for your own ambition and are under the yoke of a demonic spirit.”
Tears were coming down my face. As far as I knew they had discerned (as I would later term it) everything about my life and they were God’s instruments.
“What must I do?” I asked.
Marty pointed to his Bible and some highlighted scriptures saying, ” You must declare Jesus as Lord, you must repent, be baptized, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
“I want to do that, but how?” I asked.
All three of them laid hands on me and begin jabbering in that weird language “shabalabala dear God shabalabal, shababalalaaa….”
And Marty shouted out, “I rebuke you Satan and I tell you, you demons of religion and you spirit of witchcraft [“Huh- demons and witchcraft???” I thought] you LEAVE this young man and I banish you all in the NAME of Jesus the almighty powerful name- by which all must bow! ”
Then Marty said , “Repeat after me…”
“Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord…”
And I repeated this about ten times.
And Sam said, “Are you ready to give up EVERYTHING for JESUS. To give up your ambition, your family, your friends in fact your life to make him LORD?”
I nodded yes…and they all broke into “Hallelujahs …thank you JESUS!”
And Sam said, “Brother, God is speaking to me and telling me that TIK has truly begun his repentance and counted the cost.”
“Tik are you ready to follow Jesus wherever he leads?”
I answered “Yes.”
“Are you ready to give up everything your life, friends and your ego?”
I nodded and murmured through my tears “Yes.”
“Are you ready for baptism?”
Sam looked at the others and then nodded.
“Let’s take him to Bob and explain baptism to him for we have water and we have the Spirit.”
And they led me back downstairs.
I had been upstairs for about two hours.
And my life was about to taking a radical turn that would lead me in a strange direction for the next five years.