Blog

#68 The Journey to Recovery

The Journey to Recovery

“I years had been from home,

And now, before the door,

I dared not open, lest a face

I never saw before

Stare vacant into mine

And ask my business there.

My business, — just a life I left,

Was such still dwelling there?”

Emily Dickinson

 

*******

I finally finished reading the re-edited blog in September 2017. My intention, when shuttering the original in 2010, was to not look back again at MCM. My life in 2010 was busy both professionally and personally. I had said what I needed to say about MCM and cults.

I was done with it, I thought.

It surprised me, then, when the Editor’s email appeared in my inbox asking would I consider having my blog republished. This perplexed me.  How could a shuttered ten-year old blog about a cult, gone now some thirty years, be of any relevance to anyone?

But the Editors persisted with their argument that the blog did have relevance today. Their replies to me included links to the craziness of CJ Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries, the disaster of Mars Hill, and the insane churches that grew from the debris of MCM; pastored by questionable characters I had long forgotten.

With some hesitation I granted the rights to edit and publish this blog.

One of the conditions of given was that I would not be involved in any correspondence with readers, nor would I write any new posts (except the “Last Chapter”). Of course, having read and edited my blog, the Editors knew my weak spots (!) and soon I was corresponding with a number of blog readers, (including a few old friends). I began rethinking my entire MCM experience and what it meant. And that re-thinking had me writing once again, as has been my habit.

But, as all must in ten years, I had changed since writing the original blog. Re-reading some of my original posts (even in edited form) causes me to cringe, especially as regards the middle players in MCM, including Marty and others. For they were, no more or less, both victims and victimizers like the rest of us.

In addition, based on front page comments from readers, that went straight to the editors, I soon realized that something was missing from the blog.

That missing something was advice, or at least, a summary of the struggles I faced when breaking free from the mental shackles of MCM. About the only advice anyone could garner from my story (as written) was they should combine a delightful, and strong, Christian girl with two left-wing atheists, stir, sprinkle lightly with Bible Studies, and serve warm.

********

“Time not only heals, time reveals.”

Karen Salmansohn

Recovery Advice for an Ex-Member[1]

Now in my late fifties I see that time is the great healer and, as Karen wrote, it is also the great revealer.

The older I get the closer all events seem to draw near; including my childhood, my college years, my wedding, my pending mortality, and my experience in MCM. Although only five years or so in length, my time in MCM coincided with my formative years, those years that in many ways are the crucible where our our future selves are formed.

I wrote in the original blog, “I have learned that we make our choices and live with them,” but I no longer ruminate about what would have happened had I given my MCM recruiters the boot that day. Time has worn away that thought.

I have the benefit of being out of MCM for thirty something years. I now realize that without MCM I might not have met Sissy, never gone to work for MPI where I learned so much from my mentor Mr. Morton, and never had my beautiful children. Although I could never go home to my nineteen year old pre-MCM self, neither would I want to.

But still the question persists (and was sent via the main page comments to the editors by a number recent readers), “So Tikie, how did you recover from MCM?”

Of course the answer assumes that one actually recovers from a cult experience. I don’t think this is the case exactly. I would liken it to a battle wound, the kind suffered by my father in the Korean War (a wound to his shoulder). It was long healed by the time I came along. But, on  cold mornings it ached even some forty years after the event. Thus my father’s wound never actually went away.

Neither has mine.

Professional Help

So I suggest that cult recovery is much like recovering from a severe wound or an injury. Time is the great healer for such injuries. If this wound analogy is applicable then the first thing someone should do after leaving a cult is to seek professional help from a therapist, just as one would seek help immediately from a physician if hurt.

At the time I left MCM seeking professional therapy would have not been acceptable to me or my parents. But had I done so, I could have saved myself much loneliness and grief.

Reading/Learning

The second step in recovery is to read about cults and how they work. I remember reading Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich works in the mid 1990s (pre-internet; I found it in Barnes & Noble)[2]. I literally could not put it down. It exposed, and explained, the process and experience I had been through at MCM. Not only did it bring that understanding it also showed me many other people had almost my exact experience. Incredible as it may seem, in this age of instant information, I actually had little idea of exactly what it was I had been through. Another most helpful book for me, just after leaving MCM, was George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Read during the depths of my post MCM despair it helped me begin to see the true nature of MCM and Bob Weiner.

Of course the internet is now a great source of help. I am certain that breaking off the mental and spiritual shackles of MCM would have been much easier had it existed at the time of my leaving.

Support

A support group and socialization, Sanger and Lalich agree, is critical. By that they mean at least one person that the ex-member can speak to frankly about their experience. But for many group members, just after leaving the group, there is no one left that they can share their true thoughts with.

This was a most difficult issue for me. I thrive on social interaction and, when I left MCM, it is no exaggeration that I had not a single friend left in my life. I was blessed to have two loving parents, but that simply was not enough. Even if I tried to share with them my thoughts, they had no context to help them understand the situation as I saw it. I am certain I was clinically depressed for the first year post MCM, although my mania for work probably disguised this condition from both my parents and myself.

It was only chance (or God’s provision) that I met Sissy. Sissy changed everything for me. It changed because of her kind nature and wisdom, but it also changed because I took the huge risk of telling her EVERYTHING, right from the start. Call it luck, or God’s blessing that:

a)I had the courage to tell her everything I was thinking, as insane as it seemed to me;

and that

b)I picked the right person to talk to.

You may recall before unburdening myself that I thought, “if she really knew what was going on in my head she would run out of the restaurant screaming and yelling.”  This self protection, engendered by shame and guilt, is very common among ex-members. In some respects, it is a continuation of the thought control mechanism of the group.

In my own case I had convinced myself that if I revealed my conflicted thinking people would consider me crazy and reject me. This same sense of shame and guilt can keep ex-members from reaching out to build new meaningful relationships. I am not sure where I would have ended up had I not met my future wife Sissy about a year after leaving MCM. Her kindness and commonsense cut through much of the thought restricting concrete that MCM had poured around my brain. She was neither condescending, or overly cautious, as we talked about my MCM involvement and its continued effect on me. She saw my condition as a problem to be dealt with, of course, but she never treated me like some nut-case person to be pitied. For that kindness I will always be grateful.

********

Some Practical Issues Post Leaving[3]

Explaining a Cult

Even explaining the group can present problems for ex- members. Especially those who were in a group that subsumed them and left them with no practical skills after exiting. For example, there were full-time MCM pastors without a college degree. When MCM exploded, and without marketable skills (other than fundraising and navigating the politics of MCM), these ex- members found themselves in trouble. Even those with a college diploma might have had to explain long gaps in their résumé to perspective employers, or to those with whom they want to build a relationship. This is why help from a trained therapist is so important.

Many ex-members carry a sense of shame at having been involved in such a group and, at the same time, a counter-intuitive sense of guilt at abandoning the group. Figuring out how to explain this gap, and to talk sensibly, and unemotionally, about the group, is a skill that has to be learned. I was lucky because I told my (future) employer, when I turned down their first offer, that I was going into mission work. They never saw it as anything more than a one-year sabbatical when I got back in touch with them. I was doubly lucky that I had a marketable skill, an engineering degree, unlike many MCMers who dropped, or who flunked, out of college.

Panic Attacks

I am not ashamed to admit during the first year after leaving I experienced panic attacks. I would not have called them that, nor recognized them for what they were. But occur they did, brought on by triggers like Christian music, the idea of even going to church, or the chance hearing of a radio sermon. You may recall from my blog that certain music or words would bring tears to my eyes and constricted my breathing. This panicked feeling I experienced induced more feelings of guilt and shame which, in turn, induced even more panicked paralysis. I can still remember sitting in my car before walking to Sissy’s dorm for our first evening together. With my hands gripping the steering wheel and my heart pounding I briefly considered driving off and ditching the evening. Surely it was God’s grace that I worked up the strength to even walk to her dorm.

Yet another cause of panic is the feeling of having no life direction or even of making the most mundane decisions. A cult member, used to having every aspect of their life managed and directed, can feel disoriented when the group’s boundaries are no longer in place. When they are removed this  can induce indecision about the smallest thing along with a fear of making a mistake. I tried to shake this off by throwing myself into my new job and working every waking hour. But a far better way is to seek professional help and not bull through it like I did.

Trust

Lack of trust in groups and authority figures by ex-members is reported by Sanger and Lalich[4]. This includes the inability to trust new acquaintances and so to fail to make new relationships. Anyone showing overt friendliness may be viewed with suspicion, for who wants to open themselves to the trap of love bombing again? A wariness of authority figures (such as bosses, employers, clergy, or professional therapists) can also result. I never had this problem, oddly enough. I was blessed because my first boss was such a stand up person, wise, hard working, and an all-around nice guy. But according the Sanger[5] ex-members believe that not only were they naïve in trusting too much, but also that their own judgement can no longer be relied on. If they were induced to join a cult once, they think, how can they ever trust their own judgement again?

Commitment

It took me two years to attend a church again. I did attend Bible Studies with Sissy, but only to be with her as much as possible. Fear of commitment, according to Lalich[6] , is a problem for many ex-cult members. It is directly related to trust issues cited above, but slightly different. The member has committed everything, money, love, emotion, and many years of their lives to the group. In the end they found that this commitment to the group was not reciprocal and was conditional. As soon as the member did not measure up, or if they began asking questions (however sincere), they  learned this terrible truth. Within one year, in my example, I went from being told by Joe Smith that God’s anointing was on me and that I would win thousands to Christ as a MCM leader to being someone that God, “was going to be cast in the lake of fire.” It is easy to see that this brutal rejection of the member, following years of commitment to the cause, is devastating. I know many ex-MCMers who have, understandably, given up on organized religion and the church in any form. This is another terrible legacy left by MCM on the lives of these members.

Alienation

Ex-members leave a bubble of the cults making. The black and white of absolute right and wrong, “us vs. them” thinking, the (usually) scornful attitudes toward the culture of the “world”, or those outside the cult, do not end just because the member left the group. I remember not listening to a top 40 radio station for well on two years after leaving MCM. My mind continued to categorized everyone I met as either a sinner, a hypocrite, or righteous well after leaving MCM. I left the culture of MCM but it did not leave me.  Leaving MCM was like entering a strange new land, only it was not strange. I was, in truth, entering the normal culture of 1980s and leaving the weird and twisted world of MCM. But it seemed just the opposite to me. Fortunately for me, my employer and Sissy helped keep me on an even keel. But I estimate it was at least ten years before I shook off the last vestiges of MCM thinking.

Judging by the Wrong Standards

Alongside alienation was my continued tendency to judge everyone and everything by MMC’s standards. Ludicrous in the extreme, you might say. But this judging helped prevent me from building relationship with people who appeared flawed, according to MCM’s twisted standards.  Even though MCM preached the agape unconditional love of Christ, everything WAS conditional. If we were kind to a person in MCM it came with an ulterior motive- to win them to the group (to Christ we thought) or to show how spiritual and Christ like we were. The idea of being nice and kind just for kindness sake, was, well, alien to me.  MCM disdained those who could not, or did not, measure up. Of course this MCM thinking should never have taken hold of me as I had been taught the Golden Rule since birth. And Jesus did nothing but associate with flawed sinful people all day long!

I have no recipe for how to deal with these issues and others that ex-members may face upon leaving a group. Each person is different and each experience is unique. I do know that the simple step of understanding what is being experienced and giving it a name is a terrific help to someone who has just left a controlling group.

At least it was for me.

********

I cannot stress enough that one of the keys to post group adaptation is time. Along with this finding professional help is a key to breaking free from the mental and spiritual shackles of a sociological cult.

Building relationships, difficult for new ex-members, helps bring a person out of their cult built shell and exposes them to human kindness that they may not have experience for years. All of this requires trust, of course, not easily given when so much trust has been abused. None of this is easy, but it can be done, and the effects of the group on the ex-mamber can be gradually diminished.

I thank God freedom can be won, no matter how hard-fought the battle.

Footnotes:

[1] I am not a licensed therapist or social worked and have no professional credentials. Any advice given here is based solely on my experience in leaving a sociological cult, my reading about such, and attendance at a few conferences. I highly recommend those suffering from depression (a common experience) see professional help immediately. This post is solely for information purposes only.

[2] Singer, Margaret. Lalich, Janja. “Cults In Our Midst” Josey Bass. New York New York 1995

[3] Cults in Our Midst explores more fully these and other issues faced by ex-members. The sections following this footnote  are based on notes I took after reading this book along with scribbled thoughts recorded in journal entries I made dated March-June 1996.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

#67 In, or Out

In, or Out

“I began to see that cults form and thrive not because people are crazy, but because people have two kinds of wishes. They want a meaningful life, to serve God or humanity, and they want to be taken care of, to feel protected and secure, to find a home. But this is the wrong way home.”

                            “The Wrong Way Home” Arthur Deikman

Margaret Singer, famed cult researcher, stated that over ten percent of Americans will cycle through a sociological cult, and ten percent of those that leave a sociological cult will join another.[1]

Statistics show that twenty percent of these group members do not willingly leave a cult but leave only if the group is disbanded.[2] Arthur Deikman claims that these group members have two wishes. The wish to serve God or humanity and a wish to feel protected and secure, that is to have a home[3].

***********

A Problem That Still Exists

It is unfortunate that sociological cults are not just a remnant of the bygone era of the 1970s and 1980s, but actually have a higher membership in this century than the last.[4]

One example of this is the Quiverfull Movement; a supposedly leaderless grass-roots movement that appears to have sociological cult like qualities. I was made aware of this group by one of the blog’s kind editors.

This Quiverfull Movement has the requisite leaders, norms, and transcendent aspirations among other things, required for being a sociological cult. The leaders are less visible (having perhaps learned what happens to group leaders who led from the front) than other sociological cult leaders; but they exist none the less. One such leader of the movement is the now disgraced Douglas Phillips.[5] Another leader of this movement is Bill Gothard[6] accused of sexual harassment and disciplined by the board of his ministry. Gothard has been charged with a legalistic approach to Christianity by critics.[7]

What I find so disheartening about The Quiverfull Movement, and its associated churches/ministries, is that the its tactics and outcomes are the natural conclusion of MCM’s lofty Christian Reconstructionist goal of the 1980s.

In the service of that goal the Quiverfull Movement has tried to harness sex and female reproduction to bring Christ’s kingdom to earth. According to one interview the, “Quiverfull mission is rooted in faith, the unseen, its mandate to be fruitful and multiply, and to raise up Christians and leaders to implement God’s mandate on earth.”[8]  In pursuit of this goal the movement has now entrapped thousands of women, and girls, in a cult focused on fertility, sex, and the control of reproduction. Inevitably, as one might have guessed, this focus on sexual repression has led to accusations (and admission) of rape and sexual abuse by men in the forefront of the movement.[9]

It is clear that this group has many of the tendencies identified twenty-five years ago by Lalich and Singer in the 1980s.[10] Incredibly though, it now is the parents who are ensnaring their children, while the grown children, born into the movement, are leaving and then helping their siblings escape.

Fueling the growth of the Quiverfull Movement, are the authoritarian fundamental Christian Churches, that also use all the tactics of classical sociological cults.[11] I suppose Aristotle had it right when he said that, “Nothing changes but change itself.” In some ways the way these sociological cults manifest themselves have changed in the early twenty – first century; but fundamentally their nature has NOT changed.

These churches exist to fulfill the leadership’s goals and aims with no regards for the individual group members or sheep. The ends continue to justify the means. And the ends, no matter how noble seeming at the start, are tragic.

The appeal of groups like the Quiverfull Movement, and the related authoritarian fundamentalist sects, show that there is something wrong in current culture, or that mainline churches are failing to offer something people need. MCM grew out of Bob and Rose’s view that mainline churches did not have the commitment required to bring the great commission to pass. The Quiverfull and the associated Fundamentalist Reconstruction Movement grew out of similar concerns, that modern values (such as feminism) had infected both church and society, and that “true” Christianity would be swamped. Therefore, these groups are taking action, in the name of Christ, to reverse these trends. Their tactics are to overwhelm the opposition with gigantic families. Their weapon is the female member’s womb and NO, I am NOT making this up!

Regardless these groups have the transcendent belief system common to all sociological groups. And sadly the outcome is to entrap entire families; especially young women, in a cesspool of abuse and despair.[12]

*******

Back to the question then: “If these groups are so terrible, why do members stay in them?”

Jacob Needleman, a pioneer in the field wrote, “….many [sociological cult] groups offer methodologies, in addition to belief systems.”[13] What Needleman means is that in our society, which is so focused on the person, competition and ego satisfaction, these groups offer a community that incorporates common values and a singular mission. That is a place, as Deickman puts it, “…where a person can both belong and be part of.”[14]

Group membership requires commitment to the methods, tactics and vision of the group. Whether the method is the discipline tactics of the ICOC or MCM, or living one’s entire life by the [supposedly]  literal interpretation of the Bible, is almost irrelevant. More to the point the commitment to the methodology (discipline) provides the glue that keeps members committed to the cause, and, as one blog reader pointed out, keeps members too tired to think reflectively or cogently. In addition, the group’s vision is almost always a positive one. Ironically, like the society portrayed in George Orwell’s book 1984, the output of the group’s mission is usually the opposite of the one proclaimed. Big Brother, at least, had the courtesy to proclaim that “Slavery is Freedom.” The Quiverfull movement does not advertise itself as a place where woman are slaves of men, where children are abused, and member’s wombs are used as weapons in a battle with evil.

The tactics, mission, and the resulting sense of community help keep members within the group. Sanctions are leveled on members when they fail to effectively use the tactics, or live up to the ideals, of the group’s mission. With modern society focused on the mantra, “If it feels good do it,” then this life of “If it does not feel good then too bad,” can feel satisfying. As my own story shows sociological cult members experience self-fulfillment that they have never had before.

****

It is dangerous to regard sociological cults are as one-offs that are like nothing else in our society.

We accept the Marines (per my earlier post) which have some of the characteristics sociological cults, and serve a larger (than the individual) to enable a larger goal. MCM was full of fanatics like my shepherd Marty. Fanatics have their place in society. For example, W.E.B Dubois (of the NCAAP) and Martin Luther were fanatics by any measure. But there is a difference between the NCAAP, Martin Luther’s reformation movement, and the Marines, as I mentioned in my last post. People are recruited into sociological cults (recruited using their own desires) but afterwards their real identity is suppressed/changed to control their thoughts and to ensure automatic compliance to the group norms.

Another reason people stay in a group, according to Steve Hassan, are the phobias foisted on members about the fate of apostates.[15] The crazy thing about these groups is that members are told (either implicitly or explicitly) that certain behaviors can get them expelled from the group. However, at the same time members are told, “Why no you can never leave.” Cognitive dissonance reigns, the purpose of which is to repress reflective and cogent thinking in these members.

Because of the group’s purposeful isolation from mainstream society crimes (such as rape and pedophilia) go un-reported and are routed to the group’s extra-judicial internal process. One need look no further than the Duggar family’s experience for an example of this. Hasson writes on his site, “..the answer is that no person in volitional control of reality… would ever allow a crime like that to be committed and not be appalled… or call the police…much less lie about it… but lying is a major piece of mind-control [sociological] cults”.[16]

The identity change (inward) that members experience renders them unable to see these crimes, abuse, or both, for what they are. Instead members see the abuse or crime(s) as something they deserve since they are (they think) sinful and rebellious. Per my earlier post this same acceptance of abuse as something deserved is what keeps battered spouses in terrible marriages.

Non-members, especially family, without benefit of understanding the nature of the identity change undergone, and the group’s cultural milieu, are appalled that their loved ones continue in the group.

In summary members stay in because of a number of reasons including:

  1.     Participating in a mission that is larger than a single person and being part of a group dedicated to such.
  2.     Constant use of tactics by the group that serve multiple purposes; including reinforcement of the member’s identity with the group, including keeping the member so busy and tired that they are incapable of reflective, and not reactive, thought.
  3.     A culture that provides real, or imagined, sanctions should a member violate group norms or rules.
  4.     Acceptance of any abuse as a deserved punishment because of the actions or sinful nature of the member.
  5.     Safety and security that the group seemingly provides, reinforced by the fear/phobia of what happens to apostates who leave.

******

So What?

So what is to be done?

The editors have forwarded to me three to four emails asking, “What can I do about my loved one trapped in a sociological cult?”

I can tell you (and this is backed up by experts like Lalich, Singer, Hassan among others) what NOT to do.

  • Do not try to argue sense into them.
  • Do not get into a theological or philosophical debate about the merits of the group.
  • Do not point out their fanaticism, personality changes, crazy (new) habits, or anything else that you may find strange, or distasteful about their group.

None of these “Don’ts” are easy to abide by, that I am certain of.

It is important to remember that the member (assuming that they are at least eighteen) made a decision, a free-will one most probably, to join the group. Any insinuation that this is not the case, or that they have made the wrong choice, could put you on the outs.

I recently read of a father who spoke with his son, a member of Scientology once a month for over twenty years. The son was a fanatical scientologist, a member of the inner core Sea-Org. Unknown to his father he had many doubts about Scientology that grew over the years. Yet his father sensed that if he began questioning Scientology, or his son’s belief, that all contact would be cut off.

But because of regular contact with his non-threatening father the son knew his Dad was but a phone call away. That knowledge was important, because it gave this member somewhere to go if, or when, he finally decided to “blow” (as leaving is known in Scientology). He knew that if he called his father, that he would be there for him and help him get back on his feet. And that is what happened.

So what is to be done?

First, be there. Stay in contact. Talk about the weather if that is the only topic that is on limits and safe. Send gifts, food, but never judgement to the member. Stay available and stay in contact.

When the subject of the group comes up here are some  some questions that can be asked (but only judiciously):

  •      How has the group helped you?
  •      What have you had to give up?
  •      Do you miss your old friends?
  •      How are you feeling about the leadership or the group?
  •      What do you like most about the group?
  •      What would you change about the group if you could?

For we should ask reflective questions, questions not designed to get the “right answer’, but rather to stimulate reflective thinking. Active listening is required.  For reflective thinking in a cult is a rare commodity and is the enemy of group think. It is a gift that a non-member can freely give, without threat.

Footnotes

[1] Singer, Margaret and Lalich, Janja. Cults In Our Midst. Josey-Bass 1995

[2] Ibid

[3] Deikman, Authur. The Wrong Way Home. Beacon Press 1991

[4] The Atlantic. Toby Lester. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/02/oh-gods/302412/ accessed September 2017

[5] Doug Phillips’ Biblical Patriarchy Scandal Moves to the Courts. Julie Ingersoll – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-ingersoll/doug-phillips-biblical-patriarchy_b_5151442.htm accessed September 2017

[6] More Women Sue Bill Gothard and IBLP, Alleging Sexual Abuse. Sarah Zylstra, Collin Hansen,Kate Shellnutt, Russell Moore,Costi Hinn .http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2016/january/more-women-sue-bill-gothard-iblp-alleging-sexual-abuse.html

[7] Venoit, Don and Venoit Joyce. A Matter of Basic Principles. 21st Century Press 2003

[8] Arrows for the War. Kathryn Joyce. https://www.thenation.com/article/arrows-war/ Accessed September 2017

[9] Christian Reality Show Star Sentenced To 40 Years For Child Rape.

Progressive Humanist – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/07/christian-reality-show-star-sentenced-40-years-child-rape/ Accessed September 2017

[10] My childhood in a cult is hard to imagine – but my survival is truly unbelievable .

Jenna Tracy. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/01/childhood-in-cult-hard-imagine-survival-truly-unbelievable Accessed September 2017

[11] Grew Up In A Fundamentalist Cult - ’The Handmaid’s Tale’ Was My Reality Haettinger – https://theestablishment.co/i-grew-up-in-a-fundamentalist-cult-the-handmaids-tale-was-my-reality-fae2f77263d9

[12] Ibid

[13] Needleman, Jacob. Why Can’t We Be Good?.  Tarcher Perigree (Penguin) Books. 2007

[14] Deikman, Authur. The Wrong Way Home. Beacon Press 1991

[15] www.freedomofmind.com

[16] Ibid

#66 Staying, Leaving, and Recidivism

 

Sociological Cults: Staying, Leaving, and Recidivism

“Why do members stay in sociological cults despite the abuse heaped upon them?” is question often asked by non-members. A usual follow-up question is, “Why/how did you leave the group?”

There is a third, more disturbing question, rarely asked, which is, “Why do group members leave and then return?”  For recidivism is rarely addressed or discussed in most forums. But it occurs frequently according[1] to the late Robert Vaughn Young a former Scientologist and cult expert.

************

Defining a Sociological Cult

It might be helpful to differentiate between the terms authoritarian group and sociological cult. In my blog I sometimes use these terms interchangeably, and this, frankly was a mistake on my part. In an authoritarian group the leader seeks only compliance. While a sociological group leader seeks compliance through identity/personality change.[2]

In her book “Captive Hearts, Captive Minds” Janya Lalich lays out four interlocking aspects of a sociological cult[3]; these aspects are [quoted from her work]:

  • Charismatic Authority– the emotional bond between a leader and the followers. This bond lends legitimacy to the leadership and justifies and reinforces the follower’s response to their actions and goals.
  • Transcendent Belief System– the overarching ideology that binds the group members together and keeps an individual’s behavior within the group’s rules and norms. Transcendent means that it offers a total (totalist view) of the past, present and future; including a narrowly defined path to salvation. Most importantly is that the group/leadership specifies the exact methodology for personal transformation required to travel on this path and to be accepted as a group member. This belief provides meaning and purpose through a moral imperative. The effect is that the member feels connection to a much larger goal whilst pursuing salvation. The goal is complete identification of the member with the belief system.
  • System of Control– an acknowledged network of mechanisms that guide the operations of the group. It includes the overt rules and procedures that guide and control member’s behavior. This system provides structure with the goal of enforcing sanctions and punishment. Its goal is to ensure obedience and compliance.
  • Systems of Influence– The network of social influences that resides in all relationships. The interactions within the group, and the culture that results, teaches members to adopt their patterns of thinking, their thoughts, and their actions to the Transcendent Belief System. Peer pressure and the wish to get along with the group has the effect of producing conformity, denunciation of any non-conformists, and just importantly, self-renunciation by the member.

Members, as well as leaders, have roles to play within the group, as discussed in my post entitled “#40 Hierarchy and Subjugation Within MCM.” According to the ISCA website[4] , “…a member’s goal is to pit oneself against an impossible ideal and to continually criticize oneself for failing to achieve this goal. Meanwhile the leader’s goal is perfect while the members who will strive for this impossible goal fail.”

Of course praise accrues to the leadership for their devotion to this perfect cause, and any failure is strictly due to member’s shortcomings. Dr. Lalich states that when, “this process works- leaders and members are locked into a ‘bounded reality’- that is a self-sealing social system in which every aspect and activity, no matter what the outcome, reconfirms the validity of the system.[5]

Within MCM, and other sociological cults, this means that critical thinking skills are derided and belittled, as is any non-confirming information. In fact rejection of non-confirming information is equal to acceptance of the group’s Transcendent Belief. In my own story this played out as my friends tried to dissuade me with articles that exposed the true nature of MCM.  Yet I rejected these articles because they were non-confirming, not in spite of the non-confirming information they contained.

The result of all this is that members, having internalized the belief system, and the social norms of the group, usually don’t have to be told what to do. In fact, they know precisely what needs to be done, and must be thought, in order to be accepted by the group. No one had to tell me to reject the article that my friend Sheila thrust in my face when she made a last ditch effort to get me out of MCM. MCM’s social norms and Transcendent Belief System, that I had accepted, made sure that I would reject these articles without any direct guidance from MCM!

Thus the member will stay within the bounds of the group’s allowed choices (Lalich uses the term“bounded reality[6] to describe this state). The member has merged their thinking with that of the group, and the leadership, and can no longer imagine life outside the group. Lalich writes that, “the cult member is constrained by both external (real or imagined) and internalized sanctions. At this point, whatever choices remain are “bounded” ones. They are choices, yes, but not free ones. Essentially, given the context, they become choices of life or death—figuratively and, in some cases, literally[7].”

As I stated in the blog my decision to join a MCM was a free-will decision. This does not mean that the group did not entice the me to join.

They did, however, get me to stay through coercion. These interlocking forces, described by Dr. Lalich, put powerful pressure on members to stay in the group and also to get members to encourage other members to stay and conform. Thus almost every member of a sociological cult is both a victim and victimizer.

None of this absolves leadership from blame and a heavy burden of guilt . Far from it. For leadership of these groups bear the responsibility for setting up the culture and mechanisms of control, regardless of their intentions.

I see those defending MCM, and other sociological cults, compare membership in the groups to signing up to join the Marines. In fact MCM sold membership  as being part of God’s Green Berets. But the analogy is a false one. The ISCA, on their website, destroys this argument[8]. The Marines do not bait and switch, the Marines teach skills that are useful after exiting the Corp; cults like MCM not so much. The Marines do not cut off contact with family and friends. The Marines are upfront about what the goals of the group are and how members will be treated they join. The Marines pay a salary and give benefits to Corp members. The Marines have a functioning judicial system that can reprimand or remove an abusive leader. After a term of a duty a Marine can leave with an honorable discharge and support relationships with those inside, and outside, the Corps. The Marines have restraints on what an officer can and can not do in their role. MCM had none of these restraints and certainly did not make their nature clear up front.

********

Recidivism: nowhere to go!

With that as background let’s explore why some sociological cult members return to the group after leaving, join a new sociological group, or, as in the case of some former MCM pastors, start a new sociological group.

Steve Hassan uses the experience of Korean War prisoners to explain cultic brainwashing, why members stay in a group, and why members experience distress after leaving. Although I have learned much from Steve’s work I feel this explanation is inadequate. For how many Korean War prisoners of War wanted to return to North Korea after arriving back into the U.S.? Rather I prefer the explanation of of Robert Vaughn[9] who uses the analogy of a battered, or abused, woman to explain why people fail to leave a sociological cult, or leave and then return.

There are many studies that show that abused spouses (usually women) will not only stay with an abuser, but will actually defend them[10]  . When the relationship between the couple starts it is probably a good bet that the abuser did not slap his future wife on their first or second date. Chances are he was very nice and charming. In fact, he probably loved bombed her and only gradually, perhaps, the abuse started. Slowly the abuser belittles any action or thought of the spouse does not line up with his expectations. Any deviation from these expectations, by the abused spouse, results in swift punishment, whether in the actions or words. However when the spouse is in lockstep with the abuser’s wishes everything is chocolates and roses.

As the abuse mounts (as it always does) why doesn’t the spouse leave? More to the point, when the police are summoned to a scene of domestic violence why doe the abused spouse defend the abuser? Simply put the reason is that the abused spouse has nowhere to go. As documented on the website breakthesilence.com abusive spouses gradually cut their spouse off from any outside support such as family. The abuse mounts as contact with this support system wanes. Eventually the abusive spouse has nowhere to go, or, has been convinced this is the case. Lest you think that this applies to poor and uneducated women; think again! Tina Turner, the pop star multi-million dollar diva put up with abuse from Ike Turner for years, for this very reason. She did not think she could make it without Ike. Ike, her husband, verbally and physically abused her, cut her off from her family and exercised total control over her life for years. Tina would leave Ike and then return again and again[11] despite the abuse. Tina returned because, in her view ,she had no where else to go or turn. This despite the fact that she was a multimillionaire. She was totally convinced that only Ike could keep her career going, only Ike could manager her money, only Ike could manager her bookings. That she would lose what little she had if she left Ike.

Thus it is with members of sociological groups.

Members have convinced themselves that only the group can give the answer, the path, and the total solution for their lives. The“world”is a scary place and outside the cocoon of the group they might fail or be lost (literally and metaphysically). This, I think, is the explanation of why members find leaving a group so difficult and why members return after leaving. It also explains why about 10% of sociological cult members, after a group explodes, will join another abusive group.  I also believe it is why some ex-members (see Kip McKean and some ex-MCM pastors) start a new sociological cult after the original group blows up. They simply think they have nowhere else to go and nothing else to give to the world.

******

Why Breaking Away Is So Difficult

Professor Benjamin Zablocki associates group indoctrination with high exit costs.[12] The four interlocking aspects of these groups described by Lalich above, are not so influential in getting a person into a group, in other words. But they do explain the difficulty members have in leaving. This also, as I stated above, is why abused wives have so much trouble leaving their husbands. Zablocki writes, “… [for] somebody so bonded to a group, [the] departure that requires a rejection of the group is a form of psychological self-mutilation.”

So joining a such a group involves a different mechanism than leaving. The answer to why people join a sociological cult, of course, is that the attractions are positive for them.

No one, as I wrote in the blog, wakes up one morning and says, “I think I will join a destructive cult one day.” The positives are what prospective members use to convince themselves to join the group. Manipulative tactics such as love bombing play a role, but the member makes that free will choice and convinces themselves that the cult’s mission is worthy that the cult will meet their needs.

Leaving, though, is less a matter of a free-will choice. Members are under duress because of these factors.

One major factor is the sunk investment  problem (one has to be willing to say that the years in the group were wasted!). This factor explains not only why leaving is so difficult but why some former members defend defunct cults that caused so much human misery . Understandably these ex-members simply cannot bear to face the idea that they wasted part of their lives in a destructive cause.

Of course other exit costs include lost friendships, family, sense of mission, and, sometimes, income. In addition, if the member is completely indoctrinated, leaving means rejecting part of one’s own personality, since group membership requires abdication of one’s sense of self and absorption of the group’s mission as the reason for being. This is what Zablocki meant by the term psychological self-mutilation.

Other exit costs include trying to make it outside of the cocoon of the group (especially if the member has no useful skills or education apart from special group skills) and the loss of the special mission that gave meaning to their lives. It can even simply be the loss of income if one is employed by the cult or is employed by a cult member or business.

One common cause of depression for former cult members that they are no longer part of a special universe saving mission. That may be the biggest factor that keeps members from leaving regardless of their doubts about the tactics. “The Mission is good,” they think, “but we just need to adjust the tactics.”

On the other side there are exit benefits, like I described in my story. Gradually these exit benefits may begin to outweigh the very high exit costs. These exit benefits might include resolving long-term doubts about the group, growing awareness of abuse and manipulation, and chronic poverty. The ICSA estimates that a large minority of former cult members experience great psychological distress when they leave such a group. This distress may last for years, and the advice of the ICSA is that ex-members experiencing such distress seek professional help[13].

[1] Vaughn.Robert. “Towards A New Model Of ‘Cult Control.” alt.religion.scientologynewsgroup.com http://www.alt.religion.scientologyscientology.com. Accessed  January 12, 2010

[2] Hassan Steve, “Combatting Mind Control” (1989). The University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, NC

[3] Lalich J., Tobias M., “Captive Hearts, Captive Minds” (1994). Hunter House. New York, NY  

[4] “FAQS.” International Cultic Studies Association.com. http://www.icsahome.com/elibrary/faqs. Accessed September 2017

[5] Lalich Janya, “Bounded Choice” (2004). University of California Press. Oakland CA

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] International Cultic Studies Association.com. http://www.icsahome.com/elibrary/faqs. Accessed September 2017. The Marine analogy is taken almost verbatim from the ICSA website.

[9] Vaughn.Robert. “Towards A New Model Of ‘Cult Control.” alt.religion.scientologynewsgroup.com http://www.alt.religion.scientologyscientology.com. Accessed  January 12, 2010

[10] Break the silence.com.  http://www.breakthesilencedv.org/beat-that-seven-times-statistic/.  Accessed September 2017

[11] Winfery, Oprah. “Oprah Talks to Tina”. http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/oprahs-interview-with-tina-turner. Accessed September 2017

[12] Zablocki, Benjamin. “The Joyful Community” (1971). Pelican Books, New York, NY.

[13] International Cultic Studies Association.com. http://www.icsahome.com/elibrary/faqs. Accessed September 2017

 

 

#65 Bad From the Start?

Bad From the Start?

This question poses a number of issues when trying to understand if MCM was off track from the beginning.

For what do we mean when we ask the question, “Did MCM (or any group) start out well and go bad, or were they bad from the beginning?” Are we asking about good intentions, or are we asking about something else?

Most abusive groups started out with worthy goals. For example The Family International (formerly Children of God), now considered one of the most abusive  US sociological cults of the twentieth century, began, unsurprisingly, with a vision that “…all Christians should model their lives after the first century church, living a simple life, and devoting their life, time, and money to sharing the Gospel of Christ with as many people as possible.”  What is to not like about that?

Another group, considered almost unanimously by experts to be the most difficult sociological cult to break free from, Scientology, started with the goal of “true spiritual enlightenment and freedom for the individual.”

In fact, almost every authoritarian group in the late 20th and early 21st century, with few exceptions, started with good and worthy objectives.

Therefore, such a question should really focus on whether a group was destined, by dent of its founding, organizing principles, and tactics, to become an abusive sociological cult.

For example, the body of work on the history of Scientology, including such books such as Barefoot Messiah and Let’s Sell These People a Piece of Blue Sky, make it clear that L. Ron Hubbard’s real goal was to actually create a closed system that would isolate members from suppressive people (so-called SPs) who would prevent members from being enlightened. We can safely answer the question above with, “Yes Scientology, because of its founder’s paranoiac personality, and the groups organizing principles, was bad from the start, despite its or perhaps because of (alleged) good intention.”

With these criteria in mind let’s explore whether MCM was bad from the beginning, or started well and went bad over time. I believe such an analysis can be applied to any authoritarian group.

MCM: Founders, Organizing Principles and Tactics

I, and scores of others heard Bob’s sermons that focused on the story of the founding of MCM.

He and Rose, fresh from California’s Jesus People revivals of the late 1960s, landed in Paducah, Kentucky where Bob led a series of revival services in a traditional mainline church. His preaching, and teaching, resulted in scores of kids from the local high school committing to Christ. He and Rose left for a trip shortly afterwards. When they came back, after a month’s absence, they found most of their converts had back-slidden without, in his words, “A shepherd to guide them.” Bob then told of how he and Rose prayed earnestly for God to show them a new way.

Just about the same time Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, and other charismatic leaders, formed Christian Growth Ministries (CGM). CGM gave the shepherding movement both its theological, and, practical, playbook.  Bob and Rose gave full credit to Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, and Bob Mumford for the shepherding teaching used within MCM.

Later, Bob Mumford, speaking about the CGM’s Shepherding Movement in Christianity Today said, “people took something that began in the spirit and attempted to perfect it in the flesh. Ends began to justify means. The attitude became, ‘I’m going to help you walk straight, even if I have to coerce you.’ This is not the spirit of the Gospel.”

Mumford’s comments came much later and in the early days MCM’s use of shepherding seemed to address the issue of  commitment that both Bob and Rose found lacking initially in their converts.

Immersing themselves in CGM’s teaching, while adding their own version of total commitment and baptism, allowed Bob and Rose to re-energize these kids. Within a few months of working with these  young people the Weiners not only had more converts than before, these new Christians were completely, and selflessly, dedicated to MCM and to Bob’s vision. These first converts went on to become the inner circle of leaders around Bob and Joe and assumed leadership roles through the ministry.

Bob and Rose had absorbed, and codified, CGM’s, teaching that, “Without a shepherd the flock will be scattered.” More than that they saw that these shepherding tactics worked. Their new flock was not falling away it was growing.  “The old dead mainline congregational churches were the problem not the solution,” Bob later stated. For the mainline church, from which many of these new converts came, grew concerned about these kids eating, sleeping, and breathing the Gospel, and Bob’s vision, twenty-four hours a day.

So Bob and Rose took the then bold step of starting their own church. Bob would quote Christ often when telling this story saying, “Can we put new wine into old wine skins?” In fact, Charles Simpson, one of the founders of the shepherding movement, published a magazine called “New Wine.”

MCM was now a fully functional church, not a para-church, that not only included elders, but also, like the early church, prophets and apostles. For Bob’s vision was to create a church equal to that of the first century, and to create Christian leaders who would go on to build God’s Kingdom prophesied in Revelation.

Personalities matter for group founders, whether we are talking about Bill Bright or Bob Weiner. Studies suggest that these founders are typically entrepreneurial-minded, extroverts by nature (although not always), and in many cases are rebels. Bob, a former vacuüm cleaner salesperson, said that a “no solicitation sign on a door almost forced him to knock on that door”.

Bob, hyperactive by nature, had to have something to do, a mission, if you will, to occupy his time. He was proud to say that, “I am always on the go,” and the story I heard him tell often about the non-solicitation sign pointed to someone for whom man-made rules mattered little. That is why when the church (and I believe Rose’s father was the pastor) refused to support Bob’s radical view of Christianity, he started his own church.

Bob also used to regale members how, as a sales person, he simply would not take no for an answer. He told funny stories about how people would literally throw him out of their house as a he pitched his Electrolux cleaners to them.  But, according to Bob, more often than not they would hand him a fist full of cash for his product, even after telling him no repeatedly. And this was his message in relating that story.

When young people left the ministry, to Bob, they were like the people in his sales stories that said no. I met behavior this when I tried to leave MCM. Bob was as happy and chirpy as an Electrolux door to door sales man trying to close a deal. For it was the sale that mattered most (selling MCM vision and the member’s role in it) to Bob not the people! The people were a but a means to an end for Bob, that end being God’s Kingdom being built here on earth.

*******

Toxic Mix

Combine Bob’s self-centered and goal oriented (not people oriented) hyper active personality with:

  • Rose’s mystical and nonlinear approach to scripture interpretation, where a verse could take on any desired meaning to support Bob’s objective; and combine it with
  • an improved hyper-version of Derek Prince’s shepherding process;

and

  • add in the God-like certain prophetic utterances of Joe Smith

and you have the essence of MCM.

Then take impressionable young Christians, with their zeal to make a difference, and throw them into MCM. Anoint them as elders at ages ranging between twenty to twenty-seven years, give them power, the carrot of being a top elder within MCM, the stick of being dis-fellowshipped if they did not produce or toe the line, and it is not surprising that one finds a classic sociological cult created.

Bob (like Kip McKean of the ICOC) wanted to recreate the first century church and use that Church to reach a billion souls for Jesus by the year 2000. Bob’s plan included recruiting and training the leaders required to make this a reality.

And incredibly Bob was able to recruit many top student and athletic leaders into MCM at almost every campus that he went to. MCM also brought the “non-sharps” into the fold but relegated them to servant like status. Humans, with weakness and frailties, did not fit into Bob Weiner or Joe Smith’s plan. Weak people were obstacles and stumbling blocks that slowed MCM’s march to build God’s kingdom in one generation. This was Miltie’s argument to stop accepting non-sharps, for which he faced demon exorcism, during a leadership meeting at Auburn in 1980.

In the end, instead of having a first century church and dedicated world-class leaders to build God’s Kingdom, MCM exploded in the end leaving scarred and damaged people behind. And like a toxic dandelion in the wind, the explosion of MCM scattered elders, many who never repudiated the tactics and means of MCM, who moved on on to found or kick-start new imitations of MCM around the US.

Of course Bob and Rose, before starting MCM, would have done well to read 1st and 2nd Corinthians where Paul addresses the very human failings and sin in a church he not only founded but clearly loved. The sins and failings in the Church at Corinth including incest, intoxication, and extortion among other sins. For all humans are frail and weak and they are who make up Christ’s body. But this did not fit the Weiner’s preconceptions of how God’s Kingdom and His churches actually work.

These very human frailties are what prompted Paul to write that, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

Since leaving MCM I have held positions of both deacon and elder in both the Baptist and Congregational Churches. I can tell you these churches were full of flawed and sinful people (with me being among the chief of sinners!). Being a deacon at a Baptist Church is like being the hog killer at meat a factory. Messy, disturbing, but necessary. However, Christ is able to use the messiness of his flawed church to His Glory.

As my friend Sheila said told me almost 40 years ago, “Tik you want a perfect Church you are going to have to wait a long time.”

She was right.

*******

Bad from the Start?

When I found what seemed a perfect church, but, in reality it was a terrible imitation of the true Bride of Christ. MCM governed using the leadership’s insatiable egos and willpower; who equated their desires with those of God.

MCM was nothing more, or less, than anti-Christ.

Built on foundations of human will, human desires and the plans of sinful man, rather than the Grace of God, MCM was destined to be bad from the beginning. The same was true for Kip McKean’s ICOC, CJ Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries, The Family International, The Way International, and other abusive sociological groups.

 

 

[1] Bromley, David G.; Newton, Sidney H. (2001). “The Family (Children of God)”. In Lewis, James R. Odd Gods: New Religions and the Cult Controversy. Prometheus Books. pp. 160–164

 

2 Hassan, Steve  “My Appearance on Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” https://freedomofmind.com/my-appearance-on-leah-remini-scientology-and-the-aftermath-and-other-updates/ accessed September 9, 2017

 

.

#64 Cult or Not?

Editors: This post by Tik, written in September 2017 focuses on the criteria developed, by Dr. Jay Lifton, for identifying sociological cults.

Cult or not?

In 2009-10, after publication of my original blog, I found myself vigorously (or not so vigorously) defending my use of the word “cult” when describing Maranatha Ministries.

The question, of course, boils down to how one defines the word cult.

Some former MCM members use the argument that, “Any religious group different from the norm can be described as a cult.”

In fact, this is a true statement.

For example, the Church of the Latter Day Saint of Jesus Christ (the Mormons) was once classified as a cult in Walter Martin’s classic The Kingdom of the Cults.

Today, I daresay, hardly anyone would classify the Mormons as cultic, especially since Mitt Romney’s bid for high office. And, to that point, most serious religious scholars of are of the mind that early Christianity was considered nothing more than a splinter cult of Judaism by the ruling Romans.

Thus my use of the terms authoritarian group or sociological cult rather the word cult when describing MCM.

Theology, as I wrote, matters not as to whether a group is a sociological cult, except as a mechanism for controlling members. Theology does NOT decide whether a group is an authoritarian or a sociological cult.

If theology is not the key the differentiator then how do we define whether a group is a sociological cult?

Dr. Jay Lifton, a former Moonie, and a respected researcher on authoritarian cults, writing in the Harvard Mental Newsletter, stated sociological cults have three characteristics;

  • a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;
  • a process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform;
  • economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

It is important to remember that neither intelligence or socio-economic status marks one as being at risk for sociological cult membership. Rather it is psychological needs that help these groups in their recruiting efforts.

Although I put MCM to the test in this post these criteria can, of course, be applied to any group to determine their true nature.

Charismatic Leadership that demands obedience 

It is clear that although members never worshipped Bob Weiner, or Joe Smith, MCM considered them as God’s apostles  and gave them both financial and social privileges that far exceeded those of the average member.

In MCM’s framework Joe and Bob were God’s anointed and their words came straight from God, ex-cathedra.

I personally know of at least three earnest young men whose lives were financially and emotionally ruined because of Joe Smith’s false “Words”. The few defenders of MCM argue that we “all prophesy in part” and this scripture should apply to Joe. But that defense of Joe Smith is actually no defense at all.

For this argument ignores the fact Joe acted as if he prophesied in whole. Those who saw him give “Words” would testify that he did it as calmly as someone who looked out of a window and, seeing rain, declares that, “Yes it is raining.”

Joe, should NEVER had said, “Thus saith the Lord” if he were prophesying in part, or imperfectly. Yes, perhaps, just perhaps Joe was prophesying in part. But most who saw him in action would admit that Joe gave every sign that he prophesied in full without any hesitation or doubt.

But, in truth, Joe’s words were false in total, not in part.

Because of this Joe ruined many lives. He used his power for self-aggrandizement at a great cost to the group’s followers, clearly meeting Dr. Lifton’s first criteria discussed above.

The MCM teaching of “Touch not God’s anointed” was invoked countless times in the defense of the leadership.  Bob and Rose’s inane and costly schemes, that ate up so much of the member’s time and money, were explained away with the phrase, “God’s ways are not man’s ways.” Any pushback by the local pastors/elders to these schemes was professional suicide. The testimony of Mike and Missy Caulk makes it clear how even very successful local leaders risked everything in confronting the leadership.

Incredibly years after MCM imploded comments on my original blog announced that, “My life would be cursed,” because I was violating this Biblical stricture of “touching God’s anointed”.

Of course the assumption embedded in these comments were that these men were God’s anointed.

These leaders were not God’s anointed. Their actions and attitudes marked them as classic sociological cult leaders.

Coercive thought control

Many accounts of MCM, including the 1984 CRI report, detail how the group convinced new members to change their process of thinking under a barrage of teachings that decried the spirit of intellectualism.

This teaching was, “Check your brain at the door and judgement at the door.” Any logic that argued against the will of the leadership was that  of the “Spirit of the Age.”

And if one continued to utter aloud anything contrary to the will of the leadership a member would face immediate punishment. The example of my friend Peter’s shunning was but one example of that. Peter spoke his mind he was expelled. My lucky break was that my agnostic worldly college advisor, ruthless in his application of logic to my situation, helped me stay in school despite MCM’s and my best efforts to flunk out. I am still thankful for his use of the “Spirit of the Age.”

Although the harried activities in which all members participated helped bring money and converts into the ministry they also served another purpose. Which was to keep the members so busy and tired that there was little time or inclination for reflective thought. This helped keep complaints and challenges to leadership at a minimum. Idle minds with time for reflective thought were the devils workshop or so it seemed at MCM.

Whether implemented consciously or not all these measures served to control the thoughts of the members and bend their wills to that of the leadership.

The clearly coercive nature of MCM’s control of members thoughts meets the second criteria of a sociological cult given by Dr. Lifton

Economic and financial exploitation of the membership

MCM exploited its poor college students both physically (free labor) and economically burdening poor college students with one demand for financial sacrifice after another.

Mike Caulk, and other full timers, recounted the countless times  these “Stupid college kids” were harried for money. “Stupid college kids” was a phrase used by Bob Weiner repeatedly, according to Mike Caulk.

As I related in my original blog the average MCM member, in 2006 dollars, probably did not have an income of over $25,000. My analysis shows that Bob was pulling in over $ 300,000/year, drove a Mercedes E-Class Sedan (a $ 50,000 car in 2006 equivalent dollars), flew the country in a private plane with a ministry member, a slave waged pilot, stayed at nice hotels… while the MCM college students sacrificed their health and money for the ministry.

Make no mistake most of the dollars flowing into MCM came out of the pockets of struggling college students.

In addition the membership provided countless free hours of service to MCM leadership, above and beyond the busy work of Bible studies and witnessing.

Most every leader (male) had a personal male assistant an aide-camp or unpaid valet to do errands as mundane as fueling and washing their car or helping with yard work. The women leaders (all married to male leaders) inevitably had a hand maiden who was basically an unpaid nanny, cook, cleaner and errand girl. These handmaidens, pastors wives in training, served a double purpose. The handmaidens provided free labor to the female leaders. Observed at close quarters, and measured for their loyalty and devotion to MCM, they would then get the privilege of marrying, and watching over a pastor. It was another way for MCM to exert control over the local leadership.

Clearly MCM and its leadership exploited it membership for its own purposes. In fairness as much as Bob tried to make each campus ministry uniform in its zeal there was much variation in compliance to MCM ideals. I make clear in my blog that Auburn was neither the most lenient ministry nor was it the most zealous. But regardless of how much the local pastors tried to ameliorate this exploitation of the members by upper leadership it still occurred.

********

Cult or not?

MCM, given the definitions given by Dr. Lifton, was an abusive sociological cult.

We can argue whether it was as bad as some other abusive groups or better than others. Any good done must be weighed against the trauma, spiritually, emotionally and physically the group inflicted on people. For a Christian group the ends are as important as the means. But for MCM leadership the ends justifies the means.

No one wakes up one morning and announces, “Hey I think I will join a cult  and hand over my entire life and means of support  to ruthless leaders?” It is a hard truth to face for many that they indeed do this.

But for those who are willing to face this truth find that it is usually liberating.

 

#63 Confronting Abusive Leadership

“At the Meetings Snowball often won over the majority by his brilliant speeches, but Napoleon was better at canvassing support for himself in between times. He was especially successful with the sheep. Of late the sheep had taken to bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad” both in and out of season, and they often interrupted the Meeting with this. It was noticed that they were especially liable to break into “Four legs good, two legs bad” at crucial moments in Snowball’s speeches.”  George Orwell writing in Animal Farm

***************

Editors: Tikie has written a new post with further thoughts on abusive church leadership. We publish his new article here for the first time.

****************

Confronting Abusive Leadership

I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss some common questions and comments, as they appeared on my original blog. I hope that these comments will be of some help today as people, sadly, continue to wrestle with authoritarian Christian leadership.

**********

Touching God’s Anointed

Phrases like these were oft posted on my original blog:

“Tik you should approach those leaders who have sinned against you in private, writing about this publicly is not what Christ taught us. They are Christ’s anointed Ministers.

Invariably Matthew Chapter 19 was the proof source for these comments.

However, Matthew 19 deals with private offenses between two parties. Christ said, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.

My story makes abundantly clear that the sins of MCM leadership did not just involve me, but ultimately involved tens of thousands of people. And this is true of authoritarian leaders who abuse their congregations.

Regardless, the leadership at MCM (and other authoritarian groups) set up processes, or rituals, whereby it was impossible to face leadership privately without finding yourself on the hot-seat, or, expelled from the group and declared apostate.

In my own story this occurred when I confronted Marty, my shepherd at MCM. For my trouble I got a three-hour exorcism session with two other brothers and the loss of a good night’s sleep thrown in for free. The word of my supposed  “temper tantrum” (Marty’s words), my later “hootah session”, as well as my confessed sins, spread throughout the Auburn Ministry. I learned the lesson well about what happened in MCM if you confronted “God’s anointed” privately.

I submit that anyone who privately confronts a leader, in an authoritarian group, comes to grief publicly if they do so. This is a lesson in deterrence that members learn just quickly as I did. For who wants to confront a leader and then find themselves labeled as rebellious (or in the case of women “Jezebels”) and have their supposed sins broadcast to the entire congregation?

These authoritarian leaders are well aware about how discontent among the flock could grow and fester.

This public abuse of those who privately confront leadership serves another purpose beside deterrence alone. For the shaming of the private confronter, far from inciting the membership to question the leadership, instead rallies the membership to their beloved, and wrongly accused, leader.  Chanting, “Four legs good, two legs bad” at the accuser, the broader membership solidify the ties that bind them to the leader. Abusive leaders love nothing more than playing the martyr.

However, Paul tells us to take on abusive church leadership PUBLICLY.

Writing in Timothy (Chapter 5) Paul tells us, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels.”

Furthermore, how are we to give warnings to those that are about to step into the trap of a sociological cult if we cannot recount examples and stories of such?

What would have happened, if a week before Ellen and Randy’s visit to my frat house, had I read a book, or article, on Bob Weiner and MCM that contained the hard truth about MCM? Perhaps it would have saved me, and others, much heartache. To take this one step further, I submit that the Bible is full of stories that publicly recount the mistakes, and sins, of leadership. But one example of this is the story of King David’s adultery and his brutal murder of his lover’s husband.

No, we must publicize the sins and failings of abusive leadership if we are to help those who come after us. And if we find ourselves in a congregation with clearly abusive leaders we are to confront them publicly.

***********

The Good Intentions Problem

Another  other frequent comment posted to my blog would read like this: “Bob/Joe/ Whoever’s intentions (or leaders of any authoritarian group) were good they just went a little adrift in their execution.”

Well my Grandma Reese had the right of it with her acid riposte to such nonsense: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Let’s take a moment and play a mental game that uses an absurd example (reductio absurdum) involving good intentions.

Suppose I told you there was a group dedicated to eliminating poverty and suffering on earth. That, like  Christ, they wanted to prevent the abuse of the humble and poor by the rich and powerful alike.

What if I told you that the members of this group proved over and over again that they were willing  to be exiled, imprisoned, and executed for their beliefs. That even their mortal enemies admired their strength and dedication to their cause and their apparent holy text.

What if I told you the leader of this group lived a modest lifestyle, owned only two changes of clothes and cared not for fine foods. What if even this leader’s enemies, who hated him, admired his dedication and work ethic; and openly admitted that his goals were worthy, even his methods seemed harsh.

What if you  learned that the group’s leader had died from overwork and at his funeral tens of thousands of people stood in line to walk by his open casket for many hours during a terrible blizzard and wept openly at the sight of his body.

Would you join this group, founded by a selfless well-intentioned leader? Would you join this group that possessed what were clearly good intentions?

Since his intentions were good wouldn’t this prove that the leader was ultimately good, even if his ideas went a bit off track in their execution?

Of course I am referring to Vladmir Lenin, whose modest life style, and well-intentioned goal of eliminating poverty and abuse of people by their betters, resulted in the death of millions. I am not accusing MCM of being Lenin like. Rather this absurd example points out that good intentions don’t mean diddly.

And this is the true meaning of Christ’s reference to each of being judged by our fruit.

Only God is privy to what Joe Smith, Bob Weiner, and other authoritarian leaders,  intentions truly are/were.

The rest of us can only judge a person by their fruit.

***************

Mistakes Were Made… Good Was Done.

The corollary to the good intentions argument is the, “Well Tik, MCM did carry out some good,” comment.

“No doubt,” I would reply.

But at what cost?

To risk going over the top again, Hitler brought us the Volkswagen, the Interstate Highway System in the US (a direct copy of his autobahn), ballistic missiles, jet engines, and holiday only cruise ships. Once again I am NOT comparing MCM’s leadership to Hitler, so please save the outraged comments.

Rather I am pointing out that, yes, MCM did some good but at a terrible cost.

For Christians not only should the ends not justify the means, but the means must be worthy of the end. In fact, I would argue that the means, for Christ, were just as important as the ends.

A minister of Christ should never explain away abuse of the flock with the “Mistakes were made but a lot of good was done” argument.”  For Christ said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

*******

Tik Tok  August 2017

 

 

#62 Post Script The Rebellion of Korah

[Editors in his original blog Tik wrote a story that occurred after he left MCM . This based on interviews and email with Mike and Missy Caulk  completed in 2007. We believe it is valuable because it demonstrates how sub-leaders in authoritarian groups are both victims and victimizers.]

The Rebellion of Korah

Squealer consoled the animals saying, “Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” ” From “Animal Farm” by George Orwell

Ann Arbor, Late 1983

Clickety Clak Clak Clickety Clak Clak …Clik clik…Ring

Missy pulled the paper out of the IBM selectric. Her brows furrowed as she read it carefully. Perfection was required…and perfect was not easy in the days of IBM selectric type writers.

No word processors, no spell check, no computers, just Missy, the type writer, and a bottle of white out.

Actually there would be no white out used on this letter…they had both agreed on that. It had to be perfect.

In appearance and in wording.

She glanced down at the trash can half full of wadded up papers…representing their previous attempts at getting it right.

Missy had plenty of experience with this kind of stuff. She had actually served as Bob Weiner’s personal assistant in Paducah…typing letters…making travel arrangements…picking his clothes up at the dry cleaners…anything that Bob needed to make his life easier. What she was doing was second nature by now and she also figured if she could handle Bob and his craziness she could handle anything.

She was one of the core group of people from Bob Weiner’s inner circle. Bob and Rose both trusted and respected Missy.

“How’s it look Miss…?” it was Mike Caulk speaking and he was pacing up and down in front of the desk at which Missy sat.

He rubbed his hands together and then took the sheet of paper from Missy.

Mike, dark-haired, tall, and athletically built was a natural leader and a young guys just wanted to hang out with.

And to be like.

He sat down opposite of Missy and ran his hands through his hair. He slowly re-read the letter for the hundredth time.

“Well…?” Missy asked.

“Okay…it looks good.” Mike said. “But just read it through one more time. It has must be just right.”

If they went through with their plan this letter would go out to every pastor and co-pastor within MCM.

It was more than a letter…it was a virtual nuclear strike that would shake the foundations of MCM and threaten the autocratic leadership.

************

Mike and Missy Caulk married in an “arranged” MCM marriage. It had been tough sledding at first but by the time they got to Auburn in 1978 they had ironed out their problems and had become a great team.

She was, as I have told you, one of the members of the inner circle…she had been converted by Mildred Russell, Rose Weiner’s sister-in-law. Missy was tough, passionate, opinionated, and determined. If she did not like your opinion or actions she would tell you flat-out, there was no guessing about what Missy was thinking.

You could immediately read it in her expression…it is either sunshine or thunderstorms with Missy…and it is never boring around her.

Never.

The fourth day after my MCM blog was up I got a simple and direct e-mail from Missy: “Hey Tikie…I am enjoying your blog you are doing a good job.”

Nothing else- simple and to the point with a very clear opinion on what I was writing.

Oh, and I must also tell you that Missy expected others to have the same passion and willingness to speak up that she did. She preferred that people to tell her to her face what they were thinking, even if they disagreed with her.

Especially if they disagreed with her.

But this strength was also her weakness, especially in the “upside down” world of MCM.

Missy was a pastor’s wife, she was known by all MCM members as one of Bob’s former “hand maidens” and his former and trusted administrative assistant…she was a disciple of Bob’s sister-in-law…. and all of this made her word law, whether she realized it or not… for better or worse.

Mike Caulk, however, was an easy-going guy, in many ways the opposite of Missy. Nothing seemed to rattle him or concern him, at least not on the outside.

He was a true comedian right out of the Jerry Seinfield mode, before there was a Jerry Seinfield.

His almost crazy antics in the pulpit and his humor made him extremely popular with the brothers. He was a sports nut and a witty conversationalist. He was simply put: a natural youth leader, youth pastor, or high school coach.

Of course, like most of us in MCM, his gifts became warped and distorted by MCM and he found himself doing things he hated in the name of MCM.

In the name of Jesus and God’s Kingdom.

Mike and Missy, as you have read, led one of the most successful ministries in MCM at Auburn. They nurtured and raised up at least twelve “full timers” (including yours truly)…and had then gone on to successfully plant the Ann Arbor Ministry, one of the bright stars of the “Great Send out”. Additionally least 120 people from Auburn scattered to the winds during the “Great Send Out” a real tribute to Mike and Missy’s ability to develop young leaders for MCM.

So by this time, two years after the “Great Send Out”, Mike and Missy seemed to be one of the best ministry “teams” in MCM with Missy being the “driver and organizer” and Mike being the public face of the Ministry.

And MCM, itself, was on a roll, or so it appeared.

It had doubled in size, at least in terms of the number of ministry sites, because of the “Great Send Out”. It attracted the attention of Christian Right Wing political movement in the US including the endorsement of Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition.

Bob was in demand because of the “right wing revolution” with MCM on the cutting edge of all this. His speaking engagements outside of MCM rose in number…and he wason the leading edge of the “Reagan Conservative Revolution. In fact Bob appeared in the right hand column of the Wall Street Journal as one of the rising stars in the Reagan Revolution in 1985.

Heady times for Bob Weiner these were and MCM appeared unstoppable.

But the flaws and the evil at the heart of MCM were going to be exposed nationally…and were coming to light even as MCM neared its apogee in late 1984 and early 1985.

Over the last ten years Mike and Missy had seen both the good and the bad in MCM. But like Miltie they thought the “good” would win out and that they could reform MCM…well they thought this for a long while, at least.

Mike writes: “As we saw it, protecting the young people under our leadership from the whims of MCM was one of our primary missions. With that aim we often shielded our young people from the raw ambition and the more abrasive egos that were at the core of Maranatha. “

Mike and Missy’s protection of their Auburn flock from the destructiveness of top leadership backfired, however, on those of us who went into full-time ministry during the “Great Send Out”.

As tough as it might have seemed Auburn was actually a moderately run flock. In many sites someone like Miltie would have never survived. Although don’t misunderstand me, Miltie had to conform, as did everyone.

So we  had been “protected” by Mike and Missy…as is shown by my own shock when exposed to MCM corporate (International Offices or IO, as it was known). The exposure to the politics and mafia like brutal tactics disheartened people like Matt and me who had  not seen the real face of MCM’s top leadership clique.

It almost destroyed Matt’s and my Christian Faith.

Others caught up in the “Great Send Out” actually did have their faith and their lives destroyed beyond repair, or so it seemed.

But Mike and Missy could not completely protect always their flock (as they saw their church) from the leadership.

When the brass from Gainesville showed up at Auburn or Ann Arbor it disrupted the local ministry and upset Mike and Missy’s work. But because their financial and membership numbers were among the best those visits by the top dogs were few…but harrowing.

Mike writes “Protecting you guys, Tikie, from harassment was not always possible, however as people from Gainesville IO (international offices) came to “minister” or when we had regional or national MLTS conferences contact with the top people from MCM was unavoidable. We always worried about Bob, Joe or the other guys coming into town because of the effect it had on “our people”.

Mike and Missy were blinded, at least for a while, by this conundrum…that they must shield low level members from the top leadership to prevent the flock from being poisoned and discouraged. This was the very top leadership that supposedly had God’s anointing and direction.

As I have written to you already I noticed from the start the dissonance between Mike and the Gainesville (or IO leadership) that Mike appeared very nervous when he was around the “big shots” like Bob Weiner and Joe Smith.

The other problem of course focused on  finances.

The problem of finances and funding was one of the main reasons I left MCM.

I have friends in Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) [Editor; now CRU] and the amount of monthly support that I raised ($ 1,500/month or the equal in 2006 of $ 3,750) was an amount more than adequate to support a single CCC minister on campus. But of course MCM was NOT CCC; it was a money-making, power-driven, entity and it would suck every nickel it could out of the local MCM sites and out of the pastoral staff and then some.

CCC takes a 2.5 % administration fee off of all donations. Period. No hidden fees, no special offerings…nothing else or “special”. Ninety five precent of CCC staffers are self-supporting raising their own funds.

But MCM imposed several layers of “taxes and fees” in addition to the ongoing special offerings that came firing out at the local pastors nonstop. But Mike, as a pastor for seven years in MCM had learned how to handle this issue…with a deft touch that made us “newbies and doobies” in the full-time ministry look silly.

It came with learning how to work in the jungle of MCM. I guess you could term it learning “how to swim with the sharks and not be eaten.”

Mike writes, “The financial demands were of IO (International offices) were all of insane. They, as you know, would come at us helter skelter with financial requests. The demands for more funds, and more funds…then urging us to get even more funds out of those “stupid kids”. At Auburn and later at Ann Arbor we would stash extra funds into “camouflage accounts” whenever we had surpluses over our needs. We never told IO about these “camouflage slush fund” accounts, of course.”

“When the requests for MORE and SPECIAL funds came …if we felt that we had “bled” the flock too often we would draw these “rainy day” accounts down…or on occasion if the cause was just down right flakey we would do the same. Many pastors secretly called Gainesville IOU rather than IO because we were taxed and over taxed to pay for various needs, mission projects and other causes.”

Where all of this money actually ended up was a mystery.

Mike and Missy had learned that if they kept the money flowing to Gainesville they could protect the flock.

But for what reason?

Why should they stay with a system whose leadership would infect and corrupt their people, their flock? This was the same leadership who continued to make outrageous financial demands, and who Mike and Missy had come to realize was corrupt and insidious.

Leadership that was hurting the very people Mike and Missy were protecting.

At Ann Arbor Mike and Missy had managed to avoid the help from Gainesville in planting their ministry, although they had a visit or two from Joe and Bob. They brought all the talent from Auburn they needed to get the ministry started .including working lay brothers and sisters to give a sound financial footing for their “Great Send Out Planting”.

Hawker, a young home-grown evangelist from Auburn hit the campus preaching and sharing…while JC was their other ace in the hole…providing a music group that topped the Praise Band.

You may recall that JC was Auburns “Jack of all trades” musician. He was an extremely gifted arranger and composer of music. Once at Ann Arbor he put together a music group and a small orchestra that quickly became well-known around MCM for its professionalism.

JC and his band quickly attracted Bob’s attention, and what normally would have happened is that MCM corporate (IO) would have “stolen” JC AND his band from the Ann Arbor fellowship. Then IO would have then taken them to Gainesville, as crazy as it seemed. But Mike would not allow that to happen, and so the real problems started.

Mike tells us a little about the final MLTS that he and Missy attended:

“When we traveled to what would be our last MLTS  our music team was honored by being asked to lead the music through the 3 day event. (J C had done a magnificent job in attracting training and co-coordinating this group.) This was the first close contact many of our students had with the national leadership team in general and with Bob in particular. It was, how shall I say, a less than spiritual experience. Bob has many strengths but grace under pressure is not one of them and many from the team came away from the event disappointed and disillusioned. But more to the point this meeting proved to be the classic “last straw” for Missy and me.”

It was a disaster for Mike and Missy because their core group of young leaders and “on fire” followers of Jesus at Ann Arbor (some of the sharpest and most sincere in MCM) were exposed to Bob’s and MCM’s callous and vicious nature up close and upfront.

They also firsthand saw the back biting and maneuvering and pettiness that existed and thrived at the top. About who would sit where, who in leadership were allowed on stage…who would get the glory and the limelight…and who, in upper leadership, during this MLTS, would be relegated to a backseat role; and then “re-elevated to the top-tier once again by Bob and Joe for whatever reason in the next MLTS.

The entire worship and leadership team of Ann Arbor came back from that MLTS disillusioned and disgusted by the contrast between the ideals that MCM preached and the lust for power, money, and prestige that drove  the top leaders in the organization. This was no different from my recoil at brutal tactics of Leo Lawson, Bob Weiner, and Nick Pappis.

But this was not “news” to Mike and Missy. They lived with the reality of MCM for over ten years.

They write, “The 2 months leading up to the Dallas MLTS in 1983 were some of the more traumatic in our 10 years of  service with Maranatha. The national ministry was under examination from other parts of the [larger and mainstream] church, criticisms from parents, and scrutiny from the national press.”

Since 1976 local and campus papers worked to expose the traumatic reality of MCM. Bob and Joe would simply put this stuff down to persecution for Christ’s sake.

We all did, actually.

My own name about in the Auburn Campus paper as someone who had been ‘hijacked” by MCM and a spate of  other very negative articles about MCM plastered the local and campus papers at Auburn. My  negative experience as a Pastor with the local campus newspaper at my ministry was also typical for the MCM locales.

But, MCM had flown under the radar of the national US mainstream press and the national US mainstream religious communities until 1982. This allowed MCM to come into a local community as an “unknown” and thrive, at least for a while. There was no INTERNET to learn about MCM. No way to “Google” Bob Weiner and possibly read a blog like this. No real way to warn others about the very insidious and seductive trap that MCM would set for idealistic young people.

But things begin to change though and a national reputation mirroring that of MCM on the local level begin to color the view outsiders had of the ministry and begin to constrain MCM’s  expansion into new areas unnoticed, and unchallenged, by the media and the mainstream church.

For example in 1982 a student member of MCM, at the University of Waterloo, Canada, attempted to castrate himself in order defeat the demons of lust. MCM’s insane emphasis on the sexual thoughts of young men, the  demons that caused them, and the hours long “hootah” sessions, caught with Joe and Bob.

This sensational news of self-mutilation by a young man in MCM brought national scrutiny, finally, to MCM, and allegations about cultic behavior and authoritarian abuse began to circle around MCM.

And at K State, my “mentor” Marty was thrown off of the university because of the hard core cultic tactics of that local ministry. The K State Chapter and Pastor Marty became the center of a “deprogramming” controversy, one of the first cases to be written about in the national press in the US. This also created a firestorm of controversy for MCM.

But Bob Weiner, convinced of his rightness and the call of God on MCM, asked the Christian Research Institute [CRI] (a respected independent evangelical group) to investigate MCM and give a letter of endorsement to counter the claims of MCM being cultic.

Whether this was arrogance or stupidity on his part I have never figured out. It was akin to Jimmy Baker asking Jerry Falwell to investigate and sign off on his Christian Theme-park Financial Scam if you remember this.

Only a lunatic would invite outside scrutiny into the mess of abuse at MCM.

But there you have it.

Bob, however, told the MCM full time pastoral staff that they had been given a “clean bill of health by CRI” and a “very positive report would be coming out shortly.” [Editors: Please internet search CRI Maranatha]. Bob later blamed this on MCM growing to fast and putting inexperienced pastors in place. This was a lie from the pit of hell. All of the insanity flowed directly from Bob’s antics and Joe Smith’s insanity (for Matt convinced me that Joe was literally and clinically insane).

This was a lie of course. But God was on their side, perhaps Bob Weiner thought and God would defeat the enemies of the Green Berets. Reality or outside opinion be damned, or more likely be co-opted.

Now Mike and Missy had been hit hard by all of this and knew that something was seriously wrong with MCM. Things that could not and would never be corrected because of the corrupt narcissistic bent of the top leadership.

This unrest came to Ann Arbor where we had a “sharp” kidnapped twice! His father had him seized and “deprogrammed” by supposed professionals. I found many of these deprogrammers were self-anointed vigilantes and nothing more than Christian nerds who had tasted glory but I digress. Our abducted student returned after the first round but on the second they got to him and he left taking along with him several good kids. “

But Mike and Missy had to face something that was very unpleasant about their own ministry…and the fact that they were enabling the abuse that took place through “Corporate” MCM [IO]. Much as I had enabled and led the abuse of young leaders like “Tikietwo” at my own campus ministry.

And What came out about about MCM nationally, even at Ann Arbor, was true.

And that weighed heavily on Mike and Missy’s conscience.

“The kicker was there was, of course, there was much truth in the criticism being circulated,” Mike writes, “ At this point we purposed to go to the Dallas MLTS to see significant change or resign.”

They begin making phone calls to talk to their friends in leadership around the country…just to take the temperature of MCM at large before the Dallas MLTS.

Then something strange and wonderful happened. We began to hear rumors of upheaval in the system. Whispers had started to filter in that a new day was dawning, that Bob and Joe and the other leaders had taken the criticisms seriously, acknowledged where we had erred and were ready to make amends.”

“We were told major repentance and change were on the horizon… everything was going to change… “no really we mean it this time it really was going to change”. Like starving carp we took the bait and like idiots believed it all over again. So off to Texas with hope springing eternal!”

“Actually I was growing very skeptical that real change would or could be effected. I had no confidence that Missy and I had it in our power to bring about any real alteration in the status quo. When we finally decided to “secede from the union” and were later accused of fermenting some sort of regional or larger uprising I was taken aback because that was never a part of our thinking. Again we were simply acting to protect our people, and Tikie, as I have written you to protect ourselves.”

“Anyway we did travel south with the hope that what we were hearing had some root in reality.”

“ These hopes were dealt a blow prior to MLTS during the staff meeting that often preceded these events. At some point during this meeting Missy and I were “ministered” to by the usually suspects in a “hotaah” session. “

“It was the standard shake-down by Bob, Joe and others listening to your concerns then spending hours convincing you that it was either not true, the result of your obvious dysfunctional upbringing, intricate demonic activity (MCM had one for everything) or some blend of all of them. “

“There was never a consideration that you a mere “local pastor” had any real insight into why the larger ministry was under such duress. No… just cough-up a few dozen pesky spirits, get some inner-healing, and learn to keep your mouth shut in the future. “

**********

Mike and Missy re-read the letter one more time that late winter afternoon in Ann Arbor.

“Okay” Missy said, “We have talked about it and prayed about…let’s do it.”

Mike took the letter back from her and stepped to the copier and set it for 100 copies…enough for every full timer with MCM and then some.

He turned and grinned at Missy “Okay Miss…better get those envelopes addressed.”

A new MCM “planting, with over 150 members (one of the largest plants made during the Great Send Out) was pulling out of MCM . Mike and Missy Caulk and their entire church were in complete and open rebellion against the leadership of MCM.

Guys like me that left MCM individually, why we were nothing more than road kill on the MCM highway to dominance and glory. No one really cared whether we left or lived or died, as I found out. Big deal, just a casualty of war that happened when you were setting out to build a truly great thing. Case in I was crying on my parents floor after my brutal encounter with Joe… why Joe was having a nice meal at Lucrenzo’s in Auburn without a care in the world

But what Mike and Missy planned would be different for MCM.

It created havoc for MCM top leadership and the entire ministry. It showed that MCM could suffer major setbacks. That they were NOT always victorious. That there really might be, “something rotten in Denmark.”

Mike and Missy’s courageous actions would show other pastors and leaders that they did NOT have to accept the vindictive and controlling and abusive structure created by Bob Weiner, Joe Smith and Bob Nolte.

They were, of course branded as heretics, thieves, traitors, Judas’s and identified as akin to Korah by MCM’s leadership.

To their everlasting credit.

#61 Epilogue 2017-Where are they now?

Epilogue 2017- Where are they now?

Greg Ball– served on the Board of Every Nation Church and founded Champions for Christ, a MCM offshoot, and later, an affiliate organization of Every Nation Church. Amid accusations of financial improprieties Greg stepped down from his role at Champions for Christ and Every Nation Church. Greg works as an investment advisor in Austin, Texas.

Phil Bonasso– founded what is now Every Nation Church along with Rice Broocks and Steve Murrell. Amid allegations of financial impropriety Phil stepped down from his role in overseeing west coast Every Nation Churches in 2006. Phil is now listed as a missionary for Bethel World Outreach Church, a subsidiary of Every Nation Church, and is pastor of Story Teller Church located in Los Angeles.

Rice Broocks– founded what is now Every Nation Church along with Steve Murrell and Phil Bonasso, all ex MCM pastors. Rice serves on the board of Bethel World Outreach Church and Every Nation Church and is a frequent speaker on campuses around the world.

Dr. Carl– Tikie’s college advisor and mentor moved from Auburn to teach at a university in his home state of Kansas. Tikie and Dr. Carl still talk frequently on the phone and, on occasion, visit each other. Dr. Carl retired from teaching in 2010.

Mike Caulk– courageously broke his Ann Arbor, Michican church off from MCM in the mid 1980s after a public stance against the leadership’s abusive practices. Mike later stepped down from his role within his church to pursue a career of  teaching in the Ann Arbor area. Mike went on to win numerous awards for teaching and coaching excellent. A much beloved figure in his community Mike passed away, unexpectedly, in 2014.

Missy Caulk- was the driving force behind the move to take the Ann Arbor church out from under MCM. Missy went on to become a successful real estate agent. She continues to run her large real estate agency.

Matt Hatter– Matt, after stepping down as MCM pastor at Auburn, moved to Ann Arbor to join Mike Caulk’s church. Matt and his wife, Allie moved back to Alabama where Matt, with a master’s degree, worked for the State of Alabama in social work for over thirty years. Matt is now retired.

Allie Hatter– Allie, after returning with Matt to Alabama from Michigan, pursued a career in nursing where she won many community awards.

Mom/Martin- Tikie’s red headed frat resident advisor Mom/Martin earned his masters degree in engineering from Auburn in 1980 and later his doctorate from Georgia Tech. He, and his long time wife Jenny, live in the midwestern US where Mom/Martin is a engineering professor at a large university. Their four daughters are now grown and married.

Nick Pappis– left MCM after it imploded and founded a church in Jackson TN.  He also founded Pappis International, Inc, an investment and business consulting company where he served as CEO.  His Word Press website states that ‘Dr. Pappis has also been involved with international think tanks attended by world leaders, titans of industry and…is sought out as a corporate deal marker and acquires corporations internationally for clients.’ Nick was arrested in 2013 in Jackson TN, allegedly for bilking a parishioner out of $ 10,000 in a fraudulent investment scheme.

Sheila– Tikie’s best friend at Auburn earned her degree in Pharamcological Science in 1981. She worked then for some time as a sales representative for a large pharmaceutical  company in central Alabama. Sheila married a promiment Alabama attorney and has four children who are now grown and married. Sheila continues to reside in Alabama with her husband.

Joe Smith- after MCM imploded in the early 1990s Joe begin traveling as an itenarant prophet and evangelist in the southeast. Joe passed away in Florida in 2014.

Tikie and Sissy married some 30 years ago. After working for MPI for four years Tikie then moved into the medical device industry where he held positions of increasing responsibility with large multi-national companies. He is currently CEO of a medical equipment company based in New England. Tikie and Sissy’s two children are attending college.

Miltie Toast– the courageous place kicker that doomed his chances of going full time by confronting Bob Weiner publicly, left MCM in 1986. Miltie is now a succesful real estate investor, and landlord, in Tennesee.

Bob and Rose Weiner– Bob stepped down from MCM when it disbanded in 1989 amidst theological controvery and accusations of authoritarian practices. Bob and Rose continue to publish and sell their Bible Studies for a Firm Foundation (the Red Book) and other studies on their website and Amazon. They now head the Bob and Rose Weiner Ministies Inc.  According to 2013 IRS filings, this ministry reported $310,812 in tax exempt contributions from donors.

 

#60 Freedom: The Last Chapter

 

Editors Note: We asked Tikie to write a last chapter for his story as we began re-publication of his original blog posts. The following post was written by Tikie in July 2017, at our request, and is being published here, with his permission, for the first time.

Freedom- The Last Chapter

Two question frequently asked me, by those few who know of my involvement in a sociological cult (MCM), are:

“How did someone like you get sucked into such a thing?”

and/or

“How did you break free?’

To the former question there is no easy answer.

Steve Hassan and Jana Lailah, both recognized experts and former cult members, cite statistics showing a cult member, on average, has a higher IQ, and comes from a higher socio-economic background, than the average American. And therein lies one key. Very ambitious people sometimes overestimate their intelligence; thinking that “no one can take advantage of me.” But in the end vulnerability to cult membership is not determined by intelligence, but by psychological needs, according to both Hassan and Lalich.

One thing that is common among new recruits is they are at some transitional phase in their life, write Lalich and Hassan. The new recruit may have moved, or have problems at school, or been cut off by their family, or like me, are dissatisfied with their religion as it is being practiced .

Noted expert Margaret Sanger writes:

This process of feigning friendship and interest in the recruit was originally associated with one of the early youth cults. Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members’ flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark.

The recruiter identifies a need the recruit has, then uses the group’s solution as bait on the hook. The member convinces himself/herself that what the group says is true and that the recruit’s needs will be met as a result.

But in the end these recruits join sociological cults because they want to join. This is no mere tautology.

The fact that the group has convinced the member to convince themselves makes it difficult for the member to leave. The recruit is in because they want to be in, not because they have been duped.

As I related, with help from MCM, I convinced myself that MCM was building a true first century church, one that I had longed and hoped for. Then MCM added a communal and dedicated group alongside a special mission, mixed in special language, isolation from former friends, and the result created bonds that some might liken to those that bind together combat veterans.

And that is why some ex-MCMers cling to the myth that MCM was a good thing. They have deceived themselves.

As to how I left MCM?

I left the same way I got in. I convinced myself that MCM was evil and actually the opposite of the group I thought I had joined.

But perhaps most important question is not why I eventually walked out of MCM but what took me so long to leave.

As you have seen it was clear from the very beginning that I had doubts about MCM.

But any doubts I had were repressed…because of the constant drumbeat of MCM sermons and studies and because our true thoughts and doubts were kept isolated from other members. This need for keeping doubts from being openly expressed is why MCM, and other cults, jump on any verbalized doubts with both feet.

I assumed that my doubts were due to my own failings and sin.  If a few of us, at Auburn, had openly shared our doubts and concerns with each other about MCM, perhaps, at least at Auburn, might have folded far sooner than it did.

By isolating the member from their doubts, and from outside friendship, while simultaneously, providing new  loving relationships, MCM kept members in line and within the group. Long after I realized that MCM was a terrible mistake I simply could not bear to leave my adopted family.

 So when I consider why I stayed in so long it was because of the deep friendships and the bonds I developed, not the theology.

Of course I freely admit my own ambition and drive kept me in the group. My recruiter and Bob Weiner used this ambition, one of my sure strengths, as a weapon against me. And I happily pulled the trigger, so to speak .

In the end, though, my conscience would not allow me to continue to abuse people in the name of MCM and God.

However I have a nightmare that goes like this:

What if money had been pouring into the ministry I started in the “Great Send Out”? Would I have  become like the MCM pastors who hung in there until MCM imploded? Would I have been a Rice Brooks or Phil Bonasso and worked to resurrect the beast, but under a different name? I pray that would not have been the case, but this line of thought keeps me humble. I must tell you I am so thankful that the ministry I started was financially strapped from the beginning and heading for insolvency.

**********

The process of leaving MCM physically was very hard, but leaving mentally was even harder. Thanks to Sissy and Dr. Carl I was able to get on my feet and begin shaking off the shackles I had wound around my spirit and mind.

After Sissy and I were married (some three years post MCM) I simply tried to bury the past, and if I thought of it at all it was with revulsion.

But my experiences in MCM continued to burden me. The anger at losing four of the best years of my life in what seemed an evil cause weighed on me and my conscience.

Those thoughts drove me to finally confront my experience head on.

Reading books by Steve Hassan, Margaret Sanger, and by my favorite expert, Janja Lalich, finally helped me understand what had happened to me, and why. And that my experience was not an isolated one, but shared by many others.

Dr. Lalich’s revelation that I was a coconspirator in my own entrapment, counterintuitive thought it might seem, liberated me from the anger and guilt I felt.

In fact after this revelation I attended two conferences where Dr. Lalich spoke. Hearing her talk about her own cultic experience, so different in many ways, but yet so similar to those of mine, helped me greatly. Once again a left wing atheist played a role in liberating me from my past and from MCM.

This entire process of  being truly liberated took me about ten years. Other ex-Members of MCM, like Allie, simply walked away without a seeming second thought.

But for me, and I suspect, for others, it was much harder than this.

Interestingly, studies of Scientology show that, on average, it takes ex-members about ten years to recover psychologically from their experience in this group.

But the truth is that for me, MCM, and the wound it left on my heart and soul, will never go away 100%.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of his experience some forty years earlier as a youth in the American Civil War:

It was as if we had been burned by fire.

And so it is with me.

I pray that my story has been of some help to those who took the time to join me in the recounting of my journey into, and out of, MCM.

Tik Tok , August 2017, Boston MA

 

#59 With A Little Help From My Friend

“…the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Jesus as quoted by John, his disciple

Sissy had asked me to attend this Bible study after our first date. I really did not want to attend a Bible Study. Heck, as you know by now I had read the entire Bible through three times and could vomit scripture out at will.

In fact thought of going to a Bible study actually made me want to vomit.

But I would have walked on hot coals to spend another couple of hours with Sissy during the week so I went for that reason only.

My mind was as open as a wall with regards to anything of the Bible.

But God will have His way, won’t He?

Despite my admonitions to God to “Stay the hell out of my life” I would soon see His hand on my life.

******
Now a MCM study or sermon always started with a premise (not that MCM would ever have used that term). That premise supported whatever MCM had decided to do or decided to make the sheep do.

That pretty much sums up the purposes of all the MCM studies, sermons, and their theology.

To be as pedantic as possible: Topical Preaching simply expounds on what the Bible says about a specific topic. It involves, or should involve, looking at multiple scriptures throughout the Bible to see what multiple scriptures say about the premise (again I don’t like this approach but that is one reason Baskin Robbin’s ice cream has more than one flavor).

What MCM employed (and what I believe EN employs) is a method I term “Twisting and Bending” [with credit to Mary Alice Chrnalogar author of “Twisted Scriptures”].

Twisting and Bending is a subtle and dangerous use of the Topical Preaching method.  Dangerous because it involved looking only at passages and each scripture that support the premise, regardless of the context, or what other scriptural texts on the subject might seem to say. It scours the Bible for any and all texts that support the premise and for no others.

I have given a couple of examples of this “Twisting and Bending” approach earlier in this Blog.

For example MCM started with the “premise” of the call to live a totally committed life, shepherding, and  the requirement of bearing fruit to be a Christian.

The MCM teacher/preacher then scoured the Bible looking for any and all passages that might possible support this predetermined premise. Any scriptures that might be counter to the premise, or, caution against the premise, are ignored.

Well there ARE plenty of scriptures that could be interpreted to support this view (the need for  complete and total commitment to be a Christian, being shepherded, and bearing fruit)…but if I could show you ONE passage that did NOT support this view, one example of someone believing in Jesus and going directly to heaven without doing a THING for Jesus, then this might give you, the adherent, pause before going crazy and driving a complete theological framework and a Church (or cult) around this belief.

One might only point out that the thief on the cross, an admitted sinner, who died soon after his conversation with Christ, and went to paradise. No confession of sin on his part, no hootah sessions, no converting anybody, no lengthy all night prayer sessions, no Bible studies, no baptism no nothing but stating “Truly You are the Son of God” and asking “remember me in paradise”.

The thief was a sinner one minute, asking Christ to take him the next, in paradise the next. One could, as I pointed out earlier, also look to the parable of the late worker who received the same pay those who had worked all day for the master.

Sure there is room for argument here, of course,…my point is not that anyone accept the COUNTERVIEW view I just proposed to the “radical commitment to Jesus premise. My point is simply that ALL scripture be weighed and considered when considering a subject

But of course MCM insisted on this “Twisting and Bending” method only…and to compound this fundamental teaching error …anyone who did bring up a countervailing scripture or scriptures would quickly find themselves in a hootah session or worse.

***********

Well, it soon clear to me that this Bible study of Sissy’s was radically different from the MCM studies/sermons and the “fill in the blank” MCM gobble-ti-gook nonsense of the Red, Green,Brown, Blue and Pink Books (yes Pink!) Book Studies that I had poisoned my mind with.

And the  Bible study I went to with Sissy started with no premise.

None.

It was not about “Believing in miracles”, or “The Laws of God’s Prosperity”, or “Spiritual Warfare”, or “Claiming the Healing Power of Jesus’, or “Discipleship, God’s Way”, or “Converting Souls for Jesus”, or “Why You Should Give to a Special Offering”, or “Gods Annointing on the Leadership and Why You Should Obey Them”.

It was a premise free, topic free study.

Let me correct that. It was a study whose topic was simply “The Book of Romans”.

Now when I started attending the study, the group was going word by word, line by line, and verse by verse through Romans…and they were just starting on the 2nd Chapter after sixteen weekly one and a half hour studies.

When Sissy told me all of this I could not have imagined anything more BORING. Nothing to get excited about, at all, from my perspective.

I was merely hoping to keep conscious during the hour and a half study.

I mean how many times had I heard, or [cringe] did I say, “Tonight God has an earth shattering important word on…well…Faith or Healing or Saving Souls or Giving or Demons or Ruling and Reigning.”

But a study on Romans????…just Romans…well it sounded as appetizing as a bowl of day old oatmeal with no sugar in it to me.

Sissy brought an oversized parallel Bible with her (the kind that tracks KJV, NIV, NAS and RSV side by side) and something I had never seen before: something called “Young’s Literal Translation”, which was a word for word Greek to English translation of the NT.

Now what did I bring?

Well I brought one of those little green Gideon’s New Testament since my other Bible was moldering in the woods; highlights, notes and all. (I wonder if it is still there…in my parent’s back yard…?)

So we started in on the second chapter of Romans and spent one and half hour on the following:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

We looked up the Greek word for “therefore” and “excuse”, we looked up all potential English translations for them. We did the same for “judgment” and “someone”. We looked at probably twenty other scriptures around these words and concepts. We went back to Chapter 1 to see what the “there” was “therefore” (ha ha ha). We spent time discussing why Paul was writing the church in Rome, and where he probably was when he wrote them.

About 45 minutes into this thing I suddenly found that I was enjoying it.

I mean we were “parsing’ the Word of God, examining it up and down, sideways and backwards…no premise…no huge points…we were letting the Bible Speak to us… just speak…no hushed tones then loud screams by the teacher, no hand gestures, no leaning forward when a huge point was made, no accusations, no condemnation, no band playing some emotionally laden song at the end of the study, no hootahing, no tears… no one telling us we were not trying hard enough, or our souls were in jeopardy… it was just a pure and simple study of the Bible.

Later we spent four weeks studying the greetings to and from the early Christians at the end of Romans, tracing Rufus and learning about his mother…it was one of the most exciting studies I had ever been through.

You see I this was my first exposure to expository teaching, exegesis, and Biblical hermeneutics for the first time.

Exegesis involves determining the literal meaning of each word of scripture and the relationship to other words, and the context of the scripture (those verses and words immediately before and after).

The other principles being used in this study was that of “hermeneutics” and “weight of the scripture”. This is simply trying to understand the proper interpretation of scripture using the exegesis, context and weight of all the scriptures to develop a view or interpretation rather than gathering disparate texts.

Our teacher, a seminarian,  used a very simple explanation for the way he was teaching:

“Suppose you walk into a room and two people are conversing and you hear one say “I hate it when you say that.” Now, you might, based on that one statement, come to a conclusion…being that the speaker “hates the other person” or what they are saying. “

“But if you investigate the context of the conversation, look into the entire conversation, explore the relationship between the two people, look at how the words are used in relationship to each other. you might actually find out that the person who said “I hate it…”actually liked” what was being said, and was getting ready to laugh at a very, very funny joke.”

Well at that time I did not understand all of this, that is for certain.

And I did not realize it during that first study I attended, nor the fifth, nor the tenth, but sometime during the next 12 months real faith began taking root in my heart.

Not a faith that I grasped or or conjured up through an effort of will… but a faith that was growing without my effort, or perhaps, in SPITE of my efforts.

For as I later learned faith comes… by… “Hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

And for the first time in my life, I was simply sitting and studying the Word, not to learn how to get more souls for Jesus, or to become a “Mighty man of God” and a “CHAMP”, not to prove a point I already had in mind, or someone else had in mind, nor to impress my shepherd, nor to impress God, nor to get deliverance…but simply to study and “hear” the Bible “speak”.

It truly was like drinking out of a clear and cool fountain on a hot and dusty day.

*********

And day by day, little by little, with the help of this simple weekly study along with the advice and counsel of my special brown-eyed friend, I begin unlocking the rusty shackles and chains that I, with help from MCM, had wound tightly around both my mind and spirit.