Editors Note: Here Tikie shows us how members of sociological cults begin cutting themselves off from their friends; the very people that might help keep them from ensnaring themselves further in the cult.
“I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me:
It makes the lame to walk
and the blind to see,
Opens prison doors sets the captives free,
I have got a river of life flowing out of me.”
From a favorite chorus of MCM in the 1970s
I had now been a member of MCM for just about three weeks and had seen over ten of my friends join MCM and at least four of them had brought other people into the Ministry. I had participated in at least 15 discipleship sessions with Marty and attended at least eighteen two hour MCM services. I was babbling on and on, to anyone who would listen, about God’s Kingdom, the need to leave everything for Jesus and be totally committed to Him and the Body.
But the “old Tik” was still able to take control at this point in my journey.
It was as if he, the “old Tik”, was banished to the small closet in the back of my mind. The same closet containing the four or five weird Maranatha doctrines as well as my unanswered questions about its unceasing demands on me.
I am not into the pyscho-babble, Freud, and all that stuff.
In fact, I fully expect to get e-mails from outraged psychiatrists telling me that this stuff about the “old Tik” being shunted aside and locked in a closet is a bunch of junk.
Maybe it is.
All I can tell you, my friend, is that throughout my time in MCM the “old Tik” was always inside my head somewhere. Or perhaps I was simply insane the entire time I was a member of MCM. I sometimes believe that- looking back on this experience.
Sometimes “the Old Tik” would yell and scream from inside the closet, “ARE YOU CRAZY? HAVE YOU LOST ALL YOUR SENSE OF HUMANITY”????
At other times he would merely whisper, or sit staring at the wall and brood. The “Old Tik” would especially get upset when I put the Kingdom ahead of everything else especially people, their lives and their feelings.
Which, after a while, I did routinely.
At this point in my MCM journey the “old Tik” [the Tik, by the way, that is typing this on a laptop as I watch my twin seven year olds at a gymnastics session] was still occasionally let out of the closet and allowed to takeover.
To run things as he saw fit.
But gradually the “old Tik” [me!, that is!] was banished to this closet, then eventually the closet was locked, and finally the “new Tik” and my overseers, with help from the head honchos at MCM, tried to wall the door to the closet up with the bricks and mortar made of twisted scripture, all night counseling (shepherding) “hootah sessions”, discipleship classes, deliverance sessions, Bible Studies, endless work on behalf of MCM and conferences like Maranatha Leadership Training School (MLTS) where we would hear sermon after sermon from top leaders in the shepherding movement.
This was done so that the “old Tik” would never emerge again…ever… and so all of us would comply willingly with the will of the elders of MCM.
However the “old Tik” took control immediately after the service on this night, however.
For once, post- service, no one was taking the slightest notice of me.
Good. Time to make my get-away.
I hurried out of the front door.
It was 8:15 pm; the earliest I had ever left the MCM House after a night service.
Once at the frat house I picked up my telephone and called Sheila’s dorm room. I was determined to talk to her before the weekend was out. I was using the excuse of confirming our lunch appointment on Monday to do so.
I mean I couldn’t just call to talk to her without an excuse could I?
It was Jane, her roommate.
“Hi Jane, it is me, Tik.”
“Is Sheila there?”
“Just a minute”
I could hear her hand covering the speaker on the handset, but I could not hear what was being said. I could, however, make out a muffled exchange of voices.
“She is not here.”
“C’mon Jane, cut the baloney. I know she is there I just heard you talk to her.”
Jane was a sweet heart but she had the mentality of a, well, a parakeet and the voice to match.
She also had the emotional maturity of a five year old. This was her third year of rooming with Sheila. Honestly I don’t see how Sheila stood it.
“I was talking to myself,” Jane said.
“Jane, tell Sheila to grow up and stop acting like a kindergartener.”
Another muffled exchange.
This time I heard Sheila break into that husky laugh of hers. Then she picked up the phone.
It was a flat, hard, statement, not a question, from Sheila.
“What do you mean ‘What’?” I asked,
“I mean WHAT. That’s what.”
Then she and Jane started laughing.
That’s one of the things I liked about Sheila- she could “fire and forget.”
Sure, she was going to give me a hard time, she was going to jerk me around a little, but she was not going to pout and stay mad.
“Look I wanted to talk about Saturday and missing our date at the game. It was a jerky thing to do- but I got tied up and ran about an hour and a half late. I tried calling your dorm, the sorority, and then the frat house. I got JD on the phone and asked him to find you… but we got cut off. Please forgive me, it was unintentional, I promise.”
“Don’t sweat it Tik. It is just not that big of a deal. I am a big girl. Besides we are just friends, right?”
Emphasis on the “are”.
I hated that term “just friends” and Sheila knew it. But I let it slide. I was being an “oh so humble Tik” tonight.
“Right,” I answered.
“So are we on for tomorrow?” I asked.
“Sounds great,” she said. “See you at noon at the Calf.”
That next morning in class Dr. Carl’s face was frozen in a frown as he handed me the graded structures exam. The exam that I had taken and sweated over on Friday morning.
“Very disappointing, Mr. Tok, very disappointing. And you failed to come by my office Friday afternoon like I requested.”
The tests had been stacked on his desk.
It was a ritual flagellation for those who did not measure up, at least, to retrieve your graded test.
To get our graded tests we had to walk up to his desk, sign a book, and then he would pull the graded test out of a folding file. Those who measured up to his expectations got a comment of “Okay”, or “All right”. Those who did not measure up were beneficiaries of a more personalized comment on their performance in front of everyone.
Like the comment he had just given me.
I peeked at the top of the page. My stomach turned: the score was a 68, a “D,” and it was the lowest exam score I had gotten in two years.
Dr. Carl did not believe in curves. “Who knows,” he said, “there is a small chance that one day I will have a class the superior of Einstein and if I grade on the curve I could really screw things up.”
I already knew where I had goofed up. I had spent three hours last night in the library mastering ‘inderminate structures”.
That was not the problem. The problem was that I should have mastered them before Friday’s test.
Oh, and there was another problem.
I had a thermo-dynamics test tomorrow that I should have been prepping for last night rather than catching up on indeterminate structures theory. My plan the night prior was, well, to pull another “all-nighter” Monday night, after the Maranatha service.
That plan had been put on hold because of my “all- nighter” casting demons out of a brother with Sam and Marty that evening. I was exhausted once again and I knew I did not have the physical or mental stamina to go seventy two hours without sleep.
So I prayed, “God you know my heart, Your Word says to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added to me.”
Marty had shared that with our group on Saturday morning.
“I am trusting you to do that God,” I added.
Maybe a miracle would occur and I could get through my thermo test intact. But it looked like my new Maranatha activities were quickly getting me into academic trouble.
At noon I headed up to the War Eagle to meet Sheila.
I was anxious to catch up with her and to see what was going on. Meeting Sheila for lunch was a hobby of mine- she was interesting and smart and had a very dry cynical sense of humor. She was also a straight arrow and a devoted Christian. At least I used to think she was before that day I met Bob Weiner.
At lunch we would get in our spot and talk about anything and everything. Sometimes it was the latest gossip- who was dating whom- who was dropping whom- who had flunked out. Sometimes it was a deep discussion of our Christian faith and what it meant to be a Christian.
Sometimes it was about our two childhoods, which could not have been more different. She was fascinated by my upbringing. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Birmingham, one of eight kids; my parents had a struggling business and there was never enough money to go around.
I had saved enough money, by the time I had graduated high school, to pay for about a year of college. By combining that money with my “free ride’ at the frat with room and board, and a “books and tuition” scholarship awarded at the end of my freshman year by Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society) I had cobbled together a way to get through school.
This set up also gave me a reasonably decent social life.
It was a shoestring existence all the way around, however.
And it was dependent on me maintaining a “B” average in my core engineering studies and my “free ride” at the frat as President and maybe next year as Steward.
Sheila, on the other hand had grown up as an only child of a prominent wealthy family in Selma, Alabama.
She had a brand new car. I had a bike.
She always had the latest clothes and she had all the things materially I never had. In fact she said her parents would pretty much give her whatever she wanted and needed. She found the contrast in the way we were making it through school fascinating.
And I liked the fact, that despite the piles of money and material possessions, she was as down to earth and as nice as anyone I had ever met.
Funny to boot.
In some ways it was hard for me to figure out why we had become friends. I met her at Freshmen Forum and then again at a IFC/Panhellenic Pledge social our freshman year.
We had ended up at both functions talking to each other almost exclusively; with me spending most of the time laughing at her cynical humor. Over the next two years our paths had taken a similar trajectory- we were both Rush Chairmen and we were both elected President of our Greek chapters for our junior years. And, because she detested the “nose in the air” attitude of the frat that her sorority normally associated with, we had schemed to bring her sorority and my fraternity together for fundraising and social events last year.
We grabbed our sandwiches and went to our normal hangout spot to watch the world go by on the lawn in front of Haley Center.
But, something was different today.
With Sheila I never had to think about conversation. It just happened. It was a stream of consciousness.
But today the conversation was… and I am trying to recreate the scene in my mind right now… it was… stilted.
I mean usually I had something on my mind and just blurted it out. Or she had something to say and she did the same. Many times we would each launch into a machine gun burst of conversation at the same time- cracking each other up…but not today.
And I knew why that was.
Because today I was doing something I had never thought about doing with Sheila: weighing what to talk about… and what not to talk about.
My almost flunking Dr.Carl’s test was at the top of my mind. Now if I mentioned that I would have to tell her the reason I had flunked the test and all that had happened that had kept me from mastering the material. That is that I had spent 30+ hours in five days on Maranatha related stuff instead of using that time to study like I normally would have.
Could I tell her about Rick and Rhonda and their “conversion”?
Maybe… in Sheila’s opinion Rhonda was a “slut” for practically living in the house. But if I went into the change that had taken place with Ronda then I would have to talk about Maranatha and all of that had happened since the previous week.
And I knew she did not like or approve of what she had seen of Bob Weiner and Maranatha.
Of course the same would happen if I discussed Fred’s, Ricky’s and Roger’s conversions.
So WHAT could we talk about?
Not the frat. I had been missing in action so to speak for the last three weeks. I had missed two chapter meetings and business review for goodness sake. Did I really want to go into that with her? Perhaps she knew about it from Mom and would bring it up on her own.
As we walked to the lawn in front of Haley Center I suddenly realized, that for the first time in two years, I might have NOTHING to talk about to the person who had probably been my best friend at Auburn.
And I remember breaking out in a cold sweat at that thought.
She launched into a funny story about two of her sorority sisters mixing up their contact lenses on Sunday morning and that got me laughing as she went into the hilarious details about what transpired.
But after 10 minutes, like I had feared, we ran out of conversational steam.
What was there left to talk about, the weather?
The Kingdom and the work of Maranatha were on my mind first and foremost- that is what I was excited about: the ETERNAL things.
I knew that this would go nowhere with Sheila. She was stuck in the world of “temporary” things.
For a minute we sat there in silence.
Not the, “Isn’t this a great day kind and lets enjoy it,” silence but more like the, “I am on an elevator with a complete stranger and can’t wait to get off,” silence.
I hope you know what I mean.
Then I realized Sheila was staring at me.
“Tik, is everything okay?”
“I am not sure what is going on, but I am sure that something is not right. Anything on your mind? You seem a thousand miles away.”
More like a dimension or a couple of light years away.
But what was I supposed to say?
“Hey Sheila, you will never guess what happened two nights ago we cast demons out of this guy who was on the verge of suicide!!”
I sort of knew that that line of conversation was not a wise one with her… or was it?
Did I miss a chance to let my guard down to tell her EVERYTHING about MCM? The good plus my doubts and some of the things that did not seem right to me?
What would have happened that day if I had let my guard down and really confided in her?
What if I had really trusted her?
I actually briefly considered doing this but did not.
I’m not sure why I did not act on this impulse. It was another lost opportunity to get off the track I was headed down.
I was rapidly narrowing my mind and my options.
Anyway I glanced at my watch- it was 12:25 pm.
Usually when I was having lunch with Sheila a glance at my watch would spark the reaction, “Yikes- late again!” But today I was hoping my watch WOULD read 1:00 pm instead of reading 12:25 pm, as it actually did.
“Hey Sheila, sorry to eat and run but I promised Dr. Carl that I would stop by his class before lab to discuss my exam results.”
I was lying.
Dr. Carl would not be back in his office until 4:00 pm. He had a level 1 lab from 12-3 pm today.
I stood up and she was watching me very closely, her eyes narrowing as I gathered my books and gave her a quick wave.
“Uh, okay Tik. See you…well…see you soon.”
“Sure Sheila, see you soon.”
I turned and walked away.
What was wrong with Sheila?
What in the world was wrong with me?