#57 A Siren Song

“Square in your ship’s path are Sirens, crying 
beauty to bewitch men coasting by; 
woe to the innocent who hears that sound…
…the Sirens will sing his mind away 
on their sweet meadow lolling. There are bones 
of dead men rotting in a pile beside them 
and flayed skins shrivel around the spot. 
Steer wide; 
keep well to seaward; plug your oarsmen’s ears 
with beeswax kneaded soft; none of the rest 
should ever hear that song.”  Homer, writing of the fabled Sirens in the Odyssey

A Siren Call

[Editor’s Note: Phil  Bonasso went to University of Southern California in MCM’s so called “great send out” and established what became the largest MCM site on the west coast of the US. Later after MCM imploded he, along with Rice Broocks, Steve Murrell, and Greg Ball, founded Morning Star International (MSI) which later became Every Nation Church (EN). Amid allegations of financial misconduct and moral failings in the  churches he oversaw, Phil resigned from EN a short time after Tikie published his original posts. He is now listed as a missionary of Bethel World Outreach (BWO) and is pastor of a church in Los Angeles CA called Story Teller Church.  Although it is not clear from BWO’s website, Rice Broocks, an Ex MCM Pastor, is the Bishop of BWO and is on the board of Every Nation Church. BWO is apparently nested within Every Nation churches.]

1983

I picked the phone up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

B-R-O-T-H-E-R … TICKIE!…ohhhh it is so goooood to hear you s-p-e-a-k,” said a familiar baritone voice.

The unmistakable sound of Phil Bonasso’s voice came rumbling through the telephone handset. Phil had headed to USC in the great send out and was enjoying great success there.

I did not say anything. I had not spoken to a “MCMer” in over twelve months.

“Tikie, b-r-o-t-h-e-r”, he rolled the “r” in an almost Spanish way, “are you there???…is that you…?”

What in the world was Phil calling me for? Well, time to find out, I guessed.

“Yeah Phil, it’s me…it’s Tikie here…”

“Hey Bro…just calling to tell you I miss you…Karen and I have been thinking of you and p-r-a-y-i-n-g for you brother. How A-R-E you doing?”

I clipped my words “Fine, Phil, I am fine.”

“Look Bro, I know that things have been hard, and some unfair things have been said about you Tikie. I don’t believe any of the stuff I heard. I know your heart….,” he paused, “…And I know God’s anointing on you Tikie. I truly do. GLORY!”

I stiffened, all of his MCM jargon was grating on me, but I determined that I would be unfailingly polite, and besides, MCM was still tugging at me, believe it or not. I had gone into a black hole with regards to news of my old friends, and as far as I knew, Bob Weiner and the Pope were getting married next week.

Maybe Phil could give me some news about what was up with everyone.

And it was actually good to hear his voice. It was comforting in an odd sort of way.

“Thanks Phil, it was no big deal actually,” I lied, “I just needed to get out of MCM… to get away. The things I saw, they were just not right and I could no longer support them.”

The memories that I worked daily to keep out of my head were now back with Phil’s call, invading my brain and constricting my breathing. It was funny I would go days without thinking about MCM, then I would see a Bible, or cut on a Christian radio station by mistake, or see something that triggered the memories.

Good or bad memories, it did not matter, they all seem to hurt my head, paralyze me, and bring tears to my eyes.

That was why I liked work…it helped me block out all of that stuff, especially the memories.

“Of course Tikie, of course,” he purred into the phone. “There are some things that ARE bad, that we are working to… well, to change and clear up. I am leading this effort…” his voice dropped to a whisper, “from the inside Tikie…from the inside.”

“Great Phil, that is great,” my voice dead panned.

”I know you are hurt Tikie; sure I do. I feel it. I hurt with you Tikie; but I think about you Tikie. I think about what God will do here on earth. Could do…through you.”

“Guess what Tikie?”

“What Phil?”

“Jesus has appeared to me three straight nights in a dream…really…it is getting where I am afraid to go to sleep, really I am.”

“Uh huh,” I grunted.

“And do you know what He said to me Tikie? Can you guess what Jesus said?”

Sweat started beading on my forehead.

“What Phil, what did Jesus say to you?”

“He told me to call you Tikie. To get on the phone and call you. I have resisted it Tikie, because I KNOW you are hurting…but the L-O-R-D told me to call you.”

I was really sweating now. This stuff still had an effect on me and it surprised me that I was reacting to it.

“Tikie, you know God has his hand on you. You KNOW he does. And the reasons you left, I KNOW about, I know WHY. You saw the bad stuff, I heard about Nick and all that, and I know you burnt out, and I know that Bob had, well, beaten you up. Bob can be unthinking, we all know that. But Tikie, B-R-O-T-H-E-R- we are doing a different thing out here on the West Coast. We are building something new…”

I said nothing but maintained my death grip on the phone.

He continued, “Something that will do away with the BAD things and KEEP the good things. The GOOD things that we both saw, and loved, when we got into MCM and the work of His Kingdom.”

“Look Phil, thanks but no thanks, I am through with MCM.”

“So am I Tikie, so am I. I mean, God is changing MCM, we are doing things differently like I said.”

Phil continued “A few of us have talked, the good guys. You know, Greg, Phil, Jim, Rice and others. You know Roger [my former frat brother], you love him, you guys are buds. Roger is my right hand guy, he is. It is all sweetness here Tikie, no condemnation, we don’t allow those hard-core guys to meddle with us. No Nick out here…. NO Joe Smith, I told Joe and Nick STAY AWAY. And you know when I say things I stand by them…you know that Tikie! You DO know that!”

I kept listening.

”And Greg, why he was out here last month, he and Helen; well we were talking about you… we ALL were…the fact that none of us reached out to you…well shame on us is what I say. Shame on us! Shame on me!…Shame on everyone!…we should all repent and I am repenting now…it was a b-a-d thing, it was, but we will make it right, we can, you know Tikie, you and me, we can make it right B-R-O-T-H-E-R!”

Phil, thanks for the apology and it is great talking to you.”

This was starting to scare the hell out of me and my hand holding the telephone was now shaking. I had to get off this call.

Quickly.

“Hold on Tikie hold on for just another minute my friend. LISTEN TO ME and see if you bear witness, to that small still voice, no pressure on you…none W-H-A-T-S-O-E-V-E-R.”

“Look…you come out here, I’ll front the airline ticket, no obligation. None. You move in with me and Karen– we have a nice place with a pool. You will love it. We will study the word, just me and you…no Bob, no Joe, no Nick. I don’t like that guy. Never had. He is a bully. It is sunny out here Tik. Southern California. Beautiful. I have this place on auto pilot Tik. I do. God does ALL the work. And we will get into the WORD and God will start his work in both of us…just me and you …and Jesus… we can do anything with Him…we can build it our way…the way God intended it. We will learn from each other we will. None of this MCM junk…Tik…you can just preach the word, no counseling, no discipling…Roger and me…we are doing a different thing here with Jesus and we are going to change all of MCM. God is going to do it through us!”

Well I listened to this stuff for about ten minutes. And it almost gave me flashbacks… and there was a small part of me that was saying “hmmm… just preaching…just the word… just me and Phil, hmmm.”

But I sissy slapped that thought down after about ten seconds.

“No thanks Phil. I do want you to know that it was nice of you to call and please tell Karen and Roger hello for me.”

“Don’t say no Tikie…pray about it first. Okay, you pray about it and call me back, promise?”

“Okay Phil, thanks again for calling.”

That was the first and only time I spoke with Phil post MCM.

*****************
You can draw your own conclusions about why Phil called and his motives for doing so.

The conversation unsettled me that is for sure. My clothes had soaked through with sweat during that fifteen minute call.

Unsettling for me because for a minute or two it sounded good…everything once again wrapped up in a pretty bow, neat and settled, good vs. evil, working for the kingdom, a purpose for my life that involved a higher calling. And for that reason Phil’s call probably scared me more than the call I had with Joe Smith when I had tried to reach Matt and Allie.

For it made me realize just how weak and pathetic I was some twelve months after leaving MCM.

 

 

#33 Fun, Hilarity, and Fellowship in MCM

At this point, Dear Reader, you may be asking yourself, “was there no love, was there no friendship at MCM amongst the members/sheep?”

And I may have, indeed, given you the impression that all was doom and gloom, that all was trial and tribulation; that we members of MCM walked around with glum faces all of the time.

To give this impression would be not only disingenuous of me, but also dangerous. For a member of a sociological cult reading this might respond, “Hey Tik, I hear you about some of this stuff, but it is not all bad where I am. There are many, many great times of fun and fellowship.”

“True enough,” I would reply.

And, of course, the leadership had to ensure that there were good times.

For the leadership understood that these bonds, formed in times of fellowship and fun, would bind the sheep tightly together. It was part of the dilemma that I and many others would have to face when trying to break out of MCM. And that dilemma was this one: When I reached the point where I was completely disillusioned with the leadership and their tactics I was in love with the wonderful family members that I had in MCM.

And I simply could hardly bear the thought of being shunned by the brothers and sisters I loved so dearly and had been through so much with.

For how could I leave this very close family, with whom I had suffered so much, but with whom I had also experienced so many moments of great joy?

And, if you have been reading the comments posted on this blog [Editors: Tik is referencing his now shuttered blog; unfortunately those comments have been lost because of the vagaries of blogger.com] pertaining to some of my prior posts, there are a number that say something like this: “ Tik, you knucklehead, sure there was bad in MCM, there is bad in everything; but the good outweighed the bad and we accomplished a lot for the Kingdom. We brought so many to Jesus!”

Or you might have seen comments reading along these lines, “But Tikie we had some great times and great fellowship and that made it okay; we were part of a special group with a unique bond,” to which I answer this comment with the response,  “True but those good times do not justify the end product that emerged.”

For good times, and good fellowship, could have been had a far less cost in the suffering of the people who were hurt and left behind. Heck, we had equally good fellowship, I can see in retrospect, at my frat.

As to the former comments that, “The good outweighs the bad and we accomplished a lot for the Kingdom and saved a bunch of souls for Jesus,” I will simply quote the cynic leader Vladimir Lenin, “To make omelets one must break a few eggs.

Christ, or His true followers, would never condone a policy of the ends justifying the means. In fact a Christ-like walk follows the mantra that the means are as important as the ends.

I will be bold enough to say that if any ministry puts its goals of Kingdom building, or the needs of the elders, above the needs of the flock that are entrusted to their care, I submit that this group is not Christian and, in fact, that the elders of such a group are the anti-Christs that Paul warned us about.

I could frankly give a crap about the theology of an authoritarian cult. For these groups theology is but another tool to keep the sheep in line.

Such a group’s theology could be Arminian, Calvinistic or Pelagic in nature.  The theology  could be pristine and pure, directly from the actual mouth of Paul himself, but if one sheep, the very sheep Christ suffered and died for, is trampled in the process of building God’s Kingdom then I declare that group anathema!

There, who was it who said I was not judgmental?

With that mouthful said (or typed) I must confess that I have never again experienced the type of comradely joy like that which the brothers and sisters of MCM had. It was special and intense bond that bears no description.

And I would never want to experience that intense camaraderie again.

For this intense camaraderie came at a terrific financial and psychic cost which, at the time, was not yet apparent to our “Band of Brothers and Sisters”.

I liken the friendship and camaraderie within MCM to that of soldiers fighting in the front line trenches who would go through hell on earth together. Actually a better analogy might be that of being slaves on a plantation. I will explore that analogy later in a post discussing both  hierarchy and the subjugation that took place in MCM.

The happy truth was that we would go to almost any length to help one of our brothers and sisters.

It was comforting, and eventually comfortable, to know that you could count on a brother or sister for anything; for the insanity and viciousness of MCM only became gradually apparent to many of us.

Any shortcomings, any failures, any weaknesses or doubting of the ministry, at least for the first two or three years, I put down to my own sinful nature or my inability to measure up. When these thoughts happened, when the Old Tik started stirring, I would think, “I must try harder and work harder! Certainly the problems are not the fault of the leaders or the ministry but within me, and due to my own weakness.”

*********
One example of being part of a special Band of Brothers/Sisters was a mission trip I went on, I think,  to open up the Columbia, South Carolina ministry founded by Mark Caulk the brother of our pastor, Mike.

A group of nine of us were chugging along to South Carolina for an evangelization blitz early on a Saturday morning in Matt’s infamous “Love Bug” VW Van. The Van was straight from 1967, the type of VW Van with the four-stroke two-cylinder and “putt- putt” air cooled engine in the back.

We were about one hour out of Auburn when the engine started missing and then died. And it would not start, or even turn over, once we pulled it off to the side of the road.

Matt and I hitched a ride up the interstate highway to a service station (this was pre-cell phone) and called the MCM House at Auburn using nickels and dimes we scrounged together.

We got Marty, the administrator, on the phone and within one hour a caravan of three cars with Marty and three brothers showed up. We were planning on loading up into cars and driving on while Marty and the three brothers took care of getting the van repaired.

One phone call and up showed help. No questions asked, and no thanks given, or expected. We knew that had we been asked to do the same we would have done it before you could say,”special needs offering.”

Lord knows what we interrupted the brothers doing…but since we were on Kingdom Business they showed up as requested.

Whilst we were waiting on the cavalry to show up from Auburn, Jenny, one of the sisters in the band, decided that we should pray over the engine. So we went back to back of the Van and she laid her hands on the engine and prayed some “shabalas ba las” over it.

Wouldn’t you know it? Matt goes back to the driver’s seat, puts the key in the ignition and chug- chug- chug the engine starts-up. We all began whooping it up and screaming, “Praise Jesus!” and the story grew until it became equal to that of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Jenny being Jesus and the VW love bug van being Lazarus.

Of course what had really happened was that the distributor cap had pulled loose from the starter and when Jenny laid hands on the engine she managed to re-seat the cap and the connection was made and the engine could now start.

For some reason that detail never made it into the story.

This is an example of how, if you were working on Kingdom business, you could count on the brothers and the sisters. They would NOT let you down.

*********
And we had great fun, fellowship and the typical hi-jinx that went along with being twenty somethings, or almost twenty somethings.

We also had church picnics and love feasts where testimonies and funny stories were told.  We would laugh and sing and have great fun. Occasionally we would poke fun at the upper leadership, but never in public.

On Sunday after church service, once we had cleaned up the house, many times a large group of us, sometimes numbering twenty brothers and sisters, crammed into three or four small sedans for the trip to Chewacla State Park, just outside of Auburn.

There the brothers would show off to the sisters by swinging off a cliff on a Tarzan- like vine and let go just at the right moment to plunge into the deep spring waters to avoid the jagged boulders to each side. I can remember our Pastor, Mike Caulk, making Tarzan noises on the cliff and pounding his chest and pointing at his wife Missy, “Me Tarzan- you Missy,” and then swinging on that vine over the rock filled water yodeling just like Tarzan to the claps and hoots of all of us.

We would sun ourselves, have a picnic lunch, and then splash around in the cool water of the large spring fed pool during the hot summer days of Alabama.

Our friend Miltie (who will be introduced later) could do a cracker jack imitation of Joe Smith.

He would stand there, his face lighting up with this demonic like, goofy smile and then utter in an exaggerated hill- billy deep base twang, that sounded exactly like Joe’s Kentucky drawl, “Brother, God has a word for you. And that word is cumquats.”

With that we would literally roll on the ground laughing and crying. The first time Miltie did his imitation of Joe  I thought we were going to have to take our friend Matt to the hospital. And Miltie would stand there with laughing along with us at his own joke.

I remember another time when Mike Caulk, our pastor, in a fair imitation of a MCM Prophets, “This saith the Lord” voice, demanded the waters to part at Chewacla, and declared that they had parted, and nonchalantly walked into the water with his clothes and shoes on until his head disappeared under the water. How he kept from floating I have no idea. Missy had a fit whilst the fifteen or twenty of watching there hooted, hollered and laughed until we were sick.

***********

But underneath all this hilarity, this sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, however, there lurked an oppressive system, the structure of which I will explore in a future post

#7 Snaring myself- October 1978

Randy, Sam  and I walked up the stairs to the second floor of the MCM House.

The upstairs had the same fresh paint and new carpet smell of remodeling as did the downstairs. At the top of the stairs I caught glimpses of bedrooms through open doors. Most had futons or sleeping bags strewn on the floors.

We walked to the end of the hall and entered a fully furnished room. It had a bed, a chest of drawers, a mahogany desk and stacked bookshelves. Three empty metal chairs faced the desk. A young man with wire rimmed glasses perched on his nose, wearing a turtle neck sweater, with thinning hair brushed to one side of his head stood to greet us as we walked in.

He had the look of a scholar and the air of one as well.

He greeted me and introduced himself as Marty.  Marty had been the administrator at MCM’s Ole Miss University ministry and now held this post now at Auburn.

We sat down while Randy told Sam and Marty about me. Sam, the associate Pastor of Auburn’s MCM, and Marty, the administrator, proceeded to pepper me with questions while Randy looked and observed the session.

Have you accepted Jesus as your savior?” [“Yes,” I answered,  “When I was 10 years old.”]

“Is there sin in your life?”   [“Yes.”]

“Are you engaging in immoral behavior?” [“I don’t think so…uh…I am not sure.”]

“Is Jesus Lord of everything in your life?” [“I think so, but based on what I heard from Ellen, Randy and Bob I am not so sure now.”]

“Are you sharing your faith in Jesus…are you bearing fruit and bringing people to Jesus?” [“No, and that is what made me want to listen to Randy today and then come here after hearing Bob talk tonight. I am not bearing fruit and want to do so as a Christian.” ]

This went on for about an hour. I was starting to doubt my salvation; although none of them challenged my faith directly. They just continued asking direct and simple questions of me.

Then Sam said, “Tik, we prayed about you this afternoon and asked God to open your heart to His Word. The Bible is not something you read on Sunday for it is actually the Word that John speaks of in John 1:1.”

He pointed to the scripture in his open Bible.

He quoted John 1. “It divides right from wrong.  The living from bad living, evil from good. It is the light that shines in the darkness.”

He then quoted Paul, “For the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.”

“You see Tik we are going to see what Jesus, the Word incarnate, says about your life. Not man’s interpretation, not what we think about your life and how you are living, not how man views your life, nor the traditions of man, but what God Himself, Jesus, says about your life. ”

Marty then opened his Bible and read, “What profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” And then this verse: “For whoever would save his own life shall lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake shall gain it.”

“But,” I said, “I thought that was referring to the martyrs. What does that have to do with me?”

“You see Tik,” said Sam leaning towards me and speaking in a hushed tone, “we prayed about you intensely this afternoon… and the Lord [with emphasis]… gave us  a WORD about you: that you have a worldly man pleasing spirit. That you are both smart and ambitious and  have been given tremendous talents, but are using them to promote yourself… to satisfy your own ego rather surrendering everything completely to Jesus”.

Now remember, I was pretty naïve. This miraculous word that God gave them hit me hard.

Did they actually believe they heard this all directly from God? Or was it all plain old manipulation?

Now I believe that the old trick fortune teller’s trick deceived all of us in that room that evening.

The carefully crafted questions posed to the subject, followed by an affirming play back of the answers given ut with subtle twists, that pointed towards  a pre-determined answer, provided by the subject himself, reeked of the fortune teller’s trick.

Just as a fortune teller combines employees all of these tricks to get the subject to believe in that a super natural power is at work so did the MCM team that night. Don’t mistake this for an accusation of witchcraft on my part, far from it. What happened that night has an earthly psychological explanation, nothing more, and nothing less, than that.

You see Sam, Marty and Randy deceived themselves first and then they deceived me. I believed they actually believed that God was telling them these things. I certainly did. We all wanted to believe it and so it became true to us that night.

I shall show later that this dual deception of both the victim and the victimizer represents one of the keys to understanding how MCM, and other sociological cults ensnare people and then hold onto them come what may. For the victim WANTS to believe what is being told to them. They work to actively entraps themselves in a psychological net woven by both the victim and victimizer.

I think everyone in that room was sincerely and completely deceived. No one was purposefully lying, at least not that night.

For you see, I had poured my guts out to Randy and Bob Weiner that very day after the Praise Band concert at the frat house. Later that afternoon Randy then met with Sam and Marty where all three of them of discussed  everything I shared about my life earlier that day. They then used this knowledge to script both the questions they posed to me and the affirming commentary they provided to  my answers. They seemed sincere in thinking that these conclusions came from God.

But they did not.

These conclusions came from Randy and Bob’s interrogation of me earlier at the frat house.

I am certain of this.

Why?

Because later at MCM I found myself doing the same thing with prospective converts.  Having God “convict” them with my careful questioning. And my knowing questions for the prospective convert were born from what that they had told me, or others, in previous sessions.  And you will see this unfold below as I relate what happened that evening.

Randy  summarized the issues that I had:

1) Personal ambition that kept me climbing the ladder in my frat and in school; and,

2) my concern about my lack of closeness with God; and,

3) my lack of fruit, spirituality and holiness.

Then abruptly Marty, the MCM Auburn administrator, cut in with this questions, “Tikie tell us about your family.”

And I did.

I told them about my strict Korean War vet workaholic straight arrow Dad. About my eight brothers and sisters. About my devout mother and grandmother (both hard shell Baptists).

Marty steered the discussion into my sports participation and overachievement in high school that carried over into college.

Randy chimed in, “You know Tik you mentioned you were always vying for your Father’s attention. ”

He looked at Marty and Sam and they both nodded.

Randy continued, “First I think that you have a spirit of oppression on you because of your worldly father’s neglect. You have substituted the passion and wish to succeed in life for the wish to please your Heavenly Father. We are going to drive those demons from your life tonight so you will be free of these chains and set you free to use your talents for the Kingdom. ”

Marty chimed in, “In Matthew Jesus tells us what acts we must take for salvation.”

He read from the Bible slowly, “One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

And then he read, “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”

“You see Tik”, Marty continued, “you tell us you want to be good- but no one is good who is NOT keeping his commandments. Are you keeping his commandments? Have you left everything? ”

I said I had not and I knew I had not.

Then Marty quoted from the book of Peter, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win.”

I was ripe for all of this. I knew my life did not stack up to the example given in the New Testament. I knew that they were right that I was very ambitious, I had not given Christ everything; I had not left everything behind.

This was all true. And they were using this truth as a weapon against me.

“You see Tik  Jesus said ‘For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?”

“The problem with you Tik,” said Marty, “is that you have never counted the costs. You never gave everything to Jesus. You have never asked him to be Lord of Everything. Are you willing to give it all up? To count everything as lost to live like Peter and Paul? Are you ready to be a real follower of Jesus, a doer of the word. instead of a fake pretend Christian who hides his bushel in the dark?”

It was all hitting home.

I thought back to Bob’s quoting Jesus in the frat house, “I will deny you if you deny me.”

I thought about the last four years of my life and the youth pastor in my home church who got fired for having interracial Bible studies. I thought of   the hypocrisy I saw at that same church. MCM members seemed to live the Christian life of the early first century church (or at least what I thought it might have been like) and that contrasted starkly with what I saw at Auburn’s  Christian student groups like BSU and CCC (Cru).

These guys were, “Sold out and on fire,” as Bob had  put it. Randy was here from Martinsville,  Sam from Paducah while Marty hailed from Oxford MS and they seemed true examples of first century Christians.

“But,” I said, “I asked Jesus into my heart. I am a Christian. I just need to get my act together. ”

Marty looked at me for a moment, and the other three leaned forward. One- two-three, the seconds moved slowly as we all sat in silence.

“Not everyone,” Marty quoted the Bible, “who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.”

I started for this contradicted what I had learned in the Baptist Church.

“What about John 3:16?” I asked. “What about the phrase whosoever?”

Sam answered: “Tik, Jesus was talking to a religious leader Nicodemus. A VERY religious man.”

He opened the book of John and showed me the earlier verses.

It was true- funny I had never read the earlier parts before John 3:16..

“This guy Nicodemus was praying to God all the time.”

Then he read, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will go to heaven.”

“Find me a place in the Bible where it says say a one little prayer and then are immediately saved.”

You see the problem was that I knew enough about Christianity to understand what they were talking about: that I had sin and was sinful (I still am by the way, as are we all!).

But I did not know enough about the scriptures they were quoting, nor about theology or life, to win this battle.

Of course I could have countered with some pointed questions like, “What about the thief on the cross?” or, “What about the parable of the worker who comes late and earns as much as the workers who worked all day for the master”?

But own ignorance, and, weirdly enough, the very ambition and smarts that they chastised me for, helped them point me down the road to bondage.

Here were the milestones on that road I walked down that night:

  1. I was a Christian but without a deep knowledge of scripture and theology. For goodness sake I did not understand the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism and had never heard of Pelagianism. For Maranatha was hyper Arminian at this point, almost Pelagian-like with bits of whacky Latter Rain Pentecostal theology thrown into boot (of course the theology of MCM would veer crazily over the coming years and had little logic to it regardless).
  2. I knew enough scripture for them to wound me- but not enough about it to understand the context of the verses. A great read on this twisting of scripture by Christian based sociological cults is the book “Twisted Scriptures” by Mary Alice Chrnalogar.
  3. My own guilt at not living up to ideal First Century Christianity. I knew I did not measure up to Jesus This was impossible of course, what I really needed was a month-long deep study of Romans and Hebrew. For who can measure up to Christ? NO ONE!
  4. They love bombed me while playing on my guilt. But at the same time same time they made me feel special. They pointed out that God had a really special plan for me and that I could be on the inside of something really great playing out on earth today. This took advantage of what anyone who knows me understands is a giant weak spot for me: my ego!

Marty said, “The problem is Tik is that you  are a lukewarm believer in Jesus. But you are not a follower of Jesus. Oh you are religious, just like Nicodemos. But Jesus makes it clear that only those who have given who have given everything up will have eternal life. You told us you have NOT done this. You have also told us you are NOT bearing fruit. For Jesus said that He will chop down and burn all the trees that do not bear fruit. That He will separate the wheat from the tares and burn the tares.”

Marty leaned forward again and said in a low tone, “Tik- you are NOT a Christian! Christian means little Christ and you know in your heart, you have told us in fact that you are NOT a little Christ. You are NOT keeping his commandments. You are NOT, therefore saved.”

The other two begin praying softly in whispers.

“You are breaking your Heavenly Father’s heart. He is calling out to you; calling your name; and you have ignored him and are living for your own ambition and are under the yoke of a demonic spirit.”

Tears were coming down my face. As far as I knew they had discerned (as I would later term it) everything about my life and they were God’s instruments.

“What must I do?” I asked.

Marty pointed to his Bible and some highlighted scriptures saying, ” You must declare Jesus as Lord, you must repent, be baptized, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

“I want to do that, but how?” I asked.

All three of them laid hands on me and begin jabbering in that weird language “shabalabala dear God shabalabal, shababalalaaa….”

And Marty shouted out, “I rebuke you Satan and I tell you, you demons of religion and you spirit of witchcraft [“Huh- demons and witchcraft???” I thought] you LEAVE this young man and I banish you all in the NAME of Jesus the almighty powerful name- by which all must bow! ”

Then Marty said , “Repeat after me…”

“Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord…”

And I repeated this about ten times.

And Sam said, “Are you ready to give up EVERYTHING for JESUS. To give up your ambition, your family, your friends in fact your life to make him LORD?”

I nodded yes…and they all broke into “Hallelujahs …thank you JESUS!”

And Sam said, “Brother, God is speaking to me and telling me that TIK has truly begun his repentance and counted the cost.”

“Tik are you ready to follow Jesus wherever he leads?”

I answered “Yes.”

“Are you ready to give up everything your life, friends and your ego?”

I nodded and murmured through my tears “Yes.”

“Are you ready for baptism?”

I nodded.

Sam looked at the others and then nodded.

“Let’s take him to Bob and explain baptism to him for we have water and we have the Spirit.”

And they led me back downstairs.

I had been upstairs for about two hours.

And my life was about to taking a radical turn that would lead me in a strange direction for the next five years.

#4 The Bait- October 1978

Editor’s note: Soon after this was published on Tik’s original blog he was contacted by Ellen (not her real name) who immediately apologized for being the bait that helped draw him into the group. Of course Ellen, according to Tikie, was just as much, if not more, of a victim than he was. Ellen was not to blame for Tikie’s involvement and he asked us to make this certain point. Tikie’s theory about how people ensnare themselves in sociological cults, which he discusses later in this blog, makes this perfectly clear. In short Ellen was a victim of MCM, no more, no less.

Saturday October 1978: Ellen

The rain pelted hard against the window panes as I walked down the winding stairs.  Reaching the first floor landing I could hear the blaring television from the empty TV room of the fraternity house.

Auburn had a game scheduled that afternoon with the University Tennessee in Knoxville some six hours away. The social chairman of our fraternity had organized a bus trip that would drive members to the game for the weekend. About half of our fraternity and their dates left for the all night bus trip (translation: a drunken all night brawl) around midnight the night before. From my perspective it did not seem like the trip there and back would be much fun unless your idea of entertainment involved a shower in Miller Beer and having someone vomit all over you and with no way to get cleaned up. The rest of my fraternity brothers had either headed home for the weekend or were perhaps holed up somewhere studying or sleeping off the previous night’s fun.

For once the house was as quiet as Auburn’s Draughn Library. So rather than heading there I settled down for a study session in the deserted social room. No sooner had I opened my books than there came a loud knock from the front of the house; which I found both startling and strange.

Startling, because apparently the knock came from a metal door knocker on the front door of our Greek columned Frat House. Until that point I did not know that such a door knocker even existed. Strange because no one, at least not during in my two years of living at the house, had EVER used the elaborately carved front door. Ever!

I opened the door and there, framed by that door, stood a gorgeous black-haired, dark-eyed girl. Next to her, ramrod straight, stood a tall blond guy. Both had their arms full of colorful flyers and posters. Each wore  the preppy style clothing that had swept the campus this fall ( for you youngsters we were just moving out of the John Travolta/ polyester suit phase!).  He with penny loafers, khakis and a buttoned down shirt; she wearing tight pants and a form-fitting black sweater.

And me being 19 years old, well, I am not ashamed to admit that her figure and looks had me nailed!

WOW!

She smiled, he smiled, [rows of white teeth!] and she said, “We are  with a new group of kids from UT Martinsville who are establishing a college outreach at Auburn and wondered if we could put a couple of posters up?”

The blond guy reached out to shake my hand and soon we were sitting in the social area  with the pair peppering me with questions.

I guess I grew up early but even as a nine or ten-year old I noticed that people’s conversations tend to center on themselves, their experiences, their feelings and interests.

It’s just the way most people are.

My early social success, and many of my later ones even today as  President of a large company, center on the fact that if you focus on what interests people, and on what they have accomplished, you can get them to do almost anything for you and they will think you are a WONDERFUL conversationalist to boot.

Now these two very good-looking people caught me way off guard for they kept pushing the conversation towards me, my interests, my experiences and what motivated me in school and in life. I found this both disconcerting and exhilarating at the same time.

The whole conversation stuck me as an unusual  one and this should have been a warning for me.

Well with this very pretty girl showing a great deal of interest in me I stayed engaged in the conversation. Her beauty, warm smile and charm lowered my guard. Her handsome side kick showed a great deal of interest in everything I said as well.

Looking back on it I should have asked myself, “Why are two perfect strangers so immersed and mesmerized by my story?”

Over the following years I came to stark conclusions about their attitude towards me that day; but I’ll save them until later-on.

I finally managed to turn the conversation back to them.

“What kind of outreach brings you to Auburn?” I asked them.

“And who is this Bob Weiner and the Praise Band that your poster is advertising? ”

“And why set up yet ANOTHER campus ministry at Auburn?”

This last question was an important one because  Rat Riley and Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) had a huge following at Auburn. In addition the Navigators met each week in differing locations on campus, Intervarsity had a thriving group and the Wesley Foundation, with its massive near campus center, attracted a large assembly of kids every Saturday and Wednesday night.  The BSU (Baptist Student Union), one of the groups I hung out with, had a huge membership.  And the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (the FCA) had a number of high-profile varsity jocks attending their twice weekly meetings.

Good Lord Auburn served as the brass plate of the Bible Belt and yet these guys were building a new church here?

Both of them, it turned out had come from Martinsville TN and had spent two years there with Maranatha Ministries building out that campus ministry. Before that they worked with the same Maranatha Ministries in Paducah, Kentucky.

They told me that they followed Jesus (I thought it odd that they always used the name Jesus, never Christ or Jesus Christ the way I had learned to do as a kid) and that they had sold out to Jesus. When they spoke of Bob, their leader, they became animated and excited.

“He is really something else, a dynamo,  and he leads people who really want to follow Jesus… just the way the original disciples did two thousand years ago. You will love Bob!”

For some reason, and I don’t think that either of them intimated this, I came away from this conversation thinking  that Maranatha Campus Ministries  and Maranatha Music (the newly minted Christian Music Company that produced songs that I loved)  were one and the same thing.

But that assumption was dead wrong.

They found out that I served in the student government and that I also served as the newly elected president of my social fraternity. They acted impressed and excited about this. I did not consider the implications of this strange enthusiasm about my  leadership position in the frat. In contrast, the Baptist Student Union leader, Chris, actually counseled me against taking on this new role as President.

“Too much risk and time involved,” he had counseled.

After talking awhile they told me God had given me strong leadership gifts. They said that I should see my leadership ability as a gift (which I believed and still do believe).

But later that night it struck me as odd that they would say all of this without really knowing anything about me.

Then Ellen (not her real name), asked me, “Are you really using all of your potential in the way that God would have you use it?”

What a loaded and carefully aimed question she asked!

I had to answer that I probably had not done so. Her question went right to my soul because I had  grappled with this since high school.

I still grapple with that question today.

They asked if I would come to a service that evening at the Maranatha House: an old fraternity house the group refurbished over the summer. In addition they mentioned that the Maranatha sponsored rock group, the Praise Band, continued to play ‘gigs’ all over campus.

“Could the Praise Band perform this Tuesday during lunch at the Fraternity House and could our leader, Bob Weiner, speak afterwards?”

Again I made the mistake of thinking that this was a band sponsored by Maranatha Music and that thought really jazzed me up.

Now technically the social chairman and social committee of the frat had to approve such a request from an outside group. But I thought, “This fraternity could use a dose of Christian music and if Bob Weiner is anything like these two I am it sure could do this Fraternity some good.”

Over the next few years I would see this decision to allow the Praise Band  to play, and Bob Weiner to preach, at my fraternity as the best decision I had ever made and one clearly inspired by God.

But now I see the decision that day as a very sad one, and one that would bring heartache to many, including myself.

But I have long since realized that we make our decisions and mistakes and live with them ourselves.

However, I often wonder what would have happened if I had given Ellen and Randy the boot that day.