#31 Kindness Is Shown Me

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

The large brown envelope addressed to me arrived in the mail at the Maranatha House on December 20th, 1978 during Christmas Break.

It lay there with its University of Auburn postal markings in the mail bin.

I was a nightmare come true for me.

And it would take me ten minutes to work up the courage to open it.

The Auburn MCM leadership, since I was such a “new baby” Christian, thought that it would be best if I stayed at Auburn during Christmas break. This rather than going home to work at my normal United Parcel Service (UPS) Christmas job in Birmingham.

This was the Christmas UPS student work program that paired students with regular UPS deliverymen to get all the Christmas packages and goodies out on time. It was an 80/hours per week job for three weeks in between fall and winter term.

The $ 8.00/hour pay was equal to $ 20/hour in 2006 dollars which was good money for a college kid in the US. I had gotten the UPS Christmas job two years ago after my Big Brother in the frat, Bill, with UPS connections, had recommended me and you might imagine that these Christmas jobs were coveted by students. I could clear almost $ 1,200 or about the equivalent of $ 3,600 in 2006  during the break.

It was a nice way to replenish my usually depleted bank account.

But, nonetheless, I walked away from that lucrative UPS job during the 1978 Christmas break to stay at MCM in Auburn in order, in the words of Marty, my shepherd, “To strengthen my faith.”

My shepherd, Marty, had then prayed with me about finding work to pay my way at Auburn.

You may remember that I had lost, or left (depending on your view of things), my frat job in early November. It had provided me with free room and board and was worth about $ 2,400/year in 1978 or about $ 8,000 a year in 2006.

It had been decided by my shepherd, and two of the older single brothers, that one of the jobs I had applied for in early December, slinging pizza, was a good once since I could work all day Saturday and every weekday night.

This work schedule meant that I could make all the MCM meetings and services (which occurred on Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, and Sunday morning and Sunday night) with little outside interference.

The pizza job hours were from 9:30 pm- 12:30 am five nights, from Monday to Friday, each week. I would get home about 1:00 am each weekday night.

On Saturdays I would work eleven hours from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Sundays I would have off.

I would work about 25 hours per week.

I could study early in the afternoon and Saturday morning, or so this theory went. I would go to school during the day as usual.

The pizza job paid $ 2.25/hour (minimum wage in 1978) or about $ 5.75/hour in 2006 terms. Plus all the pizza I could eat and a red doughboy hat.

It meant that I was pulling down about $55 a week in wages.

With all that on my mind, there I was after “mail call” looking at a brown envelope with my name on it from my scholarship source “Tau Beta Pi”. My chest felt heavy. I already knew what it contained.

And this took no gift of prophecy on my part.

I opened the large brown envelope and looked at the letter inside it.

It was the kind that got blown out by the old fashioned “clackety clack” main frame teletypes of the 70s.

It read:

Dear Scholarship Recipient:

We regret to inform you that the Grade Point Average (GPA) you earned in the core engineering courses taken during the FALL QUARTER 1978 fell below the minimum 3.0 GPA requirements for scholarship maintenance.

Because of your failure to meet this GPA minimum requirement your scholarship has been temporarily revoked for Winter Quarter 1978 and your scholarship is now placed on probationary status.

In order for your scholarship to be reinstated you must achieve a GPA of 3.0 greater during Winter Quarter 1979.

If a GPA of 3.0 in core engineering courses is not achieved in Winter Quarter 1979 your scholarship will be permanently revoked.

Please be advised that a minimum core course load of 15 hours, excluding laboratory work, must be maintained each quarter for scholarship eligibility.

Please contact the office of admission and scholarships at the School of Engineering if you have any questions or if you think that this notice has been sent in error.”

I sat down in a chair with my head in my hands.

That scholarship paid tuition and books and was worth about $ 2,400 per term or $ 4,800/year in 1978. That would equal about $ 15,000 per year in 2006 dollars.

This was not an insignificant sum for a poor college student like me.

Not only had I lost my free room and board job at the Frat, now I had also managed to lose the other hidden part of my income at Auburn: my scholarship.

I was being bankrupted and my grade point average was being destroyed as an added bonus.

I am not ashamed to admit, that although I knew that this letter was on its way to me, I started crying.

I could not see my way clear. My finances and grades were both disasters now. There had never been room for much error in either; my shoe string finances, and the heavy course load required in engineering school, made my scholastic existence problematic at best.

On the financial side my new pizza job would clear about $ 200/month after taxes. The rent and food at the Maranatha House cost me about $ 180/month and I would tithe another $ 20/month.

Just enough money would come in to get by if I worked a double job in the summer, and, rebuilt my savings during that period.

Of course I could only make it if I contributed nothing to the routine and ongoing Maranatha special offerings (more about that later) that were above, and beyond, the required 10% income tithe that I was expected, and required, to contribute to the ministry.

Fortunately, I still had about $ 400 in the bank despite the fact that I had blown about $ 125 at MLTS last month. I had also thrown another $ 100 into the offering plate of the Auburn Ministry during November for some special request from MCM HQ; what it was now eludes me.

Perhaps I could land yet another job, a second job, to pay tuition. But then when would I study if I did this?

Oh, and apart from the time required for my pizza job, there was the time required for all of my assigned duties MCM and the official MCM meetings. [Please see the appendix at the end of this Part for my “official” MCM schedule for the first week of January 1978].

The total hours of official MCM meetings and duties ate up about 18 hours of my time per week.

My assigned duties would rotate weekly; perhaps I would have to clean all of the bathrooms, or perhaps I had to do the lawn and rake the leaves, perhaps I had to clean all of the common areas, or, perhaps it was my turn to set up and take down for the meetings. It was all the same: about 18-20 hours of labor for MCM per week as a single brother.

But just looking at this schedule of “official MCM duties and meetings” did not really tell the whole tale.

Why? Because it excluded the following types of requests which happened weekly, and even daily:

Brother we have two sisters moving in can you help load and unload the truck?”
or
Brother I sense you are having a tough time and need some deliverance- let’s get together” [Get ready for a two hour deliverance session” hootah”-the thought of these deliverance sessions alone would keep us “on the reservation”, so to speak]
or
Tik, This brother needs some deliverance are you available?” [this meant two hours of praying and casting out demons but at least some other poor sucker was on the hootah session hot seat and not me]
or
The Band is going on a gig can you load the van up?”
or
This week we are going to do the service on the front lawn of the student center lets load all of the chairs and equipment, oh and could you run back to the house we forgot the programs and flyers?”
or
We need these posters put up in all of the male dorms and frat houses, can you do it?”
or
We are sending a SWAT team in to help open up the South Carolina/Florida State/GA Tech ministry- can you miss a weekend of work and drive back all night Sunday so you can start the week with no sleep?”
or
“As a gift to the leadership lets imitate Jesus and wash and wax all their cars or give them a special gift to honor them”

It was almost impossible to say no to these requests without being labeled as “selfish”, “world centered”, “putting yourself above others”, “not having a servants spirit”,  or being labeled has having a “spirit of laziness”, or being infected with “worldly concerns”, or the other phrases in MCM’s special language.

Not doing this stuff would retard whatever chance you might have of going into the ministry full time, or at the very least, of being seen as an over-comer’ by the leadership.

Well I’ll stop this line of writing before I start retching up my lunch.

Okay, I am back and feeling a bit better now.

Yikes…I now see that I was in such a hurry writing the last paragraph that I forgot to include other optional things like the campus blitz days on Saturdays where we would go two by two witnessing, handing out tracts on campus for a couple of hours;

or
standing outside the arena before, during, and after basketball games handing out tracts;

or
starting front clubs at the university such as the Fellowship of Christian Students that was really a bait and switch scheme to get students into MCM;

or

the one thousand and one other things that helped market and sell MCM to the unsuspecting and ensnare fellow students; things which I have, thankfully, blanked out of my mind.

When you add in all of this busy work  the time commitment for MCM was  50 hours/week.

All right; enough already. I am about to start going crazy again.

As I said, the work at the pizza shop would consume 25 hours per week of my time.

And, of course, lest I forget, there was that little bitty thing we called engineering school.

I was scheduled to take 17 hours of class next quarter in engineering school.

As I have told you, the rule of thumb was about 1.5 hours of studying for each hour of class work. Total time for school and study should have been about 45 hours a week if there was any hope of making my grades.

So if one was brave enough to add it up the time required for school, work, and MCM activities totaled close to 125 hours per week.

For those of you still with me that is about 18 hours a day. Was sleep required?

I hoped not because this schedule showed I was running out of time to do even that.

And like I said I was running out of money too.

So I went to see the Marty, my shepherd.

He was my spiritual guardian, right?

The person who was my overseer, my big brother in the Lord, the one who would supply me advice and prayer and counsel and hold me accountable for the things of God and my  Christian walk  in this world.

Yeah, him. That one. As you can see Christ is still working on my attitude towards him.

I don’t claim to be perfect.

So I got with Marty that afternoon and laid out my time and finance problems. I showed him the letter from Tau Beta Pi putting me on probation, taking away my winter quarter scholarship, and threatening to permanently cancel my scholarship if my grades did not get back on track.

I also explained the time problem of 19 hours a day in a 24 hour day, the 19 hours to keep up with work, MCM requirements and school.

“Marty, I can’t see how this is going to work I am just overloaded,” I said, sniffling back tears.

“Brother, you are caught up in the concerns of the world, God will supply everything if you will lay it all before him, lay down your cares.”

He continued, giving me his over the glasses quizzical, “I know best, just relax,” look that came naturally to him.

“Perhaps, Tik, God is speaking to you. I think that maybe He is telling you that you need to lay down your ambition to be an engineer. And we (who was the “we” he was speaking of????) think that you have a ‘spirit of ambition’. This spirit needs to be broken. One way to break it would be to take a couple of quarters off from school, spend time building your faith, perhaps get a second job to get on your feet financially. You are being burdened by this worldly spirit of ambition. You may need to lay it aside for God.”

“Besides, we know that God has you destined for full time ministry,” he said as he sat back and waited for my reaction.

His tone of voice was very warm as he put his arm around my shoulder.

He continued to look over his glasses as we sat there for a minute in dead silence, side by side.

Truthfully at that point Marty’s suggestion of dropping out sounded appealing.

The money was not there to go back to school; at least not right now.

And the time was not there to go to school AND hold down two jobs. Not with my commitment to the activities and kingdom work for MCM.

And there was that issue of the worldly spirit of ambition.

I really did want to be successful in all that I did. I was always stretching myself and overreaching- or so it seemed. Maybe I did need to, “Lay down,” this, “worldly ambition,” this desire to succeed.

BTW: “Lay it down translates” into give it up as a show of submission to MCM. [More on MCM’s special language and the purpose of such a language in sociological cults will be written about in a future post by Tikie: the Editors]

Besides, hadn’t I heard a prophetic utterance from the head prophet Joe Smith, the main prophet of MCM himself, that I WOULD go into full time ministry and lead many thousands into the kingdom just last month?

God Himself had spoken directly through Joe Smith that I would be one of the mighty men of God, right?

If that meant laying down the spirit of ambition, in order to achieve this worthy goal of being God’s man, shouldn’t I do what Marty was suggesting and drop out of school for a while?

All of the pressure I was feeling would go away if I dropped out of school.

Juggling the studying, the working, the keeping up with my MCM duties and my study of the faith would all become easier if I did this.

If I dropped out of school I could concentrate on nothing but the kingdom and earning money. It would almost be a “spiritual sabbatical; giving it all over to God and the leaders of MCM, wouldn’t it?

But the old Tik, the Tik that is writing this blog, that old Tik, was stirring.

Well guess what?

Despite everything that had happened over the last three months he was still struggling to keep me, the New MCM Tik, from completely destroying my life and my future.

Oh the Old Tik was hardly conscious at this point, bound and gagged in that little closet in the back of my mind. He, the Old Tik, the real Tik, was surrounded  and tied up and gagged by a bunch goofy doctrines, weird sights, and strange utterances I had heard, and seen, over the last three months.

So far I had been able to almost completely ignore him and my doubts.

But somehow that rotten old Tik, that sinning worldly Tik, that Tik that had begged me not to walk away from Sheila,  on that bitterly cold December afternoon, shook off the bonds that had him tied and gagged in that closet in my mind.

And that rotten old Tik through a gargantuan effort of will, managed to get his hands, temporarily, back onto the controls of my life that day.

And I thank God Almighty that somehow that rotten old worldly ambitious Tik got loose and ran amok that afternoon.

Now, I had already learned already that it was not wise to disagree straight away with any recommendations of the leadership, especially those of your personal shepherd.

Despite Marty’s concerned manner and warm tone that afternoon, I knew that if I disagreed with him openly, or challenged him at all, he would immediately harden his positions and could make me do whatever he was suggesting.

But I also knew that the particular MCM phrase Mike had used that,  “Perhaps God is telling you,” meant that Marty, at least for the time being, had not decided on the final course I should take.

Not yet anyway.

It was a small opening and I had to act quickly to take advantage of it.

Now to be sure if he had uttered the phrase, “God is speaking to me,” or , “God has given us/you/me a word,” then any argument to the contrary, no matter how rational, was useless.

For then I would risk being labeled rebellious and seen as  possibly being influenced by some sort of spirit or demon if I challenged him on this word or direction for my life.

And if I continued in my resistance to this word then I would be hauled before Mike and Missy Caulk our pastors for the MCM crime of  rebellion against God. It was clear that those sheep who engaged in such arguments with their shepherds, or who exhibited any signs of independent thinking, apart from the advice of the leadership, would be hampered in their spiritual growth.

It would signal that they were not ready move up in God’s Green Berets and take on more responsibility. This, by the way, was especially true for women. [Editor’s note: We have a post coming up where Tikie writes about the hierarchy and the treatment of women in MCM]

Any challenge or resistance to the leadership could even lead to expulsion, apostasy, shunning, and being given over to Satan.

Looking back on this twenty plus years later it is really hard to believe that this is how things worked at MCM- but it is the truth!

So, knowing that any DIRECT disagreement with Marty would be counterproductive, I said the magic words, in MCM’s  special language that I was mastering.

The words used by sheep at MCM when they were cornered, “Brother let me pray about it.”

This phrase was the equivalent of saying, “Abracadabra ala kazam,” because it was like a special spell that would temporarily halt a MCM shepherd, or elder, in their tracks.”

But it only would engender a temporary halt.

Now I knew that he would not, and could NOT, come after me after I uttered those words. Nor could he force a decision on me, well, not immediately, anyway. Because I  had said I was seeking God’s will for my life. No one could argue with that. At least not right away.

After our counseling session I walked outside into the cold windy December afternoon.

The sun was setting in the cobalt blue winter sky as I plopped down on a bench across the street from the Maranatha House on East Magnolia Avenue.

Now the old Tik,  reveling in his temporary freedom, was thinking, “Now let’s see…exactly WHY are you here at Auburn? And what is the PRIMARY purpose that brought you here?’

Well the answer was pretty obvious to the old Tik :

I was not at Auburn to work in a pizza joint.

I was not at Auburn to be in a frat.

I was not at Auburn to socialize.

My primary purpose at Auburn was NOT to proselytize for MCM and build Bob Weiner’s Kingdom.

I was PRIMARILY here at Auburn for ONE thing:

I was at Auburn University to get an education and my degree and improve my situation so I could provide a good living and home for my future wife (whom I had not met) and my, as yet, unborn children.

Makes me a genius, huh?

Well I can tell you that many MCMer’s never figured that out. They did not graduate from college, and post MCM blow up, or after they crawled away from MCM, or were given the boot for some sin, they had nothing to fall back on.

Well that day the Old Tik was thinking  through all of this very carefully.  I knew very well what had happened to my friends and frat brothers who had gotten in trouble and dropped out for a quarter or two.

Vic, one of my good friends had done so last year. He had gotten a job with AlaGasCo as a utility man making $ 15,000 a year ($ 40,000 in today’s dollars) for just a term or two.

But once a person got used to that kind of money it was hard to go back to being a poor student. Vic never returned to school.

In fact, with the exception of Ricky, one of my converts to MCM (and a former frat brother), I had never known anyone to come back to school and complete their education once they bailed out…. even if they thought they would leave for a short time  to get their head back together.

Sp there I sat on the bench, shivering in the December cold wind, thinking this all through.

I had no one to talk to about this my financial and academic problems, not anyone who could offer me advice, other than Marty; or the leadership of MCM at Auburn.

And I, the Old Tik did not like the line of MCM thinking regarding my schooling if you haven’t figured that out yet.

But who else could I turn to?

I had pretty much told my parents to shove off. There was no way I was going to reach out to them. I would not have them see me crawling back to them.

Mom [my Frat RA] and I had parted ways… Sheila… nah, I had destroyed that relationship…my Big Brother in the frat, a graduate student in chemistry, Bill, would have been a good choice; but I had sissy slapped him and called him hell bound… Chris at the BSU- no way could I talk to him…not after calling him a “pretend” Christian and basically telling him to stick it. Going to him would be as bad as crawling back to my parents. Maybe worse.

Except for the brothers and elders at MCM I had no one to turn to, it seemed.

Then who else could help me?

For about ten minutes I sat there in the whistling December wind, and despite what I had told Marty earlier, you can see that not much praying happened.

Only hard thinking, problem solving thinking, if you will, on my part.

Then I had a thought.

It was one that both scared me and also gave me hope.

I thought of the one person I could seek out for advice and help.

Dr. Carl.

My engineering professor and advisor.

Remember him?

Sure, he was a real hard ass, and pretty much an all-around jackass (what you saw was what you got) but he was a straight shooter, and, I knew in my heart, despite all of his efforts to appear hard and gruff, that inside he really cared deeply about his students and graduate assistants.

He had talked me into coming into the particular major I had chosen two years ago. He had helped me get that scholarship that kept me in school.

And I knew he cared about me.

School was out, but Dr. Carl had a couple of grant programs ongoing, and I was pretty sure that he and his grad students would probably be working on these projects during the break.

Life takes many turns and twists as you know.

There is a great book  called the Tipping Point which discusses how the big things in our lives, and in our society, many times hinge on what, at the time, appear to be small and insignificant decisions.

One example of a small decision that changed the course of my life, and the lives of at least one hundred and fifty other people, was my decision to spend time with Ellen and Randy and to invite the Praise Band and Bob Weiner to my frat House in October 1978.

And another example of this was  the decision I made, on that cold December afternoon in 1978, to seek out Dr. Carl for advice.

It was a decision that reverberates in my life even today as I type this on my Dell laptop, sitting in an American Airlines Boeing 737, winging my way cross country on this warm sunny May afternoon in 2006.

Consciously or not I (the “old Tik”, that is) was seeking guidance from someone who had nothing to gain or lose  from the decision I was facing.

I was looking for someone who would counsel me impartially; someone who I knew would try to give me advice that they believed would best for me and my future.

I should mention, by the way, that Dr. Carl was, and is (for we still talk on occasion), a self- proclaimed agnostic.

Not quite an atheist, but almost one.

As I headed up the steps of Ramsey Hall I knew I was in luck. Because I could see the cheap florescent lights on in Dr. Carl’s office. It  told me he was working that afternoon.

Dr. Carl was a genius and had been one of the lead engineers, right out of grad school, on the US Apollo Lunar Program in the late 1960s. When that had dried up he had gotten his PhD from Purdue University and had now been at Auburn about ten years.

His specialty was now nuclear structures.

He was at his desk wearing his favorite green cardigan sweater. Yes, the kind with leather patches on the elbows that you see profs wear in the movies.

He looked up at me as I walked in.

“Mr. Tok, what are you doing here? I thought you would be in Birmingham helping Santa and his elves deliver Christmas goodies (he knew about my usual Christmas gig with UPS).

“Dr. Carl. I have a serious problem.”

“I should say so after your surprisingly abysmal academic performance this past quarter. Pull up a chair Mr. Tok.”

He said this while brushing his long hair out of his face. He closed the book he was taking notes in and his pony tail swung behind him as he turned to face me.

“Well, I am not here to talk about the problem with my grades last quarter… but another problem,” I said.

He put folded his arms into a prayer position and cradled his chin in his hands.

“Okay- shoot… tell me what’s the matter?”

“I have a sudden money problem. I left the frat and lost my free room and board that went with it.”

“Good decision,” he said, “nothing but a nest of rats in that frat house anyway. Terrible place to live and too many distractions for a good student like you. Well done.”

“And now I got this.” I pushed the letter about the scholarship loss across his desk.

He looked at it for a moment.

“Hmmmmmmmm,” he murmured.

”You have to get your grades up…and you can…if you apply yourself.” he said looking up at me, his bangs hanging down just over his eyebrows.

He pushed his hair back over his forehead ; crossing his arms behind his neck and cradling his head with his hands.

“I know, and I am going to do better next quarter, but… well, I am out of money… and I can’t pay tuition in January. It’s that simple.”

“I see, let me think about this for a second Mr. Tok.”

He sat there for a moment and leaned back. He then turned in his chair and stared out of the second floor window to the street below where the last leaves of autumn whirled down Magnolia Street like dervishes.

After a moment he turned, picked up his telephone, and dialed a number.

“Bertha, hey it’s me Dick down here in Nukes. Hey, I have a good student of mine, a good kid, who is in a bit of trouble and can’t pay tuition, scholarship trouble, you know what I am talking about… eh?”

He paused listening into the handset.

“Okay, how do we look on those DOT grants that came through last week?”

“No, he is here, yep, uh huh…Tik Tok is his name…no I have a couple of forms here…uh huh… yep… okay then… what time?…okay, thanks Bertha.”

He hung up.

“Okay Mr. Tok, it’s your lucky day. That was Bertha in the bursar’s office. We have three DOT engineering grants that just came through last week. Two are already spoken for but one is still available for any student that we choose to recommend.”

“What is a DOT grant?” I asked.

“Free government money… courtesy of the Department of Transportation and Uncle Sam,” he said as he laughed. “Graft, handouts, hell; call it want you want… I call it tuition money for the needy!”

“Now these grants don’t have the cache of a Tau Beta Pi scholarship, nor are they guaranteed (my scholarship was backed by the Tau Beta Pi Endowment and as long as I made my grades I got the money). They just come in over the transom, so to speak, usually at the end of the term, if they come at all.”

He reached into his drawer and pulled out a triplicate form.

“We just got three grants each for the winter and spring terms and one has not been spoken for. Like I said I don’t know when and if we will get any more… and in fact we may never get another one!”

He continued, “It works like this. You have to get two faculty members in your college to recommend you. I have a form here and Ralph (he meant Dr. Jenkins in Hydraulics, another one of my profs) will sign this with me. Our signatures on the form will approve you for the DOT grant. You get your transcripts from the registrar’s office and take them with this signed completed grant application to the bursar’s office to Bertha Jones. And, voila, you get your tuition paid, courtesy of Uncle Sam.”

He paused, “As long as you maintain a “C” average your tuition is at least covered for the next two terms.”

I could not believe it.

This hard ass of a guy, and one of the toughest profs in the school of engineering, was doing me the favor of a life time.

And he wasn’t even a Christian. Note my thinking with the word: even.

UGH!

“Dr. Carl, I don’t even know what to say… thanks, thank you, THANK YOU!”

I stood up and walked over to give him a hug I was so overcome with emotion.

“That’s Okay, Mr. Tok.” He waved me off. “Just consider it a Christmas present.”

Merry Christmas Mr. Tok!”

Merry Christmas Dr. Carl.”

Appendix:

Tik”s Schedule for the first week of January 1979 with regards to MCM “official meetings” and duties assigned by Marty his shepherd and administrator of the Auburn Church:

Sunday
am- Meeting set up
am-single brothers Bible Study
am- morning worship service
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Monday
am- Dicipleship group
pm- kitchen cleanup

Tuesday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Wednesday
am- Discipleship group/victory group on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

Thursday
am- Dicipleship group
pm-kitchen clean up
pm-meeting setup
pm- evening worship service
pm-service take down and clean up

Friday
am- Discipleship group/victory group
pm- kitchen cleanup/witnessing on campus

Saturday
am- Discipleship group/witnessing on campus
pm- kitchen cleanup

#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.