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Письмена на стене, часть третья: The Seattle Years


The Seattle Years

Restless in Seattle

We moved to Seattle on our 4th wedding anniversary. We were very excited, as we had visited Seattle on our honeymoon and were anxious to move here and get a new start. My first reaction to the church was that I thought that the San Diego leaders had given us the wrong address. This church wasn't even remotely like any of the other churches I had been a part of, not by a long-shot!

This could have been a good thing, but frankly, this place was a mess. Jim did not like the church at all. I tried to dive right in. By this time, I considered myself a veteran at moving within the "Kingdom."

We were discipled by a couple who had been recently married. They were well-meaning, but extremely inexperienced and naive. I found them to be a bit anal-retentive, immature and legalistic; and after my San Diego experience, I had had enough legalism! I actually liked the young woman discipling me -- we got into interesting conversations -- but as soon as the topic veered towards a spiritual issue, problems started. She told me she found me intimidating. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I would have a hefty retirement fund by now!)

Since our lives were in a state of flux, between the move and trying to find employment, church was not our main focus. I am glad that we had the church to move to because, without it, I think we would have felt estranged and lonely. We still felt lonely to some extent, as we had left some great friends behind in San Diego; however, with all of the church activities, there are always things to do.

I tried to get involved right away and attended a newly-formed group for sisters with weight, health and appearance issues. I was asked to preach a message to the women about appearance and decorum; and the intern asked me to talk about -- get this! -- not farting and burping in public! Can you imagine?! Jim actually thought that the intern was playing a joke on me to see if I would actually do it. But she was not joking. (Apparently, there were some sisters who had gone on dates and farted right in front of the brothers!) I heard one story of a sister saying that they had better crack a window! What kind of church was this?

I found it nearly impossible to make friends in the Seattle church. I am naturally extroverted, so this really bothered me. There were some disciples I had met several times who had absolutely no recollection of ever having met me. One woman, who used to lead the church in Portland, could never remember that she had already met me. It was disconcerting to say the least.

The Seattle church was extremely shallow -- hardly anyone has friends in the church. I found it especially difficult to make friends with the marrieds, especially the marrieds with children. So I began to focus my attention on the single women instead, and I was able to develop relationships with a couple of them. Thank God for them.

Scott and Lynn Green Return

At the end of March things radically changed in the Seattle Church of Christ. Scott and Lynn Green moved to Seattle and brought with them new administrators and new leadership. This is where it begins to get interesting. For a few months, the leadership stayed fairly low-key. Then, during his "final address to the Seattle church" before he left for Hong Kong for the summer, Scott Green told us that we were lousy disciples and needed to get our focus back. He said he felt that none of us were disciples, and that this needed to change.

It was decided that the church would undergo a reconstruction by the orders of Kip McKean. Apparently he came up to Seattle one day to assess the situation. What is interesting is that Kip never came to a service and thus, did not see the body. How he was able to make this assessment without personal observation is unclear to me.

"You are No Longer A Member"

The leadership called for a mandatory meeting on a Monday evening in July. We decided to not attend that meeting as my in-laws were in town and were leaving the next day. They live out of state and, as Jim and I are both only children, we take to heart the command to "Honor your father and mother."

The next evening we went to church and I approached (per leadership's request) my Sector Leader (Carol Kelly) in order to set up a meeting with her for my "Life Talk." She promptly informed me that since I did not come to the meeting the night before, I was not considered a member and that she was not getting with anyone who did not come last night for at least a month. She told me that I needed to pray and seek God at this time.

I was stunned. I said nothing; I simply stared at her. After her brief tirade, she said, "Amen" and then told me to ask her husband for a meeting, as he may be more willing.

I stalked away fuming, went up to Jim and told him what happened. He didn't understand what I was talking about, since he was able to get a meeting with the City Sector Leaders for the following week. I was so angry at Carol that I wrote a letter to her. I never actually sent it, but it was cathartic to at least have penned the thing. I was angry for several reasons. First, I had been a member for nearly nine years, and because I miss one meeting, I am no longer considered a member? How shallow and stupid! Second, she never asked me why I wasn't at the meeting, and assumed I could not possibly have had a bona fide reason. Third, if the meeting was that important, why didn't my discipler call me personally to tell me that? Fourth, what inference am I supposed to gather by her statement that I "need to seek God at this time" -- that I'm lost and going to hell?

At this point, for probably the thousandth time I began to consider leaving the church. I had had enough. We requested to meet privately with the Sector Leaders for approximately one hour before Jim's scheduled "Life Talk." We felt that there were some things that we needed to express to them about our discipling relationships, and we also felt that there were some things about us personally that the Sector Leaders needed to know.

I spoke for both of us, as Jim tends to shut down at meetings like this. I described to the Leaders about both of our childhoods. Although we are both only children of loving and caring parents, there were nonetheless events that transpired that were exceedingly difficult. This is what we had wished to make them privy to, which we felt would give them some insight as to why we felt it was extremely important for us to honor our parents.

Despite our reasoning and explanations, the leaders still felt that we needed to be at the mandatory meeting, although Jay Kelly was more sympathetic than his wife. She told us to be careful and not get too fixated on one Scripture -- in this case, to "honor your father and mother". She felt that we really should have considered that the meeting was more important.

I told her that I had worked through some very difficult issues pertaining to family relationships, and that, in light of God's Word and due to my relationship with Him, I had conclued that I needed to honor Jim's parents. Thus, it became an issue of conscience for both of us.

This explanation was of no avail. I asked them what right they had to overstep a command from the living God and insist on my attendance. I also asked them why I was not considered a member -- simply because I had missed one meeting? And that, not because of rebellion or laziness, but out of personal conviction.

They sprang on this statement. Jay said that they had total authority over this decision because God gave it to them! Jay told me that God absolutely stands behind his leaders and that whatever they "bind on earth is bound in heaven." Thus, if they deem that a meeting is mandatory, it takes precedence over everything else!

They proceeded to show me a Scripture (Numbers 12) in which God rebukes Miriam and Aaron for questioning Moses' authority, and tells them that Moses sees God face to face. Jay told me that I am like Miriam and because I dared to question their authority, I was questioning God and being incredibly disrespectful. He noted that Miriam contracted leprosy and told me to be careful because something terrible could happen to me for daring to question God!

I couldn't believe my ears! Here was the leadership deifying themselves! Since when is a command written by the finger of God superseded by what a mere mortal decrees? Yet, this is what they actually told me. I just couldn't get my mind around it. This experience troubled me -- it troubled me for a long time. It was this issue that, in the end, I couldn't get past.

My husband and I weren't put on the membership list for several weeks. We weren't put back on for several reasons. First, the leaders felt we were not submissive to our disciplers and we needed (in the words of Carol Kelly) "to respect them for being over us in the Lord." (Gee, they were ten years younger than we are, lacked Biblical knowledge, newly married, young Christians, but they are "over us in the Lord?" Does anybody else have a problem with this?) Second, we hadn't given enough for our Special Contribution. (They said they were "disgusted" by it, and that it called into question our spirituality.) Third, we did not recognize that we were wrong to not attend the mandatory meeting.

I was so sick and tired of the whole thing that I seriously contemplated leaving, and was just about ready to turn in my resignation. I called a dear friend who had converted in Boston in the early 80's. I told her that I was sick of the fact that I could never have a good year in the church, and that there were always problems and spiritual strife. I told her that I in no way viewed church membership as synonymous with God's Book of Life and yet, I felt that that was what leadership was making it out to be.

She heartily agreed with everything I was saying, but then told me that she believed that I really loved God. (Translation: loving God equals staying with the church).

I also phoned "Dan and Kristy Pryor", friends from the San Diego years. I spoke with Dan first, for quite a long time. I had become perplexed suddenly because, despite my lengthy tenure in the church, I was not able to prove that discipleship partners as we practice and teach them were mandated by the Bible. Since the Pryors had both been part of the mainline Churches of Christ and the Crossroads Movement, I felt that they could shed invaluable insight on the matter.

I asked them why I shouldn't go to a mainline church, since I couldn't find any biblical teaching on discipleship, and I knew this to be one of our differences with the mainline churches. Rather than be alarmed by my statements, the Pryors calmly listened to me. Dan suggested that I read Gordon Ferguson's new book on discipling. After much discussion, I felt better and promised that I would read Gordon's new book.

Although I still felt disgruntled and perplexed, I also felt very guilty. Part of me thought that perhaps I wasn't really a disciple. During my two and a half year career as a high school English teacher, my discipleship was shoddy at best. I basically came to things and was surprised that they even kept me on the membership list. I rarely had quiet times -- after 200 kids a day and all of that grading and correcting of papers who wants to read? My relationship with God ranged from poor to mediocre. I felt really guilty about all of this, never mind that I was a good teacher and tried to be as Christian as I could with my students (some of them were very cruel).

However, the ICC measures your spiritual status by your performance -- that is how each disciple is assessed and graded. I had thus learned to view my Christianity in the same way. Since my performance (by ICC standards) stank, I thought I must stink as a disciple.

In early September the Seattle leadership declared the Reconstruction to be at an end, and had a "special meeting" where all of the "new members" were named out loud. Jay and Carol Kelly told us that we were not on the membership list. My husband was infuriated. He felt that it was done to personally humiliate and embarrass us in front of everyone so that we would repent. He also felt that since we were the "older disciples spiritually" that they wanted to humiliate us in front of the younger disciples by making us out to seem unspiritual.

I told him that since we didn't know anyone in this church anyway, and those we did know couldn't even remember having met us, did it really matter whether or not our names were called?

The group made a big deal about the names who were on the list -- so much hollering, screaming, and boot stamping went on that it was ridiculous. Scott Green got up there and preached his guts out, stating that, if you were not on the membership list tonight, you were in a very frightening place and that Satan was ready to snatch your soul.

I was gripped by fear and succumbed to it. I ran up to Carol and told her that I would be willing to do anything and I begged for her to help me. I actually believed that I was cursed by God and hellbound. Scott had also mentioned that, since so much time had already been taken up by the Reconstruction, they were ready to move on and weren't going, "to waste their time with people who hadn't already repented." This is Christianity?

This is the second time that I was like putty in their hands. I was willing to jump through whatever hoops I needed in order to be, "deemed by the leadership as right with God."

It is funny, but every time I wanted to leave the church, Jim got strong and full of convictions; and every time he wanted to leave, I got strong and full of convictions. I spent the majority of summer wanting to leave the church and he felt committed to it. Then when we were publicly humiliated by not being named as members, Jim wanted nothing to do with the church. He vaguely went through the motions and did what Jay told him to do, but I knew that his heart was not into it at all. Nonetheless both of us were put on the membership list.

"Saved" Once More

Before placing membership, Jim was asked to serve in Children's Ministry. I was upset by this, since he wasn't on the membership list and the Kellys had made such a big deal about it; I wondered how the Brumleys got Jim's name in the first place. I also wondered why the full-time ministry people never serve in children's ministry since they constantly preach that, "if we fail to convert our children, we've failed as a movement."

We were put with new disciplers at this time and things went fairly smoothly for a few months. By January, all of our doubts and misgivings began to resurface. Kip had developed some new studies and all of the churches were to go through them together. For two weeks, the church met every Tuesday and Thursday. It was very tiring. They also taught us the timeline of church history and claimed that the ICC started in 1979 in the Gempel's living room. Since the vast majority of disciples in Seattle are recent converts, none of them have a clue about Crossroads.

I had some real trouble with Kip's studies as they focused so little on Jesus. Jesus IS the GOSPEL! In the preface, Kip notes that, if someone even has a rudimentary knowledge of Jesus, we should delve into the studies rather than go through the book of John with them first.

I also saw another disturbing trend. The leaders decided to talk about finances. Ron Brumley and Tom Snyder preached to us that we need to be, "good shepherds of our money" and that it ws fiscally responsible to buy a house! I couldn't believe my ears! For years, in the San Diego Church we were trained to be "go anywhere, do anything" disciples. This usually meant NOT buying a home, since that would hamper one's mobility. Now, the doctrine was changing?! I actually had a friend whom Donna Harrigan insinuated was not spiritual for wanting to purchase property!

Another disturbing trend was the never ending mention of Mack Strong, a football player for the Seattle Seahawks. Last autumn Tom Snyder made a special point of mentioning his name at every service. So infectious were his laudatory comments that Scott Green, Jay Kelly, Darren Overstreet and John Causey followed suit.

Personally, I could care less about someone who throws pig skin for a living and gets paid a lot of money to do it. The church's focus on this brother bothered me because it showed pronounced favoritism and was extremely worldly. I was so upset by this that I called Jay Kelly and talked to him about it, and quoted passages from the book of James which forbid the church to show favoritism.

Jay told me that (and I quote), "The reason that the leaders mention the prominent is because it is an effective tool for evangelizing and a lot of people become Christians because of it." "Really?," I countered. "I must have it all wrong; I thought that people became Christians because of Christ!"

Jim got so sick of everything that he couldn't take it anymore and yet again seriously contemplated leaving. He complained that, in order to be successful in the "Kingdom," one must be a loser, have no life, no goals, and be happy with having your whole life planned for you.

Things got so bad that I knew that he was going to "fall away." I immediately called the elders, spoke to Scott Green in person, called Jay Kelly and Jim's discipler. It was to no avail. Not one of them responded! Jim's former discipler, with whom he had had such a hard time, was the only one to come to the rescue.

Jim started to do a lot better spiritually and he was on the upswing again. From the pulpit one Sunday Scott Green had told us he had been called to Los Angeles for an "Emergency World Sector Leaders Meeting" that sought to redress the problems in the church. I decided to write a letter to Kip McKean, in order to give him a pulse check from an ordinary disciple.

I wrote my letter to Kip, and expressed to him some problems that I felt were endemic to the movement. I showed Jim the letter. He liked it very much and encouraged me to finish it and send it.

Seeing The Light

For some reason, instead of working on my letter, I got on the Internet and started fooling around. During the reconstruction, I had gotten on the Internet and came across some things about the ICC, but I wasn't ready to hear the truth. However, this time I came across stories, accounts and personal testimonies that not only matched my own, but basically re-iterated everything I had written to Kip! I was stunned!

I was fascinated by what I was reading and gulped down as much information as I could. I will never forget the moment when I realized that the ICC was a cult! I got up from my chair and stumbled down the hall muttering expletives. I remember feeling a sense of relief that I was no longer responsible for "evangelizing the world," and then intense anger at having been duped, manipulated and controlled for so long.

I shared my findings with Jim, and also printed things off of the 'Net for him. We began to discuss all of the articles that we were reading. I also headed to the bookstore and purchased several books on cults and destructive groups.

After reading about what had really happened with the Indianapolis Church of Christ in 1994, I told Jim that he needed to listen because I had a lot to tell him. By the end of the conversation, we decided to leave.

The Long Road Out of the ICC

Masters of Deceit

Jim decided to leave right away. Since I had been in the church for so long, I wanted to conduct a thorough and lengthy investigation of the church. Thus, I decided to stay and pose as a member.

We also felt that it was prudent for me to remain a member officially because we were renting our apartment from a disciple, who had rented to us because we were members. This disciple and her husband were both kind people, and had been warm and generous with us. However, we felt that, had we both left, they might have kicked us out. Since our finances were in shambles, this would have resulted in homelessness. I don't think that they would have done this on their own, but when someone is in this church, they have to do what they are told to do. So it was hard to gauge.

On April 5, 1998, instead of coming in to service, Jim sat outside. (He didn't want to be included in the "stats"). He approached his discipler and another mid-level leader, and informed them that he was leaving the church due to doctrinal reasons. That was all he said.

They were stunned by Jim's departure, because they had viewed him as "doing well spiritually". Recently he had helped convince someone else not to "fall away." He ended up discipling this person, and Jay "lifted him up" for the singles to imitate, instructing two of the singles to observe Jim's discipling technique. Then, without warning or explanations, he walked.

Jay called him the very next day and asked him if there was anything that he wanted to talk about. Jim told him that he was not interested, but thanked him for calling. Jay asked if he could call him the following week and Jim told him that he could. He never called again.

More Stupid Pet Tricks

Everyone was stunned by Jim's departure, and I was treated like the Queen Bee. Anything I wanted, I got. I was even asked who I wanted to disciple me and what group I wanted to be in. Everyone felt so badly about Jim's "spiritual suicide."

At mid-week service, though, I had an encounter with one of the lower level leaders. She told me that she was concerned about me and that she had heard that Jim had left the church. I smiled at her and told her that I was absolutely fine. This rattled her and she got angry with me. She told me that if it were her, "life mate", she would be totally distraught. "What do you want me to do? Cry? Would that make you feel better?," I asked. She got really upset with me and proceeded to rebuke me for not being open with my feelings. "The problem that I have always had with you is that you are never open or vulnerable with your feelings," said the ice queen herself.

I found this statement amazing since, two weeks earlier, I had spent the day with her and her husband and was extremely open about my weight/food issues. I told her about what I was learning at Overeater's Anonymous. I had always been more real and open with her than she ever has with me.

I was so angry at her lack of sensitivity that I almost beat the living daylights out of her. (I am not kidding.) Luckily (for her), a small voice told me to simply walk away, which I did. I was so angry that I was shaking. As I stalked away, she turned around and said, "But, I love you, Athena." "Yeah, RIGHT!," I hissed so loudly that the entire fellowship could hear me. (Typical, dysfunctional ICC behavior: abuse, abuse, abuse -- but I love you!)

Meeting With Carol

That Thursday, April 9th, Carol met me for lunch and wanted to see how I was doing. I told her that I had been through much harder things in life; this was no big deal. (Yeah, wouldn't everyone be devastated if their spouse left a cult? What a joke!) She told me that she understood what I was saying as her discipler, Denise Snyder, (the wife of the Lead Evangelist), told her that her tuberculosis has been harder to deal with than the death of her father. (Are these people really considered spiritual?) Funny how the leaders use other leaders to validate statements.

She then probed me with some questions about Jim, but I told her that I didn't want to answer them since I felt that it would be gossip. "Amen," she replied and then she proceeded to ask me about a sister in our Sector! I couldn't believe my ears! Here she was "amening" my desire to not gossip and then she turns around and starts gossiping!

I believe that God showed me this so that I could see the travesty of the leaders and the falsehood of their teachings. Although I was convinced that the group was not sound, I still was not fully enlightened. Let's face it, ten years of indoctrination is a long time.

Carol also brought up the incident I'd had with the low-level leader. So intense was my anger that I insisted that Carol needed to keep this girl away from me until I cooled off! I told her that I found the girl to be insensitive, abusive, and was amazed that she was in leadership. I added that I felt this type of personality could be damaging to a lot of people.

Jim was so angry that he called the girl and left a message on her answering machine instructing her to keep away from me, and threatening to hire an attorney and sue for harassment if she didn't! Boy, did the leaders heed that! The girl avoided me like the plague for a long time.

That week my discipler commented that, since I only knew Jim in the church, wasn't I worried that he might become a drug addict and have an affair on me? I actually started laughing, but she was dead serious. How sad, that a "Christian" would actually speculate about such a perverted thing.

I had another conversation with Carol Kelly on May 19th. It was quite a conversation! I mentioned that the gossip is of epic proportions in the City Sector, and mentioned to her that people had been gossiping about Jim. She stated that, since we are a family and Jim committed "spiritual suicide," it was like a, "dog returning to his vomit." (They say that about everyone who leaves.) Because of this, she felt they had a right to talk about him.

"Well, if they are so concerned, then why don't they call and talk to him. He hasn't been marked or anything," I said. "They probably don't know him that well and would feel funny calling him," she replied. "If they're 'family', then why would they feel 'funny' calling him?", I asked. "What you're saying doesn't make any sense!" She didn't know what to say to that!

She got into a tizzy arguing with me, and finally blurted that she hated talking with me because, "You get so fixated on one thing." "Yeah, you're right! I do tend to get fixated on the Scriptures!", I responded. In desperation, she told me that she was concerned about my "weakening convictions," because I would not admit that Jim was not saved. I had told her that since I am not God, I am not privy to the Book of Life, and that all of us must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I asked her if she actually believed that, just because a person was a member of this church, that guaranteed they were going to heaven. She agreed that it did not.

She countered that God had given us the ability to judge who was lost and who was saved. I told her that this is simply not true. She looked incredulous when I said this.

I continued to challenge her on the gossip and slander that goes on in this church and particularly in leadership, and basically pummeled her with the Scriptures. It was beautiful. I am sorry to sound so mean spirited, but for years I had been beaten down and held under by their oppressive demands for total obedience and submission. For the first time in ten years, I felt empowered to say what I thought and to challenge their authority! I realized that I no longer lived under their oppressive, totalitarian legalism and that I could say whatever I want!

During the conversation she resorted to typical ICC manipulation tactics. She told me that I needed to be "humbled by the situation", adding that "God has put me in your life as a leader." I challenged her to be willing to learn from me and to be discipled by me and to believe that God put me in her life so that she could learn from me! I asked her if she believed this and if she were willing to learn from me. She looked like I had just smacked her hard across the face! "Why, of course I am, " she replied. "Good, " I said, "because I don't always feel that from you!" Man, I couldn't believe that I said that! It felt good, too!

After this conversation, she avoided me, and when she couldn't, she was extremely friendly and superficial with me.

Carol Calls for Help

I knew I had intimidated Carol a great deal. Apparently I did so much that she called a meeting with Linda Brumley, and told me that she has asked Linda's advice because "she wants to help me" and feels that she "lacks wisdom." Carol had been in the movement for 19 years at that time, and yet was so easily disarmed by a rank and file member. Doesn't the Bible say that we should be ready in season and out of season? She couldn't even defend her beliefs with a member!

I could tell that she was choosing her words carefully and was talking in a calm and soothing manner. Each time she set up a meeting, Jim would call and cancel it at the last minute! He would inform her that, "My wife will not be attending as I do not wish it." (He knew it was an ambush/breaking session). He also knew that, according to their game, I had to be submissive to him. Boy, they did not like that at all!

Tired of the Lies

I continued to conduct my research, and read everything I could about cults and destructive groups. It got frustrating to be part of a cult when I knew what it was, and there were times when I wanted to scream. On the other hand, I also enjoyed being a spy. I forwarded information about the group to interested parties, and was able to say things to get members to think. I also helped to pull some people out, and to better inform those who had already left.

The more I came to church, though, the more preposterous and stupid all of it seemed. I did not enjoy being a deceiver, even though I had good reason; there is no justification for sin, ever.

There are some other stupid pet tricks that come to mind. I got asked about my mail, which the disciples living above us withheld from me for awhile. American Family Foundation had sent me a packet and since it says "International Cult Education Program" on the return address. It sparked some concern.

Carol also told me that she was studying Ephesians, and had read in a commentary that the Bible really wasn't saying that wives needed to obey their husbands. She eyed me carefully as she said this and quantified her statements with "I'm not sure what to think. I am still mulling it over." Is this manipulation or what?

Someone actually questioned my convictions, while the day before this same person admired my recent 50 lb. weight loss. (It takes conviction and determination to lose weight!) I was also told that I "needed to keep things from Jim so as to not harden his heart." I was actually told this by a Bible Talk Leader!

I was also "challenged" incessantly about my contribution and was told by a leader that I needed to get in a fight with Jim and show him my convictions. She told me that I have gotten in fights "over dumber things," but that contribution is important and he needs to see how important it is to me.

During my "last days" as a disciple in the ICC, I met with one of the deans at a local university. I wrote a seven page informational letter, and told the dean to expect non-students to come and proselytize on her campus. She was wonderful -- sympathetic and knowledgeable about the ICC. She told me that she not only planned to alert their security personnel, but would like for Jim and I to come and teach the incoming freshmen during their orientation about cults and destructive groups. I cannot tell you how intoxicating it was to begin to undermine the impending "Fall Harvest" of the Seattle Church of Christ! I also met and interviewed with the editor of the student newspaper at a major university.

I knew that I was convincing and that none of the members had a clue that I was an impostor.

I had written to Rick and Sarah Bauer in May and they had corresponded with me. A close friend of mine had also left the church. She sent me an excellent video that profiled a series of reports done by various television news magazines. It was interesting to read about mind reform and thought control, and to watch it in action. The more I read, the more aware I became of the tactics that were being used to manipulate the members. It was odious.

The End of the Line

Finally, I could take no more. I attended the Seattle Church of Christ for the last time on August 25, 1998. Walking into mid-week service, I had just finished conversing with my then discipler, and told her that I felt that church took up too much time and was absolutely meaningless. She seemed surprised that I felt that church was time consuming. In a beautiful stroke of irony, Tom Snyder distributed the church calendar. Basically, the leaders had planned everything through the end of December! All kinds of meetings, classes, Hope for Kids stuff, etc. had been scheduled. I had to resist looking over at my discipler, however. Oh, it was too delicious!

I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I spoke to a friend of mine, and told her that I would never be back. During our conversation, I cast an eye at Carol Kelly, who was deep in conversation with my discipler. I knew that they were talking about me. As soon as I left, Carol Kelly waylaid two of my friends and told them to be careful, stating that "Athena is in a bad place."

The irony is that my friends were loyal to me -- one of them told me about this. What Carol Kelly didn't realize is that her actions mirrored her true self. My friends are not stupid and they have not only watched, but know in detail, many events that have transpired. I am certain that at some point (hopefully soon), they too will leave the movement.

The Aftermath

The Writing on the Wall

The writing had been on the wall for many years; it just took me a while to decipher it. An obvious question is: why did I stay in the movement for so long? I stayed because I had made a commitment to God to be a "go anywhere, do anything" disciple of Jesus. That resulted in me putting up with a tremendous amount of abuse. For years, I believed the never ending mantras of "God is in control" and "things are getting better."

Things never got better. I gave the movement a fair shot -- ten years of my life which I will never get back. I also came to the realization that, because God had given me "free will", He (by His own choice) was not in control of this. I was. No, I don't control the universe, but I do have responsibility for my life and what happens in it. Finally I realized my responsibility to blow the whistle on abusers and abusive groups. (That is why I wrote this essay).

It greatly angers me to hear "old timer" disciples telling me that, "God is in control." If this is true, then I guess we could use this line of reasoning with Stalin, Hitler, Mao et al. (To acknowledge that Hitler murdered six million Jews, and then excuse it by saying that "God is in control," has an absurd ring to it). This type of passivity is disgusting. It is, in effect, contributing to the very evil it excuses by allowing it to exist unchecked and unchallenged. Thus, the passive person becomes guilty by association.

As evidenced by what I have written, things have not gotten any better. I experienced purges ("reconstructions') in Paris, New York, San Diego and Seattle -- all four churches I was in during my ten years in the ICC. I have been controlled by abusive leaders in all four churches. (Although Paris ranks as the "kindest & gentlest" in my memory). I have witnessed cruelty, and abusive and tyrannical behavior, by many leaders. I have witnessed a panoply of other stupid pet tricks as well. I have watched people get suicidal and depressed (myself included) because of this. This is the greatest horror in the "Kingdom."

My greatest area of concern is how the leaders have done profound psychological damage to members and former members. The worst was when they asked people to leave the church during a "Reconstruction" or "Revival." What kind of human being would knowingly relegate someone to hell? They preach that "to leave this movement is to leave God!" Since they teach that they have cornered the market on salvation, and most disciples actually believe this, they leave the people whom they throw out without hope.

This, to me, is the most odious practice of all. How can this be of God, from God and for God? This type of behavior is so far from God in every way. It reminds me of inquisitions -- religious leaders became judge, jury and executioner by deciding who the heretics are, condemning them, and executing them. The only difference is that, instead of killing the body, these modern day inquisitors kill the spirit.

I clung in desperation and frustration for years -- desperate, because I believed it to be "the true movement of God"; frustrated, because things weren't right. When I confronted the ungodliness, I was given pat answers, justification for sin, and told to trust without question.

When I finally sat down and penned my concerns, thought about what was happening (I was once told by my discipler that I should have children, because then I wouldn't have time to think), and did some serious Bible study, I concluded that to continue membership in the ICC would not only make me guilty by association, but that I would have to answer for all these unrighteous practices. Thus, leaving the ICC became an issue of conscience -- I could no longer in good conscience sanction the practices of this church. To do so would require an unacceptable compromise of my integrity and ethics.

Mind & Information Control

As I read over my account, I am struck by the seeming duality of my personality. It has become obvious that over the years I desperately wanted to leave the ICC due to the abuse, boredom and frustration that I felt. I hope that it becomes evident to the reader, that despite how easy it seems to leave such a group, when under the influence of mind control one cannot. One is inculcated with the notion that to, "leave this church is to leave God."

Marty Fuqua is known for saying that "you can't run off true disciples." There is some sort of perverse pride in exhibiting your war wounds and saying, "Yeah, I survived the tyranny of so and so and lived to tell about it." In your mind, it becomes proof that you love Jesus so much that you are willing to go through anything, even intense and insane abuse.

This also means that the leaders have free range to abuse their followers, and abuse them they do. There are absolutely no checks and balances within the system. How can there be when disciples are always subordinate to their abusers? To repeatedly abuse, rebuke, make scathing accusations, use "breaking sessions" openly embarrass and humiliate, deceive and then tell the person that you love them is sick, indeed. Moreover, this is what discipleship in the ICC engenders.

The only way to break free from it is to run from it. However, "if you leave this movement, you leave God." This statement has so much pull that you compromise your integrity. For some people, I believe it has compromised it to the point of no return.

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. I am angry with myself for not having read the "spiritual pornography" a lot earlier in my involvement with the ICC. It amazes me that a once-avid reader would suddenly stop reading per someone else's advice/command. The fact that there is information out there that could "damage your faith" calls into question the validity of that faith. I slowly realized that, for far too long, I had not only listened to, but followed, man.

The price I paid for this was years of my life. Thank God I got out before it cost me my soul! The Bible teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to,"Test everything. Hold on to the good." Since ICC members are denied access to material critical of the ICC because the leaders term such material, "spiritual pornography, they are forbidden to follow this Scripture.

What seems so obvious to those on the outside is not at all clear to those on the inside. Mind control is real. I hate to think that I had succumbed to it, but indeed, I did for ten years. It helped me to understand how Hitler could have gained the control that he did over the German people. He had charisma, gave them a greater purpose and a cause, made them feel like an elite group, etc. -- all of the same ingredients are there.

The ICC is just as destructive and detrimental to people, but on a spiritual, emotional and psychological level. Thus it is much more difficult to see the "walking wounded," or fathom who is in bondage in the spiritual concentration camp, let alone be able to ascertain the true "death count."

Another thing that I would like to point out -- everyone is susceptible to mind control groups at some point in their lives. People are conned all of the time, and cults are just another con game. Con artists actually play on a person's intelligence and benevolence -- smart and good people get conned all of the time. Whether you are conned to give away your money, get involved in some multi-level marketing or get rich quick scheme, or whatever, everyone, at some point in their lives, is vulnerable.

What I find particularly insidious about this group is that it uses the Bible as a vehicle for the promotion of mind control. Everyone in the group goes through the same studies, undergoes the same process and once baptized, attends the "First Principles" class. Members are indoctrinated on a continual basis through mandatory "meetings of the body", constant demands on their time, thought stopping language and meaningless sermons. Even the messages are punctuated by "Amen's" and "You go, brother's" shouts from the audience, which serve to reinforce the indoctrination process through interruption and validate meaningless drivel. This kind of thing also carries people along emotionally, but not intellectually. The fact that these leaders can use the Scriptures and twist them so badly (and so effectively) is frightening indeed.

This is what makes it so difficult for the member to detangle himself from this web of deceit. The Bible is used and abused to make it appear that God sanctions all of their actions, their teachings, and their practices. Members are taught to believe that the Bible is God's word and to accept it at face value. Members are taught to obey and submit to their leaders. Once these pieces are in place, the victim is under their control.

Moreover, since one is given very little free time for actual study and most of us are not biblical scholars, we accept these teachings without question. I am amazed at how quickly I forgot to "be a Berean" and search the Scriptures to test what I was being told.

It was by remembering this Scripture and doing it that I was able to detangle myself from their grip.

Another frightening aspect that I have observed amongst the members and particularly those in the full-time ministry, is the lack of actual thought. Everything and everyone is relegated into thought stopping labels, such as "prideful, not open, not teachable, great heart", and a million other stupid phrases like, "awesome, unsubmissive, independent, etc." In the ICC, everything is based on quick and very superficial judgments. Actual thought and reasoning are dead.

Whether we choose to realize this or not, all of us are subjected to information control. A good example of this would be President Kennedy's assassination. Thirty-five years have passed and we still don't have the full story. Having control of information gives one a lot of power. If the information that you have has been controlled and manipulated by another than how could you possibly ever learn the truth? Indeed, the truth is elusive. At some point in time, all of us have been victimized by some form of "information control" be it our government, media and/or another entity that propagates information. Thus, my involvement and that of thousands of others in the ICC is not as far-fetched as it seems.

Эпилог

Я не могу передать читателю, насколько глубоко раненной я себя чувствую. Я чувствую себя духовно изнасилованной. Я чувствую себя ограбленной и обруганной. Психологический ущерб также глубок и для многих других бывших членов. Я одна из тех беглецов, кому повезло больше - я сумела излечиться через уйму "библиотерапии". Я прочла всё, что смогла найти о Движении Крёстного Хода, Международных Церквях Христа (МЦХ), Бостонском Движении, а также любую другую информацию о культах, умственном контроле и деструктивных группах. Благодарю Бога за организации как AFF и веб-сайты как REVEAL (www.reveal.org) и TOLC (www.tolc.org). Эти организации сыграли решающую роль в моём восстановлении.

Бог сказал: "Мои овцы знают мой голос". Я пришла к выводу, что тот, кто действительно духовен, кто искренне голоден в поисках правды, способен установить, находится он или нет на истинном пути. Я недавно прочла книгу Нансук Хонг (бывшей муновки). Её история очень утешила меня ,потому что, хотя она выросла в культе, она сумела установить, что является частью гигантской лжи. Таким образом, "мои овцы знают мой голос" звучит здесь правдиво. Нансук знала, что хорошо и что плохо, и её совесть больше не смогла терпеть эту гигантскую пародию.

Я надеюсь, что дети из движения также придут к тому же выводу и увидят, что из себя представляет МЦХ.

С течением времени я поражаюсь всё более растущим лицемерием лидеров Международной Церкви Христа. Я верю, что чем сильнее будет становиться их лицемерие, тем больше и больше людей покинет её. Фарисейское поведение лидеров становится всё сильнее - только страус с головой в песке не способен это увидеть. Кип может метаться и прятаться, лидеры могут требовать абсолютное повиновение и подчинение, новые чистки могут быть проведены и новые члены могут быть добавлены во вращающуюся дверь МЦХ, но рано или поздно всё это их настигнет. Правда всегда выходит наружу.

В конце концов, лидеры добьются своей собственной кончины. Ведомые на бойню Кипом МакКином, они охотно последуют за ним. Несмотря на то, что я сердита на некоторых лидеров и то, что некоторые из них причинили мне боль и надругались надо мной, частичка меня всё-таки чувствует к ним жалость. Они всего лишь услужливые льстецы, как предупреждает Писание: "Злые же люди и обманщики будут преуспевать во зле, вводя в заблуждение и заблуждаясь" (2-е Тимофея 3:13). Матфея 23 также является метким описанием лидеров МЦХ и их плачевного состояния. Как же это печально, ужасно печально! Действительно, узок путь, и немногие находят его.

Чтение 23-й главы Матфея дало мне большое понимание себя самой. Я осознала, что по истечении десяти лет моего членства (в МЦХ) я стала как раз тем самым фарисеем. Так как ученичество работает по теории подражания, и лидеры должны быть самыми достойными подражания, то это к сводится к тому, что члены МЦХ в конце концов становятся такими же как лидеры - фарисеями.

Даже Кип МакКин сказал: "Я - лидер движения. Во мне много фарисейского".

Делая выводы о своём пребывании в МЦХ, я столкнулась с жестокой правдой о том, что во мне не было абсолютно ничего христианского. Я никогда не была отдающей, щедрой, доброй, милостивой, любящей и заботливой. (Как сказал Иисус: "(Вы) делаете его сыном геенны, вдвое худшим вас".) Я глядела на весь мир через очень узкий объектив: "спасённый" равен "члену МЦХ" и "потерянный" равен всему остальному. Тот факт, что я смотрела на мою семью таким образом и не особенно беспокоилась о них, показывает, каким мерзким человеком я стала. Не чувствовать ни капли сострадания к их якобы плачевному состоянию просто отвратительно - абсолютно ненормально как психически, так и социально. Мне пришлось задаваться вопросами: "кем я стала?" и "что я сделала другим во имя Иисуса?".

Постоянный вызов стремиться к чему-то острому и выдающемуся сильно противоположен тому, чему учит Библия. (Как я могла на это купиться!) Как же извращённо и ненормально фокусироваться только на чём-то "остром" потому, что "нам нужны лидеры, чтобы двигать Царство Бога"! Евангелие ясно говорит, что Иисус фокусировался гораздо больше на "больных и грешниках". Он фокусировался на любом желающем поправиться как физически, так и духовно.

Членство в МЦХ означало, что я ограничивалась шедшими на поправку. Я выбирала тех, кого считала достаточно открытыми для "деления верой". Поскольку я фокусировалась на "острых", то моя программа помощи была ещё более ограниченной, так как я редко фокусировалась на бедных, больных, лишённых прав, бездомных или любых других непредставительных социальных группах. (Джим и я однажды привели в церковь бездомную семью и получили за это нагоняй.) Вся принятая мною предпосылка является по самой своей природе сатанистской. Во мне не было абсолютно ничего похожего на Христа, так же как нет ничего похожего на Христа и во всей группе.

Я была пресыщена постоянным обманом. Годами мой обман мучил меня. Меня беспокоило то, что я могла "играть в игру", формально говорить и поступать, но Бог ни разу не был обманут моими выходками и лицемерием. Никогда и никому я не рассказывала истинную историю о церкви. Я лгала и говорила всем, насколько всё это здорово. Я даже скрывала эту информацию от родной матери!

Но самым страшным было то, что я на самом деле верила тому, что говорила. Помню, как я говорила Катерине, что она не должна сбегать и выходить замуж, потому что она пропустит благословения женитьбы "в Царстве"! (Как же быстро я забыла "благословения", полученные мной!)

Я благодарна за то крохотное семя совести, которое Бог дал мне сохранить. Этот голосок мучил меня все эти годы. Я ставила под сомнение сплетни на лидерствах; я испытывала неприязнь к очевидным барьерам, создаваемых лидерством между лидерами и не-лидерами; я была недовольна кликами, возникавшими в секторах и зонах; я обвиняла лидеров в фаворитизме и кричащем мирском поведении; я задавалась вопросом, какова была стоимость Всемирных Миссионерских Лидерских Конференций в Маниле, Йоханнесбурге и Стамбуле, и откуда они финансировались; я ставила под сомнение всё, что шло вразрез со мной или против Писания.

Нужна огромная смелость признать, что группа, частью которой ты являешься, совсем не то, на что претендует. Годами ты пытаешься втянуть в неё знакомых, а потом встаёшь перед объяснением, почему ты её покинул. Группа также обеспечивает сильное ядро поддержки и является очень прочной и надёжной оболочкой. Ты отрезан от общества, твоё время и жизненные события запланированы для тебя. Многие находят в этом чувство безопасности и поддержки. Освободиться от этого весьма тяжело.

Другие чувствуют угнетённость от такой скованности, но для большинства быть в "Царстве Бога" - это нечто замечательное. Это заставляет чувствовать тебя особенным, как будто Бог лично избрал тебя для Его цели. Кто не захочет чувствовать себя таким образом!

Ты также чувствуешь себя частью чудесной семьи и, что все её члены на свете разделяют с тобой общие интересы. Это является единой и духовной связью. У нас даже есть свой собственный язык и код действий. Это похоже на принадлежность к очень элитному секретному клубу. Ты также заставлен чувствовать себя духовным, поскольку ты имел проницательность и мудрость вступить в "Царство Бога".

Есть и другие привилегии быть членом церкви. Ты выставлен на показ множеству людей, так что тебе легко найти друзей. Ходить на свидания становится легче потому, что тебя не беспокоят дальнейшие мотивы человека, но ты можешь просто ходить на свидания и узнавать его. Находясь в МЦХ, замкнутая личность становится более открытой. Люди помогают тебе (хочешь ты этого или нет) обучиться правилам хорошего тона, улучшить внешний вид и тому подобное. Кроткие, как правило, люди учатся быть лидерами. Могут быть (и даже есть) и другие привилегии от пребывания в группе, пусть даже деструктивной.

Я даже признательна за мой опыт в МЦХ, за то, что он многому меня научил. Может быть, теперь я стала немного циничней и измученней (и перестала быть наивной и идеалистической), но зато всё это заменил опыт. Опыт - это лучший учитель, позволяющий тебе учиться на нём и набираться мудрости. Было бы неправильно сердиться и горевать по поводу случившегося. Я вижу все мои испытания как часть пути, ведущего меня к Богу.

Я никогда не была в состоянии понять это до того, как ушла из церкви, поскольку, находясь в МЦХ, я видела Его постоянно разочарованным во мне. Сейчас я в состоянии принять тот факт, что я никогда не буду идеальной и никогда не смогу жить по библейским стандартам - но как раз поэтому мы имеем Иисуса. Наконец-то я в состоянии, после столького времени, принять Божий дар спасения и быть благодарным Ему за Его нежную милость и вечную доброту. Наконец-то я могу совершать своё спасение со страхом и трепетом, без хора критиков, "наставляющих" меня, в чём мне нужно меняться. Так приятно знать, что Бог любит меня и принимает такой, какой я есть - в МЦХ я редко чувствовала это.

Я благодарна моему опыту в МЦХ и за то, что он научил меня иметь сострадание и сочувствие к такому большому количеству страдающих людей. Как часто мы смотрели в полном изумлении, как жена возвращается к своему мужу после того, как он её бьёт, и спрашивали, почему! Теперь я знаю, почему, хотя я больше не имею права судить, был ли этот выбор глупым или нет. Я понимаю, как глубоко ты можешь любить кого-то или что-то, насколько бы ошибочным и идиотским это ни казалось людям со стороны.

Я надеюсь, что любой, читающий эти строки и опутанный сетью обмана, найдёт в себе силу и стойкость уйти. Для тех, кто ни разу не вкусил горький и терпкий фрукт деструктивной группы: я надеюсь, что вы почувствуете милость и сострадание к тем, кто его попробовал. Культы, деструктивные группы, пирамиды, оскорбительные отношения (как бы вы это ни называли) являются общественной угрозой нашего времени. Всё человечество является потенциальной жертвой, и только просвящённый может устоять.

"Есть пути, которые кажутся человеку прямыми, но конец их - путь к смерти." Притчи, 16:25

"Кто имеет уши слышать, да слышит!" Луки, 8:8




Автор: Этина Каррейро Хиггинс, Международая Церковь Христа с 1988 по 1998. (оригинал на reveal.org)
Перевод с английского Гуцу Анатолия, (c)2002-2003 by exicoc.narod.ru. All rights reserved.
Некоторые части текста переведены силами редакторов и посетителей сайта Revel.ru

Copyright © Церковь Христа, МЦХ Все права защищены.

Опубликовано на: 2003-09-12 (5451 Прочтено)

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