1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Since starting this blog, I have been sent thank you notes from members, former members, and children of members. Those still connected to the group almost always ask for anonymity to prevent retribution in the form of public rebukes, withdrawals, or “marking and avoiding” of themselves or family members. Several have come to me with tangible fear that if the church leaders found out they were talking to me, there would be severe consequences. Others have told of confirmed instances of gossip and slander that have been spread about them.
Some tell me how courageous I am, and that’s embarrassingly untrue. Real courage would have been speaking out like this a couple of decades ago. Right now, I am just in a much easier position to speak out than many others, because I am out of their reach. My kids are mostly adults, and I have no fear that they will ever get sucked into the unbiblical doctrines of this church. Besides, I really don’t fear what man can do to me, and I feel a sense of mission to help those who have been hurt by this sect’s abusive and unbiblical practices.
They have already tried to attack my character and say this blog is full of lies and evil, but I will allow no man to judge my motives. As David said, “Search my heart and try me O God.” I know the truth, God knows the truth, and my family knows the truth. I have nothing but pure motives and a mission to speak the truth in love about this sect’s wild abuse of scripture to support its bizarre and unbiblical doctrines. We can’t judge another person’s motives, but it’s high time we start judging fruits of this sect’s 45+ year history.
If you know my mom, ask her if I’ve ever been bitter about the church, or out for retaliation. I have not once felt that way, and I know she’s honest and will vouch for me. Instead, I feel compassion that they don’t know God like they think they do, and that is my motivation for writing this blog. In fact, the only thing keeping me from doing this years earlier was my love for my mom and my desire for her not to get caught in the middle of this exercise in truth-telling. But too much damage is being done in the name of God, and the rocks will cry out if someone doesn’t speak out.
I remember well the fear and intimidation tactics used on members growing up in the church, but at the time, I was conditioned to think that was normal Christianity. It wasn’t until adulthood that it dawned on me that we just shouldn’t treat our fellow human beings like that. I’m ashamed that I didn’t see at the time how destructive to a person’s soul were some of the practices that went on in the name of God.
It was well-intentioned, no doubt, as were Saul’s persecutions of the early church. I’m sure it was done, and probably continues to be done, under the banner of keeping the church pure, just as the inquisitions of old. Some of the fear and intimidation was done behind the scenes, but much of it was in plain view. Stories continue to come in about horrible abuses of power way back then that are confirmed by my memories from my childhood and teen years.
For instance, I remember the witch hunts over all sorts of sexual behavior, even questioning members, like Nazi prison guards, about individuals’ thought lives. Members were asked to tattle on other members, particularly wives on husbands. Secret lists were passed around between the “older ones” about the supposed “signs” of deviant behavior, and this has been confirmed by multiple sources. I remember being told my 4th grade teacher was probably a sexual deviant. I’m pretty sure that’s blatant evil surmising and slander.
The evil done to individuals and families in the name of God was atrocious, and some forms of this abuse are happening to this day. For instance, I have received word that teaching has gone out about sexual deviancy associated with this blog somehow. I really don’t know if it was an accusation leveled at me or at a particular commenter, but either way, the attempts to silence dissent using fear and intimidation continue. It is evil surmising and slander to the worst degree.
The longer this wrong behavior persists, the easier it is for members to ignore it, because their consciences become seared with a hot iron. When you see people mistreated and oppressed for decades, it becomes easy to turn a blind eye, like the German neighbors who became so accustomed to Jew-bashing that it was a normal part of self-protection. Someone needs to have some courage. Stop the cowardice, and draw a line in the sand and say “no more,” regardless of the consequences. It’s just not right.
I was young and not privy to everything going on back when I was younger, but I saw and overheard enough to know that something wasn’t right. Because of the group’s grossly mistaken understanding of unity, they can’t admit even the slightest dissent within their ranks. To admit dissent is tantamount to admitting the Holy Spirit isn’t with them, because that’s how they’ve framed the debate–the Holy Spirit is what gives them unity. If that were true, they would arrive at the same conclusions without conferring with each other on the phone or at May Meetings.
The scary truth is that you can’t speak out from within the group, because any dissent from the “teachings of the church” (i.e. the opinions the Teachers arrive at during the May Meeting) will get you withdrawn from eventually. You are fooling yourself if you think you can reform the existing power structures from within. Those who hold dissenting opinions are silenced or rebuked publicly, and forced to “wait it out” until it can be discussed at a May Meeting.
I know of members who are still in the group today, who acknowledge there are wrong teachings, but who remain in it with faith that the church will eventually change its doctrines to conform with the truth. This sounds a lot like Catholicism to me. When all else fails, wait for a new pope. In the meantime, decades may pass, families may be broken up (as with the rulings on divorce and remarriage), and withdrawals may continue to estrange fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.
It’s time to step up to the plate and end this abuse of conscience. It is not wrong to tell the truth about this sect. We must do it in love, but it must be done.
If you remain afraid of their fear and intimidation tactics, it is simply because you’ve given them that power over you. God has not given us a spirit of fear. They do not stand in the place of God, although they would like you to think that. You are not fearing God when you fear them; you are fearing man.