All of These Things Moved Me
- 1 All of These Things Moved Me
- 1.1 LIFE AFTER THE FAMILY: A Progress Report
- 1.2 RESPONSES FROM MARIA AND PETER
- 1.3 STAY ON THE WALL AND NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME
- 1.4 THE PASTOR'S PILLOW: Maria and Peter's Apology to Mene
- 1.5 EYES WIDE SHUT: WS Staff and Family Leaders React to No Regrets
- 1.6 NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: Crocodile Mo and Maria; "G'day, Mate!"
- 1.7 GET BUSY LIVING OR GET BUSY DYING
- 1.8 ALL OF THESE THINGS MOVED ME: MORE THOUGHTS ON THE FAMILY; WS; AND MO, MARIA, AND PETER
- 1.8.1 A Cult of the Personality
- 1.8.2 Old Friends, Bookends
- 1.8.3 Fruit that Remains
- 1.8.4 Leading God's Children
- 1.8.5 The Law of Lust
- 1.8.6 Who Are The Rebels?
- 1.8.7 World Services: the Cult Within the Cult
- 1.8.8 Maria and Peter: Who Died and Made You King?
- 1.8.9 Accountability
- 1.8.10 Maria and Peter Lack Integrity
- 1.8.11 Criminogenic Cultures and Ethical Binds
- 1.8.12 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!
- 1.8.13 Spiritual Abuse
- 1.8.14 Grief and Loss of Trust
- 1.9 MY SECOND JOURNEY
- 1.10 References
- 1.11 Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
All of These Things Moved Me
— Reflections on Wounded Healers, the Responses to No Regrets, and the Second Journey
Copyright February 2001. All Rights Reserved
Dear John and Sue,
A belated happy New Year and I hope that it is progressing well so far. It's amazing to think that just a year ago we were recovering from Y2K panic. The past year went very quickly for me; a sign, I am told, that I'm getting old.
So how are you? It's been nice talking to you on the phone the few times I've called, as well as to your kids. You've got a wonderful family. I hope things are continuing to improve in your new business.
You asked me what kind of reactions I had been getting to No Regrets. Your questions always require a lengthy response! I received a wide variety of replies and responses, which I'll get to shortly, but first I'd like to fill you in on what I've been up to.
LIFE AFTER THE FAMILY: A Progress Report
Life has been busy and challenging, something that I'm grateful for. I've mainly been studying; finishing some Certificates and starting a Bachelor of Arts degree program. So far I've completed four Certificates, three of which are in the field of Business Writing and Editing. These have been helpful, enabling me to work at the industry standard.
I finished a comprehensive Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at a Christian college. This gives me a skill that I can use at home or overseas to support myself, possibly in a tentmaker ministry. It also has a long shelf life; I can teach when I am old! One of the instructors at the ESL school where I teach is a frail lady in her late 70's. Just recently she returned from St. Petersburg Russia, where she had been teaching with a mission agency for five years!
Of the various TESOL courses, I particularly enjoyed Cross Cultural Communications and Sociolinguistics. Summer school was rough, but overall, the courses were rewarding, as I enjoyed learning in a Christian environment and integrating my faith with my studies. It was also a chance to get involved with the Christian community after 30 years of relative isolation. I could write a book about the Family-based misconceptions and negative stereotypes of Christians that were, and continue to be, shattered by daily reality. Painful, but a good thing.
Last fall I started a degree program at a nearby publicly funded university. The program is tailored to middle-aged people like me who are returning to school. Most of my TESOL credits and other Certificates can be applied to this degree, and once I have it, I will be able to advance beyond entry-level ESL teaching.
This past semester I took five courses, mainly electives: Psychology, Law and Philosophy, Adult Learners, and two in Criminology. I enjoyed them all. Adult Learners implanted in my brain the maxim that a good instructor is not "a sage on the stage, but a guide on the side." I especially enjoyed the Criminology courses. I took these because of my volunteer work at a penitentiary.
It's been a lot of fun. As Mo used to say, "It feels so good, it must be a sin!" I have come to love learning; not just taking courses, but really learning. I enjoy the research, the challenges of difficult assignments, the exploring, and the pushing back of familiar horizons. I can agree with Mo when he wrote "Learning, learning, learning--it never ends! I love it! I always want more" (ML#510:27)! It's a privilege to have an opportunity to do some intentional, guided learning. Millions don't have it. An old high school friend, who is now a university professor, observed, "Getting an education is delightfully decadent, like eating chocolate cake."
I enjoy my learning experience on two levels. First of all, it equips me with certification and practical skills. When I left the Family I had very few marketable skills. 20 years in WS did not equip me for much in the real world. What do I put on my résumé? Head of security and camp manager for a WS Unit? Consultant on how to wiggle out of allegations of child abuse? Sure I could write, but what could I show clients when they asked to see some samples? The Child Abuse Statement? The Tribute to David Berg? I felt so useless.
I soon discovered that some sort of formal training is necessary to make progress in just about any occupation. Some former Family Members have done well without training, but I felt that I needed it. And now that I have completed some Certificates, it is so much easier to get work. More opportunities are available to me; more doors are open to do interesting and worthwhile work while earning a living.
Secondly, my formal learning has made me a better person; enriching my life and broadening my horizons. 27 years of reading Mo Letters does not make for a wealth of knowledge. I'm studying not only because it helps me work-wise, but also because I enjoy learning. It's exciting, almost intoxicating to think that every three or four months I will learn a whole lot more than I currently know.
In my Psychology class we studied the neuron. Each neuron has many dendrites, which have pointed little ends that reach out and receive information from the other neurons. "Science has discovered" that if a person stops learning, as some adults do, the dendrites develop stubby ends. It's a case of use it or lose it. But, the good news is, the process can be reversed if the person starts learning again. So my daily prayer is for my dendrites, which were probably very stubby, to heal. In the last Adult Learners' class, each of us had to write a haiku about our experience. Mine was the true prayer of every adult learner.
- My old dendrites are
- So stubby and withered.
- Heal, my dendrites, heal.
I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that I can easily incorporate faith-related subjects into the course work at the publicly funded university. Public schools will not necessarily help develop a Christian world-view from scratch, but anyone who has it can certainly explore it in the context of the course work. In the Criminology class, one of my two term papers dealt with sexual assault, so I researched how Christian communities treat victims of rape, and incorporated the findings into the paper. "Christianity, Faith, and Prisons" was the topic I chose for the second paper. The instructor loved it, even though her worldview is different from mine. She is a radical feminist, married to another woman who just gave birth to their third child!
In the Prison Corrections class I did a presentation on a Christian volunteer group that sponsors one-to-one visitation programs in prisons, and also provides circles of support for inmates once they are released into the community. During the question period the class got into a discussion on punishment, faith, and forgiveness, and I explained all about God's grace and His plan of salvation! It took place in a respectful environment and was well received. Most of the students are in their early 20's, and not really sure about what they want to do with their lives, so it's nice to gently point them in the right direction.
So going back to school after a 30-year hiatus has been a success -- so far. Not without its battles, but quite rewarding. I am adapting well, getting good marks (3.7 GPA), and experiencing some real live learning. Of course, I have had to erase the mental conditioning that Mo instilled in us concerning education, but it has been easier than I expected. Again, it reminds me of something Mo wrote. "It's amazing how many years you work to indoctrinate the people and how quickly it can be washed away by the truth. All those years of lies and lying propaganda are just completely swept away…(ML 1260: 4).
School was difficult to begin, though. As I told one instructor, for me the learning curve was not steep, it was vertical! I had no faith in my ability to handle university studies. But I started by faith and when my first assignment was returned with an A, I remember thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, I can handle this."
A few months later I did a research paper for the upper-level Cross Cultural Communications class. As a topic, I chose to develop a culturally sensitive plan for reaching a certain people group with the Gospel message. This involved researching their cultural and religious background and interviewing missionaries who are working with them. The instructor, the chair of the department, gave me 100% on the paper, saying that it was one of the best papers he had read in 15 years of teaching. This was an incredible boost, as it involved not only research and writing, but also comparing and contrasting Christianity with different religions; all for an instructor who would detect theological inaccuracies!
So, I've become an evangelist of education. Formal learning and training has many benefits, and I strongly recommend that everybody, especially young people, get some! People with marketable skills have many more opportunities to do good in the world then those without. So many Family and former Family young people are smart, and can do a lot of good if they develop some skills. In this day and age, effective missionaries have to do more than just "love Jesus." They must possess some talents, some "secular competencies;" and looking after other peoples' babies, clowning, or demonstrating Life With Grandpa handyman skills do not cut it.
The more I progress in my post-Family "second journey" the more I have come to regard the Family's anti-education doctrine, culture, and ethos as almost criminal. Mo, Maria, and Peter's deliberate belittling of any non-Family learning has in effect denied countless numbers of children raised in the Family the opportunity to get a proper education. Sure, children and teens may take Christian Light Education courses or something similar, but how many successfully complete high school? How many are given any encouragement to attend post-secondary institutions? The Family culture, as expressed in the Charter and innumerable publications, is diametrically opposed to anything more than a minimum education. This thinking severely handicaps any young person who wishes to live outside the Family. It is such a tragic waste.
My work situation is improving. In addition to editing text for Web sites, I have written some brochures for charitable organizations. As well, I teach ESL part time. It's a blessing to work with people of different cultures who are generally humble and appreciative. I could get more work, but I want to finish the degree. Thank the Lord for student loans and grants.
The volunteer work at the penitentiary is going well, although it has its ups and downs. A few months ago I went to the parole board hearing of an inmate who I have come to know quite well the past year. He is doing life and has been inside since 1977. However, he is allowed to apply for parole every so often. The hearing was brutal, as the officers did not like him and raked him over the coals, forcing him to describe in detail his crime of 23 years ago. By the time they were finished, he was weeping. They denied his parole and transferred him to a medium security facility. He is not allowed many visits, so now we stay in touch via mail.
It's discouraging when this happens, but it causes me to check my heart and motives. A prison ministry has to be a long-term commitment and I have a lot of respect for the people who do it, year after year. In spite of the setbacks, I have a passion for reaching inmates, as there is so much opportunity for God to work in their lives. If I were to identify the one thing that has helped me grow as a Christian since I left the Family, I would say that it is my involvement with inmates and learning about restorative justice.
Every second Sunday I attend a simple, unstructured, and low-key Christian service at the penitentiary. I have seen amazing changes in the lives of some of the inmates who attend the service. One fellow, a Native American, is in for life and until recently would not look at anyone in the eye or talk to people. He was a mess. But he came to the services month after month, and slowly started opening up. One day he got up and talked publicly about what the Lord meant to him, things he was learning, and the crimes he had committed. This was difficult, as inmates rarely show vulnerability or discuss their crimes in front of other inmates. For him, it was even harder, as most people present were Caucasian.
Changing subjects, I've joined a faith community where I feel comfortable. We meet at the local recreation center in a rented function room; nothing fancy, just a basic New Testament fellowship. Many members are active in the prison ministry, which gives us something in common. The pastor is a good fellow; grace based. My litmus test with Christians is how they react to The Ragamuffin Gospel. If I see their eyes light up as we discuss it, I know I am in good company.
I'm also helping lead an Alpha group. Alpha is a versatile course that introduces non-believers to Christianity in a non-threatening manner. If you're interested, there is more information at www.alphana.org. I guess I sound like an advertisement, but it's a great chance to witness in an effective way.
In what little spare time I have, I go to the gym, hike, bike, and do fun things with my friends' kids. Not having any kids myself, their kids are a big part of my life; all the fun and none of the responsibility! I sometimes take the older boys camping, and help one of them with his driver's education; practicing driving with him.
So I'm busy and challenged, and it looks like I will continue that way for some time to come. I constantly have to be analyzing the "big rocks," the priorities in my life, and deciding what is really important. All in all, I've got a great deal to thank the Lord for.
Of course, there are still many unknowns in my future. I have my share of battles and trials. These include my besetting sins, loneliness, and remorse over some of the things that I did and condoned during my time in the Family, and the ongoing realization that I wasted many years of my life, laboring in vain. Like many others, I wish I could be young again and do things right; accomplish good without having to partake of all the weirdness. But I explained that in my last letter. These regrets will probably just be part of the cross that I have to bear. I know Jesus loves and has forgiven me, but the wounds take time to heal. I take comfort in promises such as "I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten" (Joel 2: 25).
I was talking on the phone with another former member recently, discussing and lamenting about some of the hard times we have faced since leaving the Family. Particularly her, as they have a big family, and the adjustment has been stressful at times. In spite of our woes though, we had to grudgingly acknowledge the many deep life lessons that we had learned and the ways in which we had grown spiritually. We concluded that we would not exchange our experiences for anything, all the while complaining, "Lord, couldn't there have been an easier way?" As she put it, "No, it had to be the way of the cross." Many other former members could probably say a hearty "Amen."
Did you enjoy The Ragamuffin Gospel, especially Chapter Nine? I read it on a continuing basis. Several months ago the author, Brennan Manning, spoke at the Christian college where I was studying. Afterwards, I bumped into him in the cafeteria, and began to explain how much his book had helped my friends and I. His affirmation of God's unconditional love and grace was just what we needed. To my embarrassment, I started crying! Right in the middle of the cafeteria. It was awkward for him, but he seemed to understand.
I've loaned several copies to friends, and they inevitably say how much it helped them. One second generation adult (SGA) read it and wrote me the following,
Another excellent book is Man's Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl. It is quite well known; written by an Austrian psychiatrist who spent much of World War Two in Nazi concentration camps. He believes that humans are motivated by a desire for meaning in their lives, even if it is a "tragic optimism."
The book is a big help for Christians and non-Christians alike when going through tough times.
No Regrets for No Regrets
So, you want to hear about the responses to No Regrets? That's going to take some explaining. However, before I do so, I'd like to make two points clear.
First of all, I have no regrets for No Regrets. It took me about five months to write the article, working off and on. I could have completed it more quickly, but I decided to take my time to ensure that I would not write in haste and repent at leisure.
Of course I had to attend to school and work as well. I’d write for a while, and would then put it aside for a week or two, and come back and write some more. I also knew that the article was going to upset Maria and Peter greatly, so I deliberately took time to count the cost before putting into print something I knew would expose and evoke a response from them.
My objective was to tell my story as honestly, factually, and dispassionately as possible. I wanted the article to be credible, so that it would have enduring value and be a help to others. I chose my words carefully, including only the facts that I knew to be true and had reaffirmed with reliable sources. I also took care to differentiate between fact and opinion. (And who needs fiction? When it comes to Mo, Maria, and Peter, the truth is much stranger than fiction!) The point is: all of this took time.
Even so, I had a mild panic attack the evening I posted No Regrets (Mene's birthday). But I immediately read it again, and my fears subsided. What I had written was true, and I wanted to go on the record as having spoken that truth. It was the story of my adult life, paid for with my adult life, and I had a right to tell my story.
I also wanted to give people a glimpse into the inner circle of WS. Few people who have left WS have ever spoken or written of their experiences. A former member made an observation, which I think partly explains why this sometimes happens.
The COG got members so involved with immoral and illicit acts in order to disempower them, in case any of them ever did decide to declare the truth. If Maria and Peter can make victimizers out of their victims, there is not much credibility in the eyewitness' accounts. That is, unless you understand this modus operandi.
So I have no regrets for writing No Regrets. In spite of Maria and Peter publishing 180,000 words of rebuttals, the credibility of No Regrets remains intact.
"I Speak the Truth in Christ, I Lie Not"
Secondly, much of what I am going to mention is shocking, some almost unbelievable. I wrestled long and hard in thought and prayer, trying to decide if I should divulge these things to you. Much of it was originally disclosed to me in confidence. That's one of the reasons I delayed writing you; once again, I had to count the cost.
Apart from exposing Maria and Peter, the disclosures I make concerning them can hurt the faith of people both in and out of the Family. I don't want to hurt people. Before sending this letter to you, I asked a friend to read it. She has been out of the Family for many years and is a successful professional. The letter so devastated her that she felt like curling up under her desk and crying. It forced her to confront some unpleasant truths that she had not dealt with. Imagine how this information could affect a Family Member?
You see, I am sort of torn. On the one hand, I don't want to write anything about Maria, Peter, and the Family, especially if it will hurt and disillusion people. I'd rather let it all slip into the past and get on with my life. I am fortunate enough to have one. On the other hand, I feel an obligation to set the record straight concerning Maria and Peter's character and leadership. I want to inform people about what I know to be true so that their faith in Maria and Peter's spiritual leadership of the Family can be based on fact, rather than the propaganda that Maria and Peter constantly publish about themselves. This second option, which I have chosen, may cause some short term hurt, but I hope it will help bring about long term healing.
Maria and Peter like to portray their lives as open books, but their lives are far from open. There are so many things, much that I don't even mention, which they would be loath for their followers or the public to know. This letter and No Regrets barely scratch the surface. But I came to the conclusion that people have a right to know about some of it.
So, even though my writing sometimes take a lighthearted tone, or perhaps becomes a little "shrill and strident" as I vigorously debate the issues and drive home my point, I don't take the disclosing of this information lightly. As I already mentioned, much of it was entrusted to me in confidence, so it was a heavy matter for me to weigh out whether to betray former trust from others, or betray my own conscience and convictions. As you can see, the latter won. But I affirm before God that it is all true. As Paul said, so I say, "I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not" (Romans 9:1). I have no problem challenging Maria and Peter to disprove any of the specific truths, incidents, or facts that I bring to light. Most of all, I pray that when you read these truths, if they are hurtful, that you will understand that they are delivered in the spirit of "faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Proverbs 27: 6).
What the People Say
I received about 150 individual responses at the email@example.com address, the vast majority of which were positive. Most were from former Family Members, thanking me for the article and expressing how much it helped them. A few friends from 30 years ago wrote and renewed acquaintances. I have also made some new email friends, including some women. Sadly, they are all married (!)
Several young people wrote heart-wrenching accounts of the suffering they had endured in the Family. A number mentioned how No Regrets confirmed much of the wrongdoing that they had suspected and that it helped them overcome the condemnation they suffered because of leaving the Family. These replies encouraged me greatly, as the young people were one audience I was hoping to reach. Unlike my generation, they have most of their lives before them. They deserve to have the information that I, a former insider, know, so that they can make informed decisions about their long-term relationship with the Family. Information is, after all, power.
In the year before I left the Family, we knew a 15-year-old girl who lived in a Home in California. She was (and still is) a wonderful girl. She hung out with a teen boy from our Home. (Her parents are Family Members, living overseas.) However, she eventually got fed up with the Family, realizing that it was a dead end, and decided to leave. By that time I knew that my days in the Family were numbered, but I could not say anything just yet. Nevertheless, I tried to encourage her that she was doing the right thing.
She was so brave, going to live with her grandparents whom she had never met. It is a scenario that happens so often in the Family; a young person wants to leave, so the parents lay aside "the weight and sin" that doth so easily beset them (the unbelieving children), on grandparents or other relatives, and then continue their "missionary work," "running with patience the race" (Hebrews 12: 1).
A couple of months later the four of us left and I called this girl to tell her the news. She said that she had already heard, and that when she did, 80% of the condemnation lifted. As this girl has so much potential for a rich and fulfilling life, her comment made me feel that leaving was worth it all, even if it helped no one else but her.
As the months passed, I realized that many other young people were in the same situation; they had left or wanted to leave, but were struggling with enormous burdens of condemnation. It became clear to me that if I wrote about my firsthand experiences and confirmed that the Family is rotten at the core, it could help young people, most of whom I would never meet, with these struggles. By making available important information that Maria and Peter deliberately conceal, I could confirm what many suspected; Maria and Peter are not worth dedicating a life to.
It seems that No Regrets did reach and help a lot of young people, and for that I am happy. Each of them has a life that can be full and rewarding. Of course, there are no guarantees, but the point is, they will have the opportunity to succeed. They can make their own choices, instead of doing what our generation of Family Members did: buy into a toxic, abusive belief system that virtually forced us to abdicate our right to choose, and almost guaranteed that we and our children would suffer long term spiritual and emotional harm. "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned" (Proverbs 6: 27, 28)? The young people don't have to be like us; middle-aged and with plenty of regrets for wasted years, feeling compelled to warn the next generation, "Don't do as we did! Don't be Ivans" (see No Regrets).
Condemnation is a paradoxical subject. On the one hand, Maria and Peter openly encourage people who are not "on board" to leave the Family. But then they constantly condition Family Members, especially young people, that God chose them to be born into the Family to be Heaven's girls and boys for the last days. The Family is "the End Time army of David" and leaving it is leaving God's service; God's highest and best. God will be displeased with them.
For young people this can be difficult to deal with, as they have few coping skills. To leave the Family, they have to go against everything that they have been taught. So even though the door is technically open for them to leave, it is often difficult and takes a great deal of courage to do so. They frequently have little support for their choice and little training or preparation for surviving on their own. It's hard.
At least older adults have some sort of former reference to go by; an old life and some coping skills; some way of sorting out the truth from the lies. But these young people have had it all mixed together. They don't know what to believe. One young person joined a Christian youth group after leaving the Family. During a Bible study one day, she asked the others if they thought that heaven was really in the moon. They looked at her as if she was crazy. It was a humiliating experience for her, as Mo and the Family had taught her that this is the absolute truth; equal with the truths of the Bible. She had sincerely believed it.
Young people often find it devastating to sort through their lives, deconstruct their youth, and then realize that much of the "truth" they were fed is utter drivel. Then they hear that their beloved Grandpa liked to sexually abuse little girls of their generation, and that the loving shepherdess Mama Maria covered it all up, demonizing children like Mene. Many feel terribly betrayed. And many understandably view both former and current Family Members of our generation as the enemy. After all, we bought into this weirdness and helped create the environment and belief system in which they suffered.
One 25-year-old former member and mother, a fine young woman, confided that one of her biggest battles was not having many pleasant childhood memories to pass on to her child. All she can remember is spending a great deal of time fundraising and selling posters and tapes in a poor country just to survive. All for a movement that she later discovered to be abhorrent.
If nothing else, writing and publishing No Regrets has made it possible for me to correspond with, listen to, and empathize with many wonderful young people who have left the Family, but still want to do some good with their lives. Every so often I glimpse life through their eyes; the fears they face, the hardships they endure, and the obstacles they have yet to overcome. Some are so terribly alone.
Many former members my age have realized that most of the young people need friends who will listen, understand, and not judge them; friends who will be cheerleaders and encouragers; friends who will affirm that they were right to leave and encourage them to be the best that they can be. They need friends who will validate their experiences and concerns, rather than pooh-pooh them. Sadly many of the parents in the Family have abdicated that role.
Sometimes I feel that if I never did anything else besides encouraging and giving moral support to some of these wonderful young people, my life would be well spent. They are the future, and when we are old and gray, they will be hitting the prime of life and, we all hope, doing some good somewhere.
In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey observes, "There is no more effective healer, I have found, than what Henri Nouwen calls 'a wounded healer.'" Perhaps that is a ministry our generation can have; to be wounded healers to these young people. I admire the many former Family Members who, some for many years at great cost to themselves, have done just that; sacrificially and lovingly helped young people make the transition out of the Family. God bless them.
There were some negative responses to No Regrets. A few former members discussed it on their message boards, comparing me and other former WS members to death camp guards. We were, they said, guilty for much of the harm that they and other Family Members suffered. There is a lot of truth in this, but we also suffered ourselves, a fact most former members recognize. In many ways we were victimizers, but we were also victims.
Some former members were upset about my "lunatic fringe" comments. Interestingly enough, Ed Priebe was one of them. We conversed via email and I explained more about the terrible suffering that innocent Family Members and their children had experienced during the Argentina raids. Partially as a result of our correspondence, Ed wrote a lengthy apology. I admire him for doing that, as it took humility. This apology can be found at www.geocities.com/onlyspeakingtruth. It's a pity Maria and Peter can't follow his good example.
I got an email from cult buster Steve Hassan, author of Combatting Cultic Mind Control. He wanted to establish a link to the magicgreenshirt Website, so he could refer clients who wished to know more about the Family. I declined the offer as in my opinion, professional cult busters offer a cure that is often worse than the disease. I have no desire to be associated with them.
Overall the reactions were positive and supportive, which encouraged me. Following are a few.
RESPONSES FROM MARIA AND PETER
Between July and November 2000, Maria and Peter circulated several Family publications replying to and rebutting No Regrets. These replies, which totaled about 180,000 words, are roughly equivalent to a 600-page book. (In contrast, No Regrets was about 33,000 words.) These publications included: two Good News (GNs) magazines written by Maria and Peter; six Family Special Magazines (FSMs 352 - 357) of testimonies from CROS, members of WS, and other Family personalities; and several pages of testimonies in the Grapevine Magazine. This material is available for your perusal at www.geocities.com/magicgreenshirt
Some Initial Observations
It was apparent that Maria and Peter were scared; really really scared, and very much on the defensive. Imagine how much it cost to print and mail all these publications, not to mention translating them into several languages? No Regrets had clearly damaged their credibility. Otherwise, why publish so many rebuttals? Why dignify my article with such lengthy and expensive responses? Especially as Maria and Peter said at the beginning of Stay on the Wall that they weren't going to. Their replies were damage control necessitated by real damage. Many Family Members read No Regrets and were significantly affected by the truth in it.
The replies were weak and short on substance. Maria and Peter were obviously unwilling to address the major issues in an unambiguous manner. Lord Justice Ward would probably have said (as he said to me concerning my testimony in court), "This is verbiage, Maria and Peter; this is pure verbiage. This is intellectual clap-trap. Cut the guff."
The rebuttals reminded me of the joke that Mo used to tell about the preacher who was preparing a sermon. Opposite one point he wrote in the margin, "Weak logic; pound lectern vigorously." I detected a lot of pounding, a lot of contrived indignation, a lot of smoke and mirrors deliberately designed to obscure the real issues, but very little substance or logic.
I came away from it with the feeling that the Family leadership is more mindless and unthinking than ever. I'm sure that the best and the brightest in WS worked on these replies, especially the GNs, and yet they are so anemic. I feel sorry for them if they have to fight any legal battles. The lights are on, but no one seems to be at home.
Maria and Peter never refer to No Regrets or me by name. Instead, they allude to a concerted "attack" of some sort by many ex-members. To read the GNs and FSMs, you would think that worldwide persecution had broken out, Homes were being raided, and children were being apprehended. The Great Confusion and The Tribulation were happening simultaneously, and the Devil (me), the Antichrist, and the False Prophet were loosed.
This reference to a large-scale attack by 'the Devil" and "the Enemy" was a deliberate attempt by Maria and Peter to muddy the waters. For some reason they decided to do damage control without telling Family Members who or what the problem really was. They proclaimed: "Circle the wagons! Enemies all around us are attacking! We don't want to tell you who these enemies are, are or what weapons they are using, but we do want to tell you how to fight back." They did not say, "James Penn wrote an article that really sucks, and here is our rebuttal to it."
The only "attack" going on was No Regrets; one article. No other "enemy" was "attacking" them at that time. One humble (!), self-effacing (?), unassuming (!?) former member sat at his desk, wrote an article, posted it on a free Website, and told a few people about it. That's all. It didn't cost a cent, not even the price of a stamp. No media storms, no appearances on Oprah or Larry King, no inciting the authorities to raid homes; just one article on the Web. I didn't even send it to anyone, as I felt people should choose freely whether they wanted to read it or not. It's all about choice, remember?
I also found the GNs and FSMs to be a relevant example of groupthink. My psychology textbook describes this concept.
Sound like a group we know?
STAY ON THE WALL AND NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME
Let's look at what Maria and Peter wrote. First came Stay on the Wall a hastily written 4,000-word Letter telling Family Members not to read the anti-Family rhetoric that was circulating. I found one of Maria's comments particularly interesting.
- Peter and I don’t have the time, and neither has the Lord shown us, to get into a detailed tit for tat defense on each point that has been leveled--verbally or in writing--against us personally or against the Word or WS.
When I read that, I said to myself, "Oh oh, Maria and Peter are laying the groundwork to justify why they are not going to deal with the 'heavy meat' of No Regrets, such as acknowledging Mo's sexual abuse of Mene and other young girls. What a nice way to conveniently ignore anything that they are guilty of." This was confirmed a few weeks later, when they published None of These Things Move Me, a 45-page 33,000-word GN rebuttal to No Regrets. In the introduction, Maria wrote,
- As Peter and I mentioned in “Stay on the Wall,” we don’t have time nor has the Lord shown us to get into a tit-for-tat reply to every accusation that has been leveled against us, Dad, the Word, WS, or the Family. That’s futile, because as soon as we’d answer today’s accusations, misinterpretations or lies, our accusers would concoct another batch tomorrow.
These two Letters comprise 37,000 words, and they're not going to refute the accusations?
"[No Regrets] is Demonically Persuasive"
--Maria, None of These Things Move Me (17).
None of These Things Move Me starts with a 2,000-word explanation of why Family Members should not read anything critical of the Family. Maria and Peter don't identify No Regrets by name, yet they tell Family Members that reading such material is "not going to make you happy . . .[and] will very likely confuse you, and we know where that comes from, since God is not the author of confusion, but of peace" (paragraph 9).
They continue, "We'd like to protect you for your own peace of mind . . . You'll find it very depressing (10) . . .. Peter and I are not trying to keep you under our control (11) . . .. We're not trying to hide anything from you . . . .It will cause you spiritual problems (12) . . . .If we let our focus get off balance to where we concentrate on the negative, then it's going to distort our perception of the way things really are (15)."
And then the punch line! They write,
Isn't that a classic? No Regrets exposes Maria and Peter's sins and cover-ups, and they have the nerve to tell Family Members "Trust us, you don't have to read any of the accusations, as we have and none of it is true!" It's hard to believe that they are still using these primitive controlling techniques in their Letters. And it's even harder to believe that Family Members actually fall for them.
Maria and Peter end this Letter with the following detailed instructions for any Family Members who have read No Regrets. I include this in case you or any of your family feels an overwhelming desire to be cleansed after reading this letter.
Can you imagine how long it would take to read all these Letters, not to mention 130 Family Activity Reports? Family Members are told to submit to this simply because they have read No Regrets, or any other material critical of the Family. Difficult to believe.
As Maria Sees It: Child Abuse, Fondling, and Sweet Affection
None of These Things Move Me attempted to address the issues of sexual abuse of minors that I raised in No Regrets. Given their options, all of which are permanently ingrained on my brain's hard drive, Maria and Peter presented a defense that conveniently swept several glaring inconsistencies under the carpet. Amongst other things, they quoted from a Family Policy Statement issued in April 1992. They wrote,
Good public relations, but not the truth.
A central premise of No Regrets was that Mo, Maria, and Peter encouraged and advocated the sexual abuse of minors. Eventually they had to publicly recant, as is evidenced by the above-quoted Statement. But in spite of these public declarations, Mo, Maria, and Peter still felt that sexual contact with children was acceptable, and often voiced those sentiments to those of us in the "inner circle."
As I explained in No Regrets, this was one of the issues that caused such a crisis for faith for me. I was writing the Family Policy Statement on Child Abuse, which said that Mo, Maria, and Peter never intended for adults to have sex with children, but that the usual suspects, weak and immature family leaders and members went to the extreme. Yet I knew that Mo, Maria and Peter felt that adults having sexual contact with minors was acceptable. (It went on in their house well into the 90's.) This is what flipped me out; the lies, cover-ups and duplicity. Mo, Maria, and Peter were knowingly lying to the Family and public, not to mention clinging to a doctrine and practice that was abhorrent.
Since I released No Regrets, a series of interesting Family documents, entitled Summit Jewels, has been made available to me. An excerpt clearly reveals two points: Maria and Peter's belief that adults having sexual contact with children was acceptable, and their willingness to lie about it to the Family and the public in Family policy Statements.
If I had had the Summit Jewels when I wrote No Regrets, I would have included this excerpt. When I first read it, I thought, "This is exactly what I was trying to explain in No Regrets. This illustrates, in Maria's own words, the duplicity and depravity that I witnessed first hand during that era." (While in WS I had read the Summit Jewels, but did not keep copies.)
So what were the Summit Jewels? During the 1990's, Family leaders got together nearly every year with Peter and some WS Members for secret "Summit" meetings, which usually lasted four to six weeks. At these meetings, the participants discussed problems and were further indoctrinated in Mo, Maria, and Peter's less publicized views about Family doctrines and practices. For several years, Maria sent the summit attendees copies of Summit Jewels, highly confidential compilations of her unpublished comments on a variety of subjects. These off-the-record thoughts and instructions were intended to help the leaders do a better job.
The 1992 Summit, where the Summit '93 Mama Jewels series was distributed, was held near the end of 1992 in Budapest. (The publication is dated '93 as the policies and decisions finalized at the Summit would be implemented in 1993.) 1992 had been a tumultuous year. It began with the opening of Pearl's case in England. Lamb's case in Australia ran its course. In May, police and social services raided the Family Homes in Australia, apprehending 140 children. In June and July, a child abuse-centered "media storm" took place in Japan, where Mene went public with her testimony.
In response to these events, WS published several Policy Statements, including the one Maria quoted above. I authored another one that specifically addressed issues of child abuse in the Family. As mentioned in No Regrets, this latter Statement admitted that some children in the Family had been sexually abused, but vigorously condemned any such instances. It stated that Mo, Maria, and Peter had never intended for adults to have sexual contact with minors, they had never condoned it, and that they had made it an excommunicable offence in 1986.
This was the backdrop for the 1992 Summit. The leaders gathered together, sitting at Maria and Peter's feet to learn from them and be strengthened. Amongst other things, Peter distributed copies of the Summit '93 Mama Jewels series. Given the events of the year, it was hardly surprising that Maria devoted part of this series to dispensing her thoughts and advice to the leaders on child abuse-related issues. Following is the counsel that she felt was timely and appropriate.
(Some skeptics may doubt the authenticity of this document, so I have scanned an original hard copy that was distributed to Family leaders. The pertinent pages can be viewed at http://www.xfamily.org/images/3/36/Summit_93_mama_jewels.pdf. I have also shown the original to many knowledgeable former members.)
These concerns of Maria eventually surfaced a few months later, somewhat modified, in GN555, Our Beliefs on the Law of Love. As I mentioned in No Regrets, Lord Justice Ward immediately discredited this GN.
Let's look at this advice that Maria was dispensing to her leaders. Maria felt that everything Mo wrote on the subject of adults having sexual contact with minors was good and not to be denied. "We certainly don't want to say that the Letters were wrong, or to say anything that will infer that the Letters were wrong, because they weren't wrong." So why does the above-quoted Policy Statement say that they were "renounced and forbidden?" She apologizes to the leaders that the Statement on Child Abuse does not reflect "our full beliefs on this issue." What are those full beliefs? She is very concerned that children not get the wrong idea from the Policy Statement, that all the sex they've had with adults is wrong.
She has a great desire to let children know that sexual affection with adults is not inherently bad and that even if they had a bad experience, "we need to show them…it still wasn't abuse." According to Maria, children in the Family were not abused. Period. And the leaders need to show any children who think they were abused that they weren't.
And then there is the clear admission that the Policy Statement deliberately misleads the Family and the public.
If Maria and Peter's version of events in None of These Things Move Me is true, if Mo, Maria, and Peter outlawed sexual contact between adults and minors in 1986, if the Policy Statement that is quoted above is true, then why, six months or so after that Statement was written in 1992, was Maria making her Summit '93 Mama Jewels' comments to Family leaders?
Summit '93 Mama Jewels illustrates how Maria and Peter justified adults having sexual contact with minors long after they had publicly denounced it. It was a burning issue to Maria and Peter, one that had to be clearly explained lest the under-shepherds be confused by the Policy Statements on the subject. The leaders had to understand what Maria and Peter really believed, so that when they returned to their fields, they could better convince abused children that they had not really been abused.
Summit'93 Mama Jewels also shows how Maria and Peter were quite willing to lie to and deceive both the public and Family Members. They did not have a problem with "playing along with [the System] and acting like we believe what we did was wrong."
I lived with this insanity and depravity on a daily basis. It was eventually a major reason for me leaving the Family. I simply could not accept Maria and Peter's insistence that we unconditionally accept their "new wine" as the Word of God. I had seen too much lying, too much deception, and too much perversion. How could I have unconditional faith in leaders who believed that the sexual abuse of children is fine, and told the Family and public that they had renounced the idea while privately promoting it? How could I have unconditional faith in leaders who told abused children that they had not been abused?
Maria's Rape Relief Center
This is a little off the subject, but while reading the various Summit Jewels, I came across Maria's advice to victims of rape. I'm passing this on to you in case your teen daughter is ever raped. We're so fortunate to have Maria's compassion, sensitivity, and insight to draw on in time of need. This excerpt is from a publication entitled Texas Mama Jewels --No. 1 (For Summit Use Only!) Page 21. The Texas Summit was held in late 1991.
Oh, and in the same pub, on page 28, Maria has these parting words for us, which will give more relevance to her views.
Isn't it reassuring to know that Maria is so consistent?
THE PASTOR'S PILLOW: Maria and Peter's Apology to Mene
I read with interest what Maria and Peter had to say about Mene. Were they going to finally acknowledge Mo's systematic sexual abuse of Mene and other young girls? Was Maria going to acknowledge that she covered it up and deliberately orchestrated a massive demonization of Mene? For ease of reading, I quote in full what Maria and Peter wrote about Mene in None of These Things Move Me.
For many reasons I found this anemic apology to be much too little and 13 years too late. To anyone with an understanding of the situation, it is irrelevant and a mockery. I'll explain.
Maria has only belatedly offered this apology because she had to. If I had never written No Regrets, Maria never would have apologized. She's not genuinely sorry; she's sorry that she was exposed and had to give some explanation to her followers, if for no other reason than to do damage control. That's often the only thing she understands; the 2 x 4 treatment.
Maria wrote, "I'm very sorry, Mene, for any and all harm and hurt you experienced when you lived in our Home or any other Home." If, as Maria says, everyone was loving and kind, then who was inflicting this harm? The usual suspects; weak and immature leaders? Why don't Maria and Peter act like real leaders and take responsibility for their actions and say, "We are truly sorry that we inflicted so much harm and hurt on you"? Why doesn't Peter say, "Mene, I'm sorry that I publicly humiliated you when you were a young teen by making you lift your skirt as I spanked you in front of two dozen Family leaders.”
Maria's weak excuse for the delay in apologizing is, in the words of Eeyore (of “Winnie the Pooh”), "Paaathetic." Maria says, "I respected [Mene's] wishes." Maria is not known for respecting anyone's wishes. Did Maria respect Mene's wishes when she published hundreds of pages demonizing Mene in two long GNs, some FSMs, Traumatic Testimonies, as well as Letters written in her own hand? And as I mentioned in No Regrets, Maria was only planning to apologize for not getting medical help for Mene sooner. When Mene refused to meet with Sara, Maria was probably quite relieved.
The issue of an apology and explanation does not only concern Mene. If Mo, Maria, and Peter had "privately" abused Mene, with no mention made in Family publications, then perhaps a "private" apology would be adequate. But Mo, Maria, and Peter deliberately demonized Mene in a myriad of Family publications.
They did this for two reasons. First; to destroy her credibility in the eyes of Family Members, in case she ever decided to tell what Grandpa and Mama Maria really did to her. Second; to scare the hell out of any young people who were thinking of doubting the Wonder Working Words of the Prophet David. In the GNs The Last State and Its Up to You, Mo, Maria, and Peter were giving Family adults a blueprint; a Raise'm Right manual for how to deal with problem teenagers. Follow the Prophet's good example and your child can be saved from the Devil's grasp.
These publications spawned a wave of abuse and set the stage for the so-called Victor Camps. Who knows how many children throughout the Family were beaten, exorcised, and publicly humiliated as a direct result of these "Mene" publications? Former Family Members, who lived in Peru at the time, testify of Juan returning from Mo's house and initiating similar exorcisms and beatings. Why not? After all, Juan's "eyes had seen the glory" of Mo, Maria, and Peter's personal example.
So regardless of whether Mene wanted to meet with Sara or not to receive a private apology, Maria and Peter had, and continue to have, an enormous, overwhelming, and compelling obligation to publicly set the record straight and apologize at length to the Family as well as to the former members who suffered as a result of these publications. Maria's bland, tepid, one-sentence apology, "I am also sorry that we published anything about it then or referred to it later, as it put a young girl who was having problems in a very bad light," is simply not good enough, and does not begin to address or heal the incredible hurt and harm that she, Mo, and Peter directly inflicted on Mene and other children.
It is a classic case of The Pastor's Pillow. In case you no longer have your Treasures book, here is the story.
Mo, Maria, and Peter deliberately spread the feathers, their Mene publications, far and wide. They have done it countless times in other situations over the years. And each time when things go wrong and someone whacks them over the head with a 2 x 4 to draw their attention to it, they feel that a simple "Oops, I'm sorry," is sufficient. They then shoot the wounded, dump the bodies off the back of the wagon, and go merrily on their way, "to another mountain, to another land, gypsies of the Lord." No talk of accountability, no effort to right the wrongs or put safeguards in place to protect the Family from their spiritual pride and arrogance.
It is shocking to leaf through the Family literature of the late 80's and early 90's, much of which is still in circulation, and see the extent to which Mo, Maria, and Peter succeeded in making Mene a literal byword in the Family. "Oh, so and so is a real Mene case." This is especially true in the "Techi Series," which Maria refers to in glowing terms in None of These Things Move Me.
Following are a few excerpts from Family publications that illustrate how Mo, Maria, and Peter demonized Mene. They illustrate why a full apology and explanation to the Family and former members is needed. These excerpts are lengthy, but I feel it is important to put them on the public record.
In 1992 Mene began speaking out publicly about the abuse she had suffered in the Family, and particularly how Mo had repeatedly sexually abused her. Maria launched an all-out campaign to destroy Mene's credibility; a campaign that was epitomized by the incredibly vitriolic Letter, False Accusers in the Last Days.
I am quoting extensive excerpts from the original version, as they reveal what Maria is capable of when her anger is roused. She never actually acknowledges or denies Mene's accusations that Grandpa sexually abused her. Instead, she tries to distract the Family by emphasizing how crazy Mene was, discrediting the messenger, not the message. That's because Mene's message was true.
About the same time, Mo published his feelings.
The Unexamined Life is not Worth Living
In light of all this, I don't think that Maria's one-sentence apology for all that she, Mo, and Peter published about Mene is anywhere near good enough. Socrates wrote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." People don't like to do it, because they are afraid to confront their failures. But in order to begin to rectify the immense harm that their "Mene" literature caused, Maria and Peter need to examine their lives and give a much more complete, public explanation and apology for their horrific moral and spiritual failing. They need to at least try to gather up some of the feathers.
Maybe they should follow Mo's good example and publicly explain what they were thinking when they published this material. When castigating one of his staff for some perceived transgression, Mo loved to ask the poor victim, "What was going through your mind when you did this? What were you thinking?" I and others experienced this inquisitorial tactic personally, and also watched him subject a new staff member to it in front of about 40 people. Maybe Maria and Peter need to explain what caused them to publicize Mene's torture. What were they thinking? Did God speak to them? What prophecies were received?
They printed hundreds of pages demonizing Mene; surely they can spend a GN or two trying to undo the damage and explaining what went wrong. They regularly do this in order to expose the failings of leaders such as Dust and Silas and share all the "lessons." Now that Maria and Peter have supposedly seen the error of their ways, why not get all those WS "channels" busy and get some really good lessons directly from the Lord about this? It would be a wonderful example of leaders taking responsibility for their actions. A sample, not a sermon.
And maybe Mo can explain what was going through his mind when he was having sexual relations with Mene and the other young girls. After all, he speaks from the grave on all sorts of subjects. Now that he knows things, "even as also he is known" (1 Corinthians 13: 12), perhaps he could offer up a heartfelt apology to Mene and the Family. A few pages of a GN wouldn't set WS back too much financially. If they can afford to print six FSMs praising Maria and Peter, they can dedicate a GN or two to Mo, so he can have a chance to put things right. It would increase (!) my faith in Maria and Peter's particular brand of necromancy immeasurably if David the Love Prophet were to come clean.
One last point on this. If Maria is really sorry for publishing material about Mene, why is False Accusers in the Last Days still in circulation? Why did Maria have the nerve to put it on the suggested reading list in None of These Things Move Me? (See above.) What does this tell Mene? "We deleted your name, but the lessons are so valuable that we continue to recommend the Letter to Family Members 13 years later." Maria's not sorry, Maria is sorry that she got caught and exposed and had to make some sort of apology.
The Silence Screams
However, even if Maria and Peter did give some fuller explanation and apology, it would be in vain if they did not address the sexual abuse that Mene suffered at the hands of Mo. And so far, they have refused to do so. In nearly 180,000 words of published rebuttal to No Regrets, they refused to acknowledge one of the fundamental causes of Mene's problems. Mene's supposed pride, exaltation, or demon possession are simply convenient smokescreens that Maria and Peter use to this day in order to conceal a much deeper problem: Mo's repeated sexual abuse of Mene over a long period of time.
When I wrote No Regrets, I knew that Maria and Peter would try and dodge this issue, so I shoved it right in their face. I begged them to deal with it; I dared them to. I mocked them; I cajoled them, writing,
It was amazing to see how, in None of These Things Move Me, they dodged this, the most damaging accusation imaginable. The End Time Love Prophet David; the founder and head of the End Time Army of David, the king who, being dead, yet speaks regularly and leads his followers on the straight and narrow; is accused of sexually abusing his granddaughter and other young girls, and in their exhaustive rebuttals, Maria, Peter, and many Family leaders address every conceivable issue but that. They don't even acknowledge the existence of the accusations, let alone reply to them.
Surely if it were all lies, Maria and Peter would say so in no uncertain terms? But they say nothing, hoping that their silence will be a wall of protection, shielding them from scrutiny and challenge. But silence can be paradoxical. In this case, it screams. And, as Simon and Garfunkle observe in Sounds of Silence, "Silence like a cancer grows."
Mo's sexual abuse of Mene was a fundamental cause of her problems. And as explained in No Regrets, when I finally began to internally accept and acknowledge this, that Mo had sexually abused Mene; and when I finally, much too belatedly, comprehended how terrible that was, it fundamentally changed my opinion of him. And when I finally recognized that Maria, in the material that I excerpted above, had deliberately demonized Mene in order to cover up Mo's sexual abuse of her, I began to understand how utterly cold and calculating they, along with Peter, were capable of being. I gradually started to view them through a different paradigm, a different matrix, a different lens.
Try it. Read the above excerpts concerning Mene, keeping in mind that Mo sexually abused Mene, and that Mo, Maria, and Peter were obviously fully aware of this fact when they wrote these articles. What does it tell you about them? Read excerpts of The Last State, as published in No Regrets and reflect on what it reveals about Mo. He berates and hits his granddaughter with whom he has been having a sexual relationship.
And 13 years later, in 2000, Maria and Peter apologize to Mene without even acknowledging this, the worst crime of all. They deliberately continue the cover-up, and in effect re-victimize the victim. How can Mene properly heal when Maria and Peter don't even acknowledge the crime? It is similar to a criminal who robs and rapes a woman. When he is caught, he tearfully says he want to apologize to the victim and then apologizes for robbing her. What an insult to the victim.
Maria and Peter's apology is an insult to Mene, and to all those who know the truth. It is an insult to all the children who were directly hurt by the Mene publications. The fact that 13 years later, Maria and Peter refuse even to acknowledge their most heinous crimes makes their apology irrelevant and a mockery.
A Rock and a Hard Place
Of course, strategically speaking, Maria and Peter are caught between a rock and a hard place. They have three options: acknowledge the sexual abuse, deny it, or say nothing.
If they confirm the obvious, that Mo sexually abused Mene and other girls, and that yes, Maria knowingly covered it up, there would be an uproar in the Family, and many would leave. How many Family Members, especially the second generation, want to follow their fearless leader, now a friendly ghost, once they know that he regularly sexually abused children of their generation? And how many Family Members want to unquestioningly pledge allegiance to Queen Maria and King Peter and believe everything they write and prophesy, knowing that they participated in the beating and sexual abuse of Mene and others, and then lied about it to the Family and covered it up all these years? Maria and Peter can't tell the truth, as their credibility would be destroyed, and it is on their credibility that the foundation of the present-day Family rests. Destroy that credibility and the Family, as we know it, will cease to exist.
On the other hand, Maria and Peter cannot lie and say the accusations are false, as it would be too easy to expose their lie. Too many people, both in and out of the Family, were there and witnessed these events. They know that what Mene said was true. What about the other young girls that Mo had sex with? Maybe they would speak up.
As well, to deny the accusations is to call Mene, and more importantly Lord Justice Ward, a liar. He believed Mene, and for Maria to call him a liar would possibly jeopardize Pearl's custody of her son, who remains a ward of the court until he reaches 18 years of age. Not a good choice.
And so Maria and Peter say nothing, in the vain hope that their cover-up can somehow, as tattered as it is, remain in place. And their silence screams. And their silence, like a cancer, grows.
A few closing observations. I question Maria and Peter's claim that they were genuinely concerned about Mene's welfare. Mo, Maria, and Peter were much more concerned with doing damage control and saving their own skins. There was never any question of Mene receiving medical care. How could they risk it, when Mene would undoubtedly mention that her grandfather had been sexually abusing her?
They had little genuine concern for Mene, but rather saw her as a child who knew too much and was a threat to the Family that had to be contained. Members of WS who were there heard Maria joking about how she would like to throw Mene off the high wall of their Hilltop compound and then bury her. Another told of Mo shouting at Mene, "If I had a gun, I'd shoot you!"
I was present the day Mene left Mo's "Hilltop" compound in Antipolo, just outside of Manila, to go to the Detention Teen Camp. Mo cooked up an elaborate ruse to convince Mene that he too was moving, in case Mene revealed their location. He had the car packed and came out in his traveling clothes. After publicly berating Mene one more time, explaining that he too was having to leave because of her, he jumped into the car with Maria and Peter and sped off -- to the "brick" house next door, which we were also renting. He watched from the upstairs window there as Mene left.
Maria piously claims that Mene received nothing but tender and loving care. Staff members, she wrote
Does this include Peter's public spanking of Mene? Does it include the horrendous beatings that she received at the hands of other staff members? In The Last State, Peter is recorded as boasting that he beat Mene "real hard."
The public spanking that Peter gave Mene took place in the living room of the nipa hut at the Hilltop compound. About 25 Family leaders and WS staff members were present, including Juan and Abi.
According to eyewitnesses, Peter told Mene to lift her garment, after which he spanked her almost bare buttocks (she kept her panties on) with his belt. This is "tender and loving?" This is the “Servant King” Peter, who has the hotline to God? Why doesn't he apologize?
And this was nothing compared to the terrible beatings she received by her WS “shepherds” in the room to which she was confined (and tied to her bed during the night). All this at the Hilltop compound, under the direct supervision of Maria and Peter. Mene was literally black and blue after these beatings, which caused her to vomit and faint. A WS staff member who overheard these beatings and later saw the purple welts covering Mene’s thighs said it was the most horrific thing he’d ever seen in the Family. Is this part of the "tender and loving" care that Maria refers to? Or part of the "tender, gentle, compassionate treatment" that Maria mentions in False Accusers of the Last Days?
A former member of WS recently shared some thoughts with me concerning Mene. I feel they summarize the issue very well.
This whole issue illustrates the mental conditioning that Maria and Peter exert on Family Members. Why don't some Family Members just ask them outright, "Did Mo have sexual relations with Mene and other young girls, and if so, why, and why have you not told us earlier?" The whole issue could be resolved in five minutes if someone would just do it. Do what normal people would do; ask the obvious question and demand a straight answer.
Why does everyone in the Family ignore these horrendous accusations? Are they so desensitized that they don't care any more? Or perhaps it's because, deep down, they already know the answer, and don't want to deal with it. What a sad state of affairs for an "international missionary fellowship."
EYES WIDE SHUT: WS Staff and Family Leaders React to No Regrets
I was incredulous when someone sent me the six FSMs that Maria and Peter published, containing testimonies from their staff, members of WS, many of the CROs, and a scattering of Family dignitaries. Six FSMs, in addition to the two GNs? All that to rebut one article on a free Web site? Maria and Peter must be really scared and desperate; bloody and on the ropes. The Family must be hemorrhaging. (I can only imagine how much Maria and Peter hate the anarchy of the Internet; the global access and lack of control over information. A control freak's worst nightmare. I love it!)
In the preamble to the FSMs, the WS Editors wrote,
I had to laugh when I read this introduction and saw yet another example of Maria and Peter's control and manipulation. They tell the leaders that they need only praise Maria and Peter in their testimonies, and that Maria and Peter will address the "most major accusations" in the GNs. Maria and Peter then completely ignore the worst accusation, and gloss over others! I'm sure they didn't want their zealous leaders rushing to the defense of child abuse, or talking about Mene, as it could have resulted in a lot of friendly fire.
It was interesting to see how many Family Members wrote about No Regrets. I almost expected to read glowing testimonies from Peepers, or James and Bingo, the two dogs at the French farm (See Life with Grandpa)! But seriously, many were former friends whom I had lived and worked closely with, some for over 20 years. I guess writing articles like No Regrets is one way to renew contact, catch up on news, and hear what's on their mind. However, I don't think they should have become involved in this scrap. But as they chose to, their articles are fair game for public comment.
Before I do, I'd like to clarify that my quarrel is not with individual Family members. As I said in No Regrets, there are many wonderful, caring, sacrificial people in the Family. My quarrel is with Maria and Peter and their controlling, abusive, dishonest, corrupt, and manipulative leadership; as well as the pernicious doctrines and practices that they aggressively promote.
Sycophants 'R Us
I was struck by the general mindlessness that pervaded the testimonies, and the continual rush to deify Maria and Peter. "Maria and Peter always do good things, they never do bad things. And even though I have not read James Penn's article completely and have been asked not to comment on any of the controversial allegations, he is a bad dude; a tool of the Enemy, and no one should listen to him. Mama Maria and King Peter are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and we should believe whatever they say."
Of course, what could we expect from members of the inner circle? (There was a time when I would have done the same thing.) Referring to the comments about Ivan and the movie The Inner Circle in No Regrets, a former member of WS observed,
And they're on the WS payroll. If the Family fell apart, WS would dissolve and they would have to work and live in the real world. With all of this in mind, what do we expect them to say?
I'm including lengthy excerpts of these testimonies. They reveal, in a fascinating yet scary way, the collective sycophantic mindset of Family leaders and "true believer" Members today. I am tempted to offer a commentary concerning man worship, image-is-everything mentality, mindguards, groupthink, paranoia, stereotypes, self-censorship, cookie-cutter religion, bunker mentality, mental conditioning, and the like -- but I won't. Keep in mind though, that these folks are the leaders of the Family; the best and the brightest, the movers and the shakers. And their testimonies are considered to be good, persuasive rebuttals. It's scary stuff.
Before I comment on these testimonies, I'd like to recount a humorous incident that took place a couple of weeks before I resigned from WS and the CM Family. The above-mentioned Elliot contacted me at our WS Home in California, asking if he could "park" US$15,000. - cash in WS funds with me. (This was in addition to the $20,000. - in gold coins that we held as part of our WS reserves.) He wanted to keep the cash in the States. I agreed. A few days later he emailed me, asking if he could increase it to $25,000. -. Apollos and I thought this was amusing. Here we were, minding our own business and trying to keep far away from Family leadership while we plotted how to leave WS and the Family, and Elliot is begging us to safeguard WS cash. At times this comedy of errors was hard to believe.
When I went to the LAMB Home in Los Angeles to pick up the $25,000. -, I mentioned to the CRO finance officer who gave me the money that he must be relieved to get rid of so much cash. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, it doesn't really make much difference." The impression I got was that he had a lot more. Even though I had handled lots of money in my time in WS, I was surprised at his casual attitude.
With Elliot's consent, I put the money in a safety deposit box. Imagine his feelings when a few weeks later he heard that I was leaving! Of course I returned it, but I always wondered why the "whispers" hadn't warned him that I was not a good choice to park the hard-earned WS tithe money with. And whether he got in trouble for not being more "prayerful."
Now I'd like to make a few comments about these testimonies. Of course these leaders try to discredit me however they can. It's all pretty weak tea, but they try. Some dispute my interpretation of movies or my take on Sir Thomas More. Others say that I read too many newspapers and wasn't in the word enough. But I am not the issue. I am simply the messenger, helping shed new light on some long-existing problems so that people can make informed decisions. There is no point in shooting the messenger. The issue is not me, but if what I am saying is true.
But even if Family leaders could in some way discredit me, it's bigger than me. What are they going to say about Heather, Jac, and Apollos, all of whom left with me? Heather was an intimate confidante of Maria; visiting her regularly, shepherding Research, and representing Maria at the 1996 Summit. Jac did the GN art for nearly 20 years. Apollos was considered to be the primary Family theologian. He had edited GNs and written major apologetic public Statements for the Family, including the Statements on Loving Jesus and Heavenly Messengers. Apollos and Heather know what life was like at Mama's Home, as they visited it regularly. How do Family leaders explain their departure?
And anyway, my Family credentials were good. When I wrote my 18-page letter of resignation in July 1998
- I was shepherd of a WS Home in California
- I was Secretary-Director of FCF, sitting on the Board of Directors
- I edited Mo Letters for the public. This includes the Letters in Dare to Be Different, a booklet currently distributed by the Family-owned company Aurora Productions and their Activated ministry.
- I compiled and edited the booklet, Glimpses of Heaven, published and currently distributed by Aurora Productions and the Family's Activated outreach. It is available at www.auroraproduction.com .
- I was responsible for receiving and forwarding mail for Maria and Peter's staff. Each week I would pick up incoming mail from a P.O. box in Anaheim, repackage it, and forward it directly to Maria and Peter's highly selah location. I would also receive outgoing mail from their staff, stamp it, and forward it. After I resigned from WS and the CM Family, I turned all the P.O. Box keys, mail, and addresses over to Bonnie. It was rather amusing. Here I was, a supposed backslider-in-heart, having care and control of all the mail for Maria and Peter's staff for over a year.
- I represented Maria and Peter and WS at Pearl's court case in the BI in October 1995, giving testimony on their behalf.
But back to these Family leaders. I often wonder what these Maria and Peter worshippers would say if they had to sit down and discuss the issues. Gabe, Amy, Juan, and Abi were all living with Mo, Maria, and Peter and witnessed the beatings Mene received. How do they feel about this? Gabe and Amy know that Mo had sex with Mene and a number of other young girls, and that Maria and Peter covered it up. What is their read on that, ethically speaking, from a Christian viewpoint? And how do Gabe and Amy feel about the adults in their Home who were having sex with minors in their care as recently as the early 1990's? As sincere Christians, does any of this move them? And if not, should it? My guess is that they have long ago given up trying to deal with the issues, and now follow blindly, with their eyes wide shut.
A former member of WS expressed his feelings concerning these FSM testimonies.
A humorous side effect of the FSM testimonies. These were posted on an ex-members' bulletin board, where people commented on them. One day, this message appeared.
I think that the Family leadership is its own worst enemy.
Et tu, Techi?
There is one testimony that I have not mentioned that affected me deeply; cut me to the heart. That of dear Techi, aka Keana. Et tu, Techi? I have many fond memories of Techi, as I was living with and near her during the years she was growing up. At the farm in Puyricard, in southern France, just after Christmas of 1980, we built snowmen together during a rare snowfall. In Cape Town, South Africa we would go for walks each day with Dora. Techi was such a funny, smart, and sweet child. I have no doubt that she is a fine young adult and mother.
I remember one humorous incident in Portugal in early 1982, when Techi was almost three. It was dinnertime and Mo was sitting at the head of the table, Techi on his left, then Dora, then me. We were eating fried chicken and Dora was helping Techi with her chicken, breaking it with her hands. At one point Dora adjusted Techi's seat or something, touching her, and Techi looked at her and said in a deliberate and clear voice, "Get your greasy paws off me." Everybody held their breath, waiting to see what Mo would do. We ended up laughing as Techi had chosen her battle wisely. She had an airtight case. Dora's hands were greasy, and Techi was simply asking Dora not to touch her with them.
One of the last times I saw Techi was in October of 1996. She was living with us at Research and had pierced the cartilage of the upper part of her ear, so that she could wear a stud. She knew the adults would never give her permission to get it done professionally, so she decided to do it herself. It became infected, swelling up like a golf ball. She suffered in silence for a week before accepting that she needed medical attention. I took her to the clinic. She was in such terrible pain, it almost made me cry. She's a brave girl. We had to return to the clinic a few times and we got to chat a fair bit. The last time I saw her was at the Los Angeles airport in early 1998 when I helped her and Trevor transfer planes. She was returning to Research after visiting Maria.
I mention these happy memories to emphasize that I bear her no malice. It would be fun to meet her again one day and reminisce about old times. However, she did choose to write about me, and I feel honor-bound to reply.
So here is what Techi wrote. I am sure you can understand why I cannot let it pass (!).
Worf the Spirit Helper
Me, a control freak! I was not a control freak; I was in charge of security! There is a difference! As Mo said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." Day after day, while others worked, played, and slept in the biodome or bubble that we called Research, I stood on guard, ever vigilant; to make sure that the Bad People did not find us. They included Family Members, ex-Family Members, neighbors, electrical meter readers, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the neighbor's dog; just about anyone who didn't live with us!
As I write, before me rests one of my most prized possessions: an official licensed Startrek: The Next Generation collectible bookmark. Heather gave it to me on behalf of Research, in recognition of my years of diligent service as head of security. It bears the image of Worf, the Klingon who was in charge of security on the Federation Starship Enterprise, under Captain Jean-Luc Picard. (You may wonder why a Klingon was working for the Federation. Worf was a Klingon orphan who was raised by human foster parents.) Many at Research felt that the spirit and anointing of Worf was upon me.
Anyway, I was in charge of security and yes, we did have a lot of rules, and yes, I did get cranky when unappreciative teenagers flaunted them. But I had good cause to be paranoid. I knew things that most people at Research didn't. My concerns were real, not imagined. And to clear my good name and restore my sullied (!) honor, I will explain why we were so concerned about security. There were many reasons, but I'll start with the most serious.
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: Crocodile Mo and Maria; "G'day, Mate!"
For me, the story began at the Lisbon Airport in Portugal in early 1982 when I was still a member of Mo and Maria's small staff. We had been in Portugal for three months after returning from South Africa to help other WS Units pack up and escape the coming nuclear holocaust that was going to destroy Europe and America (For more on this topic, read the series of Mo Letters entitled The World Series).
On this day, Mo, Maria, Peter, and a few others were flying to Sri Lanka, where Alf and Keda had found housing. Sarah, Sue, and I, along with Davidito and Davida, were remaining behind for a week to close up the house we had rented near Cascais. I had driven some of Mo and Maria's team to the airport, and was saying goodbye to Maria in the departure area when I noticed that she was holding two Australian passports in her hand; hers and Mo's. Maria kept talking, unaware that I had noticed this. I was so flustered that I took off my glasses in a vain attempt not to see the passports. My understanding was that Maria and Mo were not Australian, and I did not want to know about these passports. If I were a videotape, I would rewind and erase.
Fast forward to November 11, 1987. Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the Philippines. Mo, Maria, Peter, and their team were leaving the Philippines after a stay of over six years, heading for Japan. I was living near them in Manila, at Research, and Peter asked me to come to the airport to help them get off. Again, I'm talking to Maria, and again, to my horror, I see her holding two Australian passports. Déjà vu all over again. And again, I take off my glasses. Really weird.
The Knock at the Door!
September 1989. 10 months earlier Mo, Maria, Peter, and team had moved to western Canada from Japan. More recently a small Research team (me included) had arrived and set up shop nearby. One day we got a call from Maria saying that we needed to pray desperately because one of their staff members, K, was "in serious legal trouble." She was in prison, and it could involve all of us. At that point K was not living with Mo and Maria but traveling "on business." No further details were forthcoming, but we prayed like crazy for the next four months.
I remember thinking it odd that we were never asked to curse the Goddamn antichrist authorities for unjustly arresting and persecuting a child of David. How out of character for Mo and Maria. We were just told to pray. I also recall that some Late News Flash (LNF) prayer requests were sent out to the Family asking them to pray for a WS staff member, with no details given. Just after New Years 1990 we learned that K had been released and deported. We all rejoice.
Late April 1993. Same location, same houses. I was talking to Peter on the telephone just after lunch and he interrupted me by saying, "I've got to go, the police are at our gate." The rest of the story I pieced together from talking with Gabe, Amy, James, and other staff members (some of whom have since left the Family), as well as Peter.
On this April day, two plainclothes police detectives in an unmarked car pull up to the gate of the farm where Mo, Maria, Peter and staff live. (It is a small hobby farm on which they keep sheep, a horse, geese, pigeons, rabbits, goats, hamsters, and ducks, as well as dogs and cats. Pictures of the farm can be seen in the Family publication Now It Can Be Shown. Look for photos of Mo on the ride-on mower.)
James (not me) is working in the yard, and goes to the gate to greet the callers. The officers identify themselves and ask James if he lives there. He replies no, he is visiting from the States. They then ask him why he is working if he is a visitor. He says he is not working, just helping his friends Gabe and Amy with their animals, cleaning up. The officers tell him that he is violating the terms of his visitor's visa in Canada. They say that if they go downtown to court, James will lose, they will win.
They then ask James what State he is from. He replies Texas, and they run a criminal check on him from their computer in the car. Next they notice that he is wearing a jacket with the logo, "Joe's Bar, Anchorage, Alaska." So they run a check on him in Alaska. (James had actually bought the jacket at a local thrift store.)
At this point the staff members in the house know there is a problem. Eventually Amy comes out to see what is going on. She is Canadian. The officers talk to her and ask if they can come in and clear up this pesky issue so they can go and catch "some real bad guys." Amy declines the offer and they eventually leave.
Love Your Neighbor
The staff goes on red alert. The speculation is that one of their neighbors may have called the police, saying that Americans are living there. Apparently Mo had succeeded in antagonizing most of their neighbors. On one side are the brothers Hans and Byron, who run an illegal woodcutting business. They dislike Mo because he regularly yells at them over the fence, claiming that they make too much noise with their chain saws.
(As well, one day their $10,000 purebred Labrador dog came onto the farm and started chasing the ducks. Mo was very upset and ordered one of the staff members to whack the dog with a rod. The staff member balked, then gave the dog a few timid taps. Mo became furious and screamed at the staff member, "Kill it son, kill it!" Of course he disobeyed the Endtime Prophet.) So understandably there is bad blood between Mo and brothers Byron and Hans.
(In his later years, Mo became increasingly irrational and aggressive, partially due to his regular use of cortisone, which had been prescribed to him for his illnesses. This accentuated his loud and aggressive behavior and possibly contributed to many of his violent outbursts, directed at both staff members and the public. Staff members regularly received verbal abuse.
(One staff member, who is no longer in the Family, was with Mo on a public bus one day when Mo began making derogatory comments about an overweight woman on the bus, loud enough that she could hear. She eventually broke down in tears, asking Mo how he could be so cruel.)
The other possible informants are the neighbor couple affectionately known as "the witch lady" and "Mulroney" (he resembled Canada's prime minister at the time, Brian Mulroney). They are environmentalists and eat organic food. One day Mo's sheep broke into their garden and ate their organic veggies, which made them upset. Even though the law required that animals be kept caged or on a leash, Mo let them run free and they continued to trespass, causing trouble. Several of the smaller animals also strayed onto the road and were run over.
The thinking of Mo, Maria, Peter, and staff is that the witch lady and Mulroney are probably the culprits, and that this is an immigration-related issue. Mo, Maria, Peter, and other key staff members immediately evacuate to a nearby trailer park where they pray about what to do. Do they need to leave the country, or is this something that can be resolved?
They decide to have Amy call the officers and sort of apologize for not allowing them into the house, and then ask if it would help if she came to their office and sorted things out. When she calls a day or so later, one of the officers (who we'll call Officer L) says that there is no need for her to come downtown, as he will be visiting the local police detachment the next day to drop off a trophy, and he can pass by the farm afterwards. It looks promising, as everything seems low-key. To paraphrase a Bible verse, perhaps the bitterness of death is past.
Gabe and Amy receive Officer L when he arrives, while another staff member remains in a back bedroom. They chat, do a little witnessing, and apologize for misunderstandings. Things look good. Officer L. reprimands Gabe, an American, for obviously living illegally in the country. But overall he does not appear too upset. This might blow over. However, then Officer L opens his briefcase, pulls out some papers and looks at them, as if debating what to do next. He finally turns the papers over and shows them to Gabe and Amy, saying something like "And what about these?"
Dead Men Walking: The French (Canadian) Connection
The papers are photocopies of Canadian passports for Gabe, Amy, Davidito, Techi, and several other staff members. Each is filled out in a fictitious name and has a passport photo of the applicant.
As I later learned, back in 1989, staff member K had been recruited to illegally obtain Canadian passports for several of Mo and Maria's staff. The reasoning seemed to be that as the forged Australian passports had worked so well for Mo and Maria, it was a good idea to expand the concept so that their close-in staff members could also have forged passports in false names. This way, the whole staff would be safe from The Bad People (Jews, blacks, antichrist forces, police, etc.), and could "disappear" and travel undetected, with no connection to their legal names. (If you are a Startrek fan, it would be like a Romulan cloaking device.) And what better place to do this than Canada, where getting a passport is relatively easy? So K went to Quebec, visited graveyards, got names, got ID for dead people and then submitted passport applications. Mo and Maria's staff were on their way to becoming dead French-Canadians!
At some point in the process the police got wind of what K was doing and raided the place where she was staying, arresting her. On October 12, 1989, she was convicted in Montreal, Quebec under Section 94 of the Immigration Act ("the intent to commit an illegal act") and sentenced to eight months in prison. On October 27, she was convicted of theft over $1,000. - and received a suspended sentence and two year probation. On November 15, she was convicted of two more Immigration Act offences: Section 57-3 ("fraudulent passport application"), and Section 9-29A ("being in the possession of forged passports"). She was also convicted of obstructing a police officer for which she received a sentence of 45 days. In early 1990 she was deported to her home country.
Three years later the police picked up the cold trail and decided to check out the farm where Mo, Maria, Peter, and staff were still living. Among other things, they were concerned that children had been involved in this criminal activity. It was a legal "fishing expedition" and Officer L and his partner were amazed to find themselves talking to Amy, who clearly matched the photo on her forged passport. Later they met Gabe, and knew they had hit pay dirt.
When Officer L produces the passport applications in their living room, Gabe and Amy are flabbergasted. Gabe makes no attempt to deny involvement, saying that it was part of a hare-brained scheme concerning their missionary work. As missionaries, he said, they were sometimes kicked out of a country and had a bad stamp put in their passport. They wanted a second set of passports so they could return to those countries if they wished. Pretty weak tea, but poor Gabe is really winging it. Of course, Gabe says, they are very sorry and will never do it again. Ever.
A little while later Officer L leaves, telling them he will be in touch. One of the technicalities that prevents him from arresting Gabe and Amy is that they had not actually signed their forged passports. Therefore there is room for plausible deniability.
Got Your Flee Bag?
When Mo, Maria, and Peter hear this news, they go into flee mode and a few days later they and their staff fly to Europe. A small rearguard of James and a few others remains. They rent a selah apartment, take all sorts of security measures, and pray that they can close down the farm before the police return. Within a month, it is done.
Of course, those of us "in the know" at Research are left wondering if the next knock at our door is going to be the police, following up leads. If they had found the farm, would they find us? It is scary. And it becomes even scarier a few weeks later. Someone from Research calls the farm, pretending he is Gabe, and nonchalantly asks if there have been any "messages" for him. The new tenant says that the police had called, looking for him (Gabe). The case is still open.
Security in God's Kingdom
For the next three and one-half years, whenever we discussed security at Research, these "events" were never far from the minds of those of us who knew what had really happened. (Only a handful of us knew the truth. Most members of Research were led to believe that it had been an immigration-related scare.) Our numbers gradually grew to where we had about 40 adults living and working on four adjoining properties. A selah "school" home with all the children, teenagers, and some adults lived about 12 miles away. It was a huge operation.
Apart from the threat of police following up leads from this passport fiasco, other concerns caused us to go to great lengths to keep our location selah. All things considered, we could not afford any scrutiny. Many members of Research were living in the country illegally. We had several different nationalities. We also had to remain hidden from current and former Family Members; some of who lived close to us and frequented the same shopping areas. We could not tell relatives where we lived. All mail was routed through other countries, and all email messages and outgoing mail were read for security. There were other concerns that made maintaining the security a full-time concern. I know, because it was my job.
But I was not the only person who was paranoid. Mo, Maria, and Peter were even worse. From the time we lived in the Philippines, Mo insisted that we try to rent properties that had "get out" facilities on them. This way, staff members could get their daily exercise on the grounds, and would not have to go out and run the risk of being recognized. In the Philippines, we always rented properties with swimming pools. Some staff members went weeks without going off the property. In Canada, we rented houses with acreage and built walking paths on them, after building high fences to ensure that neighbors could not see in. No one left the property without getting permission.
In the early days in Canada, Mo, Maria, and Peter told us to buy some high-tech scrambler telephones so that we could have "secure" conversations between their house and ours. A couple of staff members went to the States and purchased three or four scramblers that cost several thousand dollars each. The technology was so advanced that the US government prohibited the export of them. (In the Philippines we had used cheaper ones, costing only $500. - each. But they were not really high-tech enough for use in North America.)
Joseph Reader posed as the purchaser, explaining to the vendor why he, as a regular guy with no business (using a fake local address), needed these scramblers. He then signed a legally binding document agreeing not to export them. It was all high weirdness. And as soon as Mo, Maria, and Peter fled, we had no further use for the scramblers. As we could not exactly sell them at a garage sale, we put them in our selah storage, where they languished.
After the passport scam fell through in 1989, many of Mo and Maria's American staff members, including Peter, went to Seattle and legally changed their names. This became a standard modus operandi.
Mo continued to travel on his forged Australian passport. Apparently it described him as being over 100 years old, so he had to travel in a wheelchair and look older than he was. When he died in October 1994, he was buried in his false name, as legally, David Berg had long ago ceased to exist. My understanding is that nowadays Maria has seen the error of her ways and travels on her own American passport, although she too has possibly legally changed her name.
I could write a book about the bizarre circumstances that caused us to be so concerned about security. (But I have to keep something for Oprah, Jerry Springer, and my columns in National Enquirer and News of the World!) It was institutionalized insanity, and looking back, I am ashamed of my participation. We lived in a continual state of lies and deception,; and because of that, every year we literally wasted many thousands of dollars maintaining our Home's security. Whether it was fencing in large gardens so we could have our get-out unnoticed, or keeping an apartment just to register our vehicles and drivers' licenses at, to making detours in flights whenever someone had to fly somewhere, it was a lot of money wasted.
Mo, Maria, and Peter wasted even more than we did, and I'm sure they continue to do so. It costs a great deal of money and manpower to keep all their selah Units selah. Can you imagine how much it cost Mo, Maria, Peter and their staff to flee on a moment's notice to Europe, and then travel from country to country there for several months before settling down?
When they left Canada, they took a domestic flight first to cover their tracks. They purchased tickets in false names, but a random check at the airport caught two of the staff members at this, so they had to discard those tickets and buy new ones on the spot, at full fare. Peter later sent me the two discarded tickets, asking if I could get them refunded. I said no, as I had not purchased them and they were not in my name. The airline could accuse me of having stolen them. So US $1,000. - of tickets went into the WS shredder.
(To digress for a moment, I mentioned earlier that in my time I had handled a lot of WS money. This was one of those times. Shortly after Mo, Maria, Peter, and staff fled, Elliot, the head of WS Finances, told me that they had left behind about 500 one-ounce gold coins, worth about US$200,000. Elliot instructed us to use these coins for our budget until they ran out. The budget and expenses of our two WS Homes ran at about US$ 20,000. - a month. There was only one small problem. I had to organize the cashing of these gold coins without attracting attention. During the next two months we methodically searched out every moneychanger and bullion dealer in the area.)
Back to the subject of WS security. Most of it isn't necessary. The vast majority of WS workers do not need to live in selah conditions to do their work. In 1996 I went to California and lived in non-selah housing, along with the other members of FCF and the GPU. It was quite a refreshing change after 17 years of continuous highly-selah WS life.
At first, we were so paranoid due to our years in WS Units that we almost expected to see unmarked black Apache helicopters circling our apartment complex! Or have our phone tapped. Or be followed by men in black, with little earphones. Or have our door broken down by armed ATF agents. After all, we were important WS people from the Family, the End Time army of David, the greatest threat to the Antichrist and his minions that the world has ever seen. Surely he would know that we were here, and that FCF was a tool of the Family? If they kept us under surveillance, they may find out where, gasp, Queen Maria lives!
But nothing. And we gradually came to the conclusion that nobody really cared. Mo and Maria could have lived next door and churned out Mo Letters, and no one would have cared. The Bad People obviously did not think that Queen Maria and WS were the greatest threats to their forces of darkness. They seemed to have bigger fish to fry.
After a few months, Apollos and I realized that there was really no need for Research to remain selah. We suggested to Maria and Peter that Research Members could live and work openly, like we were doing at FCF. After all, what is so high security about compiling an FSM, or a Zine, or the Grapevine? Why do those editors need to live and work in utter seclusion from the Family and the rest of the world, at an enormous cost? It was not a matter of security in communication. At FCF we had email contact with Maria and Peter on a daily basis. We had to, as Jac Sailor did all the GN art.
For various reasons Maria and Peter replied that it was not possible for WS to live in a non-selah environment. But it seemed that the real reason was one of control. Maria and Peter needed a loyal, undistracted inner circle; a dedicated cadre comparable to the Sea Org branch of Scientology. If WS staff members lived in a normal community and had regular contact with society, as we did at FCF, they might "grow a brain" and realize that a lot of the WS culture of "we are the elite who must be protected" is just smoke and mirrors.
Back to Techi's comments. We did have a lot of rules at Research. But I hope that one day Techi will understand why. It was because Mo, her mother, and Peter fostered a WS culture that demanded it. (And when they screwed up on their security badly, we had to help clean up the mess.) I was just being a loyal Worf; doing my best for a cause I tried to believe in. I was a good Worf, but I'm not any more. I'm free, while, sad to say, Techi remains in a highly controlled environment.
Can she publicly identify herself as a Family Member and give members of the public her street address? Can she even tell other Family Members which country she lives in? Can she communicate freely with her relatives? Can Trevor look forward to a normal life? It is so terribly terribly sad to see a life like hers all hemmed and hedged in, when she has so much to offer the world. I hope that one day she will break free from her mother's control and try to live a normal life.
GET BUSY LIVING OR GET BUSY DYING
Maria, Peter, and I agree on one point. The primary criterion for membership in the Family nowadays is an unquestioning faith in them and their new wine. People who lack this faith have no place in the Family. Maria and Peter drive this point home once again in None of These Things Move Me.
Francis Fisherman reaffirmed an aspect of this thinking in his testimony. He wrote,
So, as a line from the movie The Shawshank Redemption puts it, Family Members need to "get busy living or get busy dying," and follow Maria's advice to get all the way in the Family, or all the way out. Be wholehearted. Of course, many have already made that decision, as during the past few years, Maria and Peter have required that Family Members take several pledges of allegiance. Others have delayed, putting it off. For many of these procrastinators, making a choice will be difficult.
As I see it, at some point they are going to have to pull back from the fray and do some serious soul-searching and reflecting. It is not a task that can be contracted out, and it is often difficult to do. One SGA told me that it is hard to think straight in a Family Home. He compared it to being on an IV drip of toxic substances. In order to reflect about these life decisions, people have to get away from a Home, disconnect the IV, and detox.
The procrastinators will have to ask themselves some tough questions. Do I believe that the GNs are the Word of God for today? Do I believe that all the past GNs and Mo Letters are the Word of God? Are there any I disagree with? Do I have such trust and faith in Maria and Peter that I will believe whatever they write in future GNs to be the Word of God? Is my criteria, "If it is in the GN, it is the Word of God"?
Am I proud to be a member of the Family? Am I proud of its beliefs and practices? Do I see leaders such as Dawn, Juan, and Misty as role models? Do I subscribe to their worldview? Do I feel that the Family doctrine, literature, and practices are appropriate for children and will help prepare and equip them to successfully make their way in life, regardless of whether they stay in the Family? These are just a few.
Leaving the Family
"There must be some way out of here," said the Joker to the Thief, "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief." --All Along the Watchtower, by Bob Dylan
Family Members who have difficulty answering these questions should probably continue to "probe their discomfort" by asking a few more, such as the ones below. They are taken from The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, an excellent book that many former Family Members have drawn powerful lessons from. In a compassionate, low-key, and non-threatening manner, the authors help believers "recognize and escape spiritual manipulation and false spiritual authority within the church." This book makes no mention of the Family. Rather, it looks at spiritual abuse within "normal" churches. But, as the old saying goes, “If the shoe fits…”
"Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." -- Elie Wiesel
About a year ago I discussed an aspect of the above point with an SGA. Anna, as I will call her, had fundamental doubts about the new wine and Maria and Peter. We had a good dialogue, and she decided to remain in the Family, at least temporarily. She asked for my opinion on her decision (a very dangerous thing to do!), and I wrote her the following;
Back to The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.
I Want to Be a Clone
Sometimes I feel that Maria and Peter want lobotomized lemmings for followers: Stepford wives, husbands, and children whose theme song could be Steve Taylor's I Want to Be A Clone (with a few words adapted).
ALL OF THESE THINGS MOVED ME: MORE THOUGHTS ON THE FAMILY; WS; AND MO, MARIA, AND PETER
A Cult of the Personality
As time passes, and my post-Family life slowly takes shape, I find myself gradually developing a clearer understanding of various issues. Concerns that were fuzzy or unclear a year ago have come into sharper focus. From what I understand, this is normal and a part of the ongoing detox process. I'd like to mention a few. Much of this may be familiar to you, but please bear with me. It does me good to air these concerns!
As I see it, and as I think None of These Things Move Me and the six "praise-Maria praise-Peter" FSMs make clear, the present-day Family is more than ever a cult of the personality. It is built entirely on the persons of Maria and Peter and their supposed direct connection to God. Imagine if they were both run over by a truck tomorrow. What would happen to the Family? Who would provide the spiritual leadership and practical administration? Who would be the winetaster? Juan? Misty? Gabe? Dawn? Keana? Trevor? Uncle Jim? Bunny Bigword? I don't think so. The Family would become a headless organization and cease to exist as we know it.
Old Friends, Bookends
On a different subject, what does the future hold for Family Members of my generation, many of whom are getting old, tired, and worn out? In the original game plan that Mo gave us in early 1973, Jesus was supposed to have returned in 1993 and we would now be in our eighth year of the millennium. Sweet relief! But, as Tweedledee said in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, "If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't." To the best of my understanding, Maria and Peter have not rescheduled Jesus' return for any time soon, so what will become of the older folks? My guess is that many will gradually be cast off as they lose their usefulness and develop health problems. After all, the Family is an army, with little provision made for people who don't pull their weight. I find this to be sad.
One SGA wrote recently, describing the situation that her mother, a Family Member for over 20 years, now finds herself in.
The sad thing is, this happens every day in the Family.
Fruit that Remains
When Anna and I were corresponding, I explained some of my thinking concerning the Family's emphasis on performance and fruit that remains.
Leading God's Children
When I was in the Family in California, I went to the beach one day with a few SGAs. We were talking about life, the Big Picture, and one confided that the only reason she stayed in the Family was because she wanted to be ready with the "new weapons" in order to help lead Christians through the Tribulation.
I admire her sincerity and dedication, but do many Family Members really think that they are going to lead any significant number of Christians through the Tribulation, whenever that is? Family Members have been taught to disdain "churchy" people. Is that mindset going to change overnight? And most Christians look on Family doctrines and practices with understandable horror. They ask, "We are supposed to follow you as you follow the ghost of a dead man who sexually abused children?" Reconciliation is not going to happen. Ever.
Besides, Christianity is incredibly alive, vibrant, adapting, and growing. Many Christian movements, organizations, and denominations are well ahead of the Family. The last thing they need is the enlightened leadership of the Family's dead men talking. Maria and Peter are still espousing views about Christians that Mo proclaimed 30 and 40 years ago and which, at best, contained limited truth. That thinking (that all the churches are doing nothing) is for the most part hopelessly outdated.
The Law of Lust
Another issue that I have given some thought to is sex. Don't we all? In my last few years in the Family I gradually realized that, as much as I enjoyed sex, it could easily become a form of bondage.
The "sexual freedom" that we practiced, and is still practiced in WS, is not really free at all. For many people, myself included, it becomes addictive, preventing us from looking at the larger issues. I spent a great deal of time thinking about my next "date," or angling to get a date with someone, or pouting because I was not getting enough dates. Partners in married couples went through huge jealousy trials and often had to get continual counseling and prayer because someone was having dates with his or her mate. Free sex in WS exacted a high price in time and energy.
It also can chain you to the Family environment. Where else is anyone going to get so much casual sex, with so little commitment? I eventually asked myself, could I go without it? When I was counting the cost of leaving the Family, I knew that sex was something that I was going to have to forsake. In the real world, I wasn't going to be flitting from bed to bed. I had to decide if I was going to compromise my convictions and stay in the Family because of sex.
The paradox of free sex is that it often prevents the participants from having any real, meaningful relationships. It can be an inoculation against developing wonderful, intimate relationships of which sex is an integral part. It also colors how we view people, with men seeing women merely as sex objects. And really, the Scriptural justification for the Family's version of sexual freedom is extremely subjective and speculative at best.
Who Are The Rebels?
The quality of care that children receive in a Family environment is an issue that I have become quite radicalized about. I particularly detest the non-stop force-feeding of heretical Family publications to young children. To submit kids to all that stuff and equate it to the Bible is a crime, in my eyes. Maria and Peter can say all they want about giving children the right to choose, but the fact remains that they see every child born into the Family as a potential disciple and unquestioning follower of them and their new wine. And they systematically indoctrinate the children to that end. Read Misty's comments on the subject, which I quoted earlier. It's reprehensible.
Children are often not prepared for life outside the Family. In particular, the Family culture and environment deprives them of the opportunity to learn to make choices and live with the consequences of them. In real life, learning to make choices is a vital survival skill. Many Family kids who get out in the real world discover that their biggest handicap is not knowing how to make routine day-to-day choices.
What choices do children in the Family make? They are told what to do, what to believe, who their friends should be, what is right, and what is wrong. Lord Justice Ward got it right; the Family is a true cookie cutter religion.
Anyway, I am coming to hate with a perfect hatred the manner in which Maria and Peter mandate that children in the Family be raised. And of course, a lot of the kids hate it as well. I have talked to many young adults who are furious; outraged at the way in which they were raised, indoctrinated with meaningless Family beliefs while their basic education was neglected.
Many are now talking openly about suing the Family. Of course, there is no legal entity known as the Family to sue. But it would not surprise me that, as these young adults assume places of responsibility in society; they will find ways to legally strike at the Family leadership and organization. And I won't blame them. As I see it, Maria and Peter have yet to reap the whirlwind that they so recklessly and criminally sowed in these young adults' lives.
I pulled the following clip off an ex-members' bulletin board. A former member, who grew up in the Family, wrote it. While some of the Family policies alluded to are not in effect today, they were at one time, and their influence lives on in the young people who were harmed by them. What a legacy. What an indictment.
World Services: the Cult Within the Cult
Present WS staff members went to great lengths in the FSM testimonies to assure us that WS, especially Research, and Maria and Peter's Home, is a normal, spiritually healthy environment. This is presently a priority for WS as each Grapevine magazine contains various praise-Maria praise-Peter testimonies. I dispute this image and reaffirm everything I said in No Regrets. WS continues to be a highly secretive, weird "inner circle" cult financed completely by members of the outer circle. Alienated in many ways from the rest of the Family and society, WS is an extremely sexualized atmosphere with lots of threesomes, wife swapping, and more. The shepherds exert strong control; manipulating marriages and relationships to accomplish desired goals. And yes, the prime responsibility of several staff members is simply to act as spiritual channels. Some live in the basement, doing little else.
I question how people who live and work in such a bizarre environment can help anyone in the Family, let alone in society. What do they have to offer? I also wonder what would happen if they all had to work in the world for a living at a real job. How many could make the transition, especially those like me who have lived there a long time? They are virtually institutionalized.
Some have left. One recently wrote me, expressing views about life in WS:
Maria and Peter: Who Died and Made You King?
As I see it Maria and Peter's legitimacy, their authenticity and authority, is suspect for many reasons. There is no mention of the End Time Queen Maria or King Peter in the Bible. At least Mo compiled some David verses to give his claims a shred of validity. Most were referring to Jesus, especially Deuteronomy 18:15, which the apostle Peter said was fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 3:22). I often wondered how Mo had the nerve to misappropriate this prophecy for himself.
Where do we read about Queen Maria and King Peter as being the leaders of Christendom in the last days? King Peter is mentioned in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but not a peep in the Bible. I used to speculate that this was why Maria and Peter kept Mo alive after he died. If David was still leading from the spirit world, a spiritual El Cid, then he could continue to be the leader and the Family would follow him. Maria and Peter need this ghostly guru to lend some sort of legitimacy and continuity to their leadership.
And where in the New Testament do we find mention of spiritual kings and queens over God's people? Jesus came to do away with spiritual middlemen. He set us free from controlling, abusive priests and religious systems so that we could know and follow Him in spirit and in truth. He is our priest, He is our king. There is a role for pastors and shepherds as "guides on the side," but there is no provision for spiritual kings, queens, and dictators as "sages on the stage." And according to the Bible, pastors and shepherds are accountable if they stray. As Paul told the church at Galatia, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). When do Maria and Peter make such assurances?
Maria and Peter abhor accountability of any kind. To justify this, Family leaders make the analogy to CEOs of large companies. Maria and Peter, they say, are CEOs who listen to their aides' advice, but then make the final decision on their own. At that point, the underlings are expected to fall into line. However, this is a fundamentally flawed comparison.
As I see it, there are three different types of accountability; spiritual, administrative, and financial. In a normal faith community, the pastor does not have absolute "spiritual" power. Churches have a board of directors or elders, comprised of members of the congregation. The pastor is accountable to them and can be removed in case of misconduct. In many cases this board hires the pastor, stipulating his salary and conditions of employment. Pastors are not allowed to unilaterally dictate what is the Word of God, or uses a special connection to God to create the policies of the community. Maria and Peter remind me of Menahim Begin, who stated, "I bow my knee to no one but God!"
As concerns administrative decisions, CEO's have various powers. But again, they are accountable to a board of directors or governors, or to the stockholders. No CEO has absolute power. The only exception is if the CEO owns the company. As for financial accountability, the CEO is always accountable to directors, governors, owners, or stockholders. Companies keep accurate financial records that are audited. They also publish annual reports in which every penny is accounted for.
In normal churches, the pastor often has little say in how funds are spent. He has a vote, but so do the directors, or elders. In the community I belong to, the pastor receives a salary and is strictly forbidden from knowing who gives how much. This way, he is not tempted to show favoritism.
The idea of accountability is really basic. In any kind of organization, checks and balances and accountability are built in to the structure to ensure that no one person wields too much power.
Let's look at how Maria and Peter operate. They have no spiritual accountability. They consult advisors, all of whom are on the payroll and are chosen for their unquestioning loyalty. Ultimately Maria and Peter make whatever decision suits them, and proclaim it to be the will and Word of God. There is no room for dissent.
In administrative decisions, they also have the final say. They consult with others, but their decision is implemented. And there is no financial accountability. As pastors, they receive the tithes and offerings and decide how it will be spent. No one else, including Elliot, knows the complete financial picture; where the money comes from, how much comes in, what it is spent on, and how much is spent, and what slush funds exist. (I know of instances where Peter asked WS members to remit small inheritances and the like directly to him. He explained that this way they did not have to appear on Elliot's accounts.) In over 30 years of existence, this "Missionary Fellowship" known as the Family has never once published a dollars-and-cents financial report for its members.
And then the questions arise of who owns and operates the Swiss company Aurora Productions, based in Zug? Aurora owns the copyrights of all the materials that the Family uses. Why is Aurora shrouded in secrecy? Why doesn't Aurora put an address and phone number on its Web Site? Who knows where the money from the "Activated" push is going, and what it is being spent on? Why no accountability? What are they hiding? Why don't Maria and Peter "share the know" in dollars and cents?
When you analyze it, Maria and Peter's complete lack of accountability is without precedent in either the business or religious communities. If Maria and Peter wished to behave like real CEOs, they would establish an independent Board of Directors to whom they are accountable. Maria and Peter do not own the Family. This Board would set limits on Maria and Peter's powers, establish their salaries, and publish an annual report for the Family and the public, detailing all expenses and income. The WS financial books would be audited, to demonstrate transparency. Don't take my word for all this, ask the folks at FCF. That's how ethical people do it in the real world.
Maria and Peter hide and cover up so much. There are many deep dark secrets that they don't want people to know about. And because of that, they are incapable of coming to the light and being accountable, like everyone else. So much darkness. It reminds me of Jesus' observations in the Gospel of John.
Maria and Peter Lack Integrity
Ultimately, Maria and Peter's fatal flaw is that they lack integrity. The Bible says that David shepherded his people "with integrity of heart" (Psalm 78:72, NIV). Maria and Peter lack this fundamental quality that is essential for any Godly leader. Integrity is defined as "moral uprightness, honesty, unimpaired or uncorrupted condition." This quality has been absent from their lives for a long time, and because they lack it, it is hard to trust them. In The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen discuss the question of trust.
Today, Maria and Peter are demanding that Family Members unquestioningly trust them. But given that they have manifested so little integrity and honesty in their own lives, many Family Members cannot do this, and so they leave. That's what I did.
Criminogenic Cultures and Ethical Binds
Mo, and later Maria and Peter manifested a lack of accountability and integrity. As their personal examples wield an enormous influence in the Family, over the years, these flaws were gradually woven into the tapestry of Family beliefs, culture, and practice. As Johnson and VanVonderen remind us, "Sheep follow shepherds."
The result today is what my Criminology textbook defines as a criminogenic culture. This exists when the culture of an organization tacitly encourages illegal or unethical behavior; a culture where such conduct is appropriate, not out of place. An example is the tobacco industry. As portrayed in the film The Insider, the tobacco industry is a culture where illegal and unethical acts are commonplace and sanctioned by management, who in many cases lead the way.
As I see it, the Family has developed an inherently criminogenic culture. From the top down all the leaders, especially those who have held positions of authority for a long time, have been party to all sorts of horrors. They have committed illegal or unethical acts, or been asked to condone them. The nature of the organization demands it of them. And so a culture has evolved in which this kind of behavior is appropriate.
My prison corrections text discussed a variation of this theme, referring to it as an ethical bind. This occurs when an employer, for example, asks an employee to do something that the employee feels is ethically wrong. This happens a lot in a closed system such as a prison. It is almost a pre-requisite for living in another closed system, WS, and to a lesser extent, the Family. Members are asked to condone what they know to be wrong.
I lived in a semi-permanent state of ethical bind for years! In the Family environment, when an issue arises, each of us has to either compromise our convictions or leave the Family. And when we compromise, we are allowing what is clearly inappropriate to assume a place in our culture. It becomes normal and acceptable. Eventually we find ourselves condoning all sorts of terrible things.
Take The Last State GN about Mene, for example. How many Family Members did that GN shock when it first appeared? My guess is, quite a few. Yet the pressure to accept it was immense. So we compromised and that GN, and the values and practices that it advocated, assumed a place of prominence in the Family culture. As Mo used to say, "If you run with wolves, you'll learn to howl."
For a more current example, look at the Family Website (www.thefamily.org). No mention of Queen Maria or King Peter and the central role that they play in the Family. In None of These Things Move Me, Peter states in paragraph 157: "Our faith in the Word--and in the Lord's anointing on Mama as His appointed winetaster--is one of our basic fundamental beliefs." Why no mention of this in the Statement of Faith? Are they ashamed of it? Why no mention of the Law of Love, or how dead people are constantly speaking and guiding the Family? As I see it, the Website is a scam and illustrates the culture of deceit that is endemic in the Family.
This criminogenic culture is really why, in my opinion, the Family cannot be reformed. Mo, Maria, and Peter's personal example has created a corrupt, unethical, controlling, manipulative, and in many cases criminal mindset that permeates the culture and collective thinking of the Family. Just changing leaders will not change this way of thinking and operating.
After I released No Regrets, some former members discussed it on a bulletin board. One asked why, if we had been such big shots, did we not just stage a coup and take over the Family? I had to laugh. Who in their right mind would want to lead the Family? I wanted to leave it, to get as far away from it as possible, not take it over. I hated most of what the Family, as an organization, had come to represent. I also knew that even if honest, upright people assumed control, it would make little difference. The organizational, or corporate mindset was so intrinsically corrupt that it could not be fixed. The only solution, as I saw it, was to leave.
If, in the future, I were elected king of the Family, my first and last decree would be to permanently dissolve the organization. I would dismantle the structure and encourage Family Members to find a healthy, genuinely Christian environment to live and work within.
It reminds me of the American Embassy that was built in Moscow in the 1980's. The Soviets insisted that Russian contractors be used. The American took extreme precautions to ensure that the Soviets did not install electronic bugs. However, they eventually discovered that the new building was literally riddled with listening devices. After an assessment, the Americans concluded that the structure was hopelessly compromised, and demolished it. That's the way I see the Family. As long as the existing structure is there, the criminogenic culture and mindset will remain, fatally compromising it.
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!
I have come to realize that nobody needs Maria and Peter. God does not rely upon or work through kings and queens or any other controlling figures who regulate our lives and beliefs. Healthy Christians don't need abusive authority figures like Maria and Peter, either to live their lives or serve God as missionaries. As I move away from the Family, I find it hard to believe that I ever held Maria and Peter in great esteem, or endured their abuse. In the overall scheme of things, they are so irrelevant, so utterly inconsequential.
An excerpt from The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, illustrates this point by making a comparison to a well-known children's story.
I have a few observations about spiritual abuse. Jesus hated the way religious leaders abused their religious power and authority. Many writers have pointed out that He saved His wrath for the religious leaders of His Day, who He referred to as "wolves in sheep's clothing." Johnson and VanVonderen write,
Writing in Jesus Alive in the Gospel of Matthew, Eugene Kennedy comments, "The devil dwells in the urge to control, rather than liberate the human soul."
Grief and Loss of Trust
Leaving the Family is usually a difficult, painful process. However a person approaches it, deciding to leave is an intensely personal decision that has to be made alone. I compare it to going through the valley of death. It's a solitary journey during which each person has to take stock of his or her life, beliefs, aspirations, and hopes.
And once the decision to leave is made, the problems are by no means over. Leaving is just the beginning, not the end. It's usually a time of great financial and emotional hardship. When we left, some sympathetic former members told us that it usually takes about two years to make the transition, or at least a significant part of it. This has been true in my case.
One SGA who recently left, a single mom, told me that making the transition was much harder than she expected, especially financially. However, in the same conversation she said that while she knows she cannot coerce people to leave, she challenges her friends still in the Family to leave for six months. Apparently she guarantees that they will never, ever, want to return! But it is very difficult in every way, and people need to prepare themselves for hardship.
Apart from financial difficulties, people who leave the Family often experience grief, as well as a loss of trust. Patricia Goski R.N. was a member of a "high demand" group for 18 years. After leaving, she conducted a survey of over 100 former members of such groups and found that a large majority experienced "a multiplicity of losses." In her article Grief, Loss, and the Former Cult Member, she concluded that five seemed to predominate:
Commenting on her findings, Goski wrote,
As Goski said, "Who can you trust?" This is a huge issue for many former members. In The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Johnson and Vanvonderen made some observations that helped me greatly. They explained that spiritual abusers lie to their victims in order
A loss of a sense of community can also be an issue. Anyone who has been in the Family for any length of time is probably used to living and working closely with others, and having a sense of purpose, a unity, and a strong camaraderie. It is often difficult to give this up.
MY SECOND JOURNEY
Whenever I talk about my second journey, I am gripped by an overwhelming desire to quote excerpts of Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel. He gets it so incredibly right. My sneaking suspicion is that you have not yet read it, so I'm going to do a little force-feeding of my own and subject you to some of his thoughts on the second journey.
Many people between the ages of thirty and sixty -- whatever their stature in the community and whatever their personal achievements -- undergo what can be truly called a second journey.
A man can have piled up an impressive portfolio of dollars and honors, get his name in the Who's Who, and then wake up one morning asking, "Is it all worth it?" … However it happens, such people feel confused and even lost. They can no longer keep their life in working order. They are dragged away from chosen and cherished patterns to face strange crises. This is their second journey.
Anne Tyler's heroine in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Breathing Lessons, is driving along a country road with her husband at the wheel. Suddenly, this middle-aged woman cries out, "O Ira, what are we going to do with the rest of our lives?" This is the question of the second journey.
Second journeys usually end quietly with a new wisdom and a coming to a true sense of self that releases great power. The wisdom is that of an adult who has gained equilibrium, stabilized, and found fresh purpose and new dreams. It is a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitations. It is a wisdom that realizes: I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully. It is wisdom that admits the inevitability of old age and death.
The second journey begins when we know we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the morning program. We are aware that we only have a limited amount of time left to accomplish that which is really important -- and that awareness illumines us for what really matters, what really counts. This conviction provides a new center.
...The second call is a summons to a deeper, more mature commitment of faith where the naiveté, first fervor, and untested idealism of the morning and the first commitment have been seasoned with pain, rejection, failure, loneliness, and self -knowledge.
The Black Hole
Sometimes when I reflect on my life, I marvel at the miracle God did at opening the door for us to leave the Family, especially with our sanity intact. -- Well, perhaps the sanity part is debatable! We were completely entrenched not only in the Family, but also WS.
I sometimes wonder why it is so hard for people to leave. After all, there are no bars or locks. Johnson and Vanvonderen make some observations in The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse that I feel are relevant. Members of an abusive system have to cope with the mindset that to question or disobey the leader means to question or disobey God. As well, there is a strong internal "spiritual gravity" to fight against.
I often have panic attacks in class. For example, in our criminology class we discussed the popular stereotypes surrounding sexual assault of women. Society has a tendency to blame the victim, saying that perhaps she asked for it, or enjoyed it anyway. We discussed issues of date rape and consent. And suddenly, in the midst of the discussion, Mo's teachings flash through my mind and I almost have a meltdown, thinking about what I once believed. The girl who wouldn't, no means more, gang banging teenagers, Ffing, sharing schedules, women are there to please the men. Mo denigrated women in countless ways, and the Family culture, ethos, and environment continues to do so. Sometimes I can hardly endure it. I feel like I just left a tribe of Neolithic cave dwellers and am emerging from utter spiritual and moral darkness.
I have experienced these panic attacks while engaged in discussions on many topics. Try discussing the evils of racism while thinking about Mo's writings on the blacks and the Jews. The MOP section about the Jews is almost all horribly racist. And that's the mild stuff!
Recently I read Irfers Beware (#880). A woman, who was an associate Family Member, was raped and murdered in front of her children. Mo publishes the Letter Irfers Beware, with a graphic cover drawing and the subtitle, "If You Fail to Tithe, God Will Take a Collection!" He refuses to help the bereaved family financially, saying
This is the enlightened love and grace of God, as manifested in Jesus? God had a woman murdered in front of her children because she did not tithe? Mo wrote hundreds of Letters that are just as outrageous. Can you comprehend that we all actually believed this stuff and people like me helped publish it? We regularly ate these Letters in devotions and said "Wow! Yummy! Really good! Thank the Lord for these good word worms. God bless Dad for telling it like it is! We can't wait for the next serving!"
These are the words of David! This is the man who supposedly still leads the Family from the grave. And I actually believed it all at one time! I helped publish it and thought I was doing God's highest will! God help me, I'm about to have another panic attack!
I'm so glad to cast this depravity off and love and serve God in spirit and truth. How refreshing! How liberating! After the long winter, spring has finally come to my life. I feel like one of the animals in Narnia, when the snow started melting. For years the evil witch had frozen me, but mercifully, Aslan has freed me from her grip.
I have appreciated meeting many wonderful Christians; people who are really living for Jesus. It's wonderful. I'll give you an example. Each Sunday morning I go to a course examining different aspects of world missions. It's excellent, and more importantly, its free! (If you want your vision for missions challenged, read Revolution for World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. It is published by Gospel for Asia  and is often distributed for free.)
Last week the speaker recounted his personal testimony. He is a local pastor, originally from Malaysia. He came here about 20 years ago as a Buddhist 'tentmaker" missionary. In his job as a bank manager he took part in a fraudulent scheme and was imprisoned. During this time he realized that Buddhism was failing him, as it had no provision for forgiveness. Eventually he met a Christian volunteer visitor who led him to the Lord. When he got out of prison, he studied for the ministry and became a pastor. He started witnessing to the Iranian community in his town and now pastors an Iranian church with 150 recent converts from Islam!
There are so many people like this, people whose lives are open books and who are bearing fruit that remains. Good decent, caring, witnessing people who love the Lord and respect the inherent dignity of individuals.
Helen is 33, and has spent 10 years in the Hong Kong Vietnamese refugee camps witnessing to refugees and helping heroin addicts. Ray is a former convict who is studying to be a prison chaplain. Mirv runs a street drop-in center for ex-inmates and prostitutes. Chip, another former inmate, runs an Alpha program for inmates. And then there are the little people, the retirees, who faithfully visit and witness to inmates for years. I am humbled by them all, and thankful to be able to learn from them. It is so sad that the Family, due to its unchristian doctrines and practices, alienates itself from millions of wonderful children of God such as these. As Eeyore would say, "Paaathetic!"
Making Haste Slowly
I have had to concentrate on not being judgmental. Other former members have identified this as something we are guilty of; we have an elitist view of the world. "We are the children of David, God's End Time army!" Or, as Aaron would sing, "We're the 144,000, who else could it be, but us?" It's an inbred attitude that’s hard to kick, and it takes time.
We who have spent so much time in the Family have no right to judge others, and much to be humbled about. Just think of a few of the more revolutionary Mo and Maria Letters (whether their theme is primarily sexual, political, or disciplinary), and picture yourself trying to intelligently explain or defend such writings before other informed sources, and you’ll see what I mean about why we should be humbled. Oh, the things we condoned and took part in!
I’m grateful for the chance to move on with my life. There are so many things I want to do. I almost feel like the guy in the movie Multiplicity; I want four versions of myself -- all of them young! It's hard to accept that I am probably only going to be able to do one thing, hopefully well, for the remainder of my life. The advice in the title of my cross-cultural communications book, Make Haste Slowly, has helped.
A reflection by Bishop Oscar Romero also encourages me to gracefully acknowledge and accept my limitations. I'm attaching it to the end of this letter. Romero, as you may know, was the Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador who was murdered by right wing gunmen in 1980. His struggle against oppression was portrayed in an excellent movie entitled Romero, starring Raul Julia. In his reflection, Romero says in part,
I hope and pray that I will be able to find that something and to do it very well.
18 Till I Die!
Sometimes I want to be young again, so I can live my life over, doing things that I probably won't get to do in this life. On my birthday I took as my theme song Bryan Adam's 18 'till I Die:
- Wanna be young the rest of my life
- ...Don't wanna grow up, I don't see why,
- ...It's not how you look, it's what you feel inside
- ...Yeah, it sure feels good to be alive,
- Someday I'll be 18 goin on 55,
- Gonna be 18 till I die!
It doesn't do any harm to dream a little!
Conclusion: All of These Things Moved Me
I'm sorry that this has been such a long letter. When I started, I determined that it would be shorter than No Regrets. But I kept putting it off, as I was busy, and ended up having many important (!) things to say. If it is any consolation, it all comes from my heart.
Maria and Peter entitled their first response to my article Stay on the Wall. As I see it, this is not a wall of righteousness or God's work; it is a wall of ignorance, fear, deception, blind obedience, and paranoia that shields Maria and Peter from scrutiny and accountability. Like the Berlin Wall, it was not built to keep people out, but rather to keep people in. I think the wall should be knocked down. The song Chippin Away, which Crosby, Stills, Nash, and James Taylor sang in Berlin in November 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, expresses my feelings.
- They say the mountain is high
- And you'll never move it
- Ah, but before I believe that
- They'll just have to prove it
- I've got a hammer in my hand
- And faith in my heart
- I've already waited too long
- Now I'm ready to start
- Chippin' away, little by little, day by day
- Chippin' away and the wall will come tumbling down
- Oh what a wonderful sound
Maria and Peter entitled their second reply to my article None of These Things Move Me, saying that this should be the response of Family Members to the issues raised in No Regrets. I say that anybody with any ethics or morals at all, especially any decent, thinking, praying, Bible-believing, sincere Christian Family Member should be moved by all of these things. It took way too many years for these issues to move me, but I thank God that they finally did. And I contend that this appeal of Maria and Peter to ignore wrongdoing speaks volumes about their lack of integrity and the criminal culture of the Family. These things should move us all.
We're All Bastards, But God Loves Us Anyway
But what is the final conclusion of the matter? In What's So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey relates the story of a cynical reporter who constantly badgered a pastor about his faith. One day the reporter demanded, "Give me the message of the Bible in 10 words." The pastor thought a minute and then replied, "We're all bastards, but God loves us anyway."-- Eight words. I don't think I can boil it down that concisely, but in a nutshell; this is what I see to be the conclusion.
- Each person has to make his or her own choice about the Family, his or her relationship with it, and live with the consequences. We can't push people. At times we wish we could, but it just won't work.
- Information is power. We can present information that Maria and Peter have suppressed so that people are empowered to make informed decisions concerning their life choices.
- Life does not have a rewind or pause button.
- It is possible to live for the Lord and serve Him outside the Family. It is not necessary to carry all the Family baggage along to serve God. Jesus does not use spiritual kings, queens, or wizards to accomplish His will. His love is unconditional.
Some people see me as a mean, rabid guy, because I speak against Maria and Peter so strongly. Some have called me the devil incarnate, while others compare me to Darth Vader ("Peter, I am your father!"). I don't know which is worse! But I don't think that I am wicked or evil. I'm simply a former Ivan from the inner circle who feels that Maria and Peter are controlling and abusive, and cover up a lot of their misdeeds. My desire is to ultimately help heal, not to hurt.
I don't bear Family Members any malice. Even though many of my former friends in the Family have shunned me because of No Regrets, I still love and respect them. We obviously deeply disagree on several issues, and I will vigorously debate those issues, as I have here. But I don't look at them or anyone in the Family as enemies.
I believe that there will always be a Family, because there will always be people like Misty, Juan, and Ezra who abdicate their right to think and choose; unquestioningly accepting whatever Maria and Peter tell them. They have consciously, deliberately chosen to be Ivans, and I respect that decision. But there are also many who are not Ivans, and I hope that what I write will help them in their life choices. Those choices are theirs, and theirs alone.
I'm all talked out -- for now. I'd like to close with some words from a good friend who, speaking like a true ragamuffin, expresses my hopes in what he says are his aspirations.
Your friend and brother,
The Inner Circle. Video. 1992. Excellent film about Ivan, Stalin's film projectionist. In video stores.
The Ragamuffin Gospel. Brennan Manning. 1990. Multnomah Publishers. ISBN 0-88070-631-7.
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen. 1991. Bethany House Publishers.
What's So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey. 1997. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-21862-4.
The Jesus I Never Knew. Philip Yancey. 1995. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-20407-0.
Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen
-- Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, murdered on March 24, 1980