Editor's note: This article has been translated into Spanish and is available here: Sin Rencores.
- 1 No Regrets - Why I left The Family
- 1.1 1970-1999 - A Recap
- 1.2 Why I Left the Family: The Short Version.
- 1.3 CHILD ABUSE
- 1.4 MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN
- 1.5 THE BEAT GOES ON
- 1.6 NO MORE ABSOLUTE FAITH
- 1.7 THE NEW WINE
- 1.8 HARMFUL POLICIES
- 1.8.1 Law of Love and the Marriage of the Generations
- 1.8.2 Maria is Obsessed with Control
- 1.8.3 Loving Jesus
- 1.8.4 Loving Jesus for Children
- 1.8.5 Eroticism with Jesus Is an "Adults Only" Affair
- 1.8.6 Sex Book
- 1.8.7 Self-Determination For Children
- 1.8.8 Twisted Like Pretzels
- 1.8.9 The Year of the Bottom Line
- 1.8.10 Thomas Dons the Magic Green Shirt!
- 1.9 AFTERWORD
- 1.9.1 WS: The Inner Circle
- 1.9.2 There Have Been Too Many Ivans!
- 1.9.3 Free From the Superstitious Darkness
- 1.9.4 Whatever did not Kill Us Made Us Strong
- 1.9.5 Forget the Past!
- 1.9.6 Compromise and Coexistence: Is This as Good as it Gets?
- 1.9.7 Am I an Enemy?
- 1.9.8 Why Didn't I Leave Sooner?
- 1.9.9 Choices, Choices, Choices!
- 1.9.10 As I See It: The Family, Mo, Maria and Peter
- 1.10 Recommended Viewing/Reading
No Regrets - Why I left The Family
By James Penn
Copyright February 2000. All Rights Reserved
Dear John and Sue,
Hi, how are you? I hope that this finds you well. It was good to talk with you the other night and catch up on news. It's amazing how, after not having had any contact for so many years, we can clearly converse and understand each other. I was happy to hear that you are managing well and renewing ties with your older children. It's so important, isn't it? I don't have any children, but if I did, they would certainly be my priority. Anyway, I enjoyed re-establishing our friendship, and I will try to stay in touch via email and the occasional phone call.
You asked me why I left the Family. A big question that is too expensive to properly answer on the phone! I briefly explained the reasons to you, but here is the written explanation, as I promised. Much of this is actually a rehash of a long letter that I wrote to Maria and Peter 18 months ago, when I resigned from World Services (WS) and the Charter Member (CM) Family. I've added some facts, figures, substantiations, and explanations, which I hope make it clear.
As you can see, this epistle is long. It explains the biggest decision that I ever made, apart from asking Jesus into my life. I joined the Family when I was 19 years old and spent 27 years in the Family. 19 of those years were in WS, most of them with or close to Mo, Maria, and Peter. So leaving was a big choice, a defining moment! But if you find my explanation boring or self-centred, please feel free to stop reading and delete. I won't be offended. If nothing else, you will understand me better; what makes me tick. (And what makes me sick!) And maybe something that I experienced will help you, as you adjust to life outside the Family and start your "second journey." (Brennan Manning uses this term in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. Highly recommended.)
I've included sub-headings in order to break up the text and entice you. Old habits from my pubs work die hard!
1970-1999 - A Recap
I'll give you a rundown of what I did during the 27 years that I was a fulltime member of the Family, from August 1971 until August 1998. I accepted Jesus into my life in October 1970 and spent 10 months with a Jesus People group in Vancouver, Canada. In August 1971 I joined the Children of God, along with many of the Jesus People, and went to the Texas Soul Clinic for basic training, and then on to New York and eastern Canada. My Bible name was Gideon Valor. Since then, I have been known as Felipe, Jay, Ray, James Penn and Phil.
For the first five years, my main ministry was provisioning. In late 1972 I went to Europe where I spent nine years. The first three-and-a-half years were in France, where I witnessed, provisioned, and took care of business matters. I then spent two years in Italy, Tenerife, and mainland Spain, caring for the children of Rachel and Emmanuel, and Timothy Concerned and Deborah. In late 1978 I went to Geneva for a year, where I witnessed and did KQS finances and stats.
In late 1979 I joined WS and lived with Mo and Maria's staff in southern France, where I edited the WND as well as worked on other pubs projects. As I spoke fluent French, I also translated, interpreted, and assisted them with local matters, such as house hunting. I was a member of Mo and Maria's personal staff until mid-1984. For most of this time it was a small outfit, about 13 people, including children. We lived in France, South Africa, Portugal, and the Philippines, with short stints in Sri Lanka and Singapore.
From 1984 until 1996, I was a member of "Research," the main WS pubs unit. This Selah Home varied in size from 14 to 50, and was responsible for producing the main Family pubs and policy statements as well as training WS staff, rehabilitating leaders, etc. In addition to my pubs work, I was frequently a "camp manager," looking after some of the local business. We often lived close to Mo and Maria's house, and I had regular contact with their staff.
When the Australian persecution started in 1992, I helped formulate policy statements, media releases, news advisories, and court strategies. I had many unpleasant tasks. I read Deborah's book and wrote a rebuttal to a Christian publisher who was thinking of republishing it. I also prepared "discreditation" dossiers on Family detractors.
On September 1 1993, the Argentina persecution started, and Maria and Peter requested that Apollos and I write the WS news releases and oversee the media advisories. I was also subsequently involved in Pearl's court case in London (the BI court case), where, in October 1995, I gave testimony in court as the official representative for Maria, Peter, and WS. During this time I also wrote the Tribute to Mo that is currently on the Family web site.
In late 1996 I asked to leave Research and went to southern California to help establish Family Care Foundation (FCF). I stayed there until August 1998, when I resigned from WS and the CM Family. While at FCF, I served as the Secretary-Director on the Board of Directors, compiled and edited the Glimpses of Heaven booklet and some of the Mountain Stream Mo Letters, shepherded a small WS Home, and helped teach children. After I became FM, I moved and continued working on the Mountain Streams Letters until July 1999, when I broke off all ties with the Family and resigned from the Board of FCF. Thus ended 28 years in the Family.
So why did I leave? Following is the "short version"
Why I Left the Family: The Short Version.
The Family Charter stipulates that Family Members must believe that Mo and Maria (and more recently King Peter) were sent from God. It is not enough to believe in Jesus and the Bible, to love souls and want to serve God. Family Members must also have a strong, unquestioning faith in Mo, Maria, and Peter; accepting them as prophets, kings, and a queen. If Maria and Peter claim that a prophecy, directive, or revelation is the word of God, then good Family Members are bound to wholeheartedly accept it as such, no matter how weird it is. A Family Member could say with conviction, "Ours is not to reason why."
There was a time when I had that kind of faith, but I gradually lost it. In my years of closely working with Mo, Maria, and Peter, especially during the persecution of the early 1990's, I came to see them not as the loving, anointed leaders and shepherds of the end-time army of David, but rather as abusive, controlling, manipulative, self-centred, deceitful, and callous leaders who were willing to do just about anything to save their reputations and preserve their image.
However, even after this became apparent to me, I hoped that things might change, or that I could get far enough away from them to where I could do something useful. But the doctrines got weirder, and Maria and Peter insisted that everyone "get on board" and accept without reservation everything that appeared in the Good News (GNs) magazines. Several GNs on doubts, and Letters such as The Year of the Bottom Line, made it clear that my days in the Family were numbered. I had personally witnessed too many of Maria and Peter's moral and spiritual failings, not to mention those of the recently-deceased-and-reborn-as-a-ghost Mo, to believe that everything they said was the revealed word and will of God. To the contrary, I was convinced that many of their new policies and doctrines were unscriptural, harmful, and pernicious. Having been part of a similar mindless insanity in the 1980s and early 1990s, and having seen the havoc that their misguided spiritual leadership had already wreaked in so many lives, I wanted no part of it. I had no choice but to leave. And in hindsight, I thank God that I did.
So that's the short version, and you can close the file now if you wish. All done! But...if you want to keep reading, I'll explain the story in greater detail. Some of it is quite depressing, so prepare yourself.
The degree to which Mo, Maria, and Peter promoted and then covered up the sexual abuse of children in the Family fundamentally altered my perception of them. I was part of the WS editorial team that wrote and edited the Family Statements in the early 1990s. The most explosive subjects that we had to address were the Family doctrines and practices concerning sexual contact with minors. I eventually became the WS in-house specialist, writing the 1992 Child Abuse Statement, and assisting with other pubs on the subject. For several years the controversy surrounding this subject would not die, so it remained a large part of my life and took a toll on my faith.
I'm going to start by mentioning three general facts concerning the issue of adults having sexual contact with minors in the Family. These have been firmly established, and are not contested by any of the parties involved. I'll then outline the chronology of events and how Mo, Maria, and Peter addressed them. And then I'll explain how all this affected my perception of Mo, Maria, and Peter as prophets, kings, and queen.
1. Mo, Maria, and Peter advocated sexual contact with minors. This is documented in publications such as The Davidito Book, The Techi Book, many FSMs and FNs from the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as Mo Letters such as The Devil Hates Sex. Mo provided the doctrinal foundation, but Maria and Peter, as editors of Mo's Letters and overseers of the FNs, FSMs, Davidito Book and other Family publications, actively promoted adult-child sexual contact in the Family.
If you want a refresher on the contents of the FNs and FSMs that Maria and Peter published, read the Judgment of Lord Justice Ward. As you may know, this is the lengthy document that Lord Justice Ward, the judge in the BI court case, wrote and distributed at the conclusion of Pearl's court case. It quotes many FNs, FSMs, and Letters. The complete text of this Judgment can be found on the Internet at [Judgment of Lord Justice Ward]. It is generally a truthful document and as such, quite sobering. I am familiar with it, as I had to study it extensively before giving testimony in late 1995.
2. Children in the Family were sexually abused. Many individuals have testified that, as children in the Family, adults sexually abused them. The Family leadership acknowledged this in the infamous 1986 Liberty or Stumbling Block memo, authored by Sara Davidito. Maria sent this unambiguous document to the Homes with instructions that, because of its many incriminating admissions, it should be burned as soon as Family Members had read it. It was the first of many Burn After Reading (BAR) publications. Following are some excerpts.
This memo prohibited Family adults from having further sexual contact with minors. In so doing, Sara clearly stated that many children had already been abused. Several subsequent WS pubs quoted excerpts of this memo, in order to prove that in 1986, Family leadership had outlawed sexual contact with minors. However, whenever a court requested the full version, it remained mysteriously unavailable.
3. Mo, through his writings, was primarily responsible for the sexual abuse of minors in the Family. In October 1995, Peter publicly acknowledged this in his letter to Lord Justice Ward, which was published in GN 653. Peter wrote,
Essentially, Peter acknowledged that Mo, through his writings and by virtue of his spiritual authority and the position of trust that he held in the hearts and minds of Family Members, had literally created sexual offenders amongst Family Members. What an indictment.
It was extremely difficult for Maria and Peter to make these admissions. Indeed, for seven years, they had done everything possible to avoid admitting any wrongdoing and responsibility. If you follow the chronology of events with me, you'll understand.
Child Abuse Statement, 1988
Oh, what a tangled web you weave, When first you practice to deceive! (MOP: Honesty, 12)
In late 1988, Mo, Maria, and Peter published "Child Abuse?!" the first public Family document to address the accusations that the Family promoted adults having sexual contact with minors. It dismissed all allegations as lies fomented by our vicious, embittered, disgruntled, and antichrist enemies. (Over the years, so much was blamed on these faceless people, along with "weak and immature Family leadership" and "Family Members who got into some excesses and took things to the extreme, using such liberties as an occasion for the flesh." I and a few others came to cynically view them all as "the usual suspects" who could be vilified whenever necessary!) "Child Abuse!?" refuted charges that The Davidito Book condoned sexual contact with minors, claiming,
This Statement died a quick, shameful death when detractors held up copies of old Mo Letters such as The Devil Hates Sex, which Mo had written and published years earlier, in 1980. In this Letter, Mo wrote,
Second Child Abuse Statement, 1992
All this darkness of cover-up & deceit & hypocrisy & deliberate lies. It's been horrible & God's been furious about it & hates it! I don't think they or even we realize how horrible it is, how it looks to God! The lies, the cover-up, the darkness, the hypocrisy, the deceit! It's everything opposite to God and the Spirit and the Truth and the Lord and Love (Spokes of Light, ML#1399:8).
In mid-1992, WS published a new improved Statement that again refuted allegations of sexual abuse of minors. I was the principal author of this Statement. The goal was to reassure the public and the authorities that sexual contact between adults and minors was forbidden in the Family. This would not only help in existing legal proceedings, but also give innocent Family Members a tool that could help shield them from police raids.
The Statement conceded that some sexual contact with minors had occurred, but that Mo and Maria never knowingly condoned it. Rather, some weak and immature Family Members (the usual suspects!) took some of Mo's extreme statements too literally. And of course, as soon as Mo and Maria heard about it, they put a stop to it. While this Statement was a step in the right direction, it contained significant lies and deliberate deceptions in that it failed to acknowledge that Mo, Maria, and Peter had intentionally promoted adults having sexual contact with minors. They were covering up, and asking Family Members to believe and assist them in this cover-up.
I had a difficult time writing this Statement. It was increasingly apparent that many Family Members, both adults and children, had suffered terribly as a result of these perverted sexual doctrines. And yet I knew that Mo, Maria, and Peter still believed that the doctrine was not inherently wrong, and that adult-child sexual contact could be appropriate, "if done in accordance with the Law of Love." This seemed to often be the case in their house.
Maria was loath to concede much ground on this issue. Rather, she looked for evidence to corroborate her views that adult-child sex was beneficial. Previously she had included excerpts on child sexuality in the Good Thots books (pages 1498-1500). Interestingly enough, these were published in May, 1987, after the Liberty or Stumbling Block memo had been sent out, banning adult-child sex. One excerpt of the Good Thots book stated,
In 1992, she actually asked us to contact the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), an organisation that advocated adult men having sex with young boys. She considered subscribing to their newsletter until we discovered that two-thirds of their readership was in prison.
Maria was also reluctant to enforce existing Family rules that prohibited Family adults from having sexual contact with minors. In one case, a Family leader on the field got sexually involved with a young teen girl. He should have been excommunicated. Afraid of losing him, Maria sentenced him to a one-day secret excommunication! So it was difficult for me to unequivocally condemn sexual contact with minors in this Statement when I knew that the leaders still secretly condoned it.
Nevertheless, I did see this Statement as an opportunity to achieve two unspoken goals. The first was to prevent Mo and Maria from tolerating any child-adult sex on the sly. Sadly, children in the Family had to be protected from their leaders. Secondly, this Statement could override the authority of the erratic Mo Letters. I, along with a few others, had perceived that these Statements constituted on-the-record commitments by the Family leadership to the public. If properly crafted, they could become de facto Family rules and policy. Therefore, some of us attempted to make the various Statements as strong as possible. We did not sit around talking about such things in meetings; to do so would be treason. But we sincerely wished to establish safeguards and subtly introduce Mo, Maria, and Peter to a novel concept; accountability for their words and actions.
The 1992 Child Abuse Statement was successful in that it blunted the allegations. However, it had an unintended secondary effect. Much to Maria's dismay, many Family members, especially teens, actually believed the Statement, and concluded that adult-child sexual contact was wrong. Therefore, Mo must have got it wrong in the Letters that he had previously written, such as The Devil Hates Sex. Maria became concerned about these heretical ideas, and in early 1993 she commissioned GN 555, Our Beliefs on the Law of Love. In it she wrote,
For the past year or two, Mo had been uncharacteristically quiet concerning the allegations of child abuse. In 1993 he reaffirmed his views in Why Do Ye Stone Us? (ML#2835). In order to bolster her argument, Maria included excerpts of it in GN#555.
GN#555 was a great leap backward. I opposed it, arguing that it would be used against us in court to prove that the leopard had not changed its spots. After a two-month debate, Maria published it. It soon surfaced in the BI court case, and Lord Justice Ward made specific reference to it in his Judgement. He wrote,
The next major event came in mid -1995. The BI court case was drawing to a close and Lord Justice Ward privately issued his Judgement to the parties concerned. He concluded in part,
Lord Justice Ward also acknowledged that attitudes and conditions in the Family seemed to be improving. He ruled that providing certain conditions were met, Pearl's son would remain a ward of the court, but that the court would grant Pearl care and control of her son, and that they could live in a Family Home. He outlined these conditions and then wrote,
Maria and Peter complied in GN#653, and the case was "won." In addition to Peter's letter, which I have already quoted, Maria wrote in that GN,
What a change from GN#555.
GN#653 broke a lot of new theological ground for the Family. I studied it for two weeks before being cross-examined in court. Among other things, it contained prophecy saying that in the eyes of God, all sex with minors had now been upgraded to a sin.
I remember asking when it had become a sin. In 1993, Maria had said in GN#555 that it was not a sin. When did the upgrade take place? No one knew the answer.
GN#653 also revived an old comment that Mo had made in the original statement on Child Abuse in 1988. At that time Mo had written,
To backtrack a bit, those of us involved in refuting the allegations of child abuse had always liked this quote. It was unambiguous, and contained the magic word, "renounce." Mo was in effect saying, "I was wrong." When writing the 1992 Child Abuse Statement, I had asked to use it, but neither Maria nor Peter were enthusiastic about it. Maria loathed admitting that Mo could be wrong about anything. In GN 555, she made no mention of renouncing Mo's writings.
Why the change of heart? Lord Justice Ward was now holding a gun to Maria's head, urging her to recant. So she and Peter resurrected and actually amplified this quote. In GN#653 it read,
A far cry from the "no compromise" bravado of GN#555.
Back Flipping, Double Thinking, and Mind-Bending
Beloved, have you donned the Magic Green Shirt of God's Spirit of truth & honesty? --Do you have the power of Christ's Spirit dwelling in your heart so that you do not lie nor deceive nor cheat & are always honest with others? (Magic Green Shirt; ML#629:61)
As you can see, Mo, Maria, and Peter did a great deal of lying, theological back flipping, double thinking, and general mind-bending. In 1988, they knowingly lie and claim never to have condoned sexual contact with minors. For good measure, Mo renounces any writings that may appear to do so. In 1992, the second Statement admits that it did happen, but it was never condoned. In 1993, GN#555 says that all sex with minors is not inherently evil; Mo laments that we had to stop the "good" sex with minors as well as the bad, and God in prophecy says that the Family leadership should never make any doctrinal compromises on this issue. Then in 1995, GN#653 tells us that God has now said in prophecy that all sex with minors, even the "good" sex, is a sin, that Mo agreed with this as far back as 1988, and Maria and Peter affirm that sexual abuse did happen and that Mo was responsible for it, and they should never have published many controversial pubs, Letters, etc.
It took Maria and Peter seven years to admit the obvious; sexual abuse of minors had occurred in the Family, Mo was directly responsible for it, and it is a sin in the eyes of God.
By now you probably think that I am obsessed with this issue. Keep in mind though that these were not academic exercises to me. Because Mo, Maria, and Peter waffled and lied, or shot themselves in the foot, as was the case with GN#555, I spent years dealing with this unsavoury topic, and it depressed me deeply.
I gradually came to the inescapable conclusion that neither Mo, nor Maria, nor Peter were ever truly sorry for advocating that adults have sexual contact with minors. They were terribly sorry, however, that after years of dodging the bullets, Lord Justice Ward had finally caught them, and forced them to publicly admit that Mo was wrong, and responsible for the harm that children had suffered. If he had not put the gun to Maria and Peter's heads, I doubt that they would have made such an unambiguous admission of wrongdoing and guilt, or shed any crocodile tears of remorse. They published GN#555 because they wanted to; they published GN#653 because they were forced to.
When GN#653 came out, I laughingly told Apollos that it reminded me of Mo's anecdote about the Mormons, who practiced polygamy in their early days. The US Army surrounded the Mormon headquarters at Salt Lake City and told them to repent and stop their polygamy, or prepare to perish. After praying in their temple, the Mormon elders proclaimed that they had received a divine revelation that polygamy was a sin!
While Mo, Maria, and Peter's conduct was laughably pathetic, the price that many Family Members paid for it was steep. One of the British lawyers expressed it well. After reading Peter and Maria's admissions in GN#653, he exclaimed, "My God, why didn't you say this three years ago? We could have avoided the whole case!"
Think of the incredible amounts of money that Mo, Maria, and Peter wasted by letting the case drag on. Expensive lawyers had to be paid; an expensive Home had to be maintained in London. Family and expert witnesses were flown in from all over the world. Our small WS delegation had to fly to London for the final day in court. Just the airfare and two weeks living expenses in a short-term rental house in downtown London cost several thousand dollars.
Think of the hundreds of thousands of hours of work that dedicated Family Members put into the case. Think of the toll it took on their minds and spirits. Think of all the Family Members who testified in court and refused to say anything derogatory about Mo, simply because the leadership had given no indication that it was ok to do so. Think of the anguish they went through. Think of people like Matt, a Family officer in England, who left the Family because, as he wrote to Maria and Peter, he could no longer publicly defend the Family, knowing that the leaders refused to renounce child sex. Mo, Maria, and Peter allowed all of this rather than utter three words: "We were wrong."
So I slowly lost faith in Mo, Maria, and Peter's motives and judgement. It was difficult to come to grips with, but I had seen them cover up the truth, as well as defame and blame others for their own misdeeds, in order to protect themselves. They had lied to and deceived Family Members and asked Family Members to lie for them. I did not see shepherds who gave their lives for the sheep. Rather, I saw shepherds who were unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, shepherds who hoodwinked the sheep into laying down their lives for the shepherds. What a travesty.
I know that in some instances, tactical manoeuvring was necessary. But in spite of any justifications for their conduct, it became difficult for me to unquestioningly believe that everything that Maria and Peter published in GNs was the word of God and should be obeyed as such. Yet a few years later, this is what they were demanding.
Well, enough on that. Now I'll move to a related subject. Equally depressing, I'm sad to say.
MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN
The Tragic Saga of Mene Berg.
What Mene Berg went through was a form of torture.
...Maria and Peter stood by and watched it happen and approved of what was happening. They showed little more sensitivity and insight than their at times demented leader.
They [The Family] must acknowledge that what David Berg did to his granddaughter was wrong, not just a mistake, but inexcusably wrong.
[The Family] must atone for their treatment of her which I find to have been barbaric and cruel.
--The Judgement of Lord Justice Ward.
Sometimes we've got to see sin like God sees it: A stinking, icky cesspool! (Spokes of Light, ML 1399:15)
I was deeply affected by the horrible abuse that Mene suffered at the hands of Mo, Maria, and Peter. She was a high-profile character during the years of persecution, especially in the BI case. The following material should help refresh your memory about her ordeal.
Mene's account of "Life with Grandpa." Given in court in London during Pearl's case. Excerpts from the Judgement of Lord Justice Ward.
Excerpts from the Judgement of Lord Justice Ward concerning Mene.
Mene's story is a tragedy. I am ashamed to even be aware of the cruel treatment that she endured. She was raised in the Family and introduced to sex with adults at an early age. When she was 11, Mo asked her to live in his house and shortly afterwards began abusing her. When Mene responded negatively to such loving care, Mo and Maria forced her to endure physical and psychological torture at their house for months. They then banished her to a victor camp where she was treated in a manner that would drive anyone crazy. Mene finally left the Family and went to the U.S. to seek medical attention.
As Lord Justice Ward mentioned, it would be hard to for anyone who was not there to believe Mene's allegations, except that Maria, in her infinite wisdom, published two long GNs and a Hope magazine on the subject. Maria intended to demonize Mene in the eyes of the Family, and scare the hell out of any young people who were possibly entertaining similar "doubts" about their kind "Grandpa."
What was Mene's crime? Was she a hardened criminal of some kind, perhaps a murderer, who deserved harsh treatment? No, she was a young, idealistic girl who had just reached adolescence. Her “crime” was doubting Mo, whose drunken, sexual advances she was obliged to submit to, night after night—Her own grandfather! Perhaps her real crime lay in her stars. She had the misfortune to be born into the Family, and to be a granddaughter of David, the Love Prophet.
Mene Speaks Out
There is nothing hidden that won't be revealed! What was whispered in the ears now will be shouted from the housetops!--Mat.10:26, 27. God HATES cover-ups, He HATES hypocrisy, lies & deceit! (Spokes of Light, ML#1399;27)
In mid-1992, Mene began to publicly speak against the Family, telling her story. Can anyone blame her? Put yourself in her shoes. View what happened through her eyes. If any of us had suffered as she had, wouldn't we warn others, so that their children would not be abused? Would we not do what we could to prevent what happened to us from happening to others? In response, Maria launched a campaign that further discredited Mene, writing Letters such as False Accusers in the Last Days, in which she depicted Mene as a whacko. "She's crazy, how can you believe anything she says?"
Mo, Maria and Peter were afraid of Mene, not because she was crazy, nor because she was lying, but because she was telling the sordid, shameful truth about the abuse she had personally suffered at their hands. Mene was their worst nightmare come true. Her testimony, fully corroborated in Family publications, validated the accusations of child abuse, and directly implicated the leader. The usual suspects, weak and immature Family leaders or members, were nowhere to be found. Mene's testimony struck at the man-god, the head and heart of the movement, and threatened to destroy him. Maria must have been furious.
In early 1993, I had the shameful task of compiling a discreditation package about Mene. In order to combat the accusations of some high-profile detractors, Peter and a few of us had concluded that if we could not discredit the allegations, (which was often difficult, as they were truthful), we would discredit the character, or credibility, of the individuals making the allegations. Scientology had effectively used this tactic, known as "black propaganda," against their detractors. The dossier on Mene was weak. How do you discredit an innocent child without discrediting yourself? The material was never used, but I will always be ashamed for participating in this attempt to cover up the God-awful truth.
When I gave testimony in Pearl's case in late 1995, we decided that I would admit that Mene had told the truth. We were not taking the moral high ground, but rather cooperating with the inevitable. Lord Justice Ward believed her, so if we continued to maintain that she was lying, we risked losing the case. Peter also privately agreed to apologise to Mene.
A few months later, an opportunity arose to make this apology. Sara Davidito was visiting Texas, and an intermediary asked Mene to come to Texas, so Sara could apologise on behalf of Maria and Peter. But what was the apology for? Maria and Peter directed Sara to say, "We're sorry that we did not get you medical help sooner." I remember thinking, "My God, what about the sexual abuse, the beatings, the confinement, the emotional abuse, the demonizing in Family publications and the media, the denials, the cover-ups, the lies?" It was not Mene's fault that she was born into the Family and suffered so much. She was a child. As it turned out, Mene refused to meet with Sara.
Maria and Peter never apologized to Mene. In GN#653, they offered apologies to children and adults who may have been hurt in the Family. Well, what about Mene? If Maria and Peter were really, truly sorry, wouldn't they have run to the one child who they had personally harmed and beg for forgiveness? And then, seeing as they had publicly demonized her and lied about her to the Family, wouldn't they have told Family Members the truth, to set the record straight? Wouldn't that have been the Christian thing to do, if they really wanted to make amends?
I doubt that Maria and Peter will ever apologise to Mene. Abner is Mene's brother. A few years ago he left the Family. But while he was still in WS, he asked Peter if an apology would ever be forthcoming. Peter rebuked him, saying that such a question was very out-of-the-spirit.
In GN#653, while shedding crocodile tears, Maria wrote about the abuse that many young people claimed to have suffered while in the Family,
How could she be so pious, when she directly participated in the torture and abuse of Mene? I consoled myself with the knowledge that, since what happened to Mene was true, the conduct of Mo, Maria, and Peter was "a reproach to the Family, and a reproach to the cause of Christ!" Truer words were never spoken!
When I think of Mene, I am often reminded of the verse in John 11, where Caiaphas, the high priest, unknowingly prophesied "It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people" (John 11: 50). In a sense, innocent Mene suffered for the sins of Mo, Maria, and Peter. She had to endure abuse and torture to the point where she probably wished she could die, so that Mo, Maria, and Peter could preserve their reputations.
Mo, Maria, and Peter's True Nature
I don't want you covering up anymore! That's not love!--To throw the veil over all the evil! Covering up is really of the devil! (ML#662:76, #675:24)
Mo, Maria, and Peter's mistreatment of Mene revealed an evil side of their characters that I tried to ignore for a long time. Think about what they did. As a pre-adolescent, Mene was sexually abused in an environment that Mo created, "the house that David built." Mo then abused her personally. When she started doubting, Mo, Maria, and Peter further abused her, and denied her medical care, as she knew too much. They then sent her to a victor camp for detention teens, where the abuse continued until she had a complete psychological breakdown. She was then shunted off to the U.S. for her grandmother to care for her. Meanwhile Maria was publishing GNs demonizing Mene, warning other young people, "Don't have doubts about God's prophet like Mene did, or you'll go crazy too!" And when Mene warned the public, Maria, knowing the truth, orchestrated a massive cover-up, deliberately lying to the Family in such Letters as False Accusers in the Last Days, persuading us to view Mene as the enemy and a tool of the devil.
At the same time, Maria Letters and Policy Statements were saying, "Oh, we never knew that any of this sexual contact with minors was happening, and when we found out, we stopped it right away. Shame on those weak and immature Family Members!" The truth was, Mo, Maria, and Peter had promoted and partaken of it in their own house, the whole time!
What does Mo, Maria, and Peter's conduct tell us about them? They abused Mene in two different ways. First, there is the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that they inflicted on her. Then they in effect re-abused her by telling her and everyone around her that she had not been abused, and that she was now a big problem. They portrayed the victim as the problem. How did that make Mene feel? Struggling to hold onto what little sanity she had left, Mo, Maria, and Peter told her that she was the biggest problem that they ever had. But she had done nothing wrong, other than to doubt the prophet after he had repeatedly abused her. The truth was, Mo, Maria, and Peter were the problem, and Mene was their innocent, helpless victim. Mene deserves to be vindicated in the eyes of Family Members.
There is more to the Mene story, but it is too depressing to relate. It is literally a shame to even speak of these things. As I said, I am so ashamed of myself for having any knowledge of Mene's ordeal. Mo, Maria, and Peter's inexcusable conduct significantly destroyed my faith in them. I'm not sure how it works in the Next World, but in this life Maria and Peter have yet to atone for the cruelty that they inflicted on Mene. As the prophecy says in Daniel 5:27, "Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting."
As a postscript to this sordid tale, I recently learned that after Mene left Mo's house in 1986, he continued to have sexual contact with another young girl! And he had the nerve to write years later, in 1993,
THE BEAT GOES ON
Looking back, I think that the only way I managed to cope with all of Mo, Maria, and Peter's "high weirdness" was by subconsciously “compartmentalizing” my mind. I knew Mo, Maria, and Peter were responsible for the abuse of many children in the Family. Yet I still had some sort of fundamental faith in them and in the good that many Family Members were doing. I hoped for a better future. If the Family could just win these persecution-related battles, I reasoned, then as an organization, we could reform and purge the excess. Hopes of a brighter tomorrow kept me going. So I pushed many things into mental compartments, closed the doors, and tried not to open them. To do so was too depressing.
By mid-1995, some good things were happening. Persecution had forced the Family to go above ground. The Charter gave Family Members more freedom and protection from the excesses of their leaders. Maria and Peter had an opportunity to make changes after Mo died. With GN 653, it seemed that they would clean up their act and govern the Family on an even keel, with more checks and balances.
But in hindsight, I see that I was naïve. In July of 1995, we at Research had already received advance copies of Loving Jesus. These were more dogmatic than the versions that Maria and Peter eventually published, stating that whoever did not love Jesus sexually was yielded to the devil. The pressure to accept this "revelation" was immense.
Maria also published a few GNs that documented her sex life with Peter, as well as accounts of Peter's victories over jealousy. She wanted Family Members to have more sex and live the Law of Love. If she detailed her revolutionary sex life in the GNs, she reasoned, Family Members would follow her example. The advance copy of one GN documented how Maria performed oral sex on both Matthew and Peter in the space of a few hours. I and a few other people at Research wrote her a long reaction, tactfully explaining why this was not a good idea, given that the BI court case was still going on. I remember thinking, "Why, after all that we have been through, do I need to be wasting my time begging the leaders of our movement not to publish things that are guaranteed to cause the Family huge problems? Why can't they figure these things out for themselves?"
Maria and Peter appeared at times to be incredibly arrogant, stupid, and out of touch; almost as if they had a deep-seated death wish. Peter wrote letters to Lord Justice Ward, reassuring him that the Family was a safe place for Pearl to raise her children, and then he published graphic accounts of his sex life in the GNs. For a few years, Apollos and I spent a significant amount of our time trying to prevent this kind of foolishness. Towards the end of our time in the Family, we felt as if we had been throwing ourselves in front of a very determined train, in the hopes that it would slow down. Occasionally it worked, but increasingly, the train went right on over us.
(In the years before Mo died, we regularly performed a similar role in trying to tone down his caustic diatribes about the "Goddamn antichrist Jews" or the "savage Blacks." With the persecution, Peter finally realised that Mo's racist views could potentially destroy the Family. In 1993 he asked Apollos and I to do some research and suggest to Mo that maybe his interpretation of the "sons of Ham" issue needed re-examination. Mo eventually recanted, blaming his skewered views on his mother's teachings. I remember thinking, though, that an end-time prophet, who claims to hear directly from God, should have taken a little more care about teaching that an entire race is inferior and cursed. I didn’t feel that Mo's "Oops, sorry about that..." apology was good enough when he had indoctrinated a generation of children with his racist views.)
NO MORE ABSOLUTE FAITH
In late October 1995, we won the BI court case, our last major legal battle, and for a few days I was euphoric. The weeks preceding my day in court had been extremely intense, as we had spent long hours dealing with many painful and depressing issues, such as the sexual abuse of minors in the Family. The thought of no longer being preoccupied with such subjects was inspiring, to say the least. For me, it was as if a new, hopefully more enlightened era of the Family was beginning. The war was over and we could start planning a rewarding peace.
As a result of the persecution, I had painfully concluded that Mo, Maria, and Peter were literally the worst enemies of the Family. In GN 653, Maria and Peter had admitted guilt as concerns the allegations that fuelled the persecution. Mo had promoted sex with minors, and children had been abused as a direct result. If Mo had never advocated adults having sex with minors, it would not have been a significant issue. Police would probably not have raided Homes and apprehended 600 children. As I saw it, the only thing that saved the Family from being destroyed was that no sexual abuse of minors was uncovered. Most Family Members had enough good sense not to follow the advice and example of their leader. So Mo's lust, stupidity, and arrogance was the primary cause of the persecution, not the false accusations of his bitter, vicious, and antichrist enemies.
So I started this post-persecution era with a deep conviction that from now on, I was going to be more careful, prayerful, and circumspect about my conduct and beliefs. I still had some faith in Peter and Maria, and some fond personal memories of Mo, but it was no longer absolute, unswerving, and unquestioning faith. I could no longer completely trust them. They had proven themselves to be "men of like passions," who were stubborn, made terrible mistakes, covered their sins, and deliberately mislead the Family. They needed checks and balances, just like anyone else.
In late 1993, I had a discussion with a girlfriend in Research about (what else!) child sex. I suggested that perhaps the Law of Love could not really be applied to sex with minors. She matter-of-factly replied, “Well, I believe whatever Mama believes!” This sounded quite mindless, especially as I had seen Maria change her mind so often.
There had been a time when I was susceptible to such a mindset, but it was past. It seemed to me that Family Members had earned the right to think, to reason, and to prayerfully draw their own conclusions on certain matters, to be fully persuaded in their own mind. They should be permitted to disagree with their leaders and say, without fear of reprimand, “Well, you can believe that if you want to, but I’m not so sure. I don’t agree with it and I am not going to be a part of it." Wishful thinking.
THE NEW WINE
"I can't believe that!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "Why sometimes, I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
--Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll.
Beginning in early 1995, Maria and Peter increasingly used "the new wine" of prophecy to shape Family doctrine and practices.
Who Said They're Dead? (Aka The Grateful Dead!)
In late October 1995, I returned to Research from the court case in London to discover that Maria was launching the "Who Said They're Dead?" push. We listened to her letter explaining this wonderful revelation, which had no absolutely basis in Scripture. It all was so, simply because Maria said so. Members of our Home looked over a list of about 50 dead celebrities and decided who they wanted to commune with. I graciously declined. I was quite upset, thinking, "Did we spend the last few years fighting and bleeding and sacrificing only so that we could now sink to new depths of insanity, just because Maria claims to have received a revelation?" I found it unbelievable.
This was a turning point in my life in the Family, truly a defining moment. I inwardly vowed that I would never defend Family doctrines again. I would never lift a finger to present the Family in a good light, or work on public relations material that covered up the leadership's misdeeds and their perverted doctrines. I was tired of throwing myself in front of their trains, trying to get them to slow down. Never again. I more or less stopped reading the GNs. In my heart, I was ashamed to be a member of the Family.
Thomas More: Silence is Golden
From this time on, Thomas More became my role model for survival. Have you ever seen the movie "A Man for All Seasons?" I studied the play in high school. It is about Thomas More, who was the Chancellor of England when King Henry VIII was breaking away from the Catholic Church. Thomas was a committed Catholic. He did not oppose Henry; he simply said nothing. As time went on, his silence became deafening. Eventually, all Englishmen had to swear an oath of allegiance to Henry as head of the new Church of England. When More refused to, Henry imprisoned and finally executed him. However, More clearly stated his convictions before dying. And when he mounted the scaffold, he proclaimed, "I remain the king's obedient servant, but God's first." I adapted an attitude similar to that of More. I did not speak against Maria and Peter. Of course, I was not equivalent to the Chancellor, as I was not important.
The new wine doctrines became progressively more bizarre. Jesus told us about things never mentioned in the Bible, and Mo rambled on for hours. Genghis Khan, Marilyn, Mao Tsetung (who is the worst mass murderer in recorded history), River Phoenix, Jerry Garcia, and a host of others spoke freely. The poor girls who died in the 1995 Austin accident spoke out. Maria and Peter had the nerve to send prophecies to the man who had lost his wife in that accident. The prophecies were from his dead wife, saying, in effect, "Please don't sue the Family." Unbelievable. Art Linkleter spoke from the grave about children to a member of Maria and Peter's staff. It was embarrassing when they discovered that Art was still alive. Oops.
In late August 1996, I applied to join the General Pubs Unit (GPU) in the States. I had two reasons for going. My primary desire was to escape the continual high-pressure DO doctrinal weirdness at Research. I wanted to help create wholesome GP lit that would reach the unsaved with the simple message of Jesus' love. As well, it seemed that by being farther a field, I could continue to believe what I wanted to believe without being hassled and subjected to doctrinal inquisitions. So I went to California and helped start Family Care Foundation (FCF), serving on the Board of Directors as Secretary Director. I stayed there for almost two years.
I soon discovered the truth of the adage, "You can run, but you cannot hide." I could not hide from the new wine. In early 1997, Maria and Peter published a number of GNs about doubts, saying that whoever doubted one teensy bit of the new wine was in dire straits and would eventually doubt all the Letters, the Bible, Jesus, and God. These GNs depressed and frustrated me. In the past I had sincerely tried to "believe it all;" but Maria and Peter would then send some wild, offensive, non-sensical whiz-banger down the pipeline. To believe it all would involve becoming a mindless zombie and suspending all common sense, wisdom, discernment, and Scriptural concept of right and wrong. I couldn't do that. The past had shown that such a mindset bore terrible fruit. Besides, I was capable of rejecting one bizarre prophecy without doubting the Bible and God’s existence. Given all that I had experienced, I thought that some scepticism was pretty healthy, an essential skill to surviving in the Family!
The Gospel According to Trudgy and Zippy: Galatians 1:6
However, and I know I'm getting sidetracked here; maybe this is why so many young people who leave the Family discard all their faith. They have been taught that to doubt one prophecy is to doubt everything, so they toss God out, along with the false prophecies. Apollos once wrote me about this, articulating what he felt were the effects of much of the new wine on Family young people. He's convinced, as I am, that the new wine has unnecessarily stumbled and caused countless young people to forsake their faith, due to confusion and disillusionment. Here's how he expressed it:
Mo, the Friendly Ghost!
I soldiered on at FCF, working on some decent GP pubs. However, in my heart I knew that my days were numbered, as unquestioning faith in the new wine was fast becoming the unspoken prerequisite for CM membership. And the new wine and new weapons kept getting more bizarre. We received Letters such as Eat Right! (#3180), in which Mo, like Casper the Friendly Ghost, was flying around in the spirit, looking for junk food in the pantries of Family Homes!
Praise the Lord, dear Family! How would you like a new MO Letter?--Hot off the griddle! God bless Dad! He's really one for telling it like it is, no holds barred!
And then we received Stop the Gossip Now! (#3187), in which Mo was eavesdropping on gossipers, threatening to kick the culprits out of the Family if they did not mend their wicked ways.
How does a dead person kick people out of the Family? It was hard to even pay lip service to such insanity.
Prophetic Zigging and Zagging
The new wine regularly intruded into every aspect of our pubs work at FCF. Maria and Peter often sent contradictory prophecies to guide us. Apollos and I joked that receiving instructions from Maria and Peter was like an airline pilot being told by flight control to fly from Los Angeles to London. Halfway through the trip, the flight control tells the pilot to alter course and go to Cuba instead, and then rebukes the pilot for not being sensitive enough to "the whispers" to figure it out himself.
On one occasion, in early 1997, Maria and Peter sent Apollos some completely mind-bending whiz-banger prophecies concerning a booklet that he was preparing. After reading the prophecies, I recall looking out the window and saying to myself, "Our days are numbered."
About a year later, we were preparing a poster for use in Africa. Maria and Peter sent us a prophecy saying that Jesus should be depicted as a black African. Apollos and I disagreed with them, and decided to survey some Family Members in Africa about it. They responded that in their opinion, it would be best to portray Jesus as Middle Eastern. We informed Maria and Peter, and they replied with a prophecy saying, "Yeah, good idea, proceed, God agrees too." It was a trial.
Jac Sailor lived in the same WS Home as us, illustrating the GNs. One day he got a cheery note from the GN editor, along with a prophecy saying that Jac was yielded to the devil because the art on one GN was not right. What an edifying comment for someone who had spent most of his adult life in WS, illustrating the GNs.
In the advance copy of a GN, the ghost of Mo said, "As I've always said, 'Money is the root of all evil.'" Well, anyone who knew Mo knew that he never said that. He always emphasised, as does the Bible, that, "The love of money is the root of all evil." Big difference.
When I was editing the Mountain Streams, I worked via email with some of the editors at Research. They would regularly suggest or reject a word change, saying, "I prayed about it, and Mo told me to make that change." Apparently when Mo was not tracking down junk food junkies and gossips, he moonlighted as a copy editor.
This is just some of the foolishness that we endured. At times, it seemed that Maria and Peter had gone through the closet into Narnia, and couldn't figure out how to get back to the real world. The comparison is all the more humorous when you recall that Peter, one of the children in the story, becomes a general and "King Peter the Magnificent" in Narnia. No doubt it was more exciting than the real world!
For me, the ultimate example of this idiocy came six days after I emailed my letter of resignation to Maria and Peter, bluntly explaining everything. It was my birthday, and a member of Maria and Peter's staff, who I knew well, sent me a file containing a birthday prophecy from Mo. It said in part.
Honestly, if Mo was really speaking to Maria and Peter several times a day, surely he would have read my letter! Maria and Peter certainly had. They had received it six days earlier, and I already had their reply in hand. And surely, given Mo's low tolerance for criticism, he would have taken offence at the extremely uncharitable things I had said about him. If he really were alive in some way, he would have viewed me as a heretic. After all, I had dared to say that he, the Emperor, and Maria, the Empress, had no clothes. With all this in mind, would he really be speaking through this staff member with a "business as usual" greeting to me? Of course, this staff member knew nothing about my heresy. If she had, I'm sure the prophecy would have been very different. The scary thing is, these are the prophets who dish out the policy-making prophecies that appear in GNs and effect Family Members the world over.
Maria and Peter have debased the wonderful gift of prophecy. They have twisted and manipulated it to serve their own ends and control the Family, so that it is difficult to believe any of their prophecies. It is similar to taking a stable currency like the Swiss franc, and destroying its value by printing too much, so that it eventually becomes worthless. Their prophecies have become cheap, worthless, fiat spiritual currency, not worth the paper they are printed on.
So that was my take on Maria and Peter's new wine, and their aberrant prophecies. The only way I could deal with the issue was to laugh about it. If I had taken any of it too seriously, I would have probably gone crazy. But even though I discarded it personally, I grew increasingly resentful at how Maria and Peter bullied people into submission with the cudgel of prophecy. My day of reckoning was clearly coming, so I mentally and spiritually prepared for a future outside the Family.
Maria and Peter introduced many policies that were not only theologically insane, but also quite harmful.
Law of Love and the Marriage of the Generations
As anyone who reads CM lit can attest, Maria is obsessed with getting Family Members to be sexually active. Lots of sex with multiple partners is good. Monogamous relationships are bad. In any discussion on the Law of Love, she will insist that sex is not the primary issue. But when the dust settles, you're expected to have lots of sex!
In addition to promoting the Law of love, Maria was eager to introduce the "Marriage of the Generations," which encouraged young Family adults to have sex with Family Members of their parents' generation. Maria hoped that this would help break down the barriers between the two generations. The pilot project took place at the Family Leadership Summit of 1996 in Maryland. Peter encouraged young Family leaders to spend time in bed with older Family leaders.
Maria decided to formally introduce this "Marriage" to the general Family during the 1998 Feast. In September of 1997, she circulated the proposed GNs to the CROs and other Family leaders and solicited their reactions. The GNs contained a high-pressured sales pitch, with lots of spiritual coercion in the form of prophecies. Unexpectedly, the normally docile CROS informed Maria and Peter that if they published these GNs, the Family would possibly disintegrate. Oops. Maria and Peter thanked the CROs, put the project on hold, and hastily produced more prophecies that revealed this delay to be part of God's divine plan.
After re-evaluating the situation, they concluded that before the "Marriage" could work, Family Members had to fully and unquestioningly embrace the Law of Love and become more sexually active. Then, after a decent interval, the Marriage of the Generations could be introduced. By then, they hoped, the 21-year-old girls would not find it quite so distasteful to have sex with men old enough to be their fathers. Different Family Pubs began to soften up the Family. Exhortations to "more fully live the Law of Love" appeared regularly. The ménage a trois of Maria, Peter, and Rebecca was given suitable publicity, and in September and October of 1998, the Homes read a 12-GN series on the Law of Love, some of which I read in advance. (Thankfully, I had left CM status by then and did not have to read the series in its entirety.)
Maria and Peter's manipulation and duplicity upset me greatly. Once again, they were deliberately, systematically creating an over-sexualised atmosphere in Family Homes. In GN 653 they had publicly acknowledged that this had caused terrible problems. As quoted earlier, Peter had written to Lord Justice Ward:
Even if this time round, no children were directly involved, what is young Susie supposed to think when she can't find mommy because mommy is off servicing some man? You can't hide these things in a Home. Children inadvertently see things they shouldn't see. They read Pubs not intended for them. They overhear adult conversations. Teens talk to younger children. In a communal environment, children will find out, and they will inevitably be hurt. How do you explain it to young teens? Does a mother tell her 14-year-old daughter that she can look forward to this when she is 21?
Given their horrendous track record and the many lives that they have ruined, why do Maria and Peter feel they have the right to control, manipulate, and exhaustively regulate this most private, intimate act? What right do they have to dictate what people's sexual values and conduct should be? Many Family Members are middle-aged. The Law of Love has been drilled into them for years. Many have FFed. They have paid their dues in the sexual freedom department. They don't need to be lectured to, or bullied. Why can't Maria and Peter leave them alone to decide what they want to do with their own bodies? Why can't a mother who has several children feel free to care for them without being bombarded with sexual missives, and condemned because she just does not have the energy, or even the desire, to put out?
Maria is Obsessed with Control
After living and working closely with Maria for nearly 20 years, I know the answer. Control. Maria is obsessed with control. She is a control freak. It is in her blood. I could hardly believe it when she relinquished so much power in the Charter. But it did not last for long. As the self-appointed master taster of the new wine, Maria reasserted her control over the Family, to the point that today, if Family Members do not enthusiastically accept and act on everything that she advocates, they are urged to leave the Family. Maria must be in control. And she will never change.
Then there is Loving Jesus (LJ). When advance copies of these GNs were sent to Research in mid-1995, many staff members were so repulsed that they asked if it was a "deal breaker." If Family Members could not accept LJ, did they have to leave the Family? The answer that was later incorporated into the LJ3 GN was, "No." LJ was a gift, and gifts are not forced on people, they are simply offered.
I was one of those who were repulsed. But as much as I was revolted by the thought of telling Jesus that I wanted his penis, I felt that I could live with this. I was free to refuse, so I refused. I was not going to have this foolishness forced on me. Thomas More's survival skills would see me through.
But high-profile Family personalities did not get off so easily. Maria and Peter exerted immense pressure on them to testify publicly how wonderful LJ was. Poor Apollos and others had no peace until they could produce some sort of testimony for publication. Several FSMs with glowing testimonies were subsequently published.
In the months and years that followed, Maria kept LJ in our face, along with comments to the effect that "God would withhold His blessing from anyone who did not love Jesus in this intimate new way." Maria had to exert control. Maybe God wasn't forcing the gift on us, but Maria sure was. Maybe God did not make us feel like second-class citizens, but Maria sure did. By 1998, if any CM Family Members publicly said that they could not and would not believe or practice LJ, they were guilty of "not believing the Word," and in danger of being reclassified to FM status.
Loving Jesus for Children
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).
Two other aspects of LJ disturbed me. First of all, Maria and Peter deliberately introduced the sexual aspects of it to 14-year-olds. Secondly, in the LJ Statement, they knowingly lied to and misled the public by stating that the sexual aspects of LJ were for adults only.
To put this in perspective, let's go back to the infamous GN653. Peter wrote the judge,
Let's see how they did with regards to exposing children to the sexual aspects of LJ. Following are excerpts from many of the LJ GNs that were expressly edited for 14-year-old children in the Family. Please keep in mind that every 14-year-old was and is required to read these.
Wouldn't Lord Justice Ward have been reassured to see how Mama Maria, just two months after writing GN#653, was faithfully fulfilling her mandate to create a safe environment for 14-year-old children? Wouldn't it comfort him to know that once a girl in the Family turns 14, she has to read all these GNs and that she can--but doesn't have to--masturbate as she says loves words to Jesus? And that a 14-year-old boy doesn't have to worry if he has a hard time imagining himself as a woman while he masturbates and says love words to his husband, Jesus? And if neither of them can have an orgasm, well that's ok too. Not to worry. They'll eventually get used to it, and Jesus will bless their efforts by giving them His Spirit and power and anointing. What a relief to know that Maria, the ever-vigilant shepherdess, is fulfilling her commitment to the court. The little lambs are safe in the fold.
Maria originally wanted to give the 14-year-olds the adult version of LJ. Some of us threw ourselves in front of the train, explaining that it would probably be illegal to do so. She grudgingly accepted this watered-down version. Even this, I wrote to her, could be criminal. In some countries it is a criminal offence for an adult in a position of authority or trust to counsel a child to perform a sexual act. She disregarded this advice.
And how was this issue presented to the public? In mid-1996, Apollos completed the LJ Statement. As regards the issue of children being exposed to the sexual aspects of LJ, it stated,
Eroticism with Jesus Is an "Adults Only" Affair
Due to the sexually explicit nature of parts of the Loving Jesus revelation, Maria stressed throughout the series that using intimate or erotic words of love when speaking to the Lord was a private matter. She also reiterated that it would be highly inappropriate to employ sexually explicit terms in public prayers, particularly in the presence of children.
Some of us read the draft of this Statement and offered suggestions. I mentioned to Apollos that it was well written, but that in the above-mentioned excerpt, it wasn't true. Maria had deliberately and personally introduced 14-year-old children to the sexual aspects of LJ. As it stood, the Statement was a lie. A few days later I asked Apollos if he had heard back from Peter about this. He replied, "Peter said to fudge it" (i.e. leave the lie in, and hope we don't get caught). And fudge it we did.
Wouldn't it encourage Lord Justice Ward to see how honest Maria and Peter were in the LJ Statement? No duplicity or deceit here. Surely these are Godly leaders that can be trusted. Yes children, learn a lesson from this, the leopard can change its spots (Jeremiah 23:13)!
I saw first hand the devastation that this twisted LJ doctrine had on some 14-year-olds in our Research Home. One boy in particular, the son of some dear friends, had his faith in Jesus effectively destroyed by the experience. Like many boys his age, he was unsure of everything, and did not want to be in the Family. But he was forced to endure the reading of several LJ GNs over the three days of the Feast in February 1996. He later told his mother that he was revolted by it and had completely rejected Jesus, seeing Him as a big "penie man" who wanted to have sex with him.
Another young boy, the son of another good friend, left the Family after reading the LJ GNs, and has also utterly rejected any faith in God or Jesus. God only knows how many other young people who are or were Family Members have had their faith twisted and destroyed and developed all sorts of problems because of these forced feedings of Scriptural perversions. All for God's glory.
Related to this, it had long been Maria's desire to publish a list of sexually explicit expressions that people could use when making love to Jesus. Deep, spiritual expressions of love and devotion like, "Jesus, I want to feel your penis inside of me and go all the way. And then I want to suck it until it falls off." Each time Maria brought it up, many of us threw ourselves in front of the train and begged her not to, asking why, in this day and age, she was even thinking of publishing things that were pornographic. She would begrudgingly relent, but we knew it was just a matter of time before she tried again. In early 1998, Maria and Peter printed the Cool Sex "how-to" sex handbook in Mexico, and included these expressions on the last four or five pages. US Customs seized the shipment at the border, claiming that the last four pages were pornographic! The books were finally released, but "it was decided," no doubt after much prophecy, to cut out the offending pages before mailing them to the Homes. Oops.
Self-Determination For Children
I became increasingly upset at Maria and Peter's attempts to pour the children of Family Members into a "disciples of the Family" mould. Maria and Peter refused to abandon this mindset, even though it had caused so many problems in the Family. In my view, their intransigence on this issue has caused and will continue to cause an incalculable amount of harm in the lives of the children of Family Members.
For many years, most of us assumed that our children would follow in our footsteps, and we did everything we could to facilitate it. We did not view our children as individuals who would find their own way in life, but rather as disciples of the future. Mo reinforced such thinking, labelling babies as "knew disciples," and claiming that they had a unique spiritual destiny to fulfill, etc. In a sense, we were all advocates of a "cookie cutter religion." As the years passed and the children grew up, some began to leave the Family. At first, most of us were shocked. How could these kids turn their back on God and all the godly training that we had poured into them? Nevertheless, many Family Members gradually came to accept that not every child born of Family Members was going to remain in the Family. Each child would eventually have to make a personal choice as to what he or she wanted to do with his or her life.
In October 1995, this broad issue of self-determination for children came up during the last day of the court proceedings in the BI case in London. As a representative of Maria, Peter, and WS, I was on the stand, giving testimony and being cross-examined. Lord Justice Ward asked me a simple, but important question. "What went wrong?" I started to reply, thinking that he was referring to a specific situation that I was testifying about. He interrupted, clarifying that he was asking, "What went wrong?" in the context of, "What went wrong so that children like Mene were so horribly abused? The Big Picture, "What went wrong?" As I did not immediately answer, he proceeded to tell me. It was clear that he had a lot to get off his chest, so I decided not to interrupt. Wisdom is known of her children. This is what he said, taken from the court transcripts.
Following the case, I broached the subject of self-determination with Peter. A few of us briefly discussed putting it in the Charter, but nothing ever came of it.
I thought a great deal about this issue in the following months. At night I would lie in bed and replay the mental tape of those few hours in court. I concluded that Lord Justice Ward was right; lack of self-determination was the root of the problem. The child abuse, the silence restrictions, the taped mouths, the beatings, the lack of education, the coercion, the fear tactics, the traumatic testimonies; they were all the result of Mo, Maria, and Peter's desire to mould the children into yielded, unthinking disciples of David.
In my opinion the real tragedy is that, having seen all the harm that such a mindset caused, Maria and Peter have not abandoned it. If they had, the Family would be a much better place today. Instead, they adamantly oppose any self-determination for young people. They have discarded the spiritual axiom that "God has no grandchildren;" that each young person has to make a personal choice as to whether to believe in Jesus and serve Him in the Family.
Maria and Peter no longer coerce young people physically, but instead concentrate on intense spiritual indoctrination, using the voices of God, Jesus, the departed spirits, spirit helpers, and the beloved Mo to keep the sheep in the fold. They spend vast sums on publications aimed at indoctrinating children of Family Members into becoming unquestioning, adoring, mindless, "yielded" followers. They inundate children at early ages with bizarre new-wine-laced stories and novels. And when the children get older, the Family Pubs relentlessly reinforce how the Family is the greatest and only place to serve the Lord, and anyone who departs is leaving God, backsliding, and can expect dire consequences.
Even though the tactics have changed from when duct tape was a Teen Shepherd's best friend, the goal remains the same: Control the young people, promote a "we-they" syndrome, tell them what God wants for their lives, make them dependent on Mama Maria and King Peter as God's representatives, and instil in them a fear to leave the Family.
One small, not-so-extreme example of all this is in Wham! Bam! Junk the Punk! (#3179), written in January 1998. Here are some excerpts.
According to the ghost of Mo, everyone outside the Family, including every Christian, is in 'the System", where all the Systemites have a life that is boring, in bondage, rotten at the core, and dead. Family teens can't even afford to think about trying the System, because Mo needs them to be a disciple now! Isn't this rather pathetic, so blatantly controlling and manipulative? Maria and Peter are deliberately scaring teens into staying in the Family, and ministering condemnation to those who leave.
Why do Maria and Peter refuse to discuss and implement any procedures that would allow for a child to, as Lord Justice Ward said, "Grow up as an individual, free from pressure to conform to your religious views which are imposed upon them?" The answer of course, is found in one word. A word that should be familiar to all of us by now; control. If Maria and Peter embraced self-determination, they would have to relinquish control over the children's lives, allowing them to "live an individual life in our society." Then the children may decide to "grow a brain" (as one second generation adult [SGA] put it), and get a real life outside the Family. For Maria and Peter, that would be unacceptable. After all, no adult in their right mind joins the Family nowadays, so the only source of new disciples is the birth canal. If the young people and SGAs leave, why, who will wash the dishes, pay the tithes, and support Maria and Peter and WS?
Maria and Peter do not realise that by anyone's standard, the Family has become a very weird place. They ignore that in spite of years of indoctrination, their abusive practices and wacky doctrines continue to marginalize more and more young people to the point where they leave the Family. It often has little or nothing to do with issues of faith in Jesus, or a desire to serve him. Many young people just don't want to be obliged to nod their heads every morning, prophesy on demand, listen to hours of monotonous GNs, say "hail Maria," get a substandard education, live in abject poverty, have little personal freedom, spend hours clowning or doing some other menial form of fundraising, be alienated from society at large, look after other people's children, live in a sexualised environment, commune with the spirits of dead people, look for the vapor trails of Mo's ghost zooming around the kitchen, and say love words to Jesus while playing with themselves. Gee, I wonder why not?
Instead of fostering a climate of tolerance and diversity, and making provision for unbelieving young people to grow up as individuals with their parents in Family homes, Maria and Peter continually promote a climate of, "Believe it all or leave the Family." And for all the lip service paid to the idea of making it easy for young people to leave, little of it is reality. If a young person wants to leave, he or she is grudgingly allowed to, but with little, if any, support. Who cares about them, if they are prepared for life? They're backsliders, so they can fend for themselves. And if they struggle and have a hard time, or some calamity befalls them, the snide comments inevitably surface, "Look, see how God is judging them now." We've all seen it happen.
I grew to hate Maria and Peter's attempts to control, manipulate, indoctrinate, and mould the impressionable and often trusting children and young people in the Family.
Twisted Like Pretzels
Mo, Maria, and Peter's often-unloving treatment of adult Family Members also affected me. I could write a book about the indignities they heaped on people, but I don't care to violate the privacy of individuals who are, in reality, victims. Mo taught Maria and Peter all his tactics of how to control, manipulate, intimidate, bully, and belittle people, and they became experts at it, personally ruining the lives of many people that I know well. Some wonderful people were twisted like pretzels. The most vulnerable were those who unquestioningly believed and obeyed: Ideal grist for the WS mill.
A lot has been written about Mo, Maria, and Peter's love and kindness. Most of it by themselves! There is a measure of truth there, as long as an individual is perceived to be an "on board," loyal, unquestioning follower. But if Maria and Peter detect any hint of disloyalty, the knives come out and things often get ugly very quickly. The Family becomes an army in which Generals Maria and Peter are inclined to shoot their wounded and throw the bodies off the back of the wagon.
As WS staff members, we were often viewed as expendables. In Mo, Maria, and Peter's eyes, we were there to serve. They often kept staff members in line with tactics that caused a great deal of fear. I'll give you just one tiny example of the "loving care" that they manifested for those who worked closely with them. A 40-year-old mother at the Research Home gave birth. The rule that Maria had established for us was that the mother could keep the baby for six months. Then the baby had to go to the nearby "school" Home, where it would be cared for by childcare workers. The mother could see the baby every Sunday, when she and her family had family day. This way, the mother could give her undivided attention to her WS pubs work.
The time came for the baby to go to the school, but the mother was having huge trials about letting him go, as he was still breast-feeding. And, of course, there was a strong bond. Maria became upset and sent a message to the leader of our Home saying, "Give _____ an ultimatum. [Maria loves ultimatums.] If she does not get the victory, we are going to send her back to Japan." Maria was willing to forcibly separate this long-time WS worker from her family, just because she was having a hard time giving up her baby.
After my close friends and I left the Family, an interesting thing happened that illustrates how much Mo, Maria, and Peter belittled people. One of my friends enrolled in a government-sponsored job search program and took some tests to determine his aptitudes and strengths. The results of one computer test showed that he "had footprints on his back." He had been beaten down. I was amazed, as I knew this to be true. Maria and Peter had treated him poorly for many years. Wow. Some tests work.
A few months later, I took the same course. And guess what? This same test, impartially administered by someone who knew nothing about my past, said the same thing about me! I didn't feel that way about myself. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that all of us have probably been beaten down, belittled, berated, and spiritually abused during our time in the Family.
The Year of the Bottom Line
In April 1998, our Home received an advance copy of The Year of the Bottom Line. By then I was pretty sure that I was going to leave the Family, but I was not sure when. As I read that Letter, I knew the time had come. It was a defining moment. Here are some excerpts.
Now you had to be yielded. But I thought yielding was a voluntary act? You did it because you wanted to, as a woman yields to her husband during lovemaking. But no, it's no longer optional; "Yield, God damn it!" You had to love Jesus intimately; no more of this foolish talk about a gift. You had to believe unquestioningly, you had to practice the Law of Love, i.e. have lots of sex with different people, and you had to put the Family before yourself. And most of all, you had to "get on board with the new moves of the Spirit." Get on board, get on board. In other words, you had to believe that everything Maria and Peter wrote was the infallible word of God.
As I read this Letter, I knew that the time had come to leave. I could no longer stomach the insanity of Maria and Peter's weird doctrines and pernicious policies. And I could no longer stand idly by while they arrogantly beat and bullied people into submission. This had nothing at all to do with yieldedness to Jesus, and everything to do with yieldedness to them. I refused to pay lip service to it any longer.
Each of my fellow heretics, Apollos, Jac, and Heather, also decided to leave. It gutted our WS Home! What a wonderful blessing to leave with my closest, dearest friends. We knew that we would need each other in the months to come. After spending our entire adult lives in the Family, mainly in WS, it was going to be hard to adjust to life on the "outside."
Thomas Dons the Magic Green Shirt!
As I mentioned, in early July 1998 I wrote a long letter to Maria and Peter explaining exactly why I was resigning from WS and leaving CM status. I have already explained most of these reasons to you. A few details remain, so I am going to quote directly from my letter to them. 18 months later, I can't express how I felt at that time any clearer.
So, that's my story. Within six weeks of resigning, our Home closed and the four of us left to start our new lives. My only regret now is that I did not leave much sooner.
So far, I have written you what amounts to a small book. I am now tempted to write you another book describing my experiences since I left the CM Family. But I won't. We're supposed to have lives.
I would, however, like to wrap up a few loose ends.
Many terrible things happened in the Family and WS that I have not mentioned. To recount everything bizarre and weird that I experienced would take another book or two. In this letter I have deliberately limited myself to explaining what influenced me, personally, to leave the Family. Some of my experiences were different from other former members. Just being in WS and in close contact with Mo, Maria and Peter for almost 20 years was a unique experience. I did comparatively little to truly lift up Jesus or further the cause of Christ. Instead, I wasted years advancing the cause of Mo and Maria, a good deal of which was shameful and is a source of remorse.
WS: The Inner Circle
WS is essentially a "cult within a cult." Few Family Members have any idea of the high levels of weirdness that exist there. It reminds me of "The Inner Circle," a movie based on the true story of Ivan, the private film projectionist for the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. During the 1930's, Ivan, a young, mindless, enthusiastic, unquestioning, communist party member, was plucked from obscurity to become Stalin's film projectionist. Whenever 'Papa Joe' wanted to watch a movie, Ivan would show it in Stalin's private movie theatre. Ivan thus became part of Stalin's staff, 'the inner circle," and was privy to much behind-the-scenes dealings.
The personal cost for Ivan was enormous, as his family was eventually destroyed. It is an intense, moving film, and ends with a beautiful message of forgiveness and redemption, as well as recognition of eternal values. Many people will prefer not to watch it due to scenes of cruelty and children suffering.
There Have Been Too Many Ivans!
The central message is so applicable to the Family, and especially to members of WS. In a scene part way through, Ivan is commiserating with his elderly neighbour. Ivan's wife has left him, but Ivan is still a devout admirer of Stalin. The old man, who has the wisdom that comes with age, looks at Ivan and says, "You know why our country is in ruins, and why Stalin has made such a mess of things? It's because there have been too many Ivans." Too many unthinking, naïve, adoring individuals who voluntarily abdicated their right to choose, and instead placed all their trust in a human leader and self-styled saviour, who then wreaked havoc.
That, in my opinion, illustrates why Mo, Maria, and Peter have been able to do so much damage, and why, as a result, the Family as an organisation is such a weird, dead-end place today. There have been, and there continues to be, too many Ivans; too many disciples who have stopped thinking and instead unquestioningly believe and obey whatever their all-knowing leaders say. The fault lies with each of us. Mo, Maria, and Peter could never have done so much harm, and continue to do, if each of us had not acquiesced to them. Each of us made it possible for them to manipulate and ruin lives, including our own! We gave them permission to do so.
I was an Ivan. I can hardly believe some of the things that I did and consented to. I am so terribly ashamed. But I have vowed, by God's grace, never to be an Ivan again. And I will encourage others not to be Ivans.
Free From the Superstitious Darkness
My personal faith is now in the Bible and Jesus; His unconditional grace, forgiveness, and love. I may join a fellowship of other believers, but I will never allow them to dictate what I should believe. I cherish my spiritual freedom.
My life is richer and deeper than it was in the Family. It reminds me of a quote from The Promised Land (#46). Mo rejoices that he is free from old beliefs about the Jews being God's chosen people. For me, it expresses how I feel about being freed from the spiritual shackles of Maria and Peter, and their "superstitious darkness" and "dogmatic doctrines!"
Whatever did not Kill Us Made Us Strong
There are many things about my time in the Family that I have not sorted out yet. Like other former members, I am a work in progress. I don't feel that everything about the Family was inherently evil. I have a lot of good memories, good friends, and deep life lessons. How to reconcile that with all the abuse and weird doctrines? I don't know if I can. The closest that I have come is best expressed in a term that an ex-member used; "Whatever did not kill us made us strong." Why does God allow it? I don't know, and I don't know if we will ever fully know. One of my favourite verses is, "For now we see through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Farther along, we'll understand why.
What I do know is that I survived the experience with my faith, sanity, and sense of humour in tact; no mean feat! Today I try to guard against bitterness, or too much introspection. I like to feel that as I start my second journey, there is still gas in the tank. I pray that the Lord can use me in some way, even if it is simply to "brighten the corner where I am." I hope that it will be a long, happy, and rewarding journey. There is so much that I want to do on it!
My faith is actually stronger now than it has been in years, because I actually believe what I believe, if you can grasp that. So refreshing! I am not ashamed of what I believe. I am more convinced than ever of the unconditional love and grace of God and I cling to it. I have actually begun to grasp it. His love for us is not based on how we perform or serve, or how many rules we keep. He loves us just as we are.
I am also persuaded that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Jesus said that He would in no wise cast us out. There is so much of my past that I am ashamed of, yet I still know that Jesus loves me. Any righteousness that I have is from Jesus, purely by grace. I am a ragamuffin, and I will always be a ragamuffin.
Forget the Past!
One thing that I have decided not to do on my second journey is complain about the Family, or let it unduly influence my life. By God's grace, I am not going to let my past rule my future. I accept that the Family will always be a part of my life, and that getting rid of the baggage is easier said than done, but I am going to try.
With this in mind, and with no disrespect intended, I want nothing to do with ex-member politics, agendas, or the depressing prattle that sadly seems to dominate various web sites. While writing this letter to you has been beneficial, I value my freedom and the chance to have a new life too much to drag around the balls and chains of the old life. I have places to go, things to do, and people to see! As Paul said, "I am focussing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead" (Philippians 3:13, New Living Translation).
I clearly understand that most former members are not involved in the negative aspects of the web sites. Rather, they are wonderful, caring people who are making the most of their lives. Many have more obstacles to overcome than I do. Like many former members, my best friends are ex-members. We have a common background and understanding, and we support each other.
But sadly, there are some ex-members who appear to make the Family and their experiences in it the main focus of their daily life. Some left the Family 15 or 20 years ago, but it still seems to be their major point of reference. In my opinion, the cure that some of these people are taking is worse than the disease. They remind me of a line from the song, Hotel California, by The Eagles; "You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave." They have checked out of the Family Hotel, but do not seem to have really left the Family's influence and gotten on with their lives. I find this to be sad.
And then there is the "lunatic fringe," the faction of former members who, in places such as Argentina, knowingly made false criminal accusations against Family Members during the persecution. As a direct result, innocent children and adults spent months in state institutions and prisons. I have no sympathy for this fanatical faction. In my view, their conduct was reprehensible, literally criminal, and on a par with the atrocities that Mo, Maria, and Peter are guilty of. If these individuals had pulled such stunts in a country where the rule of law prevailed, they would likely have ended up in jail. The members of this lunatic fringe element need to follow Bithia's good example and repent and ask for forgiveness from the individuals who suffered because of their criminal behaviour. As far as I can see, that would be the Christian thing to do.
Compromise and Coexistence: Is This as Good as it Gets?
I sometimes wonder how many Family Members are sincerely proud of all the Family's present-day beliefs and practices. My guess would be, not many. It's sad, because many wonderful Family Members love Jesus and are doing a wonderful job of sharing His love and helping others, often in spite of Maria and Peter's inept leadership, I have a great deal of love and respect for these Family Members. Many, especially SGAs, have consciously decided to ignore the doctrinal weirdness and simply use the Family infrastructure to carry out "Consider the Poor" ministries. This may be one reason why FCF is popular.
I understand this reasoning, as I followed it for many years. But as I mentioned earlier, it got to the point where my life was a huge, shameful, never-ending lie. Every day I compromised a hundred times what I secretly, honestly believed, yet I could not say anything. I sat in devotions and tried to look enthusiastic when a GN said that Grandpa was flying through the kitchen, looking for Skippy peanut butter. I had to pretend to believe and support it all.
And I did this knowing that there is no Scriptural precedent for continually compromising with an inherently corrupt and spiritually abusive organisation. This knowledge often prevented me from witnessing with any conviction. How could I lead people to the Lord and make disciples of them, when the Family was the last fellowship on earth that I wanted them to join? I felt that way for years. I would never think of asking someone to join. I would rather say, "My God, please don't join the Family, as you are guaranteed to have your life screwed up."
When I was pushed into the corner by the doctrinal weirdness, I finally had to ask myself, "Is this what life for Jesus is all about? Is this as good as it gets? After 27 years of trying to serve the Lord in the Family, should I consent to being bullied into believing things that I know to be wrong?" My answer to all of these questions was "No." And then, just as I'm sure you and every other ex-member did, I had to face some agonizing realities. I had to consciously acknowledge that Mo, Maria, and Peter had essentially hijacked the Family from its original mission and deliberately shaped it into a heretical personality cult. I had to accept that at 45 years of age, the cause to which I gave myself for 27 years was corrupted beyond hope. It was not going to change for the better. To a significant degree, I had laboured a good deal of my life in vain (Philippians 2:16).
And then I had to ask myself, "What the hell do I do now?" It's really, really hard to look back at the best years of your life and realise that many of them were wasted. I was scared as hell, depressed as hell, mad as hell, frustrated as hell, and I can only thank the Lord that the four of us were in it together, so that we could help each other. For me, these admissions and acknowledgements were, and still are, the hardest part of leaving.
Like many former members, I didn't have a Plan B. I did not have an alternative place of Christian service all lined up, or even a plan for survival. But I had to leave by faith. And, as I am sure was the case with you and most other former members, it really took faith to leave. But as Mo used to say, "I may not know where it [the will of God] is, but I know where it ain't." I just knew that this insanity was not of God, and that if need be, I'd rather die on the street as a vagrant who had the courage to live according to his convictions, than continue to live a lie and be ashamed of myself. I had much more faith to go before the Lord like that.
Knowing that I was not leaving God or backsliding from His service also helped me make the break and go through the transition. I knew that I could leave the Family and still love Jesus and share His love with others. In fact, there were more opportunities to do something for Jesus outside of the Family than in it. I remember being sort of excited, as I was getting a new chance to live for the Lord without having to drag along all the bizarre baggage of the Family. I could throw it all overboard and go on for Jesus. And this has proven true.
Am I an Enemy?
I have been asked if I consider myself to be an enemy of the Family. Given what I have written, you may think that I am. But the answer is no. I bear Family Members no malice. Many manifest the fruits of God's spirit in their lives in ways that put me to shame. I have many long-term friends in the Family and I hope that, if they ever read this, they can differentiate between my hatred for the false doctrines and abusive policies and practices of Maria and Peter, and my love for friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord. It takes a little compartmentalizing, but we should all be good at that by now!
Maria and Peter are obsessed with preserving their image. Once my views become public, they may try to discredit and demonize me in the eyes of the Family with dire prophecies. It's about the only way they know how to react to criticism. But what we are dealing with here are issues, not personalities. I would like to see Maria and Peter personally address the issues that I have raised, one by one. They could enlighten us with their truth concerning Mene. "Say it ain't so, Joe." But sadly, I don't think they are capable of this.
Why Didn't I Leave Sooner?
You may wonder at this point, knowing all that I knew, why it took so long for the lights to come on. Good point. It's hard to analyse, but I'll try and give you a few leads. Essentially I saw the Family as my place of service to God. I perceived it to be where He wanted me. I was supposed to carry my cross for Jesus. As well, the weirdness was gradual. The tapestry of the Family was woven slowly. I did not see the harmful consequences of the policies and practices right away. Much good was present as well. Souls were being won. During the persecution, the instinct was to fight for survival, to do whatever we could to protect Family Members at risk. And then there was the concept of, as one ex-member put it, "following the curves in the road." After a while, you don't think of the destination so much as just concentrating on what's immediately ahead. Then there was the close community that I would have to leave, the friends.
Often when I did think of leaving, there were the forces of institutionalization to deal with. I now work with prisoners, many of who have been in prison for 20 years or more. As their release date approaches, they spend many months preparing to reintegrate into society, as they have no idea how to live on the outside. What is fascinating about it is that I see so many similarities to WS! Scary! And, to continue the analogy, some prisoners are so overwhelmed by the thought of getting out of prison that they commit another crime, just so they will stay in prison. Prison has become their home. They are institutionalized. I experienced the same emotions. What could I do if I left WS and the Family? Maybe I'd go crazy trying to adjust. Better to stay in the Family and try and do some good there.
Of course, fear was a factor. We had all been indoctrinated to believe that to leave the Family was to leave God and His Service. And then there were the demons of pride and ambition. I had worked my way into the upper echelons of WS. I was having an influence and helping to change the world. I was trusted and in some quarters respected. I was achieving, accomplishing something with my life. I was a somebody. It's sad to admit, but it's true. The irony is, in the Family I was proud of being in WS and privy to lots of things, and now I am ashamed that I knew so much! From my experience, I would say that the average WS Member has twice as much guilt to deal with as other Family Members. The cult within the cult.
These are some of the reasons. I am sure there are others, and if I read any good books that explain it all, I'll let you know!
Choices, Choices, Choices!
I guess I digressed here! I feel sorry for the young people in the Family, who have their entire lives before them. What kind of a future will they have if they stay in the Family? My hope and prayer is that they will learn from our generation's mistakes, and muster up the courage to leave. It is hard making the transition out of the Family, but in the long run, it is well worth it. And then I hope that they will get an education, some training, so they will be better equipped to do some good in life. They can have a fulfilling life, with many opportunities to help others, if they wish to. They do not have to be in the Family to love God and serve Him.
But in spite of all the advice that I wish to dispense(!), I know that at the end of the day, we all make choices. I believe in the majesty of choice, that each of us has to decide what to do with our lives, and then live with the consequences. Each Family Member of our generation made a choice at some point to join the Family, and then to remain in it. So each of us has to accept the fundamental responsibility for those choices, even though, 27 years later, it can be painful.
Members of the younger generation will have to make their choices. As I see it, we can help them to make informed choices, and not to be Ivans. We can encourage them, if by nothing other than our example, to take a long, hard look at the consequences of staying in the Family and help them explore the alternatives. And we can offer them unconditional love and support in whatever they choose to do. But the choices; the agonizing, difficult, fundamental, gut-twisting, heart-wrenching, life-defining decisions, ultimately belong to them, along with the consequences. I pray that each of them chooses very carefully and prayerfully.
As I See It: The Family, Mo, Maria and Peter
I see the Family organisation to be increasingly inconsequential, inbred, irrelevant, and spiritually abusive. It is legalistic, self-righteous, exclusive, and dictatorial; everything that Mo originally denounced the churches for. Any attempt to reform the Family is futile; similar, if you will pardon the overworked cliché, to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Family has become the cult of Queen Maria and King Peter and their sidekick, Mo the friendly ghost. Convinced that God is with them, they, along with their pantheon of otherworldly helpers such as Genghis Khan, Marilyn Munroe, C.S. Lewis, Mr. Tumnus, and Obi Wan Kanobe, have set the course and will not change it. That's why I left.
As for Mo, he had many good ideas and did some good. I lived with and near him for 13 years. I edited several of the basic Mountain Streams Mo Letters, and they contain an abundance of timeless truths. If everything about him was bad, I doubt that many of us would have joined the Family, or stayed any length of time. But the harm he caused outweighs the good. To paraphrase the Bible, he ought to have done the good that he did. That was his reasonable service to God. But he should have left the bad undone. And the good cannot justify the bad. He could have easily accomplished a lot of good without ruining lives. Millions of Christians do it every day. "If he only had."
Mo's theme song could have been, I Did It My Way. He was a self-styled king who openly spoke of his desire to clone thousands of "little Davids." Refusing to be accountable to anyone, he had every chance, every golden opportunity to do something beautiful for God "his way." And he failed horribly, ruining countless lives and fulfilling his own Bahai Temple Prophecy in the process. Then, when the terrible fruits of "his way" became apparent, he refused to accept responsibility or try and rectify the harm, preferring instead to go to his Maker bloodied but unbowed.
So for the most part, his legacy is one of shame and disgrace, a legacy that he alone crafted by his actions and published writings. They accuse him much more convincingly than his "vicious, bitter, disgruntled, and antichrist" enemies. The Letters that he valued so much, "the words of David," have largely been discredited. Who really reads them? The public doesn't. And Family Members are too busy reading the new wine and playing with the new weapons. Today Mo is known as little more than an eccentric ghost who delivers rambling homilies to an obscure religious group. It's sad, because it did not have to be that way.
And Maria and Peter? Well, I do wonder what goes through their minds late at night, when all is quiet. How can they deal with the damage that they are responsible for, and will continue to cause? I haven't a clue. Probably a lot of compartmentalizing!
I don't hate them. I hate what they stand for. I hate their spiritual pride, their arrogance, and the damage that they have yet to inflict on others, as they pigheadedly pursue their agenda. Are they inherently evil, or just misguided? I don't know.
I do know that I am so thankful that God delivered my dearest friends and me from their control and influence.
For this, I have no regrets.
Opinions expressed are highly subjective!
- A Man For All Seasons. Video, 1968. Paul Scofield. Moving portrayal of Sir Thomas More standing up for his convictions. A classic. Available in video stores.
- The Inner Circle. Video. 1992. Excellent film about Ivan, Stalin's film projectionist. In video stores.
- The Matrix. Video. 1999. Keanu Reeves. Good sci-fi. Family doctrine is the Matrix. Which pill will you take?
- The Ragamuffin Gospel. Brennan Manning. 1990. Multnomah Publishers. ISBN 0-8807-0631-7. An excellent book for anyone feeling burnt out or beat up. If you read only one book, read this. An easy read, but speaks to the heart.
- The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen. 1991. Bethany House Publishers. ISBN 1-5566-1160-9. A compassionate look at how some churches control their members. Not a cult-bashing book. It helps a lot.
- What's So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey. 1997. Zondervan. ISBN 0-3102-1862-4. A wonderful book about the scandalous grace, forgiveness, and acceptance of God. If you're only going to read two books, read this and The Ragamuffin Gospel.
- The Jesus I Never Knew. Philip Yancey. 1995. Zondervan. ISBN 0-3102-0407-0. A wonderful portrayal of the real Jesus. We DO know Jesus.
- Where is God When it Hurts? Philip Yancey. 1990. Zondervan. ISBN 0-3102-1437-8. A comforting, healing guide for coping with hard times.
- Disappointment with God. The Bible that Jesus Read. Any other books by Philip Yancey. He writes well.
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephen Covey. Nothing to do with faith, but a good book. Write a mission statement for your life! Stay in the second quadrant and put first things first!
- First Things First. Stephen Covey. Determine what are the big rocks in your life!