I’m Coming OUT!

Today was Spirit Day in memory of several gay students who committed suicide from homophobic abuse they experienced.

What’s great is that there has been a rally of support for gays and lesbians all over the place by people today wearing purple to show their love and respect for them. Things will get better. One day, we will live in a world where it won’t matter what your sexuality is. There won’t be someone telling you you’re a sinner or a “fag” or a queer. There’s hope for humanity.

In the same spirit, I’m coming OUT today.

I’m not coming out in the, “I’m a lesbian” kind of way. I’m not a lesbian. I’m straight. I’m a straight woman who has a lot of gay and lesbian friends, and supports their right to fall in love, get married, hold hands, kiss, have sex, etc. without enduring intolerance or judgment.

I also have a lot of gay and lesbian friends who love God, who love Jesus and don’t have a place in the Church. But more on that later…

Back to me coming OUT:

I’m pretty sure a lot of people already know this, but I’m not a Christian Fundamentalist anymore. I once was. I sort of fell into it as a teenager and young adult. I walked away from it around the age 24.

Now it’s time to come out and be proud.

I’m standing with Anne Rice and those others who just can’t side with a religion (in this blog, Christianity, but any religion or group) that calls itself loving, but is hateful and judgmental. I can’t stand with a belief system that denies science, evolution, and the promotion of contraceptives, when I so believe in all those things–not because they are trends but because I have worked hard to find answers of my own. I can’t be feminist, intellectually evolving, and growing and listen to those who will call me wrong for thinking the way I do, simply because I’m using my own God-given brain. My brain isn’t smaller because it’s in a female body. I can be a woman and teach, preach, run a church, business, corporation, country as well as a man. It’s not a sin “equal to pedophilia” to ordain a woman as priest (to quote the Pope). I’m not anti-Christian, baby-hating, or a child-killer because I believe in abortion as a woman’s right to choose. I’m not even anti-Christian because I believe in all of the above.

I’m simply responding finding that after years of being a “Christian,” there isn’t a place for me after I changed.

The woman I am today isn’t welcome in the church I once attended because the church I once attended didn’t allow me to think for myself.

Suicidal Tendencies

It was the summer before my 24th birthday. The summer everything changed.

In nearby Lafayette parish, a Catholic priest had just been accused of molesting a young alter boy. The country wide scandal took several months to reach the Deep South, as most progressive things took longer to reach here, and the day it hit the news the pastor of our church preached an angry sermon on Catholics and how they were doing wrong not letting their priests marry. Our Pastor thought his church was the only one who did anything right, because he thought he was the only doing right in “the eyes of God” and that our church were the only Christians going to heaven. I think he was just trying to get members in his church, as Catholics were the largest religious majority in Louisiana, but that was neither here nor there. Pastor Daniel had a God-complex and a hideous ego. Although it was true that Catholic priests had been molesting young boys, and it was a scandal, no one found out about our church and our scandal that Pastor Daniel was leading. There were no physical marks of rape, no DNA evidence to make a case on, but there was plenty of psychological damage among those of us who left the cult before “they” said we could. We’d been mentally raped, brainwashed, made to “drink the Kool-aid” so to speak, and yet we didn’t have any physical markers to take to the courts, and technically we’d come there to the cult of our own free will.

None of us knew it was a cult when we went there, and few of us struck up the courage to leave. Those who did leave were made outsiders, and cut off from all their friends and all acquaintances. We were the “spawn of Satan” or “rebellious” if we left…if we disagreed with the Authority of God, our Pastors.

On the night I contemplated leaving, I replayed my dad’s words to leave. He called me a month after his trip to Louisiana to meet my boss, Pastor Daniel. My dad didn’t like Pastor Daniel. “Lisa, I don’t like the way he spoke to me about you—as if he’d assumed the role of father in your life. That’s just not right,” my dad’s anger could be heard through the phone line, “I mean, what right does that arrogant man have to tell me that he’s going to pick out my own daughter’s husband? He doesn’t have faith that you can meet someone decent on your own? I know I’ve never told you what to do in your life, but Lisa—you need to get out of there. Come home.”

My dad was right. Pastor Daniel just wasn’t right. But my life had become wrapped around these people, and saying good-bye prematurely meant ripping away seven years of my life’s history away and becoming invisible, or worse yet, rebellious and unfit.

I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, parked on the dirt road that was flanked with sugar cane and fireflies on either side of me. Tears poured down my cheeks as the thoughts ran through my mind. I knew I couldn’t get out of here, without my life falling apart, and I was afraid of the only other option—but it seemed like the only way out.

The frog-filled swamp stretched out long and ominous before me: calling my name, and beckoning me to enter. Just gun the car and drive into the swamp, the water spoke to me like an old friend who had my best intentions in mind. I reached for another Kleenex from the passenger seat, as my whole body shook violently with sobs and my head pounded with pain. I tried to search for any other options, but there just seemed to be no other way to escape.

I looked around for anyone in sight. To the south of the road where my car sat were the dorms where all the students slept. I was supposed to be asleep, as well, making sure there was someone responsible watching over them. My fellow staff members were there, tucked into their single beds and surrounded by the students in their bunks, peacefully resting, unaware of my desire to escape, and the misery staying here was causing me. I was the only one awake that piercing dark black night. I was the only one deliberating how I could rid myself from their negativity. I was the only one trying to get the hell out of there. I was also the only one sitting alone by the dense fields of sugar cane, under the dimly lit star-filled night sky, thinking about killing myself.

The term killing myself sounded so harsh, but I guess in reality it would be a harsh thing to do to my family and my friends, those I had left that is.  My family, however, lived in California and I lived in the blasted mosquito infested hellhole of the U.S. Swamps and gators; frog legs and crawfish. Yes, the Deep South. Louisiana. The only good about Louisiana was Tim, and he wasn’t allowed to speak to me anymore because Pastor Daniel felt he was unfit for me to date, unfit to be a pastor and Pastor Daniel said God spoke to him that I should be a pastor’s wife.

My story obviously didn’t end here…but the concept of it was true. While I was in the cult, I did want to kill myself. I had reached the end of my rope and I’d asked the directors of my ministry group for vacation time to gather myself together after serving selflessly for about seven years with hardly a break. I was burnt out and breaking down. I’d never felt so low, so depressed, and never before that point felt suicidal.

When I finally made it out of the cult and home, I told my dad that story and he hugged me so tightly and said he was so sorry he didn’t get me out of that cult before, and that he’s sorry he let me stay there so long.

It wasn’t my parents fault. I’d become so tightly connected to the director of my ministry training group that I felt they were my family, my life, my friends.

I was wrong…when I needed them most, they let me down. More than that, their brainwashing, mind-control, yelling, belittling and abuse left me with PTSD and after effects that I’m still working on recovering from to this day.

As a 17 year old girl who was a high school honor student, 10th in her graduating class, active in her church youth group, never smoked, drank, done drugs with a real future in front of her to a nearly thirty year old woman who has to see a therapist who specializes in cults for the anxiety, depression, and fear that rules her life due to the abuse done from the directors who mentored her for years…it was not the transition I thought would happen when I first left home to join the ministry.

 

 

Leaving Master’s Commission: Practical Advice

A major problem for people leaving intense discipleship programs like Master’s Commission or Teen Mania (or any of a half dozen such programs) is that when they leave—whether it is good, bad or indifferent—they don’t know what to do. These programs gear you up for life in the program.

 

What happens when you leave?

If someone gets kicked out there are many feelings of guilt, inadequacies and failure that a person faces because they couldn’t “cut it.” They are often made to feel like an evil person, someone who had to be removed as a stain on the program. Many of these people have a difficult time adjusting to a normal life because of the sense that there is a stigma about them. If someone leaves at the end of the year and graduates, there are whole different sets of challenges that are faced.

 

The root of these roadblocks is that the programs are ill-equipped to equip people for life in the real world.

 

Too many leave to wander around trying to figure out what to do with the information they have learned and the experience of such an intense time frame. These programs often lead people to go in the opposite direction after they leave because it is impossible to replicate the same level of commitment in everyday life that is demanded of a person during the year.

 

So how does a person adjust to life and still maintain a relationship with God?

Establish Personal Convictions

First, establish personal convictions. This seems simple enough, however many of the “convictions” people have while in a program are not their own. Oftentimes, the rules of a program are adopted based on the relationship the director has with God. Because he wants to instill in his students the same ardent commitment to God that he has he projects these same convictions on to his students and expects them to adopt without question. These could be anything from types of movies or music to more serious life decisions. But most students don’t agree with everything. In fact some could argue that no student agrees with everything.

 

Our relationships with God are personal because God is personal. He approaches each person differently because he made each of us differently.  1 Corinthians 10:23, “Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive.”  Also in verse 29, “…For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” The freedom we have in Christ is total. The choices that are made are between the person and God and no one else.

 

Seasons of Life

Secondly, know that there are many seasons to life and not all of them will be like the one that was just left. Look at the history of any person and their life has peaks and valleys. The apostle Paul did many great things for God, but he was also thrown in prison and executed. No one does the same thing his or her whole life without some change. Praying for an hour everyday before you go to work may not be realistic if you have to be at work at four in the morning. The best way to have devotional time is when you are sharpest and most focused. The important thing to know is that God will not smite you if you only pray for 20 minutes one day and fall asleep reading your Bible. There may be another season in life with the opportunity to have the same or more of a devotional life is possible. When that happens jump on it. Just know that a continued relationship is one of commitment of heart and soul.

 

Marketable Skills

Finally, learn a marketable skill! This is something no discipleship program will teach. You cannot pay your bills or feed your family by doing human video’s and cool skits. A friend sent a text message the other day asking for prayer for him to find a job. He did not go to college, but spent years in Masters Commission and ministry. The funny thing about ministry is that it often fails to pay those who do it. That is why Paul made tents. This man is married with children and has to feed them, clothe them and keep the lights on. He was led to believe that if he stayed wholly devoted to God ministry would work out as his only occupation. This is not the case. The numbers of young people who enter a discipleship program with delusions of being employed full time in the ministry are grossly inordinate. Learning a trade, or getting an education is more important to future stability than is spending many years in a discipleship program. Some would say that this is a lack of faith. But 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family he has denied the faith.”

 

Life outside of an intense discipleship program is not easy. But most of us will spend longer out of it than in it. If having a relationship with God is important to you then developing your own convictions, embracing new seasons and learning how to provide for a family are vital.

 

Do You Think It’s Easy?

To do what I’ve done?

To come against former friends, pastors, and people who I considered family and call them cult leaders and cult members is not easy. In fact, I questioned myself. I’ve had people call me crazy. I’ve had people unfriend me on facebook and in real life. I’ve been cussed out, harrassed, and belittled.

It’s EMBARRASSING for me to put all my personal business on the Internet. I’d much rather forget this ever happened and move on. Trust me.

The worst part about it, is I’ve felt alienated by literally everyone except my family and my best friend over the years. No one stood by my side and said, “Hey Lisa, we’ll give statements with you,” or “We agree with you.”

No.

In fact, when I’ve asked people their stories or to stand with me, they’ve doubted me, called me crazy, or told me I was wrong. They’ve questioned my motives, told me I was acting out of line, or just made me feel really stupid. And I am really stupid–the bottom line is, I can’t change any one and I certainly can’t change an entire ideology (cult or not). I can’t change a person who leads thousands of people and indoctrinates them week after week.

But, in the back of my mind, I see my high school teacher, John Kopp’s poster on the wall: “Stand up for what is right, even if you’re standing alone.”

See, in the words of one of my good friends, whom I’ll call “E”, no one was our advocate when we were there. No one told us that it was a cult. No one helped us see that it was wrong, or find a way out. No one spoke up for us. No one knew. It’s our responsibility to speak up now that we know what went on there–the amount of abuse and hurt we went through–so that young people after us and staff after us don’t have to suffer the mental and spiritual abuse we did. We need to give the silent a voice. They don’t know they need it yet, but one day they might.

I feel like I’m doing the right thing. You might not agree, but I ask that if you do, you please email me your personal statement at mycultlife@gmail.com.

Letters to Nowhere: Tim Dilena, Dino Rizzo, Winkie Pratney

Two weeks ago, I sent the following letter to good friends and ministry partners of the pastor of Our Savior’s Church to see if they’d be able to speak with their friend to stop the abuse going on.

Not only did I NOT get a response from these pastors, one of them actually forwarded the letters to the pastor of Our Savior’s Church, who then read the letters to his staff. How awful, but totally expected.

Dear Dino, Tim and Winkie,
I’m writing on behalf of myself and many others who have been deeply hurt by the controlling pastoring that is taking place there, and the illegal employment issues that are taking place there.

I worked for Pastor Daniel Jones for a year as his wife’s personal assistant, which meant I nannied the children and homeschooled their son, as well as cleaned the house, cooked, ran errands, and was involved with the Women’s ministry and Master’s Commission. I was on staff with Master’s Commission 3D for years and was Nathan Davies’ right-hand girl (one of Daniel’s pastors at OSC and the Executive Director of Master’s Commission)–his Executive Assistant while he was Vice President of the Master’s Commission International Network. Nathan Davies is no longer the VP of the Master’s Commission International Network.

I’m attaching a letter that I sent to Daniel Jones, Nathan Davies, and Tim Wilson (who took over for Nathan for one year as MC Director). As you can see from the letter, OSC and MC3D are in serious trouble. They are abusing young people as slaves of the church and paying them less than 40 cents an hour! My story isn’t the only statement out there. I’ve gathered dozens more, and have collected numerous emails.

I have NEVER received an apology letter, phone call or any other sort of communication from Daniel, Nathan or Chris, as of the date of this email in regards to this letter I’m attaching and the issues I’ve addressed in said letter. I have used names in my blog, and I stand by that decision because I know that every fact I’ve shared on there is 100% verifiable by multiple sources, and I have given the aforementioned pastors plenty of chances to seek out dialogue with me. All three have denied the opportunity, ignored my peaceful outreach, and therefore, have shown great disrespect to me.

I’m asking you to read this letter and please do the following:

  1. Respond accordingly
  2. Talk to Daniel about the spiritual abuse.
  3. Encourage him that the ball is in his court to make amends with those he’s abused.
  4. Know that you are now partly responsible for the information I’m presenting to you.

Also, I’m aware that in some ways, you all are either good friends, mentors, or ministry partners with Daniel Jones. Because of this relationship, I feel I should hold each one of you responsible for what I’m sending you.

Now that you’ve read my letter, my blog (www.mycultlife.com) and the comments fellow ministers, church members, and MC staff members and students have left on the blog, I’m holding you responsible for what you’ve seen and heard in this email and in the others that are to come. I don’t feel this is too harsh a responsibility to ask a friend or ministry partner who does close ministry work with another pastor. If you would not like this responsibility, or if I have misplaced it on you, please notify me by email.

If you knew that spiritual abuse was taking place in a close friend’s church and remained silent, I’d be shocked. I’m very sure that none of you would overlook this. Hopefully, as friends, you can approach him in a way that he will receive. Otherwise, I will take further action.

I’d like a response to this email within a week. Please acknowledge that you received the email by July 30th, 2010.

With Respect,
Lisa

Speaking up? Get ready to get rebuked!

I came across this blog, Provender, and wanted to share the following article I saw there. I loved reading many of the articles on this website, but this particular one stuck out to me.

As I’ve been blogging, the old guilt from my dictator-pastors has been creeping in, and I’ve been wondering if speaking up has been the right thing to do.

Despite numerous “Thank you” emails and text messages I’ve received, a part of me felt exposed and vulnerable and I was mistaking that for being wrong.

What I realized was that I’d been in a cult for seven years, and I’d been taught that speaking out against your “spiritual authority” was wrong, rebellious, and Satanic.

I now know that that is wrong. Even the United States of America has given us Freedom of Speech–the First Amendment right.

What is that First Amendment? According to http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Now, think about this: If Congress shall not abridge the freedom of speech, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, or to petition the government for a redress of grievances, then why can’t a church member (or several) petition a pastor regarding their grievances?

The answer: Abusive pastors sway their congregations not to speak up against their teachings. They may even say they are open to criticism, but will rebuke, fire, or humiliate their patrons if they speak up.

Years ago, I worked for a senior pastor of a large church. I’ve already mentioned names, but this time it’s MY story, not his. As I came to work for this pastor, I sat down with his wife and him, and we talked about my former position as executive assistant, discipleship leader, conference planner and nanny for the pastor I worked for. I told him I was getting paid $100 a month and this senior pastor was shocked. He and his wife looked at each other and said, “We had no idea they were paying you that little!”

To which I wondered, How could you move our entire staff out here and not question the director of this group how much we were making?! Sounds like a lie to me…

I simply answered them that he was in fact paying me so little and that I survived by my parents paying off my credit card bills every month, and sending me checks and cash for spending money. Thankfully, my parents were business owners and their business was doing really well. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t know the type of the spiritual abuse I was putting up with, nor did they know the employment laws that the church I was working for was violating. Otherwise, my parents wouldn’t have let me stay out there. It was their financial contributions, which they gave “unto the Lord,” that kept me out there.

These senior pastors acted like the heroes and acted appalled at the way my director/mentor had treated me for years. He offered me $500 a month plus room and board. I graciously accepted. I’m sure I cried. He said that he could see that I was burnt out and exhausted and needed a break from ministry while I was rejuvenated. He made a promise to me that the year I worked for him would be refreshing and relaxing, and part-time.

It didn’t happen that way.

I ended up being on-call around the clock, every day of the week. I was called a live-in nanny, without the live-in part (just with the hours). I loved the children I worked with–and in fact, I still do. I have the best memories of reading them bedtime stories and going frog hunting with them in the Hundred Acre woods. They were the best children I’ve ever been a nanny to, and despite not being paid minimum wage (well under, in fact) and despite the fact that their parents were breaking the Federal Minimum Wage Law, I sure did love them dearly.

One afternoon, I decided that enough was enough, though. When I first got hired, the pastor said, “If you ever disagree with anything we do, please come talk to us. We’re more than open.”

I remembered that moment. I asked them for a meeting.

I was very humble, self-less, and sweet that day, as ever other, but I asked them for a raise. I told them that I needed to earn more than $500 a month for the over 60 hours a week I was working, and that I’d even get a job Mondays or a night job, if they let me take some hours off at night.

Not only did they refuse to pay me more, they refused my right to work a second job, and the worst part is…they called me UNGRATEFUL.

That hurt worse than anything. It came from the pastors wife, whom I’d had (up until that moment) nothing but respect and love for. She told me I was selfish and ungrateful and couldn’t believe I was asking them for that.

The pastor went on to say that my $500 a month was actually $1,000 a month, because of the room and board he included. I knew that wasn’t true. First of all, the barn I lived in could never be rented out for that amount of money and the food they fed us was donated from Albertson’s day-old meat and other local donations. Not to mention, it was incredibly unhealthy and inedible.

Later, though, I learned what would be the real clincher: the Federal Labor Laws deny the employer the  right to add “room and board” into their wages. It is illegal!

The sad part is, though, that I was innocent enough to believe my pastors at one time. I thought that they were being honest when they said if I had a problem with something they did or taught, I could approach them.

Spiritually abusive pastors do not allow you to speak up–or when they do..watch out: You’re about to get yelled out, rebuked, or humiliated.

http://pureprovender.blogspot.com/2009/04/helpful-sources-on-spiritual-abuse.html

Various sources on spiritual abuse warn about the Can’t Talk rule (or the Don’t Talk rule) in abusive groups. In spiritually manipulative churches, pastors don’t usually come right out and tell you not to talk about concerns in the church. They are much more subtle.

They might hint at “the enemy” who incites people to gossip, or they may denounce weak Christians who whisper. They might blast the motives of anyone who brings a legitimate issue to the leadership, condemning them as self-centered, divisive or lazy.

They might emphasize grumbling and complaining as among the gravest of sins. They might compare those who raise issues to scoffers in Moses’ time, implying that if you dare mention a weakness of the church you are like the ungrateful Israelites that the good Moses ( read: church leader) had to put up with.

They might tell you to “get in line,” “submit to authority,” “don’t cause trouble,” shaming someone who brings honest questions and deflecting scrutiny. Some might tell you that you are not in harmony with “the mission” of the church, which often is just a high-sounding way of saying that the leader’s views are beyond question and accountability is not the business of a mere layperson.

By whatever means available, abusive pastors will shut down discussion and prevent accountability for suspect practices. The unspoken “don’t talk” rule makes this easy. Anyone who dares raise an issue to the light of day will be shut down, preached against, shunned, mistreated or shamed, either by open means or subtle means.

Perhaps some have left the church, and you have suspicions about why. Maybe the pastor has preached something that doesn’t line up with scripture. Maybe someone has been kicked out of church or removed from a ministry. Perhaps these uncomfortable practices have been increasing. Maybe the finances are not open to public view; or business meetings are closed or nonexistent. Perhaps teachers or musicians have complained about mistreatment and you are not sure who to believe.

Those living under a Can’t Talk or Don’t Talk rule know not to ask questions. They have been manipulated into remaining silent, even though their active conscience urges them to speak up. The reluctance to speak up is often disguised as virtue. You’re not a grumbler. You’re not a trouble maker. It’s someone else’s place to ask questions, not yours. You’re just a humble nobody. So the pastor or leader remains accountable to no one. He can do what he likes without opposition, no matter how questionable, unorthodox, ungodly — or in some cases, illegal.

If this describes the mechanism in place at your church, make sure to do a little research into spiritual abuse and see if other signs might not also be present in your group. The Can’t Talk rule is an unspoken rule meant to stifle and hide anything that challenges the control of a leader or that has the potential to put a leader in a bad light. It is often the tip of the iceburg.

Mercy Ministries Anti-Gay Message; Archaic “Treatment”

Mercy Ministries runs a supposedly very successful “group home” or “treatment center” in various cities around the country and the world. They are an international success among some Christian believers which is why hundreds of women are on the waiting list (according to a Mercy insider).

However, just like many fundamentalist Christian groups Mercy has a very hateful message to lesbian young women who attend the program:

Being gay is a sin and could be a “root cause” of your mental disorder. 

As their website states:

The root cause, in a Christian program like Mercy is typically a manufactured sin that the program leaders and related ministers have concocted.

What exactly is a manufactured sin? Evangelical fringe leaders often teach ideologies that are damaging: like “purity” and “abstinence” programs, anti-gay messages which are similar to the 1950’s messages that being gay was a mental disorder.

 

I own a book that I picked up from a used bookstore in North Hollywood, CA called The Problem with Homosexuality by Charles Berg, M.D. and Clifford Allen, M.D. These were actual professionals in the late 50’s who literally believed homosexuality was a problem–much like Mercy Ministries does. Mercy doesn’t just believe being gay is a sin; but that it’s a “root cause” of something much deeper and much more problematic.

Mercy Ministries is part of the Evangelical movement that Joyce Meyer and Dave Ramsey are part of. If those ties don’t phase  you, we’ve got to look a bit closer. A few weeks ago, I noticed the Healing Place Church and Dino Rizzo on Nancy’s list of recommended ministries. There was also mention of (and a link to) Steve and Jennifer Robinson’s church and ministry. Interestingly enough, my own cult has ties to both of these pastors: Steve Robinson and Dino Rizzo. My former pastor, Daniel Jones, who I write about here is an abusive pastor. When I was beginning to find how to report the abuse, I reached out to Dino Rizzo hoping that he’d act as a liason and support the victims.

He did not.

After finding that correlation, I now know where Mercy stands in the Evangelical circle. I know the ideology, the teachings, the messages behind the sermons Nancy preaches. (Does anyone find it ODD that a “treatment center” would have  preacher for it’s founder, president and leader? No medical, organizational, or psychological qualifications here. She is not a social worker or even an activist for young women contrary to her “Christian” image.)

Mercy Ministries is just a sermon, it’s not help. Mercy brainwashes young women into “loving Jesus” and “bearing good fruit.” This is their coercive way of theologically “fighting” mental illness and eating disorders.

Anyone can tell you that eating disorders and mental illness do not get treated or solved by Jesus or a sermon. They require professional medical help. In fact, some professionals would argue that bringing young women into a center to claim treatment and denying them medical attention could be much more potent than just “wrong” or unethical.

However, if you operate on 1950’s medical and psychological ideas, which Mercy does, it’s understandable why girls would be taught that their disorders are their problem and they are to blame. This is unethical and even if Mercy claims they are not a medical facility, they are lying. According to survivors of this program, Mercy represented otherwise.

In the book The Problem of Homosexuality, the authors begin their argument by saying this:

homosexuality [is] an abomintion in the eyes of the Lord…

Now that statement isn’t what you would expect from a doctor is it? Nor is it what you’d expect from a “treatment center” like Mercy Ministries which promises young women that they will be cured.

Mercy’s residents weren’t all gay. In fact, many of the girls were straight and were reaching out to the program because they thought they would be getting legitimate care. However, those girls who were troubled with mental disorders or eating disorders and were gay, were accused of harboring “sin” which was the cause of their illness. Mercy was regurgitating the ideas about homosexuality from the 1950’s. Perhaps their “medical” treatment was just as outdated.

What I’m saying is that however archaic and hate-filled Mercy’s message is to young women, it’s completely abusive and psychologically destructive. This program needs to be shut down before a young woman dies from their maltreatment.

 

 

 

When Perpetrators Deny Their Crimes

Desmond Tutu suggests that the denial of a crime that’s been committed to a person victimizes the victim again and also denies that person’s identity. For a perpetrator, or another person, to suggest that forgiveness is not important is to deprive a person of attempting to wrestle with the healing process their own soul must endure.

A couple years ago, I posted part of this on my Myspace blog. My old ministry group director’s wife called me to tell me that I was wrong: the VICTIM should go to the person who offended them and ask for forgiveness. She called me to tell me, also, that I should take it down off the internet, that my relationship with God was clearly not right, and that I was obviously offended. I don’t think abuse is right, and I think the road to forgiveness is a complicated one. In my situation, the person who committed the abuse never admitted to it or acknowledged the pain caused. This essay was written as I tried to understand the complicated situation that occurs when one is victimized.

***

Desmond Tutu writes of a play entitled Death and the Maiden, where he suggests that the denial of a crime that’s been committed victimizes the victim again and also denies that person’s identity. (Tutu, 29) For a perpetrator to suggest that forgiveness is not important is to deprive a person of attempting to wrestle with the healing process their own soul must endure. When a person is victimized, part of their soul is robbed; however, when a person is victimized without the crime being confronted, the victim’s soul may be haunted. Although painful and sometimes long, the journey to dignity begins with restoration of the victimized soul.

According to Pulma Gobodo-Madikizela, “When the perpetrator begins to show remorse, to seek some way to ask forgiveness, the victim becomes the gatekeeper to what the outcast desires—readmission into the human community.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117) The important factor for both the victim and the perpetrator in any situation is the readmission into the human community.

The perpetrator, in committing the crime, has shut the door to his conscious and pushed another member of the human community into darkness. The evil committed by the perpetrator is an example of the evil and darkness within his or her soul.

The victim, having received the evil, has unwillingly entered into a place of darkness, brought upon by pain, where he or she may dwell until they find a path to restoration. This path to restoration may come through forgiveness, depending on the victim’s belief system. Either way, a sometimes long and painful journey must begin in their heart. The victim must keep in mind, in order to keep sane, that forgiving another human does not mean to forgetting the evil.

The South African concept of Ubuntu explains why the readmission into the human community is important for both the victim and the perpetrator. Tutu explains that social harmony and the idea of Ubuntu give “people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.” (Tutu, 31)

In African culture, social harmony is the greatest good. Ironically enough, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was attempting to bring out social harmony by means of admission of evil done from a half-century of hatred and murder. The intention was well-meaning and appropriate for this idea of Ubuntu as it relates to personhood. The lack of denial in the TRC trials began to restore personhood back to the victims and the families of the victims. The African’s desire to be “human because of belonging, participating and sharing” is met with this idea of Ubuntu, which the TRC is trying to restore to South Africa. (Tutu, 31) In order to rebuild a new nation, a level of social harmony had to be worked toward. Ubuntu had to be presented to both the victims and the perpetrators, simply because both the offended and offender had to live in the same country and build together in the future. Although this caused great pain for the victims, this striving for Ubuntu may have help the victim re-enter the human community.

George Santayana says “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” (Tutu, 29) To forgive does not necessarily mean to condone the offense. (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117) To forgive but never forget may be one of the most humanizing responses in many situations.

Each criminal offense committed during the fifty year Apartheid was devastating to the country, and also to the victim and their families. The threat of repeating the Apartheid was looming if forgiveness had not taken place. Tutu explains South Africa’s motto became “Never Again,” when remembering the great atrocities committed against men, women and children across the nation.

Massacres occurred during the fifty years of Apartheid that dehumanized the entire population. Disturbing parallels occurred with the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa in 1960, where 69 people were shot in the back, with the Apartheid and police brutalities committed to African American’s in America during the same time. Although Santayana suggests that forgetting will lead us to be doomed to repeat the past, it seems that this must have held true across the world. How else would this sad portrayal of hatred and dehumanization be occurring across the world simultaneously?

Tutu points out that the “Allies could pack up and go home after Nuremburg; we in South Africa had to live with one another.” (Tutu, 21) This statement points to the issues the government faced when rebuilding the new South Africa. Instead of placing “Jim Crow” laws, or excuses to keep Apartheid in tact, South Africa attempted to amend the wrongs done on both sides. The issue of slavery and dehumanization in America was not dealt with as honestly as in South Africa.

America decided to sweep some issues under the rug. At the same time Civil Rights issues were pervading the country, America was also denying the entry of Jewish refugees and Holocaust victims a place to live in our country. Instead of liberty, they were given death.

Forgiveness helps reestablish a victim’s health and dignity as a human being, and also elevates the victim to a position of strength. How? The victim is not asked to forget what was done, but rises above it, saying: “I cannot and will not return the evil you inflicted on me.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117)

The matter of devastation need not be as important as the fact that the victim feels violated and infringed upon. The fact that the victim is able to say he or she is able to forgive is a great leap back into the human community and a huge step back into re-humanization.

To forgive is to be able to live in greater harmony with oneself, but also in greater harmony with the rest of the world and ones community. To grieve, mourn, and be victimized can mean the person unwillingly delves into the darkness of human nature. When evil is inflicted upon a person, without cause, a suggestion of the capabilities of all human beings to be dark and diminishing is placed upon the victim.

I’d venture to say that the desire for retaliation changes when the perpetrator admits the crime and asks for forgiveness. This doesn’t make forgiveness easy. In fact, admission of the crime and a form of repentance or desire to be absolved may in fact wound the victim again.

The road to forgiveness is perhaps one of the most painful roads a victim must travel down.

Often just beginning to walk down this path to forgiveness is excruciatingly painful for the victim. Gobodo-Madikizela explains that “feelings of anger and revenge against those who commit gross abuses are understandably, easier to develop and to sustain than an attitude that seeks engagement and dialogue.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 120)

Works Cited

Gobodo-Madikizela, Pulma. A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness. Houghton-Milton, 2003

Tutu, Desmond. No Future without Forgiveness. Doubleday, 1999.

Teen Mania Expose on MSNBC airs Sunday November 6th, 2011

Here’s a clip from MSNBC’s expose on Teen Mania Ministries, the abusive behavior some interns have faced and their recovery after leaving the group. Check out Recovering Alumni for more information on the abuses of Teen Mania. Teen Mania is similar to the program Master’s Commission. They’re both discipleship programs which use entertaining multi-media conferences for teens and young adults (such as Aquire the Fire and Master’s Commission International Network conference) to recruit their interns. Both programs are located in Texas.

 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Current Update: MCIN Letter Resolution (Part 2)

During a recent post, http://www.mycultlife.com/2010/07/21/mcin-update/, I stated what Lloyd Zeigler had told me. During this update, I stated that Lloyd made the following rules in 2008 based on my letters and had all the MC Directors sign that this would be new MCIN rules:

  • MC groups must pay staff members the state minimum wage.
  • MC Students can not be discouraged from calling their parents or or coerced from discussing things that happen at Master’s Commission.

Now, I’m directing the following questions to the MCIN and to Lloyd Zeigler:

  1. How are these changes being made?
  2. Who is communicating these changes to the MC Directors?
  3. How often and how are they enforced?

Lloyd told me in a phone call that he had just gotten off the phone with about 80 MC Directors telling them that they were not to prevent students from seeing their parents. Unfortunately, Lloyd didn’t speak to these directors about paying their staff minimum wage, or anything about providing benefits for them.

While it’s great that he’s making strides to try to communicate one thing to the MC Directors, the issue he addressed with him didn’t address a whole lot of what I asked to be addressed.

After much research and discussions with Lloyd and other directors, I can sadly report that I have not found ONE single MC group who has been paying their staff members and support staff members minimum wage. Not even Lloyd’s own Master’s Commission group pays their staff members minimum wage (before OR after he moved from Phoenix, Arizona). He has a handful of staff who DO get paid, but the large majority of staff (at least 40 or more people) are unpaid.

Now, I’ve been known to be very gullible and naive, but all this apparently proves it.

Recently, Lloyd and I talked and I addressed the issue of unpaid staff members on his team. He defended them as “interns” and stated that Washington D.C. has interns, a zoologist friend of his did an unpaid internship years ago, and doctors go through unpaid internships. I argued with him that most internships today are PAID and that the Department of Labor is doing an investigation on Internships nationwide. You can read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/22/fair-unpaid-internships-u_n_547543.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/04/17/obama-administration-considers-cracking-unpaid-internships/

I wrote a letter to the MCIN and to Lloyd over TWO years ago. The bottom line is I haven’t had a resolution since then. I contacted Lloyd about 2 months ago–with the start of this blog–and he promised me that he would take care of this situation. My question is: Why should I have to RECONTACT someone and hound them for getting an issue solved? Isn’t it THE JOB of the MCIN to do this?

Now, nearly 2 months later, the situation is unresolved and the only thing I want from the MCIN and Lloyd Zeigler is for them to DO THEIR JOB. In a recent conversation, Lloyd Zeigler complained that he doesn’t get paid a salary for work for the MCIN. However, he founded the MCIN and he took over Master’s Commission shortly after it’s inception, and has ran it for the past 25 years. He also made it a point to state that he had to be concerned with how other pastors viewed him and he honestly seemed more concerned for his reputation amongst other pastors than he was his reputation to the students and staff who’ve looked up to him and admired him for years.

That’s sad!

To quote the MCIN website: “Master’s Commission International Network (MCIN) is the accountability and glue that holds these programs together.  MCIN isn’t limited to any one  denomination, but works with many churches.”

Now if this statement is true, then why has it been TWO YEARS and nothing has been done to address these issues?

I’m not sure about you, dear readers, but I’m getting sick of the lip service I’ve received from the MCIN and Lloyd personally. I’m tired of waiting. Sadly, over 16 students sent in letters to Lloyd Zeigler regarding the spiritual abuse they faced under Nathan Davies and Master’s Commission of Austin, and nothing has been done.

If it takes a class-action lawsuit, then that’s what it takes but there must be something done about the abuse being done to young people.

If you have been abused by Master’s Commission, please email me at mycultlife@gmail.com to share your story. If you would like to send a story to share on my blog, please email the same address.

The following is a repost of the letter that has yet to be resolved: http://www.mycultlife.com/2010/07/06/letters-to-nowhere-lloyd/

This week, I’ve posted actual letters I’ve written to the pastors I worked for. The next letter in the succession is what I sent to the co-founder of the MCIN, or Master’s Commission International Network, Lloyd Zeigler. I sent this letter to Lloyd because each Master’s Commission group is under the MCIN umbrella and has to agree to follow a set of guidelines.

I urged Lloyd (and Eric Hunsberger, who heads up the Administrative side of the MCIN) to  make note of what happened to me because I was speaking on behalf of several other students and staff members from Austin and Louisiana. I felt that was a responsible thing for me to do.

Lloyd and his wife called me as soon as they received my letter and talked to me for two hours. They apologized on behalf of Master’s Commission and said they weren’t aware of any of this until my letter came. Lloyd also told me if I felt I should pursue a lawsuit, I would have their support. I knew I’d have enough of a case to win a lawsuit, but my family has never been the type to pursue lawsuits. I also don’t think Lloyd realized that he’d be implicated in that same lawsuit, if I pursued one, because the Master’s Commissions in Austin and Louisiana were tied to his network of ministries and he might ultimately be responsible.

Lloyd said he’d be sending my letter to his lawyer to see if there were some things from it they could add into the MCIN guidelines to protect students and staff members from this type of thing happening, but he and his wife moved to Dallas, Texas to start a new church after that phone call and that was never done (to my knowledge).  He also said that because Nathan Davies was the Vice President of the MCIN he’d have to stand by him and support him, and I’d have to understand that. I didn’t and don’t understand that, actually. I think my letter and my demeanor on the phone must have been too mild to really convey the type of damage that was done to me and many others by this ministry for him to take Nathan’s side. Otherwise, Lloyd wouldn’t stand by and let young people get abused. At the end of the phone call, Lloyd told me to give his cell phone number to any of the people I was writing on behalf of, if they wanted to call him, he’d apologize to them and talk to them, too. I’d like to believe he really meant this, but I’m not sure because I gave his number to one of my good friends and she said he never answered her phone call or returned her voice mail.

Although I’m disappointed that this issue was completely discarded after my conversation with Lloyd and Tim, at least they had the integrity to call me and talk to me. For that, I am extremely thankful. However, the fact that young men and women are still getting spiritually abused and that my letter fell to people who just gave me lip service and ignored the rest of my pleas, is cause for me to need to talk about my experience.

The following is the letter I sent to Lloyd and Eric in 2008:

Dear Lloyd Zeigler and Eric Hunsberger,

This letter may come as a surprise as I’ve been out of Master’s Commission Industries in Lafayette, LA for three years; however, the issues I’m addressing in this letter are relevant to the future of the MCIN.

After spending a year in Phoenix in 1998-99, I feel I developed a respect for both of you (Lloyd and Eric) and that respect has carried on into my years as a staff member in Texas and Louisiana (under Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson).

My writings here are not of an offended, immature Christian, but of a burden I feel from God to speak my heart on what has happened to me because I know I’m not the only person I’m speaking for. There are many silent staff members (former and current), and students (former and current) who have felt deep, intense pain and betrayal after leaving Master’s Commission. And more importantly, there are issues of manipulation and ostracizing that need to be heard and dealt with for the safety of the MCIN and the students and staff.

My suggestions and claims below are based on my own personal experience as a staff member and student of Master’s Commission of Austin (Director, Nathan Davies) and Master’s Commission Industries (Director, Tim Wilson in Lafayette, LA), under Pastor Daniel Jones. I seek dialogue to be opened up between the offending parties (Nathan, Wilson, and Jones) and the groups which govern or oversee them (MCIN). My wish is that change would come and MCIN would take responsibility for the changes that need to take place.

While I will not go so far as to say that all Master’s Commissions are cults, I will say based on my experience (and experiences of my peers), Master’s Commission Industries falls into the category of what experts call a destructive group or a cult. The reason I use these terms are based on studies that have been done on cults. The following are traits that Master’s Commission Industries has:

  • A Totalitarian worldview: A group that approves of unethical behavior while claiming goodness and promotes the goals of the group over the individual.
  • Exploitation: There is pressure to give money, to spend a great deal of money on special projects. Exploitation can be financial, physical, or psychological.
  • Alienation: Separation from family, friends, and society, a change in values and substitution of the group as the new “family”.
  • Exclusivity: Secretiveness or vagueness by followers regarding activities and beliefs; recruiting and fund-raising with hidden objectives and without full disclosure; use of “front groups”.

Additionally, some of the following are issues I have personally felt in my experiences in MC Industries (both under Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson):

  • removing people from their normal surroundings and friends, often with weekend “trips” and “retreats”
  • sleep and sensory deprivation
  • development of a deep emotional debt
  • public confessionals
  • low-risk relationships (unconditional acceptance)
  • fear of punishment or damnation for even thinking about leaving the new “family”
  • viewing all of the outside world as evil or satanic so that any desire to return to it is also evil.

Other things the group leaders imposed:

  • leaders who claim divinity or special relationships with God and insist on being the sole judge of a member’s actions or faith
  • demands for total control over members’ daily lives (one of the hardest to recognize once involved)
  • isolation and exclusion from the surrounding community
  • demands for control of members’ finances
  • absolutist views toward difficult life problems and spiritual questions
  • special (exclusive) promises of salvation or keys to spiritual understanding (i.e.: “It is only through adherence to our beliefs and our rules that you can be saved”).

During my time as a student or staff member, I made effort to resolve and voice my complaints while working for the above mentioned parties. However, when I brought up certain issues, I was both rebuked and harassed, or dismissed as unimportant. Equally as important as the psychological effects, are the the financial issues.

I was paid $100 a month for well over 60 hours of work, which is less than $0.40 an hour (40 CENTS). Only one year was my pay increased to $500 a month (and that was when I worked as a nanny for senior pastor, Daniel Jones), which is around $2.00 an hour.

I am speaking up about these issues because there are many more staff members and students who are willing to give their heart to these ministries and may walk away harmed spiritually, financially, and mentally.

I am requesting that the Master’s Commission International Network and the Assemblies of God (or appropriate governing boards) investigate these issues and particularly Master’s Commission Industries. I ask that you, MCIN, take an aggressive stance toward these issues. Upon investigation, I would like to offer that they establish guidelines to benefit the future employees/students.

For the future of the MCIN, I would like to suggest the following for the safety and wellness of the students:

  • Safe “complaint” system established that a student can go to without retributions in order to bring to the attention of the MCIN any matter of harassment, mental harm, destructive teaching, or all manners of an unhealthy group or cult-like teachings.
  • Guidelines established involving limitations on how much a director can dictate of a student’s “self-discipline.” Including, but not limited to dating, entertainment, music, clothing, etc.
  • Establish clearly that the Director or Staff Member is NOT the voice of God for the said students and staff members and in no way should exercise such grossly misguided authority.
  • Protection of the student from authoritarianism of a Director’s or Staff members by revoking a group’s affiliation with the MCIN, if deemed necessary.
  • Guidelines and hours set to protect the student from over-work, long term exhaustion or fatigue, or physical ailments due to over-work for no (or very little) monetary payment. Following the laws that the Department of Labor establishes, according to www.dol.gov
  • A board of directors for each Master’s Commission that should include parents of students or staff members. Also, a safe “complaint” system established in which a student or staff member’s parent(s), guardian or friend can go to without retributions in order to bring to the attention of the MCIN any matter of harassment, mental harm, destructive teaching, or all manners of an unhealthy group or cult-like teachings.
  • Regularly monitoring of activities, and teachings to prevent further development of patterns of cult-like teachings, destructive and harmful teachings and practices.
  • Encourage students to engage in open relationships with their parents, family and friends and not to exclude or hide anything from them. To develop an “Open Campus” policy and Parent’s Board for parents to question policies, procedures, pay scale, work load and work schedules.

For the future of the MCIN, I would like to suggest the following for the safety and wellness of the staff members:

  • Set, enforced guidelines regarding pay scale for staff members relevant to actual work done that would be in the secular environment in the specific metropolitan area. Additionally, following the Department of Labor laws on employment and minimum wage.
  • Provide some type of minimum paid sick days and funeral leave standard to secular work place.
  • Provide access or information to health benefits or coverage, and adjust pay to appropriate for health care. (Note: Health care and health benefits do not mean the state run insurance!)
  • Provide paid vacation for full-time staff members, relevant to secular workplace.
  • Provide mileage compensation for job related driving.
  • Allow for staff members to date at their discretion, under advisement of the pastor only if the said staff member requests the advisement of a pastor. Take away the “No Dating” policy for students or staff members who are beyond their First Year. No dictating, scare tactics, or harassment of the staff member’s choices of dating.

Perhaps the greatest issue not covered is the issue of a person who leaves Master’s Commission (most groups included in this) is often ostracized. To ostracize is to: 1. exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc. Ostracizing is what some modern churches do, but it’s wrong. If you don’t follow their tenants, you get excommunicated. After serving MC for several years, I followed the voice of God to go home. This voice of God that I heard was contrary to the voice of the pastors. What’s ironic here is that I followed the voice of God, but was shunned from their ‘bubble’ and my reputation was ruined within that ‘bubble’ for not obeying the pastor.

I have carbon copied a number of persons for this letter. Please know that I care deeply about the future of Master’s Commission, my former employers and their children; however, I would be doing a great injustice to the ministry itself, it’s pastors, and related friends and benefactors had I failed to bring these wrongs to your attention.

I speak also on behalf of many alumni and former staff members who did not wish to risk personal retributions or emotional trauma from resurfacing these issues. They now have a voice and I hope forgiveness and open dialogue can one day enter all of our hearts. As Pulma Gobodo-Madikizela says, “For in the end, we are a society of people and not ideas, a fragile web of interdependent humans, not of stances.”

Thank you,

L.

Cc: Nathan Davies, Tim Wilson, Daniel Jones

Resource: ACUI International Conference presentation “Desperately Seeking Community: The Appeal of Cult Leadership”, Mindy Griffith, University of Arizona. March 6, 2000, New York, NY.

Additional information on Cults obtained from Purdue University Counseling Center and
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Counseling Center.

 

Labor Laws may be obtained at the Department of Labor website: www.dol.gov