The “C Words” – Part Three

The third “C Word” I’d like to share is kind of a double whammy….2 C Words together. They are CONTEXT and CONDEMNATION. When quotes and scriptures are taken out of context to prove a point or paint a picture a certain way, it will often bring condemnation.

Take the quote that is on the home page of the website Sound Doctrine created to make me look evil, like I am actually proud of using Christian radio to take advantage of other Christians.

“I found that advertising on Christian radio was the ultimate bonanza…I found the Christian radio audience to be trusting and even gullible.”
Athena Dean 1996

Of course if you read it in context in my book, Consumed by Success, you find that I am describing what God was convicting me of that was wrong back in 1992, and clearly see that I was repenting for using God and my brothers and sisters for my own personal gain.

But is that what you assume when you read the quote by itself?

Of course not.

So what is the definition of the word context?

con·text

[kon-tekst]

noun

1. the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect: You have misinterpreted my remark because you took it out of context.
From http://www.dictionary.com

Another example of taking things out of context is when pastors want to prove a point and go to the Bible to find every scripture that uses the word they are looking for. They then use all those scriptures to prove their point. This was and still is common practice at Sound Doctrine and is used in a very destructive way which misrepresents the heart of God. We were in no way taught to be Bereans. We were taught to believe the leaders as they used the Scripture to prove their point.

This practice is explained clearly in the definitive work The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen:

In a spiritually abusive system, Scripture is employed to prove or to bolster the agenda of the person using it. This is called “proof-texting.” Proof-texting occurs when someone has a point he wants to prove. So he finds a verse to do so, even if it means stretching or ignoring the original issue about which the verse was written or the context in which the verse is found.

Because this is the method the leaders use, it is the method the followers learn to use. Consequently, there is little if any opportunity to become capable of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

A more complete description can be found at http://www.biblestudy.org:

A PROOFTEXT is a verse or short passage from the Bible used by someone as part of his proof for a doctrinal belief he wishes to substantiate to others. However, since verses and passages may rely extensively on the context in which they appear for correct interpretation, pulling these out of their context and having them stand alone in a “proof” can, at times, be very misleading. In addition, a set of such proof-texts can completely ignore other passages which, if added to the mix, might well lead to an entirely different conclusion.

Someone who relies strongly only on a list of proof-texts in order to make a doctrinal argument may have a very weak case for his argument. Noting that a religious teacher relies heavily just on proof-texting is viewed in theological circles as a very negative evaluation. Doctrinal beliefs based strictly on proof texts can lead people to believing, and even whole churches to teaching, something which is not Biblically correct.

Definition of Christian Terms – BibleStudy.Org

I guess it really all boils down to word games. That’s what is very evident that the leadership of Sound Doctrine is expert at. And they use those tactics in dealing with authors at WinePress. A perfect example of this is when Heather (Paulsen) Patenaude requested that they remove her name and success story from their website in part due to the pending lawsuit.

In reality, I had not, and still have not, filed the lawsuit, but had my attorney attempt to reason with them first. So as of that date, Mr. Fraser had received 2 letters from my attorney regarding a lawsuit and was clearly aware that it was my plan should they be unwilling to meet the demand letter. His response to Heather’s request included this statement:

WinePress is not currently involved in any lawsuit nor are we aware that one has been filed.

When I saw that I thought to myself….Wow, that reminds me of the word games Clinton played in the Monica Lewinsky scandal!

To read the entire post with documentation of the word games and condemnation crafted by Mr. Fraser please visit this link: http://www.emotionalpurity.blogspot.com/2012/02/021712-winepress-publishers.html

I could fill a book with other examples of word games I’ve heard over the last 12 years and been the brunt of over the last few months. Suffice it to say, I have experienced the “C Words” in abundance and am being sanctified in the process.

I dare say I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything…but some may call me crazy for that statement! 🙂

The “C Words” – Part Two

The second “C Word” you’ve probably seen recently is CONSPIRACY. I found it amusing to receive a “Cease and Desist” letter from the attorney representing Sound Doctrine/WinePress Publishing naming me as a civil conspirator and others as co-conspirators. In fact, Chip MacGregor, well-known literary agent in Christian publishing, was also named because he re-posted someone else’s post that included my story on his FaceBook page. He had some interesting things to say about that in his blog post of March 5 entitled Conspirators R Us.

My “co-conspirator” Cindy Scinto turned me onto an interesting publication from Harvard University Law School which is part of their Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper Series. The article is entitled “Conspiracy Theories” and was written by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule. I found it very compelling that some of the issues I brought up in earlier posts about the way Sound Doctrine operates were common settings for the birthing and proliferation of conspiracy theories. Hmmmmm……

I’ve pulled out the most interesting quotes and bolded what I felt really connected to this group.

“On the other hand, individuals in societies with systematically malfunctioning or skewed institutions of knowledge – say, individuals who live in an authoritarian regime lacking a free press – may have good reason to distrust all or most of the official denials they hear. For these individuals, conspiracy theories will more often be warranted, whether or not true. Likewise, individuals embedded in isolated groups or small, self-enclosed networks who are exposed only to skewed information will more often hold conspiracy theories that are justified, relative to their limited informational environmentWhen isolated groups operate within a society that is both wider and more open, their theories may be unjustified from the standpoint of the wider society but justified from the standpoint of the group if it maintains its isolation.”  (Page 9)

Authoritarian regime lacking free press – CHECK.
The information control in Sound Doctrine/WinePress Publishing is so tight, most people in the organization are kept completely in the dark and only top leadership is aware of issues that are troublesome.

Isolated group exposed only to skewed information – CHECK.
Cult members are encouraged to avoid any negative reports or doubt provoking information. The leadership shares limited information, out of context, in such a way as to prove they are right and the naysayer is wrong.

“Group polarization occurs for reasons that parallel the mechanisms that produce cascades. Informational influences play a large role. In any group with some initial inclination, the views of most people in the group will inevitably be skewed in the direction of that inclination. As a result of hearing the various arguments, social interactions will lead people toward a more extreme point in line with what group members initially believed. Reputational factors matter as well. People usually want to be perceived favorably by other group members. Once they hear what others believe, some will adjust their positions at least slightly in the direction of the dominant position. For purposes of understanding the spread of conspiracy theories, it is especially important to note that group polarization is particularly likely, and particularly pronounced, when people have a shared sense of identity and are connected by bonds of solidarity.”  (Page 14)

Group polarization – CHECK.
In the Christian community it is definitely SD against everyone else, which is most evident from their latest post stating that if you’re not called a cult you’re not really a Christian, (see http://www.sdoctrine.org/eau-de-cult/).

Bonds of solidarity – CHECK.
Sound Doctrine members are loyal to one another and the Williams family and believe they are standing firm for the gospel. Though none go with me, still I will follow….

“7. Selection effects. A crippled epistemology can arise not only from informational and reputational dynamics within a given group, but also from self-selection of members into and out of groups with extreme views. Once polarization occurs or cascades arise, and the group’s median view begins to move in a certain direction, doubters and halfway believers will tend to depart while intense believers remain. The overall size of the group may shrink, but the group may also pick up new believers who are even more committed, and in any event the remaining members will, by self-selection, display more fanaticism. Group members may engage in a kind of double-think, segregating themselves, in a physical or informational sense, in order to protect their beliefs from challenge by outsiders. Even if the rank and file cannot coherently do this, group leaders may enforce segregation in order to insulate the rank and file from information or arguments that would undermine the leaders’ hold on the group.  (Page 13-14)

Segregating self to protect beliefs – CHECK.
Sound Doctrine members completely segregate themselves from other Christians. While volunteering in the cult’s Christian bookstore and trying to be a light to outsiders, there was always a huge wall between “us” and “them”. You would never allow someone not in Sound Doctrine to pray for you or minister to you in any way. After all, we had the truth and no one else did, that is, unless they joined our group. Even at WinePress, the lines were drawn to keep everything on a business level so that employees could not end up in a “compromising” situation with an author.

Leaders insulate rank and file from anything that would undermine leaders’ hold – CHECK.
The group-think is that you don’t want to be “defiled” by reading something written by anyone who is an “enemy of the cross.” After all, you’ve been reminded over and over of the scripture about being destroyed if you so much as listen to a false witness. And of course, anyone who does not agree with Tim Williams’ doctrine is automatically a false witness.

The “C” Words – Part One

I’d like to take the next 3 days and highlight the “C” words that have been so prevalent in the ongoing saga of my deliverance out of a spiritually abusive organization. Sound Doctrine is the “ministry” that now owns the Christian publishing company my former husband and I started over 20 years ago, WinePress Publishing.

“C Word” # 1 – CULT

It’s mind boggling to think back to how we were indoctrinated in Sound Doctrine to refute the label of “cult”. First scriptures would be given to show that Paul was accused of being in a cult (sect), and then sarcastic comments would be made to show that the church in America is so far from God that it isn’t ever called a cult, and the only reason we were called that is because we really “lived the gospel.”

The more research I do on cults the more clear it becomes that the characteristics and tactics used by controlling leaders in cults are not in any way biblical or something to be proud of, as I was once brainwashed to believe.

In my research I found a list online that showed common characteristics found in cultic groups, and would like to share them. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to comment on each point, since I’ve brought almost every one of these points up in my previous posts on this blog.

 Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups – Revised
Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

  • †        The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • †        ‪ Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • †        ‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  • †        ‪ The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  • †        ‪ The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
  • †        ‪ The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  • †        ‪ The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
  • †        ‪ The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
  • †        ‪ The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • †        ‪ Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
  • †        ‪ The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • †        ‪ The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • †        ‪ Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  • †        ‪ Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  • †        ‪ The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

My goal here is simple…to shine the light on the truth of how this group operates. Not only are  my grandkids still trapped in this cult, but there’s another 37 people who are still blinded by the enemy of their souls.

My prayers right now are for those who are still ensnared, who continue to hold onto what has been preached to them as reality, when in fact it is lies from the pit of hell. Please join me in praying for them, that the scales would fall from their eyes, and the Lord would deliver them from their captivity.

You Never Let Go

I have to say that this weekend at the Women’s Retreat was refreshing, rejuvenating, and God definitely made the most of this opportunity to show me, once again, that I really CAN trust Him. His presence filled our sweet time of learning and fellowship and I came away feeling washed clean and loved.

One of the theme songs for the retreat was “You Never Let Go” (lyrics below). It didn’t really hit me until today that I have been listening to that song for the last 2 years, even when I was still ensnared in the cult. Right around the time I’d “sold” my company for $10 and was systematically demonized by the founding pastor and his leaders, I stumbled upon this song. I remember listening to it and begging God not to let me go, (Remember, I was led to believe that leaving the cult would be turning my back on Him).

I was deceived into thinking God is an angry taskmaster who constantly threatens to take back the free gift of salvation, when in reality he is a loving God, full of grace and compassion, who was right there during my time of captivity, never letting go of me!

As I continue to walk out my healing and the restoration of my relationships with my children, as well as standing up for what is right and cooperating with God’s desire for justice, I am holding onto this promise…His perfect love casts out fear…and He won’t ever let me go.

Now that’s a God I can trust.

You Never Let Go (by Matt Redman)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back .
I know You are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Chorus:
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

Chorus:

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

Spiritualizing Away Conflict

In looking at my life and my tendency to avoid rocking the boat at all costs, it is so helpful to begin to understand how unhealthy my spirituality has been.

In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Peter Scazzero lists the “Top Ten Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality”. Number 7 is spiritualizing away conflict.

Very, very few of us come from families where conflicts are resolved in a mature, healthy way. Most simply bury our tensions and move on. In my own family, when I became a Christian I was the great “peacemaker” I would do anything to keep unity and love flowing in the church as well as my marriage and family. I saw conflict as something that had to be fixed as quickly as possible. Like radioactive waste from a nuclear power plant, if not contained, I feared it might unleash terrible damage.

So I did what most Christians do: I lied a lot, both to myself and others.

What do you do when faced with the tension and mess of disagreements? Some of us may be guilty of one or more of the following:

  • Say one thing to people’s faces and then another behind their backs
  • Make promises we have no intention of keeping
  • Blame
  • Attack
  • Give people the silent treatment
  • Become sarcastic
  • Give in because we are afraid of not being liked
  • “Leak” our anger by sending an e-mail containing a not-so-subtle criticism
  • Tell only half the truth because we can’t bear to hurt a friend’s feelings
  • Say yes when we mean no
  • Avoid and withdraw and cut off
  • Find an outside person with whom we can share in order to ease our anxiety

Jesus shows us that healthy Christians do not avoid conflict. His life was filled with it! He was in regular conflict with the religious leaders, the crowds, the disciples—even his own family. Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around him. He refused to “spiritualize away” conflict.

I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am ready to get emotionally healthy and quit lying to myself. Instead of giving in, telling half-truths, and saying yes when I mean no, I choose to embrace the conflict and allow the Lord to walk through it with me, teaching me to respond in a Christ-like way instead.

So encouraged to be on this journey of healing!