Surreal

Today was my day to help clean the church. I showed up at 10am to an empty building, and it turned out my cleaning partners had done their part the day before, so I was able to vacuum and dump the trash all by myself. What a trip…my worship music blaring in my headphones, I sang along knowing all the while that the noise of the vacuum cleaner was drowning out my singing so it didn’t matter how I sounded. What freedom!

It was almost surreal the way it reminded me of my last 6 months at WinePress. After the “sale” was completed on April Fools’ Day 2010, it wasn’t long before I was busted down to minimum wage, where I ended up being given the job of cleaning the WinePress offices.

Every morning I would drag around a 30 gallon trash bag and dump everyone’s trash. Really, I tried to have a good attitude while I trudged around the whole building, upstairs and down, but never once did I have the freedom to listen to worship music and praise God while I worked.

But now that I look back, by that point, even if I’d had the opportunity to do so, I’m not sure that I would have. It was an incredibly oppressive environment where walking on eggshells was the order of the day. I remember secretly being thankful someone else was in trouble, as that meant that Tim and Malcolm were too busy dealing with someone else to bother with me.

But today was a new day…a day of freedom in Christ and a celebration of almost 7 months of deliverance from my 12 long years of bondage. It was a joy to push that vacuum around and dump the trash…the Lord’s love overwhelmed me more than once as I thanked Him for all that He has done for me, and I marveled at how He’s placed me in such a good church where grace and mercy abounds.

It was a good time…surreal, but good.

Labeling

I saw an email the other day where the Sound Doctrine leadership was calling the way they are being treated as “witch hunt” emotionalism. I’ve been pondering that since I read it and realized it’s a perfect example of the way cults “label” any criticism to try to invalidate the issues that have been addressed.

As I reviewed a few vital books on understanding the mentality of abusive organizations, I saw two perfect quotes that speak directly to this issue. Here’s the first:

Toxic Characteristic #10: The technique of labeling is used to discount a person who opposes the beliefs of the religious addict.

Labeling attempts to dehumanize critics so that dismissing them or their opinions becomes much easier. The religious addict chooses not to address a critic individually but places a negative label on all who would disagree with his or her personal habits. Rather than say that John Smith has asked some questions, the addict proclaims that there are “detractors,” “traitors,” or “malcontents” who would destroy the ministry or organization. The labels become rallying points used to squelch a revolt. Once the label is in place, it becomes more difficult to see that person as a human with real needs and the potential for good judgment.

The military uses labeling to enhance the “killabillity” of the enemy. The last thing a military leader wants a solder to think about is that the person in his rifle sights may be a father of five little girls who will starve without a daddy. The enemy is given an ethnic label in an effort to dehumanize him. The soldier is better able to kill one hundred of them than one father or husband.

Religious addicts use the technique well, and when they use rumor and innuendo to kill the reputation of a sincere critic, other followers are more apt to go along if a label can dehumanize the dissenter.

Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton – Pages 155 and 157

The second quote is from Kirk Farnsworth’s book. Kirk was the WinePress author who originally challenged me on Tim Williams’ doctrine.

The Spiritually Abusive Organization – Characteristic #5: Paranoia

This is the first of three characteristics that describe the forces that make it so difficult for victims to escape from spiritually abusive systems. It can be called “cultural paranoia” and is similar to that found in the neurotic organization described in chapter 3. In the spiritually abusive organization, paranoia permeates the culture primarily in the form of expecting criticism and avoiding contamination, as we can see in the following:

“There is a sense, spoken or unspoken, that “others will not understand what we’re all about, so let’s not let them know…that way they won’t be able to ridicule or persecute us.” There is an assumption that (1) what you say, know or do is a result of being more enlightened than others; (2) others will not understand unless they become one of your own, and (3) they otherwise will respond negatively.

In a place where authority is grasped and legislated, not simply demonstrated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside of the system who are trying to weaken or destroy “us.” This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave—because they will then be outsiders too. While it is true that there is a world of evil outside of the system, there is also good out there. But people are misled into thinking that the only safety is in the system.” (The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Pages 73-74)

Wounded Workers: Recovering from Heartache in the Workplace and the Church by Kirk Farnsworth – Pages 96-97

The final nail in the coffin occurred when I looked up the definition of “witch hunt” on dictionary.com:

witch hunt

noun

an intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion,dishonesty,
or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.

Ironic that they would use that labeling to discount any criticism that is coming their way, when based on that definition, that’s exactly what they did to Chip MacGregor, well known Christian literary agent, when they sent him a ridiculous “Cease and Desist” letter naming him as a co-conspirator…he blogged about it here.

I have to say, it is just so liberating to see the TRUTH for what it is, not what the Sound Doctrine leadership “says” it is. They say Malcolm Fraser is innocent. I find that interesting, when a most reliable and credible source stated he could tell by the look on Malcolm’s face that he was guilty, no question about it.

I pray for every current Sound Doctrine member, including Carla Williams and her boys and their wives, that they might all have the scales fall from their eyes and see what they have been supporting all these years. It is not of God!

Nothing New Under the Sun

My friends’ counselor at the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KSARC) mentioned the other day that the way a pedophile grooms a child to become a victim is the same way cults groom their members to become victims. I’ve been doing some reading up on this and see some amazing similarities.

I guess there’s nothing new under the sun. Whether its spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, or physical abuse (domestic violence) there’s a red thread found in the intentional manipulation for a desired end. How much more important it becomes, then, for us to guard against being vulnerable to abuse. And the only way to do that is to become emotionally healthy so we can differentiate between our true selves and our true feelings and those thoughts and emotions we have been manipulated or pressured into feeling.

Differentiation – Living Faithful to Your True Self

One very helpful way to clarify this process of growing in our faithfulness to our true selves in a new way is through the use of a new term: differentiation. Developed by Marie Bowen, the founder of modern family systems theory, it refers to a person’s capacity to “define his or her own life goals and values apart from the pressures of those around them.”

Differentiation involves the ability to hold onto who you are and who you are not. The degree to which you are able to affirm your distinctive values and goals apart from the pressures around you (separateness) while remaining close to people important to you (togetherness) helps determine your level of differentiation. People with a high level of differentiation have their own beliefs, convictions, directions, goals, and values apart from the pressures around them. They can choose, before God, how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others. Intensity of feelings, high stress, or the anxiety of others around them does not overwhelm their capacity to think intelligently.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Page 82

When you belong to a cult, you aren’t able to choose anything about how you want to live your life. Your entire life is wrapped up in being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others. As I think back about the ways that Tim Williams intentionally groomed the Sound Doctrine members so that they would never believe their associate pastor could be guilty of child rape. He made a big deal of telling emotional stories of innocent victims being imprisoned for years and finally freed by lawyers for The Innocence Project. Then there were the comments about false memory syndrome and his opinion that you can’t believe someone who claims sexual abuse from childhood. Oh, and we can’t forget about the sermons that bashed any sort of inner healing and biblical counseling for emotional wounds. Nothing like keeping the flock incapable of having their own thoughts, beliefs, convictions and goals. They are much easier to manipulate this way.

I’ve been puzzled by the Sound Doctrine’s extreme paranoia lately and adamant refusal to even ask the question if Malcolm Fraser could possibly be guilty. But the more I think it through, I begin to understand their dilemma. If any of the current members consider the possibility that their associate pastor is a pedophile and has been one for many years, then the gig is up. They would have to admit that Tim and Carla Williams really do not hear from God and have created such an unhealthy controlling environment that it’s become a fertile ground for an abuser to thrive. The house of cards would fall and those who have burned every bridge in their lives and thrown away the last 10-20-30+ years on a lie would have to confront the fact that they’d been duped.

Not an easy place to be.

I know…I’ve been there.

Praying for God to continue to expose the lies, shine His light on the evil deeds of darkness, and set the captives free.