It took Amazon a few extra days to find a copy of “The Crumbling Foundation” for him. After he finally received it, he read it, a few pages at a time on his lunch breaks. It was a real eye-opener, but he forced himself to read slowly, verifying quotes as he read. So far, every time he located another source for a quote, what was in the book proved accurate. Sometimes he had to search many different sources before finding the quotes he needed.
But he felt all the extra effort was worth it. If he was to convince Judith The Word contained deep flaws, he had to make sure that every single point he made was correct, and provable. Even with that, he feared he could not convince her. The Word had the resurrection and Charlene, he had…he wasn’t sure what he had. He knew he could no longer follow a lie, but what would replace it? He’d grown up knowing that all “Christian” religions apart from The Word were imitations of the true religion, run by crooks and liars, agents of Satan. He didn’t think he could join another church. Besides, he might just find problems there, too.
The first few chapters of the book confirmed his understanding of where The Foundation went wrong with its prophetic interpretations. Mainly, it should never have tried them. History was full of false prophecies based on methods similar to, or even identical to the years-for-days ideas advanced by Apostle Adderly. As the author noted “the plethora of dates for the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world, strewn across the historic landscape, serve as warning not to attempt such things. So far the failure rate is 100%, there is no reason to believe someone else will do better.”
He started to skim a chapter discussing the doctrinal flaws in The Word’s understanding of various Biblical doctrines. It didn’t interest him, as he still believed many of The Word’s basic articles of faith. But then he noticed an emerging pattern. The Word always taught the various Christian churches all called the others heretics for not holding the correct beliefs. He’d already noticed on his travels for work, that this did not hold true for some. Now he learned that far from arguing continuously over beliefs, most Christians accepted a common understanding of core beliefs. Those beliefs lay distinctly outside what New Jerusalem taught, it was The Word that advanced strange doctrines, not found elsewhere.
Disciples took pride in this, seeing it as proof they were right. He began to hold a new opinion, when everyone else tells you have it wrong, you have it wrong.
The next chapter, entitle “It’s Not About Doctrine” looked more appealing to him. It covered the religion’s most worrisome aspects; the lack of caring for others, the rules, and enforced shunning. He quickly found that it contained information he’d never thought about. It also explained the difficulty of breaking free.
“This chapter details the most egregious problems with The Word of God Foundation: lack of transparency in its financial dealings and decision making; the many harmful and unscriptural rules it imposes on its members, and the means it uses to insure compliance with those rules. In order to understand how the religion imposes this structure on its members, we need to examine the methods it uses to control their ability to think for themselves, using Steven Hassan’s BITE model.”
Hassan, a mental health professional formerly associated with the Unification Church wrote and taught extensively on the subject of abusive religions. “BITE” stood for Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotion.* A quick look at his website convinced Samuel the Word of God fit the model in many ways. The Word controlled its member’s behavior, even such personal matters as dress and grooming. It limited contact with Outsiders, instilled fear in the Disciples, and pulled on their emotions.
He thought of Judith crying in front of a cheap movie, New Jerusalem had her emotions locked-in to focus on The Word’s teachings. The Foundation controlled the information flow by severely limiting what the Disciples could read or see. It did this by instilling fear and encouraging peer pressure. It kept the Disciples so busy they didn’t have time to look at anything even if they felt so inclined. The copy of “1984” David gave him was the first book written by a non-Disciple he’d read since graduating from high school. No wonder he had such a hard time opening his mind and deciding what to do!
He put the book down and went back to work, looking forward to a continuation of his studies.
“What is it David?”
“You know I got several offers. I’ve decided to go to Bellevue College. It has the best medical technology program in the state.”
His son smiled proudly, “I’m getting a large scholarship that I applied for a couple of months ago.”
Samuel grinned and congratulated his son, shaking his hand. He said he was proud, then he realized that he about a million questions, but David had one of his own. Would his father have trouble at the Gathering House? After a moment’s thought, he said no, he no longer cared what they thought. He was ready to let the chips fall where they may.
“Where are you going to live? You’ve never been away from home.”
That was silly, every year millions of eighteen year olds left home and went to school.
“Keith DeRoche, a friend from school is going there for the same program. He and I can rent a basement apartment from his aunt. It’s only about a mile from campus. The rent will be cheap and I can get a work-study on campus to pay my expenses.”
“Sounds like you thought of everything. I need to think about how I’m going to talk to your mother.”
“Dad, I don’t want to cause more trouble between you and Mom, but I have to do this.”
The two talked pleasantly for a minute or two, then David went back down the hall to his room, and Samuel turned to the work reports on his computer. But he couldn’t concentrate on work. He kept thinking of what he’d read about all the rules The Word imposed on the Disciples. This provided a perfect example, why was education wrong?
Now that he’d been doing some research, he knew the real answer to that question. The Apostles said that education was a useless pursuit aimed only at success in this world. Disciples aimed for success in the world to come, The Lord’s Paradise. But education interfered with New Jerusalem’s control of its members. Educated people were harder for the Apostles to control.
When he went to bed himself a short time later Judith was sitting up and reading the latest “Word of God” magazine. “The Word” contained material intended for use in Disciple-making, it contained articles aimed at the public, not Disciples. Judith, Luke and the Larsons were the only people Samuel knew that read it from cover to cover.
She put the magazine down on the covers as he entered the room.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
“David told you he’s going to college.” Her voice was flat, conveying a curious mixture of emotionless despair and anger.
She took a deep breath, pursing her lips. “Well, we can’t let him go. It’s contrary to our instructions from New Jerusalem.”
Samuel answered that he didn’t think it was a matter of “letting” him go. He was going with or without their agreement.
“Caleb and Luke will remove you from the Servant Committee. They will restrict David, maybe even Cast him out. How can you let this happen, we’re so close to the end?”
She started to sob, her words coming out in broken confusion.
“David should be going to New Jerusalem… or Disciple- making fulltime Disciple-making… or going to missionary school… he has an opportunity to travel… he has endless opportunities within The Word. Instead he’s going to run off to college like an Outsider!”
He pointed out that other Disciple children were going to college. She didn’t care. The kids going to school were mostly going to trade schools, a year at most and they’d be doing what they were supposed to be doing working, Disciple-making, and getting married.
“I thought we’re going to be in Paradise in a year.” Samuel said without thinking.
“So that’s it. You don’t really believe we’re that close to Paradise do you?” she said with cold fury. Suddenly her voice changed to a wail, “How can you?” she burst into tears. “I’m going to lose you and David like I lost Charlene. I’ll spend forever without you.”
Tears poured down her cheeks. He walked around to her side of the bed and sat on the cover next to her. He put a hand on her shoulder, “Honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”
She pushed his hand away, then suddenly grasped it tightly, pulling him toward her. She flung an arm around him, “Don’t leave me. I don’t want to live forever without you. Or David.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Good,” she sniffed and pulled a tissue from the box on the nightstand. “I feel like this job promotion is pulling you away. You should be working harder on these new responsibilities as a Servant. It’s exciting times, but it’s going to be a lot of work. But the reward will be worth it.”
She patted the bed next to her, “Come to bed. Hold me and tell me it will be all right.”
He smiled, “it will be all right.”
Later he lay staring at the shadows on the ceiling. The book was right. He knew she loved him, but New Jerusalem, the Apostles, the Gathering, had first claim on her emotions. He needed to figure out what he’d do if she couldn’t break free.
*Information on the BITE model can be found at https://www.freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php
Armageddon’s Slaves © Jeffrey Thomas All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. All events and characters are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental