Previous experiences and current opinions

Singer 3

Margaret T. Singer, Cults in our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace. Josey-Bass, 2003

Pg. xxv. Introduction to the First Edition

            “Modern day cults and thought reform groups tend to offer apparent utopias, places where all humankind’s ills will be cured. The cult’s lure is, if you first come along, all will be fine, and everyone will live happily ever after.”

            Cay & Judy’s rhetoric was an example of this quote. They spoke of the need to struggle and work against our base human natures, which involves some suffering, but that it was all in the pursuit of freedom from the sufferings we all experienced, and towards a utopian goal of living a happy, free, and fulfilling life. They spoke of service to God as being the highest form of satisfaction. They would often teach that all sufferings would drop away if you would only surrender your “self” 100% to obedience.

            This captivated my desire to be a part of something bigger than myself, something that would warrant my efforts, and be worthy of giving my life to. I was too young and naïve to realize that there are people in the world who have grandiose visions of what they can accomplish, and do not hesitate to manipulate others towards their own ego fulfillment.

            My family of origin had left me feeling unsatisfied, and looking for something in the world that was fulfilling. It did not occur to me that it was up to me to make my path in life. I thought it was “out there” somewhere and I only had to find it. Cay and Judy at The Community of Jesus promised to fill that longing. Their promises were false.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-allegations-school-of-secrets-1.6319539?cmp=rss

In contrast to the cult self, Singer speaks of the protean self, a term R.J. Lifton coined to describe the authentic self. “The protean self, in contrast to the fundamentalist or cult self, is open and many-sided; rather than narrowly prescribed, it calls forth odd combinations, and includes important elements of humor and mockery.” (Foreword)

I love this description. I was so narrowly prescribed while in the CJ cult. I dared not think outside of the box. I dared not dream of things I would like to do or try. I was a cog in their well-oiled machine, a worker-bee taught to do as I was told and to have no initiative of my own. I get so angry when I look back at the constriction, the fear and humiliation that they filled my days with. In contrast, I feel so free now. Not that I don’t have my hang-ups, my fears of new situatiosn, my self-doubts, but I now have the freedom to try new things. I can recognize that my self-doubts are a hangover from the cult days, and I can be gentle with myself, and encourage myself to spread my wings. I can go ahead and be out of my comfort zone, and I discover that those new situations, new jobs, new friends, quickly become familiar and comfortable.

I also love the permission this quote gives to be quirky, odd, and to try new combinations. There is no “right” way to be. We can all be our authentic selves, and humor and mockery have a part to play in our recovery.

Singer, M. (2003). Cults in our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace. Josey-Bass

In my journey of recovery from having lived in a totalitarian cult for so long, it has been important for me to realize that abuse that is not physical is legitimately abuse. As much as I had suffered from psychological abuse, there was a part of me that minimized it because it was not physical or sexual abuse.

As Robert J. Lifton puts it in his foreword to Margaret Singer’s book Cults in our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace (2003), “…psychological manipulation is the heart of the matter, with or without the use of physical violence…in cults there occurs a series of psychological processes that can be associated with what has been called ‘coercive persuasion’ or ‘thought reform’…there is a pattern of manipulation and exploitation from above (by leaders and ruling coteries) and idealism from below (on the part of supplicants and recruits)” (pg. xi).

That idealism that Lifton speaks of was a driving force behind my acceptance of the teachings and practices of The Community of Jesus. We were supposedly learning to live a life pleasing to God which would then spread out and bring the Kingdom of Love to our whole area, and even possibly the whole world. Idealism can fuel acceptance of an awful lot of suffering, all in the name of achieving some lofty goal. You know it is a cult, or other manipulative group, when the goals are never reached, and the suffering increases, which was my experience at The Community of Jesus.

Climate Change

I was listening this morning to a Larry King Live interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson from 4 yearrs ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x2ZrklQQYU). Both of those men are so wonderful to listen to. Larry asked Neil what he thinks of climate change deniers, and Neil responded that he doesn’t care what anyone believes, but that if those in power deny climate change, those who have control over legislation, then that is a “recipe for disaster…that is the end of an informed democracy”.

Climate change happens over long periods of time, and has been a natural cyclical pattern on the earth for eons. The fossil and archeological records show us that. What is different, and concerning, about the climate change that is happening now is its intensity and rapidity.

Most people have heard different sides of the fossil fuel debate, so today I want to talk about water, particularly the drought in California. There are cyclical droughts throughout the history of the earth, but what makes this drought different is the effect of human activity on it. There is an underground water table in California (and surrounding states). The people and industries of California draw from that water table faster than it is being naturally replenished. Depleting the water-table leaves the surface drier than normal, setting up the conditions for wildfires.

Overuse of the Colorado River has effects not only on the immediate area of California, but downstream as well. The Colorado River used to support “…extensive estuary and terrestrial ecosystems in Baja California…The use of water upstream and the accompanying reduction of freshwater flow has resulted in the loss of most of the wetlands of the area, as well as drastic changes to the aquatic ecosystems.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_River_Delta).

The weather patterns are shifting. It is not raining as much in some places, and it is raining more heavily in other places. We are seeing a change. We need to be better stewards of our behaviors and activities. DeGrasse Tyson used the example of watering our lawns. Do we need to use potable water for that? No, we could use recycled water from our dishwashers (for example). “The grass is not going to care.”

There have been some accusations that the people charged with managing the forests in California had left the underbrush grow to a dangerous level. I would like to point out that normally the forest would be green and wet enough to offset that danger. With the drier conditions produced by the over-consumption of water, then the underbrush becomes a fire danger. While mankind does try its best to manage our natural resources, it is impossible to prevent all natural occurrences. We have to look at and take responsibility for producing the dangerous conditions in the first place. As deGrasse Tyson says in the interview, “We need to think more…holistically about systems that manifest on this earth, and that’s a relatively new way to think about the world…All evidence points to the fact that it is human influence on the ecosystem that is influencing these changes.”

Recent Media

Over the years I have spoken with any reporter who found my blog and wanted to know more. Nothing ever got published until now. WBZ-TV (CBS channel 4) did a short 3-part series on destructive groups in Massachusetts, and CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company) did an in-depth investigation on the connection between Grenville Christian College (GCC) and The Community of Jesus (CJ). A group of students recently won a class-action suit against GCC for the abuse they suffered there. I have provided the links:

WBZ-TV

https://boston.cbslocal.com/2021/11/04/community-of-jesus-orleans-cape-cod-massachusetts-abuse-allegations-wbz-tv/

CBC show

Equality

I am all for equality. We hear a lot about gender equality, and I think that is a wonderful thing. It’s an ongoing struggle, but at least it is in the open these days, and we are having conversations. More and more people are engaging not only in the male/female struggle, but are accepting the fact that gender is on a continuum.

Another area where equality still has a long way to go is in the area of religion. So many religions think they are the only way to the truth, and anyone who doesn’t believe as they do is going to hell, or a version of that. And yet, Christians will usually accept other Christians, even though the different types of Christianity vary so widely in their beliefs and practices.

However, there are belief systems that are shunned, castigated, and otherwise have a great deal of prejudice still practiced against them. Wikipdia lists a huge quantity of religions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions_and_spiritual_traditions), but what often gets overlooked are the belief systems that do not believe in a deity, such as humanists, agnotics and atheists. People who fall into these categories are often the most caring, putting the welfare of people as a primary focus. I was raised in a generation that assumed most people believed in a god, usually the Christian god in this country. While my family were not believers, and neither was I until 22, we were quiet about it. I knew it was a no-no to announce I didn’t believe in a god.

It is somehow threatening to many religious folk to talk with someone who does not believe in a god. I think that reaction is based in fear. Fear of what? Only the individual can parse that out, but some of my guesses would be; fear of their own ambivalence, fear that they might be contaminated – might “catch” atheism, fear of the judgement of their fellow believers if they are seen with an unbeliever.

As a light-hearted response, I got a kick out of this song.

Daily Life Update

No philosophical thoughts this time, but a daily life update instead.

I have gone through 2 weeks of moving. This has been a good move for me. I took about a month to slowly pack up my stuff – it is truly amazing how much you can accumulate when you stay in one place for years. Gifts, knick-knacks, books – you name it. I started with the things I wasn’t using on a daily basis, and spent the last couple of days with bare minimum stuff. Dishes and computers mainly.

I used to move by myself, with friends helping some, but I knew this time was too big a move to do alone, so I hired 2 Men and a Truck. Fantastic crew, very helpful.

I only moved next door. From the third floor to the first floor. I love my new place, and I feel energized to dive into projects; painting, quilting, weaving, sewing. I’ve lost my desire to escape into video games, though I do watch TV in the late evening. That is a big change for me, one I have been contemplating for a long time. I knew I was escaping, but did not have a desire strong enough to make a change. It makes me happy that this move has moved me beyond escaping. To me that is another sign of healing and growth.

My daughter and granddaughter came down the first weekend and helped me unpack. We got 90% of the boxes emptied. Since then, I have slowly finished unpacking, and arranging. I only have picture hanging left to do.

This feels like a healing step. I didn’t intend it to be that. I was looking to get off of the third floor. Carrying groceries up those stairs became too much, so it was a practical decision. So, I am a bit surprised how this has so positively affected me. I’m very happy about it, and feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose, that I am moving forward somehow.

In the midst of all this I have made great progress on my memoir. My part in writing it is done. There will be just a little bit of content editing to finish up on, and then it goes to copy editing. I am starting to research publishing houses as opposed to, or in addition to, self-publishing. If anyone reading this has experience or tips, I would love to hear them.

My job hunt continues. My summer job being over, I am looking for my next place of work. Considering options, interviewing. No offers yet, but interviews are going well, and I’m learning what agencies are out there, and what they do.

My wishes that you also are enjoying life go out to you all.

Religion can heal, and religion can harm. It all depends on the person and how they put their religion into practice. This is true no matter what the religion is. I can’t help but be aware of the growing presence of Christian Nationalism in our country. Not only do I have a natural curiosity about what is going on with this group, but I feel I need to understand this movement. Knowledge is power, and if they are, or become, a danger to me or my circle, knowing your enemy gives you an edge on how to deal with it.

I have begun to listen to podcasts or read articles about this when I happen to see one. I’m learning that a lot of these groups place a high value on authoritarianism. There is a strict hierarchy of positions, and they stress that the male is the protector of God, Country, and Family. The woman’s place is to raise the children and to support and please her husband.

There is also a strong emphasis that America is the greatest nation on earth, that we have always been so, and anyone who says otherwise is a traitor. The quote “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but this has no factual backing. (https://checkyourfact.com/2019/06/18/fact-check-thomas-jefferson-dissent-highest-form-patriotism/) However, New York mayor John Lindsay, in 1969, said the same thing in one of his speeches, referring to the Vietnam war protests. A true Democracy is not authoritarian, and is not run by any one religion. Dissent is the basis of balance of power, but violent dissent to take over the government is not geared to fixing probelms.

As the title of this blog suggests, the Hollywood presentation of the John Wayne image sums up the ethos that surrounds this group. This “warrior mentality” is not supported by Christian sources, such as the Bible, but is based on patriarchal interpretation because it suits the macho image that they have bought into. There is an excellent podcast with Seth Andrews and Dr. Du Mez that goes more into this in detail. Dr. Du Mez is a Christian religious historian who is a professor of gender studies, religion, and politics at a Christian university.

Link to the podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeMjEYAMsGk

Besides the fact that I am opposed to the submission of women, I am worried by the acceptance of violence that many Christian Nationalists endorse. They believe that the end justifies the means, and their rhetoric evolves around feeling that they have to “reclaim” America for Christianity. This is a clear and present danger to democracy and to us all.

I am not pointing the finger at all of Christianity or at all Christians, but the Nationalist sector is getting out of hand. Perhaps Christians should get more active to get their house in order?

Which Christianity?

Speaking of Christian Nationalism, another facet of this idea is the subject of disunity.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Christians say they think America was founded as a Christian nation, and they want it to become all Christian in its politics. I have already written about that being a fallacy, and how the founding fathers wanted a secular government.

I would like to ask the Christians, which Christianity?

There are so many different sects within Christianity. According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there exist roughly 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide in 2012. Here are a few of them;

Catholics

Independent Catholics

Anglicans

Baptist

Lutheran

Calvinist

Methodist

Seventh-day Adventist

Anabaptist

Plymouth Brethren

Hussites

Quakers

Pentecostalist

Nondenominational

African initiated

Chinese Patriotic Christian

New Apostolic

Messianic Judaist

Offshoot Christian cults

Eastern Orthodoxy

Oriental Orthodoxy

Non-trinitarian Restorationism

They differ on some very fundamental religious tenants, such as:

The Bible is the Word of God and true in every word – The Bible is a guidebook to be interpreted for modern times.

From the hierarchy of the Church has total authority, to each individual carrying responsibility for their own choices and actions.

From stating the three well-known creeds are to be followed (Nicene, Athanasius, and Apostles), to not embracing any stated creed (Baptists).

Mary is a mediator between man and God, and she is not that.

Homosexuality is OK, and it is not.

Divorce is OK, and it is not.

Abortion is murder and should be state controlled, or it is a difficult personal choice to be made by the woman and those close to her.

The list goes on, and you can see that these tenants affect every single one of us when they are politicized.

Christianity is the most divided religion on the earth. If this contentious, divided lot were to rule our politics, they would bring their division into that arena also. They do not have a very good track record of providing unity among diverse peoples, but rather have a rather violent history of insisting that others convert to their belief system. If they were to rule politics, I do not believe that we as a nation will stand.