updated Monday October 25th, 2021 5:33pm
I was involved with The Way International for 12 years, helping on a volunteer basis in numerous projects to establish new fellowships, run classes, develop coffee houses, and coordinate advances. I also participated in two notable programs: The Word Over the World (W.O.W.) missionary program and The Way Corps leadership training program. I did not realize it at the time but these were really part of an indoctrination process designed with the express purpose of getting me to accept a certain set of beliefs uncritically.
My narrative here is like a circular flow of thoughts and reactions to events, reflecting the interconnectedness of the totality of my experience. So you might notice some recurring themes and reiterations for clarity. I update it from time to time. My hope is that you will find something that resonates with you, whether you are in or out of The Way International; and in that you may feel some assurance that you are not alone or weird for certain doubts and questions you've had...You can read it all the way through in one sitting - or read it by bits and pieces - I use asterisks, big spaces as separators, numbering and section headings to give it all some structure and so readers won't get lost...and remember I got lost first ...it's awfully disjointed in parts - but sometimes that's just how I process things...consider this an online journal of thoughts on my cult experience jumping around freestyle.
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1. Making sense of it all
It’s not like I woke up one day and realized it was all wrong. That’s not how our minds work. I believe people have an innate desire to make sense of the world. Maybe that has something to do with why we choose a certain path. Since no one has all the answers we occasionally find ourselves making allowances for shortcomings, failures, the mysterious, and the unknown while on our chosen path.
Our beliefs help us make sense of the world. From what I’ve read online, some experts think our beliefs are somewhat like a software program always running in the background as we take in information and examine its source – checking for compatibility or conflicts with our existing beliefs. Our beliefs help form and/or modify a mental model for understanding the world, our self and others. And our beliefs - along with experience, observations, and reason even attempt to predict the future: “If I play at the beach all day I’ll probably get sunburned.”
Bertrand Russell once said, “believing is the most mental thing we do”. It has also been said that our thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions, respond not to the world as it actually is (for we never know reality directly) but to the world as we believe it to be. Our beliefs tell us who we think we are, mark our place in the world and are essentially an ongoing personal narrative that anchors us to various places, situations, and events across our lifetimes…Our brains have no direct contact with the outside world. Our only information about what is going on outside of our bodies comes to us from our five senses.
Perception in psychology is defined as the analysis of sensory information within the brain. Through perception we obtain a description of our surroundings and what they mean. Because of that, we can’t always assume that our perceptions are reality – if anything they just might be our own interpretation of reality. That’s why it’s important to respect the perceptions of others – they might be more accurate than ours. It takes real courage to admit we’re wrong and let go of certain perceptions. Sometimes it’s advantageous to seek out validation from experts or at least from other credible people who are outside of our circle of friends or religious group.
In trying to make sense of it all, I often had to ask myself the question “Am I open to modifying my perception if the evidence is strong and logic demands it?”
Having a rigid mindset is far worse than being wrong.
We tend to base our beliefs on trusted sources. But what happens if you begin to suspect that the organization you’ve trusted for years has not been well grounded, accurate or truthful? I love reading detective and mystery novels. My slow exit of leaving TWI will probably come across like that: logging some suspicious items in the back of my mind for follow-up later, investigating the credentials and experience of the founding president, talking to other disenchanted followers and trying to unravel the convoluted mess of not only a cult’s doctrine and practice but also their control tactics.
Jean Shinoda Bolen's insightful book "The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self" made reference to Agatha Christie's novels about her detective characters often using an intuitive approach asking what is the meaning of this event, what were the circumstances surrounding it, and what are the possibilities implicit within the event ? But in order to see the whole picture Bolen says intuition's counterpart is also necessary - which is a straight forward logical approach of the situation - what details of the circumstances do the five senses take in?
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2. Frustrating monotony
Life is not changeless and we are not static beings either – we change, adapt and grow as time goes by. Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. Some ruts can be worse than others. For me, the TWI-lifestyle gradually became an unrelenting Groundhog Day of monotony and frustrating repetitiveness. There was never really anything new that was taught. I was spinning my wheels in pursuit of the pipe dreams of PFAL. For the most part any new teachings only reinforced what wierwille already taught in PFAL – maybe using alternate passages to teach the same thing or new anecdotes that showed how the principles of PFAL are applied...
Reflecting on some of my old TWI-mental habits I think many of them fall into the category of procrastination - which is like a self-perpetuating rut of monotony. In TWI we were taught that “believe is a verb and a verb connotes action”. wierwille and other TWI-leadership would extrapolate on the numerous “activities” you could or should perform to keep your believing engaged until you got what you were “believing for”.
TWI’s doctrine of the law of believing / magical-thinking gets followers to always look for shortcuts to success instead of going about it the normal tried-and-true way of taking the necessary time and making the appropriate effort to succeed at something. Procrastination is deceptive because it masquerades as activity… I don’t know if any of it was intentional on TWI’s part – but most of that supposed “activity” had very little value of itself but it certainly kept our minds preoccupied with keeping up with the status quo of the TWI-lifestyle - which is the existing practices, and power structure; so basically “ if top leadership says we’re supposed to work on our believing, make positive confessions, study PFAL more, etc. then that’s what we’re supposed to be doing “.
Other suggestions to keep yourself busy with the “work of believing”... or... “building your believing” were positive affirmations, reviewing PFAL, specific prayers, Bible studies on examples of believing, focusing on believing images of victory in your mind, telling everybody and their brother what you're “believing for”…but honestly so much of that busywork is procrastination deceptively masquerading as activity – and is an especially tricky form of self-deception.
Procrastination is a failure of the relationship between knowledge and the will, according to Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard (who lived from 1813 to 1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, and author said procrastination is like sewing without tying a knot at the end of the thread…That is an interesting thought - all the motions of sewing are there but not the practical consequences – because without a knot at the beginning and end of a length of stitching – the thread merely slips through the material but will not stay in place and hold the seam together. In other words, there's a lot of activity but it accomplishes nothing…
...Rather than practicing the law of believing / magical-thinking - I think real knowledge and wisdom should guide our actions…however I can understand what Kierkegaard was saying - - when we know what we really should do but are unwilling to do it , a gap forms in that hesitation…and that can continue to grow into a long series of inaction…in other words, procrastination.
...For the most part, I feel that a lot of the habits I adopted while in TWI were never about exploring my faith or biblical theology…nor was it about expanding spiritual awareness or being involved with some altruistic community outreach. Nope ! ...in retrospect it seemed to be mostly about clinging to closed-minded ideas, conforming to a group's values and ethics, always being preoccupied with busywork as a distraction to real thinking and awareness...I was stuck in a stifling subculture where people related to each other only superficially through contrived interpersonal skills...we all were an odd conglomerate of mostly well-meaning but misguided idealists cobbled together to loosely form a single self-serving entity – The Way International.
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3. The PFAL filter
Do you remember a popular slogan (popular with many Christian groups but not TWI - from the 90s I think) WWJD – - which stands for what would Jesus do? I've always thought that it was cool and pretty compelling – a moral imperative – a reminder to act in a way that demonstrated the love, compassion and kindness of Jesus Christ…(also interesting to note TWI discouraged using just the name "Jesus" - since, they said it referred to his humiliation and also there was a devil spirit named Jesus) Ironically reflecting back on when I took the Power For Abundant Living class ( PFAL for short) in 1974, I think wierwille used Jesus Christ and the basic tenets of Christianity as almost like a window dressing in PFAL – creating a favorable impression to draw people in…but it’s misleading…like a bait-and-switch scam…Jesus Christ, sin, forgiveness, love, etc. are mentioned a lot in the earlier sessions of PFAL but then there is a subtle but crucial shift of importance when wierwille says “The Word takes the place of the absent Christ"…and so a moral imperative to follow Jesus Christ’s example - which should be compelling enough for Christians was eclipsed by an intellectual directive to study “The Word”…Maybe that’s what led me to have a cold…clinical…book-knowledge approach to Christianity rather than pursuing a deeper…personally immersive experience through Jesus Christ.
Looking back, I sometimes wonder if there was some quasi subliminal message in the way TWI promoted wierwille and all his “accomplishments”. Perhaps a motto was formed in my subconscious – something like wwwd - or - what would wierwille do - that encapsulated the revered position wierwille held in our hearts – that anything he thought, said or did became almost sanctified as a standard, an ideal, a guide for doing anything...I really don't know...just thinking out loud...who really knows what all goes on in the subconscious anyway...
TWI-followers don’t think in such obvious terms like that. And I can understand why – the paradigm shift was hidden in plain sight. wierwille’s self-promotion was camouflaged by the persona that he was a simple clergyman frustrated with the lack of answers and power in his life until God spoke to him.
In the authorized book on TWI, titled “The Way Living in Love” wierwille stated “I was praying. And I told Father outright that He could have the whole thing, unless there were real genuine answers that I wouldn't ever have to back up on. And that's when He spoke to me audibly, just like I'm talking to you now. He said He would teach me the Word as it had not been known since the first century if I would teach it to others. Well, I nearly flew off my chair. I couldn't believe that God would talk to me.”
I believe anyone who is NOT enamored with this myth of wierwille should be able to see through his smoke and mirrors. Comparing wierwille’s body of work with that of E.W. Bullinger, Charles Welch, J.E. Stiles, E.W. Kenyon and B.G. Leonard it becomes clear that wierwille was an unabashed plagiarist. It is intriguing to note wierwille attempted to preemptively avoid the issue of pirating intellectual property by occasionally saying something along the lines that much of what he taught was nothing new, he simply pieced together what he learned from others and with God’s guidance made it accurate in the process.
Just for grins let’s suspend criticism of wierwille’s flagrant plagiarism and examine his body of work from the premise of his one particular claim - that God spoke to him and would help him piece together what he had “learned” from others and with God’s guidance make it all accurate in the process. If indeed he had God’s help then we should NOT find any errors, theological inconsistencies or any logical fallacies – in either the exact copying of another person’s material or in wierwille's supposedly “correcting" , “revising” …or in some way modifying or “accurizing” another person’s material. In other words, the finished product of wierwille’s doctrine (which also goes by the pet name “The Word” – an affectionate term used by big wierwille-fans ) should be error-free and faultless in every way.
I did not have to go very far in this reexamination – here are two examples straight out of PFAL:
1. Example of wierwille copying another person’s error: The four crucified with Jesus. This is a distinct error first propounded by E.W. Bullinger. To keep it brief – I will not go into great detail over this bizarre teaching which has already been laboriously dissected on Grease Spot in numerous threads by many folks. Suffice it to say here that given what we know of how the Gospels were written – not only from independent research but even from passages within each of the four Gospels – we find that the Gospels were produced by assembling information collected from many sources. For example, note the word “compile” in Luke 1 ESV https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1&version=ESV
“1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
I think the erroneous four crucified doctrine that wierwille copied from Bullinger was one of wierwille’s favorite ploys to distinguish himself from other Bible teachers. It plays on a false-fear that you’ve been missing a lot of info – almost as if to say “all those other Bible teachers missed there were actually four crucified with Jesus. What else have they missed? Stick with me and you’ll find out lots of other things that even many Bible scholars have missed.”
Besides the fact that the Gospel writers compiled information from many sources the reality that there are four DIFFERENT narratives of the life of Jesus Christ represents four DIFFERENT accounts of events and experiences – each Gospel presenting the details through a sequence of the author’s own choosing. The sequence is always linear – in a straightforward manner. wierwille’s argument for there being four crucified with Jesus depends on him using the dubious “scripture build-up” method – piecemealing passages from across the four Gospels as well as mangling and obfuscating definitions of the Greek words for “thief” and “malefactor” to try and suggest there were more than two crucified with Jesus.
wierwille’s teaching on this in the PFAL class reminds me of the film “Pulp Fiction” - a 1994 American crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino – the film’s narrative is told out of chronological order and follows three main interrelated stories that each have a different protagonist. In the case of Bullinger’s / wierwille’s teaching of the four crucified with Jesus – their misconstrued narrative is told in an awkward chopped-up chronological order as if by someone who suffered a severe trauma to the head and now has lapses in memory - -zeroing in on the different Greek words used in each Gospel when referring to the others crucified with Jesus…Bullinger and wierwille also assume that the Gospel writers were math-illiterate and so perhaps didn’t understand the concept of four, since there is no mention of four criminals at the crucifixion scene in any Gospel.,,even though the Gospel writers seemed perfectly capable of other mathematical challenges - like enumerating the number of days/nights Jesus would be in the grave - three ... or to mention their own number - twelve disciples.
With all this finagling of who said what when about who, it seems to me wierwille was really playing an intellectual shell game involving sleight-of-thought, in which various words and ideas are moved about with the skillful adeptness of a double-talking used car salesman, to the amazement of PFAL students. Do you know what this means? wierwille’s big act of being so concerned for "the accuracy and integrity of The Word” is just that – an act! It’s a sham !
How does butchering the Gospels in a piecemeal fashion to concoct an alternate version of the crucifixion scene reflect accurately and honestly what really happened?
wierwille attempted to show us what other Bible scholars had apparently missed. His spiel was a mixture of sense and nonsense that appeared to be earnest and meaningful and at times a rapid patter of deliberately evasive ambiguous language and elaborate and passionate but confusing explanations. What wierwille missed was the importance of the central figure at the crucifixion – the Lord Jesus Christ !!!!
…I think wierwille was just making a mountain out of a molehill and being ignorant of how people relate an incident. To one Gospel writer, the two men crucified with Jesus were described as thieves. To another writer, they’re malefactors – or evildoers. Even wierwille teaches in PFAL that each author of any book in the Bible used their own vocabulary and style when writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Also, many Bible scholars have pointed out that each Gospel has a distinct viewpoint and a particular purpose to portray certain unique aspects of Jesus Christ – and as such logic would dictate that the proper literary flow is to simply read each Gospel all the way through as a whole piece, to understand the author’s original intent and to get the full impact.
2. Example of wierwille butchering another person’s correct interpretation: Another thing that wierwille “borrowed” from Bullinger but then he mangled in PFAL is from II Peter 1: 20, 21 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=II+Peter+1&version=KJV
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
In Bullinger’s book “How to Enjoy the Bible” Bullinger says in regard to the phrase “of any private interpretation”, is that the little word “of” is genitive of origin – and is simply saying Scripture wasn’t CONCEIVED by anyone’s imagination or personal interpretation. Bullinger goes on from there to cover some basic hermeneutics – which is the study of the methodological principles of interpretation of the Bible. I believe Bullinger got that part right.
In PFAL however, wierwille muddied up II Peter 1:20 and said The Bible should not be privately interpretated – in other words, it’s a no-no to have or offer a personal interpretation or opinion……there is to be no “I think it means this”. wierwille goes on to say that if no private interpretation is allowed then there is either no possible interpretation or the Bible must interpret itself. If you’ve ever studied logical fallacies, then it shouldn’t surprise you that wierwille’s premise offers PFAL students a false dilemma - also referred to as false dichotomy – it is an informal fallacy based on a premise that erroneously limits what options are available.
Just pause for a moment and think about what an affront that is to logic, linguistics, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers – not to mention Bible scholars, translators and textual researchers. We’re talking about a compilation of 66 different books written by 40 different authors over the course of an approximately 1500-year period, using basically 3 different languages, spanning a variety of cultural, political, and geographical settings. Needless to say wierwille's idea that the Bible interprets itself is silly...absurd...laughable...and I can't believe I actually bought into it at one point in my life. In my defense I will say I was young and naïve. critical thinking schmitical thinking.
In PFAL, wierwille does briefly get into some of the keys to the proper interpretation of the Bible mentioned by Bullinger (and which you’ll also find in many affordable paperbacks written by competent and better qualified authors – besides the more technical books of many systematic theologies written by real scholars) ... But here's something puzzling - in PFAL wierwille tries to make the case that you can’t go wrong using these “simple” keys to see how the Bible interprets itself – but truth be told, observing wierwille in live teachings or even speaking extemporaneously he often failed to adhere to the very interpretive keys that he promoted in PFAL.
So, let’s reevaluate his body of work from the premise of his one particular claim - that God spoke to him and would help him piece together what he had “learned” from others and with God’s guidance make it all accurate in the process. Assuming that God Almighty is an infinite, perfect, omniscient, truthful, and rational being who is perfectly capable of clearly communicating any type of information to other rational beings - and given that wierwille's body of work contains numerous inaccuracies, contradictions, theological inconsistencies and logical fallacies - leads me to conclude wierwille made a false claim. God did NOT guide wierwille to produce a perfect body of work. wierwille must have lied – or if you want to give him the benefit of a doubt, he was living under serious delusions of grandeur. Maybe it’s both – he could have been a pathological liar and “suffered” from delusions of grandeur.
Though it is never stated outright in any literature of The Way International, the words of wierwille are considered by loyal followers to be on par with Scripture – in other words, whatever wierwille says about a passage has approximately equal authority as Scripture itself. I remember at PFAL ’77 – a live re-filming of the “original” PFAL class of 1967 – one of the master of ceremonies, a TWI-ordained clergyman came on stage to answer the question many of us were wondering “would this new PFAL 77 class replace the old 1967 PFAL class as THE introductory class when joining TWI?”. ...Nope! The clergyman simply asked “did the Apostle Paul need to re-write the book of Ephesians?”
Thus a switcheroo happens surreptitiously before the uncritical mind. The absolute authority of The Bible is usurped in a stealthy manner – under cover of the assumption by all, that wierwille was good at “rightly dividing The Word” AND that he was designated by God himself to teach The Word to us “in this day and time and hour” – a pompous phrase that wierwille was fond of saying quite often to give his sermons and ceremonies a sense of gravitas.
For any wierwille-fan-holdouts who are brave enough to take an honest look at PFAL, you might check out a thread that Raf started - Actual Errors in PFAL
what is obvious to outsiders or any disobedient follower who is courageous enough to remove the wierwille-colored glasses is that he was a poser who stole and lied to impress others. I’ve since reflected on the times I sat through a live Power For Abundant Living class, several live Advanced classes, way corps teachings and even times where he gave an unscripted teaching. Seeing him fumble with some definition of a word, teach something on a passage by taking it completely out of context, ignore some other fundamental principle of interpretation or in so many other ways demonstrate his incompetence – makes me think of an actor on some commercial saying “I’m not a real doctor but I play one on TV”. Sometimes he’d offer no text evidence or logical explanation – and just seemed to simply pull an answer out of his a$$ - he’d say something like “Father showed me this” or “If Father wanted me to look into a word in a verse he’d make the word appear one inch high”.
A brief aside here on why all the plagiarizing and teaching shenanigans don't seem to faze devoted followers. It has to do with the wierwille-colored glasses that followers are unaware they are wearing. What are wierwille-colored glasses? It's to view events, people, situations, ideas, etc. through wierwille's point of view...TWI-followers learn to perceive everything through a mental filter. This is a cognitive distortion – a selective evaluation of any simple or complex situations – it's basically a skewed sense of reality. Most newcomers to TWI are unaware of the mental filter that begins to form as they continue to absorb a set of ideas and assumptions first presented through introductory classes like the Power For Abundant Living class and later The Way of Abundance and Power class. All that becomes more and more heavily reinforced through repetition as one stays involved with TWI.
This mental filter functions as a precautionary measure to safeguard TWI-beliefs by removing, blocking, sifting, or even adulterating unwanted or competing information, ideas, facts, feelings, etc. that could challenge TWI-beliefs. (To me the most unsettling aspect of these seemingly automatic biases is that I was unaware I had such biases. It's something I could have proactively addressed and reduced or eliminated - but first I would have needed to identify them..). This becomes the TWI-mindset – or groupthink. For me, this mindset was like a ball-and-chain that held me back. It was a crippling mental encumbrance that put restrictions on cognitive skills, creativity, feelings and personal pursuits.
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4. The acid test
There is an ebb and flow to life – and we must act or react. That’s when the rubber meets the road...theories and ideas are put to the test when our efforts make contact with reality. However the journey unfolds, we may from time to time find intelligible and practical stuff. But what about the things that don’t make sense or seem incapable of handling reality? What about all the disappointments and frustrations? What about The Way Ministry’s claims of increasing the power of God in my life, increasing my prosperity, empowering my prayer life and enabling me to separate truth from error? And something I've learned from experience is that frequent bouts of frustration can lead to an excessive buildup of questions and doubts quietly gnawing away in the back of the mind.
We need a way to distinguish our internal thoughts, feelings and ideas from external events. In other words, we need the ability to see a situation for what it really is, rather than what we hope - or fear - it might be. This is important because we then can distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. It will allow us to better judge situations. It might even give us a basis for comparison and help us improve how we react to certain situations…
What can happen if we ignore the acid test? If we do not give ourselves the opportunity to fact-check our thoughts and beliefs or to see if they jive with reality, we may allow counter-productive habits to set in. When our efforts are frustrated, we should hit the pause button and address the questions and doubts that arise. Questions and doubts can be useful if they force us to re-evaluate certain beliefs – to see if we’re misinformed, have been ignoring certain facts or details, or simply have been putting our hopes in wishing thinking.
The phrase “the acid test” alludes to a chemical test to prove the pureness of gold. This test was developed in the late 18th century and used nitric acid, which dissolves other metals more readily than gold. So, the amount of metal dissolved would prove the pureness of the gold. The acid test was used to distinguish gold from copper or some other metal. The term came to mean a process to prove the value of something, or the standard that something must meet to prove its value, a sure or decisive experiment.
This is a very important aspect of dealing with the fantastic claims and hype of TWI’s Power for Abundant Living lifestyle. Matter of fact, this also gets into what’s probably one of the most basic issues of Christianity – how to relate faith to reason.
Faith deals with revelation – or some supernatural disclosure which could not be discovered by the unaided powers of human reason. Now reason is the natural ability of the human mind to discover truth. With science, truth is determined by verification – as in the scientific method – which is a lot of observation and experimentation. Flying a plane or launching a rocket into space are doable because scientists found out the truth about gravity – like there are ways to work around it. Science is practical – if it works, it’s true.
Scientific truth gives us no criteria for metaphysical truth. Therefore, what is needed is another definition of truth for the metaphysical realm. In reading up on philosophy, I lean toward one theory of what truth is – it’s called the correspondence theory of truth “In metaphysics and philosophy of language, the correspondence theory of truth states that the truth or falsity of a statement is determined only by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately describes (i.e., corresponds with) that world. Correspondence theories claim that true beliefs and true statements correspond to the actual state of affairs. This type of theory attempts to posit a relationship between thoughts or statements on one hand, and things or facts on the other.” From Wikipedia
So basically, truth consists in some form of connection…correlation…resemblance…agreement between a belief and a fact. For me, this gets into how I look at the Bible – and there’s a lot of ways to look at the Bible – even as a Christian.
I believe the Bible is metaphysical truth (metaphysical = in a transcendent sense or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses) – that it is a revelation from God – written by people inspired of God. Considering that people are not perfect, have worldviews shaped by their times and culture, I think the Bible is best understood as metaphysical truth and not as scientific truth. However, consider the opening passage of the Bible - “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” – if I use the correspondence theory of truth, it seems reasonable that Genesis 1:1 might very well correlate with the big bang theory.
The big bang theory is one of scientists’ best guess on how the universe began – it is “the prevailing cosmological model explaining the existence of the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution… the theory describes an increasingly concentrated cosmos preceded by a singularity in which space and time lose meaning (typically named "the Big Bang singularity")” (from Wikipedia - Big Bang ). In other words, the universe started with an infinitely hot, infinitely dense singularity, then inflated — first at unimaginable speed, and then at a more measurable rate — over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos that we know today. The connection of Genesis 1:1 to that theory implies that God is the one who created the infinitely hot, infinitely dense singularity. But to be honest, this is just my warm and fuzzy way of relating a metaphysical truth to a scientific truth - in other words - that's just my opinion.
I believe fundamentalist groups like TWI are usually hard-pressed to link the Bible with science:
“Cosmology relates to the layout, size, shape, origins, evolution, relationships, etc. of the earth, moon, sun, and the rest of the universe. The Bible -- particularly the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) -- contains many references to cosmology. But there is no real consensus on how to interpret these passages.
Historians, archaeologists, mainline and liberal theologians generally believe that the authors of books in the Bible simply accepted the contemporary Pagan beliefs taught in neighboring countries about the shape of the earth, and the layout of the universe. That involved a flat Earth with the Sun, Moon and Stars revolving around the Earth…
…Many conservative Christians believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible to write inerrant, text. That is, writings that are totally free of error. Interpreting those biblical passages which discuss cosmology causes a problem, When the passages are interpreted literally, they conflict with scientific beliefs that have been in place for centuries. The latter describe an earth that is approximates a sphere in shape, around which the Moon revolves, with the Earth and Moon revolving around the Sun. The Sun, in turn, is located in one of the arms of a spiral galaxy composed of 100 to 400 billion stars. The Earth is very definitely not the center of the Solar System, the Milky Way, or the universe.” from Religious Tolerance org
I also mentioned earlier that observation is a big part of the scientific method – and perhaps a type of “observational journalism” may be found in many of the narratives of the Bible. Even today we still employ an ancient scientifically inaccurate term like “sunrise” – even though we know it only appears to do that – but it’s a nice shortcut instead of saying the Earth will rotate to the 6:35am position tomorrow and then we’ll be able to catch our first glimpse of the Sun.
Since I left TWI, I have grown to appreciate the freedom I have in relating faith to reason. As I said earlier having a rigid mindset is far worse than being wrong. So many things are unknown – and if I don’t think I have the last word – a definitive or conclusive answer on something – then I leave that particular belief in a constant state of flux. What is a state of flux? It means that I leave a certain idea in “…a state of uncertainty about what should be done (usually following some important event) preceding the establishment of a new direction of action.” From Quora - which brings me back to the acid test thing. For me the important event was realizing that a lot of the theology and practical advice that TWI promoted was bogus. And now I’m working on a new direction.
As I said before life is not changeless, and we are not static beings either – we change, adapt, and grow as time goes by. Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. Some ruts can be worse than others. The TWI-lifestyle can become an unrelenting Groundhog Day of monotony and frustrating repetitiveness. If that happens to describe where you’re at right now – then maybe you should take the acid test. Come to terms with reality – be honest with yourself - reengage your cognitive skills and emotional intelligence. Are you interested? If so keep reading…further down I have some tips that might help you in point # 20 - Taking the first step toward freedom and point # 21 - It's like swimming upstream.
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5. Sidestepping reality
One of victor paul wierwille’s methods of sidestepping any real issues folks had with the ministry’s extraordinary claims was to teach that we should not go by our five senses or worldly logic – that it was part of the spiritual battle... When I first got involved with TWI, being young and naïve I bought into all that – TWI’s ideas provided a means to rationalize away logic or reality…I think “successful” con artists have a real knack for embedding the process of self-deception into devoted followers.
And actually there seemed to be an endless number of pat answers for why you were not "manifesting the more than abundant life" - whatever that means (the following is just a short list of things that leaders have actually said) :
maybe you haven’t mastered the PFAL class – you should sign up for the next class coming up…
maybe it’s time you take the Advanced Class…
want to see God work mightily in your life? Go W.O.W. ...
want to grow super-fast spiritually, want to master the greatness of God's Word and learn how to believe God for everything you need? Go in the way corps...
if you haven’t been abundantly sharing, God won't even spit in your direction…
if you haven’t been going to Twig lately or helping out when classes are run - you're just coasting - it's spiritual stagnation ...
maybe you need to get rid of that worldly stuff in your house (natural man music, movies, books, magazines, etc.) you know that stuff can give devil spirits entrée into your life…
if you listen to all the reasons why you shouldn't go in the way corps you’re letting the devil talk you out of The Word…
maybe it’s time you put God and the ministry first in your life…
instead of complaining about all the needs you have, try making positive confessions - confess The Word…
quit looking at all the things that go wrong - focus on believing images of victory in your mind…
…needless to say there’s an inexhaustible supply of reasons why you're not "manifesting God's best for your life" (whatever that means)– it all depends on how imaginative TWI leadership can be and how good they are at TWI-splaining the cause of your "dilemma", using ministry jargon (buzzwords) and spiritual or biblical sounding terms.
All that is wrong in so many ways! Starting off with the idea of marketing Christianity as a means to increasing one’s good fortune - or that The Way Ministry's classes and programs are a fast track to accelerate your spiritual development. Perhaps it’s old fashioned - but it makes me wonder how many folks would really be interested in Christianity if all that was offered was simply Jesus Christ…and then there’s the manipulative tactics to exploit followers’ beliefs as a means of control – to enforce compliance and suck more money out of them. And if that wasn't enough - also pressuring them to get more and more involved - as non-salaried workers. To me that’s spiritual abuse - when those with religious authority in an organization use their influence to draw upon the deepest and most intimate concerns, fears, needs and desires of followers.
By far the most cunning method for dealing with “unsatisfied customers” is to use the old-tried-and-true-blame-it-on-their-lack-of-believing-ploy. It works every time! If you can’t nail them on anything else – the simplest and surest method of disarming someone is to call their believing into question. What can they say? If they contend they have been believing – you counter with they must not have been really believing because if they were they would not be here right now complaining about their lack of whatever... Now I’m not talking about being a pessimist rather than an optimist, or some run-of-the-mill self-fulfilling prophecy. No - this is different. TWI often referred to it as the law of believing. But in non-TWI terms it's basically magical thinking.
Sadly it seems the goal of counseling someone having a hard time with the law of believing is to encourage them to continue to chase their own tail – to spend a whole lot of time and energy doing something but achieving nothing. Albert Einstein is credited with saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
TWI heavily promoted the law of believing ( aka magical thinking if you're outside TWI)– which refers to the idea that one can influence the outcome of specific events by doing something that has no bearing on the circumstances or similarly that personal thoughts can influence the external world without acting on them. This idea is also pretty common in children…That brings to mind an old Saturday Night Live episode of Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey – if a kid asks where the rain comes from you could tell him or her “God is crying – probably because of something you did.”
Perhaps magical thinking is a misplaced faith – I’ve heard it said many times in TWI that we have to believe in our believing. In the Power For Abundant Living foundational class the law of believing is described as a power that works for saint and sinner alike (which to me now sounds like someone is describing The Force in "Star Wars") and God is more or less compelled to accommodate anyone who knows how to use that power. That idea basically reduces God to nothing more than being a genie in a lamp who is obligated to do our bidding.
I have no problem with the simple faith mentioned in the Bible – a faith that has complete trust in God. And God should be the object of our faith - rather than whatever it is that you’re “believing for” . I think true faith is a trust in God – that He is sovereign and hears our prayers – and answers them as He sees fit – and maybe not always as we expect. Ephesians 3:20 should relieve us of any concerns that God is limited by our believing – for he is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think.
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6. Exploiting vulnerabilities
Concerning the way corps leadership training program – I have more stuff to add to what I’ve already said.
Harmful cults often use various confessional techniques to break down and then remold one’s ego (the E-meter used for “auditing” in Scientology comes to mind) – and The Way International is no exception…We had to submit a paper “from birth to the way corps” as part of the application process…This goes way beyond any normal religious or therapeutic function... (as a side note one thing that continues to fascinate me is how expectations can influence perception – we might even tend to re-interpret past experiences – especially if we anticipate an upcoming life-changing experience.) When I was drafting my birth-to-way-corps paper I thought of myself as being on the verge of a great transformation – and maybe like a screenplay writer I was streamlining my life’s story to show that the way corps was my destiny. I really believed the program would be a time of self-realization… clarifying my purpose in life.
Typically self-criticism and self-doubt are interwoven in such personal narratives…and revealing information is advantageous to manipulators who harp on the idea that I would be useless and amount to nothing if it weren’t for the way corps program.... Way corps coordinators would guilt-trip us to get us to comply...It seemed like they were always moving the goal post so that we felt unworthy…never making the grade.
A much more sinister use of these birth-to-the-way-corps papers has come to light from various sources. Unbeknownst to a lot of folks, wierwille behaved like a sexual predator. He would often target female way corps applicants if they happened to mention any promiscuity, sexual assault or molestation in their birth-to-the-way-corps papers. He used that information as a pretext for counseling and healing by “the man of God”. He would brazenly trespass personal boundaries in conversation and in physical contact…sometimes even use alcohol and/or a drug to sexually molest women in the way corps.
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7. Isolation is absolutely necessary
Cults often have some notoriety if they isolate followers from society- physically or psychologically. This is accomplished by being in-residence for the way corps program…we never got to watch TV or keep up on what’s happening in the news and had one “self-structure day” a week to leave the campus and run errands, etc….There was a demand for spiritual purity; when I first arrived for in-residence training there were posters plastered all over the place “the world out…The Word in”…
...I found that even after finishing the in-residence part of the program many of those “insulating” attitudes still persisted. I felt a sentiment in myself and other way corps that we were the spiritually elite, serving on the front lines – and with that there was also a lot of negative stereotyping of outsiders and people who disagreed with TWI-leadership. I had such a cavalier attitude about keeping up with current events or anything happening in the world – figuring I would always be ahead of the game by relying on what TWI-leadership had to say about something or maybe in a worst case scenario even God himself would have to show me what’s going on.
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8. Pyramid scheme meets military wannabes
I was one of those starry-eyed followers who imagined God worked in and through TWI just like in the book of Acts…never even daring to think it was possible that there was a dark, seamy, hidden side of TWI that really drove the organization forward. The Way International is an authoritarian pyramid structure with the absolute power being at the top. A hierarchy or pyramid-like power structure is probably the most common among businesses and the advantages are obvious. There is a clearly defined career path, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, promotion plan and chain of command. (As a business model – TWI is more along the lines of multilevel marketing where the revenue of the company is derived from the sale of products or services by non-salaried workers.)
...However, I believe the authoritarian characteristic of their organization makes them more like the military than a free enterprise. There are no feedback loops for reactions or comments from customers or employees so as to improve a product, service or the workplace… Think about it…Do they ever ask for input or ideas?…Are leaders approachable?…Do they keep people boxed in with rules?…Are they really interested in the personal preferences and goals of followers?…
There is a phrase many of the way corps are familiar with “a suggestion is tantamount to an order”. Authoritarians rely on psychological coercion and the manipulation of information as ways to control others. The level of control becomes more stringent as one gets more involved.
Conformity is encouraged as if it were a virtue. Individualism is frowned upon. Wanting to debate an issue or having a difference of opinion is a big no-no. If leadership ever does hear you out on your complaint, it’s usually a stalling tactic so you might tend to think they’re going to help you – but in the end, if they can’t “fix” you – i.e. get you to admit you’re wrong and they’re right – then they’ll dismiss you. Dissenters do not last long in TWI.
Complexity is ignored - whether it’s a social issue, resolving a personal problem, sorting out the feelings from a traumatic experience or even how to interpret a passage in the Bible that has not been covered by wierwille. ...TWI-leadership encourages an obfuscating mindset in followers...much of it depends on all-or-nothing thinking. … (An either-or fallacy is a false dilemma that presents only two options or sides when there might actually be more than two options or sides)...some other cognitive distortions often come into play such as overgeneralizations, filtering (focusing on only the negative or the positive instead of looking at the whole picture), jumping to conclusions, blaming, labeling... …what it all boils down to is whatever works to undermine rational thinking and fulfill leadership's need to always be right.
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9. Welcome to the clone factory
This is perhaps an oversimplified description and maybe this was not the intention when the program was set up but it seems to me the whole thing wound up being a means of creating an idealized or somewhat worshipful idea of a leader – victor paul wierwille…in other words a cult of personality…
We learned in the way corps to have complete confidence in everything wierwille wrote, said or did…I know in the Bible we are told to imitate the faith of godly leaders. But what if one fails to discern a counterfeit? I thought of passages like Matthew 7 and II Peter 2 . If there’s anything to verses like that, then it’s possible that false teachers can lead people astray. After leaving TWI, I’ve often wondered if there’s a point where fervent admiration for someone crosses a line. I would think of verses like Ezekiel 14:3 that talks of people setting up idols in their heart – if it’s in my heart, it’s invisible – no one else knows there’s an idol in my heart – perhaps even I wouldn’t realize it… I think a lot of people really believed in wierwille – and believed he could do no wrong…
To be fair, even if a person is a godly leader, we can turn them into an idol when we cease to imitate their example of faith in God and instead make them the object of our faith. But looking back without the way-blinders on, it’s obvious to me now that wierwille wasn’t a godly leader – he lacked the moral uprightness and was lost in delusions of grandeur. For dedicated followers like the way corps, wierwille taught us to shun the status quo or conventional wisdom while at the same time making it clear that his authority was not to be challenged. Teachings on blind obedience were common in residence.
...Recalling my time in residence, it was extremely laser-focused on knowing The Power For Abundant Living class material backwards and forwards. I am NOT exaggerating! During the three meals we had each day in the dining room, we were randomly called upon to give a five minute teaching - right there on the spot – and immediately critiqued right after that. Even back then I was disturbed by one fact (which at the time was another one of those things I relegated to the back burner) - that people who quoted PFAL material verbatim or with very little deviation from that, received the highest praise with little or no criticism... In preparation for doing our research papers – which I suppose is one of the academic highlights of a college education – the then president of TWI, L. Craig Martindale – (I can still remember him as he ) was pounding on the podium and bellowing out “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel – base your research paper on something from PFAL”…looking back now – do you know what all that tells me? The aim of the way corps program was to create little clones of wierwille.
If you were or are in the way corps, or presently you are going through the training program…or even if you’re thinking about going in the way corps or you have sponsored or currently sponsor someone in the way corps program you ought to check out the book Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International on Grease Spot the author goes by the name Penworks. She also started a thread about her book - click here .
She worked in the research department of TWI. There’s some very revealing stuff in there about the shady inner workings of The Way International, how the precarious mythology of wierwille – like the story of him hearing God’s voice – is an unreliable basis for a belief system and the intellectual and emotional frustration we all experience within the TWI-mindset. And one of the big takeaways of the book - in my opinion - is how wierwille who was supposedly so concerned about “the integrity and accuracy of The Word” had no qualms about pressuring the research department to mistranslate a Greek word so it would substantiate what he thought a passage should say. and what about his dictum “ private interpretation of the Bible is not allowed “? I guess it’s okay for wierwille to do that.
And while you're thinking about ordering Penworks’ book you could always do some light reading of another thread started by Penworks - Evidence: Letters VPW wrote to the Way Corps
besides reading the comments of other Grease Spotters you can also visit the independent website that has these way corps household newsletters - click here
*** be forewarned *** these letters are not for the faint of heart – if you’re a big fan of wierwille you’ll probably be shocked at how narcissistic, manipulative, and mean-spirited he was and what a berating personality he had – evidenced by his own words to the way corps - his most devoted followers.
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10. I was a reluctant salesman
In the years leading up to going in the way corps, as I got more and more involved with the ministry I often found myself envious of other Way-believers who were not as committed as I was. They seemed to have it all – families that actually took fun vacations, nice cars, nice homes, and good jobs. I was oblivious to certain values like dedication to family, being financially wise and responsible, reaping the fruits of one’s own labor and finding a sense of fulfilment in a career. I did not realize how detrimental it was to have everything about my life in orbit around The Way Ministry.
I didn't think of myself as a materialistic person – but it's hard not to get caught up in it when you work for a money-grubbing ministry that is big on the prosperity doctrine...
...and we were all considered a soft-sell sales force anyway, peddling classes on the Bible in a warm market – friends, relatives, neighbors, work associates, etc.
I must confess I was a reluctant salesman – partly because I wasn't completely sold on it myself. It's difficult to be enthused about promoting the more than abundant life as defined by TWI when all too often my wife and I were just barely getting by ourselves - working our secular jobs, faithfully giving more than 10 percent of our income – sometimes that even meant skimping on cost of living expenses. And besides that we were also sponsoring people in the way corps program, running fellowships, classes, advances, coffee houses, and getting around town by driving clunkers (vehicles in bad condition because we were usually too financially strapped to do something about it) ...you name it – we did it – and without the financial support of TWI.
TWI charged for their classes – but these were not live teachings – all classes were on audio or video cassette (the PFAL class for instance was recorded in 1967 if I'm not mistaken). And here's a few more details on how TWI spread their skewed doctrine on the cheap. There's the folks who got people signed up for classes (sometimes even providing rides to new students to ensure their attendance), there's usually a crew to handle setup, classes are usually run in someone's home or apartment, some folks provided refreshments and coffee for breaks (long classes like PFAL were over 36 hours) were typically run at nights and/or weekends, and someone loaned their own audio or video equipment to play the class cassettes – none of that was ever covered by TWI.
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11. It's all about the money
There is a notion held by followers of TWI, like in so many other money-oriented “ministries” that the sign of God's favor is physical health and material prosperity which is available to all who really and truly believe AND of course operate “the principle of giving and receiving” - which as I understood it to be from wierwille's teachings was some sort of a disproportionate reciprocal operation – we were to think of it as giving to God (via God's ministry of course) and in return God would bless us many times over since no one can out-give God.
We were expected to “abundantly share” of what we have to TWI.... wierwille defined “abundantly share” as going beyond the tithe of ten percent . (The tithing system described in the Bible was designed specifically to meet the needs of the religious, economic and political system of ancient Israel.) In his small booklet “Christians Should Be Prosperous” wierwille taught that as Christians, no longer under the law of the Old Testament, we should go above the tithe and thereby reap even greater blessings than Old Testament believers – his text to support that claim was Malachi 3:10 “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”. ..If wierwille's claims were true – then we, the faithful giving more than 10 percent of all we had, should have been the healthiest and wealthiest people around bar none...but alas such was not the case... ...Usually an abundant sharing offering was received at every fellowship meeting...and there were those friendly reminders in The Way Magazine, “Remember The Way in your will”...
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12. I'll have a double Kool-Aid and make it dirty
I prided myself on putting God and "His ministry" first. That meant giving a lot of my money and time to The Way Ministry. My number one stipulation in considering any job was that schedule-wise it should accommodate my desire to participate in ministry classes, fellowships, large group events and programs. It’s no wonder that making such “sacrifices” for “the greater good”, doing all for “the cause” imbued me with a self-righteous conviction - that I was spiritually or morally superior to others. Oh to be young, naïve, and idealistic – thinking that I was a part of something so all-encompassing that we would change the world. Aye Yai Yai !!!!! Warning - cults appeal to our sense of community...belonging...and our search for meaning and purpose...In The Way Ministry we were united in the greatest purpose of all - moving "The Word" over the world...alas I had guzzled down the Kool-Aid!
By the way, according to my "ex-TWI secret decoder ring", "The Word” really means wierwille’s skewed interpretation of the Bible ...the ex-TWI secret decoder ring is like the secret decoder ring depicted in the movie “A Christmas Story”, many people who have left TWI and re-engaged their cognitive skills are now able to convert the redefining ciphers of wierwille back into a normal language minus the ministry-jargon, thereby exposing their insidious nature.
Buzzwords, jargon, clichés, and catchy slogans are not necessarily all bad. It depends on the intention and the ideas they convey. Often, they are specific to a particular group, industry, profession, ad campaign, etc. and can function as a shortcut description of something more complex. Jargon can also convey hidden meanings and messages only those in a particular group would understand.
In a similar vein, there is dog-whistle language :
“In politics, a dog whistle is the use of coded or suggestive language in political messaging to garner support from a particular group without provoking opposition. The concept is named for ultrasonic dog whistles used in shepherding, which are audible to dogs but not humans. Accusations of dog whistling are, by their nature, hard to prove and may be false.
Dog whistles use language that appears normal to the majority but communicate specific things to intended audiences. They are generally used to convey messages on issues likely to provoke controversy without attracting negative attention. One example may be the use of a phrase such as family values to signal to Christians that a candidate would support policies promoting Christian values without alienating non-Christian supporters…
…Criticism: Some have argued that it is difficult to tell whether purported dog whistles are in fact dog whistles. Robert Henderson and Elin McCready argue that plausible deniability is a key characteristic of dog whistles. Mark Liberman has argued that it is common for speech and writing to convey messages that will only be picked up on by part of the audience, but that this does not usually mean that the speaker is deliberately conveying a double message. Steven Pinker has argued that the concept of dog whistling allows people to "claim that anyone says anything because you can easily hear the alleged dog whistles that aren't in the actual literal contents of what the person says.”
From: Wikipedia - dog whistle (politics)
Picking back up on “The Word” – mentioned above and in point # 3. The PFAL filter – it was in my opinion one of the most alluring terms in wierwille’s arsenal of influence and arguably unique to his “ministry”. It is interesting to note that “The Word” – as a standalone term was used in John 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” – in an interlinear Greek text of John 1:1 “The Word” is “ho Logos”. ( see John 1:1 -interlinear text on Bible Hub ). Looking into some biblical study resources like NICNT: The Gospel According to John , NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible and The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - I found that Logos embraces an exceptionally wide semantic field.
The Stoics (Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC) were the ones who really developed the concept of the Logos - that the universe is pervaded by the Logos, the eternal reason…The Logos was not considered something or someone personal, nor as Jews or Christians would understand as being God – but rather to the Stoics, the Logos was essentially the supreme principle or force of the universe that originated and permeated and directed all things.
The Greeks thought of the gods as detached from the world, serene in their aloofness – disconnected and disinterested in our struggles, heartaches, pain, and fears. John’s idea of the Logos conveys the exact opposite – the Logos became flesh, taking on our human nature, experiencing our struggles, heartaches, pain, and fears and out of this agony winning our salvation…to me John’s use of the term “The Logos” is mind-blowing and perhaps represents an author tweaking an “ancient buzzword” to expand its usage from just referring to something or someone transcendent but also now immanent…It is also worth mentioning that the term “The Logos” is unique to John (here in John 1:1, & 14, I John 1 and Revelation 19: 13 ) .
As I said earlier buzzwords, jargon, clichés, and catchy slogans are not necessarily all bad. It depends on the intention and the ideas they convey…I believe wierwille’s use of “The Word” and other loaded-language often had a compelling and insidious three-pronged effect:
1. Presumptuous posturing under the guise of sounding biblical, wierwille imbued his interpretation of the Bible with as much authority as any of the writers of the New Testament. He was adamant in standing his ground over anything he taught – I’ve heard him condemn critics he would say things like “oh they say that’s just wierwille talking – but unbelievers always nagged Jesus Christ too. But I didn’t write the book. This is what The Word says, people! It’s not just VP talking.” Just because he declared “this is what The Word says” didn’t make it so. But TWI-followers do not realize that. We were trained to respond positively to anything wierwille said.
2. wierwille encouraged followers to be know-it-alls and to procrastinate. In PFAL we were taught “The Word” takes the place of the absent Christ. We were always encouraged to review and master the PFAL material – and for all practical purposes it was assumed that’s all we needed to know. I remember in one session of PFAL , wierwille driving home the point that you didn’t need any Bible commentaries or listen to any theologians because “It’s The Word, The Word, The Word and nothing but The Word !”. Studying the PFAL material became synonymous with studying “The Word” – and we were often reminded that we should always be working “The Word” – thinking about it even while we’re doing other things – and it’s not that farfetched to conflate the ideas of studying The Word with doing The Word. I believe a lot of wierwille-followers were just kidding themselves (myself included when I was in) with this idea of " doing The Word" when all it really amounts to is mental assent...Assent is where you agree or approve of something...You don't really have to get involved and actually do something.
3. wierwille encouraged closed-mindedness and he was a boon to fundamentalism. I remember another quote from PFAL “I have no friends when it comes to The Word.” One of the supposed benefits listed on the back of the green PFAL signup card was “develops more harmony in the home”. How ironic when I consider the married couples that got divorced or the family members who were estranged all because the “delinquent party” did not want to stand with “Doctor Wierwille and his ministry”.
Another catchy phrase was “renew your mind”. It sounds biblical – wierwille got it from Romans 12 ...However, I’ve heard wierwille use it in the most inappropriate ways. One such incident was when I was in the Family Corps at the Rome City Campus. Under the pretext of training us to become competent counselors in a supposedly Christian ministry - so that when people come to you with their problems you shouldn’t be shocked by anything - - wierwille showed us a pornographic video of women having sex with a dog. Bear in mind this was the Family corps, so besides adults there were teens present!
Needless to say, as a group I think most of us were shocked, unnerved and flustered by wierwille’s flagrant disregard for anyone’s feelings, social mores or the inappropriateness of what he did. And to add insult to injury, after the video was over – wierwille sat there all smug in a comfortable chair drinking his Drambuie, looks over the stunned audience and casually says, “I’ve so renewed my mind that stuff like this doesn’t bother me.” ...wierwille used “renew your mind” like a trump card to cause feelings of guilt in those who were offended by his behavior – like they’re the ones with a problem and are being unchristian-like.
Another passage he used to disarm anyone who confronted him about doing something inappropriate was from I Corinthians 13 - he’d remind them that “the love of God thinketh no evil " as if to say that they were in the wrong for thinking evil of what he did. It's amazing the things a great manipulator can do by just a little Scripture twisting and loaded language...Such is the powerful control that a cult leader has wielding his charismatic personality and loaded language.
By the way, it’s not like wierwille showing this porn video to our Family corps was an isolated incident. Over the years he had shown it to many other way corps during their in-residence training – as well as taking that as the opportune time to launch into other salacious and titillating topics (as he did with our Family corps that night - but I feel the details of those topics would be too unseemly to mention here).
To someone who has never had the experience of being indoctrinated into a harmful and controlling cult – this stuff probably sounds preposterous and almost unbelievable. It’s understandable that people who have never been in TWI – never taken any of their classes or participated in their programs find all this stuff so astounding and that anyone would buy into it.
Well, all I can say is that indoctrination is not an overnight process. Usually, a person does not knowingly join a harmful and controlling cult. The road in may best be described as a subliminal acclimatizing process – where a newcomer finds something - or someone attractive in the group and so they make themselves mentally adjust to the prevailing ideas, attitudes, and behavior to fit in.
To understand how TWI-followers get to the point of being unaware of wierwille’s licentious nature is to understand how a sexual predator can be hidden in plain sight. It is by masking his nature in the guise of a man of God, a teacher of the Bible. It all started with the PFAL class – which had vague and misleading directives like “as long as you follow the two great commandments you can do as you full well please” and the dubious justification of David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba saying “technically all the women of the kingdom belonged to the king”.
I believe part of wierwille’s tactic was to run certain ideas up the flagpole to see if it was given a positive reaction. Like with PFAL, if you sat through the whole class and didn’t balk at anything – then everything is cool. If you stick around and continue to come to fellowships – that’s even better! Then you’ll probably be encouraged to take the class again – for review – no charge this time, of course. Then on to other classes that continue to reinforce the idea that wierwille is THE authority on Bible stuff.
As far as I’m concerned wierwille’s piece de resistance of promiscuity and being unprincipled in sexual matters is his class Christian Family and Sex. In that class I heard wierwille give one of the most bizarre and twisted interpretations of Genesis 3 saying the original sin was masturbation. It is noteworthy just how malleable the Bible can be in the deceitful hands of someone leading a harmful and controlling cult. Several years later, the succeeding president of TWI , L. Craig Martindale suggested the original sin had something to do with Eve getting into lesbianism. I find it so odd and contradictory that TWI promoted itself as a Biblical research and teaching ministry and yet its top leadership would come out with such absurd and otherwise inexplicable interpretations of a passage - like as to what the original sin was, when there are so few details given in Genesis 3 to specify exactly what the forbidden fruit was. This echoes what I said in point # 3 The PFAL filter – watching wierwille fumble with some definition of a word, teach something on a passage by taking it completely out of context, or ignoring some other fundamental principle of biblical interpretation, rarely offering any evidence from a Hebrew or Greek text and often not even giving a logical explanation – and like a highly skilled double-talk wizard seemed to pull an answer out of thin air.
Looking back on all this - now in a healthier frame of mind (intellect and emotions now free of the influence and coercion of a cult) I find it extremely sad and almost laughable (if it were not for the wake of destruction left by the lifestyle and ideology that cult leaders promote).
What qualifies any of these cult leaders to teach about the Bible, train people to counsel others or to speak authoritatively about sexual matters? But that never crosses the minds of the young and naïve.
If newcomers respond favorably to malignant ideas run up the flagpole, then many other soft-sell tactics come into play which subtly persuades them to buy into TWI’s ideology…And realistically there’s no one cut-and-dried method for ensnaring folks in a harmful and controlling cult. There are so many variables to consider like one’s personality, social needs…usually new recruits are young and naïve so critical thinking skills are not really developed…and the road to indoctrination is not shock therapy but rather a gradual immersion…
…it’s like a prolonged seductive intoxicating “romance”…a cult luring neophytes to take bigger and bigger sips of the Kool-Aid…using manipulative tactics like love-bombing, the subtle influence of peer pressure and groupthink...
...claiming to provide solid answers about life, having a purpose, God, politics, marriage, finances, whatever…
...those with low self-esteem are usually drawn to a cult-environment where they seem to be readily accepted – sadly people with low self-esteem are usually easier to break mentally / emotionally. “Fortunately” for them the cult is there as just the perfect supportive environment they’ve been looking for – and along those lines a cult member can learn to feel superior to those not in the cult – an us-vs-them mentality develops and a cult follower starts isolating themselves from family and friends not in the cult – and eventually the new social ties within the cult satisfy a basic desire we all have – to belong.
...a TWI-follower's personal boundaries are softened and eventually encroached upon by those who take advantage of their own position of power and authority...malicious and self-centered leaders have a way of getting victims to think that catering to any leader’s sexual desire is actually justified because of the law of giving and receiving – “it’s one of the ways you can give to God by giving to the man of God and God will bless you back for it.” Leaders can also pull the “renewed mind” card and convince the victim they are spiritually mature enough to handle it.
As far as the depraved lifestyle of wierwille, much has been written in Scripture about morally corrupt leaders – ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing – like in Ezekiel 34 , Matthew 7: 15 -29 , Matthew 23 , II Peter 2 and II Timothy 2: 14 - 26 As well as on many threads at Grease Spot ( there’s TWI's Sedative to the Conscience which I started back in 2006 which goes into the porn video incident in more detail…and coinciding with his depravity don’t forget wierwille’s malicious use of the birth-to-the-way-corps papers I mentioned above in point # 6. Exploiting vulnerabilities ) and in books written by ex-TWI-followers.
You know what else really stinks? The whole enchilada – the whitewashed tomb known as The Way International – their outward profession of being a morally upright Christian organization is like a beautifully painted pristine looking mausoleum that conceals the hypocrisy and corruption that lies within ( Matthew 23 ) !
.It’s sobering to think about how treacherous a cult can be when you take into account all the other people in positions of power and authority of the group besides the cult-leader who know what goes on and yet are complicit. And something should be said about ignorant facilitators like me – unaware of all the deceit, abuses of power, and illicit behavior. I was such a naively enthusiastic flunky who constantly talked about how great it was "to serve God and His ministry" – which now I’ve come to realize - that was just the Kool-Aid talking.
I’ve found it’s helpful to unpack key words, phrases, and manipulative tactics of a harmful and controlling cult in order to better understand the delivery and reinforcement systems of a cult’s core values and particular mindset. A lot of this stuff is painful…awkward…embarrassing to talk about…but in an odd way also kind of therapeutic…like removing a big splinter from a festering wound…and hopefully something out of all my ranting and rambling might help others with similar experiences.
At the heart of TWI’s captivating power is a convoluted system of thought that has deluded many a soul. I believe there is at least a fourfold whammy of obfuscation within wierwille’s doctrine. Both PFAL and The Advanced Class on PFAL have an impressive mystifying quality that could dazzle just about anyone if they were subjected to it long enough – and would probably blow the minds and even alarm some casual thinkers if they have never been exposed to spiritualism, John Birch Society type stuff, dark and deep conspiracy theories, and malignant narcissism. If there were such a thing as an evil spell that could bring bad luck, I think the frustrating and self-defeating mentality that wierwille conjured up would fit the bill. Under the right conditions and for an extended length of time, it can have a powerful and unpleasant effect on just about anyone.
Being introspective and sort of a bookworm – I used to make it a point of understanding the impact that the tenets of PFAL had on my cognitive skills such as learning, remembering details, logical reasoning, etc. I have identified at least four distinctive elements of wierwille’s doctrine – there’s probably more – but I think these are the biggies:
1. signature intuition – refers to what wierwille felt was true regardless of what a passage might really mean; though incompetent with the biblical languages and having a penchant for plagiarism and logical fallacies he was able to cobble together something he was proud of; Signature intuition is wierwille's unique sixth sense of nonsense to divine Scripture so it always suited his lifestyle - and the devil be damned! It seemed to me wierwille was usually flying by the seat of his pants – using his own initiative and “perceptions” and during live teachings he frequently strayed from the very interpretative keys he taught in PFAL. I think he lacked the discipline, wisdom, experience and honesty of a seasoned researcher and so relied more on intuition to pull off his act. He would often play his trump card “Father revealed it to me”
I have a modest library of printed and digital books of various Bible commentaries, systematic theologies, Study Bibles, Bible encyclopedias, interlinear Bibles, lexicons of Bible languages besides all the stuff that's free to explore on the Internet to know that real Bible scholars focus on trying to properly understand the Scriptures through the context, biblical languages, cultural context, historical context, the systematic study of the texts, and plain logic – it really is a discipline, a science and an art – if any intuition is involved it's in gaining a feel for the significance to ascribe to certain data and where more attention would prove to be most beneficial.
A signature series is something that a person or company is so proud of they put their name on it and it is always identified as from them – for example a Fender Guitar. Signature intuition usually applies to only the cult-leader. If the cult-leader signs off on something, approves, promotes or endorses something – then you can take that to the bank. I could have labeled this “wierwille’s intuition” but that would have been limited to just him. So, I termed it “signature intuition” instead, so it applies to whoever the top dog is at the moment.
A cult-leader’s signature intuition is central to enabling the other characteristics to work together. For want of a better analogy, signature intuition functions somewhat like a manual transmission for the cult-leader – who alone can decide on a whim to “change gears” and adopt a different approach to a situation or task. If the cult-leader doesn’t feel a literal interpretation of Scripture is appropriate, he or she might spiritualize, allegorize, philosophize or in some way bend Scripture to suit their needs. As a case in point, I’ve heard wierwille teach on a passage that is very clearly about adultery and he said it was referring to “spiritual adultery” – “shacking up with other gods” – as a way to deflect criticism over his promiscuous lifestyle.
I don’t mean to give intuition itself a bad rap in what I’ve said so far. Matter of fact, I believe our intuition should be integral with our more analytical study of the Scriptures...But it’s important to realize that it’s not perfect and it can be misinterpreted or even compromised by a seared conscience – certain passages like Proverbs 16:25 and Judges 21:25 will attest to that – we find that one’s feelings can be wrong, and not all inner leanings should be heeded. Because of our sin nature, we are often prone to error and poor judgment. If relying only upon our own powers of discernment, we can be led astray.
I believe people are created in God’s image and as such we reflect some unique characteristics of our Creator – like a moral compass, the ability to judge what is right from wrong and act accordingly. At times we may acquire knowledge without obvious deliberation. Perhaps that is what Ephesians 1:17 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+1&version=ESV is talking about - “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…”
People are not robots though. We have freedom of will and some passages seem to suggest the more we align ourselves with the sentiment and moral demands of the Bible – the more reliable our instincts become – Psalm 37:23
https://biblia.com/bible/esv/psalm/37/23 and the Bible does seem to suggest that when we seek wisdom as our highest priority, our intuition can very well be a safeguard against tragic mistakes Proverbs 2: 3-5 https://biblia.com/bible/esv/proverbs/2/3-5 , Ecclesiastes 7:12 https://biblia.com/bible/esv/ecclesiastes/7/12 , Psalm 37:23 https://biblia.com/bible/esv/psalm/37/23 Psalm 111:10 https://biblia.com/bible/esv/psalm/111/10 , and James 1:5 https://biblia.com/bible/esv/james/1/5 .
I do not disparage the work of genuine, honest, altruistic Christian leaders, teachers and scholars. I appreciate their work for the way they have broadened my horizons and provided clarity and depth to my faith. But we should also remember the words of Jesus Christ in John 7:17 https://biblehub.com/john/7-17.htm “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” I believe there’s something to this verse that might have to do with how our intuition and God may work together – in that metaphysical truth is self-authenticating through the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit – perhaps that is also implied in passages like John 16:13 https://biblehub.com/john/16-13.htm and I John 2:27 https://biblehub.com/1_john/2-27.htm .
2. fundamentalism – a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible – wierwille uses passages like in Mark 11 where Jesus talked of moving mountains (a common metaphor of that day about solving seemingly difficult or impossible problems) as a proof text for the law of believing. ..There was very little consistency in his literal-ism - I never heard wierwille advocating we should cut off a sinful hand, foot or eye per the directive given in Mark 9:43-47 ...wierwille made such a big deal in PFAL about how “The Word” means what it says and says what it means – and yet there were very few who sat under his teaching ministry and afterwards confronted “the teacher” of PFAL about his plagiarism, lies, stealing, cheating, vindictiveness, fits of uncontrollable rage, unkindness, lack of compassion, sexual-predatory behavior per the clear directives of Ephesians 4: 20-32 .
3. spiritualism – As best as I understood wierwille’s view of spirit, the spiritual realm, spiritual beings, etc. is that stuff is the greater reality of life – it all is beyond or above the range of “normal” or merely physical human experience. By comparison – according to wierwille - the spiritual realm is superior to the physical realm. wierwille speculated on how the spiritual realm works – but talked about it like it was absolutely true. anything you wanted to know about – like what God can or cannot do – just ask him; he promoted himself as an expert on the relationship between spirit and matter; whatever he said goes even if there's no way to verify it; and whatever he said was regurgitated, parroted and sometimes confounded even more as it is passed down through the ranks of TWI – thus wierwille's nonsense spiritualism is perpetuated.
Demonology is the non-scientific study of demons or beliefs about demons, and the hierarchy of demons. For TWI-believers we all thought wierwille was in his element whenever he taught on this stuff. One of the most bizarre and unsettling topics was his teaching on the unforgiveable sin - being born again of the wrong seed. As the proof-text for this he used a passage like Matthew 12: 31 to 37 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+12&version=ESV
For someone like wierwille who boasted of the great accuracy and integrity of the Bible and his in-depth analysis of it as well as his supposedly great experience in discerning of spirits and in casting out devil spirits – he offered very little details on exactly how one would commit the unforgiveable sin and get born again of the wrong seed. In my opinion this is one of the most questionable and treacherous doctrines of wierwille. A doctrine that is so fraught with psychological stress that the session on the unforgivable sin was pulled from the PFAL class proper, and was only available for viewing sometime later – after a new student “successfully” completed the PFAL class (i.e. they spoke in tongues) and has been reviewing all the class material and attending Twig Fellowships for a while...We can only speculate why wierwille yanked it from the class proper – my guess is that there were some unintended consequences...maybe he was aware of some folks having issues with thinking they might have committed the unforgivable sin... I remember reading on Grease Spot someone shared of a person they knew who was convinced they committed the unforgivable sin – so they committed suicide... ...how awful !!!! such tragedy and destruction wrought by wierwille's twisted doctrines!
And though the session on the unforgiveable sin and being born again of the wrong seed was not technically part of the foundational class on PFAL – it practically takes center stage in the advanced class on PFAL. My wife and I took the Advanced Class on PFAL in 1978. Men and women were divided up and put in Twig fellowships just like the Way Tree organizational structure – so my wife was in a small Twig fellowship group of all women – and I was in a Twig fellowship of all men. One day my wife got in an argument with the Twig-leader of her group who insisted that in order to commit the unforgivable sin and be born again of the devil’s seed you had to kneel at a Satanic altar and do something along the lines of pledging your allegiance to Satan. My wife stood her ground and argued that wierwille never mentioned any such specific details ...Now mind you, the specifics of how, where and when were never detailed by wierwille. This is a perfect example of what I said earlier – that whatever wierwille said was regurgitated, parroted and sometimes confounded even more as it is passed down through the ranks of TWI. The argument between my wife and the Twig-leader didn’t stop at that level. It went up the Way Tree – all the way to the top – wierwille.
Another freaky coincidence was already unfolding about this time – earlier wierwille and LCM in a meeting with all the branch coordinators for this Advanced Class, wierwille vented his frustration on three 8th corps guys who had “gone rogue” (his words) on their research papers – apparently, they had ventured off TWI’s bedrock of theology which is PFAL and in effect challenged the very core of wierwille's thought process. Needless to say, the trickle-down-high-volume-reprimand that rained down on all of us later that evening was an attempt to kill two challenges with one group scolding – wierwille’s and LCM’s tirade can be summed up in four words - do not question leadership… …looking back on that incident now I am so proud of my wife’s courage, her knowledge of the Bible and acuity in controversial matters, to damn the torpedoes and speak her mind.
4. Gnosticism – the core of Gnosticism rests on secret knowledge - which is the big hype of the Advanced Class on Power For Abundant Living; matter...flesh is evil...sinful...imperfect and the Spirit is good...pure... perfect and there is a clear separation between the material world and the spiritual world; in wierwille’s “expertise” we would find out about all the categories of devil spirits...the fully initiated are the elite who deserve to have influence and authority over others...part of the big hype of the Advanced Class is the mystique of conspiracies – the Illuminati, One World Government, the wrong-seed boys running everything,..part of the attraction to conspiracies may have something to do with what Ello Martino Ph.D. said:
"humans have a need for control and order when distressed. Fear, uncertainty, and feelings of being out of control can lead people to search for patterns and meaning in people's behavior as a way to make sense of the chaos and attempt to navigate the fear of the unknown. This is an evolutionary adaptive mechanism designed to keep us alive"
As you may have noticed point #2 fundamentalism and point #4 Gnosticism are rather brief compared to point #1 signature intuition and point #3 spiritualism. I thought it best to leave it up to the curiosity of each reader to further investigate fundamentalism and Gnosticism – there is a ton of information readily accessible on the internet – and if one is also familiar with TWI-doctrine it is fairly easy to understand how it all intersects and correlates in various ways. Signature intuition and spiritualism are more peculiar to a harmful and controlling cult like TWI – and so I felt a little more information from my personal experiences and observations was justified.
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13. The elite moochers
Generally speaking a lot of folks in dedicated service to The Way Ministry tended to think the haves should really be sharing with the have-nots. This was never more evident than in my drive to get sponsorship for the way corps program. And perhaps just as toxic is an unspoken resentment that often creeps in because we think as way corps we’re sacrificing so much for God while we view others as having it so easy.
To be honest – I knew a lot of people in the way corps – besides myself – who had developed a mooching mentality that we were unaware we had. Technically speaking a freeloader is one who takes something from others without paying for it or giving something of value in return. Oh yeah, I thought I was reciprocating with my sponsors by sharing with them stuff I learned in residence – and the assumption that I would go on to bigger “exploits” for the ministry - and I’m sure sponsors thought it was an investment in the future leadership of TWI. Unfortunately we were all ripped off by a bloodsucking phony institution – leaching hard-earned money from sponsors and wasting my precious time.
The naked truth is that the way corps program is nothing more than an elitism initiative – thinking that the world owes “me and my ministry” something. That pseudo-spiritual elitism was drummed into my head during way corps training. I believed the program would develop and refine my abilities so I would deserve influence and authority over others…Frankly, that is truly a pathetic and self-centered way to think.
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Young people have often been described as living in a fog of exaggerated personal invulnerability. Now combine that with the reckless bravado encouraged by TWI…The potential for a major disaster is mind-boggling !... In the way corps program, they were constantly motivating us to throw caution to the wind – we should be fearless about our personal safety, security or financial needs – “God will always provide whatever you need”. One of the riskiest things we were required to do – during our two years of in-residence training – was to go through the Leadership Education Adventure Direction program or L.E.A.D. for short. This was TWI’s cheapskate version of an outward bound program.
We had to do that twice – both years we were in-residence. As a couple, my wife Tonto and I were only allowed to take twenty dollars each on our person ( and we had to return with the twenty dollars…I guess so we wouldn’t be considered vagrants if we ran into the police). We strapped on a backpack stuffed with the appropriate clothing to go hiking and rock climbing – and then hitchhiked together from Rome City, Indiana down to Tinnie, New Mexico. And we had to accomplish it within a certain time limit (if my fuzzy memory serves, it was somewhere between 60 and 72 hours – two and a half or three days) and if anyone didn’t make it within that allotted time, the instructors at L.E.A.D. turned them away and they had to hitch back to Rome City...
...Just for comparing apples to oranges, haha - it's about 1,400 miles one way and it would take a person approximately 21 hours to drive it...and another thing - would it have broke the bank for TWI to have shuttle vehicle(s) (school bus, passenger van(s)...or even use a horse and buggy since Rome City was near an Amish community ) and driver(s) haul all the L.E.A.D. participants and their backpacks to and from Tinnie, New Mexico? I mean - *** duh ***!!! It would have been a lot more effecient and safe.
With only twenty dollars each we had to depend on the kindness of strangers to give us a lift…a bonus was when someone offered to buy us a meal … I am thankful my wife and I made it to L.E.A.D. and back both years without any serious incidents.
I remember just before we went L.E.A.D. the first time, wierwille stressed the importance of trusting God in every situation and how hitchhiking was no different – and then he said something like “you could get hit by a car while walking across the street right out here” – so basically minimizing any risks in hitchhiking. (It wasn’t until years later, I read on Grease Spot about some of the horror stories of rape, assault and other horrible experiences of way corps hitchhiking to or from L.E.A.D. …and if that’s not terrible enough, wierwille had a callous way of dealing with anyone’s misfortune – it didn’t matter what happened or how it happened, he would always blame it on the the person's lack of believing – in other words, it was the victim’s fault)...I don't know what the L.E.A.D. program was supposed to accomplish - but it does make me wonder what kind of person wierwille was to put the lives and well-being of his most devoted followers at great risk!
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15. A ministry out of tune
I should mention some good stuff about some of the people I met in TWI. Not everyone was in lockstep with TWI’s policies and procedures and some actually worked to improve the quality of service. There were a lot of decent, honest, and caring folks. They were the ones who made it tolerable to be in TWI – whatever their status was in the hierarchy of The Way Ministry. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why some TWI-fellowships (certain Twigs, Branches, Areas, or Limbs) might have been more laid-back and favorable to genuine growth in the Christian faith - while others were more legalistic or even toxic... And of course leaders are individuals anyway - so each person will have their own way of managing.
It's a funny thing to step back and think about what I was involved in – what we all were involved in. Was it even a Christian ministry? Was it some weird parasitic organization that resembled Christianity? A challenging counterfeit? I don't know. I'm always willing to give anyone in TWI the benefit of a doubt – even wierwille. I've never tried to determine anyone's motivation. For all I know wierwille believed he truly served God and God's people.
But as the old proverb goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” - wrong or evil actions are often undertaken with good intentions...or perhaps good intentions when acted upon may have unintended consequences. What are intentions? They are merely guiding principles for our thoughts, attitudes, choices, and actions. Usually our intentions make us feel good about the beliefs we have. But intentions become irrelevant if they are not aligned with actions.
In relating my story here, I have tried to keep my focus on actions, things that were said and done, observations, experiences, events, situations. And in doing so I have looked at how well the publicly stated intentions of TWI aligned with Christian ideology. I believe Jesus Christ set forth the two highest priorities for his followers in Matthew 22: 37 – 40...to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. ..It seems obvious to me that how we treat people matters to God...so it makes sense that we should judge ourselves on how we actually deal with people rather than judging ourselves on why we think we serve God's people... evaluating our actions to see if they are in tune with our ideology.
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16. A diseased tree
As far as the general TWI-public is concerned, indoctrination and control are not as ramped up as they are for the way corps and some other programs – simply because it would scare off a lot of people. But once the love-bombing phase is over for new believers, there are still subliminal means to achieve some indoctrination and control according to the dictates of the top leadership at TWI’s headquarters.
Bear in mind for the most part folks serving in TWI believed it was a genuine Christian organization; for that matter perhaps even wierwille thought that too; sadly, with a charismatic delusional narcissist like wierwille at the helm - and even if he had the best of intentions - the organization was doomed to be adrift in a sea of his dark fantasy; having survived this cult experience one of the many lessons I've learned is that unless a ministry or church is Christ-centered – it's just a ship of fools...
...Sometimes I think of TWI as a being a hybrid from the crossbreeding of two different “species” or groups; one group is benign (Christianity ) and the other group is fraudulent and parasitic (an exploitative organization)...another way to look at TWI is by the simple parable in Matthew 7:15-27 :
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
This parable warns of false prophets who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Jesus said you will recognize them by their fruit; fruit is something you can see; it's something the tree produces; The fruit of one's labor is something one makes from components or raw materials or even by just plagiarizing other people's work, perhaps adulterating the works of others by one's own incompetency and twisted viewpoints; fruit of one's labor is something one causes to happen or brings into existence - like creating the way corps program, and the WOW program. Fruit is not mission statements or pious platitudes - that's just labeling on products or services...that's just words on the packaging - what matters is what's inside the package.
Jesus spoke of these religious charlatans as a diseased tree that bears bad fruit, and every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. He did not say the diseased tree should be healed, salvaged or reformed.
The passages following the bad tree imagery seem to speak to pseudo-Christian groups, led by false prophets and ravenous wolves incognito. Jesus' words particularize who the phonies are within this group – they call Jesus Lord, they talk the talk, they're Bible thumpers but they do not walk the talk – they do not do what the Lord says to do. Ultimately the last nail in the coffin for such hypocrites is when their personal storms come – their lives collapse for they were built on the foundation of a cult leader.
...There was a strange duality during my involvement with an exploitative cult. There I was in a supposedly Christian organization and yet it seemed like their agenda and their way of doing things brought on most of my hardships, frustrations, heartaches and resentment. Since I left I have thought about Psalm 23: 4 many times - “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me...” I believe God often helped me through tough times in spite of what some bad people did; on the flip side I also believe God helped me during some difficulties through what some good people did. Hooray for the good folks !!!!!
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17. The nature of soft-sell
Fortunately there were some good and kind way corps and clergy in the field who were in effect a buffer for the people they served – being more or less a cushion or filter that reduced the shock, damage or nonsense from headquarters’ constant attempts to soft-sell the following:
Dogmatism…expressing opinions and beliefs as if they were fact…confidently pronouncing judgements…communicating ideas based on insufficiently examined premises...
discouraging outside activities and higher education…
stifling religious legalism to follow the TWI-lifestyle rather than one’s personal faith...
maintaining constant subtle pressure to toe the line…
using fear and paranoia of the devil to influence one’s choices and behavior…
loosening up moral restraints in the guise of the freedom we have in Christ…
seeking the approval of leadership and learning to check with them before making big decisions…
preferring TWI-believers over family and friends – especially if they don’t see eye to eye with you on ministry stuff…
and in general, their tendency to overreach – trying to monopolize more and more of everyone’s time.
Some of those good folks left around the same time I did. Some stayed. Personally I don’t think there’s much hope in reforming TWI…or in any TWI-offshoots – since they all seem to have so much of wierwille’s "DNA" in their doctrine and practice.
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18. Some scary questions
I don’t have a beef against any organized religion. One thing I do have a problem with is when some megalomaniac supersedes the basic tenets of their faith. I’m sure most ex-TWI-followers have some explanation of what they think went wrong – and they all probably have some valid points. In trying to figure out this “mystery”, I like to hear the perspectives of other folks… and I also believe the jury is still out on some things...Sometimes I just like to ruminate on an open question:
What would happen if a narcissistic sociopath with delusions of grandeur started his own ministry?
Is it possible for someone to hijack Christianity?
Could a parasitic organization have a symbiotic relationship with Christianity?
Could a Christian think they are serving God and not realize they are being sidetracked and exploited by a phony pastor?
Are there any telltale signs that someone is a charlatan?
Why do we ignore red flags? Are we afraid the warning signs are true? Do we think our intuition or feelings are wrong?
What are the characteristics of a harmful and controlling organization?
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19. A cult of personality
Toward the latter half of my TWI involvement, I became more and more aware of this problematic stuff that I had relegated to a back burner of my mind. I started to seriously consider if I had trivialized God to fit into some theological box…it was on a slow simmer but would eventually boil over – as I was approaching a crossroad – for me and perhaps for a lot of folks too, it was a critical juncture in the history of The Way International – the year was 1986 - and altogether we were a cauldron of pent-up anger, frustration, open wounds and scar tissue.
That was when I left TWI - amidst the vying for power by top leadership and the general air of malaise that seemed to have touched everyone after the founding president victor paul wierwille had passed away...
...In hindsight, knowing what I know now about cults and cult leaders – I think the ministry-wide despondency, angst, uneasiness, and even the mass exodus of so many way corps and clergy at that time was a dead giveaway that TWI was nothing more than a cult of personality.... When wierwille passed away, his larger than life charismatic influence that gave TWI its inspiration, vision, direction, vitality and strength was also gone.
Wikipedia says a cult of personality, or cult of the leader, arises when an individual uses the techniques of printed material, public speaking, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, rallies and big events to create an idealized, heroic, image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.
And in a 2013 digital article “What is character and why it really does matter” on Fordham Research Commons, authors Thomas A. Wright and Tyler L. Lauer wrote:
“The cult of personality phenomenon refers to the idealized, even god-like, public image of an individual consciously shaped and molded through constant propaganda and media exposure. As a result, one is able to manipulate others based entirely on the influence of public personality. Max Weber long ago referred to this power of personality as ‘‘charismatic authority.’’ It is becoming evident that the charismatic leader, especially in politics, has increasingly become the product of media and self-exposure. At variance with traditional approaches to character that emphasize a moral based framework, the cult of personality perspective focuses on the often shallow, external images that many public figures cultivate to create an idealized and heroic image.”
To understand wierwille’s origin story is to peer through the smoke and mirrors of wierwille-mythology and comprehend the fascinating backstory – a complicated narrative unfolding on Grease Spot that still continues to reveal stuff about a sexual predator, a malignant narcissist, a megalomanic, an unabashed plagiarist and self-deluded cult-leader. If all this is news to you, then you might want to check out:
WordWolf’s thread The Way Living in Wonderland
Skyrider’s thread The wierwille legacy: who will write the book?
It bears repeating to stress that a harmful and controlling cult of personality like The Way International is so detrimental to one’s well-being because it is empowered with malignant narcissism. In case you’re not familiar with the term - “Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism. Grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate.”
From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malignant_narcissism … this ties into point # 21. It's like swimming upstream where I talk about the authentic-self versus the adaptive-self.
Several Grease Spotters – like Bolshevik, Rocky, and Skyrider have talked quite extensively on wierwille’s malignant narcissism – you can click on a few selected threads here:
But in 1986 I had no idea I was in a cult of personality...One of the many reasons I left was over the mounting questions and doubts that came to mind as I looked into how and why this house of cards came to be. It was now time to address all that stuff I had put on the back burner...
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20. Taking the first step toward freedom
I turned up the heat by intensifying thoughtful analysis. And in the process this provoked me to change the importance of many issues from a low priority to high priority on my things-to-think-about-and-what-to-do-about-them-list... A tipping point is defined as the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point. This was a crucial moment in weighing my experiences in TWI (the little bit I've mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg...and there's also probably a lot of other irksome minutiae of everyday life in TWI that has faded from memory but what I've written should be sufficient anecdotal evidence to reveal the essence of a harmful and controlling cult.) Without realizing it or having some kind of plan, this was my first step toward freedom.
I feel there might be something indomitable about the human mind - how it's resilient…capable of doing great things in creativity, critical analysis, solving complex problems, overcoming adversities, experiencing setbacks and trauma, enduring failures, hardships, loss, grief, toughing it out even when there's no hope in sight… I wonder if all that is driven by the simple desire to be free and to thrive - to remain unconquerable…Some ten years after I left TWI, I went to a professional counselor over some personal issues I had, even before joining TWI – but of course my involvement with them came up a time or two during some sessions. One of the best bits of advice anyone ever gave me was when he simply said I should quit beating myself up over past failures, mistakes and bad decisions…
...Indeed we sometimes sabotage our own recovery when we are tempted to become hostile to an old mindset…feeling embarrassed…angry… vulnerable that we were that naïve or that we allowed someone to brainwash us – or whatever other feelings come up because we haven’t yet come to terms with our past.
Mind you, I quit being involved with TWI in 1986 – but there was still a long way to go in terms of disentangling myself from a dogmatic mindset, reevaluating what I had been taught and basically unraveling all the ways and means of how a cult can commandeer a life……well…life goes on…and I’m so thankful my wife and I got out when we did, to pursue separate careers, buy a home, and raise our kids. It’s such a satisfying thing to put my family first – instead of some exploitative organization. And after some 35 years of being out of TWI (it's 2021 as I write this), I’m not that occupied with sorting out all that weird TWI stuff like I once was...I've figured out a lot of things – though I do still enjoy coming to Grease Spot and always appreciate the chance to further articulate my experiences and observations.
A lot of folks here have expressed some great analyses of TWI's doctrine and practices as well as some great therapeutic strategies. OutandAbout mentioned she made a pie chart of her life thus far, which showed the proportion of TWI involvement as it related to the entire scope of her life. I loved that idea – because as time goes by the TWI section gets smaller and smaller. That’s a great way to look at it…Out of habit I usually reflect on my life as before, during and after TWI – as if it was the most significant watershed moment of my entire life – like everything about me revolves around that… but with more temporal distancing from TWI a pie chart would show its diminishing part-to-whole relationship with my entire life…there’s a distinct advantage to this overview – seeing the big picture tends to put everything in proper perspective - so it's all no longer out of proportion.
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21. It's like swimming upstream
Leaving a subjugating cult can be extremely difficult. Besides any extenuating circumstances like familial and social bonds, living arrangements, staff/leadership responsibilities or any other ties that can keep one tethered to the group – a cult member may be all too well indoctrinated and isolated to hear from or talk to an outsider…I’m no expert on psychology or decision making – but just going on my own experience – what I think it comes down to is being honest with yourself. YOU must weigh everything and determine the status of the situation for YOURSELF. If it feels like anyone is trying to talk you into or out of something – you’ll probably avoid them like you would an aggressive salesperson. It has to be something YOU want…more specifically – being free of a harmful cult’s influence has to be something YOU want.
I should mention the mental challenge. You may feel like it’s swimming upstream – since the simpler, safer and comfortable route is to stick with the TWI-mindset. That’s because thinking like an adult has been trained out of you – as time goes by you tend to lose self-confidence and often find it hard to think clearly about certain things – some mental faculties may have become atrophied. Self-doubt is a byproduct of TWI’s constant bombardment of your “old man nature” (which in TWI-jargon usually refers to what you were like before you joined TWI but often can still rear its ugly head). They also use some other hi-tech ammunition like berating folks for going by their five senses or using worldly logic. They will pontificate over your lack of "mastering" the PFAL material or other classes. Perhaps one of their most deadliest pseudo-spiritual missiles is sowing the fear of disobeying God or the fear of being misled by unbelievers and devil spirits.
TWI wages a continuous silent war on one’s personhood – and one of the major casualties of these attacks is a type of identity crisis. I would often question myself...I usually lacked confidence in my own thinking process…I found myself at times wondering who I really was and if I fit in… Self-awareness is a conscious knowledge of our own character, true feelings, motives and desires. However, this may be difficult to perceive through that translucent overlay of TWI’s social identity “bestowed” on followers. It’s like wearing frosted glasses and looking at your own reflection in the mirror…details are diffused …individual features are not clear.
We are social creatures and have a natural desire to fit in. But all too often the social influence of a group like The Way International causes discomfort, pain, fear, sadness, frustration and even anger and resentment deep down inside. So to survive in the group and to insulate our authentic self from further harm, we adapt somehow – we bury those things and put on our ministry-face. We don’t speak the truth - instead we say what is acceptable…We don’t call a problem “a problem” we call it “an opportunity”. Thus our adaptive self enables us to get along in a challenging social environment like TWI with some success and with the least amount of conflict with others – but often at the expense of our authentic self going into hibernation... The longer you stay involved with TWI the more your authentic self gets buried under TWI’s values, goals, priorities, contrived interpersonal skills, beliefs, behaviors - all of which serves TWI more than your best interest...
I recall wierwille’s frequent reminders that feelings come and go …constant warnings to not go by our five senses and often disparaging worldly logic (which is reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity – wierwille pushed that we should reason from the principles of “The Word” – which conveniently for him always seemed to serve his best interest).
What wierwille taught is the real you – was actually more along the lines of The Stepford Wives. As a tyrant with delusions of grandeur, wierwille saw the ideal believer as a servile, compliant, submissive, spineless person endowed with an almost robot-like ability to suppress emotions, ignore sensory input, and turn off logical subroutines…all the while happily doing the man of God’s bidding and serving his every whim dutifully. Basically it’s the dehumanizing effect of malignant narcissism I mentioned in point # 19. A cult of personality .
…now back to reality…to be the real you - the authentic self, and not some cult’s homogenized version of you, requires self-awareness and self-acceptance…self-examination is perhaps a life-long process…from time to time we may have to take stock of our beliefs and behaviors - and then change what doesn’t serve our best interests.
…The initial path to freedom may be a lonely one... That’s why websites like Grease Spot may be someone’s only lifeline…Wherever your first taste of freedom comes from – I can tell you this – it will feel like a breath of fresh air! And take heart – getting reconnected with the outside world is not such a daunting task. You’ll find that human beings are a lot more alike than they are different. You are free to reconnect with old friends and make new friends.
I can't say enough good things about all the folks at Grease Spot and what a great place it is to think out loud. If anything of what I've said strikes a nerve with you maybe it's time for you to get down to brass tacks and focus on the heart of the matter. The critical issue is NOT what I've said about The Way International. The most important thing about any of this stuff is what do YOU think?...I know that question is a toughie. Believe me I know...You may say "Where do I start?" or "How do I do that?" ...well...It's not as hard as you may think.
Richard Paul and Linda Elder in their book "Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life" hinted at a crucial first step: "...For most people, most of their thinking is subconscious, that is, never explicitly put into words…The problem is that when you are not aware of your thinking you have no chance of correcting it. When thinking is subconscious, you are in no position to see any problems in it. And, if you don’t see any problems in it, you won’t be motivated to change it…most people are in many ways victims of their own thinking…" That book came out in 2002 - but long before that - when I left in 1986, I happened to naturally fumble my way around into a way of exposing the various levels of my thinking.
I just started writing things down. I would write down some of the most prominent TWI beliefs and concepts I had garnered from my years of involvement. Then - if I had any of my own thoughts, feelings, doubts or questions about what I just wrote down - even if it was counter to that - I would write that down too. This is indeed a deeply personal and vulnerable thing to do. And it takes courage and honesty. No one else needs to know about this stuff. The purpose of doing this is to make you aware of the various levels of your own thinking - otherwise you'll be oblivious to any cognitive distortions you may have; if you are unaware of a problem then it's impossible to fix the problem.
And when it comes right down to it, that is not the only way to address the problem. The whole idea is to get you to engage all your levels of thinking – recalling information and experiences...analysis, evaluation, synthesis, creation, application, etc. You're striving for meta-cognition which is an awareness of one's own thought processes and an understanding of the patterns behind them.
You can accomplish that any number of ways – you just have to find what works best for you. Initially for me, it was writing things down on paper and talking about that stuff with my wife. Then in 2006 I joined Grease Spot - and that's when my ability to more easily connect to my various levels of thinking increased exponentially! Writing things down on paper or saying them out loud tends to keep us in a problem-solving mode instead of pressing the mental repeat button over and over again.
Take for instance a statement from PFAL, “the law of believing works for saint and sinner alike”. For most clear thinking folks that statement will trigger a slew of questions and inspire challenges which basically goes along the lines of Socratic questioning - and in a group setting it involves a disciplined and thoughtful dialogue between two or more people. It is often used in teaching and counseling to expose and unravel deeply held values and beliefs that frame and support what we think and say - using focused yet open questions, we can unpack our beliefs and those of others. When we dialog with another person or persons - unless you are all playing a game of random association – the problem-focused group can be very productive depending on how much everyone stays on track.
When you write something down, type in a post online, say something out loud to a friend – you give a thought definite form – something that's somewhat tangible in that once it's out in the open it may summon deeper thoughts from yourself as well as invite useful feedback from others. It's not a matter of trying to impress others with what you know, striving for literary perfection or philosophical eloquence – but of getting better at articulating your own experiences, observations and realizations – learning how to express your ideas and feelings fluently and coherently.
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22. Dealing with grief and loss
One more thing I should add is that anyone who has ever been involved in an abusive, deceitful and exploitative organization like The Way International will have to deal with grief and loss if they ever decide to leave the group. There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”. The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.
Below are some quotes from various sources that have inspired me to pick up the pieces and move on with my life. Some of them represent a commitment I’ve made to never let myself get fooled again in such matters of doctrine and practice. Some quotes are food for thought...and some are just funny - which is always good medicine for the soul.
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Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even specially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities..... Allan Bloom... The Closing of the American Mind
The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.....Edmund Burke
Tao is defined as the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order…Synchronicity has been described in several ways; the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection. Synchronicities are incidents of spiritual significance that ask us to momentarily dampen our self-obsession and consider the possibility of the divine. Synchronistic experiences leave us with a curious sense that we should pay attention…In her book “The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self” Jean Shinoda Bolen says the following:
What is known intuitively, through experience of the Tao, is that we are not lonely, isolated, insignificant, and meaningless creatures, accidentally evolved from organic rubbish on a miniscule dot in the vast cosmos. Instead, the Tao experience gives us the direct knowledge that we are linked to all others and to the universe, through that which underlies everything and which some call God. Synchronistic events are glimpses into this underlying oneness, which is the meaning conveyed through an uncanny coincidence. The unseen linkage moves us; the synchronistic event tells us we are not alone…
…An uncanny, meaningful coincidence seems to lead to an awareness of an underlying connecting principle, as synchronistic events evoke an intuitively felt spiritual reality. Conversely, becoming spiritually centered, in touch with the Tao, is associated with the occurrence of positive synchronistic events. Being in touch with the Tao seems to prompt an easy flow of outer events through synchronicity. This is the message of religious teachings in both East and West: Seek spiritual values first; whatever is tangibly needed will follow after.
In his ministry, Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God, exhorting people to seek this highest value, saying it was at hand and possible to attain. This Kingdom of God has been interpreted metaphorically to mean the possibility of a direct experience of a loving, eternal God. In Jesus’ teachings about “the birds of the air” and of “the lilies of the field,” it seems to me that he is saying that synchronicity will provide for material needs if first one seeks the Kingdom of God.
Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.....Mark Twain
Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse…Humphrey Bogart in the movie “The African Queen”
At the end of the day, it’s not the love of one other person that matters. It’s the love of life...from the movie "Before Midnight"
What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite....Bertrand Russell
Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought...JFK
Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used....Carl Sagan
Against logic there is no armor like ignorance... Laurence J. Peter
We deceive ourselves because we don’t have enough psychological strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences that will follow. (clinical psychologist Cortney S. Warren Ph.D)
Self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception. from Wikipedia
If it were all truly known and planned and determined, life wouldn’t be worth living, just a giant to-do list waiting to be crossed off…Helen Mirren
The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives....Robert Maynard Hutchins
The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not ‘The Word of God’ in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message…
We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form – something we could have tabulated and memorized and relied on like the multiplication table…But there is one argument which we should beware of using...God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this. For we are mortals and do not know what is best for us, and it is dangerous to prescribe what God must have done – especially when we cannot, for the life of us, see that He has after all done it....C.S. Lewis...Reflections on the Psalms
Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail....Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun...Pablo Picasso
If the quality of your life is not what you wish it to be, it is probably because it is tied to the way you think about your life. If you think about it positively, you will feel positive about it. If you think about it negatively, you will feel negative about it…For most people, most of their thinking is subconscious, that is, never explicitly put into words…The problem is that when you are not aware of your thinking you have no chance of correcting it. When thinking is subconscious, you are in no position to see any problems in it. And, if you don’t see any problems in it, you won’t be motivated to change it…most people are in many ways victims of their own thinking…Richard Paul and Linda Elder…Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life
No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately....Michel de Montaigne
Just remember, we're all in this alone....Lily Tomlin
As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.... a Jewish Proverb
Cancer is probably the unfunniest thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humor in what I went through....Gilda Radner
I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can.....Linda Ellerbee
Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy......John Cleese
The question of how to live the best possible life had once been the central question of philosophy. It certainly had been what thinkers like Aristippus, Epicurus, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had foremost on their minds. And in ensuing centuries, it was the fundamental question of a great variety of philosophers, from Humanists to Deists to Existentialists.
But in recent Western philosophy, the how-to-live question has pretty much taken a backseat to the questions of epistemology (how can we know what is real and true?) and logic (what are the necessary principles of reason and rational discourse?). With a few gratifying exceptions, contemporary academic philosophers leave the whole how-to-live business to daytime TV talk show hosts, smartly dressed motivational speakers, and pop gurus who tend to favor flowing robes. According to the academics, seeking an answer to the how-to-live question is definitely not the enterprise of any self-respecting modern philosopher….Daniel Klein…Every Time I find the Meaning of Life, They Change It
The phenomenon of changing minds is one of the least examined and – I would claim – least understood of familiar human experiences…Howard Gardner…Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own Minds and Other People’s Minds
When I try to put my finger on just why truth is important to us, what comes most readily to my mind is a thought that may perhaps seem unpromisingly banal but that is, nevertheless, unquestionably pertinent. It is the thought that truth often possesses very considerable practical utility. Any society that manages to be even minimally functional must have, it seems to me, a robust appreciation of the endlessly protean utility of truth.
After all, how could a society that cared too little for truth make sufficiently well-informed judgments and decisions concerning the most suitable disposition of its public business? How could it possibly flourish, or even survive, without knowing enough about relevant facts to pursue its ambitions successfully and to cope prudently and effectively with its problems?...Harry G. Frankfurt…On Truth
It does seem that bull$hitting involves a kind of bluff. It is closer to bluffing, surely, than telling a lie…Lying and bluffing are both modes of misrepresentation or deception. Now the concept most central to the distinctive nature of a lie is that of falsity…Bluffing too, is typically devoted to conveying something false…the essence of bull$hit is not that it is false but that it is phony. In order to appreciate this distinction, one must recognize that a fake or phony need not be in any respect (apart from authenticity itself) inferior to the real thing. What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made…Harry G. Frankfurt…On Bull$hit
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it…Aristotle
The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend…Henri Bergson
Reason obeys itself: ignorance submits to what is dictated to it…Thomas Paine
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The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
7 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
17 “‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken…Ezekiel 34: 1–24 NIV
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” ...Matthew 9: 35-38 NIV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent…Luke 15: 1-7 NIV
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”…John 10: 1-21 NIV
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[c] and despise authority.
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from[d] the Lord. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.
13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”… II Peter 2 NIV
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness"...Matthew 23: 23 - 28 ESV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits"… Matthew 7: 15-20 ESV
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" …Matthew 6:22, 23 NASB
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”... Luke 9: 49, 50 ESV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it…
...Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known… John 1: 1-5, 14-18 NET