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Undertow - Escaping from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International


penworks
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10 hours ago, penworks said:

Ever think about how being regularly faced with symbols in TWI like the old official logo of a globe with PFAL written on it, and hearing slogans such as "The Word over the World" and "The accuracy of God's Word" over and over and over ... helped VPW gain power over us? I have.

An enlightening and very legitimate inquiry. From wikipedia,

"A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication (and data processing) is achieved through the use of symbols. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, ideas, or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs. For example, a red octagon is a common [virtually universal] symbol for "STOP"; on maps, blue lines often represent rivers; and a red rose often symbolizes love and compassion. Numerals are symbols for numbers; letters of an alphabet may be symbols for certain phonemes; and personal names are symbols representing individuals. The variable 'x', in a mathematical equation, may symbolize the position of a particle in space."

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For understanding cults, it's important to understand that HUMANS, no matter how discerning and thoughtful any of us can or might be, we ALL take shortcuts. For example, when driving to work or home, if we take the same route all the time, we may get to our destination and NOT be able to consciously remember every time we shifted gears (if we drive a vehicle with standard transmission) or remember having passed any given intersection along the way.

That's because we were essentially on autopilot, which is akin to habits we no longer have to think about, we just do.

Regarding our cult experience, we (repeatedly) took the PFLAP class, the first major mind control mechanism we (almost always willingly) subjected ourselves to in twi. Even the first time, if we had questions, we were not allowed to ask them (ostensibly until the end of session 12). But how many people forgot about those questions in the meantime?

Therefore, when we heard catch phrases like those Penworks included in her paper, we didn't think consciously about whether we agreed with them or not. We simply accepted them as legitimate and truthful and moved on.

This actually may be exactly how we were BRAINWASHED.

The important question to ask yourself may be, well, WHY did you (I) get hooked in the first place?

Again, Charlene at least partially answers the question in her paper when she says we were hungry to know God. Wierwille (and his agents, those who "got us in the Word") claimed and made an argument that HE (VeePee) alone had the key to getting that fulfilled. But was it really that alone?
 

I say that no, it wasn't. The bottom line is that we needed to belong. We found a group of people with whom we believed we belonged. The "hunger for God" was the ongoing hook that got us to donate more of our earnings than they deserved and to buy more classes, books, and study materials all designed to validate Wierwille as the Great One... even though they didn't dare use that expression, which was reserved for God and the Bible. Hence, the symbols triggered compliance and took the place of our conscious thought and critical analysis.

 

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1 hour ago, T-Bone said:

One thing I found was an article titled “Symbols are short cuts for our brain”  which starts off “We are surrounded by symbols, they are woven into society so inextricably that we don’t even notice them. And yet everyday we see them, understand them and they guide our behaviour. Tricky little devils. The Changing Minds Organisation explains, “Symbols are communications that have specific meaning. Usually visual, symbols act as communication short-cuts that convey one or more messages that have been previously learned by both the sender and the recipient.

YES! Shortcuts for our brain!

 

2 hours ago, T-Bone said:

I was so flabbergasted and never did comply and so I dropped the whole thing...Oh well… but ultimately this incident led to their loss and my gain. I never attempted to write another song promoting TWI’s ideology. I think the incident caused one of the biggest rifts in my TWI-belief system…perhaps the beginning of the end to cult tyranny in my life. :rolleyes:  If it was made into a cheesy music video – it would be like one of those stories about a musician who refused to sellout to commercialism. 

Cognitive dissonance that festered, perhaps, to ultimately free you from the power of twi symbols. :wink2:

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I realize this is anecdotal and not based on aggregated data, but I wonder for how many of you this might ring true. 

From a 2/25/2021 Twitter post from a young minister, @Caitlin J. Stout

A friend asked the other day what percentage of people I went to youth group with “deconstructed” and what percentage remained evangelical. As I thought about it, I realized that for the most part it was the kids who took their faith the most seriously who eventually walked away.

 

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5 hours ago, Rocky said:

I realize this is anecdotal and not based on aggregated data, but I wonder for how many of you this might ring true. 

From a 2/25/2021 Twitter post from a young minister, @Caitlin J. Stout

A friend asked the other day what percentage of people I went to youth group with “deconstructed” and what percentage remained evangelical. As I thought about it, I realized that for the most part it was the kids who took their faith the most seriously who eventually walked away.

 

I read some more of what that person said when I clicked on  your link…and I can relate to what they said – the predicament sounds familiar…for me it brought to mind a question  –

what follows after personal experiences and/or maturing in your faith when you find your idea of God and how to interpret the Bible differ from your church?

here’s some more excerpts from that Twitter post:

"Those of us who tearfully promised that we would follow Jesus anywhere eventually followed him out the door...

They told us to read the Bible and take it seriously and then mocked us for becoming “social justice warriors.”...

Now they’re warning us not to deconstruct to the point of meaninglessness. But they took a chisel to God until he fit in a box. They “deconstructed” the concept of love until it allowed them to tolerate sexual abuse, celebrate white supremacy, and look away from kids in cages...

We took the most foundational elements of our faith to their natural conclusions. Folks who deconstruct evangelicalism aren’t drop-outs; they’re graduates."

== == == ==

Sounds like some ex-TWI folks could have written that stuff.

 

Rocky, thanks for another thought-provoking post that inspired me to do some online searching…I found this in a 2019 article of Forbes about a study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion that mentioned 1400 respondents who participated in a survey in a Baylor Religion Survey – two researchers Kent and Pieper analyzed the data and had some interesting findings about gender and God and who is likely to take the Bible literally…Interesting stuff but mostly not related to what I think your post is about…but near the end of the article I was struck by the researchers’ hypothesis of the exception to the rule – a subset group – which I think many ex-TWI folks could fit in too…so that part I felt did have something to do with the sentiment expressed in the Twitter posts you referenced. The last paragraph marked in bold red touches on the question I asked above…The Forbes excerpts follow – and below that is the link:

"...So regardless of both denomination and gender, both men and women who had a personal attachment to God tended to view the Bible literally. But why, then, did women more often report a personal attachment?

“Women are more likely [to be attached to God] because women are socialized in an American context to be more vulnerable with one another, more emotionally available, and more sharing,” Kent says. “Men tend to be socialized to be more independent, to not need other people as much.” It's the capacity for intimacy, Kent says, that allows women to form an attachment with God.

There is one exception to this rule, however, Kent says. A small subset of people – men and women – had a close relationship with God and did not tend to take the Bible literally. “We're hypothesizing that these people used to be literalists, and maybe had to get away form a literalist view that doesn't jive with their view of God,” says Kent. “There are groups that want to engage and connect but feel alienated. By taking an interpretive view of the Bible, they can actually maintain that relationship with God.”

from: Forbes - New Research Tells Us Who Is Most Likely To Take The Bible Literally, Feb. 2019 article

Edited by T-Bone
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55 minutes ago, T-Bone said:

"Those of us who tearfully promised that we would follow Jesus anywhere eventually followed him out the door...

They told us to read the Bible and take it seriously and then mocked us for becoming “social justice warriors.”...

Now they’re warning us not to deconstruct to the point of meaninglessness. But they took a chisel to God until he fit in a box. They “deconstructed” the concept of love until it allowed them to tolerate sexual abuse, celebrate white supremacy, and look away from kids in cages...

We took the most foundational elements of our faith to their natural conclusions. Folks who deconstruct evangelicalism aren’t drop-outs; they’re graduates."

Yeah, I picked up on that too. Wonderful insight, IMO.

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57 minutes ago, T-Bone said:

"...So regardless of both denomination and gender, both men and women who had a personal attachment to God tended to view the Bible literally. But why, then, did women more often report a personal attachment?

“Women are more likely [to be attached to God] because women are socialized in an American context to be more vulnerable with one another, more emotionally available, and more sharing,” Kent says. “Men tend to be socialized to be more independent, to not need other people as much.” It's the capacity for intimacy, Kent says, that allows women to form an attachment with God.

There is one exception to this rule, however, Kent says. A small subset of people – men and women – had a close relationship with God and did not tend to take the Bible literally. “We're hypothesizing that these people used to be literalists, and maybe had to get away form a literalist view that doesn't jive with their view of God,” says Kent. “There are groups that want to engage and connect but feel alienated. By taking an interpretive view of the Bible, they can actually maintain that relationship with God.”

IMO, that male/female dichotomy is changing. Men "socialized to be more independent" are, too often, becoming the examples of toxic masculinity.

But I love the imagery of people willing to take risks about their view of God and religion graduating. For a number of years, I've considered that Wierwille's view of God and the bible was far too narrow. He talked about his God being big, but he acted as if God wasn't really so big. Chipping away at him until he fits in a particular box. That box, of course, was the size of his ego. 

That's one big give away on why The Way International was at the beginning and always has been a cult. A high-demand subculture unto itself.

That just doesn't fit with how I understand the bible or God these days. :love3:

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9 hours ago, Rocky said:

Btw, T-Bone, I very much enjoy that you and I can bounce ideas off of each other and come up with a bigger understanding. 

yeah me too...here it's like the New York Stock Exchange only it's the Grease Spot Thought Exchange - where an investment of your 2 cents can go a long way. :rolleyes:

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  • 4 months later...
Posted (edited)

Hi GreaseSpotters,

  This is Charlene checking in to say HI and let you know that you can read a FREE chapter of my memoir about being in the Way during the early 1970s and 1980s. I was on the biblical research team.

To read Chapter One, "Hiding in Plain Sight" click here.

A little about me: 

I am Charlene Lamy Edge formerly known in The Way as Charlene Lamy then Charlene Bishop. I graduated from the second Way Corps in 1973.

My memoir, Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International was published November 21, 2016. It is available in paperback and eBook at major booksellers and independent bookstores. Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9978747-0-9.

In 1970, college students at ECU, who were grads of PFAL, recruited me to The Way. I gave The Way 17 years of my life.

From August 1984 to August 1986 I worked on the Biblical Research Team at Way headquarters in Ohio, specifically on the Aramaic Concordance project.

In 1987, I escaped from The Way headquarters with my family and disassociated myself from the organization for good.

MY WEBSITE: https://charleneedge.com

 

Edited by penworks
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"My memoir, Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International was published November 21, 2016. It is available in paperback and eBook at major booksellers and independent bookstores. Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9978747-0-9."

This is a GREAT read.  I highly recommend it.  :eusa_clap:

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  • 5 weeks later...

Just saw this, read the first chapter and bought the book.  Really intrigued to read it.  I was in for about 4 years only, and got out right after ROA 1982.  So your account should bring back memories as I was in when you were.  Thanks for sharing your story.

 

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