My parents invited me home for three or four days for a family reunion. My father's relatives were all going to be there to celebrate my grandmother's birthday. I came with my brother, who lives in New Hampshire, to spend the weekend with my family, and just as I expected, my grandmother had a birthday cake and all the normal, customary things. Then, when the weekend was over, most of my relatives all went home and I was presented with a bit of a surprise.
As I was getting breakfast my parents said they wanted to talk to me about my decision to join the Community (two and a half years ago), and they hoped I would listen to what they had to say. So I agreed, and we sat down at the table. In the past my parents hadn't really had a whole lot to say about it. They had asked a lot of questions and they had wanted to have all the literature I could send them — freepapers, anything that was written about Yoneq, anything that was written about us — so I sent them as much as I could so they would know where I stood with the Community. I labored in many letters and conversations to communicate to them what I believe in, what we believe in, and about the life we lead. My parents have visited, at least once together, and five or six times my mother has come by herself, but they never stayed with us in our houses. They always stayed in a motel. They would come for a gathering or two and supper, but they never really experienced our life. I really had a desire to communicate to them what our faith was all about, and what our Master had called us to do, so I saw this as a good opportunity when they asked to sit down and talk about it.
My parents started the conversation by saying that anytime you make a big decision in your life you have to really be sure of what you're doing, especially when it's a life-long commitment like I had made. And they went on to explain that they felt like in order to make the decision that I made, I should have researched the Community more extensively. Specifically, they felt that I should have checked with former members of the Community as well as critics of the Community to see what they had to say. They thought I should have looked in libraries, on the Internet, and anywhere else I could find information on the Community, so I would have all the sides of the picture and could make a rational choice when I came, instead of doing something based on hearing only one side of the story.
They went on to explain that they didn't feel like I had done that, and they felt like I had gotten myself into something that I didn't really understand — that I was tricked. They said if I just sat down and gave them 72 hours of my time, then they felt like I could make a rational decision about the Community once and for all. And unless I did that I wouldn't really know for sure what the Community was all about; I wouldn't have all sides of the story; I wouldn't be able to make a rational choice.
I told them that I was planning on leaving tomorrow, and they had known that all along, so I didn't see why they hadn't started this 72-hour process yesterday or the day before. Of course, yesterday or the day before was when the family gathering was happening, and they didn't want to interrupt it. I understood that, and I said, “Well, I don't know whether I'll give you 72 hours, but I'll go ahead and give you today, because I was already planning to be here today. What do you want to talk about? Let's go ahead and talk about it.”
They had a bit of an argument about that. They really wished that I would go ahead and commit to it, but I wasn't willing. So they said, “Okay, let's not spend all our time arguing about it. Let's go ahead with what we said we were going to do.”
They started describing to me the research they had done about the Community in a vague way. They started describing how they researched on the Internet, how they had checked with critics and former members of the Community in order to have the information that they would need to understand what I was doing with my life. And they tried to make me feel like I really needed to have this “information about the Community,” as they called it, in order to make this choice. They asked if I would talk to a critic of the Community, an expert on the Community? So I said, “What, do you have him here, today?”
“Really? And you never told me?”
“No, we knew you wouldn't come if you knew.” They said if I really had faith then my faith would stand.
So I agreed. I said, “Well, bring them on. I'll talk to them.”
So they brought in a man that they had paid to come down from Boston to counsel me. His name is Steve Hassan. Twenty years ago he left the Unification Church and became what he called an “exit counselor.” He's written a book or two, at least, and has a lot to say about mind control, specifically about the mind control used by the Moonies (the Unification Church) on him, and also about other groups that he considers himself knowledgeable about, including the Community. So, presenting himself as an expert, he sat down to explain to me what he had gone through twenty or so years ago as a college student being approached by the Unification Church. He painfully labored to explain to me how they deceived him and led him astray through the doctrine and information he was given and by not giving him the whole story about what they were doing, gradually bringing him into more and more knowledge about the Unification Church, using fear and making him feel like if he didn't listen to what they had to say, or if he went elsewhere looking for information, that it would mean he was going to be influenced by Satan. So they convinced him that he needed to believe what they said, and do what they said, eventually even to the point of believing that Sun Myung Moon was the Messiah incarnate, and that his word was the word of God, and that what he said to do was what God was telling him to do, and it was indisputable and infallible, and if anyone spoke out against it they were of the devil.
So his implication in this was that it wasn't really his fault, but that he had been led astray – not that he had given himself to the deception, but that he had been tricked. So having been tricked as he implied, he later found his way out of the Unification Church. He was in a car accident after having been one of the main leaders of the group. While he was in the hospital from the car accident, apparently his sister contacted him. He agreed to stay with her while he recovered, because of his inability to function, which would have caused other members of the Unification Church to have to take care of him. So instead of taking them away from the Unification Church he saw it as an opportunity to let her take care of him, and let these other members go about doing the business of the church — “God's will,” as he said.
While he was living with his sister, his father found out that he was there and within five days his father had woken him up to the reality of what he was doing, and he was able to then recover from this mind control that he claimed to be under, this fear that he claims to have been under at the time.
Then he went on to describe the ways mind control works, and how it was used by the Communist Chinese, how it was used by other groups including the Brethren (a group who've been around some 20-plus years, following a man named Jim Robertson). He even showed me a video about the Brethren and what it was like. Apparently they believe they're the chosen people of God, and are doing His will, and they ride around on bicycles, live in abandoned houses, gather all their food out of dumpsters, and cut off all ties with their families permanently, never communicating again with them. He described how people can be led into something like that, tricked and fooled into giving away their own conscience and their own free will, and how it wasn't their fault that they had done this, but they were under a fear tactic used by these so-called mind-controlling people. Then he went back to the topic my parents had started with.
He talked about how I couldn't have made a rational choice about the Community apart from hearing both sides of the story, specifically critics of the Community and former members of the Community. Then he went on to say, “So we'd like you to talk to a former member of the Community. Have you ever talked to a former member of the Community?”
I said, “Yes, I've talked to a few.”
“Anyone who was in leadership? Anyone who was an elder or an apostolic worker in the Community?”
“No, I haven't ever talked to anyone who was one of those and then left.”
So he said, “Well, then you haven't really heard the whole story because you've never even been to an elders' meeting, have you?”
“No, I haven't been to an elders' meeting.”
“Well, would you be willing to talk to someone who has?” It was all up to me, of course. “Would you be willing to talk to a former leader of the Community, someone who was in the Community from the beginning, an apostolic worker, community coordinator, and then later left the Community?”
And so, once again, I considered it, and I said to myself, “If my faith is really faith, then it will stand. Our God is not going to let me be deceived. He won't give me more than I can handle. If I'm really willing to do His will, then I'll know the teaching, whether it's from God or whether it's from men.” So with all compassion towards my parents (hoping that they would believe me if I endured some of this for their sakes), I said, “Yes.”
So they brought in Roger Griffin. He was very nervous and immediately left again to get some fresh air and a glass of water, came back, and went on to describe his life in the Community for 18 years. He said that he came to the Community out of a family where his father was a Baptist minister. And the reason he came to the Community, I guess, was that there was a really good group of people who really wanted to do God's will and who really wanted to be real Christians, real Christians, and they weren't like the rest of Christianity. There was something different about them, and he liked that. So he came to the Community, and he said Elbert Spriggs eventually told him that he would be an apostle, and (according to Roger) that there would be other apostles raised up eventually.
Roger then went on to describe that since Yoneq never raised up any other apostles, the Community was then under the headship of one man who had no checks and balances on him. He described Yoneq as one who had no one who was willing to speak up against him in cases where he was wrong. He implied that Yoneq was one who used fear to intimidate people and keep them from being able to speak out against him if he made a mistake. And since he used this fear, and since, according to Roger, he was very much in charge of everything that the Community did, he eventually led the Community astray and into Old Testament legalism, into mind control — basically into deception. This was very strange to me because what he described about authority was not what I had experienced over the last two and a half years. I had seen many men in authority who had much love and care for me and others, and whom Yoneq trusted to make decisions and supported their authority in the community I lived in.
Roger went on to describe a lot of the personal things that happened to him that proved to him that the authority in the Community was bad and that Yoneq was using mind control and fear to control people. What he said was in contrast to what I had experienced. I could see that he was very offended and reacting to his offense to blame Yoneq and the community.
So these are the types of stories he told that induced in my parents the very same fear that he was accusing Yoneq and the government of the Community of using over its members. Basically, what I saw through it all was that he was accusing us of using fear tactics, but he himself was the one who really was using the fear tactics — he and Steve Hassan.
Like I said, I spent about three hours talking to Steve, and about three hours talking to Roger. I saw right off that there was no use fighting back, arguing, or trying to convince them that they were wrong. I could see it wasn't going to do any good. My only hope in staying and listening to them was that my parents would feel a little less of that fear about what I was doing with my life.
At this point, about 6 pm, my parents said, “Well, it might be a good time to break. I've almost got supper ready. Let's sit down and eat.”
So I said to them, “Well, you've really given me a lot to consider.” I made a very special point not to give any indication as to whether I was receiving them or not. I didn't want them to think I was receiving them, but I didn't want them to think I wasn't receiving them. I didn't want to be deceptive, but neither did I want to start an argument or have them lay into me. So I went out at that point, and said I was going to go for a walk and really consider the things they just said. “I need some time alone.”
Now where my parents live is basically on the side of a highway on top of a mountain in the middle of natural forests and wilderness areas. There is only one neighbor within three miles of my parents' house. It is about a quarter of a mile down a windy mountain highway. There's a camping store right on the Appalachian Trail with two pay-phones, and the people who run it have always been good friends of mine and my parents. So I went down there on my walk, even though they had communicated very clearly they wished I wouldn't call the Community while I was out or anytime. Not really giving them a response, I went for a walk and went straight to the pay-phone.
I really considered what they had to say, and the conclusions I came to were basically that these men were really offended. They had extremely offended hearts, and they weren't being honest. They had even put the very same fear into my parents that they are accusing us of using, and were trying to put it on me.
So I went and called home to Rutland and talked to Ehud, and I asked him, “Do you think I should stay another two days like they asked me to for the sake of my parents, to put them at ease? Or should I just go and leave now?” He didn't think it was really necessary for me to stay, that I had heard a lot. And I agreed.
He said, “Tell you what, we'll get back in touch in about one and a half hours, so I'll have enough time to try and find transportation for you to get up here — a way for you to escape.” I could have just thumbed a ride being right on the highway, but if they were going to find a ride for me, I'd rather do that.
So I went back to my parents' house, sat down and ate supper. Once again, it was my parents, with an old friend, Tony, who had spent some time in our community in Virginia (a month or two) and left with a very offended heart, full of accusations, and got in touch with a lot of former Community members. He obviously had affected my parents a lot. They had become good friends, and I really wished they hadn't. He probably was the one who had gotten them in touch with Roger Griffin. He has been involved with a group called the “Christian Community” in Tennessee ever since he spent time with us. He said there are about five communities there, and some of them are people who have left the Community.
I ate supper with my parents, Steve Hassan, Roger Griffin, and my old friend, Tony, from college who was supposedly concerned for my safety, wanting me to get out of the Community for my own good, because he loved me, he said. My parents were obviously really affected by the fear tactics that these men used, especially my mother who is already very much prone to anxiety and worry and general fear – unjustified fear and worry. After that I went back to the pay-phone. I said I was going to take another walk and really consider these things, because I had really heard a lot and my parents knew it. And they knew it wasn't what I wanted to hear, and they really wanted me to choose to stay and hear, and then judge for myself. They were hoping that my choice would be to leave the Community.
Ehud called and said, “I've got a ride worked out for you. Your friend Chris (someone Lev Rak and I knew in college), is willing to drive all the way from Atlanta to pick you up there, because Lev Rak told him you're having a little bit of a difficult time with your parents, and you need a place to go. He is willing to pick you up, give you a place to stay, and take you to the airport.
So I said, “Great.” I got his phone number and a calling card number I could charge it to, and I called him. He agreed to drive the one and a half hours up to Georgia where my parents live and pick me up. Even though I hardly knew him in college, he was willing to do this favor to drive all the way up there for me.
I went back to my parents' house, considering what I would tell them on the way down the mountain. For my parents' sake I didn't want to just slip out the door. I wanted to be honest to whatever extent I could. They didn't hear me come in the door, so I went to my room and packed up my things. All I had with me was a backpack and a violin. I took them back through the house to leave, and my parents saw what I was doing, and were a little bit surprised, obviously. They asked me, “Where are you going? What are you doing?”
I said, “Honestly, I've heard a whole lot today, a lot to consider. I can't possibly take in more than I've already taken in.” I told them I was going to go to a place where I could be free from the influence of these two men, free from the influence of the Community – neutral ground, I said, where I could consider what I've already heard. I couldn't take in any more than I had already taken in, and I needed some time alone.
Their immediate assumption was that I was heading straight back to the Community. So they followed me out of the house, and on this quarter-mile walk back to the pay-phone I continued to try and explain to them that they needed to give me the freedom to use my free will, because again and again they had talked about how it had to be a free-will thing. In order to obey God it had to be free will. They said, obviously these religious groups, including ours, had taken away the free will of man and made human beings to be without a free will, without a conscience, totally under the fear of the leadership. So I told them, “Well, rather than being influenced by these men, since I've already considered what they've told me, and rather than being influenced by the Community, I'm going to go with an old friend of mine from college, and I'm going to go to Atlanta and stay with him, and I will call you in the morning.”
My parents and Tony ran after me down the road, caught up to me, and tried to physically keep me from making it to the place where I was going. In subtle ways they were getting in front of me and slowing me down. My mother was just racked with fear at this point. She was just crying, screaming and saying, “Oh no, I'll never see you again! You're going back to that place, and I'll never see you again!” She was totally afraid and under a blanket of fear. I could hardly even believe it. It was so thick. And she was literally clinging to my clothes trying to drag me backwards.
So I just stood there and said, “Get a hold of yourself. Who here is really under fear? Am I?” This whole time I had been just lighthearted and laughing. I hadn't shown any signs of being afraid of what these men were going to say to me, like my parents expected me to be, afraid of the information that they were going to give to me, because they thought it was so good. So at this point, it really made it really clear who was under fear. My mother was literally afraid for my life, afraid that she would never see me again, and that my life had been stolen away from me.
I continued to make my way down the road, laboring to explain these things to her. I said, “You know, I really feel betrayed by you!” I said to both my parents (and to Tony, but specifically to my parents), “You know, these men are using the same techniques of mind control that they're accusing the Community of using. They only gave me a little bit of information at first about what they had planned for me. You only gave me a little bit of information at first. They used you to do this. First you brought me home, not telling me what I was in for. Then all of a sudden, Tony shows up, and you know that Tony and I haven't been getting along. I didn't expect him to come – it was a total surprise. After he came and stayed, then you brought out this man Steve, an “exit counselor,” and then you brought out Roger Griffin — one step after another, a gradual release of the information that you had in store for me, a gradual release of the knowledge of what you were going to do to me. This is the same technique this man described as having been used on him with the Moonies to lead him into the Unification Church.”
My parents couldn't hear any of it. They were totally under the fear of these men (and others, I'm sure) that had communicated to them about us. My parents had bought into these fear tactics, big time.
So I continued to make my way down the road to where the pay-phones were at the top of the mountain. By this time, it was about 45 minutes to an hour before my friend from college would be able to make it there, because it was such a long drive from Atlanta. So I sat there with my backpack and my violin, and they continued to labor to explain to me why I didn't know what I was doing, and to stop and consider and give them enough of my time to hear the information that they wanted me to hear about the Community so that I could make a rational choice. They said, “You're afraid to hear this information!”
I said, “No I'm not. I just don't think I really need to. I've heard enough. I see where these men are coming from, and I don't want to hear any more. I don't need to hear any more.”
“But you can't honestly make a rational decision about the Community without hearing these things.”
I continued to tell them I was just going to Atlanta. I wasn't going to slip away to the Community and not ever talk to them again. The opportunity wasn't over, and I even agreed to take a book that this man, Steve Hassan, wanted me to read. He told me to bring it to Atlanta, look over it, and read specifically a chapter about mind control. I told him, “I promise, I'll look over them and I'll call you in the morning. I'm going to continue to consider these things, but I can't do it here. I can't even have a conversation with you here.”
So finally my friend Chris arrived and he didn't really know what he was getting himself into. He got out of the car, and he was surrounded by glares, and my mother refused to shake his hand. She was really suspicious, afraid that really he was someone from the Community. Tony assumed that Sho'er would have been the one that was going to drive down from Ashville (just three hours north from my parents' house) and pick me up.
My friend Chris said, “Look, I'm just here doing him a favor. I don't know anything about this situation. I hope you don't have hard feeling against me.”
But no one would believe him. They were really suspicious of him. They told him, “Why don't you spend the night here? It's late and we want to continue to talk to you before you make this decision.”
He was there, of course, to do me a favor. So he said, “Well, it's really up to him.”
I said, “No, I really need to go to Atlanta. I appreciate you coming. Let's go.”
Finally, we were able to make it out of there after they said one thing after another to convince us to stay. As we drove to Atlanta, I explained to him the kind of fears that were working in my parents, and how I couldn't even have a rational conversation with them, and I just needed to get out of there. He totally understood, and he didn't pry into it at all. He was a total servant.
He took me home, and I spent the night where he lives with his grandparents in Marietta, Georgia, outside of Atlanta. And in the morning, I did what I promised my parents I would do. I read over the book, “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” by a man named Robert J. Lifton. I looked over a collection of writings from a Stamford University college class about mind control. Steve Hassan had given me these two books along with a Christian publication about human rights and the United Nations Human Rights Declaration, called, “Life In All Its Fullness – The Word of God and Human Rights.” It is an 80-page pamphlet about human rights and has a lot of scriptures that support it. It is about a universal declaration of human rights made by the United Nations.
And then I called my parents and said, “Well, I looked over this literature, and I considered the things you wanted me to consider, and I honestly believe that these two men and also Tony have really been lying to you and to me. They've been stretching the truth and leaving out facts in the stories they told, and they don't know what they're talking about, and they're full of accusations against the Community. They are slanderous towards the Community and hypocrites using the same techniques that they are preaching against – using those same techniques they're denouncing in order to convey what they're trying to convey. They were basically trying to convey their own personal agenda against the Community.”
It was hard for my parents to receive that. I told them I was going back to Vermont. I told them I really didn't want to tell them how I was going back to Vermont, which way I was going to go (whether I was going to fly, take a train, or a bus) because I didn't want to take the risk of someone showing up. I was honest with them. I said, “I don't want you to know.” They continued to tell me they thought I was afraid of hearing the truth — that I was afraid of hearing something that would disagree with the Community, specifically Yoneq's authority in the Community.
They labored to keep me on the phone for as long as possible, passing me around from my mother, to my father, to Steve Hassan, to Roger Griffin, to my friend Tony, and then back again. But I had heard them out, promised to consider what they had to say, and now I had made my decision, that free-will choice that they were telling me I was going to be able to make.
At that point, I went to the airport, got a ticket, flew back to Vermont, and the next day I called my parents and told them I was safely home here in the Community in Rutland. I labored for about two hours to explain to them why it was that someone would be so motivated by their own personal agenda against the Community that they would make up lies like that – accusations – that they would so adamantly persecute us. I don't think my parents ended the conversation believing what I had to day, but at least I was able to communicate to them my heart about it.
What they had to say was logically sensible. I mean, if all I had was logic I could have believed them. It made perfect sense. There were a lot of similarities between our beliefs and the beliefs of the Moonies and the “Brethren” and the other groups they described. Basically, if I was left to my own understanding it could have really influenced me. But God doesn't give us more than we can handle. I just trusted in Him and considered the motives of these men, and I knew they had been dishonest with me. I know the hearts of the people they were lying about, specifically Ehud whom I've lived with for two and a half years. So it wasn't hard for me to choose. And that's where I'm at, knowing my parents have really bought into this fear, and wishing that they could overcome it, wishing that they could see through the agenda of men like Steve Hassan, Roger Griffin, and others.
I'm really thankful for the opportunity to actually have the testing of my faith produce perseverance, and that as a result of this perseverance I could be perfect and complete one day, lacking in nothing. I'm just grateful to our God for giving me that opportunity.
I also want to say that what I'm seeing about this thing they call “mind control”. Being under apostolic authority that calls a person to obey the truth like it says in Romans 1:5 is a necessary thing for a sinner to be transformed into the image of Messiah. In fact we are to not be conformed any longer to the pattern of thinking of this world with all its sophisticated reasoning but be transformed in our thinking by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). This renewing of the mind is what enables us to live in a way that proves to the world what God's will is. But whenever someone communicates in a way that implies great fear, so that the person hearing would be really afraid that they could be tricked into believing or doing something, really afraid for their own life that their life could be taken away from them by some trickster, then this is an attempt to control someone's mind against their will. However, I have come to find out that scholars in the field of social science and law have proven in court that mind control is a bogus theory that cannot be substantiated. And really, what it comes down to is this: Who is Sovereign over the universe? Is it our Father, the Most High? Because if He is, then He is able to protect us — and anyone in the nations, all those born with a conscience — from buying into some deception like this. People are accountable to God for being deceived.
If someone is in the Community and they leave telling horror stories about the mind control they were under in the Body, chances are they were doing something against their will in the Body. If someone leaves here, and they just have all these stories about how they were motivated by fear of authority, fear of coming against authority, and how they would be ostracized if they came against authority, how they would be cast out, then probably they were under that kind of fear that the religious demon put in their brains. Probably they were under the principles and the heavy burden that our Master came to set us free from. Probably if they leave here and become someone zealous to bring all the deceived people out of the Community and out of the other religious groups of today, chances are they probably went against what they knew was right. They lived on in the Community having fallen away in their hearts, giving themselves to a deception, darkened in their understanding, not giving thanks from the heart, maybe even saying the words, maybe even praying the words, but never really seeking, not really seeking to have forgiveness in their hearts, not really seeking to have the Holy Spirit, the heart of our God in them. They are probably such great cowards that they can't admit the real reasons they left the community and resort to blaming it on “mind control.”
In one sense, the things that are described as being this terrible mind control really are just honest ways of reaching out to other human beings to persuade them to make right choices. But the deceptive use of fear over people — that type of control over a person exists because we let it – if we let it. It's up to us. It's our responsibility not to let ourselves be motivated by fear in that way, because there is no reason to fear in that way. If we are afraid to speak what's in our heart for fear of being cast out because it might not agree with what authority says, what Yoneq says, or what's in the teachings, then we're under some crazy religious demon, and we need to repent and cry out for strength to be able to speak what's in our hearts, and do what's in our hearts, so that our obedience would be from the heart and wouldn't be from principle and fear. I personally don't want to let that wicked kind of fallen-away activity exist here in the Community. I plan to continue to speak up against that kind of rote, ritualistic religiosity that I grew up in and lived in and finally left to come here where it is exposed. Here it's so uncomfortable to be afraid of authority that people just can't stand it and leave. The result is that we who love authority and believe it to be from our Father can live in peace and those who can't just find something easier to do with themselves somewhere else eventually.
So I'm thankful to see that our God is able to show me that through this experience, I've had the opportunity to see these things. I'm thankful that we can take on the responsibility for making sure that we're not under such a thing, even just to prove these men wrong; that the end of the age could come and more and more people would have the opportunity to come into obedience to our God from the heart; that we ourselves could be saved from that religious fear that was impressed upon many of us as children, handed down to us from our parents. I'm really grateful for the way our God has spoken to us again and again about this and how He is communicating to my heart about it.