from Lauren - Sunday, July 06, 2003
accessed 1607 times
This article is for those brave few in the Family who might happen on this site, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, some of this might ring a bell.
I remember several years ago, while I was still in the group, a friend of mine (first generation, whom I will refer to as Cathy) explained to me that when she joined, her shepherd tried to prepare her for the rejection she would get while out witnessing. This shepherd told Cathy, "Don't be surprised that not everyone feels the way that you do when you tell them about your new life". It was, in fact, quite a shock for Cathy to realize that not everyone could see or accept the wonder of the new life found in the [then] COG the way that she did. For some of our parents, like Cathy, when they joined, they were so wowed in finding what they were looking for all of their lives, they couldn't understand why everyone else didn't see it too. Some of them are still that way.
It's like that in reverse for a lot of ex-members. We are so overwhelmed with the joy of life on the outside of the Family & so appalled when we realize we've been fed lies our entire life in regards to what "the system" is like, that we find it difficult to believe anyone would NOT want to leave the Family -- or at least hear about the other side.
We now have our very own witnessing testimony, only it goes the opposite direction.
This doesn't actually have much to do with the main point of what I'm writing. But it does tie in. It ties in because a lot of current Family members think that when ex-members go on about such trivialities as "tithing", "prophecy", "King Peter and Queen Maria" & so forth, that the intent is to mock, criticize or condemn the belief system, the structure & the Family way of life--or worse yet, to try to stumble members, cause them to want to leave or even, God forbid! try to actively fight & attempt to destroy the Family. Some current members, it seems, cannot understand why those who have moved on with their lives would even care at all about what still goes on in the Family.
I will not presume to speak for all, but I do know that for some, these issues do not come from any form of malice or trying to destroy the Family or spread doubt. These topics are not brought up in order to try to rip members out of the Family fold. These issues, questions -- or doubts if you will -- come from a genuine mistrust of Family leadership based on personal experiences of finding "the truth that we've been looking for all of our lives" in a place we were told we would never find it; they are brought about by a genuine incredulity at how this "truth" cannot be seen by our remaining peers, and the frustrated attempt to bring our own truth to light. A testimony in reverse.
In the most basic, fundamental way, most ex-members do not trust the Family's leaders. Not at all.
Most current Family members do trust the Family's leaders; trust them very much.
The key word here, is trust. What most people -- particularly those still in the Family -- never stop to think about, is the fact that the entire relationship a Family member has with Family leadership & the Family as a whole is built on trust -- faith--and that without that trust, there is no relationship to be had.
Unfortunately, it's not a matter of faith in God's Word, faith in the Bible, faith in Jesus or any of the fundamentals of Christianity. For a Family member, the faith has to be founded in Maria and Peter. It's not about being a Christian. It's about being a member of an elite endtime army with a measure of truth that most people in this world are not ready for. It's about being a Family member. It's about being open to and accepting God's new Word for today, which is of course, naturally, relayed through Maria and Peter.
In order to remain in the Family, in order to believe in the Family or even in the "New Wine", you have to trust that Maria and Peter are God's voices to the Family.
But it doesn't stop there. It's not enough to trust that what Maria and Peter speak &/or pass on to the Family is really God's special word for today. It is essential that one also trusts that they have the best interest of each individual Family member in mind. You have to believe deep down in your heart that they would never knowingly institute any policy or bring about any change that would be detrimental to you as an individual, or to your children simply because they have a larger "collective" picture in mind. Think about it: Who would continue to follow Maria and Peter if they suspected that they themselves or their children were being sacrificed behind their back in order to benefit the rest of the Family. In order to follow all that Maria & Peter pass on from God (and even what they just come up with themselves -- as in Family structure, leadership appointees, etc.) you have to trust that they know what is best for you spiritually (and in some cases, physically). You have to trust that they have your children's best interests mind, your financial interests in mind, your health, happiness, stablity and so on and so forth in mind as they lead you as the voices of God. In essence, by following where Maria and Peter lead, you have put the direction of your life in their hands.
If at any point in time, this relationship of trust breaks down--or even simply develops a small gap--doubts flood in and it is virtually impossible to remain in the Family, because trust (or faith) is all that there is supporting the Family leadership structure.
There was a time in Family history, that some links to faith in God, faith in the Bible & faith in Jesus could be claimed in the theological direction Family prophets were taking. With some stretching of the imagination, the Bible verses about "David of the End" could tentitvely be interpreted to David Berg. David Berg's writtings were strewn with Bible verses, he did attempt to interpret Biblical passages. Whether or not one agrees with the interpretation, is, for this argument, irrelevant. The fact is, he as a man, as a leader of an organization did -- if only by appearance and nothing more -- attempt to base his belief structure on a Holy Book.
Today in the Family, things have changed. In fact, a simple perusal through the Letter "Builders Beware" should be enough to show any Family member where things are at. While the Bible does talk about a "David", it says nothing about a Queen Maria or a King Peter. Family publications have moved from the realm of being scripture based to pushing through reams of pages of "new messages from God" without a scripture in sight. While I, for one, have no problem with this as I no longer believe or follow what is written in Family publications, for members claiming to be part of Christian organization it should raise a few alarms.
Maria and Peter's claim to fame (or link to Jesus) are based entirely on the fact that they say it is so. Some people may have been convinced through Biblical passages that David Berg was a prophet of God. But Peter and Maria? You simply have to take their word for it. Trust. Faith.
In light of the fact that it's all circular reasoning and self-supporting prophecy, (ie, we know that Maria is God's Endtime prophetess because Jesus told us so. And Jesus told us this in prophecy, which was passed on by Maria) it would benefit anyone who really cares about what is true & who he/she is following & why, to stop and analyze the situation; to see if the trust and faith that is put in Maria and Peter is deserved on more than just taking Maria and Peter's word for it.
(And lest anything I write be misconstrued in such a way that one could think that I myself am trying to present the "truth", far be it from me. I have no intention whatsoever of telling anyone what they should or should not think; what is or what is not the truth. I am presenting my own opinions; results of my own attempts to put into words, thoughts, feelings & mental processes that I have gone through in determining my own truth. To each his own.)
Family Leadership & Collectivity Vs. Individuality:
Maria and Peter consistently remind us of how much they love and appreciate each and every one of us; how much each one of us means to them and to the Lord and what a wonderful job we are doing. We hear it so often, we believe it. I suppose, that deep down in their heart of hearts, maybe even Maria and Peter believe it.
But if you stop to analyze the facts, the way this "love" is put into action, the results tell a different story.
When I was in the Family I never stopped to think about it. Did Maria &/or Peter really care about me as an individual? Did they really care about my dreams, my deepest desires, did my dreams and desires and who I was as a person even matter? In reality, I can't even count the number of times I was a round peg being continually hammered into a square hole. Maria and Peter say that they know more about each Family member than Family members are aware of. They say they are aware of what's going on in the Family. Did they know? Were they aware of the fact that I was continually being forced to be something that I wasn't? Did they care? Did they want me to be happy, or did they want my own will to be smashed into nothingness so Jesus (or they) could use me. I believe, the latter.
Maria and Peter say that they love each and every Family member, but it is my own opinion that if Maria and Peter have any interest other than their own in mind, it is a collective interest. No doubt they do love the Family, they are proud of the Family, and so on. But in a collective sense -- as a group. The needs, wants, desires, hopes, necessities of the indvidual do not count; the individual is expendable. The Family has always been about the collective whole. It has never been about the individual. Individualism in the Family is extremely frowned upon.
How is it then that Maria & Peter claim to love each and every individual? Either they have been extremely adept at separating their feelings from their actions, or they are not being entirely truthful.
One could argue that what is good for the collective whole is good for the individual. But is it? There are so many issues important to the well-being and happiness of each individual that they are impossible to list and analyze here. But I will hit on some that were important to me:
Marriage and the Family: Since "One Wife" was written, and with virtually every publication therafter that pertained to love, relationships, marriage and family, putting aside ones' own private desires -- needs -- or even wants -- for the sake of the body has been the recurring theme. To put your own marriage, your own children, your own family before the voracious needs of the collective body has been a big, big no-no. Reading through countless pages of "Letters" of correction & chastisement to individuals who were brave enough to chose their families, children or marriage partner over David Berg and his offers to leadership or WS work give a prime example of the "love" that top Family leadership has had towards its individual members. I would find it difficult to believe that there are more than a handful of current members who cannot look back at the aftermath and realize the destructive force this collectiveness has played at the expense of their own personal marriage & the lives of their children. I wonder where the love and admiration for each individual family member was, and where the concern for their emotional health and happiness went with each forray pushing towards the collective soul. In the sense of marriage and family, Family leadership has had no qualms about sacrificing the individual for the sake of the body.
Children: The Family has had a collective policy in regards to the children born to its members. More than any other subject that I know of, this collective attitude towards children has hurt, harmed, damaged, traumatized, enraged, embittered, and stunted so many that it is impossible to count them all. Innocent children sacrificed to the God of the collective good. Children who from their tenderest years into their teens hardly knew their parents, had no opportunity to bond with them, learn to communicate with them or even, in many cases, to feel loved by them. Sincere love for the individual parents & individual children would have been to let the parents be parents and let the children be children. Rather, we were all simply "disciples". Thankfully, the Charter changed this somewhat in 1995. Twenty-five years too late. In the sense of children, Family leadership had no qualms about sacrificing the individual for the sake of the body.
Individuality: In the Family, individuality has little meaning. In fact, most people still in the Family care very little about this point. It is only after you leave the Family, when you have no cookie-cutter form influencing you to feel or think a certain way that you begin to discover who you are as a person. Theoretically, one of my children may grow up to be a prima ballerina. The collective Family has no need for this specific "tallent". In the Family, the love of dance would've been limited to singing groups and dance nights, all else would be squelched. Squelched the same way the desire for education was squelched. The same way non role-appropriate "ministry" desires were squelched. Individuality suffered. This barely scratches the surface on the subject of individuality. To thoroughly analyze it would take pages that I do not have time to write. In short, in the sense of who we are as people, collectivity has taken precidence over the needs or desires of the individual & the simple fact that this is a non-issue in the Family speaks volumes to the genuine care Maria and Peter don't have towards each individual.
Maria herself perfectly summed up her views on individuality in the Family when she said the following: "We do need you young people to be skilled in various jobs....we certainly need secretaries, childcare people, Shepherds, businessmen, trained witnessers, drivers, etc. But the question is, should we try to help you teens to be inspired about being trained in jobs where you're really needed in the Family? Or should we let you make the choices, even though your preferences may not be that practical, just because you have a burden to learn something like advanced art or darkroom or piano, etc., which, although we can use those talents & skills occasionally, they certainly aren't very much in demand...do you think it's right for you to almost demand to be trained in a certain ministry or vocation of your choice, even threatening to leave the Family if you can't be? Or do you think you should try to be happy & content about learning the jobs & ministries that really need to be filled?" (ML#2891: 115 & 116)
Departing members: Perhaps in no other way has Maria and Peter's true feelings of "love" showed for the individual, as in their actions towards their departing members. If they did truly care about each individual there would be something -- some measure of concern and acting on that concern -- when their members leave. Unfortunately, the truth is that when people leave the Family, even after giving their entire lives to the collective body, most are left to fend for themselves. Ignored. Prayed for. A few words of love, encouraging them to be positive, to forgive and let go of any bitterness. (Why would someone be bitter if the collective body & Family leadership had taken care of their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual needs.) With its departing members, Maria and Peter had no qualms about sacrificing the individual for the sake of the body. Where is Maria and Peter's concern when members who joined at the age of 18, gave everything they had for 30 years decide to leave the Family with nothing but 10 children to show for those years? Where is the concern when young Family members who have received little schooling in the Family enter the world without the skills they need to hold a decent job?
Us Vs. Them: In its entire history, Family leadership has consistently proven that their policies reflect that what matters to them is not what is right and what is wrong, but what is pro-Family (or pro Family doctrine) vs. what is anti-Family (or anti-Family doctrine). There have been a small handful of ex-members that have spoken out publicly (whether in court cases or in the media) regarding the abuse they suffered in the Family. So far as I am aware, not once have Maria and Peter investigated these claims to find out if what is being said might be valid & if so, to make restitution for the past. Instead, these people have been written off as "enemies", they have been maligned, they have been smeared and lied about. In reality, individuals who are listened to, who have been respected and who have had their pain validated do not need to go to the media or to authorities to work out their problems. Maria and Peter's blind refusal to admit error has resulted in unnecessary persecution for the Family members at the grass roots level. The issue has always been and, I believe, will always continue to be about maintaining "rightness". Even at the expense of truth & the expense of right and wrong. Maria and Peter's ethics have left a lot to be desired.
Family leadership -- more specifically, Maria and Peter -- say that they care about each and every indvidual in the Family. You must believe that -- believe it to the core of your soul -- to be able to follow & march to the drum beat pounded out from the Family heirarchy. How many people still in the Family-- still following the drum beat -- stop to question whether their trust is well-placed?
Family Leadership & Ethics:
How often have Maria and Peter intervened in the hardships of Family life to make things better for the little people other than passing along a "be ye warmed and fed" wee word of prophecy or spending thousands of dollars to create new "witnessing tools" that Family members are "encouraged" (pushed) into selling. Do the Family pushes and policies handed down from Maria and Peter benefit the majority of individual Family members? Do they make life easier, bring about more happiness and a better way of life? Or are they structured to preserve the Family way of life (and thus Maria and Peter's way of life) even at the expense of the individual Family members.
Personally, I can't think of any aspect about the Family that is not geared toward the benefit of the collective body at the expense of the individual. Given the reality of the situation, I personally find it difficult to believe that Maria and Peter have a genuine love and concern for each Family member when it gets down to the real life practical level of it. I sure never felt it. To even think such thoughts such as wanting to know that they had my best interests in mind and to feel loved and cared for by them, was, in my experience anathema. Pride! How dare I. Was I trying to be someone. To be thinking about myself. How shameful. I was such a good little Family-mite that I never even fostered such self-indulgent thinking. But I should have.
This is all in relation to Family leadership, the trust placed in Family leadership by individual Family members and the emotional and physical toll that has been taken on each individual for the sake of the collective body. But it's only half of the story in determining whether or not Family leadership are meant to be trusted enough to tell us what God thinks & how to live our lives.
What about ethics? Honesty. Integrity. Dignity. Accountability. Can Maria and Peter claim any of these?
Honesty: If withholding pertinent information from their flock, refusing to answer questions to avoid having to lie, & dealing only with issues that reflect positively towards their reign indicate honesty, then yes, by all means, Maria and Peter have been honest with the Family. Unfortunately, that is not what most people have in mind when they think of the term "honesty".
There have been some pretty serious accusations leveled at Maria, Peter & other Family leadership. Not accusations of a religious nature, but the kind of accusations that would explain why David Berg lived in hiding. The kind of accusations that make "religious persecution" look like a lame excuse and cover up. Not once (that I am aware of), have Maria, Peter or other Family leaders given straight forward answers to these allegations. They have not even said, "no, they did not happen". They have only slandered the people that brought the allegations, as if, by pointing the finger it would make the bad things go away. Honesty has not been at the top of their qualifications list.
Not only that, but as children growing up in the Family we have been taught that it is legitimate to lie, to cover up to hide certain "facts" from outsiders. The unspoke reason: it preserves the Family way of life. Again, it is about "us" versus "them".
Integrity: I have a difficult time understanding how an organization that has gone to extreme lengths to distance itself from its negative past would choose as its spokespeople to represent the Family to lawyers, senators, sociologists and other influential figures, individuals who have horrible abusive track records. This does not speak highly of the values Maria and Peter hold dear. I also do not understand how it is that an organization that is supposedly free and clear of all forms of child abuse, that never condoned it and that excommunicates those involved in it would have in their top ranks of present day leadership some of the most notorious "feel up the teen girls" men in the Family. How does this represent the love and respect that Maria and Peter have for each individual Family member? Rather, I think it is clearly indicative of where their standard of ethics lies.
Accountability: I've said this before -- a few times. And rather than write it up again, I am simply going to cut and paste from a previous article: Maria and Peter have both said that they are sorry that these things [abuses of the past] happened and that it was never intended, but not once have they personally taken responsibility for the hurts and said, "The buck stops here". It would seem that Maria has no problem claiming title to the leadership of the Family, but is incapable of taking responsibility of the leadership when it comes to taking the blame.
If they can apologize on Bergís behalf posthumously for not foreseeing potential problems with his sex and Law of Love doctrines and for not putting guidelines into place to prevent those problems, why canít they apologize for themselves while they are still living? Why canít they say, "Iím sorry that these things happened to you. I never would have done them myself, but I am to blame for allowing the policies to be put into place without including guidelines to prevent abuses. Because I am the leader and because the DTR was my doing, I am responsible for your hurt and Iím sorry, please forgive me." (full text found in article Seeking Justice: "Responsibility & Abuse", www.movingon.org)
My own assessments have left me with little trust in Maria and Peter. Even if I were to go so far as to give them the benefit of the doubt in that they are indeed Prophet and Prophetess of the End, and that they do indeed have a special link with God, their track record of disregard for the individual in the Family is so horrific, I could never trust them to guide me in matters so personal such as love, sex, raising children & financial stability. I do not trust that they had my own best interests in mind -- ever. They loved me as long as I was useful. But that is not really love. Maria and Peter have taken upon themselves the care, leadership and oversight of the Family -- as a whole. If a few pieces fall off of the piece of the cake they are holding in their hands, it doesn't matter, their eyes are not on the pieces, only on the whole glob.