new docudrama re ACMTC: Army of God

The Investigation Discovery Channel and People’s magazine have partnered to create a new series about cults called People Magazine Investigates: Cults. The series premiers on June 4th and the episode regarding ACMTC (Army of God) airs on July 2nd.

People Magazine Investigates: CULTS explores how destructive and terrifying cults can be to cult members and their families.  Each of the 6 one-hour episodes dives deep inside a twisted American cult, building to that pivotal moment when blind worship turns violent and even deadly.  From Jonestown to the Army of God, PEOPLE reporters are on the front lines, revealing the untold stories of power-crazed cult leaders using mind control, sex, and violence to manipulate and dominate followers. Each episode follows PEOPLE’s trusted journalists as they doggedly investigate the evolution of these cults, expose their bizarre and brutal day-to-day rituals, and speak first-hand to survivors who narrowly escaped lives of misery to put their cult nightmares finally behind them.”  DiscoveryIncTV

Jo Thornely with Michael Beveridge, re ACMTC

Except for the sad part about 12 year old Enoch’s death, this is pretty funny.

Gaslighting

Gaslighting: a type of psychological manipulation that sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or individuals with the intention of making them question their own memory, perception, reality, or sanity. By using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and lies, the manipulator tries to destabilize the manipulated by undermining their thoughts or beliefs. 

A good example of gaslighting comes to mind from my days inside ACMTC. From the get-go when my family moved to Sacramento to join Free Love Ministries (later ACMTC), the Greens and my now ex shoved my thoughts regarding matters of my family and my children’s welfare into some god-forsaken corner, saying God’s ways were higher than my ways, that I leaned on my own understanding, and I listened to the voices of demons that I let inside my head. I needed to repent, resist the devil, and get my demons cast out.

They quoted scripture. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Prov. 13:24. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matt. 10;37.“

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Prov. 3:5

Lila prophesied. “I say, unto thee this day that those who will go on walking in their own understanding and desiring their own will and their own way, I say they are mockers and scoffers and they walk after their own lusts. And I say they shall not have a part in my kingdom.”

Jim taught. “This is not a namby-pamby family church. There’s one of those on every street corner in America. I’m saying that God is sounding His battle cry, and we are called to march in obedience to Him, to lay down our lives for him as he did for us.” 

Steve bullied me. When I shared my concerns with him he’d tell me to grow up.

We were drilled to fight thoughts, feelings, and emotions that were not in sync with the Green’s teachings or preachings, burying any glimmer of awareness, or of who we really were. We learned to doubt and put aside our own “selfish, foolish” thoughts, our lifelines. We sacrificed OUR SELVES—our AUTHENTIC  selves—to be one of Jim and Deborah’s soldiers.

But one huge conflict, one loud thought–brewed inside my head regardless of how hard I fought it, and that was: surely Jesus–loving, merciful  God and all–wouldn’t treat the children like this. 

Deborah re Jim’s 2005 arrest, when he threatened to kill her

Old news (2005), but telling. These are the paranoid leaders of the “army that sheds no blood.” As is common inside abusive cults, the Green’s attribute criticism—being held accountable—to PERSECUTION.

“I (Deborah Green) was out of the room when the violence erupted. I hadn’t seen him with such a violent temper in 35 years. I’ve never seen him erupt in such a way. In retrospect, my assumption could have been based on my fear. But I’m not living in fear of my own husband. It’s been a lack of skillful communications. I’ve made decisions of my own which are probably somewhat equal to his. It’s all because of the persecution, which has been quite a pressure for a number of years.” the Independent, Gallop, NM, 2005.  Full article—> General sense of well-being 

dependence within a cult

Extremist cults—with their encompassing and encapsulating characteristics—exploit the dependency needs of their members. This is especially true of those groups which are communal in orientation. The member’s basic needs—food, housing, clothing, companionship—are provided. In the same way that inmates of prisons and mental hospitals become “institutionally dependent,” members of extremist religious cults exhibit a tendency to surrender their autonomy, their independent decision-making capacity, to the group.”

Ronald Enroth, The Lure of the Cults.

control mechanisms of cults

Cult expert Ronald Enroth, professor of sociology at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, describes the following as the “primary control mechanisms” by which cult leaders keep hold of cult members:

“Sensory deprivation (especially sleep); the severing of all familiar social support systems (old friends, family); removal to a highly structured environment where all aspects of one’s life are controlled; indoctrination by an exclusivistic group possessing the truth; limited access to outside stimulation; diminished ability to think for oneself; the use of fear and intimidation—these are the ties that bind the spirit and cripple the mind.”

Ronald Enroth, The Lure of the Cults,

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10 Signs Your Church Is Actually A Cult | Dust Off The Bible

“The greatest threat to power are followers who have the will to follow their own thoughts and instincts. In order for a cult leader to have the ability to keep a grip on the cult he or she must be able to disseminate instructions without being questioned. In many cults any type of questioning of authority gets presented as the questioner being possessed by demons or that they are purposefully trying to cause division. This drastic method is taken against the free thinker because the entire basis of having a cult requires followers who are willing to do just about anything for the leadership. Without this power, the ‘group think’ can slowly drift away from the leader and the group could completely leave as a whole. This is often how cults start to begin with, group think.”

—>Source: 10 Signs Your Church Is Actually A Cult | Dust Off The Bible

persecution complex and isolation

Persecution complex is a term given to an array of psychologically-complex behaviors that specifically deal with the perception of being persecuted, for various possible reasons, imagined or real. Its common for unhinged abusive cult leaders to instill a persecution complex in the minds of their followers. They train them to think that the world misunderstands them, even hates them. They cultivate a a sense of us vs them, which pushes them to isolate from the world.

The founder of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Herbert W. Armstrong, preached coming persecution to his followers, frightening them with visions of an impending crackdown on their church, like what happened to the Branch Davidians. Lila (Deborah) and Jim Green preached this too, way before David Koresh. The day’s coming! They will persecute us! The government will raid us with guns! I remember how scared I was.

“Incidents such as these and the constant drumbeat that ‘secular, godless liberals’ are destroying society creates a cohesion of fear where members band together and tend to socialize internally to the exclusion of the outside world. Members are taught to believe everything that happens in the world they disagree with is an affront to their beliefs and values, and thus a direct threat to their community.”

This also takes the form of ‘mean world syndrome,‘ coined by communications professor George Gerber to describe the ways people believe the world is more dangerous than it actually is, based on mass media portrayals. Cults tend to feed upon this phenomenon by convincing their members the world is a harsh and dangerous place that will erode their values. People outside the cult are viewed as ‘sinners,’ bad influences who will drag them down and threaten their salvation or enlightenment. This paranoia only fuels cult isolationism.”

Silenced. Cult Spottingthe International Cult Studies Association

“…there is a sense, spoken and unspoken, that others will not understand what we’re all about. There’s an assumption that (1) what we say, know or do is a result of being more enlightened (special, among the elite, chosen by god ), (2) others will not understand unless they become one of us (other people don’t know God); (3) others will respond negatively (they’ll criticize us, try to hold us accountable).

In a place where authority is legislated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside the system who are trying to weaken or destroy us. This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave.”

—David Johnson, Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

TED-Ed – Why do people join cults?


Great little 6 minute clip written by Dr. Janja Lalich who was in a political cult. She shared her story on Investigation Discovery’s Dangerous Persuasions, Season 2 (Revolution Isn’t a Tea Party). She’s now a researcher focused on cult groups, specializing in charismatic authority, power relations, ideology, and social control.

Religious Cult Leaders and Disciples: Who Leads and Who Joins as Paralleled to Fight Club

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 9.16.17 PMOutstanding article here—written by Carla Dechant Behr, brother of deceased ACMTC member Chris Dechant, AKA Joab Evans

—>Religious Cult Leaders and Disciples: Who Leads and Who Joins as Paralleled to Fight Club.