The Other Side of the Boat

 By now I am quite certain there are some in the ABC who feel I have just gone off the deep end.  At least that is what people have been told anyhow. Time will tell, I guess. I am sure my views on the Holy Bible do not sit well with many, even though there is a solid underlying message in what I am actually saying, not what people assume or perceive I am saying. People tend to pendulum swing so finding the middle of that actual message may be difficult for some. 

The Holy Bible contains books and letters which some define as “the scriptures”. These various individual texts were written over many eras but the Holy Bible is not, however, as complete as the name would imply. Bitter pill to accept that? Sure. But “The Holy Bible”, is an anthology of just a very few of the written texts that actually exist from all of these other eras. This is not to diminish the writings as invalid, it is just to say they are very incomplete. Even the writings in the Holy Bible prove this with it's own cross references to writings to which we no longer have access. The writings "The Holy Bible" contain were chosen by the Catholic church as accepted texts to support a specific doctrine of the time. That does not invalidate these texts, but it does  limit the collection mankind is able to view and it certainly limits our knowledge.

In the early church there was no Bible, no anthology of compiled texts. There was only the Didache, or simply “the teaching” along with a few various scrolls and letters that were passed around between cities. “The teaching” could be related to another in a short amount of time and was predominantly related orally. We see this with the story of the Philippian jailer.

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

They didn’t then give him an address of the closest ABC meeting, sell him a notebook of Greek texts, suggest he buy a Panin's, perhaps a Vine's, a Stegenga's, a Strong's Concordance, an interlinear and then enroll him into their new church. They gave him the message, then they likely never saw him again. There were no “Bible studies”, there were no “Bible study books”, no concordance, no commentaries…, just, "the teaching”. If one was a Jew, during these times, they often continued going to the temple to read the scriptures.

There is a document called “The Didache” which is alleged to have been discovered in 1873, with additional sections alleged to have been “discovered” in 1900. This document sounds remarkably like the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church and is suspect. The Didache, in the early first and second century church times, was not this document. It was simply a basic teaching passed along orally.  

In the early days of the Christian church there were Jews or Gentiles. There were not all of these Christian factions or denominations we see today. Certainly, in the Jewish faith, which is much older than the Christian faith, enough time had passed for factions to form, but the early Christian church was, for the most part, still unified behind a single message; the Didache. Then it began to fracture. The beginnings of these fractures can be seen in some of the letters to some of the cities. 

Fast forward now to our modern era, with more books and commentaries than one can possibly list. The points of contention between people  has now become super fine and the war over words is in full swing.

One of the most prolific letter writers, after Jesus’ days, was Paul. Although it is accepted some of the letters attributed to him were actually written by his various secretaries; Tertius (Romans), Sosthenes (1 Corinthians), Timothy (2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Philemon), Silvanus (Thessalonians), Luke (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews), etc.  Today we would call them “ghost writers”. 

The anthology we call the Holy Bible contains 66 books; 39 Old Testament, 27 New Testament, of which many New Testament books were written by Paul, or one of his secretaries. These few writings we have in the Bible were selected by the Catholic Church as the texts the “laity” would be allowed to see. The rest of the texts were locked away permanently around the 1400’s and are now housed in the Vatican library vault. In this vault are thousands of other writings by Paul, Apollos, Timothy, Luke, etc, all held inaccessible to most of mankind. The library is open only to University Professors, PHD students and professional researchers. Even then, it is only by infrequent appointment  since the whole world clamors to view these documents and one is given a specific time slot to view the library, but only if they meet the qualifications. Words are power and this power is now centralized and locked away from most. This makes a huge number of writings of the early church inaccessible. What is in these texts we don’t know? Is it important information?  I can give you a definitive answer. It doesn’t matter. Righteousness is composed of faith and love which is held together by hope, not by an ever-increasing knowledge base. What is now designated as the thirteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians makes this clear.

 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Faith plus love equals righteousness. Remove one and you have zero. To take the little bit of information we now have access to, then build a “solid doctrine”, without error, is impossible. To repeat myself, there are only two doctrines that matter, faith and love. Hope, not knowledge is the thing that binds these two together.

In the letter James wrote to the Jewish tribes he talked about how “having faith”, yet ignoring the actual hunger or suffering of others, is essentially dead faith. Useless. If a man comes seeking real world help, the ABC hands them a notebook and a pen, claiming Jesus is the bread of life and the only way to achieve satiety is to learn Greek words in the right order. They have nothing more to offer than this. I can recount one men’s meeting where someone asked us to pray about a woman whose husband had just died, leaving behind three children with no money to care for them. We prayed for them but then I asked two questions. Did he work? The answer was affirmative. Were they married?  Again, yes. I worked for the Social Security Administration and pointed out they would provide the family a decent income until the children were at least age eighteen. For asking these questions “in the meeting”, I was later belittled for not seeking a more “spiritual answer”. To those who belittled me, I say this. If you are on a ship, and it’s beginning to sink, you better start praying really hard and ignore all those lifeboats dropping from the side and wait instead for a hand to reach down from the heavens and snatch you away. If that doesn’t happen, bon voyage on your short trip into the eternal.

There was a second similar episode when I was driving an old vehicle that had an electrical fire under the dash.  I jumped from the vehicle, threw open the hood, removed the battery cable then, lacking an extinguisher, let the fire burn itself out. That vehicle never ran again. For this I was chastised for not “praying first” before I jumped from the vehicle and disconnected the battery. Seriously? We are human beings, we live on a physical planet, in a physical realm. Not every answer is a spiritual answer. We are not heard for our much speaking or our frequent lengthy prayers.

Not long before I was ambushed, one person chastised me for not saying grace when I stopped at a convenience store and bought a candy bar. Perhaps I should have stood in the middle of 7-11, smote my breast and loudly proclaimed my thankfulness that I had sixty-five cents to buy a snack. I have eaten in a restaurant where an entire table will join hands then pray loudly for their meal as a show. Matthew addressed this subject.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

A number of years ago I had the rare opportunity to take a fascinating tour at a glass bottle factory not far from where I live. The glass returned at the curb, or in drop boxes, ends up at this facility in huge dump bins and is all mixed together. It then passes into the plant via conveyor and is somehow sorted by a computer as it enters. Green, amber, clear all go to separate lines and the computer then mixes the clear and green together in just the right quantities to create the clear bottles used for salad dressing etc. After the glass leaves the sorter and remixer, it enters a giant kiln that is about forty feet high. It takes an enormous amount of natural gas to melt these glass fragments into a syrupy liquid used to form new bottles and, as it heats, the glass begins to glow so intense if one were to open a portal and peer in, they would soon be blinded. But the melted glass still must be monitored so there are several small flaps on the side of the kiln. Behind each flap is a piece of pitch-black glass. When you peer at the molten glass through this pitch-black barrier, what you are actually seeing is a figurative image of the molten glass bubbling inside, not the actual glass itself. This is the view we have of God and all things pertaining to. No matter how many hours we spend studying in Greek or English we will never see any better than looking through that darkened window. It never gets any better than this during our time on earth. The letter to the Corinthians speaks about this.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Righteousness is obtained only through faith and love; hope is what holds the two together.  Proverbs addresses this when it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Once you remove hope you have utterly destroyed faith and love. The letter to the Galatians addressed this well.  

 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

We all have a dim view of what lies ahead and what came before. We cannot improve our view...ever. Adamancy about anything is a spiritual crime.  If we profess to know much, we are liars since we know very little. We have just those few letters and books found in the Holy Bible as a mere glimpse but even if one had access to all seventy thousand plus other books and letters held captive in a vault in Italy, we cannot ever pretend to have a complete answer. When one talks about “nailing down the answer”, having all “see eye to eye”, these things are impossibilities. We all have a dim view of the universal truths about God. As much as having a library of books, making charts, graphs and lists feels good, it is never perfect and will never lead us to perfection. When the letter to the Hebrews talks about “going on unto perfection”, it does not indicate there is an actual end point to that road on earth.  

If you look at the ministry of Jesus, he sat people down so they could rest, fed them real food, healed their real maladies, told them a figurative story, then he moved on. We often read the Bible as if it were a law book and instruction manual. It’s not. Many of the writings speak of the things they did in the early church historically, but not all of them were edifying. (i.e., beginning to live communally…)

The Israelites were cursed with the law because they were not satisfied with just ten commandments. Much too nebulous for their taste. Open to arguments. Didn’t nail everything down. Once we start needing to “nail everything down” we make Christ of no effect because we have abandoned righteousness. The hope of faith and love is supplanted by the seeking of a new set of laws and rules. Love is the only commandment.

When some of the early followers of Jesus (they were not yet called “Christians) were starving, and failing at fishing for a meal, Jesus appeared to them and told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat instead. They then pulled in so many fish they almost sunk the boat. This story may be true, or it may actually be a parable, who knows, but the basic message is this. The ABC has reached very few people on this earth, in the last fifty plus years, with their message of Greek word studies. This method of study was taken directly from the teachings of James A Watt at Broadway Tabernacle in Seattle Washington, an Assembly of God affiliated church. When one comes seeking bread, they offer up instead intense Greek word studies then encourage the joining together into a cancerous mass behind a virtual wall they built to protect themselves from the rest of humanity.  Perhaps they are fishing from the wrong side of the boat.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.    Matthew


pros·​e·​lyte | \ ˈprä-sə-ˌlīt

a new convert to a faith or cause






Tithing and Melchizedek


 One of the principal ABC teachings, just past the foundations, is tithe, or a tax or assessment of one tenth of a person’s income. After one begins their foundation word studies, they are then introduced to what is termed the “Island Hop” teaching. (See illustration). 

The first two steps past the foundations in the "Island Hop" teaching are “Melchizedek”  then “tithing” and the accepted teaching is one must pay ten percent of their entire income to the ABC, in lieu of paying it to Melchizedek, as Abraham is said to have done. Genesis 14 and He. 7 are the primary references for this teaching. This ten percent includes businesses which are expected to pay ten percent of the gross income of the business, not the net. That’s not quite in line with the Old Covenant principle of “those that pass under the rod” which I will later examine a little further.

Tithing is an area where I ran headlong into trouble on several occasions. I accepted tithing, offering and alms at face value and participated to the full extent when I was in the ABC, even though I had serious questions and concerns, which eventually proved to be valid. 

There were a few egregious incidents that happened over the years that gave me pause. One of these involved a woman who retired and sold a huge piece of property which could legitimately be measured in miles rather than acres. This woman sold this property for a considerable sum, some years back, and was living fine from the proceeds of the sale until her health turned. She then ran into some  some serious financial difficulties very late in life. This is not an unusual scenario. Medical bills can wipe out a person’s savings rather rapidly.

For many years, this woman had provided food and shelter for many. She was a kind and generous soul and was loved by all. When my dad was still living, she donated a great deal of money to him to help build his ABC church movement. Whenever he felt he had a special need, he asked, and she came through. To many people this woman had been very kind over quite a few years and regularly received honor from others. I remember one all-church meeting where she was brought to the middle of the room and given special appreciation for all she had done. 

I learned of this woman’s financial difficulties but soon discovered they were much too large for just one person to handle. I went to Bruce Leonard, who considered himself the ruling elder in Vancouver, and suggested the church help her out since she had given to so many, for so many years. I have no doubt the amount she paid in tithe, and offerings, over the years was many, many tens of thousands, if not in the hundreds of thousands. I have no way to verify the actual amount, but it was a considerable sum and she was quite faithful with her tithe and offering. My suggestion the church help her was immediately thrown back in my face by those in charge of the tithe. The reason given was this woman loved to play the organ and, when she played,  "sang the old Mystery Babylon hymns", not the “body songs”. Therefore, it was reasoned, she was still "caught up in Mystery Babylon" and did not deserve any help. It is true she loved to play hymns on the organ and sang old hymns but so what!  I assure you this woman dedicated her life to the ABC, and would never suspect she would become so mistreated near the end of her life. But she was. The situation in the ABC has always been this volatile. No one is ever immune from torment if you purposely, or accidentally, cross the leadership.

This was a turning point for me. I continued to tithe and pay offerings to the ABC but became very suspicious in how the monies were actually being handled, and who exactly was profiting from them. Per Bruce Leonard the tithe was completely under the control of one man, the "apostle" Gilbert Larson and his word was the final word.  I approached Bruce Leonard several more times on this matter. He alleged to have consulted with Gilbert Larson, the "apostle", and in the last encounter became enraged I would even consider helping this woman. To say I was shocked at these responses would be an understatement at the very least. It was very cold.

I would later be accused, behind my back, of “robbing God” even though I had always paid both tithe and offering in the full amount. When I saw a need, I gave alms.  I heard through the grapevine Bruce Leonard and Gilbert Larson felt I had not tithed properly after I received an insurance settlement from my accident. 


I heard from a couple others I had allegedly “lied to the Holy Spirit”, like Ananias and Sapphira, and would suffer the same fate as them. I was never struck by lightning and didn't drop dead as had been assumed would happen by Bruce Leonard and Gilbert Larson. That entire settlement received was earmarked to pay for current and future medical expenses, since both of our injuries were severe. Both of us required years of additional medical care to return to normal and, if you have ever been injured, you find you receive bills many months later that must be paid. I inquired whether this was truly income, since it was basically passing through my hands to medical professionals, and was told this was income and I must pay tithe on it. If I did not pay, I was told I was “robbing God”. A record is kept of everyone’s tithe and it is regularly compared against assumed income to see if  one is “tithing correctly”. I know this for a fact. When the computer used to record the tithe went on the blink, I was asked to help fix it. More on that income thing later.

I heard it was assumed by Bruce Leonard and Gilbert Larson I had received a larger amount of money than I had paid tithe on.  This was not true. I am alleged to have lied about the amount, thus the accusation about "lying to the Holy Spirit".  I didn’t. Bruce Leonard and Gilbert Larson both felt I had not paid enough tithe based on their own false assumptions. Both felt I had “cheated the tithe” and therefore "robbed God". This is a total falsehood. I had actually paid more than the ten percent in tithe plus offering as well. The nineteen-year-old who hit us head on was minimally insured, hit one other car before he hit us,  caused major trauma to three people, laying one person up for more than a year in bed with a full-time aide and I spent five years recovering from my injuries. My wife’s medical expenses would require a lifetime of minor palliative care to manage chronic issues from a head injury that had already required years of occupational and physical therapy by the time we received that settlement. We had many past due medical bills.

The day after the accident my employer health plan showed up at my bedside, in the hospital, insisting I sign a form they would never be billed for medical care related to the accident.  There was very little auto insurance money to go around since there were three severely injured people as a result of the kid crossing the center line. We all received very little. Bruce Leonard and Gilbert Larson felt I had “robbed God” based on their own erroneous assumption of the amount of that settlement, not based on fact, and I heard they based this on the fact I put a down payment on a house. I had not long previous sold a home and could have bought that house, even if I had never received that small settlement. The two facts were completely unrelated. No one ever questioned Bruce or Gil's ability to purchase a home or how they were able to afford it. Hypocrisy.

The generally accepted teaching is one must tithe to Melchizedek, just as Abraham did. This is Old Testament. What is interesting to note is Abraham was paying this tithe to Melchizedek from the plunders of a war he was returning from, and not from his usual income.

Genesis 14 describes what happened, but there is no place in any of this text where it is prescribed one must pay a tithe from plunder. Enter Hebrews seventh chapter. This section of the letter to the Hebrews happens to mention, Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder…” in speaking of Melchizedek but, again, this is not a prescription for New Testament tithing, just a description of what happened way back when.

I am not opposed to the concept of tithing, per se, but what does not make sense is there are a few men who hold this tithe in secret, profit directly from it, then use “rules” to forbid others from receiving assistance, unless they authorize it. They see themselves as the representatives on earth of Melchizedek and therefore they must be tithed to...or else. If one pays their tithe elsewhere, is that wrong? It's still tithe. These men are not Melchizedek embodied on earth, they are mere mortals using spiritual intimidation and fear to extract money. There is controversy on who Melchizedek is exactly, but the most accepted viewpoint is that Melchizedek is the Holy Spirit or Christ. I can’t prove or disprove any particular viewpoint as there is inadequate information.

I have seen others accused of “robbing God”, using the same false assumptions. I have gone to bat for several people who were  severely “disciplined” based on false assumptions.  One couple, as example, were brought before the elders and accused of robbing God because they had bought new bicycles and allegedly had withheld tithe to pay for them. I examined this personally, discovered they tithed from their gross income and bought these bicycles from a tax return check. Despite my supplying this proof they were still severely disciplined and eventually left the church devastated. This is but one example of many similar scenarios.

Whenever I asked for an accounting of the tithe, I am told I must trust God it is used correctly.  I trust God, but I don’t trust men will always deal with honesty and integrity. No matter how righteous they seem. Self-righteous men still appear righteous. There are those who use the church tithe to profit in filthy lucre for their own sake. If not, they would have no difficulty with a full accounting of its use, with continued oversight.

But let’s assume for now that tithing is a requirement. What is income or increase exactly? As one example, the Old Testament states in reference to animals; “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.”  Using sheep as an example; many new lambs died by disease or predator, and these did not "pass under the rod" so were not part of the increase. The larger adult animals were too large to "pass under the rod". Only the healthy newborns were considered increase. Using a more modern example, say a new business has a nine percent net profit margin. Paying ten percent of the gross would soon cause them to go out of business. It would be the equivalent of killing off the sheep who produce the lambs. In my case, receiving money intended to be paid for medical care is not really increase, but I knew the consequences of not paying and paid it anyhow...and then some. I was still accused, behind my back, of “robbing God” then viciously ambushed later. I heard others after me were also accused of the same and ambushed as well. I am far from alone in that regard. It can happen to anyone. Even if it is based on a false assumption.

But here’s the thing. This is Old Covenant text, not New Covenant promise. There is no rule that says if you pay tithe and offering it must go to the ABC. If one paid tithe to a different nonprofit to feed and clothe the poor, something Jesus did, is that still not tithe?  Of course, it is. The ABC is just a registered nonprofit corporation the same as all other registered nonprofit corporations, not Melchizedek personified. The ABC have a few men who regard themselves as the physical representation of Melchizedek on earth, but they are not. They hold people captive, then demand a tax of ten percent and provide no accounting. This is wrong.

Tithing was not one of the ten commandments. There is actually little said about tithing. I do not disparage tithing but, if a person tithes, it should be up to them to tithe where they see fit. We are no longer restrained by Mosaic law. A registered nonprofit, like the ABC, should have an accounting. There should be no duress to tithe to the ABC, or else.  I have no doubt it was this alleged tithe issue I previously mentioned that led to my eventually being accused of blasphemy under a very shady premise. The roots of indignities and indecencies always trace right back to the money. 

If one were to be really technical, the people spoken about in the letter to the Hebrews were Jews. They were likely  paying their tithe to the local synagogue or temple, not to the "apostles". It would be centuries before Western Union and electronic transfer would be invented and transferring money, cattle or sheep around the globe by mailing a check was just not a possibility. 





Statistical Improbabilities


“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, 

but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.


Toxic Leaders

When a fire swoops through your life, as it did for me, you are left to wonder how it is possible to be so gullible for so many years. How is it possible to “just go along” with some pretty crazy and, on a few occasions, even illegal notions? Certainly, it was not all crazy, but there were some really stand out episodes I completely ignored. Over the years I have pondered this a bit, and occasionally I run across books, articles and videos that help answer some of these  questions. I recently discovered a book called “The Allure of Toxic Leaders” which I have just begun to read. This book addresses why mankind seeks out leaders, toxic or not, then describes this phenomenon very effectively. Below is part of the opening statement regarding toxic leaders and the enchantment that draws people to them. 

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul uses the word "bewitched". Or, who has placed you under such a spell that you abandoned what is right? In this book, he describes the same thing as Paul, but uses the word "enchanted" instead.

… More often, however, we followers deny how truly enchanted we are. We may grouse about toxic leaders, but frequently we tolerate them—and for surprisingly long periods of time.

Tolerate, in fact, may be far too weak a word to describe the complex relationship between toxic leaders and their followers. These intriguing leaders first charm but then manipulate, mistreat, undermine, and ultimately leave their followers far worse than they found them. Yet many of the followers hang on.

… Followers of toxic leaders often do much more than simply tolerate them. They commonly adulate, abet, and actually prefer toxic leaders to their nontoxic counterparts….”

The book continues on to describe some of the ways toxic leaders behave. Some, of course, are worse than most; Jim Jones in Guyana for example; but those who profess to be a “leader” usually fit into at least one of the bullet points he references. The book  points out not all leaders are toxic, but the truth is many who seek leadership positions do so to support their ego, not out of a desire to be of service to others. The result is often a very toxic environment. The book section is extended so I have abbreviated the list here slightly. Ellipses mark the gaps.

·         Leaving their followers worse than they found them…

·         Violating the basic standards of human rights of their own supporters, as well as those of other individuals and groups they do not count among their followers.

·         Consciously feeding their followers illusions that enhance the leader’s power and impair the follower’s capacity to act independently…

·         Playing to the basest fears and needs of the followers.

·         Stifling constructive criticism and teaching supporters (sometimes by threats and authoritarianism) to comply with, rather than to question, the leaders’ judgements, and actions.

·         Misleading followers through deliberate untruths and misdiagnoses of issues and problems.



·         Maliciously setting constituents against one another.

·         Treating their own followers well but persuading them to hate and destroy others.

I single out the Assembly of the Body of Christ (ABC) on this site simply because that is the only point of reference I have from my  life experience. There are toxic churches, and church movements, everywhere that behave very similar to the ABC. If the shoe fits elsewhere, the phenomenon is exactly the same. Within groups there are also factions of the approved and disapproved and this has always been evident in the ABC. For the disapproved, life can become very toxic and that toxicity can be chronic or acute. There are indications in the letters to various churches written by Paul, and others, that leaders back then had also become overbearing in the early church days. Paul even confesses that he too can be overbearing at times. These overbearing leaders and "lieutenants" brought about the same wars over words, laws, and practices we have today.

The book diagrams and lists the marks of a toxic leader; however the primary focus of the book is to explain why so many degrade their own lives to the point of blindly following men who are, in many respects, toxic. It speaks also to the reason a “whistleblower” ends up as a pariah, hated, and put out, even by those who agree they were right in their assessments. There were many that expressed to me dissatisfaction with the overbearing toxicity in the ABC, but when I was falsely accused of blasphemy these same persons slipped into the shadows, afraid they too would be targeted. This scenario happens frequently in the secular, political and religious world.

In 1974, a social scientist named Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment to see how far “followers” would allow a “leader” to push them. Wearing a gray lab coat, Milgram put “followers” in a windowless room with a “test subject” hooked to electrical wires on the other side of the wall. The “follower” was given a list of questions to ask the “test subject” and, with each wrong answer, they were to give the “test subject” a simulated shock. The “follower” was completely in control of when the shock was given and how far increased that shock would be. As the test went on the “follower” was told by the “leader” to incrementally increase the voltage with each wrong answer. By the end of the experiment the “test subject” appeared to be in excruciating pain, and possibly even dead. If the “follower” hesitated to push the button, and put the “test subject” in intense pain, the “leader” would simply say to them blandly “the test must go on”. The “follower” would then, having now lost all empathy or compassion for the "test subject", push the button and continue to inflict larger and larger amounts of pain.  The “test subject” was, of course, just acting and not actually being shocked, but the “follower” did not know this. They assumed they were placing this person in extreme pain and life peril, but still considered it their duty, as a “follower” of the “leader” to blindly obey. After all, he was wearing a lab coat, the mark of a true scientist. 

But he was a wolf in sheep's clothing as it were. The "follower" assumed, since the “leader” said it was OK, nothing bad would actually happen, even though they could see how much pain they were actually inflicting and many expressed concern the "test subject" had dies but still followed orders and thus absolved themselves of personal responsibility They were "just following orders". The same excuse used by the Nazi's at the Nuremberg trials when asked about their torture and killing of Jews in Auschwitz and other camps. It was not a valid excuse.

In the Milgram experiment, it took very little time for the “follower” to become numb to the pain they were inflicting. Not a single one ever opened the door to even see if the "test subject" was alive or not. For those in the ABC, and other toxic churches, it is similar to when Paul talked about those having a conscience seared with a hot iron. Apparently there were those back then in Paul's era that had also fallen into a pattern of untruth and hypocrisy.

I have, in my years in the ABC, seen this similar scenario play out. Not with electrical shock of course, but instead with psychic and spiritual pain administered through concerted attacks by “leaders” and  then through their “followers”. Once a person is perceived as being a “leader”, whether by choice or by force, those that “follow” this human being will do anything they prescribe, potentially losing all sense of compassion and decency. Even if it seems extremely painful to a person they once liked or loved, and even if that treatment totally destroys the individual, or their life, they just continue on and  justify their behavior by attaching the name and instruction of an elder, a prophet, an evangelist, an apostle, etc. to their actions. But these are all men  who have no right to condemn another person to pain. 

How does this fulfill love? How does this fit into the parameters of “the fruit of the Spirit”? Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness… In these circumstances, this is not a simulation, but is indeed very real, inflicting real pain on a person's life. I have seen this pain inflicted on many. I too have been one of those who followed along as a “follower”, held the coats, all while holding my nose at the smell of it all. For that, I am ashamed. There is a long chain of damaged individuals left behind in the tail of the ABC. What does this say about those who have thrust themselves into “leadership” positions in the ABC such as Gilbert Larson, Andy Atwell, Bruce Leonard, Steve Patton?  Are we not to follow God and not follow man?

When we become an adult, we still maintain the desire to have an authority figure in our life. A boss, a religious leader, a politician... We leave our parents then fill that void with religious, political, and career-based leaders that may, or may not, have our best interest at heart. We don’t actually need leaders. What we really need are mentors who will speak to us from their own experience, with empathy, compassion, and meekness on a level plane, knowing their own imperfections are just as great as the one they mentor. Paul said it well in his letter to the Galatians,

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

For many, God is not tangible enough so they seek to fill that void with a tangible human leader. One who is just as frayed or defective as they are, but usually has a larger ego so they appear to be strong. In fact, the opposite is likely true. These “leaders”, puffed up with pride, use fear, not respect, to maintain their “followers” in their orbit. The book lists six factors that cause us to seek out a leader:

1.       “A need for a reassuring authority figures…”

2.       Our need for security and certainty, which prompts us to surrender freedom…”

3.       Our need to feel chosen or special.

4.       Our need for membership…

5.       Our fear of ostracism, isolation, and social death” (I would add to that list “spiritual death”)

6.       Our fear of personal powerlessness to challenge a bad leader

When I attended college in San Diego I was pressured by my father, and several others, to dis-enroll in a Psychology course. To get a transfer certificate I needed this class, but I was essentially tormented into dropping it. This was another one of those occasions where I was commanded by my "father in the Lord" to do something that was against my best interests. The reason given, is it would “lead me away from God”. This was not true.

I also, at this time, discovered the show “Nova”, a PBS documentary series, available in the college library on Betamax machines.  I was fascinated by the series and began inhaling these videos in my free time between classes. This caused my dad some concern when I mentioned them so he followed me to the college one day to review what I was watching. He seemed displeased some of the shows spoke of theories that may not line up with his biblical teachings. As if I would believe everything. As if I was completely incapable of determining fact from theory.

I had the power to end these intrusions in my life but I was locked in to being a “follower”.  That was my mistake. I regret my inability to stand up to my father to this day. I often wonder if he actually did not want me taking that Psychology course because it might set me free from the stranglehold he had on my life through intimidation. Speculation, of course, but I was very gullible and compliant.

Statistical Improbability

One of the key components of following after toxic leaders is they offer a feeling of exclusivity. It feels great psychically to be “special”, to feel all others are "not the chosen", and you are "one of the chosen" simply by affiliation with "the group". In this post I address that exclusivity  “followers” in the ABC and similar groups feel. 

The ABC believes they have the exclusive franchise on the knowledge of salvation of men’s souls. They believe this  because of one book published by a man named John Stegenga in the 1960’s.  There were originally only two-thousand of this book printed, and a few can still be found on eBay for a princely sum, due to its rarity. This book, it is theorized, allows one to rightly interpret the scripture through use of extensive Greek word study. This book allegedly allows one to find the most precise and exact path to salvation. These studies are then matched together in just the right sequence to “prove” a seven-step path to salvation. It is a long and convoluted process to reach this exact understanding and has led to many rules being implemented and wars over words. 

The ABC also uses a Bible translation based on supposed numeric principles. This Bible was constructed by a man named Ivan Panin and it is interesting to note Panin’s formulas were also applied to the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and a book of secular poetry and all of these were also “proven”, mathematically, to be “inspired by God”, just as his numeric theory proved the Bible was "inspired by God". The subsets of numbers Panin used in his formulas were not drawn from ancient texts, Aramaic or Greek, but were instead constructed by Ivan Panin himself, of his own design, and his results are questionable.

Taking the lead however, of following numeric principles when seeking God, I examined the probability the ABC has THE only knowledge of the keys to salvation, to the exclusion of all other persons, churches, or movements on the planet. The accepted teaching is that all other churches, and church movements, are “Mystery Babylon” and are therefore not acceptable to God. I am not defending any other church or movement as being valid, nor do I seek to prove any church invalid. That is far beyond my ability or scope. If someone were to ask me directly, I can only point to following God and not choosing any man as your leader. We ourselves are the temple of God. Paul said it best to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Listen, but examine; trust, but verify. If someone tells you “God spoke to them" then gives you some advice, try that spirit and ask why God didn’t just speak to you directly. Often individuals will put out their own opinions, then try to make that opinion bulletproof by attaching God's name to it. Humans have agendas. Humans can be toxic and injurious. Attaching the name of God to our own opinions is the utmost example of using God’s name in vain. It is a way to puff up our own vanity and ego, not build up others.

Here are some basic statistics. In all of recorded time, not accounting for the potential for human life prior to that first man (Adam), there have been about one-hundred and nine-billion people that have lived and died on earth. Give or take a few billion, I suppose, since there is no general census to verify that exact number.  Since population growth is exponential, about half of that number lived after the time of Christ, roughly fifty billion with some change. In earlier times, before our modern era of antibiotics and medical miracles, only about half of the population ever escaped childhood.

There are currently about eight billion people alive on the planet.  The ABC, in all of its history, has touched the lives of perhaps two to three thousand people, at most. Likely much fewer than that sum, but I am being quite generous. Currently the membership of the ABC is assumed to be about two to three hundred people, but I’ll be generous again, since I have no actual proof of an exact number, and will assume it is is now about five hundred. These five hundred individuals, among a population of eight billion other earthlings, is roughly .000000625% of the population. Even bumping up those numbers fourfold, or ten-fold, the reach of the ABC message is not even close to reaching the current living population of the earth. Yet, they feel they have the exclusive franchise on salvation. 

The mandate, if we believe the scriptures, is to go out into all of the world and “preach the gospel” to every person. Yet, in fifty plus years, using the ABC model of intense Greek word study to prove oneself worthy, they have touched the lives of a maximum of .0000025% of the earth’s population. Sharing the gospel, ABC style, requires a variety of books and tedious hours of studying Greek words, tenses, and moods. That method is not transportable enough to reach the entire globe as mandated. It can take the average person one year, or several years, to finish a complete foundational word study. There are then further steps to follow to "reach perfection". 

I know from the meetings in Mexico, translating from English to Greek, then into Spanish was quite challenging. It led to a lot of courteous head nodding from attendees who really had no clue what was being taught. Do we truly believe God is that small? Can this method of intense Greek study really be justified in a universal scope? Is John Stegenga’s copyright 1963 book the only way to find God’s path to the eternal? In all of human history, Stegenga’s book, through the ABC, has touched the lives of approximately .0000000183 of the human population. Nearly all of that population lived prior to the publishing of this book so that’s not even coming close to meeting Jesus’ mandate of “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  

The Stegenga book runs for several hundred pages. Assuming this is about one-hundred and fifty double sided sheets, the ABC would need to photocopy one point two trillion pages to give these out to the entire world. The book weighs about three pounds when printed so it would be necessary to ship twenty-four billion pounds of paper all across the globe. The current population would need eight billion notebooks to house all of these trillions of pages and it would require the conscripting of an army of workers to print, package, ship and deliver all these books, then keep delivering them to all new persons becoming an adult. It would take immense feats of leadership to get all eight billion sets out to individuals, teach them how to use them, then assure they stay in line with the ABC doctrines, and all see eye to eye. It’s an impossibility.

Well, naturally I understand it is not possible to reach all eight billion people on earth, and most won’t even choose to listen anyhow, but even if one were to tackle just one percent of that number (eighty million), or even 1/10th of one percent (eight million), or even 1/100th of that number, it is a staggering task for just a few hundred people. It is indeed sheer folly. Using the evidence at hand I can  surmise loading people up with hundreds of pages of Greek studies at the weight of three pounds each is not feasible in the larger scope of things. In fact, it’s absurd in the light that technology to produce these economical bound books is actually very modern. Photocopiers were developed in my lifetime. High speed printing was developed in 1814 but still not very fast. Typesetting machines were developed in 1822 but they required a number of workers to use and load.  Paper mills began churning out less expensive paper in 1803. Paper was once a highly prized, and expensive, commodity using plants, not trees. When I was in high school it took minutes to duplicate just one page of text. We used these weird greasy pink sheets and fed the paper through the machine twice for each page. The print would then fade quickly if hit by rays from the sun. But it was progress.

The conclusion is this, and I stole this from Solomon. Of making many books there is no end and much studying is a weariness to the flesh. To quote another man I once knew. We should not become so heavenly minded we become no earthly good. Those who threaten the egos of leaders, puffed up in their self-righteousness, are put away, the memory of them killed.  Jesus spoke of this work of the fleshly mind in Mark twelve when addressing the Sadducees, Pharisees and others taken in their ego. The end? Only the Lord knows those that are his.

"Their actions were motivated by hate. Hate is not from God. People who use religion to hate can’t love God. It is impossible." 

              From: The Broken Circle, Memoirs of Leaving Afghanistan"