At the end of this July 4th of 2011, it is evident many folks are looking for answers. During times of hardship whether over economic, social, political or religious issues, many begin to seek answers to the questions of Why? How? What caused these hard times? When will these hard times end? How can I get through these rough times? Historically, we can look at different periods in the course of this nation and see the pattern. During the early part of the 19th century, as the issue of slavery was coming to a boil with other economic issues, many began to seek answers. There was a general attitude of reform in many areas of the country. Several communal living communities originated during those years and people were seeking answers to many questions. For example, there was New Harmony, Indiana founded by Robert Owen; the Oneida Commune founded by John Noyes (yes, this group began the Oneida line of silverware), the Shakers founded by Mother Ann Lee (famous for quality furniture and selling a line of seeds and well as other inventions and innovations such as waterproofed cloth) and Brook Farm founded by George Ripley. (source link- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_movement )
During the 1800’s, you also had several famous preachers and evangelists as the Second Great Awakening sweeping through this nation. Church membership soared from 1820 to 1860.(source link- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Great_Awakening ) Charles Finney, Peter Cartwright and D.L. Moody were some of the names during these years that could draw large crowds of seekers. People wanted answers and sought those who could give them.
During the 1960’s and 70’s this nation saw the rise of cultic groups as well as other movements. We have mentioned the shepherding movement. There was the Charismatic Renewal movement as well. Who can forget the Jonestown tragedy of 1978? Those were tumultuous years as many people old and young sought answers. For a more recent time of intense questioning, we don’t have to go back further than the weeks and months after 9/11/01. Churches experienced a flood of those who may not have attended church in years past. They were in fear of the future and seeking answers and comfort. Keeping politicians from praying in public was not as big a concern then. So, the fact that people seek answers when pressures come is not new.
With that in mind, I want to quote a few lines from a recent editorial found in a South Dakota daily newspaper. Provender has a link to this article on their site.
The title is “Follow leaders, but with care” – by Art Marmorstein, Aberdeen Posted – June 9, 2011 –
“In times of uncertainty, people tend to gravitate toward leaders who speak with confidence and authority. Unfortunately, those who speak with the most assurance are often those who shouldn’t be trusted in leadership positions at all.”
The author goes on to mention that the present times of uncertainty would allow a man such as Harold Camping to have a following while promising Christ is coming back May 21. He encourages us not to laugh at those who believed such a prediction.
“Even the brightest of people can fall under the spell of political or religious hucksters. It’s intoxicating to follow a self-assured leader who you think will take you in exactly the right direction, who makes you feel, well, just a little bit better than everyone else because you are a part of the group that knows – knows for certain – how things are and how things should be. And it’s hard to wake up because you don’t want to wake up, to lose something that you become dependent on, an anchor in an unstable world.” (source link- http://www.aberdeennews.com/opinion/aan-4a.06-09-11.ed.column.marmorst-20110609,0,4938092.story , emphasis added)
So, how does this relate to the title- Got Freedom? As I reflected on my day and the last few weeks and months, I realized how easy it was for those seeking answers to give up a part of themselves in order to get what they so desperately want and need. When someone comes across speaking with “confidence and authority” there is a part of many folks that wants to believe first and ask questions later. For many, the asking questions later comes too late. They already have their reasoning beclouded and their discernment skewed. Asking questions later can allow a person to lose what is so valuable to us all- freedom(s). On the day when we as a nation celebrated our freedoms and remembered the sacrifices made by those who gave their life for those freedoms; I could not help but remember the group I came out of where those freedoms were quashed for the most part. My time in Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) was full of rationalizing and making excuses for why giving up freedoms was necessary to stay a part of the group. It was not so evident in my thinking while in the group. I heard Jane Whaley and her leaders giving the reasons why it was good to “submit to God’s ways allow the work of the spirit” in my life. After all, “don’t you want to walk in God’s ways with God’s people?”
In order to be a part of WOFF and as it was said practice religious freedom, you had to surrender and relinquish other freedoms that “may lead you into sin” or “open the door to the devil in your life”. Really? How does that work? In order to stay in Jane’s group and good graces, you had to forsake the freedom of expression or free speech, the freedom or right to privacy, freedom of association with those outside or in some cases those inside WOFF; freedom of press or free access to forms of media, freedom or right to personal choices- you would be questioned-“Did you check that out with God?” or “Did you hear God on that?” that sounded real spiritual until you were told that Jane would help you hear God– go see her. WOFF members gave/give up the freedom to choose a profession, ask JL the dentist who tried to leave WOFF or CF the lawyer who wanted to be a doctor, so I was told. As a potential member, you were NOT told all this before you joined and once you were in so far it was very hard to leave. Why? That was because you had already been told that leaving WOFF and Jane was leaving God’s will and you may not make it and you would not fulfill the call of God and so on and so forth. You get the picture.
So, present WOFF members: Got Freedom? Is there an “intoxication” that makes “you feel, well, just a little bit better than everyone else because you are a part of the group that knows”? Honest? Oh, I have heard the answers since I used to play them over in my own head as reasons for obeying the long list of WOFF don’ts. While inside WOFF, I told myself I watched all the T.V. I wanted to- I just don’t want to. I watch all the movies I want to – I just don’t want to. I read all the newspapers and articles on the Internet I want to- I just want to very little or just for my job requirements…so on and so on. The fact was I had listened to someone(s) who spoke with confidence and authority during a time of seeking answers and before I realized it, I had given up many personal freedoms to be a part of Jane Whaley’s group and her unique style of WOFF religion. Okay, I was in a religious cult. So, what freedoms have you surrendered to be in the group you are in? Was it worth it?
Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.
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