I am 38 years old. In 1983 I became involved with the cult the Way International or as it is commonly referred to by members, "the Way."
I had a B.A. in English, I was well traveled as an Army wife, and never dreamed I would be embarking on events that would change my life forever. I had been a professional lead singer and performer since I was 16, and although I gave the outward appearance of my life being all together, it wasn't. My search for God after leaving the Catholic church unfortunately led to my involvement with the Way. I literally got sucked into this group because I believed them to be a Bible believing Christian organization. Let me quote an article from "The Capital," an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper to explain my first brainwashing encounter when taking what the Way calls "Power For Abundant Living" (PFAL), which is a session for hours and hours of listening to VHS tapes by the founder Victor Paul Wierwille.
"In a definitive mental health study of 'totalist' groups for Harvard University, Robert Jay Lifton identified eight steps to mind control used by the Communist Chinese in the 1940's. Psychologists claim that former Way members describe identical methods 'without question', echoes an Ohio deprogrammer who in seven years has counseled about 50 members leaving the Way.
'All these people have been able to identify every point, not just in a mediocre situation but in a very definitive way.'
Psychologists say the tedium of the Way's video course amounts to 'information overload.' It is a state of mild hypnosis which psychologists Flo Conway and Jim Sigelman, authors of 'The Holy Terror' and 'Snapping,' two books that deal with cults, say results from overloading the sensory nerves."
So please let me stress from the onset, no matter how educated, or certain that this couldn't happen to you or a loved one, there are literally millions of cult victims who will prove that this can happen to almost anyone.
This is not in any way to try and make excuses for myself however. I wanted to be part of an organization that claimed itself to be elite. I wanted to be a member of the "only" true Christians on earth. I wanted to feel that superior feeling that only God's "chosen" could feel. I had "knowledge" that few others ( supposedly in comparison to the rest of the Christian world) had, and that was power.
According to Margaret Thaler Singer's book, "Cults In Our Midst," she cites six conditions that create the atmosphere needed to put thought-reform processes into place.
"The degree to which these conditions are present increases the level of restrictiveness enforced by the cult and the overall effectiveness of the program.
1. Keep the person unaware that there is an agenda to control or change the person.
2. Control time and physical environment (contacts, information).
3. Create a sense of powerlessness, fear and dependency.
4. Surpress old behavior and attitudes.
5. Instill new behavior and attitudes.
6. Put forth a closed system of logic.
The trick is to proceed with the thought-reform process one step at a time so that the person does not notice that she or he is changing...." From page 64 of the above mentioned book.
She goes on to fully explain her criteria, and supports her findings with other experts in this field. Mrs. Singer has a Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and emeritus adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Singer has counseled and interviewed more than 3,000 current and former cult members and their relatives and friends.
I left the Way finally when there was a huge rift among the leadership. "Dr." Wierwille died in May of 1985. He appointed a new leader before his death, Craig Martindale. This new leader was not accepted by all of the leadership, which eventually led to the demise of the Way International, forcing it into splinter groups.
Today, Craig Martindale still heads the Way, and this group is manifesting more and more of the inner evil that is at its very core. As a member, I never would have believed this group could be dangerous, although there were rumors that at the headquarters in New Knoxville, Ohio, weapons were stockpiled. I can say today with confidence that this group is dangerous. I have had reports that weapons are still stockpiled, and in my recent contacts with people who are currently in the Way, or who have loved ones in the Way, they speak about a paranoid Martindale. This is a leader who is sounding more shrill, and dangerous each day.
Even from the beginning, I asked questions and insisted on answers. This did not sit well with Way leadership or even most members. I attended what is called "Twig" in Germany, Florida, California, New York and Kansas. I really had a chance to experience how the leadership of this group worked in many different places. The "Twig" is a home based bible study which is run by "Twig Leaders." The local Bible groups were called this because the Way believes that like a tree, the "life" of the ministry is in the twig, where the leaves (believers) gather. The "accuracy" of God's word is taught in the home, just as it was with the first century church. It is in the Twig that the believer becomes "...established, rooted and grounded in his knowledge and practical application of God's Word." [From promotional material by the Way International.] The "church" meetings or Bible fellowships are in the home of designated members. Today, a telephone hook-up with headquarters is done all around the country on Sundays and Way believers listen to Craig Martindale preach the gospel according to the Way, not according to Jesus Christ.
While I was in the Way in L.A., I began corresponding with a radio talk show host named Dennis Prager in April of 1986. To quote from my own book, the following happened:
"...Sunday nights I faithfully tuned to "Religion On the Line" with Dennis Prager. I had always been a letter writer and had already gotten a handful of my opinionated letters published in the letter section of the local paper. I decided to write to [Mr.] Prager one night after calling into the Sunday program. I was trying to convince the panel of guests he had in the studio of various clergy from various churches in the area, that Jesus Christ is not God. They completely dismissed my suggestion, claiming I was therefore, not a Christian. The only caller to back me up concerning the 'truth' as I knew it at the time, was from someone who described themself as a Mormon.
Realizing my beliefs coincided with a Mormon's disturbed me. This was a group considered a cult by most main stream Christian organizations, including the Way (interestingly enough), but I brushed it off at the time. Instead, I set about to write a six page letter, detailing why Jesus Christ could not be God..."
I touched upon many points in my letter, but one obviously caught the eye of Mr. Prager. I wrote:
"Let me explain some inaccuracies I noted during your recent radio broadcast. It is important to correctly divide (Way people use this term, 'correctly divide' when referring to their interpretation of the 'true' translation of the Bible) the Word of God, the Bible. Your guests quoted from Matthew 27:46, or Mark 15:34 when Christ said on the cross: "Eli Eli. lama sabach thani? that is to say My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"...
The translation in the King James version and obviously other Bibles has been from the Greek. However this is an erroneous translation. Christ spoke in Aramaic or more accurately Syro-Chaldee. When the words are translated from Christ's language it is: 'Eli' -- God -- but there is no Aramaic word like the word 'lama.' There is a word Lmna. Lmna is always a cry of victory, a declaration of 'for this purpose' or 'for this reason.' The root of Sabachthani is Shbk. Shbk means to 'reserve,' or 'to leave, to spare or to keep.' So the actual translation is 'My God, My God, for this purpose was I reserved, for this purpose was I spared.'
If we go by the Greek translation, then Christ believed God would forsake him. This contrasts with God's Word."
Thank God, Mr. Prager was not only a faithful Jew, but fluent in Aramaic. He wrote me a brief reply:
"I'm afraid King James is right. I know Hebrew/Aramaic and Lama means 'Why.' So I suspect Jesus, as a man, was asking God some question. (See Psalms 22:1)."
I was stunned, and started asking questions about this embarrassing revelation. It was embarrassing to me because in my arrogance, I believed my letter was "teaching" this radio talk show host. It was embarrassing to the Way because this was taught in all the PFAL brainwashing classes.
A bit of a recap -- I had found a great error in Way doctrine, quite by mistake. I then sought to find out an explanation for this error, so I contacted local Way leadership and then leadership in Ohio. The answers were the same, "Dr." (as he is affectionately known by Wayers -- although his credentials are in question) did teach something in error. The reaction to my findings however were also the same -- annoyance that I, a mere mortal, would mention this to anyone, no less attempt to make a flap about it.
One of the cornerstones of the Way International is that Dr. Wierwille was given "revelation" directly from God about the Bible. According to Way teachings, after the first century church died away, the Christian church, all denominations, became corrupt. This included the translations of the Bible. Wierwille himself, and only Wierwille, had been given a new revelation about the Bible, and God told him AUDIBLY that if he agreed to tell the world, God would reveal this new revelation to him. Wierwille agreed, and thus, the Way International was born. Part of this "agreement" was that Wierwille had an untarnished, perfected understanding of the Bible, but my new embarrassing finding proved otherwise. The most startling thing about this error however wasn't that Wierwille made it, actually, the shocking thing to me was that although leadership knew of the error, IT WAS STILL BEING TAUGHT throughout the world in PFAL classes. That was...until they could discover the correct teaching...
The whole PURPOSE of the Way, the very reason it existed was because OTHER denominations were in error. How could the same be true of the ONLY true Christian movement on earth??? Better still, how could they continue to TEACH this error knowing about it, when this is the very thing they demonized all other faiths for?!
This was the beginning of the end for me, although I didn't know it at the time. I was chewed out royally by my "Branch" leader (the Twig, the Branch, the Limb the Trunk, all names for each subsequent part of the structure of the whole). I was told to stop asking "devilish" questions, and trying to cause strife. I was literally "watched" by the local leadership. They had members report to them about my "activities." When we moved from L.A. and the big rift in the "Ministry" as it is sometimes called, came about, it was my cue to leave.
Although I was a military wife, and not completely imeshed in every part of my social life in the Way, leaving was still a traumatic experience. I wrote an article for the May/June 1994 issue of "Ministries Today" about this topic, and in it I describe leaving the Way as if I were free falling. I felt like I was quickly going to crash into the ground, but had no earthly idea how to stop it.
We moved from Kansas to NY and by this time I was drinking to get drunk on weekends, and my lifestyle was immersed in all other types of sin. After Kansas, with my marriage hanging by a thread, we moved to Ft. Drum, NY, north of Syracuse, and very close to the Canadian boarder.
I couldn't find a church. I couldn't fit in. I was a "Oneness" person, non-Trinitarian, and I wasn't happy with non-Way churches that believed this doctrine. I absolutely wasn't comfortable with Trinitarian churches, so I was stuck. I was miserable, with no church, feeling I was unable to fit in with God's chosen believers. The Way rejected me, I never was able to fit in, and all I've wanted to do since I was 14 was to find God and fit in.
At a very low point in all of this, I almost took my life. If I couldn't please God, I simply didn't want to live. It was soon after this I fell literally on my face before God and asked Him to take my burden and to come into my heart, soul, mind, body and life.
It was a long, long road back, but PRAISE JESUS, He was there for me!
It is directly from Satan's lair the teaching that Jesus Christ is not God. Satan's goal is to keep our relationship at odds, or distant from our God, and our Savior. It is his evil, horrific plan to fool so many into thinking Jesus Christ is just a man, or just another of many gods, or some other warped teaching. If we don't know Jesus, and His character as part of the Triune Godhead, then we don't know our Savior, and that could have terrible eternal consequences.
It was a long journey back to Jesus, but I can say today that although I still grow daily in His majesty and wisdom, I am not the same person I was almost six years ago. Thank you Jesus for Your mercy, patience and love!!!
Today I minister to those the Lord places before me, as well as posting on the Internet and on-line services the TRUTH of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jan continually posts at the end of her messages:
THE MOST DANGEROUS LIE IS THAT WHICH MOST CLOSELY RESEMBLES THE TRUTH...
The Way teachings are SO close to Biblical accuracy, there is only a small percentage that is error but that error is straight from the pits of hell. I pray that this message can warn others of this organization, and prevent others from making the same mistakes I did. I thank Jesus Christ my Lord, our God for saving me from a life of not knowing who the Lord truly is!
Jesus Christ is King of Kings!!
Carol J. Van Drie
In Christ alone I place my trust...
Prov 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Prov 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Prov 3:7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
"There is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention is distracted from me, no moment therefore, when His care falters. I never go unnoticed. Every moment of life is spent in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator.
J.I. Packer, "Knowing God"