Monday, June 30, 2014

A "Christian" Cult - Abuse, Murder, Madness

Micha Moore: Bethany Deaton's Murderer?
International House of Prayer cult member Micha Moore after confessing to the murder of Bethany Deaton.

Some notes while reading the Rolling Stone article on the Tyler Deaton cult.  It's a long piece, and I'll give some highlights below, with a running commentary (the boldface is my own emphasis throughout).

They spent many hours discussing the Harry Potter books and films, which they approached with "a religious devotion," according to [cult survivor] Herrington, whom they briefly resisted admitting to the group, because it would have broken the symmetry. The works "fueled our sense of being on a divine mission," says Herrington. "One of their chief attractions was a sense of belonging to a secret club with exclusive access to knowledge and power. That was the root of our whole ideology."

Such a Gnostic thrill of power is behind much of the heterodoxy in the Church today.

"In the years I was with him, things were constantly happening that I had to shrug away as being 'the work of the Holy Spirit,'" says Herrington. "[Cult founder] Tyler [Deaton] would raise his voice and say, 'Jesus!' and the neighbor's music would immediately stop. He would tell the birds to fly away and they would fly away. He would place curses on my appliances so they wouldn't work."

OK, that's creepy.  But cults are demonic and the presence of the preternatural should surprise no one.

Speaking of the woman who married the cult leader and who would eventually be murdered, Boze Herrington says ...

"The dream of her heart was to be married," Herrington recalls. "We used to stay up late talking about it, night after night. She had been praying for her husband since she was a teenager. She had written him letters, before they even met." She found herself "fiercely attracted" to Deaton and was convinced that God had ordained their union. She was aware of his struggles with homosexuality but believed that God would use her to heal his heart."

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

We are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Mat. 10:16), not bubble-wrapped as crystal and foolish as teeny-boppers.  Do devout Christians really know nothing about human nature?  This is shameful, and in this young lady's case, tragic.

Tyler Deaton's cult was formed within the larger organization of the International House of Prayer, a bizarre unaccredited Bible school in Kansas City.  I wrote earlier today that the administrators at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) did not do enough to address the cult within their organization that Tyler Deaton had formed.  It's worse than that.  This kind of prideful nonsense set the stage for it ...

This is IHOP's most alluring tenet: God needs IHOPers to effect the Tribulation and bring Christ back to Earth. "The church causes the Great Tribulation," [IHOP founder] Bickle has preached. Before founding IHOP, he argued that "God intends us to be like gods. God has conceived in his heart of a plan to make a race of men that would live like gods on Earth." Bickle sometimes affects to know God as he would a peer. "I heard what I call the internal audible voice of the Lord," he has said. He claims that he visited heaven one night at 2:16 a.m., and the Lord charged him with preparing for an End Times ministry and seated him in a golden chariot that lifted off into the empyrean.

"And ye will be like God," said Satan to Eve, Gen. 3:5.  And believing a man who claims this stuff ... well, a culture of credulity is created when enough credulous people gather.  And when these same credulous folk, unwise to the world, devout, misfits, eager for self-sacrifice are misled even by the very founder of their Bible college, things can only get worse.

And with Tyler Deaton, things got worse.

The article points out how the book The Final Quest (a kind of End Times porn, from the sound of it), by NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) apostle Rick Joyner poisoned Deaton with a delusion of grandeur that led him to believe that he himself was almost a god, and God's chosen instrument in His second coming.

Years later, when [cult survivor] Herrington tried to reread The Final Quest, he started shaking, ran to the bathroom and puked. He doesn't think it's possible to underestimate the influence of the book or of NAR's latter-day apostles on Deaton. "In some ways, Tyler was as much a victim as anyone else," Herrington says. "These apostles destroyed him. I think they drove him mad."

One of the hallmarks of cults is extreme forms of sexuality - sex is either brutally repressed or emphasized to an extreme, in weird and ritualistic ways, so that there grows up a kind of "sex magic".  In both IHOP and in Deaton's sub-cult within IHOP, the Old Testament book Song of Songs was used as a pretext for the latter.  Rolling Stone comments on this ...

If the Second Coming depends upon "romantic communion" with Christ, and the alternative is satanic hegemony, then any error in worship should be made on the side of erotic intimacy – to lust and repent is surely better than abandoning Jesus in his hour of need. ... 
"Very quickly, there were sensual escapades with God," a former intern says, meaning that some people's private imaginings turned explicit after exposure to IHOP's "bridegroom" Christ. She says that an instructor told her, "God is using his word to kiss you." The intern heard stories of IHOPers fantasizing about having "orgies with Jesus" and "sex with God."

... which manages to be blasphemous, sick, heterodox, and fertile ground for the sex abuse that motivates every cult ... and also something that is not unimaginable in certain Catholic circles, I'm sorry to say.  And people get mad when I raise alarms about hyper-sexual theology.

In platonic relationships, [cult leader] Deaton urged prolonged, affectionate contact, particularly among men, because, he said, they had been wrongly socialized to resist it. They should hug, cuddle, give one another massages. If you were uncomfortable with loving touch, you had "a wall in your heart" and were "only experiencing part of God's love." "You can't function as a Christian that way," he said. This disconcerted many of the men, but they accepted that spiritual growth might entail discomfort. Deaton might encourage two guys to cuddle on the floor while the rest "dog piled" on top of them, in the words of an ex-member. These were innocent activities for most of the men. Deaton, though, according to Herrington, "spent hours cuddling with Justin on the futon in their dorm." Justin, who was not gay, eventually became uncomfortable with Deaton's affections.

... to which my comment is - holy crap.

The next day, a student named Rob Atkinson was crossing the stretch of Highway 29 earlier darkened by the premonitory cloud when he was hit by a car and killed. Atkinson had been a vocal supporter of interfaith dialogues, which Dea­ton considered harbingers of the Antichrist. "We were convinced that God had come down in wrath, and that our prayers had led to this student's death," Herrington later wrote to a friend. Several others concurred.
The worship-group members believed they had blood on their hands, and it exalted them.

This whole story - all of it true - is the perfect combination of adolescent stupidity, demonic infestation, and the narcissistic vanity of human pride.  It's like kids playing with a Ouija Board - while hating the other kids who don't.

When they completed their internships, Deaton asked her out [Bethany - the girl who thought she was destined to marry him and cure him of his homosexuality]. In the summer of 2009, he took her for a walk and announced that he intended to pursue her "unto marriage."
"It's hard to overstate the exhilaration she felt," Herrington says. "By the time she left Southwestern, her one dream was to be married to Tyler. Tyler was going to be cured, they were going to get married and have a son named Samuel."

Again, how stupid and naive are these kids?  Teaching them End Times heresies was like putting a loaded gun into the hands of a three-year-old.  At least when 16-year-old Candace on Phineas and Ferb imagines marrying Jeremy, she plans on naming their future babies Xavier and Amanda.  And she doesn't think Jeremy is God's prophet, on the cusp of being cured of his lifelong attraction to other guys.  The cartoon characters of Phineas and Ferb have more sense than these college graduates.

I don't mean to be making light of this, for it was all quite tragic.  But I'm struggling to find words to express the cut-off-from-wisdom-by-being-over-protected nonsense that set the stage for this cult as much as the sick and twisted End Times theology of Bickle, the school's founder, did.

They took turns describing their visions of the future. When it was Bethany's turn, she got "really scared," Herrington says. She turned to Deaton and said, "Sometimes all I want to do is live in a house with you, and a baby, and maybe some chickens!" Deaton called her "selfish" and told her to stop elevating her own desires over those of the "community." "You need to put away your personal longings and connect with the goals of this movement," he said.

... nah, this ain't gonna work out.

In college, they had looked ahead to careers in law, art, medicine, literature, finance, education. Some had started applying to grad school. But the Great Tribulation was impinging on the present, and Deaton's End Times mission trivialized everything else. To support themselves and Deaton, group members delivered pizzas and sold makeup and paint.

I am told that many graduates of super-Catholic Cardinal Newman Society Approved Catholic colleges, after they get their Great Books educations, embark on careers in multi-level marketing, selling Cutco Knives and Amway products.  And many of these kids have similar bubble-wrapped cult-like worldviews.  What's the connection here?

Bethany Leidlein and Tyler Deaton were married in August 2012. During the procession, Deaton sang "Come to Me, My Beloved." They held a worship service at the altar. Bethany seemed "resolved" and "serene," in the words of a friend. Some in attendance, though, were uneasy, spooked by Deaton's evident power over her. Several of Bethany's old friends felt a "deep sense" that they were bidding her a final goodbye.

I knew a very devout young Catholic woman who married a man with a similarly creepy personality.  When I saw her a month or two after her wedding, she looked miserable and frightened.

Some of Bethany's roommates in the women's house noticed a change in her as soon as she got back from her honeymoon. She was "confused" and "uneasy." She'd moved into Deaton's basement room in the men's house, but within two weeks began spending one or more nights a week at the women's house. Sometimes she stayed several nights in a row. "I just need a little space," she'd say, or, "I just feel too controlled." But she wouldn't elaborate. No one had ever seen her so listless and depressed. She could not be consoled.

Cults are all about hyper-control and abuse.  And Bethany was evidently being abused.

During this time, according to the statements Deaton's roommates made to detectives, Deaton was pursuing "sexual relationships" with three of the men in the group. Moore recently told someone close to him that he too had been sexually involved with Deaton. "It was a skillfully orchestrated system of debauchery that shattered the wills of the boys under Tyler's care and crushed their spirits," says Herrington.

The sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is part of an overall trend.  This trend includes both full-fledged cults that have been allowed to spring up inside the Church as well as the spreading of the same general spirit of abuse and unreality that we've been reading about here.

Anyway, if you have the courage, read the whole Rolling Stone piece.  It's sickening.

And here's an article by a survivor of this cult that calls into question the confession of the man who says he murdered Bethany at Tyler's behest, but that in general affirms everything in the Rolling Stone piece, including the culpability of IHOP itself in this whole horrible situation.

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