I was born to a Catholic woman married to a Jewish man. Wasn’t that enough from the start to blur the lines of religion? Neither of my parents had a penchant for their respective faiths. Although my father in his early (manic) days did decide
to convert from Judaism to Catholicism and, as with everything he did, with a flare, had his religious instruction from none other than Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Bishop Sheen was the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 to 1966. My father’s instructions with him were at about the time of his “Life Worth Living” Television series that ran from 1952 – 1955.
Interestingly enough, I myself was instructed in a class called “Power For Abundant Living” by a self proclaimed “man of God” living in the farmlands of Ohio in 1973 that, even at the time was considerd a cult. The difference between my father’s “man of God” and mine? The difference between “Life Is Worth Living” and “Power for Abundant Living”? I don’t have the answer. I just know that somewhere in between, we were both losing our religion.Dad tells of his being so mesmerized by Sheen’s “non-sermons” but more “philosphical lectures” that he wrote a letter one day, thanking him for the enlightening series and his appreciation of the serivce he was doing for humanity. Dad also happened to mention that he was of the Jewish faith but not religious. About a week later, he received an invitation from Bishop Sheen to meet him at his office in Manhattan. My dad told the highly esteemed Bishop that he had always considered religion synonymous with ignorance and fear . Bishop Sheen took down a group of close to 20 books, handed them to my Dad and told them they were his to keep. He invited my Dad to come back every Thursday for some questions and answers. This continued for the next six weeks.
“Power For Abundanty Living” had a series of books, too, that I read, no I devoured, in 1973, 1974, 1975. I too was mesmerized. Unlike my Dad’s experience, however, there were no questions and answers. ”Thus sayeth The Lord” was the answer. The “Doctor” wrote the words that God wanted him to write. So, who were we to question? I’ve often wondered if Mathew, Mark, Luke and John questioned the writings of Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon? Did they dare to question?
Dad was baptized by the good Bishop at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Although he later writes that even though he is no longer of “the faith” (once a Jew, always a Jew he said to me) Bishop Sheen’s philosophy had always kept him in good stead.
I, of course, was raised Catholic. Twelve years of Catholic education in New York City served me well, but as far as a “religion”, I never really got it. Never really cared. There was the day my schizophrenic sister came home to tell the family the news that she was pregnant. Pregnant, that is, with the baby Jesus. She believed she was the Virgin Mary. so, you see, religion, Catholicism, not so much. It was about this time that my Mom also dropped the Catholic Church like a hot potato.
It would only be years later, however, that I realized what a panic my parents were experiencing to hear that now, their oldest remaining daughter had joined a religious cult; was speaking in tongues. Believed that the “Doctor” “The Teacher” as he was called, was the “man of God for the 20th Century and was teaching the “word” like it had not been taught since the 1st Century Church. Their daughter was encouraged to not have relationships with those “unbelievers” who did not believe the truth.“They looked just like me," recalls Timoner, a lanky woman in jeans and a pink T-shirt emblazoned with two six-shooters. "Their compound was a suburban subdivision…she assumes the church is the safest place.. [But] if your leader is suddenly putting themselves in the position that 'You can't get to God unless through me,' there's a problem." Yet given the right set of circumstances, and this has been proven again and again by different case studies, any one of us is susceptible to mind control." There is a highly charged, tightly controlled atmosphere to the cult.” People systematically are robbed of their ability to critically think or make independent choices. Ultimately, they essentially become dependent upon the leader to make value judgments and do their thinking for them, or through the leader's delegated counterparts. Members no longer are really thinking for themselves. (Rick Ross)
I would never in a million years have believed that someone, some man, could so convince me to be a blind follower of anything, without question, without doubt. Oh there was question and there was doubt, but the euphoria, the love, the absolute acceptance in the group, gradually and almost without notice, became your entire life.
I was manipulated to believe that I had made my own decision.
Tell me though, where is the difference in my father’s experience with “Life Is Worth Living” and the esteemed Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and my experience with “Power for Abundant Living” and The Way International?
Well, I spent 14 years of my life with this group. I married a man who was also a “follower” even though I knew… I knew… But when I wanted to leave – it was the teaching of “The Way” that made us fearful that terrible things would happen to us if we left. We would be outside the protection of the household (God?); we would be in some sort of terrible accident, etc. I actually had a friend who was killed by a semi truck while hitchhiking in New Mexico on a mission for The Way and it was said “well, he must have been out of fellowship with God, must have sinned in some way, for this to have happened. End of story.
Fourteen years after I joined this group in 1973, I left. It was the night before my first child was born. By then I was in a very bad marriage and now had my first child, dependent on my husband for our living, our survival. Many more years and two (twins) more children later, I would finally figure it all out and be free. I will never regret having my amazing children. They would not be those amazing people had I not gone down the path that I did.
But as far as religion goes………
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight, I'm
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try…
But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try?
That was just a dream
Just a dream, just a dream
Dream… Consider this…… …
“The Way” on Religious Tolerance.Org Website
Title Inspired by Scarlett Sumac's post "Did I Say too Much"
(which seems to be gone now) thanks Scarlett - I've been wanting to write this for awhile.