OF BONDAGE - Chapter 12
By Wayne Hamburger
WAYNE LEAVES GOSPEL ASSEMBLY -- JOLLY IS ARRESTED AND CONVICTED
The Gospel Assembly church in Eldorado had been the only reason for Wayne and Mandel's move from Marion, Illinois. They had been told numerous times that the Eldorado church was the pattern and the example for the other Gospel Assembly churches to follow. Members from other churches were led to believe that the church members in Eldorado were close to being perfect Christians. Gospel Assembly leaders referred to the Eldorado church as their mother church and to Thomas Jolly as their father in the Lord. It took Wayne and Mandel only a short time to recognize that they had been duped. Church members were far from perfect and the church itself was not a mother. In many respects, the climate of the Eldorado church was inhospitable. It reflected the personality, the nature, and the arrogance of its founder, T. M. Jolly. Wayne and Mandel were not the only outsiders who found the atmosphere to be as described.
When the church was founded in 1934 by Jolly, there were less than a dozen members. As the church grew, seniority was given priority. New members had to prove their worthiness. New members had to recognize that they were privileged to be in an exclusive social order that would allow them status only after they demonstrated accountability. Even after Wayne and Mandel had been accepted into the social pecking order of the church, they still were not included in the exclusive inner circle of church movers and shakers. Although there are many wonderful Christian people in the church, there is no uniqueness or infallibility that would elevate them above any other church or any other Christians. The false rhetoric about the church's great achievements is now evident. It was an ephemeral myth that dissipated like fog in the morning sun. It could not exist in the glare of truth.
With Jolly's departure, both the St. Louis and Eldorado Gospel Assembly churches began to look for a means of establishing the church in a legal manner that would give the members authority over their own locations. A group of men in the St. Louis assembly contacted an attorney who drew up a trust agreement on which church members could vote. They elected trustees from their membership and church ownership moved from T. M. Jolly to the board of trustees effective December 1991.
When that information reached Eldorado, the membership in that locality wanted to handle the church in the same manner as those in St. Louis. To everyone's surprise, the resident pastor agreed to an election of church trustees. He, of course, assumed that he would still be in charge. Wayne was among the group that discussed the possibility of contacting an attorney for the purpose of establishing a new church trust. Some felt that it could be done without an attorney and urged that the pastor call a church election.
Early in January 1992, Wayne became very ill from influenza and had missed several church services because of the illness. On Saturday, January 11, 1992, Wayne received a call at his home advising that plans were being made to hold an election for the selection of trustees on Sunday, January 12, 1992. The caller asked for Wayne's support of such a plan, but he was hesitant to do that because no legal counsel had been sought. The caller further stated that the election would be held in spite of what others thought. Wayne knew that he would not be able to attend the election of trustees on Sunday because he was still too ill to get out of bed.
A group of men met in the usher's room during the Saturday night service and drew up plans for the election the next day. The pastor announced at the end of the service that an election would be held on Sunday afternoon to elect new church trustees. There was no notice posted anywhere in the church about the election. The little group of men established ground rules for the election in order to prohibit some members from voting. They decided that the new board would consist of five men from the church membership, but these would have to prove regular attendance all during 1991. No one under the age of 18 could vote. Another provision was that the members had to be present for the Sunday vote with no absentee ballots being accepted.
Immediately after the Saturday night church service, Wayne began receiving phone calls at home. Most called to request that he be at church on Sunday so that he could receive votes for trustee. He told them that he was too ill to get out of bed, much less sit through a business meeting at church. The calls kept coming on Sunday morning and urged Wayne to attend the afternoon meeting. The ones who called told him that he was the only one they considered trustworthy to serve the interests of the entire congregation. They knew that Wayne had been an administrator for many years. He was also reminded that he was the only college graduate in the congregation. One man called, begging Wayne to consider the future of the church and make the personal sacrifice to be at the meeting. After much soul searching and medication, Wayne dragged himself out of bed and made his way to the church.
Wayne was so ill that he waited until after the meeting had started before he took a seat in the auditorium. He was too sick to pay much attention to the proceedings although he and Mandel overheard a woman behind them asking another for whom it was they were supposed to vote. At the time, it meant little more than just conversation. Later, Wayne found out that a lot of politicking had gone on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Individuals had been told for whom to vote.
It soon became apparent that a concerted effort had been made to elect a trustee board with men that would serve the interests of the resident pastor. Wayne's election to the board was a surprise to him, and even more so to those who had campaigned for other candidates. Wayne was fourth in the balloting for the five trustee positions. The preacher asked each elected trustee to stand and pledge to serve the church to the best of his ability. Wayne was convinced that he could serve on the board following the dictates of his conscience, but he soon found out that he would be alone on practically every suggestion he made. The influence of the old regime under Jolly was just too much to contest alone. One trustee promised that he would support Wayne on many of his recommendations, yet he always acquiesced with the majority.
The board of trustees met to organize shortly after the election, and the man receiving the largest number of votes was selected to serve as chairman. As soon as he was elected chairman, he turned to the resident pastor and told him that he would be at his complete disposal to do whatever the preacher wanted. Wayne objected to that. He voiced his opinion that the men were chosen as trustees to serve the needs of the congregation and the church as a whole, not the preacher's whims. In one gesture, the board abandoned its responsibility and turned it over to the preacher. This was, of course, planned from the outset. The same system that had given Jolly his power continued without a hitch except they weren't prepared for Wayne's presence on the board. The election of a board had been a charade to fool the congregation into thinking changes were coming, when all along, plans were being made to carry out the dictatorial leadership of the past.
Wayne foolishly believed that he could at least talk the board members into consulting an attorney and hiring an accountant to bring the financial records up to date. Both suggestions were met with disapproval. Wayne argued that the board members were all inexperienced in both legal and financial matters and professional advice was mandatory. Wayne pointed out that the new board needed to start off with a current church audit so that the board wouldn't be saddled with the blame for past discrepancies. The board felt that an attorney's opinion wasn't needed and the church treasurer could bring the books up-to-date. At this point, Wayne began to wonder why he had accepted membership on the board. Mandel had begged him to take his name out of consideration and he had ignored her wishes. Now he realized that Mandel had been right. The stress of the church position was too much for someone who had undergone two open-heart surgeries.
A startling revelation was made by one of the board members at that first board meeting. The young man revealed to the other board members that his wife had been one of Jolly's victims. He explained how he learned this sad piece of news. A few weeks earlier, he came home and found his wife crying. She had been watching television and heard a woman tell a story similar to her own. She could not keep it a secret any longer. T. M. Jolly had started sexually molesting the woman when she was a little girl and he had continued to do so for many years. The girl knew that her parents were supportive of Jolly and they wouldn't believe her, so she kept the information to herself and endured the molestation. This bit of information left the board members stunned and no one could find the right words to console the board member who had related the story.
One thing the board agreed to during that first meeting was to notify Jolly to remove his personal belongings from the church building. The five board members signed a letter addressed to Jolly which directed him to remove his personal items by January 25, 1992. In a few days, some of Jolly's friends from St. Louis and his family members showed up at the church to remove the furniture, clothing, etc. from Jolly's living quarters located in the church.
Board members were present when the items were removed to insure that no church property was taken. Wayne approached a young man engaged in loading some of the items, and held out his hand in greeting. The young man inquired as to his identity and as soon as Wayne identified himself, the man withdrew his hand and refused to shake Wayne's hand. He proceeded to tell Wayne about reading the letter that had been sent to the preachers in January and he was angered by it. He told Wayne that the letter was packed with lies and distortions.
After the movers had left with Jolly's things, the board members went into the empty quarters to check the condition of the rooms. Someone had taken a marker and written in large letters on the bathroom wall the word, "ICHABOD." This was in reference to I Samuel 4: 21, "The glory is departed from Israel because the ark of God was taken." It appeared to be an apparent attempt by the movers to warn the church board that a curse had been put on them and the church. Ichabod has been used in Pentecostal circles for years to warn members that God has deserted a location.
One of Wayne's suggestions to the church board was that the board meetings be opened to the membership of the church so they could witness the proceedings. The preacher was very much opposed to that proposal and he got the other four board members to agree with him. It backfired though, because the church members made many requests for that, and the preacher gradually consented. His consent was accompanied by a long list of rules by which spectators would have to abide. No church member was to be allowed to speak at the board meetings unless invited to by the preacher or a board member. This worked only for a few meetings. The board's actions became so repugnant that some members couldn't sit quietly without objecting. The preacher was not only the maker of the rules, he also enforced them at the meetings.
Wayne became so disillusioned after just a few board meetings, he started preparing his resignation. During the month of December 1991, a young man who was active in the music department died after a sudden illness. Then, early in 1992, the wife of one of the board members died suddenly from heart complications. Wayne was very fond of both decedents and their deaths affected him deeply. He concluded that further representation on the board was too stressful, so he prepared the following resignation statement to be presented to the board in a regular meeting on February 15, 1992:
"I appreciate the trust and confidence the people of Gospel Assembly church have shown in electing me to the board of trustees. I had hoped to prove that this trust was well placed and that I could continue to earn the respect of the people. The past few years have been difficult for me because of a paradoxical conflict in my mind. On the one hand, I felt that most people here are chosen of God and that God directed me to this place. On the other hand, I heard and observed things that I knew were not from God. Why does God permit evil to share a place with good? Perhaps it goes back to the terrible conflict in heaven eons ago between God and Satan. I sometimes forget that Satan is also a servant of God. The trustees have a tremendous job here and they must have the support of the people as well as God's support. It is very difficult in these troubled times to find the will of God and make wise decisions. I don't mind telling you that I have trouble finding what God wants. I can't rely on my experience or my intellect to know God's will. My own will to go further is gone. I'm burned out. Burnout is a psychological term describing a human condition of physical and spiritual exhaustion caused by devotion to a cause and way of life that has consistently failed to produce the desired reward. Expectation never matches with reality. Eventually, we burnout victims find ourselves depleted of vitality, energy and ability to function. The danger with burnout is that it develops slowly, but there comes a time when the mind becomes a tinderbox of emotions and internal systems collapse. Tensions build and we numb our mental anguish by denying that what we are experiencing really exists. My physical problems prevent me from continuing further. My wife is in a near hysterical state worrying over my heart problems and to continue further is not worth it. I had hoped that with the demise of an evil era of church administration we could now find peace, but it is not to be. Lasting peace only exists in the realm of God. My turmoil continues. I know that walking off from a problem is a cowardly act, but I no longer have the strength to deal with it. I am powerless to halt the turmoil in our church. I don't feel responsible for it. I choose not to be associated further with the chaos. I have been stripped of my strength and without God's intervention, the situation can only get worse. You are my friends and I appreciate you. The recent deaths in our church have affected me deeply and I'm sorry that I have no further resources to call upon. To some in the church, I am perceived as an enemy because I dared to raise a question or disagree with tradition. I pray that you remaining trustees have the courage to be led of God and stay true to your convictions. I now submit to you my resignation from the Gospel Assembly board of trustees."
Signed: H. Wayne Hamburger
As soon as Wayne finished reading the preceding statement, a church member in the audience rose to speak. He began to comment about the resignation. Suddenly, the resident preacher jumped to his feet and angrily yelled at the speaker. The minister's comportment changed from a passive observer to a raging individual out of control. Wayne observed the preacher's countenance change instantly. The whole room seemed to vibrate with anger and an evil presence. It was as if Satan and his Angels enveloped the crowded room. Everyone started talking at once and tempers flared uncontrollably. Wayne stood up and asked for calm and explained that the actions of the members was the very thing that he had hoped to escape by resigning. No one listened and it is doubtful that they even heard him. He left immediately thereafter. He began crying irrepressibly, realizing that nothing could be done to save his church.
Wayne later learned that the men and women in the room he had vacated were overcome with evil spirits. Members who had been friends for years began arguing and yelling at one another. Two men who had always been quiet and unassuming squared off, threatening to get into a fist fight. After the preacher had started all the confusion, he vacated the premises as well. As Wayne leaned over the hood of his auto sobbing and lamenting the events of the evening, he resolved in his heart that he would never set foot in Gospel Assembly church again. He would attend again only once to check out a new preacher and once again to attend a funeral.
The four trustees remaining on the board decided quickly that they could handle church business without replacing Wayne. Wayne had hoped that the sixth highest in the balloting would be allowed to serve, but the board rejected it. The board also then quietly decided to consult an attorney used by Gospel Assembly in prior years. Although they had strenuously objected to Wayne's suggestion of consulting an attorney, this was one of the first steps they took after Wayne resigned. They also hired a certified public accountant to audit the books. Wayne derived some satisfaction in knowing that his suggestions had been followed after the earlier repudiation.
In April 1992, the preachers of Gospel Assembly met in St. Louis and at that meeting decided to send a minister from Mansfield, Ohio to Eldorado on a permanent basis. The resident pastor had resigned after the ill-fated meeting of 2-15-92. Wayne had been in the home of the preacher from Ohio and he liked him very much. Wayne thought that he would attend the first meeting conducted by the new pastor just to see what type of reception he would receive. One of the church board members met the new preacher in the parking lot and told him he wasn't wanted in Eldorado. The church service went very well in Wayne's opinion, but not so well in the opinion of the trustee board. They called a number of the Gospel Assembly preachers and told them to withdraw the assignment of the new preacher to Eldorado. He wisely decided to leave on his own after observing the church situation.
The board's actions in respect to the preacher were the final straw for many Gospel Assembly members and they joined Wayne as ex-members. Those who continued to attend church services were constantly under duress and many of them called Wayne to complain about conditions at the church. A number of the ex-members decided that it might be a good idea to get together in one of the homes to hold a prayer service. At first, the meetings were more like gripe sessions than prayer meetings. Even some of the church members who were still going to Gospel Assembly showed up at the prayer meetings seeking answers to their church problems.
The group of people gathering for prayer meetings used the sessions to air their feelings and seek solace in the presence of one another. There was much speculation over what might have been and second guessing about what they should have done to preserve their church. Some were remorseful and others felt regret. Wayne experienced a number of emotions during that period including anger, embarrassment, remorse, etc. Most shared these feelings.
Some were discussing the possibility of returning to Gospel Assembly one more time. Wayne presented the allegory of a burning house and whether or not it was the wisest thing to do to enter it for the sake of salvaging a few material possessions. He pointed out that some people had lost their lives in such endeavors. He likened Gospel Assembly to the burning house and suggested that the members might be safer away from the church than in it.
A few were concerned about the large amount of money that had accumulated in the church holdings. Some had contributed vast sums of money and wanted some say in how it was to be spent. Wayne suggested that they forget the money and stay away.
Word came to the prayer group that the Gospel Assembly preacher in Evansville, Indiana had been asked to disassociate himself from the other preachers. Some of the prayer group had gone to Evansville for church services and reported back to the group that they liked what they found there. They also learned that the preacher in Evansville was cut off from the others because he had initiated some changes in his church of which the other preachers didn't approve. Wayne decided to check out the situation there. He felt comfortable in the first meeting or two, but that fell apart as well. The preacher had demanded certain things from the church board for his personal gain, and part of the board resigned in disgust. Wayne decided immediately that he didn't want to go through another church squabble so he never went back to Evansville Gospel Assembly.
For a number of months the rumor had circulated that Jolly was being investigated by the police in St. Louis. In September 1992, the rumors were put to rest because Jolly was actually arrested on morals charges in St. Louis. All the television stations in that area, as well as the newspapers, carried the story as a major news item. There was nothing ever printed in a newspaper in Southern Illinois and the television stations in the area ignored the story as well. Although Jolly had been the overseer of churches throughout the southern part of the state, in addition to founding the one in Eldorado, it was not considered newsworthy. A masterful job of suppressing the news story was done outside the St. Louis area.
The news stories in that area described in great detail how Jolly had molested young girls in both Missouri and Illinois. They cited the police department as their news source. Police had acted on complaints filed in the city of St. Louis. They found that Jolly had a past police record in Illinois when he was a young man. His pedophilia had been apparent to the authorities early on, but Jolly had been able to conceal it because of his role in church activities.
One of Jolly's preachers, who was not aware of the pedophilia, said that he never could understand why so many young women had left Gospel Assembly churches without explanation. Most had left with bitterness and defiance and yet none had revealed Jolly's secret. It is hard to understand how that could have happened without the secret being revealed. It is even harder to accept the fact that some of Jolly's close associates knew about illicit activities and helped him cover them.
Following the news accounts of Jolly's arrest, there were many reports from both girls and women who had been molested by him. One member of his own family attested to his pedophilia. Women who had kept the terrible secret bottled up inside for years finally felt free to describe their victimization. As the police and prosecutor dug into the avalanche of evidence, it became apparent that the few who had come forward with formal complaints represented only the tip of the iceberg. The statute of limitations had expired in the majority of the cases for any criminal action. The door remained wide open for civil action and many took advantage of that avenue. The court cases have named the Gospel Assembly church as defendant. Some have been settled and some are pending. Compensatory awards in any amount fall short of healing the wounds that Jolly inflicted.
In spite of the destructive influence that Jolly had on Wayne and his family, they were never subjected to the types of physical abuse that were forced on those who came into close personal relationships with him. Victims have spent large sums of money and hours in therapy trying to heal from the ravages of sexual abuse imposed by Jolly. Some have died disillusioned and abandoned.
One of the frightful aspects of being a victim is that he or she often accepts guilt unto themselves, while the perpetrator remains free to practice his evil deeds. Jolly would never admit openly that he was a perpetrator, even though he did admit to having unmanageable sexual desire. He faced the news cameras and the court defiant and aloof, despite the many witnesses who testified against him. There was never an utterance of remorse or sorrow. When he was subsequently convicted in August 1993, he once again held himself out to be above the law. Although convicted of first degree sexual abuse, two counts of sodomy and two misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse, his sentence was merely five years probation. The judge explained that Jolly's age and his health condition were such that he could not live in a prison setting.
As a condition of probation, the judge ordered Jolly to get counseling and he was barred from any contact with children. He was also ordered by the court to never perform any type of leadership function in any organized church. He circumvented that by establishing a church in Caseyville, Illinois which was across the river from the Missouri court of jurisdiction. Jolly followed provisional compliance with the court order by sitting in the back row of the church and speaking from that location, rather than the pulpit.
Staff writer, William C. Lhotke, of the St. Louis Post Dispatch described the scene outside the courthouse on August 11, 1993: "Outside the courthouse, Jolly was helped into a car while angry relatives of the victims hurled epithets at Jolly and his backers." The judge was quoted: "Incarceration, given his age and physical condition, is inappropriate." The prosecutor did not agree and neither did the spokeswoman for the St. Louis National Organization for Women. She stated, "The judge is telling young women that the crimes against them are inconsequential. We are afraid it could happen again and he could molest children in the future." The story was the major news item for all the local media in and around St. Louis.
Mysteriously, the information did not reach the news media in other areas where Jolly was church overseer. Wayne was curious to know why the media had failed to carry the story in Southern Illinois, so he called and asked. He contacted the three major network stations and the newspapers and all claimed that they had not been advised of the conviction. At least one of the television stations had sent reporters to the church at Eldorado seeking information in prior months, but had lost interest by the time Jolly was convicted.
Even more puzzling was the coverage by the media on a similar situation involving Catholic priests. Almost daily, the newspapers and television news programs were filled with details of priests in the Belleville diocese identified as child molesters. Even though Jolly's trial and conviction were conducted in the same time period, the priests were the ones who received the attention from the news media. Wayne could not believe that the full coverage of one situation with complete disregard for the other was by accident. No one with knowledge about the Jolly matter can understand why nothing appeared in the news media. The question on everyone's mind was that there must have been some type of coverup rather than oversight. Perhaps the answer to that question will never be known and the public will remember Jolly as a prominent church leader.
Wayne's anger over the lack of news coverage stemmed more from the fact that he had never experienced a sense of closure on the matter of Jolly's actions rather than anger with revenge or retribution in mind. Without public acknowledgment of Jolly's illicit acts, it appeared as though he was free to continue his predatory behavior. Wayne never felt that leaving Gospel Assembly church was sufficient to rid him of the stigma of being one of Jolly's followers. He had been duped by Jolly, along with hundreds of others, and he needed to feel freedom from the cult surrounding that church leader. With Jolly's public image intact, it seemed impossible for Wayne to experience catharsis.
T. M. Jolly passed away on May 30, 1994 in Caseyville, Illinois and when Wayne learned of his passing, he felt neither relief or sorrow. A quiet passing seemed the most appropriate thing for a man who had been convicted of hideous crimes, but it was not to be. The local newspaper printed a long obituary, complete with a photo of Jolly. The article elaborated on Jolly's accomplishments in Eldorado and pictured him as a prominent citizen and a consecrated man of God. The same newspaper that failed to print the news about Jolly's conviction on sex charges now portrayed him as a saint.
Wayne could not contain his anger this time. He went to the newspaper office and demanded an explanation. The receptionist could offer no explanation and there was no one else present. Wayne returned home and composed the following letter:
"The printing of an obituary in a community newspaper is a service that meets a need and is appreciated by friends and family of the deceased. It is certainly the prerogative of the editor to include whatever details he/she feels are relevant and the lifetime experiences included in or omitted from the obituary indicate what the editor deems important enough to be printed.
An obituary column on 6-8-94 included a picture and gave many details of the life of a deceased minister. The information which was omitted had as much or more relevance than that which was included. The man was a convicted felon, having been convicted on 8-11-93 in St. Louis, Missouri of first degree sexual abuse, two counts of sodomy and two misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse. At the time of his death, he was serving a five-year probation and if he had not been in ill health and suffering from dementia, would have died in prison instead of his own bed at home. The man was not serving in the capacity of minister at the time of his death because the court ordered as a part of his probation that he not serve any functions in any church.
The St. Louis detective who investigated the case said that there were many allegations of sexual abuse of children both in Missouri and Illinois, including victims here in Eldorado. The many families who have been scarred for life by this man cannot celebrate his accomplishments. It is true that forgiveness and compassion are a part of our Christian upbringing, but this man never admitted his crimes nor asked for forgiveness. An obituary that glorifies a man's history should include all aspects of that history. Those who are still hurting from childhood memories of a pedophile hiding behind God can't muster too much forgiveness and the public replay of the man's ministry only serve to reopen the old wounds."
Signed: H. Wayne Hamburger
Wayne waited for a week for the letter to appear in the letters to the editor section and it never did. Wayne called the editor to ask about it and he said that the publisher would have to be contacted for an answer. When Wayne finally was allowed to speak to the publisher, he was treated discourteously and rudely. The publisher stated that he had no sympathy for members of the Gospel Assembly church because they had covered up Jolly's actions for years. He further stated that now that the man was dead, the whole matter should be forgotten and that Wayne's letter would just make matters worse. Although Wayne vigorously disagreed with the publisher, it only served to make him more recalcitrant.
It was difficult enough for Wayne to sit by and see church members sweep Jolly's actions aside, but when they started getting support from the community at large, it was almost more than he could indulge. Early in this century, it was not uncommon for the media to remain silent when well-known citizens erred. In the 1990's, it is out of the ordinary for any news to be suppressed, regardless of its content.
Wayne correctly predicted that it would be only a matter of time before the Gospel Assembly church would minimize the extent of Jolly’s sins and restore him to a place of honor in the church history. In spite of the publicity following Jolly's arrest, some Gospel Assembly preachers continued to seek him out for advice. These preachers refer to Jolly as their father in the Lord and no amount of sin on his part can detract from their image of him as God's chosen leader. One preacher, whose daughter had been molested by Jolly, remarked that Jolly didn't do anything too bad because all he did was rub on those girls a little bit. It is not surprising that he failed to shield his daughter from Jolly's abuse. Most fathers would have entertained murderous thoughts toward their child's abuser. Such behavior was so repugnant that it made most people physically ill just to think about what happened to the children. It further emphasizes the fact that those who stand on the sidelines, aware of evil and all the while refuse to raise a hand against it, are no better than the perpetrator.
Wayne was so confident that a positive image of Jolly would resurface in the Gospel Assembly church that he advised a relative it would happen. A subtle movement is being made by the preachers to introduce the idea that Jolly's good deeds outweighed the bad. They gloss over a lifetime of deceit and debauchery and remind the people that Jolly was God's man for the hour. His history is being rewritten to reincarnate Jolly as an icon instead of one disparaged by sin. He is being remembered by the church as the apostle he claimed to be.
Church members continue to behave in the same manner as they did when Jolly was alive. Wayne came face to face with a church member in the aisle of a grocery store and when he greeted the lady, she whirled around and headed in a different direction, refusing to speak. He impishly followed her to see if he could make her return the greeting. When he expressed a greeting a second time, she turned away again.
A few days after that incident, Mandel and Wayne shopped at the same grocery store and came face to face with another member of Gospel Assembly. This time the meeting was in the parking lot. The lady exchanged pleasantries and seemed to be secure in her manner. All at once she spied a member of the trustee board driving down the street on a tractor and she squatted down behind the car so that she could not be seen talking to Mandel and Wayne. When she realized the absurdity of her actions, she stood up and commented that she didn't care if the trustee did see her talking to them.
Wayne now finds it hard to believe that he once acted in a similar manner as a result of the customs of the Gospel Assembly church. Such irrational behavior is accepted as the norm. Needless to say, one can never entirely be free from the conformity of a cult regardless of how much he tries to distant himself from it. Like branded cattle, one always carries the results of the branding iron's work. Survivors of the holocaust not only carry an external tattooed number, but also mental scars that can't be seen. Such are the unseen scars of cult influence.
Although relatively free from the cult mind-set, Wayne finds himself to be overly defensive in respect to his past beliefs. Some of the things that agitate him are entirely insignificant in content. It has been hard for him to accept the freedom of worshiping God without restraints. A scripture was impressed upon his mind when he left Gospel Assembly and it remains important to him. It is Galatians 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." If ever a Bible passage was significant to anyone, that one has to be uppermost in the minds of those who left Gospel Assembly church.
1 Wayne's conscience guided him when Jolly made demands that were in conflict with Wayne’s thinking. Many ignored their conscience and followed Jolly's directions word for word. Jolly encouraged followers to shun all those who had left the congregation and most complied. Although Wayne felt uncomfortable in shunning ex-members, he was guilty of following that practice in a few instances. Jolly could not have wielded the power he did unless agreed to by the people who followed him. It was dangerous and destructive. No human can handle power without becoming corrupted by it. Wayne once read that God's power is measured and defined by restraint. God can unleash unlimited power but chooses to restrain that power for the benefit of mankind. Humans use power to destroy one another.
Jolly exacted his power by using the Bible to scare his followers into submission. He told the members that they were to be a suffering people and were never to have fun. He stressed that his followers were a chosen people specifically selected to be over comers. Over comers could not have fun without sinning. He further taught that they were to suffer for Christ's sake, and when they found enjoyment outside of church, they were denying Christ. Jolly used the experiences of the Apostle Paul and the sufferings of the other disciples as examples. Jolly taught that the more miserable a person was, the closer to God he became. That helps explain why many of the members appear doleful and sorrowful.
Church members maintained such discipline because they believed they are specially selected by God to suffer such indignity. They are taught to believe that they are better than anyone on earth. Often, Jolly told his congregation that the very worst of them were better than anyone going to a church outside Gospel Assembly. Members who believed that lie exuded a certain arrogance and defiance in their daily contact with those outside Gospel Assembly. That led to some pretty strange antisocial behavior at times. The feeling of superiority is reiterated by the old members during testimony meetings where they brag about their knowledge and spiritual growth.
Some scientists have suggested that having play time and fun time is important to human development, social relationships, and status. They point out that children who are denied play times are maladjusted in adulthood. These same reports suggest that adults who are playful in nature are highly creative and brilliant. In an environment such as Gospel Assembly where people are told that having fun is sinful, they cannot develop to their full potential. It is not surprising that such individuals become antisocial and suspicious. In such an environment, they have reason to spy on one another. In spite of this, most members are honest, hard working, law-abiding citizens who are subservient to their minister. Everyone is held accountable for his actions except the preacher. He claims he is accountable only to God. That makes it rather easy for the preacher, regardless of his personal makeup, which could include being a liar and deceiver, to keep his followers in line through fear.
Gospel Assembly preachers are trying to carry out Jolly's legacy with the same doctrine and church order. The congregation is told that Jolly committed some serious sins, but basically his message was correct. Where once, members would have praised Jolly in every conversation and testimony, they now substitute their own preacher's name. Preachers become little Gods of worship and idolization. Martin R. DeHaan II wrote an article in the booklet entitled, "How to Identify a Dangerous Religious Group." The statement that rang so true with Wayne is, "If you can't think for yourself or make a decision, then you're in trouble; you are responsible for what you believe; if you can't walk away, then there's a problem, period." Gospel Assembly preachers warn their followers to steer clear of books on cults because the identifying information hits too close to their own situation.
Wayne found a number of self-help books describing spiritual abuse and cults to be helpful in his search for answers regarding his affiliation with Gospel Assembly. In many instances, it was as if the authors had looked inside his mind to see what had been troubling him. Wayne encouraged others who had left the church to read these materials and they, too, were amazed at the uncanny way the authors had described the church situation. Wayne believed that it was his responsibility to warn others and help them leave the church, but then he realized that one has to make a personal and conscious decision himself to leave such a setting.
Cult entrapment is likened unto an incident that occurred when Wayne and Mandel lived in Springfield, Illinois. The next-door neighbor had a young daughter who was six or seven at the time. She had begged the boys in the neighborhood to let her ride a go-cart which they had been riding up and down the street. The go-cart was made by one of the men in the neighborhood and it was not built for safety. After the boys all had a ride in the go-cart, they then invited the girl to ride.
The young girl had long hair which hung down her back and little thought was given to the danger of her riding in the car. The engine was mounted directly behind the driver with a pulley running from the engine to the axle of the car. She rode in the car only a short distance, when her hair was caught in the pulley and wound tight. It jerked her head backward against the pulley wheel. The entanglement of her hair in the pulley wheel stopped the small engine of the car, but she was trapped. Her scalp had been cut by the edge of the wheel and she was bleeding profusely. Wayne heard her cries and went to investigate the situation.
He called to Mandel to retrieve a pair of scissors so that he could cut the girl's hair and free her from the machine. Even though the little girl was in much pain, she flat refused to allow Wayne to cut her hair. Up to that point she had stayed rather subdued as she whimpered with fright, but a glimpse of the scissors near her hair sent her into a frenzy. By that time, her mother had arrived on the scene and agreed that other means of freeing her would be tried. The girl's hair had never been cut in her lifetime and she was proud of her long hair. She was not willing to part with her hair in spite of her precarious predicament. The man who had built the go-cart arrived and dismantled it so that the girl could be freed. In spite of her pain and her entanglement, the girl had chosen to keep her hair, regardless of the time it took to free her.
This story clearly describes the condition of members of a cult. Even though it hurts to stay in the cult, they choose to do so because they have been conditioned to stay, regardless of the circumstances. Just like the little girl, they endure the pain because they perceive the pain of leaving the cult to be greater than remaining.
It’s just like foolish travelers on a busy highway who watch a road maintenance man place a caution sign along the road and then choose to totally ignore it. The maintenance man knows the dangers ahead and the travelers don't, yet they speed ahead, as if the pathway is clear. Wayne has traveled the road of cult membership and he knows the perils therein. The warning signs have been documented and held up for all to see in this writing.
An article in the magazine, "Modern Maturity," by Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz, June 1994, states: "Leaving a cult can be extremely hard--sometimes impossible." The article continues to explain how one has to rebuild self-esteem and deal with rage and shame. They state that it is virtually impossible to anticipate the physical and emotional trauma cult association can unleash and the destruction that can never be fully undone. Wayne can personally relate to the article and its content because it reflects much of his own experiences. Studies such as that one help to establish for cult victims the fact that they are not alone.
An article by Charles Leeser, entitled, "The Healing Process--Recovering From Church Abuse," Autumn 1992, SCP Newsletter, makes more significant points concerning cult membership. Mr. Leeser cautions that we are to thank God for getting us out of the abusive cultic situation. He further states that although steps may vary, most people go through a similar grieving process such as shock, outrage, anger, sadness, depression, resignation and relief. He points out that those who have left oppressive churches or cults have to realize that there was something within them that made the victimization possible. Wayne has had a hard time dealing with that reality.
It is human to blame others for one’s mistakes. It is exceptionally hard to point the finger at oneself and admit he is to blame for his predicament. No longer can Wayne blame his parents, his environment, or the excuse that he thought he was being led by God. As a youngster growing up, he had no other choice but to follow the direction of his parents, but once he became an adult, he was free to make his own decisions. He now sees that returning to Gospel Assembly after 25 years of absence from that church body was the result of being led by emotion and tradition instead of spiritual awareness. The resilience of the human body and spirit is underestimated at times and, in spite of all that has happened, Wayne feels like a survivor. A line from a song says that time doesn't heal, only God can. Wayne believes that God does heal through various ways and one of these is time.