YOKE OF BONDAGE - Introduction
By Wayne Hamburger
YOKE OF BONDAGE*
BY H. Wayne Hamburger
*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."
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO MY WONDERFUL AND GRACIOUS WIFE, AMANDA ELLEN HAMBURGER. WITHOUT HER ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT THIS BOOK COULD NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN. SHE IS MY SWEETHEART, DEAREST FRIEND, LOVER AND CONFIDANTE. WE HAVE SHARED BOTH THE GOOD TIMES AND THE BAD, JUST AS WE PROMISED TO DO MANY YEARS AGO. SHE HAS LOOKED BEYOND MY FAULTS AND ALWAYS RETURNED MY LOVE IN DOUBLE PORTION. MY LOVE FOR HER KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES.
It is the reader's call to ask why any writer chooses to write on a particular subject. It is every writer's obligation to answer that question for the reader, but more important, the writer has to answer that question for himself. Why expose oneself to the spotlight and soul baring process of autobiography? Sometimes the answer is so complex that the writer has a difficult time answering that question for himself. Such is the case in point.
The author has an overwhelming desire to share the materials that are presented herein; however, the source of the motivation is not fully understood. It is much like the mountain climber who can give no-good reason for climbing other than the mountain was there. I am compelled to tell this story because it is my mountain. I cannot feel that my life, after 65 years of living, is completing its purpose until this story is made available to others. After reaching the summit, I can look back and see that I have cleared a path for others who follow.
We have many emotions which motivate us in life. Among these are love, hate, anger, joy, gratitude and hurt. Perhaps all of these emerge in this manuscript. Often, we can't verbalize what emotion is at work because it starts at a deep subconscious level. The truth of the matter is that many of these emotions are at work at the same time, and one can't identify any specific emotion as having more influence than the others.
This book tries to explain why I am the person that I have turned out to be. It gives some insights as to why I act the way I do. Although this book covers most facets of my life, including background, social status, education, occupations, and spiritual commitment, it concentrates on the religious influences. My involvement with a religious group, which I have grown to believe is cult-like, is the main focus of this story.
Although there was a 25-year period in my life in which there was no direct involvement in the religious sect, it still influenced my decisions. I could never get away from the idea that I was in a condition that the religious group called "backslidden." This meant that I was cut off from God with no hope until I returned to the religious group. Through that long period I finally believed that the only way for me to have a relationship with God was to return to my roots. I knew that I could not abide by the rules of the cult. Therefore, I chose to stay away from it.
While growing up, I was deprived of many things due to my family's poverty. The areas in which I felt secure and wealthy were my religious beliefs. That security was reinforced by my nuclear family and my church family. We knew that we had a special relationship with God that no other group of people had. We were His chosen people for the latter days. We were positive that we had the correct interpretation of the Bible and that all other churches were false. This was instilled in me as a young child and I continued to believe that until I was past 60 years old.
Even after I had left the sect at age 24, 1 still felt that they were right and that I was wrong. I always felt as though I had to return to the cult at some point in my life, or I would come under some terrible judgment from God. It is not surprising that when I encountered a major crisis at age 49, 1 hurriedly rejoined the rite from which I had been separated.
This book serves as an introspective insight into how my life was controlled through my religious beliefs. We, of course, are all products of our environment and genealogy, but it is also important to note the role of religious training. As we develop biologically, intellectually, and spiritually, there is a tendency for these to interact in the development of our personality. The precepts of the religious group with which I was associated emphasized that our spiritual life must be in conflict with our biological and intellectual nature. We were taught that the Bible offered proof that our nature robs us of our spirituality. I have since discovered that the Bible really teaches us how to achieve harmony among the three aspects to enjoy the fruit of the spirit as described in Galations 5:22, "love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance."
We were also taught that conscience was not a good bellwether when it came to choosing right from wrong. Conscience was only important when it had been taught by the cult to deal with problems in accordance with its teachings. There was much emphasis on the idea that conscience could be scarred and could not be relied on for direction. Everything that was in conflict with the church body was considered wrong or sinful. Only the leader had exclusive rights to the truth as the earthly representative of God.
In this account of my life influenced by religious teachings, I have drawn from personal experiences, firsthand knowledge of church activities, private notes taken during meetings, recorded church services, members' testimonies and privy recollections over a period of 60 plus years. These recollections have not been exaggerated, underestimated or distorted. It is understandable that some members will not agree with all of what is included herein; however, it is a true account of my experience in the church and truth needs no apology, and neither should it be compromised. It is only reasonable that they would like to have the majority of this book kept from public view.
I readily admit that humans interpret events differently depending upon individual viewpoint, nevertheless, the facts speak for themselves. It is my desire to enlighten the reader about the influence of one particular religious institution upon one individual. I don't believe my experience is unique, and hopefully others will see themselves in reading this account.
Cults tend to be confining, mentally suffocating, and dangerous because of the power wielded by the leader. The leader exerts absolute authority over every member. He cannot be challenged unless the challenger is willing to abdicate membership. As God's representative, the leader is seldom disputed because no one will question someone they consider to be Deity.
In addition to enduring the abuse and conforming to the strict code of conduct demanded by cults, members are also required to limit their perspective of God. God is viewed as dealing with only a select group and none other. God is inaccessible to the members except through the leader. Individuals are not allowed to interpret the Bible themselves. Great emphasis is placed on order and discipline as defined by the leader. If one prays for something outside the order as defined by the leader, he risks being outside the will of God. The true dimension, splendor and magnificence of God are denied to individual members because they can only view Him through the eyes of their leader.
I applaud those who have had the courage to leave the assembly with which I was associated. I am especially thankful for the handful of members who showed the courage to expose the leader. At the same time, I am saddened by the fact that the sect continues with new leaders and the same doctrine. I have family and friends who remain loyal to a system that has failed. They, of course, do not recognize nor believe that.
I call myself a victim because of the deep hurt and depression that occurred with my separation from the cult. I believe that I was duped into believing lies which altered the course of my life. We are familiar with drug abuse, alcoholism, divorce, and financial disaster because these victims are made subjects of the media, gossip, and television movies. Religious fraud can cause a person to be a victim and it can hurt just as deeply as these other types. Rarely are we informed about the devastation of religious subterfuge.
Spiritual issues are often clouded; we take much of our spiritual strength from faith in something or someone. Faith can be fragile and transitory. It has to be reinforced periodically to stay strong. If not reinforced, it can disappear altogether. Faith seems to beget faith, and once destroyed it is extremely difficult to resurrect it. I admit that at one point my faith had all but disappeared. Some people claim to have personally conversed with God, but that has never happened to me. My belief in God is totally by faith. It is only by the grace of God that the sect did not destroy my faith permanently.
I make no excuse for the fact that I was ignorant of the true character of the cult and its leader. I am ashamed that I was not wise enough or spiritual enough to recognize the false teaching to which I was exposed. I am embarrassed by the fact that I was duped for many years. Neither can I make excuses nor apologize for those who choose to stay with the mysticism. It is my desire that some readers of this candid account of my life experiences be helped in the process.
I have found through personal experience that apologies can and do boomerang. Confession is best offered to God and very selectively made to humans. Usually the aggrieved party assumes the worst about a situation. He lets his imagination run wild, exaggerating the truth beyond recognition. In such instances, an apology exacerbates the original problem. Often, attempts to correct a perceived problem are better left undone (Proverbs 25: 9-10).
Although this introduction is written in the first person, the body of the manuscript is being written in the third person. Writing in the third person gives me more freedom to develop the narrative in such a way that it all ties together with the main theme.
I would be remiss if I did not give credit to those many Christian writers who gave me inspiration and encouragement. It is impossible to list all of them, so I will name a few: Dr. Robert Schuller, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Dr. Tim LaHaye. The magazine, "Guideposts," has helped me tremendously. I also deeply appreciate the opportunity to participate in the group called "Promise Keepers," founded by coach Bill McCartney and the encouragement given by the members of the Pleasant Valley Star General Baptist Church.
I was especially helped by the book entitled Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1991. Martin R. DeHaan's booklet, "How to Identify a Dangerous Religious Group," Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, was extremely helpful to me in sorting out my feelings. A powerful book written by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen, entitled The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, 1991, opened insight to my past in various ways. Finally, I was made aware of the many falsehoods to which I had been exposed when I read the book entitled The Lies We Believe, by Dr. Chris Thurman, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1989.
There are many references to the Holy Bible in this manuscript and in each instance quotes are taken from the King James Version, KJ-21, Franklin Electronic Publishers, Inc., Mt. Holly, NJ, 1989. The religious group that I write about used the King James version exclusively and it is necessary to accurately report accounts of that group by using the same source.