ROBERT OGUIER was seized, bound and eventually led to a small room. A band of "professionals" came into the room. One of them tried to convince him to change his religion.
Mark Levitt was seized, bound, a hood put on his head and taken to a small attic. He also was visited by professionals who endeavored to change his religious beliefs, basically by badgering and interrogating him in six-hour shifts.
Robert Oguier's story is found in Foxe's Book of Martyrs and describes events that happened in France in 1556. (The "professionals" were religious inquisitors. The small room was his jail cell.) Mark Levitt's story was carried by the Associated Press and describes events that happened in the United States in May, 1978. There are, of course, some differences. Oguier was later burned at the stake — Mr. Levitt eventually escaped.
Oguier was a victim of one of the many inquisitions throughout Europe in the wake of the Reformation. These inquisitions have become bywords for fiendish terror. Mr. Levitt, on the other hand, was kidnapped by "deprogrammers."
Deprogrammers are people, usually hired by the parents of an adult child, who literally kidnap their client's sons or daughters, isolate them from their religious group and attempt to persuade them to give up their religion. In Mr. Levitt's case, his captors tied him up, blindfolded him, put him in a car, put a blanket over him and drove him to a house with a room with no windows. His captors badgered him, interrogated him, called him anti-Semitic and Nazi. They ripped up copies of the New Testament in front of his face and threw the pieces at him. They also stuffed pieces into his ears and mouth.
Dean Kelley, president of the National Council of Churches, calls deprogramming "the most serious violation of religious liberty in the country in a generation." Deprogramming is not, in one law professor's unfortunate phrase, "a form of marathon encounter therapy." It is, really, no different from a medieval inquisition: An individual is forcibly imprisoned and subjected to pressure by his captor to give up his present religious beliefs. True, after deprogrammers use violence and coercion to isolate their "victim," they do not (reportedly) use actual torture to force the captive to change his beliefs, but instances of violence are common.
Indeed, some deprogramming accounts read like plots to a cheap horror movie. Joanne Bradley, for example, was kidnapped, locked in a small bathroom, stripped of her clothes and yelled at. Her prayer books were — taken away. Her rosary beads were damaged. She was a member of the Hare Krishnas — but such indignities could have been done to a Catholic nun as well. Or consider this account: Walter Robert Taylor was kidnapped and taken to a hotel room by deprogrammers (he calls them "goons"). There they "abused" him and kept him without sufficient food or sleep. At one point he was held down bodily while the "goon squad" ripped off his monastic clothes.
Who's Next? Taylor was not a Moonie or a Hare Krishna. He was a monk at an Old Catholic monastery. (The Old Catholic Church is an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church.)
Indeed, deprogramming hasn't been confined to members of so-called cults. Mr. Taylor, as was just mentioned, belonged to the Catholic church, albeit a part that separated from Rome in the last century. Mr. Levitt was a member of Jews for Jesus, a part of mainstream evangelical Protestantism. In another case, a member of an Episcopalian congregation (in good standing with the national church) was subjected to deprogramming. Ai; the editor of Eternity, a mainstream evangelical magazine, has
emarked: "I wonder who's next. Young Life? Youth for Christ? pr how about your own church?"
Nor are the individuals who are subject to deprogramming the kind of people who. cannot make decisions for themselves. Some are among the best educated people in America. One victim was a wealthy psychologist. Another, a law student at Fordham University who had been to Yale. Many victims are people who were bright enough to be accepted at the most academically stringent universities in the nation.
The usual argument in favor of deprogramming is that "cults" recruit by "brainwashing," and individuals who join such religions do not really do so out of free choice.
In the first place, deprogramming has already been used against people who joined churches whose recruitment practices were thoroughly respectable (the Catholic and Episcopalian, for example). In the second place, even those religions who have the most debatable recruitment practices — the Moonies come to mind — do not force people to stay — they can always leave. From what I understand, if you attend a Moonie retreat or meeting, intense psychological pressure may be brought on you not to leave, but no one will forcibly keep you from leaving. Yet deprogrammers use force. They bodily kidnap their victims, take them to a room and forcibly keep them from leaving.
Prophesied in God's Word Western society prides itself on its tolerance. Fanatic religious persecution — burning people at the stake because they believe differently from the majority of the community — supposedly is a thing of the past. And yet we have — in a world that will tolerate almost anything in the area of lifestyles — deprogramming, a brutal practice, identical in kind, if not degree, to what went on in the worst of the Middle Ages.
It should be no surprise to those who take Bible prophecy seriously. Christ, expressly referring to the time near His return, predicted that in an era of persecution His followers, too, would be persecuted:
"And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences.... But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake" (Luke 21:12).
Christ here is describing a general persecution of His Church just before the Great Tribulation that precedes His return. The book of Revelation also predicts such religious persecution, even actual martyrdom in the last days:
"And when he [the Lamb, i.e., Christ] had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
"And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? "And white robes were given unto everyone of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (Revelation 6:9-11) (emphasis added).
With the attack on the Church of God by the attorney general of California, the very beginning of this persecution has already begun in America. While, to my knowledge, no member of God's Church has yet been a victim of deprogramming, widespread acceptance of deprogramming adds to the general climate of religious oppression. Society has come to take religious beliefs for granted.
The very idea of deprogramming evidences contempt for religious freedom, indeed, religion itself. For example, Ted Patrick,
"Deprogramming is not, In one law professor's unfortunate phrase, 'a form of marathon encounter therapy.' It is a medieval inquisition"the world's most renowned deprogrammer, is plain about his contempt for religious freedom. Describing freedom of religion, he told one interviewer: "Everybody is afraid of it. It's one of the biggest rackets the world has ever known, this religious bit."
And believe it or not, deprogramming can even be done with court sanction. Parents. disliking their children's new-found religion, go to a court and convince the judge to put their children in conservatorship. The legal theory behind conservatorships is that the person cannot take care of himself so someone else must run his life for his own good. A conservatorship can be ordered without the person whose rights are being taken away even knowing what's happening! In one case, the parents convinced the judge through testimony of a psychiatrist who himself had never even seen the person in question.
Note the eerie parallels with the attorney general's attack on the Church of God! A conservatorship is like the receivership that was imposed, in the early months of 1979, on the Church. The person loses his rights and finds himself totally under the control of someone appointed by a court, just as the Church was denied its rights and put under the control of someone appointed by a court. A conservatorship is supposedly done for the person's own good, regardless of what he may think about it himself, the same way the receivership imposed on the Church was justified by saying it was for the Church's own good. (As if courts knew better than the individuals — or churches themselves — what was good for them.) And often the person about to have his rights stripped from him is denied even the opportunity to present his side of the case, the same as when the Church was denied its rights by an illegal court hearing held without any chance to respond.
And there may be one more parallel — perhaps most outrageous of all. Harry Stathos, a columnist for a Moonie paper, the New York News World, has charged that there have been cases where judges have been paid off — bribed — to sign conservatorships. As readers of my book Against the Gates of Hell (excerpts of which appear in this issue) have discovered, greed similarly motivated the main characters who tried to impose the receivership on the Church of God.
Deprogramming has set the stage for a more widespread religious persecution, prophesied by the Bible. The fact that there are courts today that will tolerate it reveals how close the time of general persecution really is.
Christ said, "The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2). The time has already come when whosoever kidnaps and torments you thinks he's doing you a favor.