Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Can't Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult by Wendy J Duncan

Title of Book: I Can't Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult

Author: Wendy J. Duncan


“I can't hear God's voice anymore!” I shouted. “Your voice has gotten too loud!” I screamed at Ole Anthony, the leader of the Trinity Foundation, as I ran out of the room.

Earlier that morning in Bible study, Ole had chastised my boyfriend, Doug, for wanting to marry me. This was not the first time that Ole had rebuked Doug on the subject of marriage. It had happened on numerous occasions during the seven years we had been dating, but, for some reason, on that spring day of 2000, I could no longer tolerate Ole's manipulation. The proverbial light came on.

“Everything is perfect,” Ole had told Doug. “If you think things are not as they should be, you are in a state of sin. You have to deal with your problem of self, Doug. Your evil self rises every time you think something should be different from the way that it is. God abhors self. Whenever your mind tells you that something should be different, you must ask God to forgive you. This has massive implications, as it destroys your propensity to want to be in control. You must repent from your sinful self-seeking immediately.” In this manner, Ole persisted in deriding and verbally thrashing Doug for his desire to marry me.

The morning had started ordinarily enough. I was on a committee of the North Texas Council of Governments that was meeting that day in the nearby city of Arlington to review grant applications submitted by local nonprofit organizations. As I dressed that morning, I smiled while thinking of my friend Amanda who was also a member of the Trinity Foundation. Amanda was a tall, attractive woman with a strong personality. She and her husband, along with their children, had joined the group before me. We had similar religious backgrounds--she, too, had been a member of a Baptist church before coming to the Trinity Foundation. Her outspokenness always presented problems in her relationship with the Trinity Foundation's leader, Ole Anthony, and its elders. She had what the Trinity Foundation called a “rebellious spirit.”

Amanda and I had recently discussed Trinity Foundation's role in determining whether or not Doug and I could marry. Doug had been a member of the Trinity Foundation for twenty-one years and had been employed there for the last eleven years. I was still considered a newcomer since I had only been a member of the group for seven years, the length of time that I had been dating Doug. We believed that we were ready to marry, but we had yet to secure the approval of the Trinity Foundation's leader, Ole Anthony.

“What right does Ole have to say when you and Doug get married?” Amanda had asked me. I reminded her that, as the leader of Trinity Foundation, Ole was our “spiritual covering,” as were our Bible study teachers who were the elders of the foundation. There were three Bible study groups at that time. Amanda was in Ole's group and I was in the Bible study my boyfriend co-led with a married couple, Jan and Garth Brown. Another group was taught by Luke and Lee Ann, who were also elders of the foundation.

“But you and Doug aren't kids, Wendy. You are both in your forties, and you have been dating for seven years,” Amanda pointed out. “I don't know if this spiritual covering doctrine is right.”

Trinity Foundation was infused with the concept of spiritual covering, though the group's actual teaching on the subject was somewhat vague. The Bible study teachers were considered the spiritual covering for the members of their Bible study group, just as Ole was the spiritual covering for the other teachers and, by extension, for the membership of Trinity Foundation as a whole. Though how much authority the leader was to exercise over his flock was not explicitly defined, it was understood that anyone contemplating a major life decision should discuss it with his “covering” and respectfully submit to the leader's wisdom and discernment in deciding how to proceed. Doubts or questions a member might have regarding his spiritual advice were seen as evidence that the individual was headstrong and self-willed--or had a problem trusting the leadership.

On many occasions since we had been dating, Doug had discussed the possibility of our marriage with Ole and the two elders with whom Doug taught in one of the Bible study groups. According to their spiritual discernment, Doug and I were not ready to be married. Ole's official position was that he did not control whether or not anyone married. He simply said whether or not the Trinity Foundation could bless the union and participate in the wedding ceremony; however, this was disingenuous. When he would say things to Doug like, “If you marry Wendy right now, it will be a disaster,” he might as well have said, “I forbid it,” but Ole was too subtle for that. It was more effective to claim that he had the spiritual insight to see that we were not ready to marry.

As I was pulling out of my driveway that fateful morning to go to my meeting in Arlington, I saw Doug walking down the sidewalk towards my car and I immediately sensed from his facial expression that something was wrong. I rolled down my car window and asked him what was going on. He explained that Amanda had asked Ole during her group's Bible study the previous night where in scripture was the justification for the Trinity Foundation to control when and if members were allowed to marry. Ole apparently had stewed about her challenging question all night and had just attacked Doug publicly during the morning Bible study for his lack of contentment in being single.

That morning, for whatever reason, I could no longer tolerate Ole's manipulation. Although Doug begged me not to do so, I had to confront Ole. As I walked into the community dining room where Ole was eating breakfast, I was so angry that I could barely say hello to Hazel, Troy, and some of the other members who also were eating. I realized that what I was about to do was considered reprehensible behavior for a Trinity Foundation member. I knew that I was about to break one of the Trinity Foundation's unspoken rules: Do not challenge Ole--especially in public. I knew that what I was about to say was unacceptable in the minds of Ole and his followers--and would only be seen as evidence of my rebellious spirit--yet I proceeded.

“Ole, I need to talk with you,” I said boldly.

“What is it?” he replied as he sat eating his breakfast of grapefruit and toast.

I was almost shaking with anger as I said, “I cannot continue to allow you to use the Bible and your teaching of the cross as a justification for Doug and me to remain single. You are twisting scriptural passages to convince us that it is a sin for us to want to marry. Your interpretation of scripture is not right, Ole.”

“Wendy, your problem is that you have never understood the doctrine that we teach here at Trinity Foundation,” he replied as he continued to eat, not even bothering to look at me.

“Ole, I do understand the doctrine. What I do not understand is why you will not give us your approval. We have been dating for seven years. We love each other. We are both believers.”

“I don't give a rat's ass if you two get married!” he replied in a contemptuous tone.

“Then why do you keep opposing it?” I said. “Why do you persist in making Doug feel guilty for wanting to marry me? Your voice has gotten so loud, Ole, that I can't hear God's anymore!” I turned, ran out of the dining room, and drove away in my car.

I had never been so infuriated in my entire life or so confrontational, but as I drove through Dallas my anger dissipated, and I began to have a sinking feeling.

What on earth have I done? How could I have talked to Ole that way? I cried, believing that I had just lost the love of my life. Doug will never be able to forgive me for my blatant and shameless rebellion against Ole, and Ole will never let me forget it.


Link to purchase book:

No comments: