Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Some needed perspective...and venting.

Things have gone off track for me lately. I began losing perspective and letting myself become distracted by too many things: other peoples opinions, judgments, insecurity about my own decisions, this miserable winter, etc. I forgot why I was even writing, and I forgot that I have nothing to prove. I took a step back for a little while, took some extra vitamin d, and waited for clarity to return. After some time just thinking and reevaluating my own experiences, I am not questioning my conclusions as much as I was.

As I've said before, I avoided writing on the Rick Ross Forum because of the vitriol and paranoia that is rampant with some of the posters, never mind the misinformation and ineffective moderation. However, I went back and read through it again, from the beginning. The things that struck me this time were the variety of experiences among the 2nd generation "youth", and the contrast between the first generation who left back in the 1980s and the current members.  There were those who were convinced the whole group was running something akin to a pedophile ring while others insisted there was never any abuse at all. Both are wrong, but it does illustrate the many faces of this cult. And to some degree they are all valid viewpoints.

Don't get me wrong; I absolutely believe this cult is destructive. I also don't think I am using the word "cult" incorrectly, despite that it carries mostly negative connotations as a result of media attention around such groups as the Branch Davidians, the People's Temple, and FLDS, to name a few. The current accepted term "New Religious Movement" or "NRM" just doesn't sit right. It sounds too benign, as if these are all just passive groups with their own beliefs. It's more than that. It's a cult, whether people like the term or not. Here's a basic definition by Merriam-Webster: Cult definition

I know that a lot has been written about this groups history and things that happened 30 years ago. I don't want to rehash it all, but Aaron made me think about the relevance of it to the lives of the 2nd and 3rd generation today. He says it has none, and it has no bearing on his life whatsoever. Of course he does not represent a typical member, being hundreds of miles away and uninvolved. But still, no matter how I try to wrap  my mind around it, I do not see how such recent history and events can be considered meaningless to the lives and beliefs of the cult today. It is all the same players, same mentality and same goals. Jack is dead, but his mish-mash of religious ideals, delusions, and doomsday prep lives on. it is continuing in exactly the direction he intended.

There are certain things that can't be ignored. Facts. These are not open to interpretation, and have been verified. Jack lied about his history. Jack lied about his lineage. Jack was a homosexual. Jack had sexual relationships with teenaged boys. Jack was aware of, and ignored abuses, both of children and spouses (or he chose to deal with it "on the inside"). Humiliation and beatings were encouraged if members went astray.
These are all things that are absolutely true, regardless of how someone feels about them, or whether or not they matter. I get it that these things were a "long time ago". I also get it that they have different levels of impact on the present lives of the 2nd generation. There are a lot of variations of experience in this group, and a lot depends on which community you live in, and who your family, your mishpacha and elders are.

Most of the kids in the 3rd generation never knew Jack, and have no  memory of him. His relevence and influence is limited by the filter of their parents and the leadership.
But I hope they are able to see that everything they have been living is based on this one man. You may not think the past has a direct effect on you, but that past is the foundation of everything the Family is today.

The "Passing of the Seed". This has been talked about a lot. In case anyone has somehow missed this, the passing of the seed consisted of Jack being masturbated by a young man until he ejaculated. Then the "seed" would be gathered and burned. This supposedly passed the seed onto the young man who would later have his heir. This was necessary because Jack had taken a vow of celibacy, and it was the only way for him to produce an hier, which he was required to do. Jack and others claimed there is biblical and Kabbalistic precedent for this. There actually is not, at all. Jack made it up.
No one denies this happened, not even Jack himself, and many people left the group when it was exposed. The people who stayed give varying explanations for their choice. Some people still insist that it was a true spiritual thing that Jack had to do that some people just don't understand. Other people, including my father, say that Jack is still human, and no human is infallible, therefore he should be forgiven. The first one is plain denial. The second is interesting because they are admitting Jack did something wrong AND lied about it, but he was still worthy of being followed as a prophet and leader.

Does this matter now? Maybe not, but here's the thing: Whether our parents believed it was an actual ritual, or that it was a human and forgivable mistake, why was it covered up and lied about? Why did they deny it or ignore it when the youth had questions? It was hidden and denied until the internet happened, and it couldn't be hidden anymore.
Another thing is that people who are current leaders were directly involved in it. Jack had 3 particular favorite boys in which he had sexual relationships with (passed his seed to); Lou Ramu, Dennis Walsh and Gary Coons. Gary became the High Priest. He has passed that position to Adam Van, but he is still the unofficial leader of the cult. Lou Ramu left, but his brother Philip is a prince, the head of one of the "3 Families". Dennis Walsh left, but his brother Richie is also a prince and the head of another of the "3 Families".  These are the leaders. They are not separate or removed from the things that happened 30 years ago, they are a part of it, and continue to lead. Their children, their sons in particular, are the "Davids", meaning in line to be the next leaders of the families after their fathers.
In addition, the same covenant is followed, the same structures that Jack put into place, and they are striving for the same goals. How can the 30-year-old actions have no bearing on the cult today? It's their foundation. No one has renounced Jack for being a fraud. The group's direction didn't change. The leadership didn't change.

Some things are different. The "passing of the seed" was a big deal in the 70s and 80's, but that practice died along with Jack. The older generation who left refuses to believe this, but it doesn't happen anymore. How can I be sure? I can't. But I grew up in this cult, was surrounded by the members and learned all the teachings. I never heard it mentioned, not once. I never heard it taught, nor anything similar. I know priests, some who left and some who stayed, and all of them say that it is not taught or practiced. I am rather sure that the leadership knows it was wrong. Even those who believe in it's validity would see the practice as invalid now because Jack was the only person who took a vow of celibacy, and couldn't produce an heir the old-fashioned way.

There is no basis in Judaism or Kabbalah for this ritual. It was made up by Jack himself. He may have gotten the idea from sources in the occult, as he was very interested in this and was an avid reader. He took the idea and twisted it into something for himself. Remember, Jack was a homosexual who grew up in an religious Baptist household.  The fact that he was gay was in direct opposition to what he believed. To compensate for this, and to ensure he never engaged in the act of intercourse with another man, which is directly forbidden in the bible, he vowed to be celibate. He created the "passing of the seed" in order to engage in sexual activity with other males without breaking the vow or disobeying his God. He could justify it that way, to himself, to the boys he engaged in this with, and to the congregation when it was found out. Despite what our parents claim, I believe they know this, and that is why it is never spoken of or taught. I do believe that the practice died with the 80's and the publicity of the Foibles article. I know it's a point of contention among some of the readers and posters of these blogs, but it is my belief that this is not happening at all any longer, and probably won't in the future.

I've gotten lost on tangents here. This post is longer and more convoluted than I intended. What I really wanted to do was clarify my position on this group as it exists today.
I don't believe that this cult can be put into any kind of cookie-cutter category. I think it is destructive, but that comes in many shades of grey. I have spoken of abuse and rape because that is my experience in this cult. It has also been the experience of some other bloggers, but it isn't the only experience. I think it is misleading to say it is a group of a bunch of pedophiles, abusers and frauds who use the cult as a shield and resource. It isn't like that, for the most part. Someone commented on a post and said something like "I don't see a bunch of abused kids". And that is true. Most people you meet will seem completely normal. The children and young adults are well-adjusted, educated and functional. There are a lot of happy loving families who don't abuse their kids. My intention has never been to portray it as a group where everyone is raped or beaten.  Maybe that is what has come across, but my issues with this cult are not so easily categorized.

And this brings me back around to the things that have not changed over the last 30 years: the hierarchy, the covenant and the expectation to live by it, and especially, the secretiveness- the fact that everyone hides their membership and beliefs. These things are what make this group destructive, albeit in varying degrees to it's members.
*Again, We are taught to make sure we don't reveal "who we are". Children are taught that they are special souls, specifically chosen to live during these end-times. Some go to public school and live among normal society, but they have to pretend they are just like everyone else. They learn to hide the things they participate in with the group. They have a completely separate and active life that even their closest "outside" friends are supposed to know nothing about. Many even hide their Judaism, and the ones who do publicly observe Judaism still have to hide their belief in Yehoshua.
Some kids raised in this still seem remarkably well-adjusted and happy in the real world. But personally, I feel it is very negative and destructive to make children live this way.
*Add to this the covenant and the hierarchy. The Family, while living and working in society, deal with all aspects of their lives through the structure of the Family. They believe their laws are God's laws, and they supercede the laws of the nation, which are "anti-god". They obey laws only as they fit into the Family's beliefs. This means that if a certain law, like mandated reporting, or tax laws, or laws regarding children are in opposition to their covenant or beliefs, they disregard it.

How does this affect the members? If you are lucky enough to be a part of a loving and healthy family, it probably doesn't. But if you have parents who are abusive, or are exposed to another member who is abusive, you no don't have the protections that others do. This is where the cult becomes dangerous. The Family keeps it's problems within the Family. As a member you are required to follow the covenant. A problem is brought to your Clan Head. If it cannot be resolved, it goes to your Elder. If it still cannot be resolved, it goes to a beit din (a panel of "judges"). If you are given a direction you do not like or agree with, your recourse is to pray about it.
Jack and the elders knew about rapes and they were handled from within. They knew about child abuse, about spousal abuse, about parents who abused drugs. These were not occurring in one or two families, but several. The number of mandated reporters in the Family is staggering, yet these individuals did not and will not follow the law they are required to follow, and report these things to authorities.
Why does anyone think this would change? Why does anyone think this would be different now?
What is different about the Family today as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago?

Remember George? He was a known offender in the Family. The Family did nothing about it. They told kids they weren't allowed to talk to him for awhile. He was a Clan Head. He had sons who raped a little girl when they were kids. Instead of helping the girl or getting treatment for the boys, George bought the girl's father a car and told him and his daughter to shut-up about it. 
There are kids who were raped or abused, including myself, who were forced to spend years coming face to face with their abusers and expected to behave, act normal and draw no attention to themselves. Even presently, these people are still in the Family. Some things may be a "long time ago", but that means nothing when these people are still walking around like nothing ever happened, and there is something wrong with the victim if they have a problem with it.
There are several other examples like George DeLalio, but I keep bringing him up because he is the only one with a public record, so it's safe to use his name without possibly being sued.
Again, how would this be different now?
I understand the perspective of people who never saw any evidence of these things happening. If only they could see that it is designed that way. Lashon hara is a big crime in the Family. It's the worst crime. These matters, once known by the leadership, would be handled quietly, and the parties forbidden to speak about it with anyone. I'm still amazed at the things I found out were going on right under my nose, and I didn't have a clue.

I have a lot more swimming around in my head, but I will need to continue on another day. I hope that people like Aaron, or people that are more involved than him think about it. How does the structure the Family lives by help the victims of abuse that do exist, even if you think they are few? How does it protect perpetrators?  Would you, as a member, report abuse to authorizes if you witnessed it? Or would you say something to your clan head or elder, then follow their directives?
It's not that I think the group, or it's people and beliefs are dangerous in and of themselves. There are a lot of groups with beliefs that I may find crazy, or people that seem wacky or delusional. That's not the point. The destructive part is the hierarchy and structure that most of the members follow without question. It creates a situation that is very detrimental when abusive situations arise. No one is above the law, regardless of who you think you are. And no one in the family has a right to take it upon themselves to deal with issues and crimes that require outside expertise and authority.