Thinking about a recent instance of being stabbed in the back by a couple who called Jamie and me their brother and sister to our faces led me to think of the last time I got betrayed in a similar fashion--nearly a decade ago while I was at Carolina. For those who don't recall, when I was a freshman at Carolina I was suckered into joining a nutcase charismatic Christian group, Waymaker Christian Fellowship--or as I sometimes call them, "the Wrong-Waymakers."
I blogged heavily on my experiences in that outfit two years ago. But here's a quickie version of what happened.
The Waymakers deliberately hid a lot of who they really were so as not to scare anyone away. While they made themselves look like a smaller version of IV or Campus Crusade, they were really a hyperfanatical, hypercharismatic outfit. I got suckered into joining them because more than any group I felt out at Carolina (except perhaps the Young Democrats), they made me feel like I was more than just a number. Had I known even half of what I now know about them, there is no way, no how I would have ever gotten myself mixed up with them.
From the minute I first ran into them, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something way, way off about them. But I blew it off at first--after all, if there was something wrong with them, I should be able to put my finger on it. When I first went to their church, King's Park International Church in Durham, I saw a lot of phony-baloney enthusiasm that only increased my wariness about them. had no intention of sticking with them, but I was seized by this intense feeling of guilt. It was as if there was a vise on my mind--and it tightened every time I even thought about skipping out on church, weekly meetings on Monday night or Bible study on Thursday. I started feeling very uncomfortable there, but only realized what they were trying to do when they tried to turn me into a Christian Coalition Republican. It soon became obvious that these guys didn't give a flip for me at all--that they only saw me as another notch in their Bibles. However, part of me was afraid in case they were right about it being God's plan for me to fall in with them that it took six months for me to get out. That came when I was unsure what to do when it seemed one of the girls in there was showering a ton of attention on me. When I asked two of my Wrong-Waymaker "sisters" for advice (after all, who better knows how to reach a woman than another woman?), they both told me they had to "pray about it and ask God what he thinks." I soon realized that I was losing more and more of my humanity the longer I stayed in there, and decided I was getting out--six months into my freshman year. I later realized that Ashley was love-bombing me, or showering tons of affection on me with an ulterior motive in mind.
I tried to stay friends with the rank-and-file members of this bunch, thinking that they were victims just as much as I was. However, at the beginning of my sophomore year, the other Wrong-Waymakers in the class of 2000 took it upon themselves to try and wheedle me back in. From then on, I girded myself to blowing the lid on these guys. This eventually led me to pull a "fifth column" job on them. I'd gotten the impression that they thought the Holy Spirit would "convict" me of my "rebellion" and I'd eventually come crawling back to them. So I made them think just that. As much as I hated to do it, there was no other way that I knew of at the time to get hard evidence against them. Universities are rather skittish abougt dropping the hammer on religious groups unless there's hard evidence of misconduct. I found out just how twisted their outlook really was. For instance, they believed that everyone at Carolina was a 200% rabid fundicostal deep down inside--but the devil's just screwed around with their minds, and only hectoring them will make him let go. I also found out what I'd long suspected--that they'd hectored my successor as Waymaker's "problem child," into becoming just like them. They also weren't above playing mind games with their own fellow charismatics--these bottom-feeders convinced a freshman, Margarette Works, that her initial anxiety about them was just the devil screwing with her mind. I ran them to the Honor Court, but due to a loophole in the Student Code, they weren't prosecuted.
Through it all, I continued to speak out against them in person and online, considerably ramping up the volume based on what I'd gleaned from pretending to be one of them. Rather than admit what they did to me was wrong and apologize, four of the girls in there cooked up a story that I was sexually harassing them in person and via email. Based on what I learned later on, apparently they were underhanded enough to lie to the three remaining campus ministers about what I was doing. They tried to run me into the Honor Court, but were so clumsy about it that I nearly turned the tables on them. They wisely settled.