"I'm dating a follower (or ex-follower) of The Way International.
Should the fact that he (she) and his parents are involved in TWI bother me? Does their involvement pose a threat to our relationship?"
I'm glad you're thinking through your relationship with your boyfriend and his parents, and thinking through what their
involvement with TWI may mean for you. These are more important issues than you probably realize. (Most people are
married for ten years before they realize how much a person's childhood, ingrained attitudes and relatives impact a
marriage-- and any close relationship).
I wish we could say, like an old Disney movie, "love conquers all, so don't worry about anything." However, involvement with TWI, both past and present, has a big (and to a great extent, negative) impact on family relationships. While current Wayers are dramatically affected by their involvement, ex-followers also experience long-term negative effects.
You have probably heard that his parents are pressuring him to be constantly and deeply involved in TWI. However, the
pressure his parents are putting on him is probably much stronger than
you have seen, since they likely lean on him more when you're not around. Wayers use a lot of fear, intimidation, badgering, etc in order to manipulate their people, from the top right on down to the bottom.
You mention that he may be asked to leave if he doesn't become more active in TWI. This amounts to "mark and avoid," (M&A), and is a lot more than just being asked to leave. It means that his parents would have nothing to do with him. They may try to contact him on the sly, but they would be afraid that terrible things would happen to them because were contacting him, and would always be in fear and deep in guilt, feeling that they were flagrantly disobeying God. M&A means that parents (also any siblings, in-laws, extended family who are in TWI) would not call, see him, send letters (except probably over basics of family business or to pressure him back into TWI), give gifts, visit, see their grandchildren, go to his graduation, etc. If they saw their grandchildren (your children), you may end up worrying if they are criticizing you, your religion, and so forth, when you're not present. To them it would be worse than if he died, because M&A means that he is spiting God, rebellious to his parents and Way leadership, possessed by devil spirits and therefore dangerous to his parents and any other Wayers.
This is very serious. Families split and are emotionally torn apart over these things. In fact, even when family members are all in TWI, leadership still drives wedges between them. One ex-Wayer told me that her daughter went in the Disciple program (as your boyfriend's parents likely want him to do) and the leadership drove wedges between them, even though they were all in TWI at the time.
In fact, the standing of the parents in TWI is also threatened because he is not fully active in TWI, so they are pressured to
put more pressure on him. If his parents rejected him, your boyfriend would likely feel a lot of guilt for "causing" the split
between him and his parents by not being fully involved in TWI, and be fearful that terrible things would happen to him
because he left TWI. He may also become bitter toward you for "making him" choose you over TWI and his parents (even
though it was really his choice).
As you can see, people in TWI think differently than normal people. If you are somewhat inactive in your faith, your family probably doesn't make a no-holds-barred effort to pressure you into being in church three or four times a week (the TWI minimum), to pay 15% of your income as offerings, to eliminate all debt, etc. Your church wouldn't excommunicate you for low activity and command your parents and siblings to pressure you until you return (or to shun you if you don't). You and your parents wouldn't be living in deep guilt and fear that terrible things will happen to you.
People who have been involved in TWI for any length of time usually have deeply ingrained ways of thinking and attitudes and mind set-- much more than in other faiths. Fear and guilt was mentioned above (and are surprising since on the surface TWI teaches that their positive believing conquers fear/negative believing). They often can't read the Bible (even after years outside TWI) without having rigid ways of seeing it. The "law of believing" tends to make people fear that bad will happen, feel guilt when troubles arise, and try to control things which are out of their control. They normally feel alienated from all Christians and believe devil spirits control churches. This means that he would probably resist it when you wish to go to church, take your kids to Sunday School or be baptized. These good things for you and your children would likely become a point of conflict between the two of you.
If your boy(girl)friend spent part of his childhood in Way Corps training at Rome City, it is likely that much of TWI's
negative mind set is ingrained, even though you may not have seen much of it yet. Worse yet, if he doesn't think it's a
problem, he won't go about trying to change it. It is unlikely that he escaped from the effects of TWI's mind control
techniques, since all of a young person's memories are from the oppressive regime of Martindale, who was ejected from
TWI in 2000.
If you were to marry and he was to get back into TWI (which could happen, since parents would continue to influence/pressure him, and since he still has a TWI mind set), that could put tremendous stress on your marriage. In general, the attitude of TWI leadership is that Wayers owe TWI (they say God, but it really amounts to TWI and its leadership) 100% of their life. What's left over can go to the spouse. We can't begin to count the number of marriages fractured by TWI, and the many Wayers who are seeing their marriages crack and fearing that TWI will cause them to completely shatter.
In the long run, it would be more helpful to him and you if he was to see problems in TWI and consciously leave it. Just being fairly inactive isn't the same, because it means he still accepts TWI's basic thought and practice. He will be less haunted by M&A if he decides to separate from TWI than if he is declared M&A by low activity. Then he can come to understand the cult experience (cults like TWI have typical characteristics and elements of recovery) and rebuild in a way that helps him and your relationship with him.
It would be helpful if you would question TWI strongly now, partly to see how he reacts.
Any negative reaction he has to criticism of TWI would be much more intense if he were married to you-- so if you delay strong criticism of TWI until after you're married, it will only make it worse..
His parents sound courteous to you. But it is probably contingent on you becoming part of TWI. They still hope that they can get you (and their son) back into full participation in TWI. As you may have heard, they consider marriage between Wayers and non-Wayers to be out of the question (they call it between "believers and unbelievers," because they don't consider Christians in general to be believers). As time goes on, if they feel that marriage between you and your boyfriend is likely, they will put even more pressure on you to become active in TWI. They do, and will always, judge you (and form their attitudes toward you) based primarily on how active you are in TWI. If you show strong opposition to TWI in coming years, it is likely that they will come to dislike you and your relationship to your boyfriend more. In their minds, you're a prospective Wayer now. If they feel you aren't a prospect anymore, then expect them to criticize you more (not necessarily to your face, but to him when he's alone with them). Even if you were Jesus Christ himself, they'd lower the boom on you if you weren't active in TWI.
I encourage you to make God and His Word a more central part of your life. TWI started out more this way, but TWI and its leadership has largely taken the place of God and His Word. But this would give you a much better foundation in your personal and family life now and in the future. I encourage you to become involved in a Biblically-based church, whether it's a more traditional or more contemporary.
You should also be aware that TWI teaches that husbands should have control over their wives, and that wives should get permission from their husbands for many things and be obedient to them. It is a more autocratic approach to the marriage relationship than is common among Christians. Your boyfriend probably has assimilated this approach to marriage, because it is emphasized in TWI's magazines, teachings and the Christian Family and sex class which all Wayers normally take. If this approach to marriage is uncomfortable to you, if may be helpful to ask him many careful phrased questions to sort out to what degree he expects to be in authority over you. He may not even be able to express the relationship he expects- he may just have an ingrained, implicit sense of what a wife's role should be.
There are about ten areas of married life which can become sources of conflict for any couple. Two of these, religion and
in-laws, are automatically vulnerable areas of conflict with current (and to a lesser extent, ex-) Wayers. Please think about
these things some more. We welcome any other comments or questions you have as you continue to consider this.
In the Vine (John 15),
Dr. John Juedes, Dec. 2000 \datingwayr www.empirenet.com/~messiah7
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