Dear Dr. Juedes
I was in the Way in the 70's, worked at HQ staff and was on the Faculty at the Way College of Emporia. While in the Way Corps, a few of us banded together to examine what each of us knew of the improprieties of TWI. Between us we knew enough to indict the organization (in our consciences) on multiple counts. Our pooled experiences and knowledge broke the spell and we walked out. I left TWI over 20 years ago.
What I remember most of the reasons we left were:
1) It dawned on us at last that TWI was not a Biblical Research organization. It was a one man show. No one was interested in critically examining or correcting any of VPW's doctrine or teachings. Anyone with any technical skill at Biblical languages could see lots of areas for improvement. But oh boy what a ruckus if you mentioned any of them.
2) The finances of TWI were being used to buy big toys for VPW - planes and such. WOW's were out in the field actually trying to win converts and were impoverished, eating macaroni and cheese for a year.
3) The burden of trying so hard to believe a mass of silly opinions finally grew too great. Once you let yourself be honest about what you really think about a particularly ridiculous stance taken by TWI leadership it opens the way to reevaluate the bulk of the teachings. Just one example - a thing that did strike me as odd was VPW's propounding that 6 million Jews were not exterminated by the Nazi regime. Why would he teach such a thing? Was I obligated to believe this? If he could rewrite recent history and be so blatantly wrong, even dishonest, what was he doing with his Biblical teaching?
4) The Way Corps leadership was sadistic, arbitrary and mean-spirited. Tiny, invented "infractions" were rewarded with hours of yelling and/or menial labor. I remember a friend who in his own time (try to find time in the Way Corps program unless it is after 11PM and before 5AM) did a fancy part job on the Corps leader's motorcycle. The pin stripe was not in his favorite color. He had to do it all over again.
5) And most importantly we decided that the dreams we each privately held of reforming the organization from inside were unrealistic. The time and place and occasion where we could accomplish a reform was never going to arise.
At the time, I remember reading the book They Thought They Were Free (the Germans 1933-45) by Milton Mayer. One section, chapter 13, which I have just reread this morning after many years concerns how gradually the abuses of the Nazi's worsened, and how this was tolerated by the German people.
"Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained, or on occasion, 'regretted,' that unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these 'little measures' that no 'patriotic German' could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field see the corn growing. One day it is over his head."
Discussing Pastor Niemoller "when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but he still did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something - but then it was too late."
"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't wan to act, or even talk, alone; you don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it so not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty."
"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside in the streets, in the general community, 'everyone' is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none."
From the almost incredible accounts I have read on the web it seems that incrementally Way followers have surrendered all privacy and independence to Martindale. One key tactic TWI used during my years with great success was to keep you so busy, so tired and so slightly off-balance that you have no time to think. The off-balance bit was achieved by constant reproofs being issued for multitudinous trivial infractions.
I assume that Martindale fabricates a continuous stream of crises, each of which poses a new threat to the community, each justifying a further restriction of liberty, thought and action. I am surprised at the incredible amount of control Martindale is exercising over his flock. I hope as it continues to get more extreme more followers will see through it and gather the courage to leave. From the accounts viewable on the web it seems:
you can't serve God and have a pet; you aren't capable of driving alone
you can't go 40 miles away from home without permission
you can't spontaneously have a group of folks over to your house without permission
you can't have a mortgage; you can't make up your own teachings, but must parrot Martindale
you are told when you are allowed to be pregnant; you have to submit weekly schedules and get them approved
you have to weigh the proper amount; your finances are subject to scrutiny
you can't write a paper stating that adultery is bad (duh) without being purged
you can only marry from a select group
I see no reason to doubt those that have written these stories, but even if only half are substantiated or unexaggerated it is a sorry state of affairs. Certainly the most condemnable intrusion into people's lives is the pregnancy restrictions. How much heart ache and how many abortions has that caused? The pet ban is simply sad. Even in my own macaroni and cheese days I could afford a cat. This is abundance?
Do TWI believers look forward to the day when these restrictions will be lifted? Will the word go forth from HQ that you can now get a cat or a dog under 25 pounds? That you can have a baby at 31 years old instead of 35? Ridiculous. What will the next dictate of loyalty be? What corner of people's lives will Martindale find to invade? What, if anything, is left? I'd hate to give them any more ideas.
Here is a message for any one still involved in TWI - things are not gonna get better. You're not gonna be able to reform it from inside.
Leaving was the best thing I ever have done. It was a difficult decision that once acted upon brought immediate relief and positive results. I walked out of a closed community into a world where I thought by leaving the Way behind I would have no ties, no friends, no life, no driving ambition. Instead, I found family ties, friends, a life that was my own to lead with plenty of things to do. It took time to heal and to rebuild, which is normal after any kind of separation, of course. I am most thankful that I got out in time to reestablish my relationship with my parents before it was too late and they were gone.
Thanks for compiling and making public the information on TWI on your web site. I am sure the balanced, objective approach taken is helping many individuals recover from or avoid the damage TWI can do.
Thomas J. (T. J.) Johnson
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