After divorce, the ex-spouses often try to turn their children against each other. However, this problem is much more intense when one of the parents is an ex-follower of The Way International (TWI) while the other remains in TWI. (TWI is called a "cult" by many who research cults and new religious movements). TWI typically poisons the children's minds in such a way that they reject and fear the non-TWI parent. Many ex-Way parents have contacted me to express their grave concerns.

When children are in the custody of a parent who is in TWI, the group continues to harm the children and causes more conflict between the ex-spouses than there would be if TWI was not involved. Since those in TWI believe they have theological reason to attack their ex-spouses, the attacks are more intense and focused, and are seen as obedience to God.

Here are ways in which TWI manipulates children and adults, turns children against non-Way parents, and causes emotional damage in participants (quotation marks denote phrases used in TWI):


One of the most damaging aspects of TWI is the ability of its leadership to control many of the thoughts and actions of its followers using tactics of mind control. This is not strictly speaking "brainwashing" (which uses physical abuse) but is the use of emotionally manipulative tactics to direct a person's attitudes and behavior. Steven Hassan, in his book Combatting Cult Mind Control describes several features common to groups which use such tactics of mental coercion, including,

+ making followers fearful that terrible things will happen to them if they disobey leadership or leave the group. Way leaders say that if followers disobey, they will be "outside the protection of the household," and so they "will be a grease spot by midnight," that they will be involved in a terrible accident, and that they will destroy their relationship with God.

+ requiring followers ro obey leadership strictly, even on seemingly minor issues, and even when obedience damages the followers' lives. For instance, they are compelled to sell their homes if there is a mortgage of any size (even if rental rates are much higher than the mortgage payment), quit a job and move to a new city to be near leadership,

+ inducing thought control by requiring recruits to use only approved language and jargon (we have a list of about 40 examples of required jargon)

+ causing followers to block out all information from outside the group. They are required to burn literature which was written by former followers of TWI who left TWI, even if the content of the books does not contradict current TWI teaching. They are not allowed to read literature critical of TWI, are told not to read teaching by any religious group except TWI and are taught that even distributing the Bible without TWI teaching will mislead people.

+ isolation is established by requiring followers to end all outside activities (including children's school activities) in order to devote long hours to group meetings and work

+ "confronting" errant followers by yelling, screaming, cursing, haranguing and verbally battering followers until they obey leadership

+ compelling youth as well as parents to "renew their minds" by submitting themselves to constant indoctrination, including TWI publications, classes, taped sermons, and so forth. They are compelled to attend Way meetings several nights a week, usually at the expense of all other school, community and family activities.


TWI freely condemns everyone outside TWI (and often those in it as well) of being "possessed by devil spirits." The parent who is a Wayer considers the ex-spouse to be spiritually in error, stuck in "negative believing," a tool of the devil to oppose TWI, and probably "possessed by devil spirits." The Wayer often tells the children to be wary of, resist, not obey or avoid the ex-Way parent in order to protect themselves from the influence of their parent's devil spirits. The most common and vicious claim is that people are possessed by "homosexual devil spirits." Way president Craig Martindale saves his most severe condemnations for those he thinks may have any homosexual leaning (including people who are clearly heterosexual), and teaches in his basic "The Way of Abundance and Power" classes that homosexuality was the first sin ever committed, and is the most heinous of sins.

Therefore, Way leaders often assert that non-Way parents are possessed by devil spirits, and warn their children to be wary of or fear their parents because of this. It is easy to find "reasons" to believe that a non-Way parents is possessed, partly because the list of potential devil spirits is so long and varied.

The founder's "Advanced Power for Abundant Living" class, on which TWI's current teachings on devil spirits is based, listed more than 31 varieties of devil spirits, including: Spirit of Anti-Christ, of Bondage, of Error, of Fear (in any realm of life), of Jealousy, of Emulation (ambition), of Envy, of Infirmity, of Iniquity, of Leviathon (alcoholics), of Oppression, of Depression, of Hallucination (often from drugs), of Cancer, of Murder, of Epilepsy, of Lesbianism, of Sensuality, of Obsession, of Sadism, of Lying, of Deception, of Python, of Masochism, and many more.

Followers of TWI can easily see many more devil spirits in non-Way parents, even when they aren't actually there. Especially a Spirit of Strife (people who argue-- common among divorced parents with differences regarding custody), of Slumber (people who can't see and entirely obey the Way version of truth), of Whoredoms (especially not worshiping the Way version of God; therefore, in most anyone in any religion or church other than TWI), a Morbid Spirit (sickness), Sordid Spirit (foul language), and Sullen Spirit (introvert, sourpuss, unsociable, which may well be confused with the sadness of being recently divorced and under attack by a Way ex-souse), Spirit of Python (being critical, as any ex-Way spouse would be of TWI), and other devil spirits.

Since devil spirits can harm people, children are taught by TWI to avoid people, including parents, who may be possessed.


TWI's current practice of "purge, mark and avoid" (which are TWI terms) is another means TWI uses to put wedges between children and a parent who is no longer in TWI. TWI has taken great pains in the last ten years to "purge" its ranks of those who do not give Way leadership their complete allegiance and obedience. Leaders "confront" followers who leaders consider to be weak or in error, which often includes persuasion and even verbal abuse. This aggressive confrontation has been strongly promoted in leader training, Sunday services and The Way Magazine, which are distributed to all of its followers.

However, when followers do not immediately obey leaders and respond to every one of their demands, leaders "mark and avoid" them. In other words, leaders tell them to stay away from all Way activities, and tell all "faithful" followers to have nothing to do with them-- not even to speak to them. Therefore, the ex-spouse avoids the non-Way parent as much as possible and teaches the children to do the same. TWI pressures children to choose obedience to Way leadership (which to them is obeying God Himself) rather than (not in addition to) developing a relationship with the non-Way parent. "M & A" is often a factor causing divorce between spouses, and becomes a factor in children "divorcing" the non-Way parent.


Way teachers typically verbally attack anyone who is not in TWI, so as children accept TWI teaching, they tend to turn against parents and family members who are not in TWI. Profanity and name calling are typical in the language of Wayers and Way leaders. TWI President Martindale sets the example, since he peppers his conversation, lectures and even sermons with profanity. In a brief, 15 minute impromtu talk to his followers during a Sunday Night Service (May 4, 1997), he called his critics "morons," "snot-nosed punk," "can't find their _____ in the dark," full of "devil spirits," "not have two brain cells to rub together," etc. He identified the local newspaper as "St. Mary's puke sheet" and mused at how wonderful it would be if all journalism and law schools were burned down. In less public settings he is even more profane. Since children comonly hear Wayers and Way leaders call their non-Way parents profane and derogatory names, this reduces their respect for their non-Way parents.


Wayers believe that only they have "holy spirit" with the ability to understand spiritual things and to hear from God. Therefore, everyone else is "natural man," and can't be trusted to have right thinking and believing about anything. Therefore, children are taught not to trust, accept, rely on, or act on anything the non-Way parent says, since it is bound to be wrong and lead them away from the truth and into all kinds of harm (to TWI, physical, psychological and spiritual harm are all intertwined).


Wayers are taught that the President of TWI is "The Man of God" and that they must give allegiance to and obey him in all things, no matter how insignificant, and even if it appears that he is in error. Wayers are also told to obey local leadership, especially the "clergy" and "Way Corps" who have graduated from TWI's leadership program.

Anyone who closely views the lives of Wayers is amazed and shocked by how Way leadership control every aspect of their followers lives, from the smallest to the largest. Leadership tells followers who to date, who to marry (and not marry), when to separate or divorce, how to spend their time and money, when to sell their house, where to live, when to change jobs, how to discipline their children, and the list goes on. In recent years, leaders have told Wayers to vacate certain towns and move close to leaders (sometimes hundreds of miles away, as when Wayers in St. Louis were all told to move to Columbia, MO in 1998) in order to be under their "protection."

Leaders control their followers mainly through fear. Leadership convinces followers that if they do not obey on every point, the followers will: 1) be "confronted," which amounts to severe and sustained verbal attack and abuse; 2) terrible things will happen to them, like accidents, illness or death; 3) Way leaders will convince all other Wayers to "mark and avoid" them-- that is, to avoid all contacts with them, even if they are spouses or immediate family. Since children are especially vulnerable, non-Way parents are concerned that their children will be dominated and controlled by uncaring Way leadership (which will be reinforced by the parent who remains in TWI), and have little or no personal freedom.

This problem is even worse when the woman is the ex-Way parent. Wayers are taught that wives must obey their husbands in all things, and many husbands use this as a reason to severely subjugate their wives (this autocratic and pejorative attitude intensifies when the woman leaves TWI). This is partly due to TWI belief that the very first sin on earth was Eve's lesbian relationship with the devil.

For these reasons, many believe that children are in a psychologically and emotionally unsound environment when they are in the custody of a parent devoted to TWI. Furthermore, children are at an increasing degree of risk the more they are exposed to TWI through parents who are Wayers. Therefore, in order to protect children and maintain family relationships, it is very important to consider involvement with TWI when making child custody and visitation arrangements.

Many articles which further describe teachings and practices of TWI and letters from former members may be found at our web site (www.empirenet.com/~messiah7). TWI claims that its

followers are free to make independent decisions, but use many tools of mind control to manipulate them.

Dr. John P. Juedes

C. 1998 messiah7@empirenet.com

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