Again, for your convenience, you can view the full interview by clicking here.
I've watched the interview several times and found it thought provoking. Last time I wrote about thoughts it brought up regarding mainstream Christianity. Now I'll focus on comments specific to the WMSCOG.
The End of the World?
There has been controversy about if and when the WMSCOG had made predictions about the end of the world. Rebecca was asked about this and responded that she had not been taught a specific date. She said that in fact it would be wrong for the church to teach a specific date because the Bible says no one knows the day. That part is true (see Matthew 24:36), though other ex-members and family of members report that they were indeed taught at least an end year.
Beyond that, I was struck by something she said at about 14:36,
"It could happen whenever. For, individually it could happen tomorrow. We don’t know… I could get in a car accident when I leave this place. No one knows that, that time frame when this is going to happen."She was talking about how any of us should be ready at any time because we don't know when our time will be up here on this earth. The part that confused me was her implication that she could die in a car accident that day.
The reason this confused me is that the WMSCOG teaches that those members who take the Passover are protected from disasters. They even have a video about it, which shows people claiming they were protected from fire, earthquake, accident, and more, all because they had taken the Passover. Accordingly, I would expect no fear or even thought in a member's mind about dying in a car accident.
Preaching to Your Family
Several times Rebecca made comments like this, at 20:50,
"I never told my family to change their beliefs. I never asked them to believe what I believe."Perhaps she never phrased it in just that way, but I have a hard time believing that she never preached to her family hoping for them to join the WMSCOG with her. This does not ring true for me for two reasons.
First, if her new faith truly was her "absolute happiness," if she had found her "true purpose" and "all the answers," and if she loved her family, why would she not share with them about it and want them to find all that too? It is only natural to want your family to join you in this new faith.
Second, the WMSCOG teaches that salvation is based on obedience, and obedience includes preaching. If she did not at least try to preach to her family, then she would not be obeying the requirement to preach. I wonder if Rebecca would like to go back and rephrase that.
Apparently Rebecca's family tried an intervention that did not go well, and it seems the effect was more traumatic than helpful.
At about 19:50, she was asked why her family would say that after joining the WMSCOG, she began "slipping away," was "sleep deprived," seemed not herself, and "talked to them less." Rebecca paused for a long time, and then rather than answering the question directly, began to describe what they did to her,
"I want you to imagine being locked in a hotel room against your own free will, and your entire family is there and tells you you cannot leave the hotel room until you see a cult counselor."She came back to this incident several times during the interview, frequently using the phrase "locked in a hotel room."
I have been in numerous hotel rooms around the world and have never seen one where a person can get locked in. Locked out, yes, but never locked in. The door will always open from the inside. It's a safety measure. I wonder if this is another occasion where Rebecca would like to rephrase herself.
After describing this failed intervention, Rebecca then gave the reason for her pulling away from her family. She said,
"Tell me that it's easy to trust your family after they do that to you.... They have discriminated against me from the beginning.... Every word that comes out of my mouth they consider it a lie.... How can you have a relationship with someone who thinks your brainwashed?... Their intolerance for what I want to believe is what has caused me to step away."This can be a vicious cycle. Family is concerned by changes in their loved one after they become involved with the WMSCOG. Member perceives this concern as an offense and responds with anger, withdrawal, etc. Family becomes even more concerned....
Later at 25:05, she said about her family, "They don't see how their own actions are affecting me."
It is true that our actions affect others' responses. I remember in the first year of my sister's involvement with the WMSCOG, I was completely unprepared with how to handle the situation. I'm certain I said and did things that were counter-productive because I didn't know the extent of what I was dealing with. But I was motivated out of love for my sister. Perhaps it was that way with Rebecca's family.
But it's important for Rebecca (and other members) to realize the same thing is true for them. Their actions affect their family's responses too.
Missing the Wedding
At about 30:00, Rebecca was asked about missing her brother's wedding. Arrangements were made, and she was expected to be there, and then she left a message that she would not be attending. The family was under the impression that it was because of the WMSCOG. Rebecca responded,
"“I chose not to go to the wedding based on personal circumstances at that time, having nothing to do with the church."I know other members have also missed significant family events such as weddings and funerals. These events are extremely important markers in a family's history and identity. They are experiences that connect the family together.
Unless you have a compelling and unavoidable reason, you can't miss these events without causing hurt feelings. And it's not like your nephew's birthday party that happens every year. Weddings, funerals, and that type of event happen just once. Miss it, and you don't get a do-over. Just read the advice columns. Letters about this kind of thing come up regularly.
That one sentence was all the explanation she gave. If it really had nothing to do with the church, she should have just explained the personal circumstances. She says she did visit her brother and his new wife later to offer congratulations, and it was after that that the intervention attempt happened.
Thinking back to how our actions affect others.... Rebecca would be fooling herself if she thought missing her brother's wedding would not cause a rift in the family relationship.
The "Arranged" Marriage
Rebecca's family believed she was part of an arranged marriage. I've heard other families worry about this for their loved one too, so I was very interested to listen to Rebecca's comment about it. It's at about 25:35 when she answered,
"It’s absolutely wrong. I fell in love with James, and people fall out of love. So, it was not a forced marriage by any means at all. We fell in love with each other; we met, and decided not to continue the, our relationship."That was... confusing. Does that mean they were married and then divorced, or decided to call it off before getting married? If it's not "forced," does that mean it was arranged but she was happy to do it? Her comment leaves me with more questions than answers. I wish she could have another chance to answer that and clarify herself.
Listening to Strangers
At about 23:06, when Rebecca was asked why she thought her family was attacking her faith, she said,
"I think it’s because they’ve talked to outside sources who have a negative view of the church. And they’ve chosen to believe those sources rather than their own daughter, their own flesh and blood."And later at 29:50, her message to her brother included this,
"I wish that you would believe me and trust me and not listen to complete strangers rather than your own sister."I've heard this type of comment before from other WMSCOG sources. The idea is that the family should believe their loved one's report and opinion about the WMSCOG, instead of believing information from "strangers"--other sources, such as the website you are currently reading. (However, I'm sure they wouldn't mind if the family listened to "strangers" who supported the WMSCOG, right?)
This works both ways. I hear from many families who are upset that their loved one is refusing to listen to "their own flesh and blood" and instead listening to "strangers"--the WMSCOG evangelists they just recently met. Rebecca's family would probably echo the sentiment back to her.
Once more, I say thank you to Today for bringing attention to this group, and thank you to both Rebecca and her parents for sharing their story. I pray for them and other families in the same struggle that they would find peace and restoration.