rock stars, true crime

R. Kelly… the making of a monster.

The first part of today’s post is reposted from my original Blogspot post from January 2019, when I binge watched Surviving R. Kelly, which aired on Lifetime at the time. Two years ago, Bill was away on business and I found myself watching too much TV. Last night, I finally binge watched the second part of the series, which aired in early 2020. I’m reposting my thoughts about the first part, because I think it’s relevant to the rest of my thoughts about this case. The featured photo is a screen grab from Dave Chappelle’s parody about R. Kelly’s abuse.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks watching more television than usual.  Yesterday, I binge watched Surviving R. Kelly which recently aired on Lifetime.  Although I am a musical person, I never paid a whole lot of attention to R. Kelly.  The only thing I remember seeing about him was a Mad TV parody song and a South Park episode.  I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Dave Chappelle’s take on his outrageous behavior toward young black women and girls.  Oh, and of course I’ve heard some of his music.  There is no denying the man is musically gifted.  Unfortunately, he’s also a predator.

R. Kelly as depicted on MadTV.

It was interesting watching that series, especially since I’ve also been watching shows about cults.  I’ve also started reading a book about a woman who was raised in the Children of God cult, which I blogged about last week.  Consequently, I now have cults on the brain.  I even dreamt about them this morning. 

After hearing some of the stories of the people who have been caught up in these restrictive groups, I’m beginning to think most of my problems are really small.  Imagine, being so warped in your thinking that you allow someone like R. Kelly to lock you in a bedroom and force you to use a bucket for a toilet.  Imagine letting someone like him do the most demeaning things as he calls you vile names and forces you to debase yourself.  The women were all young, beautiful, and talented, and most of them hoped he could help them launch their own careers.  I suppose on one level, they might have been trying to take advantage of a man with power that they wanted to share.  But then R. Kelly used his gifts to harm them.

People made a lot of jokes about R. Kelly back in the day… it was no laughing matter.

I think, aside from the stories I heard from the victims themselves, I was most affected by what their families were saying.  I can’t imagine the anguish they felt, especially the ones whose daughters basically disappeared.  I remember one mother saying that when a child has died, you know what’s happened to them and you know they won’t be back.  It’s much worse when a child gets involved in a “cult” that separates them from their families.  You don’t know what has happened to them, where they are, or if they’ll be back someday. 

In a way, I think Bill can relate to that thought.  He lost contact with his daughters for years.  They wouldn’t speak to him, and their mother basically prevented him from having anything to do with them at all.  It’s only been within the past couple of years that he’s been able to reconnect with one of his daughters.  So much of what I heard R. Kelly’s victims say, Bill has heard from his younger daughter.  These types of abusers convince their victims that no one will help them and no one loves them, at least not the way the abuser does.  It really does a number on a person’s psyche.

I was angry with my husband’s daughters for years, mainly because they were hateful.  In the back of my mind, I knew they were being victimized the same way Bill was.  But it still made me angry, because I felt like they knew better.  But honestly, I don’t know.  I think being around abusers can really fuck up a person’s mindset.  It’s frustrating for people like me, who don’t have a loving relationship with the victims.  It must be soul crushing for a parent.  I know it was for Bill.  It’s much worse when there’s sex involved.  For R. Kelly’s victims, it was all about sex, control, and power.

I listened to the mothers of R. Kelly’s victims, and a couple of the fathers, too.  Some of the family members had the distinct displeasure of seeing their loved ones engaged in videotaped sex acts with the singer, which later ended up as porn videos for sale to the masses.  I can’t even imagine how devastating that must have been on so many levels.  Perhaps today, I should watch something a little lighter, like 80s era sitcoms.

In any case, Bill’s weird schedule is done for this week.  We’re leaving town tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to it, because I need a change of scenery and a chance to have some fun.  Hopefully, we’ll have decent weather.  Next week, he’ll be TDY in Germany.  The week after that, TDY in the USA.  Then, it should be smooth sailing for the next couple of months. (ETA: in 2021– boy do I miss being this carefree… but I sure hate the long TDYs)

And now, my thoughts in 2021, having seen the second part of this series…

Yesterday, as I recovered from my traumatic morning and irritating visit to the vet’s office, I came home and watched the second half of Surviving R. Kelly, which aired on Lifetime about a year ago. In that series, survivors and R. Kelly’s relatives talked about what went wrong with R. Kelly to cause him to hate women so much.

R. Kelly grew up in a house full of women. From the age of eight until he was about fourteen, Kelly was sexually abused by an older female relative. He was also sexually abused by male relatives. He never said anything about the abuse, but it obviously affected him. As he developed his obvious musical gifts, writing beautiful, inspirational hit songs like “You Are Not Alone”, which Michael Jackson made a hit, and “I Believe I Can Fly”, which is a staple at graduations, a hatred was simmering inside of him.

As I listened to the stories told by R. Kelly’s victims, young women who had been asked to meet him or work with him and were lured into his “sex cult”, I was reminded of so many other stories I’ve heard. In my post from 2019, I mentioned my husband’s experience with his ex wife. Bill has told me many times that he believes his ex wife hates men. That hatred comes from years of abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to protect and nurture her.

This morning, I reposted several book reviews about the Josef Fritzl case. Fritzl, as some may remember, is an Austrian man who kidnapped his own daughter and kept her underground in a dungeon for 24 years. He repeatedly raped and impregnated her. But before Fritzl was a monster, he was also an abused child. He was raised by a woman who beat him. The beatings only stopped when he finally got big enough to fight back. But Fritzl’s mother was also an abuse victim. According to one of those books I read and reviewed, Fritzl’s mother spent time in a concentration camp for refusing to house German officials. She had been cold and abusive before she went to the camp, but was much worse when she came home.

It’s no secret that child abuse, particularly sexual abuse, is devastating and damaging on many levels. Hearing so many stories of people who turned out to be manipulative, cruel, and predatory, I notice how many of them turned into legitimate monsters when they became adults. It’s like they revisit the horrors of their childhood on anyone they can. R. Kelly’s victims were mostly women who worshiped him for his talent and celebrity. He started with them the way many toxic people do… luring them with promises of help with their careers, superficial charm, and “love” that they weren’t getting at home.

Jerhonda, one of the women whose story I listened to yesterday described her mother as “uncaring”. She said her mom literally wasn’t interested in where she was or what she was doing. I was astonished by her story. She is a beautiful young woman, talented and intelligent, who had no adults in her life who cared about what happened to her. She fell into R. Kelly’s clutches. He was very nice to her at first, and seemed to care about her. It was like a drug, that regard that her mother had denied her. Once he had her trust, he her where he wanted her. That’s when Kelly changed and became an abusive monster.

Dave Chappelle makes fun of R. Kelly… This is much less funny now that I’ve heard from the women who were his victims.

Story after story was the same… and when one of the women was finally brave enough to say something to authorities, they didn’t believe her. So many of those women wound up suing R. Kelly and getting settlements that required them to stay silent. One woman named Lanita Carter, 24 years old and the mother of three when she met Kelly, was hired to braid his hair. He barely paid her for her work, but because she was associated with him, she picked up more clients. She fell prey to him, too… and finally had enough when he ejaculated on her face. He asked her for a “head massage”. She said she didn’t give massages, and he clarified that he was looking for her to massage his other “head”. He demanded oral sex and spat on her repeatedly.

Carter woke with her eyelashes sticking together with Kelly’s semen. One would think this egregious assault– especially one that could have significant health consequences would be enough to garner interest from the police. Imagine someone having so little respect for another human being that they’d do something as horrible as what Kelly did to Carter. She wasn’t the only one who received that extreme level of disrespect, either. R. Kelly was notorious for debasing his women with his body fluids. I can only guess it comes from lingering hatred of someone who abused him when he was a powerless child.

But when Lanita told the police about what R. Kelly did, they interrogated her. And when they went into R. Kelly’s home, they demanded that she give them information about the place that only someone who had been there would know. Carter was able to give them the information. They gathered evidence… but Kelly still wound up being sued instead of incarcerated for what he did. And when Carter spoke to the Chicago based personal injury lawyer who arranged settlements with Kelly, she wasn’t believed because– get this– she was TOO OLD! Carter eventually got two settlements from Kelly– one for $650,000 and the other for $100,000, which Carter got because Kelly wrote a song about having sex with the woman who braided his hair. Kelly was allowed to maintain the status quo, victimizing more girls and young women. In her interview, Lanita Carter says that the money didn’t heal the damage done to her.

I was also moved by listening to the women talk about how Black people, particularly women, are discouraged from reporting crimes to the police. This is because Black people are typically “over-policed” in the United States, and calling the police is seen as a betrayal of the community. So predators like R. Kelly, who are already surrounded by “yes people” due to their talent, money, charisma and fame, continue to get away with abusing other people unabated.

R. Kelly comes unglued during an interview with Gayle King.

It wasn’t until the first part of this documentary series was released that R. Kelly was finally arrested and held accountable for his crimes against women. It’s shocking that it took so long and the cooperation of a cable channel to make R. Kelly accountable to the law. He is now in prison, awaiting a trial on federal charges. His music is tarnished, and he’s left so many victims in his wake.

I couldn’t help but notice one victim, Joycelyn Savage, was so entrenched in R. Kelly’s lies and abuse that at the end of the documentary, she was still in Trump Tower. She was still loyal to R. Kelly, and her anguished family continued to pray for her return. Savage is one of several of Kelly’s victims who came from a caring family. I was struck when I heard that Kelly had a place in Trump Tower. It seems rather appropriate that a notorious sex offender would live in a building named after another notorious sex offender and egregious hater of women like Donald Trump. And when I heard her insist that she was “happy” with Kelly, it reminded me of listening to people entrenched in cults.

People are still championing R. Kelly, just as they are championing Donald Trump. R. Kelly is truly disgusting… but the person he is didn’t form in a vacuum. He was a victim of abuse. I’ve heard so many stories about “monsters” who were victims when they were children. This is why I think we must pay more attention to child abuse. It’s not something that should simply be survived. I think about how many people could have been spared the horrors of R. Kelly’s adult attempts to exorcise his demons if someone had simply helped him escape his nightmarish childhood.

If you can stomach watching the series, I recommend it. It’s a good warning about child abuse, as well as becoming too adoring of stars. They have clay feet, just like the rest of us do.

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Ex, mental health, politics

When QAnon brings estranged family members together…

Yesterday, I read a sad article in The Washington Post about how people have lost family members to QAnon. It began with a compelling description about how 24 year old Tyler watched as his mom stocked up for an imagined armageddon. She brought home ammunition, a water purifier, camping gear, and shelf stable food. She started wearing a holstered pistol just walking around her house, believing that there would be days of power outages and civil unrest.

Tyler’s mom told him that on March 4, 2021, there would be massive chaos. That would be when Donald Trump would return to power. March 4, for your edification, is the original Inauguration Day prior to the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1932.

Tyler had been living with his mother since he graduated college in 2019. They were located about an hour north of Minneapolis. As the 2020 elections approached, Tyler watched as his mom became more and more entrenched in baseless conspiracy theories and outright lies. Based on the WaPo’s article, I can assume that she turned into someone he no longer knew. Complicating matters was the presence of Tyler’s stepfather, who is apparently just as entrenched in QAnon.

The confusion in the household and worry Tyler experienced prompted him to seek help online. Last month, Tyler found the Reddit group, QAnonCasualties, which was founded by people who had watched their families fracture over the political climate in the United States. He explained to the moderators of the group that his mother and stepfather have a lot of weapons and are convinced that World War III is about to commence.

Making matters worse is the fact that Tyler hasn’t been working. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism, Tyler had graduated from a local university with a degree in manufacturing engineering. He quit his job in early January because he hoped to find work that would make use of his newly minted degree. As of yet, he hasn’t found new work. As Inauguration Day approached, he watched his mom grow ever more unhinged.

An old friend had stopped by with a wedding present, since Tyler’s mom had just remarried. Noticing the pistol, the friend asked Tyler’s mom if she planned to shoot anyone that day. And Tyler’s mom reportedly replied, “You never know what’s going to happen with the Democrats. They stole the election.” The friend told WaPo reporters that Tyler’s mom had once been a “wonderful” person who had invited her over for tea and gone kayaking with her. But now, it seems she’s gone completely off the deep end. According to the article:

To protect his family’s anonymity, The Washington Post is only using Tyler’s first name. In an email, his mother blamed her son for the tension in the house, writing that he was disrespectful and refused to look for work after leaving his job earlier this year. She added that she “never even heard of Qanon until very recently” and doesn’t “follow it,” but declined to discuss why she had begun purchasing survival gear and whether she believed Trump would return to the White House in March. “My beliefs about Trump are actually none of your business,” she wrote.

Tyler said he and his mother discussed QAnon one time; a bizarre conversation in which his mother insisted that QAnon prophecies were the product of artificial intelligence. He described an atmosphere of growing conspiracy and fear that pervaded his home. “It started a month before the election,” Tyler said in an interview, “and it kept growing until it felt like she was preaching the Bible to me.”

At first she insisted that Trump, not Biden, would be inaugurated on Jan. 20, and for a while Tyler held out hope that Biden’s swearing-in would jolt his mother back into reality. She would put away her gun and life would return to normal. But, the ceremony in Washington seemed to make little difference at his house in Minnesota.

Tyler truly hoped his mom would be more normal once Biden was inaugurated. He even posted online that she had seemed more “normal” on January 21st. But very soon, she went back to her old ways, insisting that Trump would be back in the White House. So Tyler decided to confront his mom, and that confrontation ultimately led to his being ejected from her home. She even threatened to have her new husband “hurt” Tyler.

Which brings me to the title of today’s post… up until this point, it sounds like Tyler’s family fell apart due to QAnon. But he found help from his other parent– his biological father and stepmother. Tyler had lost contact with his dad when he was a child and they had only recently reconnected. And Tyler’s dad and stepmother were willing to take him in, once Tyler’s unhinged mom tossed him and his belongings out of her house. On February 3, 2021, Tyler texted his stepmother, Heather, and told her that he’d confronted his mom, telling her that he didn’t believe in QAnon or any of his mom’s whackadoodle theories.

Half an hour later, Heather picked up Tyler, who was waiting in the front yard. When he got into Heather’s car, Tyler started to cry. Tyler is now sleeping in his 7 year old half sister’s bedroom. She sleeps in her parents’ room. Not long after the confrontation with Tyler’s mom, Tyler was contacted by his new stepfather, who wrote “When your daddy gets sick of you living there (and he will) don’t bother calling us.”

Those of you who regularly follow my blog might already know that my husband lost contact with his daughters after he and his ex wife divorced. A few years ago, one of Bill’s daughters finally reconnected with him. The other one remains estranged, and is apparently hopelessly entrenched in her mother’s sick, culty world. Last year, just before COVID-19 shut everything down, Bill visited his younger daughter for the first time since Christmas 2004. When she opened the door, Bill said the two of them stood there and shared a long overdue hug. And then they spent the whole two days of Bill’s visit debriefing each other about the events of the fifteen years they had spent apart.

I don’t know anything about Tyler’s mom, but although Tyler’s mom’s friend describes her as a “wonderful” person, I have a feeling that she’s another one of those people who hates her exes more than she loves her children. I come to that conclusion, not just because she fell into the QAnon cult, but because of a comment Tyler made to his stepmother. When he texted Heather that his mom had threatened to have his new stepfather “hurt” him, he also explained that he wasn’t actually worried about his safety. He wrote, “I’ve been dealing with this for years. It’s normal for me.

When Bill and his daughter met last year, Bill heard in more detail what it was like to grow up with Ex. There were many threats and promises made. There was a lot of “culty” thinking, not just in terms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Ex had insisted on joining a few years before she and Bill split, but also in terms of her own mini narcissistic cult. The girls were forced to write Bill letters disowning him and demanding that he allow their stepfather, Ex’s third husband, to adopt them. Ex had reportedly stood over them and made them write the letters, which she sent Bill just in time for his 42nd birthday.

Something tells me that Tyler’s current stepfather is not his first, since he wrote to Heather that this was not a new thing. Tyler’s mom evidently has a history of coming unglued, and probably sees Tyler as an extension of herself. And when Tyler didn’t want to fall in with her QAnon fantasy, she cast him out… the same way Ex does to anyone who won’t play along with her fantasies. I don’t know enough about Tyler’s mom to say I think she’s a narcissist, but my guess is that she has a “high conflict personality”. And as Bill and I have observed with his ex wife, who also has a high conflict personality, these types of people often get sucked into things as they blame everyone else for their issues. With Ex, it was everything from multi-level marketing scams to the LDS church. Granted, the Mormons didn’t turn out to be all bad. They did help Bill’s daughter escape her mother. But the church doesn’t give things without strings attached.

Younger daughter no doubt feels indebted to the church, and believe me, it’s not unlike the leadership to capitalize on that human need for reciprocity— that is, feeling obligated to reciprocate “kind actions”. There’s nothing wrong with that on its surface. Sometimes, however, “reciprocity” can be abused, and people wind up trapped by the need to pay back a solid, even long after the “emotional debt” has been repaid. This is how groups get control over people and stop them from living their own lives and thinking for themselves. Pretty soon, the lovebombing that occurs at the beginning of the relationship can turn into something sinister and toxic.

I have long believed that my husband’s ex wife runs her life like a mini cult. Anyone in her sphere has to accept whatever her conditions are, no matter how nutty or destructive they are. She’s allowed to do anything she wants, even if it’s criminal, because she had a shitty childhood and no one recognized how “special” she is. She’s allowed to abuse her husbands and her children because she was abused, and she’s allowed to take that abuse as far as she wants with no repercussions, whatsoever. Meanwhile, those of us who have been affected by her behavior and dare to speak out about it get raked over the coals and smeared. She went as far as to alienate Bill’s children, but she also did her best to try to destroy his relationships with his own parents!

Like Tyler, Ex has at least a couple of children who are on the autism spectrum, which makes them more vulnerable to her toxicity. Bill’s older daughter supposedly has Asperger’s Syndrome, and younger daughter has said that Ex’s youngest child, a fourteen year old son, is non-verbal due to autism. Bill’s older daughter, who will turn 30 this summer, still lives with Ex and has supposedly devoted her life to caring for her brother, who will likely never be able to live on his own. Meanwhile, whenever Ex gets pissed off at older daughter, she threatens to throw her out of the house, even though older daughter does the heavy lifting involved with caring for Ex’s son. Sounds a lot like what Tyler went through with his mom.

Incidentally, Tyler went back to his mom’s house about a week after he moved out to pick up his stuff. All of his belongings were thrown out on the front lawn, where they soon became covered with snow. He still hopes that his mother’s Trump fervor will fade and he will eventually be able to reconcile with her. He said, “I just don’t see the humanity in this. I wanted my family back, not this hatred.”

For Tyler’s sake, I truly hope he can reconnect with his mom. I hope she is, deep down, a reasonable and decent person who can grow up and wise up, and see what she stands to lose by continuing to submit to the QAnon bullshit. I don’t know what made her fall down the rabbit hole, but it would not surprise me if Tyler’s mom had some trauma in her life that somehow made her feel ostracized and persecuted. And the siren call of QAnon, which is full of butthurt delusional people must have been much too hard to resist– so hard that she’s willing to kick her own son out of her life.

It’s not that I don’t empathize with the abused. I have no doubt in my mind that my husband’s ex wife was severely abused by many people when she was a child. I can understand why she’s so traumatized. What I can’t abide is her habit of throwing away family members and forcing her children and husbands to disconnect with those of whom she doesn’t approve. It’s possible, or even probable, that Tyler’s new stepfather is partly to blame for Tyler’s mother’s actions. However, reading that he has only now reconnected with his father and his father and stepmother, who have apparently been together long enough to have a seven year old daughter, have welcomed him into their home, gives me a feeling that Tyler’s mom has some serious issues. And those issues, like Ex’s, make her vulnerable to falling into cults from which they never escape.

Sadly, more often than not, the best thing to do in such a situation is go no contact and cut all ties. I don’t think younger daughter has gone completely no contact yet, but she has definitely come out of the F.O.G. since she moved away from Ex. As hard as that is, and as sad as it initially was, in the long run, it’s the only way to find peace, autonomy, and freedom from chaos and drama.

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nostalgia, religion

Repost: When religious television isn’t that wholesome…

Every once in awhile, I like to repost content from my original blog that means something significant to me, even if my readers aren’t all that interested. After I wrote about Jerry Falwell Jr. yesterday, I was reminded of a religious cult in Virginia that I blogged about in June 2018. I’m going to repost that content today as/is, just so it’s easily available for the future.

Yesterday, I was perusing RfM and noticed a thread about a church in Virginia that encourages members to shun their children.  Since I’m originally from Virginia, I opened the thread and found a Washington Post article about Calvary Temple, a Sterling based Pentecostal church led by Star R. Scott.  I immediately, recognized the pastor’s name, and not just because it’s unusual.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about WYAH, an independent Christian television channel that was owned by Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and operated in southeastern Virginia.  WYAH no longer exists today, but it thrived in the era of over the air and basic cable television.  I grew up in the 80s and watched too much TV.  I often watched WYAH, not because of its wholesome and/or sanitized programs, many of which were religious, but because despite being a religious channel, they did air some funny sitcoms.  I remember WYAH played shows like Diff’rent StrokesWKRP in CincinnatiBensonThe Jeffersons, and my personal favorite, The Brady Bunch.  They also aired some of my favorite cartoons in the afternoons. When I wasn’t riding my horse, I’d tune in.  The censors would dutifully blank out any swear words.  Can’t be listening to any cussing if you’re a good Christian, right?

Another thing that WYAH had plenty of were religious ads.  In my last post about the network, I included some clips of ads that aired regularly on WYAH.  The videos I shared included some folks I had completely forgotten about, including Star R. Scott.  His ad for Calvary Temple and the weekly television show that used to air on WYAH on Sunday nights at 11:00pm had a memorable musical track that stuck in my head.


This is the show that aired on WYAH.  This particular episode is from 1986.  Check out Star R. Scott’s hair.


Skip to 4:26 and you can see the ad for Star R. Scott’s show, “Sword of the Spirit”.  It uses a vital, energetic soundtrack.  The music suggests the show will change your life for the positive.  The graphics suggest space… the future…  Listen to this message and your future will be vital and powerful.

In 1989, WYAH was sold and the programming turned secular.  The call letters are now WGNT and the channel no longer bears any resemblance to what it was during my childhood.  I’m actually kind of sad about that.  I like independently run TV channels.  They’re more interesting than channels that are part of a huge conglomerate and show the same programming.
I read the article in the Washington Post about Star R. Scott’s church, Calvary Temple, which was regularly advertised on WYAH.  To be honest, although I didn’t know about weird religions when I was a kid and wasn’t raised in a weird religion myself, I always kind of got creepy vibes from some the religious shows WYAH broadcasted.  Sometimes I used to watch The Rock Church Proclaims, which aired at about 10:00pm every Saturday night.  The church was kind of local, since it was based in Virginia Beach and run by Anne and the late John Gimenez.  The pastors used to sing and dance behind the pulpit to the music, which included a lot electric instruments… nothing like the organ and piano used at my very conservative Presbyterian church.  For some reason, it gave me the willies.

A clip of a service at the Rock Church from 1990, which is kind of like what WYAH used to air.  Lots of speaking in tongues, swaying to music, and dancing.  I’ve never heard anything bad about the Rock Church.

According to the Washington Post’s article about Calvary Temple, Star R. Scott’s church is quite abusive.  The story, written by journalist Britt Peterson, follows the experiences of several former members of Calvary Temple.  Ex churchgoers report that they were expected to shun anyone in their family, including children, who left the church.  In one case, a mother was ordered to send her 15 year old non-believing daughter away from the home because church leaders feared she would influence her 13 year old sister.  In another case, a mother decided to leave the church and four of her five children shunned her.

Scott is also accused of other kinds of abuses.  Former members report that they were required to send their children to Calvary Temple’s privately run school.  Although corporal punishment in public schools was banned in Virginia back in 1989, it is apparently still alive and well at Calvary Temple’s school.  Cynthia Azat, whose mother shipped her off to live with her grandmother at the behest of church leaders, reports that when she was attending the school in the 1990s, she would be paddled regularly.  At one point, she’d be paddled as often as daily.  Sometimes, she didn’t even know why she was being punished.  The paddlings were painful and humiliating; if a student moved during the strikes, he or she would get more.  Moreover, parents were expected to sign legal paperwork that would allow church leaders to discipline their children whenever they wanted to.

Here’s a Washington Post article about Calvary Temple from 2008 with more detail about Scott’s leadership.  Ten years ago, people were calling him toxic and dictatorial.  Below is a snippet from the 2008 article, detailing more abuses by Calvary Temple leaders.

About 400 members remain and are at the church most days for services or activities including fellowship breakfasts and student basketball games, former members said. Families are expected to send their children to Calvary’s school, which has classes from kindergarten through high school.

…others who attended the school say punishments ranged from spankings with a thick wooden paddle to spending the day outside digging, filling and redigging holes.

Charm Kern, a nursing student and mother, says she was traumatized by Calvary teachers telling her in her early adolescence that she was too overweight to be on the cheerleading squad. As punishment for being a “glutton,” said Kern, who is 20, she was tied by a rope to faster children and pulled during runs. She and her brother, who was also overweight, would be required to run while other children ate lunch, she said. By ninth grade, she was rebelling against her teachers, and pastors tried to place her and her brother with another family. Her parents pulled the family out of Calvary.

And further, from the same 2008 article,

Michelle Freeman, 48, left in December 2007 after church leaders and other members urged her to reject her son and her husband, who was not a member. Her son, Channing, had left Calvary as a high school sophomore, setting off heated debates between his parents, leading to their separation.

Channing, 18, wrote an essay this year at his public school describing terrifying dreams about God and Satan he had while in the church. Calvary, he wrote, has “stolen so much of my life. For eleven years I’ve been devoid of a real life. I don’t know what it’s like to live.”

Now, Michelle Freeman is among more than two dozen former members who gather for support. At a Loudoun Starbucks recently, Freeman cried as those around her talked about their wounded families.

In 2002, Star R. Scott’s wife, Janet, was dying.  Rather than mourn for his partner, Scott remarried two weeks after her death.  His new bride was a 20 year old woman named Greer Parker.  Scott was 55 years old and had told his congregation that the book of Leviticus forbade “high priests” to mourn; instead, they were to “take a wife in her virginity.”  He brought Parker up from the congregation after he finished delivering his sermon.

Six years later, there was another scandal within the church, when Scott’s son, Star R. Scott, Jr., and his then-wife sent an email to Scott Sr. accusing him of molesting his two nieces.  The email was circulated among church members.  Other allegations of Scott’s sexual proclivities toward young girls came out, although there were never any criminal charges brought against him.  Although Scott has claimed that the email was full of inaccuracies and “gossip”, he never expressly denied the accusations.

Star Scott is also not above wringing money out of his congregants.  Not only are they expected to tithe ten percent, they are also expected to give money to other projects, some of which never materialized, even when they’re barely able to scrape by.  Meanwhile, Scott owns several expensive cars and motorcycles, which he shows off regularly.  According to Peterson,

Scott started a race car ministry that, to this day, holds shows to display his collection of expensive cars and motorcycles. Around the same time, he led the church leadership to vote for independence from Assemblies of God, which had required that pastors tithe to the umbrella organization. Scott then rewrote the Calvary constitution to eliminate the traditional voting process and end financial transparency, according to several former members.

I could go on about what was in the Post’s article, but I think it’s best for people to read it for themselves.  I did find a few interesting YouTube videos about the church, including one posted by someone who is mentioned in Britt Peterson’s article.  Below, you’ll hear Pastor Scott preaching, sounding very belligerent as he refers to Mormonism as a cult…


“Okay, we’re a cult.  Now go on with your life.  What’s your problem?  What is your problem?  Go grab a Mormon and hassle him!”  

Pot… meet kettle!  Although to Scott’s credit, he does admit that his church is a cult.  Then he says that Christianity is a cult.  

I find cults fascinating.  There’s always a charismatic leader who convinces people to submit to strict rules and makes high demands of the cult members.  Those demands keep the members busy and prevent them from thinking about what they’re doing and how they’re being sucked dry and abused.  

This is an excellent video about cults.  I highly recommend taking the time to watch it because it very clearly illustrates what cults are and how they damage people. 

I guess the hinky feelings I used to get while watching WYAH were genuine.  For all of their sanitizing of sex and profanity from their programming, they were actually encouraging abusive cult leaders like Star R. Scott.  But since that channel was owned by Pat Robertson, I guess I can’t be too surprised.  Robertson himself is a bit of a nut.

You might get AIDS in Kenya…

And demons can attach themselves to clothes… This man once ran for president… I suppose he’s no worse than the man who is in the White House now.

Anyway, I’m grateful that I survived a childhood watching Channel 27 without being sucked into a cult.  But then, I did marry a man who was sucked into Mormonism, so there you go…


Another video about Star R. Scott and how his church has damaged families…  Be careful about the church you join.  It might be a cult.

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book reviews

Repost: A review of Born into the Children of God by Natacha Tormey

I am experiencing a touch of writer’s block right now, so I figure it’s a good time to repost another book review. This one appeared on my former blog on January 19, 2019. I am reposting it as is. Maybe later, I’ll think of something fresh. The Children of God religious cult is totally creepy. Rose McGowan and River Phoenix were both members at certain times in their lives.

Recently, I posted about the Children of God religious cult, which I saw profiled on a series about cults on the A&E network.  I was so fascinated by that particular episode of Elizabeth Vargas’ series about cults, that I went looking for books written by survivors.  I easily found Natacha Tormey’s book, Born into the Children of God, on Amazon.  I just finished reading her story this morning, so it’s time to review it before I forget the details.

I mentioned in my previous post about the Children of God, now known as “The Family”, that it’s a cult that was founded in California back in 1968 by the late David Berg.  Berg had been a non-conformist preacher who didn’t like mainstream Christianity.  He originally called his group “Teens for Christ”.  Early members included the late River Phoenix and his family.  They were basically very religious hippies.

Natacha Tormey talks about her experiences.

Into the 70s, the cult expanded internationally.  Members were spread into other nations in an effort to gain more cult members.  The men would canvas the streets trying to sell religious pamphlets while the women would “flirty fish”, using their sexuality to lure new recruits.  Although David Berg was himself an alcoholic, he did not allow members to drink alcohol.  However, sex was encouraged and celebrated.  In fact, sex was really what the cult seemed to be about more than anything, even though it was also very religious and members were supposedly living for Jesus Christ and trying to save souls from eternal damnation.  Unfortunately, child sexual abuse was also not uncommon. 

The cult members were very poor.  Whatever money they managed to rustle up, they had to give 90% of it to the cult.  The other 10% was theirs.  Since a lot of their money came from either selling religious propaganda from a cult leader or begging, you can imagine how that went.  However, one thing the Children of God did have going for them was musical talent.  The members, especially the children, were accustomed to performing.  In the 1970s, there was even a television special aired featuring the cult members.  It was broadcasted in several European countries.

Natacha Tormey’s parents, Marcel and Genevieve, are French.  Natacha, who was born in 1983, is their oldest daughter, although she is their fourth child out of a total of twelve children together.  Additionally, Marcel had a daughter named Therese with Leah, another cult member.  Tormey and her siblings’ earliest memories are of their lives in religious compounds among many “aunts” and “uncles” from countries around the world.  The very first lines of the book describe an incident Natacha had with one of her “uncles”, when she was living in Malaysia.  He had forced the children in the compound to collect ants, which he then cooked and forced them to eat.  After they ate the bitter, charred ants, they were forced to collect and eat fried grasshoppers.  Tormey writes that the grasshoppers weren’t bad.  In fact, they tasted kind of “nutty”.  I suppose eating fried grasshoppers was among the least “nutty” things Natacha and her siblings were forced to do when they were children.

In surprisingly lucid prose, Tormey writes about what it was like to grow up watching adults having sex in the open, being beaten for the slightest disciplinary infractions, getting schooling from whatever adult happened to be available, even if he or she was completely unqualified to teach, and being forced to wear rags and live in poverty in whatever country the cult deemed to send them to.  Tormey was born in France and is, in fact, a French citizen.  But she grew up speaking North American English and, aside from a few words her parents taught her, did not speak the language of her official country.  This became a problem when Tormey’s family was deported to France after having lived in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Island of Reunion for years.  Not only had she not lived in France and never learned the language, she also never really experienced her host countries.  She was basically kept on a compound, so she doesn’t even really have that much of a feel for the places she’s lived.  She wouldn’t know what neighborhood in Bangkok she lived in; she was not allowed to explore beyond the cult compound.

Natacha Tormey writes that the smell of Dettol, a disinfectant, triggers traumatic memories.  When she was growing up on the compounds, adults would “share” their partners.  Afterwards, they would spray themselves with the disinfectant, believing that it would prevent sexually transmitted diseases.  To this day, she has a bag that contains a “survival kit”.  It includes a compass, first aid kit, and a flashlight.  She carried it with her for several years after she escaped the cult at age 18. 

To be sure, Tormey’s stories of what it was like to be a child in the Children of God are interesting, but what was even more interesting to me was reading about what it was like trying to break away from the cult.  Although Tormey’s parents seemed to be basically loving and reasonable, they had many children and very little money.  The children were not raised in what cult members referred to as “the system”.  Consequently, they had very little schooling, no official documents, and no concept of how to live life independently.  Tormey writes of getting a job in Cannes, France while she was living with an abusive boyfriend.  Fortune smiled on her, and her boss was a kind hearted woman who took her under her wing and helped her become more independent.  But the process was difficult.  Tormey had been raised to believe she was in an army that would save the world from the Antichrist.  She was never taught how to function like a regular person does.

A Current Affair report on the Children of God.

I found Tormey’s book hard to put down.  She’s a good writer and her story is extremely compelling, if not very disturbing.  I was amazed by how many children her mother had.  After awhile, it got hard to keep them all straight.  This cult kind of puts the Duggar family to shame, though.  If you are interested in reading about cults or an anecdotal account of what it’s like to grow up in the Children of God cult, I would highly recommend her book. I see now there are two more parts to it. Maybe I’ll get around to reading them.

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book reviews

Reposted: Ron Miscavige explains why Scientology is “Ruthless”…

This review appeared on my original blog on January 29, 2017. I am reposting it as is.

It probably comes as no surprise to regular readers that I’ve been watching actress and former Scientologist Leah Remini’s recent series about Scientology, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. I am fascinated by so-called “fringe religions”. I also read Remini’s book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, which was Remini’s account of her experiences as a Scientologist. I learned of Ron Miscavige’s recent book, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me while watching Remini’s series. I decided to read the book because Ron Miscavige fathered Scientology’s current leader, David Miscavige, yet he and his second wife, Becky, still had to “escape” from the organization in March 2012.

Ron Miscavige and his first wife, Loretta, joined Scientology in 1970. Miscavige, a former Marine and professional musician, had grown up in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. Although he writes that he and Loretta had not been particularly suited for each other, they still managed to have four children. The eldest was Ronnie, followed by twins Denise and David, and then the youngest child, Lori. Miscavige and his family had joined Scientology at a time when its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, was still alive and well. Hubbard’s philosophies seemed to make good sense to the couple and they enthusiastically became involved.

The Miscaviges bought into the religion so much that they moved to England twice during the 1970s to spread Scientology to Britons.  They did this, even though the British government was trying to keep Scientology out of England.  All of the children worked for the church, along with their parents.   

When David Miscavige was about sixteen, he decided he wanted to become a member of the Sea Org, which is supposedly Scientology’s group of elite members. Because the Miscavige family was so gung ho about Scientology, they were fine with David moving away from the family to work full time for Scientology.  That was the beginning of the end of Ron Miscavige’s relationship with his younger son.  David Miscavige did very well in his work and eventually ingratiated himself into L. Ron Hubbard’s inner circle.  When Hubbard died in 1986, David Miscavige was there to take his place as head of the church. 

A few years ago, Ron Miscavige was minding his own business as he took care of a routine errand.  He was wearing a t-shirt with a breast pocket, where he had stashed his cell phone.  As he bent over in his car, he reached up to prevent the phone from falling out of the pocket.  He didn’t know that his son, David, had hired a private investigator to follow him.  When they saw him reach for his chest, they thought he was having a heart attack.  The investigator called David Miscavige, who told him that if Ron was having a heart attack, not to intervene.  According to Ron Miscavige, his son said, “If he dies, he dies.”

Ron Miscavige became aware of his son’s chilling comments when police officers informed him that they’d caught the investigator.  I suppose it was the great deterioration of the relationship between father and son that inspired Ron Miscavige to write his expose about Scientology and what a corrupt organization it is. 

This was not the first book I’ve read by a former Scientologist.  Besides Remini’s book, I also read Jenna Miscavige Hill’s 2012 book, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape.  Jenna Miscavige Hill is David Miscavige’s daughter and Ron’s granddaughter.  Her account, like Remini’s and Ron Miscavige’s, lends credence to my impression that Scientology is a scary cult that exploits and enslaves people. 

Those who read Ruthless will read about people who spend their  lives working for slave wages in the interest of spreading Scientology.  These people endure a prison like existence.  They do not have the freedom to leave the church.  They are told what to eat, where to live, what to wear, and what kind of work they will do.  They have their mail read and their phone calls monitored.  They live on guarded compounds.  When Ron’s brother died, he was accompanied to the funeral by two “minders”, who prevented him from speaking to his family.

Ron Miscavige writes that in many ways, being David’s father made his life as a Scientologist more difficult.  Even though he enjoyed some “perks” like getting birthday presents from John Travolta and Tom Cruise, David Miscavige was determined to show everyone that his family did not get any special treatment.  Consequently, David would go out of his way to make his father’s life harder.

I found many aspects of Ruthless fascinating. It’s amazing to me that in 21st century America, people are voluntarily signing up to be slaves to a religious organization. However, even though some of this book fascinated, other parts of it annoyed me. Toward the end of the book, I kept expecting it to end, only to be confronted with another chapter. The book could have been whittled down a bit. Also, although the book is co-written by Dan Koon, it could have used some polish. It’s not as well-written as it could be. Miscavige seems more interested in writing about how hurt he was by his son. He doesn’t explain why Scientology is a bad thing and, in fact, even implies that he still believes in some of what Scientology teaches. So the book becomes more about a tragic father and son disconnect than an indictment of an organization that exploits and enslaves people.

Of all of the books I’ve read about Scientology, I was most impressed by Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear. I would recommend that book to anyone wanting to learn about Scientology. Read Ron Miscavige’s book for a story about how Scientology tore apart a family and how one man devoted most of his life to promoting a cult. I think I’d give this book about three stars out of five.

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