Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Yellow Star

My wife and I wear one… as many of those I know. It is a good metaphor for those who are like us in life experience. The ones at one time embraced and even perhaps led others in a dysfunctional religious group but now have departed the group. In a dysfunctional religious group, there are only rare occasions of parting ways amicably. It is most always jagged and painful. It is at that point the yellow star is placed firmly. While in the months or years that pass before the point when one physically leaves the group, the star is already placed on them in the minds of those who remain. How is it so? It is a gradual process of separation and in that drifting, there is much pain and anguish on the one finally and permanently marked. Who walks in the shadow of the yellow star? It is those that perhaps see a little differently or do not march fully and absolutely to the cadence of the leader, these are seen as the pariahs of the group. The sub-par and perhaps subnormal: ones that eventually break with the group. It is these that  know the pain of this marking. The tragic thing is even if the person so marked succumbs to the pressure brought to bear, the mark is only covered over, never really expunged. It never is taken away, it is always there as a reminder of the ordeal and always present for those who are struggling to break with the group yet remain. In the end should that person leave under any circumstances, the mark is what they refer to  and so show that  ‘they never were fully with us’. It is a crude and malformed interpretation of 1 John  2:19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Can the above scripture be used to cover over the acts of abuse? I think not. What I have learned in my studies is that scripture cannot be applied in such ways. The point being it must be applied to the context of the scripture. In this passage, John is talking about the proto-Gnostics who believed in an amalgam of Greek philosophy and Christianity. He was trying to warn the people and explain why some left when their teachings were resisted by the readers of the epistle. There is a stunning conclusion:  these were NOT believers in Christ but were seeking to live off the flock through their teachings.

In most cases the above scriptural application does not apply at all UNLESS the premise is made that the ones who left were in some way malformed or subnormal. This is the main manifest of a dysfunctional religious group: it treats those who are a part of the group who are not fully embracing the teachings of the group as somehow abnormal. I had it put to me this way ‘they were not converted’. In some way the work of Christ in their lives was not complete. I might add that the viewpoint they hold of other believers is much the same – anyone not in their sphere are assumed to be mongrels in the faith and not true followers. This in itself is a conundrum to me now. The real question is IF Christ does the work and is the sole implementer of the work, then how is it that some who believe in Him are malformed? We are only the clay and He is the potter. In other words, there cannot be any mistakes because He who performs the work is perfect.

Yet in the dysfunctional religious group, there is no such application. Why? Because it leaves the leaders powerless and they cannot be seen or perceived as a determining factor in those they lead to obtain salvation to ANY degree. Thus proper application of the scriptures would cross-circuit the leadership. So what is the answer for them? Inject acts or teachings that cause dependence on them from their members—this is the spirit of the anti-Christ (true Greek: anti means substitute). It is very akin to those proto-Gnostics identified and warned against in the first epistle of John. So, being unscriptural, the group devolves from perhaps a healthy group into dysfunction dragging members along with them down into the maelstrom of abuse. Why? There is no accountability to anyone. There is no check or balance – the word of God is used as a club to bludgeon instead of free. If there is a dissenting voice, the yellow star is threatened to be applied and eternal damnation looms. I know, I was told I was eternally damned when I was ejected from the group in which I was a part. How anyone can make such a statement today is beyond my understanding and reveals the true nature and spirit of the one who wrote it.

How can any group do such things? It is in our fallen nature. One of the most compelling examples of the stages of abuse is the progression of the persecution of the Jewish people in pre WWII Germany. Here is the progression.

1>    In the beginning, the Jewish people were blamed for the state of affairs in Germany in the early 1930’s. All sickness of the nation was due to this pariah. In the dysfunctional religious group, there must always be a scapegoat and it usually some of the people’s old sin nature that is deemed out of control by the leaders. Someone to point to as a problem and infectious force that threatens the fiber and future of the group.

2>    Secondly, because they were not of Aryan descent, they were sub-human and were placed in with the physically and mentally handicapped therefore a drain on the society and nothing more that those who took resources but contributed nothing. The de-humanizing of a race was soon underway. They began to be perceived as no longer human. How does this apply to a dysfunctional religious group? Very much so. Remember I mentioned above that those who did not adhere to the group fully were seen as not ‘fully converted’? Thus the de-humanizing process is begun. Funny thing is for the most part, everyone is in this state unless they are a part of the inner circle. This usually means only a few and most of those are usually family members of the leadership or the fiercely and blindly loyal – more zealot than true disciples (there is indeed a difference!). They become the master-race. All aspire in the group to reach such status…to become human and the only way to that is to pledge unflinching loyalty to the leader. This in itself is chillingly present in the dysfunctional religious group. The pledge is not made to the teachings, nor the divine as much as to the one that originates the teachings and so the way to the Divine. In Germany at this time, oaths were made not to the nation but to Hitler and these oaths were to the death. These acts of submittal are replete in a dysfunctional group and go beyond any scriptural application of submission.

3>    Third, they were cloistered (that is a mild word of a ghetto) from the rest of society and left to starve and work unceasingly for the Reich. How does this apply? It is a further step in de-humanizing, the member who dissents is tolerated under the guise of forbearance but every sermon directly addresses them and denigrates them in some off hand and indirect accusation or insinuation. Everyone in the group knows who is being pointed out. There is an intangible separation that begins and increases to where the person is ‘there but not there’. Yet the giving of tithes is still expected and may become a major point of contention between the dissenter and the leaders. The person is seen as only a source of income to the group and nothing more – the star has been firmly placed. In the Polish ghettos where the Jews of Germany were eventually shipped as cattle, they were so marked. Them and their children. This had untold damage upon those that wore them. They were a part of a society that rejected them and told them that they were nothing better than an animal; the sludge of the Reich.

4>    Fourth, the Jews were eventually sent to camps where there was no return. There was a void of compassion and care. They were simply a nuisance that must be dealt with. The zyklon b was dropped in the showers and the bodies piled and the furnaces burned to heat the homes of the leaders. Their final use was in their death.  They were used to reinforce the leaders’ treatment of them and to cast a fear into the remaining society that they too could be so marked and processed. The Stockholm Syndrome was in full play. And so it is in a dysfunctional religious group. Many times ex-members are pointed to as examples of failure and regression back into the ‘world’ as they call it. While those still on the inside grow fearful of such acts being performed on them and so further bond to the leaders all the more out of fear of reprisal. After all, in their misguided use of the scriptures, the verse of 1 John is invoked to cover the blood-letting.


They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.


A friend once told me as we were discussing the group (both of us ex-members). He said to me if there were only a few bodies, then it would be said by a passerby ‘What a tragedy’ but when the bodies are so many, it would be said ‘What is happening here?’ I thought that was a good analogy for what is going on.

When some leave, they do not continue in the faith but lose it. They are seen doing all sorts of things that are no doubt stretching the bounds of the Lord’s grace and patience but do I believe that it is their fault? No I do not. These who have left the dysfunctional religious group having the yellow star are in a great deal of pain. A good application is the experience of Elie Weisel who was imprisoned in one of the death camps:

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"For God's sake, where is God?"
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
"Where He is? This is where--hanging here from this gallows..."

 As I said, they take everything. I do not believe God will hold those who have experienced such at the hands of others without taking what was done to them into account. There is a compassion that Christ has for those who have suffered in such a way. His hand is even extended to those who refuse him now. My friend if you are like this, God is still awaiting your return to Him and in that pathway is healing and reconciliation to God. Be reconciled He Is waiting.

Does the yellow star ever leave? I would put it this way…how can it? When we meet or attempt to with estranged family (because they are still in the group), it is the yellow star they see. We are demonized and de-humanized in their eyes because of the teachings of which they are still under. It is easy to walk away, call the police, write nasty letters and benignly ignore those to whom the star is affixed. We are no longer human to them, we are the blight on their lives and no matter what we do, the star remains because it is tattooed on us.

In the Judgment, when we stand together with them before the seat of Christ, what will He see? He will see the yellow star marking the injustice and lack of humanity done in His Name.