My wife and I had just agreed to the arguments put forth via the use of circular reasoning, or logic, or if you are really fancy and use a bigger dictionary; Rhetorical Tautology. Rhetorical tautology is a constructed argument presented in such a way that the truth cannot be disputed. The argument self-references, thus making it unfalsifiable. It simply cannot be wrong because of how the language has been constructed. Surprisingly, this form of argument or ‘reasoning’ is used quite often by a surprisingly diverse bunch of people.
Perhaps my earliest encounter with this type of situation was with my mother whose actions in my early life could be summed up by this statement; “Because I said it you must do it and you must do it because I said it.” Argue with that logic and there would be a wooden spoon with your name (and a bunch of tape) on it, waiting for you.
However, it would be this idea of the weekly prayer meeting that would be our entrance into this whole new world, a world that within a very short period of time began to isolate us from friends and family, a world that within a few years would isolate us completely from everything else. In fact, this gateway of circular logic would eventually have my wife and I fearful of one another, unable to make a move without the approval of this pastor, leading us and directing us like Stromboli.
In other words – a cult.
We didn’t set out to join a cult. It just sort of happened along the way. Not only did we join it, but we ended up becoming founding members of it. By the time we realized what was going on it would take us another bunch of time to leave the cult and literally six months before my wife and I could begin the painful journey of talking to each other about it – let alone anyone else. Over the years since we have left we have helped a few others find their way out of it, but to this day the cult is still going, still drawing people in through this confusing and strange door called rhetorical tautology.
We invited the pastor and his wife over to our home to pray with them and to talk with them because they had just been removed unceremoniously from their church, where he had pastored for around nine or ten years. We enjoyed his preaching and his teaching and thought this could be a way to care for them. We chuckled when he said that he would see us next week and that one night’s visit turned into a weekly prayer meeting. When we brought it up with them a few weeks later, the ‘misunderstanding’ was that it was a prayer meeting, and prayer meetings are weekly, and so the assumption was that this was going to be weekly.
A few years later this skill was much more refined when we challenged the idea of what was happening as being a home church. The argument provided by this pastor without a church was that because we tithed to the home church that made it a home church and because it was a home church, we tithed to it. Our ‘tithing’ was a loving way of helping care for them but what was presented made sense that it seemed silly to try and argue against it. So therefore it was what it was and we adjusted our reality to fit the argument.
But, this journey began the day after that first visit after they had to leave their church.
On top of the weekly ‘meetings’, we were renovating our home and during that time we had asked our pastor to come over and help do some renovations that we would pay him for. He was looking for odd jobs while he figured out what to do next and we thought this would be a good way to help care for them, while helping us out as well. The joke was that we paid for the renovations to be done but the daily sermon he gave us was free.
Over the years, this evolved into selling his wife’s art in my place of business, hiring the both of them to do inventory counts, hiring both of his children as permanent employees and eventually hiring his wife’s twin brother.
It all made sense to me while it was happening.
In the beginning, when this journey was just starting and my wife and I had left the Baptist church because the pastor was removed, it would only be a short while before we started attending another evangelical church in the community. It was a great church to attend, the singing was good and the preaching was good and the fellowship was good. But there remained that ‘weekly visit’ to tend to.
These two weekly events began to create tension in our lives and eventually through the many, many ‘sermons’ we were listening to from our pastor slash renovator slash whatever the hell he was now in our lives, we were beginning to see the larger church as a place of disconnection from God. And so, at his prompting, we withdrew from the larger church and the larger community, eventually severing our ties with everyone.
What contributed to this decision was that during this same time we walked through some incredible personal trauma, which left us quite broken, vulnerable, and undiscerning. Who would have thought that it would be a short, balding, Baptist preacher that would rise up and take complete advantage of such a situation?