That’s me in the photo above, center of the back row, in the beige sweater between fathers holding their little ones. My future wife is seated at the far left in the second row, blue dress and white sweater, sporting a blue “head covering”.
For 15 years, from the late 70s until the early 90s, I was an ardent and respected member of “Smith’s Friends” (SF) — which now calls itself Brunstad Christian Church (BCC). Since 1980 when I moved to Seattle, Washington, I played important roles in the local chapter here, serving as music leader, as well as youth leader, conference organizer, and Secretary of its 501(c)(3) non-profit, Seattle Christian Fellowship (now called BCC Seattle Christian Fellowship).
I offer our story to give a glimpse into the motivations of those involved, to hint at the severity and extent of the malfeasance in Smith’s Friends/BCC — by what amounts to little more than a scratch in the surface of what happened in a case that wasn’t exceptional but rather the rule when people speak out in the cult — and to encourage others to come forward with their stories, too.
Not exactly table talk
No matter how formidable it might appear to those it’s injured, Smith’s Friends/BCC as the aggressor it now is cannot stand against the full weight of the truth about it — but that truth must be uttered before it can have its effect.
Too many people remain ignorant or in denial of what’s really been going on in Smith’s Friends and that its problems are long-standing, ongoing, and escalating. Far too many who do know what’s going on are afraid of retaliation — mostly from loved ones and friends, ironically enough — for nothing worse than being honest.
It all stops now.
Join me in shattering the strangling silence, wherever we find it. Silence in the face of abuse is not unique to Smith’s Friends. It’s everywhere our failure to speak out leaves bullies, thugs, exploiters and tyrants free to operate.
I have struggled for years with the implications of telling our story, especially the effect it will have on my family — not just on my sons but also on my ex-wife, all of whom I love deeply and dearly. At some point our stories must be told, weighing the pain of revealing sensitive personal information against the gnawing ache of mute decorum that leaves beasts free to inflict their nightmares, immobilizing their victims who fear that speaking up will provoke yet another beastly attack, then forcing them to turn against family and friends who otherwise would call the beasts out, assaulting and intimidating them speechless or shutting them out of their lives.
That shit’s been going on in Smith’s Friends for decades, long before I even knew the organization existed. I watched it happen and participated in it many times during my tenure as a “zealous brother”. From pregnant silences and raised eyebrows to backstabbing, slander, abandonment, ejection and, as I hear lately, outright beatings, bribes and extortion — this is how “shepherds” manage their “flocks” in any cult.
At some point we each must decide the time has come that — fear be fucked and beasts be damned — we won’t cow to them anymore. Then, defying their threats, intimidation and shame, that we open our mouths, declare ourselves and tell our stories. Until we do, we will find neither freedom nor peace, because by staying stuck in this particular closet we betray ourselves. No matter how understandable it might be that we abhor seeing them as beasts, our silence makes us complicit in enabling them to keep victimizing us and others.
I don’t know where the perfect balance lies between exposing too much and exposing enough so that others will understand the gravity of the damage that the likes of Smith’s Friends are capable of. I just know it’s time for me to speak. I hope I get it close to right. I really don’t want to hurt anyone, least of all my precious family.
Since the events below all occurred before the advent of the Brunstad Christian Church name and the BCC brand, during a time when even the label “Smith’s Friends” was frowned on by the group — we never used it to refer to ourselves — I’ll use “Smith’s Friends” for the organization and its members. That’s not to imply that its agenda and insidious practices have significantly changed. Despite its facelift, new policies, propaganda and organizational directions, all for the sake of public image to attract and retain as many customers as possible, it shares the same delusion that runs pandemic throughout the Abrahamic religions: empire-building. Since the early 90s when Kåre J. Smith carried out a takeover, the organization has radically upped its game. The wolf has grown far more vicious, brazen and ravenous under its fancy new sheepskin.
I met my future wife in 1978 in Arcadia, California , shortly before she with the Smith’s Friends chapter there moved to the Pacific Northwest. She went to Seattle, Washington, along with her close friends Henk and Helen Simons. In 1980 I moved there, too.
(Most terms in quotes are long-standing Smith’s Friends buzzwords, known in psychology as thought-terminating clichés.)
I was in my mid-twenties, so by no means a senior member, but I steadily took on responsibility and gained the respect of other members and the leadership. I spent a lot of time with Henk Simons, who was the local leader in Seattle for many years and highly regarded throughout the organization worldwide. My future wife was considered a “shining example” of a “sister”. We later found out that many who knew us had coupled us in their minds long before we got the inkling ourselves.
In 1984 we married. Our first son came just weeks after our first anniversary. Over the next nine years we had five more sons, in keeping with the group’s “joyfully receive all the children from the Lord” policy. We became one of the leading families in Seattle and my level of responsibility in the organization kept rising. Our marriage was solid and we grew closer as the years went by. We had no other expectation than to grow old together, watch our children and grandchildren grow up, and die one in the other’s arms.
Then “the revival” came in 1992. My wife and I “dove in”. For the next year we’d never been more engaged, alive, in love or connected with each other, with “the friends” or with life itself. It was the best year we had together.
Really, the sky is not falling
We were unaware that the decline into dementia of Sigurd Bratlie, the worldwide leader, had ushered in a power struggle over successorship, with Kåre J. Smith at the forefront, clearing a path for himself to the throne. We would later realize that the “revival” was concocted to give cover for his organizational coup.
Naively, in keeping with the call to “holiness” posed by the “revival”, I started speaking openly about the hypocrisy in Smith’s Friends, and word spread through the “West Coast” chapters (Oregon, Washington, and Montana) that something was up with “Brother Millard”. Local Smith’s Friends leaders at first met my questions and criticism suspiciously, then began misrepresenting me to leaders elsewhere and the membership at large as “speaking evil of the church and the brothers” — which later became their “proof” that I was “out to destroy the church”.
I have said from the start and want to be clear now: I never was and am not now “out to destroy” anything — except dishonesty, hypocrisy, abuse, bullying, tyranny, injurious exploitation and the like. If destroying those evils is tantamount to destroying Smith’s Friends/BCC then, by their own fright and alarmed reactions to attacks on evils that they should repudiate instead of defend, Smith’s Friends members identify their organization and themselves as under attack together with those evils, taking the side of the evils under attack.
Ironic for a “holiness” group, no?
That’s not just a clever flip of the language. It’s a clear and highly charged emotional reality displayed by Smith’s Friends members and leaders when they leap to the fore to counterattack anyone who levels serious criticism at their organization: for example, as did Bernt Aksel Larsen, Kåre J. Smith’s right-hand man and chief propagandist for the cult, in his article “No signs of credibility” published last year in a Norwegian newspaper.
Shoot the critic is SOP in cults and repressive regimes of all kinds.
So, if Smith’s Friends members are right, if attacking gross evils is the same as attacking them and their organization, it means that destroying Smith’s Friends would be a good thing! If it can’t be separated from its evils, why not sink the sucker? But if it can be salvaged, why not join me in eradicating its problems instead of shooting down the whistleblower as if he were a terrorist?
Given how they have implicated themselves, I seem to have more confidence in the goodness of the Smith’s Friends people and their organization than they do.
I don’t now and never did want Smith’s Friends destroyed. I want it fixed — though it could well be there’s a hidden message betrayed by their defensiveness. Maybe they know that their organization is beyond repair. I don’t think it is. I think the patient could survive surgery. It would, though, need to admit it needs treatment and stop pretending it’s the doctor. Still, if anyone were an authority on how far its malignancies have metastasized and the deterioration of its health, you’d think it would be Smith’s Friends insiders. Maybe its condition is truly terminal. I hope not. I hope instead that we can remove its cancers. Some guy with a scalpel isn’t necessarily out to do them harm. If he were, he’d have grabbed a machete.
After a string of leaders confronted me privately to shut me up during the latter months of 1992, under instructions from Kåre J. Smith, Henk and Helen Simons began slandering me, claiming that I was in an “evil spirit” that would “contaminate” anyone who contacted me or exposed themselves to my “teachings”. I was not aware of this until January, 1993, when members who had been approached by them related what they’d said. Given my interactions with Henk just prior to this, I was hardly surprised.
After several of us from Seattle and Salem, Oregon returned from a visit to Smith’s Friends headquarters in Norway, Simons told me that he had called Bernt Stadven, then the acting top leader worldwide pending Kåre J. Smith’s ascension, to see how our visit had gone. Simons made clear that Stadven’s answer — “There was not much we could do with them” — implied that we would be lost causes unless we “humbled” ourselves and “repented”. Simons also told me that Kåre J. Smith had personally ordered him: “You need to stop him!” — meaning me specifically.
Seeing that these tactics didn’t intimidate me, the Simons shifted their smear campaign into high gear, spreading news of my supposed spiritual delusions and rebellion against “the brothers”, visiting family after family in the West Coast chapters, personally warning them that I posed a threat to anyone who would not break off contact with me. Of course, I posed no threat — the threats were theirs, leveled at anyone who voiced resentment or objection as they and other leaders assassinated my character, trashed my reputation, and vilified not just me but my family and anyone who refused to turn their backs on us.
Go for the soft spots
For the next few months, one after another, members in Seattle and then other West Coast chapters began shunning my wife, our children, and me. The shut-out spread until it became near-total. It lasted for the rest of the year. Only a few families in Seattle and elsewhere continued communicating with us.
By this time in my life I was used to social ostracism. I was almost 40 and had stuck out like a religious nut in the work world for almost a quarter century. (I became a “born-again, Spirit-filled” Bible literalist when I was 17.) My wife had been a “stay-at-home mom” since our first son was born, so her social contact for the better part of a decade had been limited to fraternizing with “the friends”. For her, their rejection was like her birth family banishing her and her children, naked and cold, to a cage in the basement. It was hard enough for me to keep faith that I had not lost my way when our entire community rose up in such vigorous opposition. It was far harder for her.
The most hurtful aspect of these actions wasn’t just that people took them, but the eagerness, the enthusiasm, and even the self-righteous glee of those we’d long considered dear friends as they rejected us. My wife was as appalled as I was, probably more. At the time I had little clue how hard it was on her.
Again and again, leaders warned me that I was “headed out of the church,” something which I adamantly denied, having no intention of letting that happen. I finally realized that this wasn’t a prognostication but a promise, code for a veiled threat: If you don’t give in, we’ll railroad you out.
Having failed to cow me, leaders began demanding, “Humble yourself and repent!” — like a mantra chanted for no discernible reason or an incantation they hoped would eventually, magically take effect on the next reiteration. It was just prelude to the inevitable. They gave me nothing specific to humble myself and repent for so, of course, I declined.
Late in the fall that year, 1993 — after having my last real conversation with Henk Simons which revealed that indeed, incredibly, he thought I was gunning for his position as the leader of the Seattle chapter — having decided I was incorrigible, Smith’s Friends turned its full attention to my wife.
To be fair to them, she courted it. At that point, nearing the end of her third trimester with our sixth son, having endured a year-long ordeal of gossip, backbiting, ostracism and abandonment by lifelong friends, she was at the end of her rope physically and emotionally. It freaked her out to think that she might “end up outside” of the “will of God”, excluded from “God’s people”, her chosen family, the very “body of Christ on Earth” and the only safe place that made any sense to her. “The church” was our whole world and, to her, it looked like it was disintegrating.
My first indication of our coming rift was just after my last conversation with Simons. Upset at the report of it she’d heard from him or his wife, urging me to reconsider my “pride” and my “stubbornness”, my wife shocked me by blurting out, “I will never leave the the church!” It was completely out of context at that moment. The possibility of leaving had never been mentioned between us. Our relationship had never been better or closer, and it remained that way for a few months more. But she knew where events might lead well before I did. The thought of being “outside” terrified her.
By December, distraught, she faced a dreadful choice because of the growing chasm between me, her truly and dearly beloved husband, and the couple who long had been like second parents to her, the Simons. She’d trusted them since she was a teenager. In late November she went to them to “hear their side” and they welcomed her arms wide open. This was probably the first time she’d felt safe since the social beating began. She continued meeting with Helen, sometimes secretly. Her attitude started changing, and she began distancing herself from me.
Despite my protests that no choice was necessary, again under instructions from Kåre J. Smith, the Simons went hard to work polarizing the situation into an impossible choice. They left us no middle ground and laid the full burden of responsibility for the eternal fate of our family on her. She told me several times that it was tearing her heart apart. In matters this profoundly central and basic to our identities and self-esteem as human beings, double binds like this become the stuff of psychosis.
In just the few weeks surrounding our son’s birth at the end of December, the Simons flipped and turned my wife against me, having convinced her that otherwise God and “His church” would abandon her and our children to a fate with me, lost to the wiles of the devil they believed had taken me over.
I watched her about-face develop, helpless. Having seen two of my friends cave to domestic terrorism after their wives capitulated to similar tactics that exploit a mother’s fear for the safety and welfare of her children, I knew full well where it would lead.
The turnaround was complete by early January, 1994. At a Sunday meeting, my wife “repented” and was instantly welcomed back into the fold, replete with sighs heaved in relief and joy throughout the assembly, plus a throng of women in tears, hugging and congratulating her, letting her know how ecstatic they were to have her back — which meant with them against me. There was no mention of divorce up to that point (a threat that came soon after that she’d use repeatedly) but no one in the meeting hall that day had any question about what she had just done. Suddenly, visits to see her resumed and cards and gifts for our baby appeared, months after they usually had when our other boys were born. I was left living with a stranger.
Only days later, on orders from Kåre J. Smith, leaders from out of town (Gary Fenn heading the pack since Henk Simons didn’t have the balls to show up) came to my home and formally “silenced” me, forbidding me to participate in regular SF worship and prayer meetings or any other function, which otherwise were open for all to take an active part in, including strangers and even children.
This was (and still is) how Smith’s Friends (along with many other cults, religious and otherwise) broadcasts a member’s guilt throughout the group while maintaining plausible deniability and discrediting everything the hapless schmuck might say before he can utter a single word. The way this works, if he then protests anyway, especially if he defends himself, the more he says the more it only proves his guilt and that “silencing” him was justified. His credibility and social status collapse to less than that of a stranger or a child; because even strangers and children in Smith’s Friends are allowed to speak, and members listen when they do. Yesterday fully a person, a “brother” or a “sister; today the scandalized member becomes untouchable and rendered a mute.
That’s the first step toward a member’s expulsion from the “church of the living God” which, socially and spiritually speaking, terminates his existence.
Robert J. Lifton, a pioneer in the study of what he called thought reform — later more popularly known as “brainwashing” or “mind control” — described eight criteria for successfully “reforming” a person’s thinking, including:
8. Dispensing of Existence
The group arrogates to itself the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. Usually held non-literally, this means that those outside the group are unspiritual, worldly, satanic, “unconscious,” or whatever, and that they must be converted to the ideas of the group or they will be lost. If they refuse to join the group, then they must be rejected by the group members, even if they are family members. In rare cases this concept gives the group the right to terminate the outsider’s life.
— Paul Martin, Ph.D., Director of Wellspring Retreat, “Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform“, 2003
Or, as it was to be in our case, gave Smith’s Friends the right to terminate our marriage, the integrity of our family, and the wholeness of my wife’s heart, my children’s hearts, and my heart, too.
Dispensing of existence is a key indication that an organization has crossed over into a cult.
The conflict between Smith’s Friends and me as well as most of the conflict between my ex-wife and me has been over their attempts to erase me, both from the organization (which was successful) and from our family (only partly successful). If I’d lain down to their attempts to erase my existence, there would have been no conflict. I didn’t lie down — nor am I nor will I.
People don’t rub out that easy
After being “silenced” in January, 1994, Kåre J. Smith, the Simons, and other American and European leaders (Andrew and Jane Courage were notably involved) personally and through the Simons encouraged my wife to confront, oppose and humiliate me. I can’t tell you how many times I heard her demand, “Humble yourself and repent!” throughout that year and the years following. Once, during one of her many tirades, I objected by saying she wanted to walk on me like a doormat. I thought this might take her aback and get her to look at herself. Instead, “That’s right!” she retorted as she exited the room.
Smith, the Simons and the Courages also coached and assisted her to take legal actions against me, all of which eventually failed but left indelible scars.
Through her, they turned our home into a war zone, and the ones who suffered most were our young children.
I had tried everything I could think of to get through to her and stop her from turning against me, and then through this next year did everything I could think of to beg her to come back to me; but she threw all my efforts back in my face as proof of my alleged hostility and “bitterness” against her and “the church”.
White-to-black misrepresentations like these from her and other members (one of my sisters is still a member) continue as staunch as ever, even now, a quarter century later.
I many times wondered if I should have lain down to this emotional terrorism for the sake of “peace” in our home. Others often had done so. Several suggested that I do so. It was an oft-emphasized Smith’s Friends doctrine: “go down;” “go under the others;” “do the good and suffer for it;” “as a lamb before its shearer is silent;” etc. — especially when wronged. Suffering injustice for the sake of peace was a badge of honor in Smith’s Friends. Legends of ego martyrdom were reverently circulated among members and used as examples in weekly preaching.
Unfortunately (or not) I can’t pull off that kind of subterfuge. I’d fail miserably as a spy or an undercover cop. And in both the short and long runs, what kind of example would fakery be for my sons? What kind of message does laying down to terrorism send? I could not see doing it then, nor can I see any wisdom in it now after plenty of distance and heavy retrospection.
Over the months that followed, reports from friends and overheard snippets from my wife and even from my sons confirmed that I was still in the crosshairs of the defamation process which by then had been active for well over a year. Similar confirmation has trickled in ever since. Given the extremes Smith’s Friends has taken to shut me out and deny me information, it amuses me to see how far short their efforts have fallen — and it’s a testament to the power of the truth. Maintaining lies as facts and keeping a lid on them for long is difficult when so very little truth can so easily crack the most meticulously painted facades, spilling the beans and outing the liars.
A couple of months after my wife turned against me, I received a letter from Bernt Stadven, excommunicating me.
Hell and back so many times, it bores me
Most of that year was a domestic inferno. My wife carried on a holy crusade against my “evil spirit” with an onslaught of domestic abuse, including accusing me right in front of our young boys of being dangerous, “sick”, a “cult leader” with an “evil spirit”, even comparing me to Jim Jones and David Koresh. Most of it, thankfully, was over their heads — but they clearly and painfully felt the animosity. Aged a few months to eight years old when it all erupted, these slams and slurs, both overt and insinuated, continued until many years later when our sons started making it clear that she had to stop. This behavior and worse was fomented, encouraged, and endorsed by Kåre J. Smith and other American and European SF leaders.
(Fortunately, young children are not as easily fooled as gullible adults. One of my sons confessed many years later that, after getting an earful about my “evil spirit” and other nonsense from his mom, he became afraid of the prospect of my coming home from work that afternoon. But after he watched me come in the door, go through my usual homecoming routine of hugs and kisses all around, then sit down to read the Bible, he knew that I was the same dad he’d seen leave that morning and that his mom had made a mistake.)
Intimately familiar with how these things worked, I knew that my wife would report whatever happened in our home to SF leaders (usually the Simons) under the guise of “fellowship” and “seeking guidance,” using those passive-aggressive gimmicks that let people claim they said nothing of the sort when that’s pretty much all they said. The info would be shared with “those who bring the Word of God”, and they would generalize it into morality fables to be preached in SF “meetings” (i.e., church services,) and to be shared in private “fellowship” gatherings. Members hearing these “messages” would know full well who these cautionary tales actually featured; or if not and they felt they’d be deemed “faithful” enough to be informed, that they had only to ask.
This encrypted, unverifiable defamation tactic is another one that Smith’s Friends often uses to slander and destroy the credibility of whomever it pleases while maintaining full deniability. If anyone they don’t trust asks, it was just a moral lesson, no more. If anyone objects, SF holds up clean hands as if under attack by an aggressor, whom it then casts as an ally of the “ungodly ones” the story targets, all alike in league with “the accuser of our brethren”, i.e., “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” SF members lap all this up like thirsty sheep, taking it and its “eternal consequences” quite literally.
Make sense of madness?
The reason for this barrage of social and personal violence and the backstabbing campaign that led to it?
No one ever said. Other than conjuring up paranoid images of me as the vehicle for spiritual evil and contagion, my “sins” were never stated — as was fitting, because none existed which remotely could have justified either the vilification and abandonment that Smith’s Friends inflicted, instigated by Kåre J. Smith and the Simons, or the bitterness, malice, and hostility they channeled at me through my wife, trapping our children in the crossfire. Here are my best guesses as to the whys and wherefores. Beyond that, I’m as clueless about specifics as anyone, although the overall pattern and underlying agenda are unmistakable.
I and my sons are not the only ones who have been violated this way. For decades, many other families all over the world have been ripped apart by Smith’s Friends members who — instigated knowingly and deliberately by their leaders and induced by avid pressure from other members and the terrifying prospect of failing to “be along” — turned on their own kin and friends in obedience to their leaders’ demands to “expel the wicked person from among you!” thus ensuring they would not also be expelled as “opposers” who sided with “evil workers”.
If there had been anything to humble myself for or repent from, I would have. And in fact I did. Over the years since our breakup, I have apologized and asked my ex-wife to forgive me many times and told her how sorry I am for doing things that hurt her in those days. (I recently looked through my letters to her and counted no less than nine in which I asked for her forgiveness, on top of many other times that I asked in person.) Over and over I’ve asked her to work with me to find resolution and healing. She has steadfastly rejected it all, and there is a simple explanation why: She knows that real problems between us — let alone divorce-worthy ones — never existed. Neither do they now. I can’t tell you how many people who know her well, and others just getting acquainted with her, that have told me it’s obvious she still loves me. A lot (in both senses.) The entire fiasco is of Smith’s Friends doing and its alone. Her loyalty to the cult is the only reason we’re still at odds today.
Real resolution of real problems was never Smith’s Friends’ goal. It’s all and only been about subjugation. The leaders knew full well that their “allegations” (if anyone can dignify vague, hysterically vindictive poppycock with a serious term) amounted to covert but shameless, blatant slander aimed at triggering contagion reactions among the membership in hopes of intimidating me into silence and submission — as was also the aim of the abuse and domestic violence later perpetrated in our home. They failed miserably to achieve their goal.
In December 1994, my wife and I separated. She filed for divorce, violating Smith’s Friends long-standing prohibition against divorce except in cases of infidelity — again, instigated and fully supported by SF leaders. I later learned that this was their SOP whenever they couldn’t defeat the insubordination of a married member. Given all that transpired that year, the courts decided our six sons would be safest with me and gave me custody.
This totally overthrew the expectations of Smith’s Friends leaders and my wife. After all, it was the mid-90s. Custody always went to the mother unless there were exceptional factors that precluded it. Smith’s Friends and my wife were banking on this anti-father bias in the courts but read the situation horribly wrong. The deciding factors were incontrovertible. Having lost the critical decision, my then ex-wife waged repeated custody battles for the next seven years, with our six sons caught in the middle: first, to reverse the decision; then, failing that, to reduce my time with our children as much as possible. Her attempts to make good on her oft-repeated threat, “I’ll take the boys away from you!” all fell flat.
For more than a decade I raised our sons as a single dad, working full-time while employing a nanny. It ruined me financially. Their childhood was spent with distressed parents both barely scraping by emotionally and financially, especially me as I struggled with depression and tried to bootstrap my own business after getting laid off in 9/11 aftermath. They never saw the real me again until well after they were grown. Once in their teens, their older brothers on their own, the youngest three went to live with their mom — not just because she did for them things that I expected them to help me with, (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.,) but because she was Mom and, when she wasn’t consumed with fighting off my “evil spirit”, she was (and still is) a wonderful, loving person.
Down, not out
My wife was as much a victim of Smith’s Friends’ terrorism as I was. She never wanted a divorce. Even recently she opined that she should not have filed for divorce, but rather for legal separation. Throughout the years since we split, she’s demonstrated in many ways that, if it we’d been left to work out our own relationship free from intermeddling, we would have found a way to stay together. I have no doubt about that whatsoever. Despite all that happened and after so much time has passed, our connection still naturally resurfaces whenever it gets the chance.
Over and over after our divorce, I tried but failed to make real contact with her, but more than a few times I succeeded, felt us connect, and realized she was opening up to me. Once I remember thinking, “She’s actually talking with me!” — exchanges where she wasn’t armed, loaded and cocked to shoot were so rare at the time. A couple times, just the two of us at her place, she cooked me dinner, once even taking her seat next to me — unsolicited, unprompted and quite close, actually. It was nice and a bit surprising. We ate and talked together, friendly and relaxed. I’d even say she was warm. Another time we got talking and she obviously didn’t want to stop. Even though she kept saying she had to get to bed, she couldn’t break away. I finally made the mistake of suggesting we go sit on the couch to continue, (we’d been standing the better part of an hour,) and that bridge too far was her cue to disappear to her room.
I went away from these encounters feeling we’d finally touched, hoping maybe it was a start of new things. Then, after she ‘d see her friends and talk it over, usually with Helen Simons, the next time I saw her she would be more antagonistic and militant than ever.
Where there’s life, there’s hope
My sons and I have lived full lives through the intervening years, replete with joys and troubles, although the specter of conflict with my ex-wife was always looming. But things are getting brighter. My boys are all grown now, living independently, every one of them a wonderful, caring person and powerful man. They all have as good a relationship with both their mom and me as could be hoped for given the ordeal that was their childhood. And none of us have thrown in the towel. The atmosphere in our family is opening up and our relationships are improving. I see very good days ahead.
I have no real doubt that my ex-wife and I will find a resolution and that there could at long last be peace in our family. I believe that as the truth about what happened comes to light, along with the truth about what Smith’s Friends has done to many other families, reconciliation and peace — even friendship — are inevitable.
After all, even Bernt Aksel Larsen has been publishing preludes professing reconciliation with “some of those who have quit the church who may have been wronged.”
I think my family and I qualify as “some of those”.
In a January 2016 blog post entitled “Those who quit BCC“, under the heading “Correct injustice”, he wrote:
BCC consists of people. BCC’s leadership is also human. These are people who have devoted their lives to doing good to others and who have as their overriding focus to develop in goodness and in their ability to help others. Even so, they can still take missteps. Therefore, I cannot ignore the fact that there could be some of those who have quit the church who may have been wronged. Should this be the case, I feel BCC is very interested in cleaning up and putting those matters in order. Therefore, I would like to invite any such persons to contact the church. I’m pretty sure they will find a hand outstretched by leaders who are interested in cleaning up.
(Now, since we’re all caught up to present, I’ll call them BCC.)
OK, cool. Sounds like BCC leaders might be interested in reckoning up.
Unaware of Larsen’s post at the time, on February 2 of this year I actually did what he suggested and contacted Kåre J. Smith with a huge outstretched hand, inviting him to do none other than clean up and put matters in order. I explain this in Kåre J. “Waldo” Smith, Where Are You?
More than three months later, I’m still waiting for so much as a sign of acknowledgement that I contacted him, let alone a reply, let alone a hand outstretched in return.
Mighty slow hand, if you ask me.
And “outstretched”? I feel like I’m the only one here stretching anything to reach out…
Were he actually to outstretch his hand instead of what he’s done all these years — turn tail and hide — I’m afraid I might faint dead away! 😀
But seriously, I’d hope for more than just a bit of “cleaning up”. And it would be sweet if Larsen didn’t sound so reluctant and tentative.
“… I cannot ignore the fact…”
Hmm… Does that imply he’s been trying real hard to ignore facts but finally realized the futility of denial?
“… some of those who have quit the church who may have been wronged…”
Some levels of ignorance are plausible. Others are incredible and laughable. Larsen knows full well about our case and many other cases. Larsen is BCC’s #2 in command. This is a bit like Cardinal Cláudio Hummes saying “… some of those who have quit the Catholic Church may have been molested…” when we all know there’s no “may” about it.
“… I feel BCC is very interested…”
What? No facts, just feelings? Could he not have given Kåre J. Smith a quick jingle and gotten a definite yes or no, at least from him?
Why does Larsen feel like he’s going out on a limb to suggest something so daring and unprecedented as BCC cleaning up its crap? Would it really be so daring and uprecedented?
Well, yes — it would be if it were genuine. Larsen’s post doesn’t exactly overwhelm me with its sincerity, though.
And why is he no more than “pretty sure” that the leaders are interested? And only “interested”? Why aren’t they actively seeking out the ones who were wronged, finding out exactly how they were wronged, begging for forgiveness and offering restitution instead of merely “interested” to stretch out a lazy hand to those who will take the initiative on themselves and make the first move to seek them out?
These guys are a riot.
But I’ll take even as little as that as a hopeful sign of sorts. It’s to be expected from people who have long been so full of themselves and self-importance that, after generations of obsessive, self-congratulatory navel-gazing. You should see how they obsess over themselves in their meetings or in their literature, how exceptional they are, how great they are, etc. They can’t help but imagine the whole universe revolving around them as the center of all gravity. We can’t reject their first tentative, feeble moves toward breaking out of self-orbits of spiritual OCD.
I’m giving Smith and Larsen and the rest of BCC one hell of an opportunity to show they mean business about cleaning up their crap. I’m making it really easy for them. Big target here. They can’t possibly miss my outstretched hand. It’s genuine, and they know I mean business.
Now we start
We are all good people. Apart from malicious mischief, there is no reason on Earth, nor in heaven nor hell for that matter, for us to be against each other instead of together.
And now there’s no more reason for me to hold back.
Over the last 25 years I’ve watched Smith’s Friends go from bad to worse to BCC-unbelievable. (See Decades of Atrocities in Smith’s Friends, aka Brunstad Christian Church (BCC)). It’s long been a microcosm of concentrated megalomania, authoritarianism and social injustice — perfect for my studies and research over the last decade.
The lessons I learn now from confronting BCC and its leaders will inform new approaches I’m developing to confront all kinds of authoritarian bullies and tyrants on much larger scales — them and their gangs and their institutions and systems. Them and their folly, their insanity.
Authoritarianism is a psychosis-inducing social disease. BCC is just one small, badly infected fish in a huge pond full of others. The remedies and antidotes I develop by dealing with BCC should be effective no matter how big a predatory fish might be, infected and driven crazy by the virus of supremacism.
Millard J. Melnyk
Seattle, Washington, USA