Thursday, March 26, 2015


When first joining the COG, each member is either given, chooses, or "receives from God" their own "Bible name," although technically, it is not required to be a name strictly from the Bible. It was not unusual, in my time in the group, to meet people with such unlikely names as Hezekiah, Uriah, Sunshine, Charity, Dust, Miriam, etc. This new name was the only name the member was known by.

You can imagine the difficulty that people outside the group would have in trying to locate someone within the group. As well, people often changed their names, usually to accompany some sort of "spiritual breakthrough" in their battle against self and sin, which further complicated keeping track of others in the group. Furthermore, we were discouraged from keeping in contact with friends either within or without the group, as we were to put "our work for the lord" first above all other considerations. ("He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me," said Jesus in Matthew 10:37. Clearly friends fell quite low on the priority list.)

Once within the group, we were no longer bound by the constraints of social norms, but embraced the norms and morals of our new community. As I wrote already*, at first these seemed to be benign and conservative, but as time in the group continued, the mores were stretched beyond reason to encompass various unethical sexual and abusive behaviors.

Perhaps a bit of the anonymity members experienced with Bible names can be likened to the Ring of Gyges. Plato described this as a magical ring that could impart invisibility to its wearer. Would someone who could become invisible forego morality and use this power for selfish gain and commit crimes? If invisibility provided escape from social propriety, how would people behave?

As far as life in TFI/COG went, a lot depended on the individual. Some people went against the tide and retained more conventional morality - as much as would be allowed with its accompanying stigmatism of being an "old bottle" - one who was not "revolutionary" enough to accept the "new wine" and "freedoms" God had given to his chosen few. Others became unapologetic abusers of children and sexual profligates.

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