Book Review - I Can't Hear God Anymore
Lois V. Svoboda
Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2006, 454-455
Rowlett, Texas: VM Life Resources, LLC, 2006, 228 pages. ISBN: 0-977660-0-X.
Reviewed by Lois V. Svoboda, M.D., L.M.F.T.
Ms. Duncan’s first person account of her seven-year experience as a member of The Trinity Foundation of Dallas, Texas, an outwardly reputable Christian organization set up to model Christian living at its best, ranks along side of Hassan’s Combating Cult Mind Control and other first person cult narratives. For years I have searched for a book that could clarify from a Christian perspective both the scripture twisting and the theological distortions that quasi-Christian cults inflict on their members. This book fits such a niche. When I Can’t Hear God Anymore arrived in the mail I picked it up curiously, intending to look it over. It proved to be a page turner, and I finished it the day it arrived. I couldn’t put it down.
Duncan has done her homework. She has done a difficult thing: made the process by which she was seduced into membership into a highly authoritarian group with bizarre personal reinterpretations of scripture seem both understandable and reasonable. She addresses her particular vulnerabilities which blinded her to warning signs that all was not well in this group. She spells out the promise that fired her imagination. After a couple of divorces, causing her to be treated as an outsider in her own Christian denomination, she welcomed input from other and supposedly wiser people in choosing her next partner. She also balances the positives of group life (no more loneliness, a ready made social system, a sense of community) with the negatives. What is different about this book is the apparent “evangelical mainstreamness” of the Trinity Foundation.
Duncan was no naive, idealistic teenager. She was adult, in her forties, with a Master’s degree from a seminary and a stable job. She knew about cults. She checked out the group she was considering in several ways before joining. But in spite of her precautions, she still fell in and stayed in seven years.
She writes in a clear, straightforward manner. She organizes her material logically, including the theological distortions of her group leader, Ole Anthony. Superficially, the language and doctrine of her leader would be recognizable to any evangelical, although idiosyncratic. But the idiosyncrasies can be rationalized by the intelligence and originality of its leader. But also as in most cults, there was a discrepancy between the doctrine and the behaviors of the group. She has organized her material into chapters about her process of gradually being drawn into the group, the leader, his theology—including both orthodoxy and distortions, the ways the leader used scripture to systematically break down members’ egos, and her exiting the group. She describes the multiple metastases within her system of the pernicious doctrinal distortions, some of which took years to erase. Her recovery, interestingly, was done with a minimum of professional help. She details how she did that.
To someone unfamiliar with mainstream Christianity, the great detail that she uses to describe the theological distortions and scripture twisting that are part of the working credos of the Trinity Foundation may seem drawn out and overdone; but for me, it’s the kind of detail I have felt some of the testimonials of other pseudo Christian group former members have glossed over or left out.
I would recommend this book without reservation to anyone who is interested in understanding why the Christian church has always relied on scripture and why the church through the ages has rested on orthodoxy. Families, former high authority group members, pastors, students, could all benefit.