RNB file: Ole Anthony

The Dallas Observer, an alternative news weekly owned by Village Voice Media has published a lengthy article about Ole Anthony, the Dallas-based preacher known for exposing the shenanigans of televangelists.

But while media coverage of Anthony and his Trinity Foundation tends to be positive, The Dallas Observer says, “Ole Anthony anointed himself the watchdog of America’s televangelists. But who was watching Ole Anthony?”

Village Voice Media introduces the article as follows:

Dallas preacher Ole Anthony has carved out a comfortable niche in the world of Christian evangelism. He’s the watchdog, the truth-telling tough guy willing to point the finger at flamboyant televangelists and expose their greed and deceit. But what if this man, so lionized by the national media and lovingly profiled in the New Yorker, proved to have his own demons? What if Ole’s not quite as pure as he says he is? And what if his most sensational takedown of a prominent TV preacher was, in retrospect, largely bogus? For answers to these and other questions, we recommend “The Cult of Ole,” a special report by Dallas Observer staff writer Glenna Whitley

Whitley writes:

Last month, former Trinity member Wendy Duncan, now Doug Duncan’s wife, published a book called I Can’t Hear God Anymore. Doug, who was once Anthony’s roommate, married Wendy and left the group in 2000. Her book calls Trinity a cult. She claims that Anthony subjected his followers to “hot seats,” scathing verbal attacks that were supposed to be cleansing but brought them under his control and scarred some so deeply that they will no longer pick up a Bible.

Anthony says he hasn’t read the book and brushes off Wendy’s criticism, pointing out that the hot seats ended in the early 1990s. A member of Trinity’s board of directors, Rutledge, issued a written response noting that Trinity has been accused of being a cult before–by Robert Tilton.

But allegations that Trinity is a cult began as early as the late ’70s and have surfaced numerous times since, often by members’ families, sometimes by the media. In 1989, Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News wrote, “there are times when even to its members the foundation looks like a cult of personality.”

More than a dozen former Trinity members interviewed by the Dallas Observer agree that Trinity bears many cult-like traits:

• Zealous commitment to a domineering leader not accountable to any authority.

• Discouragement or punishment of dissent and doubt.

• Use of mind-altering techniques such as denunciation sessions–the infamous hot seats.

• Dictation by leadership of how followers should act, sometimes in great detail.

• Breakdown of personal boundaries, such as denying members permission to marry.

• Encouraging a sense of elitism or special status for the group.

• Fostering an “us vs. them” mentality.

They claim that Wendy Duncan’s book is accurate and that Anthony’s influence caused enormous damage to their lives. “Ole uses intimidation to get his way,” says Rick “Beamer” Robertson, a Dallas radio DJ and voice actor who belonged to Trinity off and on starting in the ’70s. “It’s his will in the guise of the group’s.”

Some former members blame Trinity for the breakup of marriages. Several members, they say, have had nervous breakdowns. Three members have killed themselves; two died on the Block. Perhaps that’s not extraordinary. Many of the men and women attracted to Trinity are people who’ve come to the end of their abilities and want to throw everything at the feet of God.

What is startling is that the media have largely given Trinity a pass. Though Anthony’s theology bears little resemblance to mainstream Christianity, and he’s prone to making outrageous statements such as “God hates you” and “Your mind is the Antichrist,” journalists rarely delve below the surface. The “media whores,” as Anthony calls them, are too busy begging him for incriminating documents or B-roll of the televangelists’ shows, which are taped 24/7 at Trinity.

Several former members say the investigation of Tilton was not only a personal vendetta but an attempt to get Anthony a national forum. One of the key members involved in the Tilton investigation now says he is ashamed of it and believes that much of it was not true.

Tilton lost a libel suit against Anthony, Trinity and ABC; it’s difficult for a public figure to win such a case. Though back on the air, he hasn’t managed to rebuild his reputation or ministry to its former heights.

But an examination of thousands of pages of court documents in lawsuits triggered by the ABC expose shows numerous misrepresentations by Anthony and his cohorts at ABC, who employed deceptive journalistic techniques that ended up embarrassing Diane Sawyer. Tilton’s lawyers proved that the prayer requests discovered by Trinity could not have been found as claimed: Thus, the most memorable part of the Primetime Live story was bogus.
[...]
- Source: The Cult of Ole: Ole Anthony anointed himself the watchdog of America’s televangelists. But who was watching Ole Anthony? By Glenna Whitley, Dallas Observer, Aug. 3, 2006

Wendy Duncan’s book, “I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult,” is sold on her web site: http://www.dallascult.com/:

Description: The true story of a former member’s involvement and eventual separation from a Bible-based cult, the Trinity Foundation, in Dallas, Texas.

I Can’t Hear God Anymore is an instructive example of how normal people can be vulnerable to the psychological manipulations and spiritual abuse of a skilled cult leader. It is also an inspiring story of hope, as the author details her struggle to regain her psychological and spiritual health after leaving the group, and explains how others caught in similar circumstances can do the same.

The book is supported with good reviews from such respected cult experts as Ron Enroth, author of “Churches That Abuse,” and Carol Giambalvo, President of reFOCUS (a support and referral network for former members of abusive groups), and author of Exit Counseling: Family Interventions for Cult-Affected Loved Ones.

Lois Svoboda, a member of the Editorial Board of Cultic Studies Review writes”

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 Combatting Cult Mind Control and other first person cult narratives. For years I have search 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 futs such a niche…

We’ve just received our copy of the book and will soon post a review. That said, we’re pleased to see that a list of resources in the back of the book refers to legitimate cult experts, organizations and ministries rather than to some of the ‘cowboys’ that the cult information and counseling field sometimes attracts.

My preliminary observation, after merely skimming through the book over an espresso break, is that Wendy Duncan indeed had a cultic experience.

Some people may be reluctant to accept the testimony of an ex-member. Cult defender J. Gordon Melton, for instance, is notorious for his abusive comments about apostates.

As I noted in a message to a Christian apologetics resources list, “I have email boxes full of accounts from people who have had cult-like experiences in full-blown cults, but also in their local churches, home groups, and even in one-on-one relationships. Fact is that most people can quite easily get involved in a cult-like group or relationship – unintentionally, of course. That is one reason why Janet and I always encourage people to develop relationships of mutual accountability with fellow Christians, and to be open to criticism and correction from non-Christians as well.” That’s true for non-Christians as well.

For further reading we suggest the following Apologetics Index resources:

CultFAQ.org
Abusive Churches & Spiritual Abuse
Cults of Christianity

Note: As with all items posted on Religion News Blog, unless otherwise noted links within quotes have been added by RNB.

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