Most of all “dropouts” from different groups or religions live without fanfare after their exit. Very rarely occurs the phenomenon of the “career dropout”, which manifests itself for various reasons in the media. You have to call to mind that it is a Career Ex-Member in these reports, however. They write a book from outside the group about the group. This role is for their new identity and financial success.
In his book the career dropout, Robert Pleyer, has now presented great detail to the public. For two years he has come again and again in the media to make his dropout experiences known, mostly under a false name. In Focus, in the Spiegel, and in several RTL reports he tried to blacken the “Twelve Tribes” and take revenge.
Through the “sensational” descriptions of this morose man whose wife has remained in the community, he has spread a completely false picture of life in the Twelve Tribes communities. No one reported that there are hundreds of satisfied members, including many young people who have grown up in the “Twelve Tribes“. Also they did not report that there are other former members who found that their life in the Communities did not fit the “sensational” reporting. Effective media sell only stories that seem so exaggerated and extremely dramatic.
The phenomenon of “sect–outs” described by religious scholars and religious sociologist Gerald Willms, and his observations vividly describe exactly how such “horror stories,” as Pleyer’s are of the Twelve Tribes, emerge:
“It is clearly seen how firmly anchored the belief in the cult stereotypes and “brainwashed followers” in the public is, by the fact that it is not the current but the former followers that are being perceived as representatives of “cults”.“
”The dropouts that occur as principal witnesses are actually only those who are willing and ready to stand publicly and resolutely against their former community of believers.
“And in this role as apostates they are not even representative dropouts, because every year leaving thousands of people from myriad reasons “their” religious community. A percentage very close to 100 does so without any side effects and completely “silently” because their actual experiences have nothing to do with the clichés mentioned above. These people are actually representative drop-outs, but they never find media attention because the media is not interested in something ordinary.”
Quotes from the book of the religion scientist and sociologist of religion, Gerald Willms, The Wonderful World of Cults, From Paul to Scientology, 1st edition 2012, pp. 275,276.
We actually do not want to defend against the hostile accusations of the media at this level. But for those who want to get an objective view and prefer scientific studies to RTL reports as a source of information, we offer the following report of a university professor, Susan J. Palmer, who’s known as the leading expert in this field. She is a renowned scholar and sociologist of religion, who has, among other things, researched the Twelve Tribes since 1987. She has made numerous visits to the communities around the world.
Here are some excerpts from an affidavit that this scientist has submitted to the courts and offices of Germany:
Affidavit of Susan Jean Palmer
I, Susan Jean Palmer, hereby testify based on first-hand knowledge and observations the following:
I‘m Affiliate Assistant Professor at Concordia University, Montreal, where I have taught for over twenty years. I’m also a member of the religion faculty of McGill University, where I am working as a researcher on a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). I am a sociologist of religion and author of ten books, all studies of new religions.
Since 1987, I have conducted the Twelve Tribes, and visited their communities in Vermont and Massachusetts (USA); in Winnipeg (Canada); in Sus (France); and in Bavaria, Germany and the Czech Republic. Within academic circles I am recognized as the foremost authority on this new religious movement. I have written several encyclopedia entries as well as book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles on the Twelve Tribes, or the Messianic Communities and the Northeast Kingdom Community Church, as they used to be called. My published writings on the Twelve Tribes are listed at the end of this document. The Twelve Tribes is only one of 17 new religious movements (NRM) that I have researched, using standard social scientific methods of qualitative research; field research and interviews, etc., as can be seen on my Curriculum Vitae.
[…] Sociologists who have studied patterns of defection in new religions (see Stuart Wright, Leaving Cults, and Helen Rose Ebaugh, Becoming an Ex: The Process of Role Exit) have found that people leave NRMs (new religious movements) for a variety of reasons.
This pattern holds true for young defectors from the Twelve Tribes. My impression is that second generation apostates describe happy childhoods, but felt as young adults that life in the Twelve Tribes was too restrictive, and they wished to explore the world. Some of them went through a crisis of faith, or a disagreement over policies or changes within the organization, or didn’t like the repetitive menial work they were assigned. Other researchers studying the Twelve Tribes have found similar results. While no child enjoys being spanked, of course, this seems to be a very minor issue for the youth who have defected…
… on the basis of my first-hand research experience, and on data gathered by other researchers in the field, second generation members of the Twelve Tribes who had left the group complain very little about spanking. It is an interesting fact that there has been a high defection rate among second-generation members in the USA.
Children live with their parents and siblings and enjoy warm, close family relationships. They are surrounded by a pleasant, sensual environment, close to nature in Victorian renovated houses, with large kitchens and excellent food, beautiful restored or hand-crafted furniture, hand-crafted clothes. They have animals to take care of, and music, songs and dance are daily activities. Their education is adequate for the work they will do in the future in their intentional communities; farming, construction, farming, cooking, crafts, car repair, etc. While higher education beyond the high school level is not encouraged, nor customary, the Twelve Tribes youth embark on apprenticeships of their own choice. Some of them have developed entrepreneurial skills and have started new, successful businesses…
[…] the category of what sociologists call the “apostates’ atrocity tale” (see David Bromley (ed.) The Politics of Religious Apostasy, Praeger, 1998). It is comparable to the famous 19th century piece of anti-catholic propaganda, Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed. In this lurid book, published in January 1836, Monk offers a preposterous description of a “typical” Montreal convent as a prison for nuns who are continuously raped by the priests in the seminary next door, who enter through an underground tunnel. Unwanted babies are baptized, then buried in the convent’s cellar.
Obviously, over the centuries there have been nuns and monks in the Catholic Church who have broken their vows of celibacy, and perhaps some crimes of infanticide, but this is hardly a realistic portrait of monastic life – or of the larger Catholic community. The point is, this kind of propaganda is often generated when a minority religion is in conflict with its surrounding society. We find similar apostates tales written by former Mormons, Amish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, etc. Mary Dyer, a 19th century “career apostate” who wrote inflammatory pieces against the Shakers, such as A Brief Statement of the Sufferings of Mary Dyer (1822), is a famous example of this pattern.
In my expert opinion, it is an unnecessary violation of the rights of the children and of the parents to separate them since the doctors found no evidence of abuse after the September 2013 raids.* I have studied similar raids of other minority religions and know from experience and research the damage suffered by many children similarly situated as these Twelve Tribes’ children.
To conclude, it is surprising that the Family Court would rely on an anonymous memoir posted on the internet rather than on carefully researched social scientific studies of the Twelve Tribes published in reputable journals and publishing houses (like Oxford University Press and Rutgers University Press). Why would an anonymous author who is an ex-member be considered as more reliable than a scholar with a Ph.D. who teaches in universities?
Another example of a typical “dropout report” from a “dropout“ of the Catholic Church. Notice that “Die Welt” includes Roman Catholics in the pejorative phrase “fundamentalists and cult dropouts.”
Translation: “I have been mentally abused“
Religion can make people happy but also draw out lots of anxieties or guilt feelings. Former fundamentalists and cult dropouts tell about their experiences during a meeting in NRW.
He can still remember that day more than a decade ago, when he withdrew from the Catholic Church. The feeling to finally be free, overcame him. As he sat by the public authority in the car, he enjoyed the view of the peaceful, quiet winter landscape in the Hunsrück. But then the fear rose again within him. If he should now off the road, that would not be the just punishment of God?
The man speaking here is Mark, who does not want to give his real name. He is 47 years old and once burned for his faith. Over the years he has acquired ecclesiogenic neurosis – a neurosis stemming from religious ideas and ecclesial socialization. Psychologists use the term for people who have developed through their faith strong guilt feelings, compulsions, or frigidity.
In Mark later depression were added. The causes may be complex. But one thing is certain: His faith did not help him to cope with life. On the contrary. “I have been abused mentally,” says Markus. His hands tremble as he tells his story, as he felt the wrath of God still in the neck. Or at least those who think they announce it.
To speak with people to whom the same things happened, Markus visited today the self-help group “four articles” in Cologne. Here former fundamentalists and cult members meet every six weeks to discuss their withdrawal from religious communities and patterns of thinking. The group’s name is based on four articles of the Basic Law: “The freedom of faith, conscience, freedom of religious, or philosophical creed, shall be inviolable.”
* It was publicly announced the next day, in fact, September 6, 2013, that there was no abuse! Normal, healthy, well-behaved children, yes, abused children, no.