Jack Watts: The Unholy Seduction of Christian Cults
The Unholy Seduction of Christian Cults
Welcome my very special guest, author Jack Watts, whose latest novel, Unholy Seduction, is the first in a series that dares to embark where many fear to tread — the dark side of the Church.
In this exclusive interview Jack candidly unveils the secrets that cults employ to trap naive and otherwise ignorant and biblically illiterate believers who deeply desire a genuine and fulfilling walk with God. He discusses the prowess they wield against their victims and the alluring power they offer to their elite. Discover why cults are so prevalent today, and why believers don’t immediately recognize them.
Jack reveals an abyss that is shrouded in light, eventually leaving those caught in its tentacles in grave disillusionment once its deception is discovered. But for some it’s simply too late once that discovery is made. They never escape. Cults destroy lives — often beyond repair, leaving a graveyard of souls in their wake.
Jack’s book, Unholy Seduction, is a profound weaving of true stories that culminate in an era of one of the most fanatical for Christ — the Jesus Freaks. In this layered and complex novel, which reads like a memoir, you will soon discover just how easy it is for a believer to become sucked into a cult — and just how deep and diabolical their darkness can truly become.
This message is dire, told in a harrowing story every believer should eagerly read. Christians beware…
EP: I just want to thank you so much for the honor and pleasure of having you as a guest, and this opportunity to speak with you. Your latest book, Unholy Seduction, which is about Christian cults, was released last October. The topic is one that I’m very familiar with. When I read the book, however, its effect was profound. As one who frequently teaches about deception and how to guard against it, I find the message in your book to be of dire need, and I’m eager to get it in front of my audience. This story is told in first person by your main character Ryan Parker, being narrated in memoir fashion. What inspired you to write this story, and how did the actual storyline come to be?
JW: Well, when I write a novel I get the idea for it, and it just comes together and I see it. I visualize it. And I don’t do story boards or things like that. I see it from beginning to end and just put it together, and there are a lot of things that change when you do write, but the basic theme is there, and I knew from the very first moment what the whole thing was about. And the… every time… when I write a book I don’t just write a story. It has to have (for me) — it has to have something with a takeaway for the people — the readers — can benefit them. When I did my Moon series, which are all murder mysteries, essentially, there was a recurrent recovery theme involved. And there is a message in Unholy Seduction — several of them actually. And there’s the things that I am in hopes that people with take away after reading it.
I guess the one that would be the biggest message is that you can have fervor and enthusiasm for a cause. And when it’s a — particularly when it’s a Christian cause or a religious cause it has to be as equally grounded in truth as it is in the enthusiasm, because enthusiasm without the fundamental knowledge of who God is and who He isn’t can lead you in a world of hurt. And that, you know, my hero, Ryan Parker, is just this really good guy, but these believers who he believes and trusts, people and things, but it’s not based upon truth and wisdom. It’s just this desire for things to be the way that they should be. And life is often, as we know, not the way it should be.
When you write a novel, it’s fiction, but in order to write it, there has to be something you’ve experienced in life. So, I had a particularly bad experience — couple of ‘em. And I wanted people to understand that when you go down the wrong road, or push on the wrong road, the consequences can be very difficult. So that’s the whole thing, it’s a novel. You know, there are some things in it that are — a lot of things actually happened — not necessarily to me, but you know, there’s a great deal about this that’s just absolutely real and true.
EP: The particular cult in the book that you speak of, did you do research on that? Are there other stories that it’s mirroring or paralleling, or was that just something that you came up with yourself?
JW: The cult is a compilation of things and experiences that happened to many people. And I set it in the time period of the Watergate and Vietnam War. And that was the era of the “Jesus people” — the “Jesus Freaks” they called them. So, these are the kinds of things that happened to the Jesus Freaks. And, you know, that’s really a pretty pejorative term now, to call them Jesus Freaks, but they were, you know, it was a pretty substantial subset of the kind of counter-culture, you know, during that era. People don’t know it; they don’t understand it; they don’t recognize it, and I thought, ‘Okay, lets just let everybody know that these are real types of people and that this could happen to you!’
EP: Absolutely! And it still does. It happens to so many!
JW: Oh, yes! So, that was the other thing, is that by putting this in a time period that is, you know, not quite ‘gone with the wind’, but you know, it definitely would be sunset time for a lot of these people. It brings them back to life; it restores their youth, and you know, the thing that I really like about it, to be honest with you, is that I equated what was happening in their kind of religious life with things that were happening politically in our nation, so that it’s kind of in a historical context. And yet, for people, you know, that existed and lived their lives during this time, they weren’t terribly political. But at the same time, they weren’t devoid of knowing what was going on. It’s just that they had a ‘higher calling’, and because of their ‘higher calling’ there was an arrogance that developed within the kind of people like this. And it was like ‘we’re right and everybody else is wrong. We’re the remnant. We’re the chosen few who are going to change everything.’ And, they believed this! And it was, you know, it wasn’t just that they had like a, you know, a little church group. It was a — it was a lifestyle. And the integration into each other’s thoughts was dramatic. And you know, there’s a scripture that says, “Without a vision the people perish.” Or, it can also mean that they are unrestrained. And when you get young people and they get very enthusiastic, when there’s any kind of disillusionment then their whole world falls apart and they act out. And the way they act out is, you know, because the’ve lost their commitment, so to speak. They are very susceptible to all kinds — not just to message, but to sexual exploitation, sexual deviancy, drugs — the whole bit. And it becomes very self-destructive.
EP: A lot of people have experienced cults of many kinds, and at different levels. Who exactly is your intended audience for this story?
JW: Specifically, it would be for people who, number one: just want to read a good story. Number two: want to understand how seduction works religiously. And that this is — and with religious seduction also comes the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life. And that all of those things get kind of wrapped up in what they’re doing. So, I see that in a lot of these mega churches and some of these electronic ministries, you know, big programs and stuff, there is a call to not really serve the Lord as much as it is “be part of us; we’re special. We’re the elite.” Spiritually! And so, you get kids from broken homes who want family; who want connectedness; who want purpose! And, you know, they don’t want to be snowflakes. And they don’t want to be pansy waste. So, they’re very susceptible to things that are filled on partial truth, but not on complete truth. And they’re very — and they’re up there looking at a figure who is elevated above what a normal man is — so that they become objects of worship in a certain sense. Now, because this is Christianity people don’t worship human beings, but it’s like…
EP: But they do! (Laughs) But they do, though! And that’s where I would say people do, do that, but they don’t realize they’re doing it. Yes.
JW: But here’s Brother Al, and what he said might as well have been spoken by Almighty God. And you know, so people would do exactly what he said because they had to fall into line, and a true cult is one where they twist the scriptures. And almost always in these kind of groups there is a — the truth is twisted. And I call this my series. I’m gonna have five books in it, and this is the first one, and I call it the ‘Twisted Truth Series’ because they take truth, but they twist it in a self-aggrandizing way.
EP: Right, and I think that’s wonderful. So, would you say that your audience for this particular book is any Christian? Any practicing Christian?
JW: Right, it would be any Christian, or people that, you know, would know that like good stories that have romance in them and that have dysfunction. And you know, and I put a good bit of stuff about what it was like; fraternity life and sorority life, you know back during that era. Because you know, there are people who are Greek now, but it’s a little different. The strength of the commitment back then was much greater than it is now. It wasn’t just social. It was really pretty powerful. So, I think that there’s a, you know, a generation — anybody that’s forty and over would particularly like this, I think. And anybody that’s had an experience with cults, or someone they love that’s been in a cult. This is a must read!
EP: Absolutely! I agree with you!
You’ve done a tremendous job of layering here. It goes very deep. And one of the things you center upon and have spent a considerable amount of time investing toward is Ryan’s marriage, which is where the deception began. Talk about that element specifically.
JW: Well, I wanted to show — I mean, I knew who my hero was to begin with, and I knew who my anti-hero was. Ryan is the hero, and Brother Al is the deceiver. But for him to be the deceiver, and for it to be an unholy deception, then the character of Val had to be someone who could be capable of being devious and not really straight-forward. And so, Ryan, in his desire to be just the best person he could be, made one bad choice by picking her, and then a second bad choice by, you know, moving out there. And as the years go by, the stakes for what they’re doing get higher, and higher, and higher, and you know, we have the seduction of Val, and she becomes really connected to Brother Al because he has a higher cause than her marriage! And so this pulls them apart. And you know, I wanted people to just need to say, for the most part, they’re just a normal married couple who did things, and just went about their lives. But because it wasn’t based on initial honesty, that was the seat of its destruction.
EP: Yeah, I saw that, too. And that’s a good point.
This is a two part question. Ryan’s deception was progressive. What was lacking in Ryan’s character that led him into deception and kept him in it? And how can Christians today learn from Ryan?
JW: Well, now, this is like one of my favorite parts of it, to be honest with you. Christians are believers. You know, if you’re writing something you can say, “Christians,” datadatada… and then the next thing, instead of saying Christians again you can say, “Believers” and it’s synonymous. So, because Christians are believers, they believe. Believing is natural to them. If you get right down with people who are knowledgeable about the scriptures and say, “What is man’s nature? Is it fundamentally good, or Is it fundamentally sinful?” They will always say it’s sinful. And yet, they are always surprised when somebody does something sinful!
JW: It just like it throws them for a loop! It’s like, “Well, I can’t believe he did that!” Or, “I can’t believe she did that!” And it’s like, why can you not believe that self-seeking, self-serving human beings do things that are wrong and sinful? It’s their nature. So, believers are more susceptible to being conned than nonbelievers. I certainly believe that.
EP: I do, too! I think you’re absolutely right! Because there’s an element of naïveté there.
JW: And that’s what Ryan was. In his character he was naive, and you know, he had a background — and this is a real important part of this: he had a religious background. No doubt about it. But it wasn’t one where he really… he was culturally a Christian more than he was by commitment. He wanted to do the right things, but obviously when Val, you know, went after him, he was dead meat. And the reason that happened like that, is because that’s what all guys are like. I mean we like to think, “Well, my son, my brother — No, he would never…” — Nonsense! Guys — you know, girls, she just puts it out there and they go running! And that’s what happened to him! So, even though he knew it wasn’t a good idea, it was unwise, and she was already in a committed relationship. See, that’s the key to the whole thing!
JW: She wasn’t straight with Ryan, and he was her little secret. Because she didn’t like what was happening with Charlie, the guy that she was engaged to. She liked the — for her, you know, the depravity that was part of her soul was that she liked the clandestine part of it. So that then, years later, that was the thing that drew her. So that it was not, you know, there was very little that was required because it was her ‘nature’ to be that way. So, but there, you know, in the book also the consequences were very destructive. Of all this, the consequences of living in a cult and pursuing it, are always — always destructive long term.
EP: Absolutely. And many times it’s to the degree that you can’t even recover from it. It changes your life permanently.
JW: It changes your life permanently. It’s about as… and I put that in there — that you know, Ryan, after the whole thing was over — his ability to commit to something else. Really, he would go through the motions, but you know, once you’ve been burned by those things at that level, your ability to trust and recommit — virtually nonexistent. It just doesn’t happen.
EP: Yeah, and I think a lot of churches today — they’re not even asking people to be members. Because they understand that people have been hurt by the Church. In fact, there’s more people who have been hurt by the Church than people who have not. Churches have almost taken on this, ‘Well, you don’t have to be a member; just come’. So where’s the boundaries between, you know, being committed to a specific body of people, and having enough discretion and wisdom to know that they don’t rule your life. You know what I’m saying — it’s almost like we’ve lost that connection, and yet we’re trying so hard to establish it. Does that make sense?
JW: Think of it this way: when you go to churches, there’s consistently, you know, they’ll say, ‘We have this passion for the lost’. And so they’re, everything is focused on new lost people so to speak, and yet there’s zero desire or effort to win back, or to help in any way the people who have been used, abused, and discarded. And that have been, you know, spit out the other end. So, they’re always looking forward. It’s almost like… it’s almost like an evangelical match dot com, where they’re looking forward, you know — who’s my next, who’s my next, who’s my next — without thinking, ‘I have just, you know, hurt this girl badly’, and instead of dealing with that, I’m just gonna go on to the next. That’s what churches do, and the bitterness is the result of it, and of course it has a great deal to do with why our society, you know, is teetering now with progressives who are godless.
EP: Right! Exactly….
JW: You know, I mean they’re the dominant force pushing their political correctness and a lot of their nonsense. And their morality — the new morality is the old immorality.
EP: I would say it’s almost ‘amoral’. Because in society today there is no right or wrong. There’s no distinction. Everything is very, very grey. There is no black or white anymore.
The scriptures teach us about seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, hence your title, Unholy Seduction. Scriptures teach us about demons who masquerade as angels of light, and the necessity of biblically testing all things and doing so with the right spirit and intention. Who or what was the seducing spirit in this story, and what was that specific seduction centered on?
JW: On being the chosen few — it would be the boastful pride of life. They have everything in common; this is — they’re better than other Christians. And they are the ones that are going to usher in the new millennium, so to speak, because they’ve gone back to the true church roots which people have everything in common. So their simplified lifestyle, which is very full of activities and very close relationships. Because you get young people who have been — and you know, they develop great relationships and friendships and stuff like that, but they’re thoughts that they are better than everybody else and that they have an exclusive grasp of higher truth. So they’re seeking higher truth than people that are just going to regular church and stuff like that, they’re just part of Babylon.
EP: Right. Ryan and his wife defined their purpose as “making life matter”. And that was stated several times throughout the book, that they wanted their lives to matter; they wanted them to make a difference in the world. When weighed against scriptures, how does this kind of aspiration prime someone or set them up for deception?
JW: It primes them — that kind — I mean, that’s not an unusual thought for kids who are 18 to 20 years old.
EP: Exactly! You’e absolutely right!
JW: You know, and they want to be like that! But when it’s not coupled with solid scriptural foundation, then the chances of them going off into something that is gonna’ end up being self-destructive are very high. And if anything, that’s something that I wanted to make crystal clear. And you know, Ryan, you know, had very little background. And Val had even less than that. And some of the other people that were in their church didn’t — I mean, they had even less. So the other part of this is, during that era when people had these kind of like, commune type settings — even though they lived in their own places, they, you know, had a lot of communal living. It’s always attracted a lot of other fringes. I set this in California. And during that time, they would travel the California coast. And you know, and so they had lots of people who would just come in an out of their lives who were really drawn to the solidarity of this group and the love that they had for one another, which is the scriptures say that, you know, you’ll know them by the love that they have for one another. But they didn’t have that same love for people who weren’t in their group. They had a haughty superior attitude. And that’s how you can kind of tell something is cultic. Because, you know, they did’t really love their neighbor as themselves. They were the elevated; the chosen. And, you know, so they went for that. And in so doing, they would say they were very humble because they lived humble lives. But, you know, it was a false humility, because there was an extraordinary arrogance: We know better than the rest of them! They were very haughty! And that’s always a characteristic of cults!
EP: Right! I agree. And you see it everywhere. There’s a lot of that.
EP: Yeah. There really is. There are many Christian cults today, some of which are very prominent and alluring. I’m not going to name any, but you and I both know just how prevalent they are. There is a prolific deception in the Church at many levels. Talk about how deception and cults are related. Is one always dependent upon the other being present?
JW: Well, for it to be a cult, it has to be a — it has to go off track from the scriptural base. So, by nature — by nature a cult is deceptive. I mean, it’s exclusive. Their vision, their purpose is always more important than anybody else’s. And their communication with Almighty God is more direct and deeper, and they get the deeper truth. And so they come to believe that the deception is the truth.
EP: Right, and what’s interesting Jack, (I want to make a point) is that there’s very little of Christ mentioned in the book. I mean, there’s virtually nothing that revolves around Him or brings Him glory. That’s what’s so amazing about it! Is that He’s missing from the story! And I think you did a great job of that, because that’s usually how it is in a cult. It’s not about Jesus at all. It’s about a singular man, or a particular individual and their cohorts, who are so elevated, and it’s really — cults drive people to follow, not Christ, but men. Is that accurate? Or what would you say to that?
JW: No, I agree with you. Brother Al became the embodiment of — essentially he became the conduit of how God communicated to that group. And that’s always very similar to whatever — those things that are cultic: God told me and I’m telling you — and you know, and because you are part of the chosen that makes you special. You know, we have a special message from God. And people’s ears — and in so doing, you know, they would use parts of Christian teaching that is always something that is a little different. And the ‘little different’ always helps serve the needs of the leader. And sometimes these leaders — it isn’t that they’re just cons — they really believe this, in what they’re doing. Because essentially, they have this narcissistic personality disorders, so everything is about them no matter what, and they’re never wrong. They can never admit that they’re wrong even when they are. And so, you know, as long as you buy into their version of reality — then you’re okay. If you go against their version of reality, then you’re not. And this is why Brother Al had a team of elders and they enforced — by mostly emotional intimidation. And that’s another aspect of cults is that, you know, when people have a tendency to, “Well, I don’t know…” then there’s this, “Well, then you’re kids are not going to be able to play with my kids anymore, and any of other kids in the church, and your wife’s…” — and they shun you! And the shunning — and the law that comes from it is awful! So people are, you know, they see what happens to others, and its very intimidating.
EP: Well, people are not allowed to question in a cult. It’s very threatening. Anything that’s challenged. Any other thought or opinion, or any other — you know, any kind of questioning at all is not welcome. In fact, it’s considered to be defiant and it’s punished usually. Just like you said, with emotional manipulation and you know, social outcasts and being estranged. And things that are completely unscriptural, and I think anything, anytime there’s a cult going on you see that a lot. That’s one of the first signs people talk about. Because people do start questioning! Once they realize they’re in a body of believers or a cult, they’re antennas go up — at some point usually they get a check, and they start questioning at some point! But it’s always dealt with in such a manner that shames them, that makes them feel stupid or insignificant or unholy. And it begins to — they’re never affirmed as an individual or believer in Christ. And usually it’s something that they end up — they never get their questions answered, and it leads to a greater deception. Because it breeds fear. Well, they’re afraid now to even question the authority, which brings another element into it. The authority figure there is a BIG thing with cults. They’re BIG on authority!
JW: YES! It, you know, questioning is not good. Questioning authority is forbidden. Absolutely forbidden. The authority of the leader is unquestioned. And see, that’s where the real rub is — the authority. If the cult leader loses the authority, then things would fall apart. And I think it’s interesting, too — I put this in there, and I think it’s a really big part of it, is that you know, what is right and wrong for the average person doesn’t apply to the cult leader.
EP: Exactly! You’re absolutely right! They’re immune!
JW: Their sinfulness is sanctioned.
EP: That’s right.
JW: Yeah. And so, you know, it’s okay for them to be ill-tempered. It’s okay for them to be immoral. It’s okay for them to be, you know — almost like Animal Farm. The pigs ended up being more equal than everybody else. Everybody’s equal, but they’re more equal. So that’s what, so they have you know better accommodations, you know, more money, more everything. And in the case of Brother Al, because his sexual needs were not being fulfilled the way he wanted, he twisted reality to make truth a lie, and a lie truth — so that he ended up and was able to have a wife in the spirit and one in the flesh. And so, you know, this makes what he was doing not wrong — but something to be championed.
EP: Right. And that’s where the element of deception really took off in the book! Because that portion was appalling! And I really expected a different type of response from the congregants. But you did a very good job of showing how deep it can go. And how destructive and diabolical it can actually be.
JW: Yes, and so what happens with that is that there’s rumblings. “Well, this isn’t right! I don’t like this! This isn’t biblical…”
“Wait. Yes, but you know, here we’ve got this…” and they just kind of smooth it over until people just fall back in line. And the cult leader gets what he wants.
EP: Right. And a lot of that is driven by, I think, internal fears. And they’ve been so oppressed by this leader, and they can’t question anything anymore.
JW: They become used to having all important decisions made by the leader, so their ability to discern, and their ability to be adults ceases to exist. I mean, they act like adults in every way, but that decision-making thing and the ability to make a rugged stand for themselves — that’s what changes.
EP: Well, they surrender their intelligence. They have sacrificed their intelligence for the sake of ‘community’. And they really believe that—
JW: And purpose!
EP: And purpose! And they really believe that to reason and have any kind of validity at all that would say, “This is completely out of bounds! This is completely off-road!” You know, and yeah, there’s nothing that centers them other than this individual whose completely controlled their lives, and they become owned! They essentially become owned. They don’t have any freedom anymore to own their own lives and take responsibility for their own decisions; their own thoughts; their opinions; their beliefs; their values — all of those systems are completely broken down.
JW: Yeah! They lose their soul.
EP: Right. Right.
I’m often asked, “What is the difference between heresy and error?” One if often blatant, and the other is sometimes benign, meaning it’s unintentional. Everyone makes mistakes; we all miss it. I know my personal answer for that question, Jack, but I’d like to hear yours. How would you earmark the two for a nominal Christian who is trying to use biblical discretion and discernment. Again, the difference between heresy and error.
JW: Errors are — you correct errors. Heresy is fundamentally by nature wrong — and no matter what you do it can never be right. Errors, you can change what you’re thinking; what you’re doing and get back on track. There is no right track for heresy. So no matter what you do it’s never right.
EP: There is no correcting it. Like you said, you can correct an error. And most people who make errors do want to correct them! Their intention is “Oh my goodness, I’ve made a mistake! Let’s get this right again!” And those who do heresy, it’s often blatant and intentional. And there’s no intention of changing.
JW: Yes, and that was when Al took his wife in the flesh, you know, it was because he had a right to do it. And there was no taking that away. So, God had created it that way. And you know, to even having — they look for celestial signs, and I don’t want to give away the book, but the name was kind of the key to everything. And you know, so here in his twisted-ness, Brother Al recognized, you know, ‘I had the right. God gave me the right message, just not the right person, so therefore…’ boom, boom, boom. And it was back to seeking his own pleasure; his own fulfillment, and making it God’s will.
And here’s the other thing I want to put in there: in the ten commandments, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of thy Lord in vain.’ People say, god******, and they say that’s taking God’s name in vain. No, it’s not. That’s just profanity and being crude. For the most part, you know, it doesn’t mean anything. They don’t really mean it; it’s a distortion, and it doesn’t mean anything. Taking God’s name in vain is when you use God’s authority to use a person to do something that is not scriptural or right, and so they are using God’s name to pervert truth and pervert reality. And that was Brother Al’s special gift. So, what he did with that was taking God’s name in vain. And you know, and I think that you know, the ten commandments, the foundation of what makes society work — when you twist reality — and that’s what this whole thing is about — and calling it God’s will, then the destruction is going to come from it. So, they are using Gods name in vain. Brother Al used God’s name in vain, and he had his elders enforce this in their little flock. That make sense?
EP: Yes, absolutely. Those who are usually the center of a cult — they become God. And that is vanity! They become God. Everything revolves around them. And they will use and abuse their people, and the Gospel of Christ, to make success for themselves. And that is absolutely — absolutely — that’s where the heresy is. That’s never right. I don’t care how you cut it — that’s never God’s will. The Lord makes it clear: Go and make disciples, you know, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost — and here we’re making followers of men instead. And so are we really following the Lord, when we’re following people and looking to them instead? The answer is never… Never.
JW: Right. And because my goal in this was to have a really good story, and not to just make it doctrinal and stuff like that. But I tried to make it when you drift away fro the scriptural truth, you’re drifting away from the ability to discern, and the ability to actually know God’s will and follow it. And so here they had all of the enthusiasm and all of the purpose and that didn’t end up mattering, and they got further and further away from the truth, which is also what happens in cults. You know, the deeper you get in, it’s the deeper cul-de-sac! You’ve got to go right back out the same way! And it’s hard to get back out!
EP: (laughs) It is!
JW: And once you do, you never go back. And people are Christians, but they never put their feet down again. You know, they’re never really — you know, once you’ve sold Am-Way once, you never get into another multi-level thing — and it’s kind of the same thing.
EP: What is your ultimate intention for this book? If you could maximize it’s impact and potential upon the masses, what would that look like?
JW: Id like to see it as a screen play in a movie! So that people could really, I mean, because when you connect the concepts and the words, and the — I think that it would be dynamite! So I would love to see that. Now obviously, that’s a long shot, but I think that you know — I wanted to have something there that would let people have an alternative to reading a book about, “Well this cult believes this, and they say that, and they do this. And that’s wrong because this, that and the other.” I mean, it’s not like that! I mean, nobody sets out to destroy their lives! Nobody sets out to — They wanted to do something high-minded, and to make their lives count, and they did the exact opposite. So, you know, they failed. Nobody sets out to fail. They all are, you know, after high school and college graduation, they look at people and say, “You have the ability to change a generation…”, and all this stuff. And they’re just bright-eyed and they’re ready to get out there and do it! But it if isn’t coupled with scriptural reality, then you know, you’ve got a mess! And if these people can have something to read that shows the emotion of what goes on, which are way more important than any of the specific facts, because if they’re emotionally connected to it, then thats what pulls them in. I’ve shown them the emotional connection and how it works. And that’s what people that write things about cults always miss, is that it’s about the emotional pull that is the hook — not the “please just believe what I say; put twenty bucks down and Jesus will give you two thousand.”
JW: I mean, there are people that get into that, but they’re emotionally connected first. I mean, I look at these things and I say, “Are you kidding me? What kind of idiot would believe this?!” Well — millions! (Laughs)
EP: Exactly! Right! Millions upon millions! There are a lot of Ryan Parker’s out there today. What was the key for Ryan in coming to the light and the truth?
JW: Well, he was confronted with the reality of it. And you know, and once he knew exactly what had happened. You know, because in a cult Ryan was having emotional conflict consistently because there were things that just didn’t add up. So he was just, you know, he liked that his family was really in a good situation, and they were just enjoying their lives so to speak. But there were things, you know, his disquietude was growing. And so, you know, which the elders and Brother Al saw, so they tried to find a way to essentially cheat him, and that would destroy his ability to leave, or to — they wanted to take everything away from him. And that would make him subservient to them. And you know, because hell has no fury like a scorned woman, Brother Al’s wife in the spirit, gave Ryan some truth that changed everything for him. And that’s what, you know, that’s kind of my writing style, and I write all my books with something you never expect, because that’s the way life is. It comes out of the blue, and yet once you see that it happened, it’s like, “Well, number one, I don’t blame her. Number two, good for her. Number three, I didn’t see this coming!”
EP: Right. And I loved that moment! It really reminded me of David and Bathsheba, and how Nathan the prophet had to come and say, “Hey!” And wave the flag. I mean, David would have — David did not see his error. He did not see his sin! It took someone to confront him! And how true that is for most of us! We can be caught in the snare of sin so many times, and really not see it until someone comes to us and waves the flag and says, “You are in error!” You know, it takes the confrontation, and that’s what it took for Ryan. And it really, it was an excellent example of just how jarring sometimes that has to be. And I loved that part of the book. I really did.
JW: That was you know (laughs) — I decided that would be a good thing to show just to what length cults will go to preserve their power and to do what they want to do with impunity.
EP: And with that I want to ask: Was Ryan really following God?
JW: (long pause)
JW: For the most part. He was deceived, but he wanted to do the right thing. He tried to believe and just be totally in it. But the strength of his background kept coming up. And his — and you know, this was his connection to his father who was a solid man. And so, you know, when the conflict got brewing, Brother Al, in his desire to destroy and take everything from Ryan, you know Ryan had to just say, “Wait a minute. This isn’t right. I’ve known, my whole life wouldn’t be right if I didn’t have this, and look at my father’s blessing…”
So Ryan always wanted to do the right thing. And Ryan’s us! He’s all of us that are reading the book, in that sense. Because we always want to believe in people. And you know, we always want to give them the benefit of the doubt. We’re always surprised when they’re sinful! But you know, we’er easily duped and easily led, and unless we watch out, we can end up being in a world of hurt, and the book essentially is a — it’s a battle for Ryan’s soul. And he ends up making the correct choices, but the consequences of having lived following the wrong way have their toll on him even after it s all over. So Ryan is a changed person; a wiser person, but his life’s been diminished because he can’t — I mean, the wound in him just didn’t really go away that well. And I think that’s what happens.
And you know it would have been really nice to have put in there that Ryan found another really pretty woman and she was sweet and everything, and you know he ends up very happy. But I really wanted it to be more true.
EP: Well, it doesn’t take long to destroy someone’s life. And that’s really kind of poignant in the book as well. This really only spanned the space of a few years in his young life. And by the time he was 30, I mean it was — he was circling the drain. So, this happened to him at a very early age and it didn’t take long for that to have effect on him. Like you said, that effect is very far-reaching, and sometimes it’s so permanent for people they never do get out. They never overcome it.
The ending to the book is heroic, but atypical. Especially for those who have never recovered from a cult. What was your intention in the ending? Why did you choose it, and what is its message?
JW: It’s message is, when you go down the wrong road and you get hurt really badly, you can get back up and do well. But, it isn’t the — the effect of it is lifelong, and there are parts that heal, and other parts that don’t. And I wanted it to be very real. And I promise you — it is real. This is the kind of stuff that happens. Not, you know, I love that what happened to Val was equally true. I mean, that’s the kind, what happened to the two of them, you know, is real.
One of my favorite lines in the whole book was you know when Val, you know, married to the guy who was said that he wasn’t Chi O material. _________ That wasn’t the kind of man that would be worthy of a Chi Omega. It was kind of like her diminished stature, going from being with Ryan, that she’s going to be the queen bee, and then boom! And she gave into that, because it was her nature to do so. So the consequences of her sin were greater than anybody’s I think, other than some of the elders. You know, the disillusionment that comes from this —
And I want people to know that the end result of leaving a cult is a great deal of disillusionment in life. And I think that that’s true for millions of Christians when they have a bad experience in the Church. They’re just disillusioned. There’s this disillusionment. They’re just disillusioned! This disillusionment is real, and it’s powerful!
EP: It is! Yes it is! It’s life-altering.
JW: And it’s avoidable if they have a better scriptural foundation — if they know the truth of what, of who God is, and who Christ is, and what He’s like and what He isn’t like!
EP: Exactly! And that’s the key — is knowing Him personally. Having that relationship with Jesus Christ. You can always know a fake dollar bill if you know the real one. And I think sometimes the consequences of sin are greater than the sin itself. It just proliferates out of control. And your book demonstrates that beautifully.
Have you considered a sequel? And if so, what would it look like?
JW: Well, I’ve written a second. The Moon Series that I wrote, was you know, I use the same characters, and you know, and I’m writing a sixth book of it right now, and they’re, and so it’s sequential. So, we just go through their lives with different things. These, you know, the Twisted Truth Series, they’re all self-contained. So I’ve written a new book, and it’s [now released], called Feet of Clay. And it’s about what the underbelly of evangelical Christianity is like. And what these big churches, publishing houses, ministries, and tv shows — what it’s really like to be a part of that.
EP: Oh, wow! I’m excited!
JW: And it’s really very similar to this in a sense. It takes a piece of what is wrong and it shows the consequences of actions of people, and of people that get caught up, and it deals with a lot — and it’s a period piece also, but it’s set in the 80’s and early 90’s. And it has a lot of — it’s good.
EP: I’m excited to read it!
As you and I both know, not everyone’s faith survives a cult experience. There are many who have been so adversely affected by Christian cults that they have left the Church, and even denied Christ. What is the impact of your book upon someone who has made that decision. How does their experience fit or relate to this story?
JW: Well, if they read it, they’ve been helped. Because there’s people that are like that and I’ve seen several faces that came to mind when you even said that. By in large, they are so jaded they won’t even bother to read. You now, people that I’ve known for years, “I’m not even interested. I’m not even interested in anything about that.” They become so — that part is — their development is arrested there because the wound is never healed. So they don’t talk about it; they don’t deal with it; they just — if they were to read something like it might help them; it might not. By in large, it isn’t something they’re willing to do, I don’t believe. But, you know, maybe Im wrong.
EP: Okay. We kind of touched on this with the mention of your next book. But I wanted to introduce your next book, Feet of Clay. Can you give the audience a taste of what is to come? What is its message, and when is it released?
JW: It’ll release in June 2017. And its about — it’s also written like it’s a memoir. I like to do that. I’ve written several peoples memoirs for them. It’s a style that I like, and what this does is it goes into the life of Cole Cassidy. He’s the hero, and it’s very irreverent, very funny, for a long time, and then it gets very serious. And he has— his whole world is turned upside own, and he ends up doing a lot of work for Christian ministries and he sees what they’re really like and he points this out as they go along. You know, he has a bad boss, and he goes through all this, but he’s very clear about what should be and what should not be. And it is for everybody who has ever worked for a Christian ministry or major church or something like that, because every one of them has had the experiences that Cole Cassidy has had.
EP: Wow! I can’t wait to read it! I’m very excited about the one as well! It sounds like it’s going to be great! So Jack, I’d like to give you the last word here in closing. What would you like to leave with your audience?
JW: I’m glad for the people that like my writing, even when I do novels, they always have a purpose. And I’m really truly thankful that people can get the message, and that it makes them think, and my goal is to in some small way, help people with their lives so that they can get them unstuck and move forward.
EP: That’s beautiful, I love it! Jack, thank you so much! I’m so grateful for your time here!
See all of Jack’s work at his website, McGee and Me Publishing.
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Image Credits: © Jack Watts | Five Moon Press | Used with permission.
Cheers & Shalom,