Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Breaking the Faith: Chilling New Series

(a review without many spoilers - because you should watch the show and feel its impact for yourself!)

TLC (formerly called The Learning Channel) has a new series that I thought from the ads was about the Amish.  (Amish youth also have a show)  This new show is called Breaking the Faith, and it's about escapees/former members of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) polygamous Mormon offshoot cult.  You probably remember Warren Jeffs, the cult leader (the "prophet") who is in prison for his role in adult-child marriages, a.k.a. rape., and his own sexual abuse of girls.

The young men who are helping the women
The first episode aired a few days ago, and it centers on a handful of young adults who are escaping not just the repressive physical compound, but the brainwashing they've been brought up with.  The FLDS makes the Amish look like the Kardashians.  The control is total and they grew up with almost no contact with "gentiles."

Four boys/young men (ages 18-20) who are already on the outside break out four girls/young women (ages 18-22) who have gotten word to them that they want out of their religious prison.

These kids reveal an astonishing alternate reality that has been constructed by the cult.  The "prophet" is the top guy.  There is also a "bishop" and a group of brownshirt types nicknamed the "God Squad".  People on the outside are called "gentiles" and there is an inner circle called the "United Order."  Their compound is called "The Crick."

On the upside, they do love their families, and the families can be quite large.  Good men are rewarded with additional wives, so family size is symbolic and variable (unlike the muslim rule limiting men to four wives).  One of the young men has nine mothers and 19 siblings.  Another of the men has 62 siblings.   One of the girls comes from a highly-placed family that included 32 mothers and 302 siblings!  Two siblings in the show have only one mother because their dad just didn't cut the mustard.  Still, there were twelve children in the family, so they were never lonely.  

Despite a tightly controlled environment, each realized that there was something wrong in their Paradise, inspiring them to escape.  In some instances, they left behind a sibling who also wanted out, and their regret about this is palpable.

Of course, their limited experiences didn't prepare them for what they would find on the outside.  Although they came to see their leader and lifestyle as flawed, most of their beliefs are so entrenched that they experience intense fear and guilt almost immediately.  Apparently later episodes show them having fun, but the first episode gives you a glimpse into what is much more than culture shock.   They knew there was something wrong with their cult lifestyle, but they had no idea how much of their lives was based on lies, and they are genuinely dismayed as they try to sort it out.

They stay at a safehouse which is actually the home of one of the cult's most notorious turncoats --and they hear the other side of the story for the first time in their lives.  The girls look terrified as they face a loving woman who wants them to have a dignified and safe life for themselves.  It would be like one of us meeting Jeffrey Dahmer and hearing him say that all those stories about eating people were made up.  They aren't sure what to believe, and they are reluctant to give up everything at once.  Who would?  This will be tough going for them.

"Deprogramming" is the term for bringing people out of a cult environment, but for people who grew up in it, it's much more than that.  It's a total re-education.  I hate to use that word because of the obvious Communist link, but it's the only word that comes to mind.  They have to learn everything about the world from the ground-up because almost everything they've been told is a lie.

Add to this the sexual abuse and other forms of abuse they are recovering from, and I give these people kudos for being willing to heal themselves and help others.

I have not even scratched the surface of the drama and turmoil of this episode.  I watched it before going to bed and I couldn't sleep.  Many of the more disturbing details kept me awake and they still haunt me.  The mathematics of polygamy means that boys are mere flotsam to a polygamous cult, and the girls are possessions with no rights of their own.

I hope that more children escape this destructive and vile situation.


Infidel753 said...

It's remarkable that these enclaves of abusive and illegal practices have persisted for generations on US territory. I hope showcasing them on TV will lead to more support for doing something about it.

Have you read Jon Krakauer's book on the FLDS, Under the Banner of Heaven? There's a tendency to fragment into ever-smaller splinter groups until there are individual cultists ruling just their own families and using "revelation" to justify their personal urges, including incest and murder.

Anonymous said...

The essence of all patriarchal religious cults is the devaluation of everyone except the leader and his closest minions. This happens worldwide. Women are beasts of burden who get lip service for the all the labors they are forced to endure and complete.

Anonymous said...

The "men" in these polygamist communities are no better than the recent cases of kidnapped women held in horror chambers, worse they cultivate them from birth. Clearly they are incapable of what gentiles would consider a loving sexual relationship and sadly for them never will.

Green Eagle said...

Anonymous, I won't let them off the hook quite as easily as you. These men are capable of having loving sexual relationships, they just don't want to, so they have created a little society where they can live as animals at the expense of others.

Hausdorff said...

Wow, that sounds intense. Will have to check it out

Anonymous said...

Is Flora Jessup or Mike Watkiss involved? They've done more than almost anyone out there. Now that Tom Horne (don't know if he's Mormon) is AG and not Terry Goddard what little movement against Colorado City and Hilldale and with Utah is gone.

This is the reason Mitt Romney's grandparents or great-grandparents went to Mexico to have this type of life.

LadyAtheist said...

Carolyn Jessop was the woman who ran the safe house for the escapees:

The Krakauer book is on my reading list now!

Anonymous said...

Its takes money to get these kids on the right to living as free americans. Does anyone know if there are organizations to donate to that directly helps these kids?

LadyAtheist said...

I think the mainstream Mormon church may support them, but perhaps we'll learn more as the series progresses.

Sheldon said...

Are you familiar with Christian "Quiverfull" groups? They aren't much better.

Look up Homeschoolers Anonymous, Bill Gothard, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement.

LadyAtheist said...

Yes, I've posted about them and I follow the blogs of some ex-quiverfull women. The Duggars are part of that crazy movement.

Allusive Atheist said...

This may be too hard to watch. I'm glad it's airing though.