The 3HO Dysfunctional Family: How I Figured It Out - Introduction
Rachel (nee Geftakys) Steepleton's extensive account of her father's long-standing domestic violence was a major factor in the dissolution of the Getakys Assemblies. In this article Rachel shows how the functional similarities between a secular cult, the "Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization" (3HO), and the Assembly system turned on the lights for her in 2002. She uses extensive excerpts from a first-person story of someone who left 3HO, and interjects Assembly terms in brackets to bring out the parallels with the Assembly. Brent T. commented, " It is one of the most powerful things I have ever read."
3HO Dysfunctional Family: Don't Talk, Roles, Sex Roles
Personality Roles: The Hero, The Scapegoat, The Forgotten Child
Network of Lies
Personality Types: Grief-on-top-of-Rage, Co-dependents
Pit of Rage, Keeping Up, Talking About Mom and Dad's Problem
Now that you know my story of Assembly involvement I will show you the path to the change in my perspective and the answer to my question, "Why?"
As you can see from my story, I came from a classically abusive, dysfunctional family with a religious twist. I also believe I came from, at best, an abusive church. Once my husband and I left the Assembly, I began to read accounts from other people who had left other abusive ministries and churches. I began to see a pattern of similarities between the Assembly and the other abusive ministries especially in the dynamics of the groups. There were eerie similarities in behaviors, roles, and procedures for dealing with issues. I remembered as a young adult noticing these similarities but convincing myself that it was because Satan knew that the best lie had a lot of truth in it.
At this same time I was studying abusive, dysfunctional families. I knew my grandparents had been physically abusive to my father when he was a child, and I was interested to gain understanding about the cycles abusive families go through, thereby passing the abuse from one generation to another. I began to see patterns of behaviors and identify roles. Maybe it was because the ministry was started and run by my family, or maybe because in many ways the Assembly had been my family, I started to see how the patterns of an abusive family matched the patterns of an abusive church. I was amazed.
It made sense though. It helped explain why certain people were drawn into these churches. I wanted to be careful that I had thought this idea out carefully before adopting it as an answer to my "Why?" question. I started to look at the identified roles of an abusive family and what I thought was the corresponding roles in the abusive ministries. Again and again they matched.
I wondered if because abusive families came in all religions, races, and social/economic levels then were abusive ministries limited only to Christianity or could there be other belief systems with abusive ministries as well. It was then I began to study other religious, new age, philosophical groups that had been described by former members as abusive. The more I read the accounts of these people, the more I saw the same patterns emerging. It was then I came to a conclusion. All abusive groups are, at the core, the same. The outside coating, the words they use, the doctrine they use words from, may be completely different but the dynamics of the group and the controls used, the ultimate abuses and motivations are all the same.
This was a hard pill for me to swallow. It meant that the group I had grown up in was not about God. It was about control, and feeding addictions. Now before you throw this away and completely dismiss me, hear me out.
Because I believe in a personal relationship with God, I believe that when you accept Christ as your savior and ask him to forgive you of your sins you are saved. I believe this is true even if your salvation happens while you are involved with the Assembly because it is a personal thing between you and God. I believe you can receive Christ as your savior by just reading the gospel, without anyone around. I don’t believe the truth of your salvation has anything to do with the Assembly and everything to do with acceptance of Christ’s payment for your sins on the cross.
I also believe that the average member of an abusive group is sincere. That means I believe the average saint believes in God, is a sincere Christian, loves God and wants to follow him. Many are in the Assembly because something in their background makes them predisposed to the dynamics of an abusive group. They are simply falling into roles from their past only with new names.
That is why I believe if they continue to seek God without compromise ultimately they have to leave. They really do want God and God will not leave them forever, in a place he is not. If they continue to seek God, He will lead them out. One of the reasons some do not leave is they compromise and are intoxicated by the lure of the power and false spiritual superiority an abusive ministry holds. Since they have seen the truth and chose to deny it in order to stay in a comfortable place, they then switch from simple victims of abuse to contributors, if only by silent complicity. This is known as denial.
One of the real turning points for me, an "Aha" moment, was when I read a paper by a former member of the 3HO, the Healthy, Happy, Holy, Organization. This is a movement based in Yoga and the Sikh religion. However, once again, I encountered eerie similarities between it and the Assembly. One paper described the roles in an abusive family.
When reading this please remember some of the terms are different but they describe abuses and dynamics identical to the Assembly. Please do not dismiss this because they have different names for what is happening. The underlying story will be very familiar. I have added in italics some Assembly terms for what is happening, as well as some thoughts.
November 10, 2008, Connie Wellik, formerly from the Fullerton Assembly: It was a difficult read, but Rachael's article was right on. The discernment and thought she put into aligning the assembly with the dynamics of dysfunctional families was genius! I can tell this exercise has helped her on her road to recovery out of denial and into God's grace....Rachael so beautifully illustrated the pit of denial and how everyone in the family protects the lie out of fear of exposure - when in fact exposing the lie is exactly the way out. Good for you Rachael. "Blessed are the pure in heart - for they shall see God." I believe you have :)