By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Lose yourself: I'm glad someone finally had the courage to publish a book about the real Ole Anthony. Thank you, Wendy Duncan. And thanks to the Dallas Observer for having the journalistic savvy to follow up on it ("The Cult of Ole," by Glenna Whitley, August 3).
On the surface, your comical front page seems almost as silly as depicting Ole behind a locked compound, handing out Nikes and serving Kool-Aid. Just hard to take seriously. But that doesn't mean that the danger at Trinity isn't real. Unfortunately, the very word "cult" conjures up visions of something evil and extreme, and it's easy to miss the subtle criteria. Does a "cult leader" only earn that eerie title by causing a newsworthy tragedy? Isn't causing personal tragedy enough? Ole's ability to maintain such a startling level of psychological control over people's lives for so many years is scarier to me than a flash-in-the-pan madman.
I doubt we'll ever see the dreaded headlines that something snapped and it all got ugly. It only gets personally ugly for people like Doug and Wendy, who trusted Ole Anthony, only to be devastated and disillusioned by his abuse and deception. No wonder they couldn't hear God anymore.
Wendy Duncan's husband Doug was a close high school friend of mine, before and during the time he got into this Trinity Foundation mess. So I've known Ole was bad news since 1977, when Doug initially had some serious questions and wanted me to meet with him to check out his theology. Ole sat uncomfortably close to me in a circular booth at Denny's, with an imposing sensuality that was quite intimidating to a 21-year-old. After first testing my scriptural knowledge, he fed me his twisted revision. His spiritual pitch was about surrendering individual identity in favor of losing oneself in a melting oneness of all believers. He said this was the only way God would accept us in heaven, because expressing individuality meant asserting self, which was sinful. Ole said this was our eternal destiny, heavily implying that it should begin more tangibly in the here and now.
Contrary to Ole, I felt that my relationship with God depended on it being personally intimate. So the obvious red flag was that if I bought his theology and laid down my identity, then I'd also relinquish my free will and the ability to make my own decisions. No, I wasn't thinking "Run, it's a cult!" But I did get his agenda--loud and clear.
Doug didn't see things my way and told me more about Ole's ideas, like the unsurprising revelation that premarital sex was totally fine because "to the pure all things are pure" (a wildly irresponsible interpretation of Titus 1:15). With this kind of theology, which allowed so-called freedom without offending the Christian conscience, it's no wonder that young people were drawn to Ole. When my friend's strong faith was misdirected so easily, it certainly foreshadowed Ole's uncanny influence. What I didn't see was the years of misery it would cost him.
I've always believed that, from its very roots, Trinity represented something quite foreign from the true gospel. And it seems from all reports that Ole just continued in that vein and built more falsehood on that faulty foundation. As for his watchdog business, the oldest trick in the book is finding someone worse to criticize to make yourself look better. He did that masterfully by going after the big ministry guns. The bigger the gun, the better it would make him seem. He wasn't one of "them"--he was the Christian crusader for justice. Or was he?
Being the wife of an ordained minister for many years has put me on the forefront of concern about corruption in the church. I am distraught when people are hurt. But Ole's methods of exposing televangelists were almost gleeful and bloodthirsty. Based on that alone, you gotta wonder what team he's batting for. He is like a surgeon who goes after a disease by slicing the patient to death with a kitchen knife. A skilled surgeon will treat the patient, not ravage him. Apparently, he dealt with his own ministry the same way.
I hope that Ole's antics being exposed will curtail others from getting involved with him. I also hope that his career as a watchdog is shut down. Ministers are people, too, and inevitably some will do things wrong. There is certainly much to correct. But who should handle the wrong and how? Ole is surely not the "who," and he doesn't have the compassion or a clue about the scriptural way to do the "how."
Ole Anthony claims to represent my God? I don't think so.
Trivial: Glenna Whitley really missed the mark this time. I'm sorry, but the issues that the Trinity Foundation's ex-members have with Ole Anthony struck me as rather trivial in the overall scheme of life. It's hard to understand how they merited a tabloid-style cover story.
Balm for the ignorant: This is an excellent article, with quality reporting and writing one will never see in The Dallas Morning News. On the one hand, I applaud Ole Anthony for exposing the reprehensible shenanigans of snake-oil salesmen who have the audacity to take advantage of people who are gullible and hurting. On the other, as you pointed out in your story, Anthony himself is accused of equally heinous shenanigans. That's too bad, because our society can use the services of people whose mission is to expose frauds.