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Back December 11th, 2007 Forward
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Update on shooting: Worst fears of walkaway community confirmed :(

I reported yesterday on what is in fact known regarding the tragedy of Matthew Murray--a person who was apparently raised in coercive dominionist groups, joined the highly abusive Youth With A Mission, had a psychotic break, was summarily drummed out, and--as a mentally ill throwaway who undoubtedly had PTSD, in part because he still lived in the coercive situation--eventually snapped and shot up a YWAM post in Arvada and New Life Church in Colorado Springs before being killed himself.

Yesterday, I also noted that there was grave concern on Ex-Pentecostals--one of the oldest online support communities for people escaping abusive neopente dominionist groups--that the shooter may have been a member of their forums; they do report having a series of "violent" posts on their forums between the two times of the shootings (all of their info on the person in question who had the account has been turned over to the FBI).

Unfortunately, it seems the worst fears of all of us in the walkaway community have been confirmed--and we may all be under some increased scrutiny in the next few months...as 9NewNow in Colorado has just (indirectly) confirmed that the worries by Ex-Pentecostals' admins did in fact have truth: :(

Info regarding Murray's last posts )

In a later New York Times article, the admin of Ex-Pentecostals is interviewed; they (sadly) confirm that the poster was apparently a regular on the forums under the username "nghtmrchld26", and apparently made at least 11 separate posts on the forums between the times of the two shootings. The NY Times article also confirms that Ex-Pentecostals admins forwarded the info to the FBI and at least one forum regular may have even called the FBI to warn them even *before* the second shooting.

Disturbingly, Matthew Murray--in a post on 6 October--noted the possibility of sexual abuse in the Arvada-area church he was made to attend and explicitly noted coercive tactics in his own church--again leading to the very real and very sad possibility he was mentally ill and (due to a combination of mental illness and coercive tactics causing some kind of psychiatric injury) essentially had a mental breakdown with semiautomatic weapons involved. :(

This is a bad, bad, bad thing for walkaways, folks. Almost undoubtedly this tragedy could have been prevented if the kid had been able to get appropriate mental help (unfortunately, this is not always an option without court intervention when the kid is being raised in an isolated dominionist household). Now that the fact he was on a walkaway forum has been publicised, there is the real chance we're ALL going to be tarred as "anti-Christian" trenchcoat killers :(

And with that--I would like to make a statement, as a walkaway from the sorts of groups that Matthew Murray was raised in, on behalf of walkaways and the walkaway community:

a) Most of us are grieving right now the dual tragedy here--the tragedy of the lives lost at Arvada and Colorado Springs, and the tragedy of a man who had apparently serious mental illness exacerbated by being raised and eventually thrown out of a coercive religious group.

b) The walkaway community as a whole condemns the violence that occured--as replies on Dark Christianity and multiple walkaway forums have noted, shooting dominionists only feeds into the "martyr complex" and is sick, sad and wrong. There are much more effective ways to deal with the harm caused by these groups.

c) One of the great concerns we have right now in the walkaway community is that Matthew Murray's actions may taint the viewpoints of people regarding walkaways. I will note that he was *not* typical; multiple people on the Ex-Pentecostals forum for months apparently tried to talk reason into the boy without success. There are indications that he had serious mental illness going on (either PTSD severe enough to cause a psychotic break or possibly the initial presenting signs of schizophrenia).

Most of us on these forums are NOT out to shoot up a church. We're not out to hurt people. We're trying to recover from being badly hurt ourselves and educate people about the harm caused by the tactics used by many of these groups.

d) One of the things which has not been noted so far, but--in order to even have a ghost of understanding *why* Matthew Murray may have snapped and felt a need to go out in a blaze of glory--must be addressed (and, ironically, us in the walkaway community may be best suited to address this).

Namely, it appears Matthew Murray was raised and grew up in an environment of coercive religious practice. His parents were apparently members of a "stealth Assemblies" congregation in Arvada which is part of a denomination that promotes three pretty extreme forms of spiritual abuse: namely, deliverance ministry--which has many practices similar to Scientology; "Joel's Army" or "Joshua Generation" theology--a modern day of "latter rain" theology which promotes an extremely militarised version of dominionism; and finally dominionist "cell churches"--the newest name for the highly destructive "discipling and shepherding" model for which Maranatha became positively infamous in the 1970s. "Deliverance Ministry" itself is known to cause bona fide psychotic breaks in people (and this is fairly well documented by exit counselors at this point as one of the more destructive practices); it is also an integral part of "Prosperity Gospel" practices such as are practiced in New Life Church and Faith Bible Chapel and is also the basis of "Joel's Army" spiritual warfare theology. Youth With A Mission not only practices "deliverance ministry" but has actively extended it (as has "Joel's Army" theology in general), even going so far as to conduct "spiritual mapping" of specific areas for "territorial spirits" which must be exorcised--and on occasion the people involved being "exorcised" as well; no less than two separate exit counselors (Rick Ross and Steven Hassan) consider YWAM to be highly abusive. Cell-churches also are a part of YWAM's model; involvement in cell churches (of the sort popular in Assemblies churches) are known to cause documentable personality changes on both short-term and long-term levels that do *not* occur in non-abusive groups.

In addition to his parents' involvement in an abusive church and his involvement with YWAM, it appears his brother went to--and the shooter considered attending--Oral Roberts University, a college under a great deal of controversy due to an embezzlement scandal and whose board of directors is almost entirely comprised of "prosperity gospel" and "Joel's Army" promoters. It appears that Murray was educated almost from the cradle using dominionist "homeschool" correspondence-school materials, likely from an unaccredited source like ACE/School of Tomorrow (there is no record of him ever having received a diploma or GED, and it's not unknown for dominionist correspondence-schools to issue their own "diplomas"). Based on that level of isolation, it's not unlikely he was the victim of religiously motivated child abuse (which is often promoted in dominionist correspondence-school circles--in particular the Pearls and Ezzos and Bill Gothard seem to be popular in dominionist "home education" circles). It's actually surprising he had Internet access at all.

It is also known that involvement in coercive groups can be a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder, and in particular a variety known as complex PTSD; the DSM-V is considering a dedicated definition for complex PTSD that specifically notes involvement in coercive religious groups as a triggering factor for this particular psychiatric injury. As noted, some particularly abusive tactics cause their own specific types of psychiatric injury. People who are what are termed "multigenerational walkaways"--escapees from spiritually abusive groups who were raised in them--have their own spectrum of special problems in adjusting to the outside world that are only now being recognised by exit counselors--socialisation issues being a biggie. (It really is not unlike being raised by zombies and then being brought into the human world as a teen.) People who are "throwaways"--people who either must leave for their safety or who are thrown out of an abusive group and who do not make the decision themselves to leave--also have a specific set of issues, trust issues being a major part of this, as well as worse PTSD and socialisation issues than even multigenerational walkaways.

In the case of someone who has a pre-existing tendency to mental illness, PTSD and complex PTSD can trigger manifestations of full mental illness. (It's not unlike how your leg being broken or a bad burn (an equivalent to a psychiatric injury) can throw someone who has a genetic tendency to diabetes into becoming a full blown diabetic because their insulin goes out of control (an equivalent to a mental illness and the tendency towards it)). We will probably never know, but it is entirely possible that his home environment and his involvement with YWAM in particular may have made Murray's preexisting mental illness worse.

In addition, there is a disturbing tendency in neopentecostal dominionist communities that embrace "deliverance ministry" for them to go away from conventional psychiatry--mental illness is all too often dealt with in "deliverance services" or in harmful "theophostic counseling" (which uses tactics very similar to those in Scientology and can definitely make preexisting mental illness worse; many of its promoters pushed "recovered memory therapy" in the 70's and 80's and spurred on a "Satanic Panic" (based on bogus claims of large, secret diabolist covens) that ruined the lives of thousands of people). There are actually entire "alternative" mental health systems used by the dominionist community that have been promoted as alternatives to "secular psychiatry". Use of dominionist "cures" for mental illness can be and has been fatal in past--Deanna Laney is a particularly infamous example (her mental illness was seen as a "prophetic gift" by her church, and eventually her "gift" told her God wanted her to stone her children as she and Andrea Yates were to be the "tribulation prophet martyrs" which are a part of Assemblies end-time eschatology).

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