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Deep Study: Matthew Carapella - Profile of a "Message" Cult Recruit

In 2013, a 26-year-old Matthew Carapella was publicly recognized for being a role model for the younger generation. He held the record for the most interceptions for the Western Mustangs football team of London, Ontario, worked for one of the most successful construction firms in Canada, and lived life to the fullest. Not only was he a faithful Christian, Matthew was very involved with his community. Volunteering for several different community organizations, Matthew did his best to help others and make a positive impact.

Matthew's passion was to help underprivileged children. Working with the London Community Foundation, he started the "All for the Kids Fund" to help provide needy youth with funding for activities such as sports, music, art, dance, drama, as well as the basic needs such as food and clothing. Matthew wanted to ensure than no child in his community went without. It was his passion. According to Matthew at that time, "They have to experience the joy of giving. Giving is contagious. Seeing lives change, the smiles, it is a far greater joy than buying things for yourself."

Soon after, Matthew came in contact with Steven and Rudy Ravbar. Like Matthew, they placed great value in their faith, but did not feel the Christian churches in London, Ontario were the answer. They were members of a religion that had answers "secret mysteries required for salvation" that other Christian churches did not have. They had the "Message" of William Branham, some 1100 recorded sermons of a Pentecostal evangelist from Jeffersonville, IN that were preached during the 1940's through the 1960's. These sermons, according to the Ravbars, held the key to unlocking "true salvation" while the rest of the Christians in the city had placed their faith in a "cheap imitation". Unaware that Steven and Rudy were recruiting him into a destructive religious cult, Matthew began spending time with the Ravbars to learn more about the esoteric teachings of William Branham.

William Branham was a "faith healer" who rose to fame as one of the leaders of the Post WWII Healing Revival. He was ordained as a minister and evangelist by a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, Roy E. Davis. Branham was one of two catalysts responsible for creating the "Latter Rain" movement in Canada, and largely responsible for helping it grow and spread throughout the United States. As chief publisher of the Voice of Healing Magazine, Branham promoted several evangelists during the late 1940's and 1950's before turning the publishing company over to Gordon Lindsay and Jack Moore, his campaign managers.

Joining forces with Joseph Mattsson-Boze of the Philadelphia Church in Chicago, IL, Branham helped lift the Reverend Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple into an overnight sensation. At the time Jones forming the Peoples Temple, he was a "Message" minister ordained in the "Latter Rain" Independent Assemblies of God by Mattsson-Boze. When Jim Jones and over 900 of his followers committed mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, very few were aware that he was a "Message" pastor from Indianapolis, IN.

As Branham's popularity began to fade and the other evangelists promoted through Voice of Healing gained recognition, Branham began introducing new "supernatural" claims into his sermons. Alleging to have had several "prophecies", "angelic visitations", "gifts" and "callings", Branham began creating a group of followers who believed that he was their direct conduit to both God and salvation. After his death, his followers continued in the same direction, using the recorded sermons as their "access to God", no longer having a physical human integrated into their worship.

As he was being recruited into the "Message" cult following of William Branham, Matthew was unaware of this history. His recruiters, the Ravbars, did not disclose any information critical to William Branham or his cult following. Matthew did not know that there were any issues with the accuracy of Branham's "prophecies", or that Branham himself had adjusted his own "prophecies" to match recorded history. He was not aware that there were issues with Branham's fundamental "doctrine", or that Branham carefully adjusted his "doctrine" to match the crowd's theology. While the Ravbars taught Matthew that Branham was violently against the Trinitarian doctrine, and that Branham believed any who accepted the Holy Trinity had inadvertently taken the "Mark of the Beast" from the Book of Revelation, they did not tell Matthew that Branham often claimed to have accepted the Trinity when speaking before Trinitarian audiences.

Matthew was recruited through one of the most fundamental components of a destructive religious cult: the control of information.

Over time, as Matthew was being manipulated to shift his opinion and personal convictions to match those of the "Message Cult", Matthew's entire perspective on the community began to change. No longer was he the philanthropist seeking to better the community; Matthew began to believe that the community was a playground for destructive forces of evil produced by the other Christian Churches who did not have access to the esoteric knowledge of Steve and Rudy Ragbar, his recruiters. Taking the opposite position of his authentic, individual personality, Matthew began to transform into a "Message" cult follower. His personality began to change, shifting to match that of the cult identity that was created by the central figure, William Branham. Matthew no longer wanted to give back to the community. He wanted to condemn it.

Matthew and Steve began "preaching" on the streets of cities from downtown London Ontario to Toronto and Windsor. Holding signs and speaking through loud speakers, the two began condemning everything that William Branham also condemned on his recordings. As women walked by wearing shorts, pants or cosmetics, Matthew's voice echoed the streets in a way that matched Branham's screaming blasts of condemnation. During the Christmas season, rather than stand on the street corners and providing gifts for the needy children of the community, Matthew blasted insults against any who celebrated. Said Matthew: "We're in a season with a lot of paganism right now. The Christmas holiday has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, but a great consumer materialistic pagan celebration. it's really brought a mockery to what Jesus Christ did here 2000 years ago." Condemning all who celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, he issued warnings of judgment and fear: "We like him in a little baby manger, but he's coming back as an iron fist, and he's going to bring justice to the world."

As time went on, the kind, loving person that wanted to help children began to turn angry and bitter. Matthew persistently shouted insults at women in the streets, calling them "whores" and condemning them for not following William Branham's guidelines for holiness dress code or abstinence from using cosmetics. Their message was especially hateful to the LGBT community, who received verbal assaults as they passed by the street corners. Even the Christians in the community were not immune to the abuse. Calling them "make-believe Christians", Matthew regurgitated the insults William Branham used in his sermons from the Post WWII Healing Revival. Said one woman: "I'm sick of being called a whore while I'm trying to walk to work". The community Matthew once tried to help save now felt helpless at his merciless and relentless onslaught of hate speech. Many described how unsafe and uncomfortable they were, and started a petition to request that the London, ON government intervene.

The cult identity that had formed in Matthew continued to change his personality to match William Branham's pattern of verbal abuse, while Matthew's aggression towards the city of London continued to worsen. He began verbally attacking any passerby who gave the slightest impression of similarity towards the opposite gender, calling them an "abomination". He began targeting specific churches in the community, harassing parishioners and religious leaders about their beliefs. He began visiting other churches during services and harassing church members for their apparel or their beliefs. Church leaders have been forced to ask for police intervention.

The Matthew that was once respected in the local community had changed. Manipulated to believe that righteousness could be found in verbal and emotional abuse of those who might listen, Matthew's personality shifted to match William Branham's stage persona. To the people of the city, the Matthew that existed only a few years ago has been replaced by a bitter, angry Matthew that is of a completely different personality type. Matthew's authentic, individual identity has now been suppressed, and the cult identity has disallowed his ability to critically think about his actions.

Many might mistake this transformation for a mental disorder. Matthew's personality now the polar opposite of his former self, some might assume that split-personality disorder had exposed a side of Matthew that had been hidden for decades, suddenly taking control of the more generous, loving personality. Some might assume a nervous breakdown or acute personality disorder. But this is not the case.

Matthew is a victim. He has been exposed to manipulation by leaders of the "Message" cult. Cult leaders have controlled information, concealing facts that would have convinced Matthew to ignore claims of esoteric knowledge by his recruiters. Cult leaders have manipulated his behavior. The actions of the "new Matthew" in no way, shape, or form are similar to the Matthew many thought would one day mentor children of the community. Cult leaders have manipulated his thoughts, convincing him to believe the community he once loved is "evil" and "satanic". Cult leaders have manipulated his emotions, placing him in a state of fear. That fear has now created a barrier between him and the outside world, enslaving him to the clutches of a destructive cult. The real Matthew is now buried deep inside, longing to be set free.

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