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The Book

 

Socrates once said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”  This is about how I felt when I began writing my first book.

 

I knew nothing about writing a book.  Where do you start?  How can you explain your position, without making the reader more confused than before they picked it up?  How many words are in a book?  Is five hundred enough? 

 

As a child, I often dreamed of growing up to be an author.  Not this kind of author, obviously, I wanted to write about cowboys and Indians, flying around the universe in starships, cleansing the galaxies of the evil dark lords.  Westerns, science fiction, fantasy, fiction of all sorts was my release.  I loved to read, and would sometimes polish off two paper grocery bags full of books in a single week.  I had tried several times to write, even as a young adult, but found that “writer’s block” starts at around page two. 

 

I’m not sure what helped me overcome that block.  Maybe it was my anger at the extremely rude telephone calls.  Maybe it was my uncle whose anger made my grandfather’s rage seem jovial.  Maybe it was my curiosity, wondering what Pandora’s box had been concealing for over fifty years.  As my hands pounded on the keyboard, I realized that I already knew what the following Sunday held for us.

 

In my lifetime, I had seen several people leave the religion.  Both friends and family had made their decision to walk away, and for the most part did so quietly.  There were definitely hard feelings, and family get-togethers were awkward, but those who walked away while showing respect to the Prophet were also treated with respect.  Some said that their salvation was earned by being “kind to the ‘Bride.’”  Others, the ones who vented their frustrations with the religion were different.  It usually did not take long before they were forgotten, and never spoke of again.  It was as though they were diseased, and then simply did not exist.  The person that once was no longer existed. 

 

My gut was telling me that my fate would be worse.   I knew of two family members that had been ex-communicated.  One, an aunt, was under the Prophet’s blessing to my grandfather, “All your children and your grandchildren will be saved.”  If a shunning was powerful enough to deny a prophet’s prediction, then what about those who accidently angered the entire following?  It was that very thought running through my mind that motivated me and gave me the strength to write.  I could not trust that the version of the story told from behind the pulpit would match my conversation.

 

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending upon hoe you look at it), my wife had convinced me to purchase the sermons of the Prophet in digital form.  We had to purchase it twice, actually – once for the audio portion, and a second time for the accompanying software search tool.  I can remember being more than a little upset at the expensive second purchase—around five hundred dollars—simply to get the single software CD that did not come with my original purchase.  Could they not just sell me the single CD or burn me a copy?  It couldn’t have cost more than a few pennies!

 

I began examining the major topics chronologically using the software – what did the Prophet say in the beginning?  What did he say at the end?  Did it match the middle?  Did it match what we were taught  our churches?  Each topic I searched gave me a better understanding of why the pastors in the religion were upset – it was very clear that nothing matched.  From the prophecies to the fundamental doctrines, all changed drastically over time. 

 

I searched as I wrote.  After only a few topics, I realized that it was easier to assume complete fiction than to assume truth – no matter which topic I started examining, I could pretty well guess the outcome:  it was contradictory.  Out of the many topics I searched, I was unable to find one single subject that I could not fully question.  There were so many examples that a single book would not be enough.

 

By the time I made it halfway through writing my first book, I could no longer call the man a “prophet.”  In fact, I could no longer call the man “brother,” as we were trained to do.  I began searching my work to remove every instance of the titles I had used for the “Prophet,” replacing them with just his last name:  Branham.  Later, I decided to prefix them with “Rev.,” so that I did not come across as too judgmental.

 

But I was.  Not a single prophecy appeared to have been given before the event.  Some cases they were not even mentioned until several years after.  The number of “witnesses” grew over time.  Angels were inserted into his stories, and locations changed.  It was all so confusing!  I felt like I had been spoon-fed a lie, my entire life, sugar coated by men who knew.  And some of the men were family!

 

My hands were literally flying – my fingers pounding on the keyboard, aching and barely able to keep up with my train of thought.  At over a hundred words a minute, the book was quickly coming together.  I was on a timeline; I wanted this book to be in the hands of everyone before the rumor mill started.  There was no telling what sort of evil beast I would become as the story grew from mouth to mouth through the dreaded “Bride” rumor mill.  Within four days, and not even taking a single minute to proofread the result, I published it to the site in digital form. 

 

What happened next shocked even myself.  I expected that a few would read it, possibly a handful from our local churches.  I’d be lucky if a hundred read it.  If a thousand read it, I’d probably be dreaming, and wake up to a strange nightmare where my friends and family were all turned into zombies or possessed with apparitions to cause what I had just experienced.  But within a day, it nearly brought my server down!  Thousands of downloads, from around the nation, were taxing my server.  Foreign nations began downloading the book – countries that I did not even know existed.  How could I keep this running?  Do I have enough bandwidth to support all of the downloads?  I was forced to upgrade my server, and expand the number of download locations. 

 

I was later told by one of my sources on the inside of Voice of God Recordings that the book nearly brought the company to a standstill.  All around the building, people were downloading the book, reading it as though it were a best-selling novel.  It was the private conversation around the water coolers, and when people walked into an office, those behind desks would quickly try to hide what they were reading. 

 

Similarly, the people in Grandfather’s church were highly interested.  It would seem that my grandfather’s ex-communication speech was the best advertising that I could ask for – better than if I had spent thousands of dollars for an ad campaign.  They told their friends and family, their friends and family told theirs, and the power of the rumor mill drew the crowds to my tiny server.  I was not able to upgrade before the load brought it down, bringing my business clients down with it.

 

This increased the number of telephone calls and text messages, this time from an angry mob.  And that mob was not just my business clients.  My own uncle accused me of being a homosexual (I was not), and within minutes my own mother called to tell me that my hidden sexuality was similar to other people she had known.   It was overwhelming, “friends” who had not contacted me since long before my battle with depression now calling me to see if the rumors were true.  Toying with them, I’d say, “what rumors,” so that I could listen to their uneasy voice as they squirmed around how best to ask me.  I knew it didn’t matter, because the majority of them would end the conversation with an insult, a threat, or a curse.  It became predictable, and I started to know exactly what they would say before they said it.  One by one, I had conversations with friends and family that ended with how displeased they were at my “demon.”  I received sympathy cards, families letting me know how “sorry” they were that I was going to hell.  I knew it would be the very last conversation many would ever have with me.

 

Though my wife fared better than myself, she began also losing friends.  “It’s funny,” she said.  “Your grandfather included me in his curse, and didn’t even check to see if I still believed. I might have gone back to church, had he not banned me!  Do I not matter to him?  “By the time it was over, I went from hundreds of friends from one end of the nation to the other, down to a number I could count on almost one hand.  Even my best friend would not contact me for the next two years, only to eventually tell me that I was no longer welcome in his home.  “I’ll love you no matter what,” he’d tell me.  “But my wife doesn’t want you back here again.” 

 

I began to realize that this was not a Christian religion.  It was a cult, plain and simple, and the people were trapped inside of walls they themselves created.  Those before me who walked away were leaving people trapped behind invisible iron bars.  And what could they do?  They are just one small voice in the eyes of what I thought was hundreds and later learned to be millions.  It was not a “little Bride” as we were told.  It was a staggering number that chose this denomination of faith.

 

But my last name was recognized.  If anybody were to expose this cult, it would take someone like me, with a familiar name.  Was I ready?