This is a guest post by Annie Thomas.
Diane Benscoter’s tale begins in 1974 as a lost 17-year-old who was concerned about the war in Vietnam and wanted to do something to help stop it. When she was invited to join a peace march, she jumped at the chance. Little did she know she was marching with members of the Unification Church who were using exhaustion, hunger, repetitive lectures, and other brainwashing techniques to get more cult members. By the end of the march, Diane believed the second coming of Christ had occurred, and that it was Sun Myung Moon, and that she had been chosen by God to be his disciple.
Diane remained with the Moonies for five years, working mostly as a fundraiser. She would spend her days selling candy, flowers, and little knick-knacks. After five years of this — and no chance of upward mobility in sight — Diane decided to ask if she could have the Church’s blessing to return to school. It was granted.
Returning to school, in conjunction with living away from the cult for the first time since joining, created cracks in Diane’s devotion. The cognitive dissonance she was experiencing frightened her so much that she decided to return to the Church. Her mother, upon hearing of her wish to return, asked to see Diane one more time. She came to see Diane with deprogrammers in tow, thus beginning a process that led to Diane’s eventual freedom from the cult.
In the years following her deprogramming she became part of an underground railroad of sorts, helping other families try to free their loved ones from cults. This led to her arrest for kidnapping. All the while, Diane struggled to rebuild her life, torn apart by the religious abuse she suffered and, at the same time, coming to terms with her sexual identity as a lesbian.
Shoes of a Servant: My Unconditional Devotion to A Lie (Lucky Bat Books, 2013) offers an open and honest account of this time in Diane’s life. Diane’s writing style draws the reader in immediately, as if one friend is telling an intimate tale to another. She uses the names of songs for chapter titles, providing an anchor to the time when the events occurred, as well as a soundtrack of sorts for the reader. Most importantly, perhaps, this book delineates the type of person who is often preyed upon by cults, as well as the techniques used to retain members within a specific religion.
Annie Thomas is a science teacher and writer from Gainesville, Florida. She has previously written about her night at a Kirk Cameron-hosted “marriage-strengthening” event and going to a Ten Commandments monument protest in Starke, Florida.