Today I feel a little bit like Dr. Sam Loomis, the psychiatrist in the classic horror movie Halloween who ran through the streets of Haddonfield telling anyone who would listen that Michael Myers had just escaped from the insane asylum. As he frantically warned the residents, they looked at him as if he were a paranoid crank. Similarly, I warned in May that something was seriously amiss at Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Grandview, Mo., an exurb of Kansas City. Part of my job is monitoring extremist organizations, which brought me to IHOP’s worship center at midnight, when I expected the cavernous hall to be practically empty. Instead, I found a far more disconcerting scene. Here is what I wrote on May 4:
There was a gigantic 24/7 prayer room filled mostly with teenagers, many of whom appeared to be of high school or college age. A band played hypnotic Christian music while the audience of 100 or so youth engaged in a diverse set of worship rituals. Some were seated, as if they were in a traditional church setting. Others danced and skipped, like they were in some sort of fundie rave. One youth twirled a purple fan, as if he were at a gay circuit party. About a quarter of the participants walked in a trance-like state through the aisles muttering to themselves — a practice that I had not seen before. Some of these youths walked non-stop for over an hour, with no signs of stopping to rest.
Beware Grandview and Kansas City. You have an aggressive, militant, angry, fundie cult growing under your nose. It’s time to wake up before you become the next Colorado Springs. Don’t be caught flat footed wondering, “How did this happen?” Consider this your first warning.
My warning wasn’t heeded, and residents of Grandview now appear mystified by the murder of a young woman who belonged to a religious sect with close ties to IHOP. The Kansas City Star reports that a charismatic youth leader, Tyler Deaton, had persuaded members of a church youth group he started at Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Tex., to move with him to Kansas City so that they could be close to IHOP. His group allegedly began drugging and sexually assaulting Deaton’s wife, Bethany, 27, for what they deemed spiritual reasons. Deaton, who identified as an “ex-gay” who’d been healed through Jesus Christ, also allegedly began having sex with male members of his cult. Afraid that Bethany was going to reveal the group’s crimes to her therapist, Deaton allegedly ordered one of his followers, Micah Moore, to murder her and make it appear to be a suicide. The plan seemed to be working until Moore cracked and confessed to authorities.
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