Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mint Juleps

Interesting former Thiemite testimony about experience at Berachah:

I was a 'Berachah baby', there in diapers in the mid-1960s; and attended without fail until I entered the Army in 1980. My last visit to Berachah Church was in May 1984. My parents began attending when Thieme was preaching in the "quonset hut", somewhere downtown, before the current facility was constructed.

I am pleased to say that by the grace of Almighty God, my family escaped from Berachah Church. My intention here is to offer my personal views and experiences. I know of quite a number of people who were friends of mine in the 1970s-80s, and still attend.

My parents made their last visit to Berachah in 1981. I was home on leave and so thrilled to be a part of the 'military communion' at Christmas - a ceremony I now regard as blasphemous. The focus of communion should be on Jesus Christ, not all the pretty uniforms. It is completely out of place. But I digress.

The weirdness began in the early 1970s. R.B. Thieme, Jr. (I will do all I can to refrain from referring to him as The Colonel) began wearing his old staff officer WWII uniform for the various 'conferences'; this was, I believe, about the same time that his son was commissioned as an Army officer. The Viet Nam War was ending, and Thieme began pushing a strong pro-military stance, incorporating this stance, as we all well know, into his ministry. A massive RANGER tab appeared on the balcony of the church where the children's classes (formerly known as Junior Church) were held. (Sidebar: As a child, I attended Junior Church under the guidance of Sam Hankins, an amazing man and a true teacher of the Bible. He was fired by Thieme, and Thieme announced one night that he had "taken control" of what would now be known as "Prep School". It was, in my opinion and conversations with those younger than I, an unparalleled disaster and warped many young lives.) The hallway behind the pulpit became "Ranger Hall", with huge photos of any man who was qualified as a Ranger. How pleased God must have been by all of this. I remember the summer of 1974, the 4th of July "Conference" - Ranger demonstrations, hand-to-hand combat in the grass "quad", Gary Horton rappelling out of the (completely abandoned) baptistry, and people sitting on the floor. In those days, tapers took their holiday vacations to come to Berachah - one had to arrive a couple of hours before services began just to get a seat. All kinds of men carrying concealed weapons, ready to take a bullet if the doors ever crashed in and Soviet agents came to get Thieme, who was (by his own admission) on several death lists as their chief protagonist. (Ahem, pardon me while I clear my throat.) Police patrolling the parking lot, making sure no indigent/homeless/hippie types got in. (Please, try to justify this exclusion using your Bible. I dare you.) And as a young man, living in perpetual terror that at any moment now, the Communists were coming to get me.

They were heady times.

I was speaking on the telephone to a good friend of mine just last night. He still lives in Houston, and his family left in the same timeframe as ours. (Note: There was a considerable exodus from Berachah from 1980-85; you will find many of these folks at First Baptist, Second Baptist, and Spring Branch.) He made the point that his family has been in disarray ever since, and this was 20 years ago. Four siblings, all with children now, and none of them ever see each other. He stated that he credits Berachah with this dysfunction, as there was never time for family. Dad came home, gobbled some dinner, packed up the family, off to church - five nights a week, twice on Sunday, with "Berach Night at the Movies" available for Saturday night entertainment, and to keep the congregation from having to mingle with anyone beyond the doors of Fort Berachah. I am relieved and blessed to say that my parents were saved BEFORE joining Berachah, and we're all fine, and all members of various Baptist and non-denom Christian churches. I have three older sisters, and the eldest suffered the worst fate. She graduated high school in 1973, having found her 'right man' who was in Marine ROTC. He was commissioned in 1975, and she spent the next several years under the iron-fisted neglect of one of Thieme's star minions. He would get off duty, come home, bark a few orders and tell her how horrible the house looked (it was always immaculate), then lock himself in the study for the duration of the night and suck down his nightly load o'doctrine. This was their routine, and it never changed. There was no physical abuse, but neither was there a marriage - nothing with even a passing resemblance to the love and sacrifice that husbands are called to. They divorced, and she eventually found her mate. She is one of the premier examples of the ludicrous right man/right woman doctrine that sent all single Berachans into a frenzy of dating and social events, a mad race to find their RM/RW.

On a positive note -
1. Thieme's presentation of the gospel of salvation was entirely accurate, and I am confident he was an instrument in leading many, many thousands to the Lord.
2. In any church I attend, I always compare their handling of the offering and other funding to how it was done at Berachah. Thieme was right on this issue 100%. And even though I think his teachings are mostly ludicrous, I respect him immeasurably for making sure anyone could get them for free.

And now, I'll attempt to itemize a few of the thousand things where I am confident he is/was wrong, and why. I will try to limit this to 10 points.

1. Privacy of the Priesthood - This doctrine was pounded home over and over. It is heretical, and invented by Thieme to keep him from having to perform his true duties as a pastor - counseling, visiting, tending the flock. This so-called "doctrine" was structured to insulate him, aided by his little band of goons, bodyguards, flunkies, and wanna-be Rangers. This doctrine also kept anyone at the church from contacting my parents when they slipped quietly away, after having been members for 30 years. To this day, never a phone call or any contact. For all the church knows, they drove off a cliff.

2. Gates of Arrogance - My goodness, it makes me want to vomit. This doctrine got so convoluted with its countless 'gates' that I came to realize he was just making it all up. If anyone on this planet stands as a shining example of arrogance and megalomania, it's Thieme. Fired the choir, fired the board, fired the deacons, fired the assistant/associate pastors, wrote the lyrics to the hymns (and yes, I can still recite "Christian Soldier" and "Bread of Heaven" verbatim), and set himself up as a complete and total dictator, daring anyone to question his authority. This singular position cannot be justified anywhere in the ministry of Jesus Christ - which is exactly why we are given strict guidance on the role of deacons and elders, and ESPECIALLY the pastor. This all came with the swarming crowds attending the conferences - it's all timed together (firing everyone and taking complete control). Quite frankly, I just think it simply went to his head. He forgot he was supposed to be teaching God's Word, and the ministry evolved into truly bizarre stuff.

3. Right Pastor - Completely erroneous. If you accept this notion, then you must accept that everyone else is wrong, and that only your Right Pastor is, well, right. You must then discard all the books and teachings of the truly great minds of Christian theology. Right Pastor is a complete and total lie. See 4 (next).

4. It is the joy of the believer to study the Word of God. This study should not be a chore. It requires no acronyms, formulas, and invented so-called 'doctrines' for you to hear from God through His Holy Scriptures. The Bible was recorded so that even the most simple-minded believer could understand it clearly. This is made possible by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us (believers). Thieme was able to rewrite the Bible by telling the congregation that they couldn't understand it. I clearly remember having this very argument with classmates in my high school, and sneering at them for thinking they could read God's Word themselves. If any of you are reading this, know that I have actually lost sleep over that argument in my adult years.

5. "Go ye therefore and teach all nations..." According to Thieme and the insane doctrine of privacy, you shouldn't even go next door. Never witness. Never visit. Never tend to the sick, the elderly, the dying, the infirm, the weak, the needy. Besides, they're probably suffering the sin unto death or in the 196th level of reversionism. If you can begin to grasp point 4 above, you will begin to see that Thieme's exclusive ministry all tied together to protect him on his personal Mount. Right pastor. No deacons. Privacy. Etc., ad nauseum.

6. I have heard from more than a few students of Greek and Hebrew, and read the comments by greater scholars than they, that Thieme's grasp of the original languages was a sham. One such student, a grad student whom I knew personally, went into Thieme's office after "class" (always "class", never "church" or "worship") because he couldn't get Thieme's interpretation to jive with the Greek. He even had his textbooks with him. He was hoping for a bit of enlightenment from his pastor, and instead was laughed at by Thieme and escorted from the church by two of the goons. I was there the night this happened.

7. It is the privilege of the believer to make a public declaration of his/her faith through water baptism. This baptism is not necessary for salvation; it is, rather, a testament. You can easily find ample verses in the true Bible (I stand by the KJV) attesting to this. Thieme denounced water baptism simply because he didn't want to have to touch the masses. All that interaction, all that shepherd and flock stuff, yuk....

8. "Rebound", at its core, is a completely false notion. "Rebound and keep moving" gave thousands of Berachans free reign to have affairs, take the Lord's name in vain, and sin with wild abandon. Confess it in the morning, get back in the club, and move on, right? WRONG. It is a privilege for the believer to confess his/her sins to the Lord. In so doing, we seek to draw closer to God, in that while we can never be sinless, we can strive to sin less. Confession of sin heightens our awareness of how our sinfulness grieves the Holy Spirit within us. It is not a free token to go out and sin some more. A repentant soul strives to avoid sin, and seeks to walk more closely with God; to do, as overused as the phrase has become, what Jesus would do.

9. The foundation of Christ's ministry was love and giving. He constantly taught the importance of these, and how they are intertwined - and by His grace, I have come to understand that we are here to serve one another, to love one another, to minister to one another. We are here to spread the ministry of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, not stand in defiant defense of a lunatic who makes up his own Bible. How often I have heard and read hardcore Berachans'/Thiemeites' defend "THE COLONEL". Dear Friends, I have something alarming to share with you. HE IS A MAN. Question: WHY DON'T YOU STAND AND DECLARE YOUR DEVOTION TO THE LORD AS VEHEMENTLY AS YOU DO FOR THIEME? Answer: Because as a cult leader, he has saturated your mind with the law that he is the one true leader, the one with all the answers, the one you should exemplify. (My goodness, in the late 70s, there were more white Cadillacs at Berachah than there were at the Cadillac dealership. I'm surprised Cadillac didn't try to run an ad in the bulletin. And Lafitte Rothschild '64 is swill, which you probably discovered if you were there, and making minimum wage, and were told over and over by your Colonel that it was the only thing worth drinking, and you spent your hard-earned money to procure some.)

10. Super Grace and Ultra Super Grace are made up. They are not in the true Word of God. They were extrapolated by Thieme so he could set himself above the crowd. It's a shocker, I know. Get over it and get with the Lord. When believers reach the Judgment Seat of Christ, there are five crowns that will be given. But these crowns don't go to us; they go back to the Lord, to His Glory. HEAVEN AIN'T ABOUT US, FOLKS, IT'S ABOUT GOD. No "plantations and mint juleps" - just a perfect eternity, worshipping and adoring the Creator of the Universe. He, who alone is holy. And here on earth, we are blessed by God when we strive to do His Will, when we strive to be Christlike. This entails witnessing, counseling, prayer, giving, and a host of other post-salvation works, all of which involve interacting with others. "Faith, without works, is dead, being alone." So, if you truly DID reach 'Super Grace' or 'Super Duper Grace', it would be incumbent upon you to be a servant of the Lord - not to insulate yourself from unbelievers and condemn anyone who is missing their daily intake o'doctrine.

11. (Okay, I went one over.) Be aware of any "pastor" who does not teach the Word of God. By this, I mean anyone who routinely steps outside of the Bible, either by new interpretations from the 'original languages', or whose ministry is nothing but the same homespun aw-shucks feel-good story every Sunday, or who spends an entire service discussing the Battle of Waterloo. Or telling you what you should drink. He is there to present the Word of God to you - not entertain you, belittle you, demean you, or embarrass you. And by golly, if you can't approach your pastor after the service, and have a chat, or ask a question, or get counseling - THEN HE IS NOT A PASTOR.

12. (Just one more.) While I am certain Thieme helped thousands to find Christ as their Savior, I am just as certain he destroyed many thousands of lives through his false teachings. Re-interpreting God's Word is not something that goes unnoticed by the Almighty, and Bob Thieme certainly had no proprietary domain on the truth.

"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." So much so that He gave His life for mine. The end for me came when Thieme stepped to the side of his pulpit, put one hand on his hip, leaned forward, and sneered to the congregation, "Jesus doesn't love you - he TOLERATES you." I never went back after that night. Dozens of notebooks full of scribbled doctrines went in the dumpster. It took me several years to clear my head of all the nonsense, but I turned my life over to the Lord and He has blessed me abundantly. I am in a fundamental Baptist church (independent), have taught a number of Sunday School and men's classes, and was even asked by the pastor to give a sermon last Thanksgiving regarding Christ's ministry of giving.

I have been deliriously, happily, joyfully married for just over 20 years. I have one son, who is a senior at the top of his class at a Christian school.

I follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, not any one man. I read and clearly understand my Bible. I know where I will spend eternity.

To those of you still under the ministry of R.B. Thieme, Jr. - I know there is nothing I can say that you will convince you of any of this. Hopefully someday you will come to realize that his teachings are a grain of truth wrapped up in an ocean of falsehoods and self-serving lies. There are doctrines in the Bible, but it is perfectly proper to say, "I am studying God's Word" - not performing your daily intake of Bible doctrine.



elf said...

I began listening to Thieme's tapes back in the late 80's. A lady from my church introduced me to him and I began with the basics...which some of it is spot on.

But, when I got the parts about scar tissue of the soul, breathing in this, etc; I got stuck. I just couldn't balance what he was teaching with what I knew of the little as that was.

I drifted away from his teachings, but the past year I've revisited some of the basics I began with and had even though of getting some of the more updated teachings. I'm sure glad I wandered onto this site, as well as few others I have spotted.

Now I know of a sureity that my hesitation to study Thieme further, my reluctance to actually make the call to order newer lessons, and my need to find out all I could about the man was God directing my paths.

It's awesome reading your experience with the man. Thank you so much for sharing it.

I'm from a small town in MS, attend a Baptist church and study the Bible for myself, making use of the intelligence God gave me, relying heavily on the Holy Spirit and consulting some commentaries and Greek and Hebrew lexicons when in doubt.


RaeC said...

My sister studies Thieme and has changed so much from the fun-loving emotionally balanced person she used to be. My mother died recently and whilst my younger sister and I are grieving for our gorgeous Mum, my older sister has barely shed a tear. I think it has something to do with them not supposed to show emotion.

Her husband is the one that got her hooked into this religion and is very emotionally controlling and abusive toward her, extremely arrogant (even though Thieme supposedly frowns on arrogance) and they certainly are sinning due to greed over the inheritence that Mum left us. But I guess that is fine for them because apparently because they are "believers" they can sin as much as they want!!

I am glad I have found this blog and various sites that are shedding some light on this "pastor" and his teachings. It is certainly helping me understand who this woman is that has taken over my sister's body (or should that be "tent". That is how they described my mother's body when her spirit left her).

Gidkid said...

R.B Thieme's Greek and Hbrew are EXCELLENT.

I'm glad you are saved, Chris, so you will get to see all those crowns on the COLONEL'S head....

Erin said...


I appreciate the blog as well. I am..what did you call it? Berachah baby? I was born in 86, so I did not get to see Berachah in it's glory days. I attended for 18 years of my life. Was never allowed to go to other churches. My palms are sweaty as I write this because there is so much that God has brought me through since the time of my attendance that I have not shared, especially not with someone who has been there.

I think you are dead on with so many of your writings. I don't know if you find this, but I find it so very hard to explain to those who have not attended Berachah.

I am only 22, I broke away from Berachah when I was 18. But it has taken me these 4 years to overcome and for the Lord to take away my anger and bitterness towards that church. Lucky you, you don't have to go back. I, however still have parents who go there and I don't believe will stop going unless the Lord plucks them out by hand, which I believe he may do.

I have so many stories I could share, but my parting message to you sir, and to anyone who feels any animosity towards that church is that we need to love them as Christ does. And I believe that he does. We need to pray for sincerity of their hearts. That they would turn their eyes upon Jesus and away from "Thieme", which by the way it is now Thieme III. I am afraid for them every time I enter, and for a few years I hated them. I confess this to you. But the Lord has turned my heart into one of mercy and love for that church and I pray we would all lay down our hurts of the past and our scars and LIFT UP THAT CHURCH IN THE NAME OF JESUS EVERYDAY. Pray that they find him in the midst of dogmatic teachings.

Thank you for giving me an outlet for me to share my thoughts. And thank you all for your stories as well.

Heidi said...

I was just given a pamphlet from Theime about how babies in utero are not yet humans because they don't possess the soul until they are born. I found numerous contradictions in this booklet and was actually relieved that I didn't find any convincing passages in there to support his belief. He is essentially pro-abortion. Or at least okay with it. Very strange to me, his reasoning.

Martha ray said...

I attended Berachah Church from the late 70's until 1997 when we moved to VA. I have been on 'tapes' since then and now study under Bobby, R. B. Thieme III. I find the comments here inconsistent with my personal experience. If you are at all interested in the other side of the story you might do well to begin to ask God for the truth about these ministries. I used to 'preach' against Thieme in my own witnessing and later found that I was wrong. I thank God for leading me to both of the Thieme ministries. You might notice the information shared when RBT Jr. passed away at:
Make no mistake as you read the comments, All honor and praise go to God, The Father and The Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who was worshiped by the life of RBT, Jr. I hope you allow this post. There are two sides to every coin and it is the lines on the sides that can allow to to slip around to the other side to clearly see both sides. Each coin with ridges should remind you of this. I appreciate your expressions here as I see searching. Keep asking and it shall be given you... God has a place for each of us to learn and grow. It is not the same place for everyone but we all need each other in the body of Christ. All we all owe each other honor in Him.
With Faith, Hope, Love and Prayers,
Martha Ray

Chris said...

Thanks for the comment Martha Ray. I understand the sentiment but you did not interact with any of the claims made.

There are so many articles and papers written demonstrating the false doctrines taught in the Thiemite system, I would recommend you do a search and read them for yourself. I would also commend you to read the Bible and you will also discover for yourself the many plain and simple doctrines that are twisted by the Thiemite adherents too.

Additionally, here is a good little series that discusses false teachers and the Scriptures associated with what our response should be to them and their teaching:
link to sermon audio lessons

llwhjunk said...

Hi Chris, Wow, you took me for a good ride on the way back machine. I was there in the glory days 70-85. Don't remember knowing you, though. Of course, I didn't know many at the time - privacy of the priesthood, of course. Just those who sat around me. I was a teenager and totally gave myself to Thieme's teachings. Left in October 1984 after a year of spiritual agony - shall I leave and possibly lose my husband of 2 years and friends? Had no experience of the rest of Christendom so where was I supposed to go for truth? Everyone else out there was only just barely saved, if at all - how would I know God? My mind snapped to the truth when the revelation came that Jesus loved me. Hah! Never looked back, but have had lots of deprogramming for these 20+ years. Working at T & P 83-85 helped in the awakening. Keep up the good work! Lynne Warwick Hall P.S. Did you know my grandmother, Elsie Dupree? She started in the quonset hut.

Nancy said...

Hi Chris...I'm so excited to read your blog and get affirmation that I wasn't actually "losing it" in the late 70's. I listened to Thieme daily (of course!) and then moved to Va because I found a pastor-teacher who had a very small church in Alexandria who had studied under Thieme. After 3 years of teaching & indoctrination & incredible legalism I started getting panic attacks...I thought I was just "negative". I would rebound like crazy but I would be filled with fear when I had to go back to Bible class. It got so bad I finally had to move back to my home town. I was so traumatized that I was "negative" that I came very close to commiting suicide. I then decided to never go to church again & to live like the rest of the world. It took years to be "deprogrammed". I finally tuned in to a Christian radio station and heard Chuck Swindoll and Charles Stanley who talked about true forgiveness and that Christ really loved me!! I went home, broke off my adulterous relationship, repented and really for the 1st time trusted Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. My life has never been the same since then. I'm very involved with my church now and I can see clearly how I was led astray by so many of those teachings. Thank you for this opportunity to tell my story. I hope it wasn't too long or confusing. In His love, Nancy

Ellen said...

I left a "Thieme" offshoot church (that doesn't want to be identified as a "Thieme" church!) over a year ago. My husband and sons still attend the church. I was labeled unsubmissive, and not coming under my husband's or the pastor's authority, when I objected to being treated like a child, and verbally and emotionally abused. After I left, I spoke out, publicly, about my experience at this church. I recently received a letter from the pastor accusing me of libel and slander, and sinning against him!

I believe this church to be very destructive. My marraige is in shambles, and the highly authoritative teachings at this church regarding total and complete submission of wives, even when there is abuse, contributed heavily to the destruction of my marraige.

My teen-age to young adult sons are confused, to say the least, regarding the proper understanding of roles and relationship in marraige. They continue to attend this church, as the pastor and my husband have convinced them that it is the only church in the area that teaches truth!

I am considering publishing the emails I received from the pastor of this church, attempting to subjugate me, when I questioned his teaching. I'm not sure what form these emails should take, but I would like to warn others.

Luke and Michele said...

Thank you Chris for writing this. I didn't grow up in Texas, but in Pennsylvania in a church that was started by a pastor who listened to Thieme tapes. Needless to say, much of what was taught was derived or directly gotten from Thieme. Throughout my growing up I struggled with the doctrines taught. They didn't make sense to me: RM/RW, Edification Complex of the Soul, Rebound, etc. I thought something was spiritually wrong with me because I just couldn't grasp what my pastor was teaching and how it related to the Bible.
I went to a small Christian college out of state and attended a Bible church that was not "thieme". Beginning then, God has showed me how incorrect and unbiblical the Thieme doctrines are. Someone else has commented that they were "de-programed" from the teaching, and I couldn't think of a better word for it.
Unfortunately, my mom and two of my sisters still go to the church. My husband and I have recently moved back to Pennsylvania, but we attend a Baptist Church with pastors dedicated to teaching God's word from....God's word. I am thankful to God for allowing me to be free from the control those types of churches have on its members. God's word is sufficient. No man is greater than God.
Thank you for your blog.

Chad said...

Well Chris, I'm not so sure where I stand here. I went to all the conferences in the seventies. Football in the quad. Camping at, I guess, Six Flags. Totally sweaty after the shower. I went to UH as did my brothers. Had a twenty year Army career and was a Ranger - though I don't think in Ranger Hall. My mother taped until she passed away. If there is a super grace believer, she's one. There is much to be said for Thieme's teaching and style. Some of what he put out was bunk, but most was and is spot on. I've been married almost thirty years and have raised five wonderful children. None of the kids were subject to Thieme directly, but all have benefited by proper discipline and a firm belief in the sovereignty of Gods word. We have attended a Community Bible church for 13 years. Can't stand the music but the teaching is solid. They could use a little Bread of Heaven and Christian Soldier to add some meat to worship time. All in all the Thiemite time was positive. Privacy of the Priesthood, rebound, isolationism, Thieme's arrogance -- all bad. But most of what he taught was pretty solid. I've reread some of the books recently and found them to be doctrinally sound, just not as personal as I believe Christ would want. The message is there though. I had to chuckle the other day when my pastor mentioned Thieme as a poor example of church leader for kicking a hippie out of some service. Interesting times. And I'm not sure I found the RW, but I sure as hell found a good one. In Christ, Chad

bean said...

Boy is this ever dead on. I admit I got a lot out of the discipline and learning of our Thieme years. I am glad we learned and there is a lot to glean. I tell you though, I think that church wreaked quite a bit of distruction also. For instance my mom divorced my Dad (with no intervention, no counsel) because he was a reversionist (it is actually written on official divorce papers) So many of the marriages from that church are dead now and the families didn't only turn from Thieme, they turned from God after. I think the reason is while there was good doctrinal learning, there was absolutely none of God's heart, comfort, love. etc. When I came into a difficult time in my life I had nothing to lean on in Bible Doctrine. I had to start over and be broken from the arrogance that Thieme learning brought to me. So glad I found this so many years later