Tuesday night's episode of "Our America with Lisa Ling," she investigated a new religious leader named Doug Perry. With many Americans seeking salvation, she went to Liberty, Mo. to report about a new religion called, "The Fellowship of the Martyrs."
For the last eight years, "FOTM" as it is called, has welcomed many of life's castoffs to bring people together. The poor, the addicted, and the mentally unstable are welcome in his supportive community. Doug's message is that the Christian church is corrupt and in no way resembles what is happening in the Bible. He told Lisa that he received a blinding vision, with the same kind of fervor as the biblical prophets and apostles.
Doug uses radical cyber sermons to lure people from across America. He has made over 900 sermons on YouTube. He has found many people who have broken from their religion, and seek the leadership he provides.
Lisa spoke to Julie, who was a chronic meth addict. She has been there for over four months. She worked at her father's barber shop and at forty-two left home for the first time. Doug is convinced that she got there just in time. Doug has seen visions of nuclear war in America, of neighbors killing neighbors over a can of corn, and he will provide a safe harbor for his believers when the time comes.
He performs exorcisms on his followers. These people truly believe in demonic possession. A woman who was a prostitute at eleven years of age, subsequently became an addict and believes that demons have caused her troubles. He has taught other members to assist him in the rituals where he releases the demons who have caused his believers to have trouble in their lives.
The next day Doug and some of his followers went to a local church to protest what he believes are satanic practices by holding a Halloween party. He cannot believe that a church would allow its members to celebrate Satan's high holy day. As they held up signs and shouted that God does not like Halloween, they were met with loving kindness by members who offered them coffee and invited them to come and join them.
When Julie spoke to her mother on the phone, she told her about the protest. Her mother said she is becoming weird like the people she is associating with in her cult. She told her mother that it is not a cult. Lisa asked her if she believed what she was doing was her true calling. The word cult has negative connotations. So far, Lisa has not found any signs of mind-control, but she has not been there too long.
Another prophet named David, visited "FOTM" as his way station as he travels across the country preaching. David's wife is in Ohio with his children, but their relationship was not God's will. Aaron, one of the "FOTM" members traveled with David to help him preach to people before the "end times" arrived. They believe they are messengers of the word of God. Aaron was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Now off his medication; he believes the voices he hears as the word of God.
When Lisa asked Doug about the mental state of some of his members, he said that Aaron was diagnosed as schizophrenic, but while in the institution, he read the Bible and now knows that the voices he heard, were God speaking to him. Doug also stated that in Biblical times, the voice of God came through to the prophets. Who can truly know if it is not God speaking to us? Aaron and David told Lisa that they had a new stability that far outreaches the years battling drug abuse and illness.
Prior to Lisa's arrival at "FOTM," a member, Greg Wheeler was charged with the fire-bombing a church in Oklahoma. His family claims that he has been mentally ill his entire life. He was found with fifty Molotov cocktails and detailed plans to bomb nearly fifty churches. His family stated that someone had to have put this idea in his head, because he loved the church.
Lisa sat and watched several of Doug's online sermons. He stated that he was not a nice guy, and that he wanted to destroy institutional churches. Lisa said that although some of Doug's theories are very noble, they are also inflammatory. Lisa questioned Doug about Greg Wheeler, he said that it was nothing physical that he sought, it was purely spiritual. She questioned him on his sermon about using bombs, and he told her that he never intended it to mean what she interpreted it to be. Lisa wonders if his fiery rhetoric could be hiding something more. His words; martyrdom, killing and dying are strong words. Doug said that he was not sure there can be any reform movement involving any institution without somebody going too far. He also said that the things Jesus said were radical and to certain institutions; terroristic.
Lisa was invited to a baby shower for expectant mothers. She found that although married to someone else, the babies were conceived by what Doug terms as "rib marriage." The term comes from Adam's rib. When his followers feel that they should be with another, Doug allows them to have a "rib marriage." Doug has a "rib wife," who would not appear on camera.
There are also YouTube videos from ex-members of "FOTM." She called one ex-member that told her that it was like a pyramid, that one did not realize until they came close to the top.
Lisa met with James, the estranged husband of a "rib wife." She came to her husband and told him that God spoke to her and told her to take off her wedding ring. He keeps tabs on him and his wife through the videos and saw one where his wife said that she would become a martyr for Christ.
There are more people with stories like James, the litany of complaints ranged from; the exploitation of vulnerable people, crippling people psychologically, convincing a wife to leave her husband based on lies, preying on people going through depression, showing love to social outcasts and threatening them with God's punishment or even death.
Like them or not, Lisa will bring us closer to things we may have never known existed in "Our America with Lisa Ling."
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