Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International, Charlene L. Edge, Memoir, includes 31 photos
Published by New Wings Press, LLC
Praise for Undertow:
"It is easy to see from Edge's account what might attract one to such a family, despite warnings from others. ... A frank, in-depth account of one woman's struggle in a controlling organization." — Kirkus Reviews
“A tenderly written, intensely personal narrative about being swallowed alive by a cult. Charlene Edge’s encounters with the abusive Victor Paul Wierwille and her firsthand observation of how The Way’s Research Department twisted the Scriptures are enlightening and chilling.” —Karl Kahler, author of The Cult That Snapped: A Journey Into The Way International
“How could a smart woman join a cult that asked of her everything, and took her all in the process? Charlene Edge walks us through the process with her new book, Undertow, which chronicles her involvement in The Way International, an Ohio-based ‘Bible research’ organization whose founder, Victor Paul Wierwille, was accused of multiple sexual improprieties, as well as plagiarism, before he died in 1985. As you read Charlene’s story, you’ll find yourself wanting to reach into the pages to pull the author out of harm’s way. As she writes, ‘We, the crippled, were sent to heal the stricken.’ There is something in this book for anyone who has ever wholeheartedly embraced a questionable theology, only to find that what was meant as a salve eventually becomes a sword.” —Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl
“Charlene Edge’s heartfelt and heartbreaking memoir takes us behind the scenes to reveal how easily a handful of religious charlatans betrayed the trust placed in their hands. The pain is palpable as Edge walks readers through her seventeen years of virtual imprisonment by cult leaders who twisted the Word of God to psychologically and even physically abuse thousands of young people at The Way International. Undertow is a disturbing reminder that abuse of power can and does happen anywhere.” —Robert Ruff, Emmy Award-winning television news producer
“In Undertow Charlene Edge has written a brilliant and engrossing warning to the future by dissecting the past. There are really two books here: one is on a cult called The Way (one of the largest fundamentalist cults in America with about 40,000 followers). The second book is an examination of the dynamic of all personality, religious, and political cults. By looking (from a heart-wrenching insider’s point of view) at a misuse of power in one specific group, Edge has written a book that unpacks a far greater truth. What she exposes to bright liberating daylight is just how our political and religious worlds actually function based on the mesmerizing enticement of belonging to an 'in-group.' This is a brilliantly written and timely warning against falling into the trap of thinking we're the self-proclaimed 'chosen' (be that religious or secular, left or right) as we exclude the feared 'Other.'” —Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and New York Times best-selling author of Keeping Faith
“Charlene Edge writes with clarity and sensitivity. This memoir on her experiences in The Way International will help readers understand the subtleties and complexities of cultic groups.” —Michael D. Langone, PhD, Executive Director of the International Cultic Studies Association, Editor of Cultic Studies Review, Editor-in-Chief of ICSA Today, and Editor of Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse
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All she wanted was to know God and understand the Bible.
What harm could that possibly bring?
Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International is Charlene Edge’s riveting memoir about the power of words to seduce, betray, and, in her case, eventually save.
After a personal tragedy left her bereft, teenaged Charlene turned away from family and friends and fell into the clutches of The Way International, a small sect led by the charismatic Victor Paul Wierwille. The Way—which eventually became one of the largest cults in America—held Charlene in its grip for seventeen years.
Believing that God led her to Wierwille, she underwent his intensive two-year training program, The Way Corps, designed to produce loyal leaders. When Wierwille warned of a possible government attack, she prepared to live off the grid. She ignored warning signs of Wierwille’s paranoia and abuse—he considered dissenters as agents of the Devil, he forced followers to watch pornography, he manipulated believers into keeping his secrets in a “lock box,” he promoted anti-Semitism, and he surrounded himself with armed bodyguards. She married a fellow Corps graduate and together they served across the United States as Way leaders, funneling money into Wierwille’s bursting coffers and shunning anyone who criticized him. As obedient Way Corps, they raised their child to believe the doctrines of Wierwille, the cult’s designated “father in the Word.”
Eventually Charlene was promoted to the inner circle of biblical researchers, where she discovered devastating secrets: Wierwille deliberately twisted texts of Scripture to serve his personal agenda, shamelessly plagiarized the work of others, and misrepresented the purpose of his organization. Worst of all, after Wierwille died in 1985, shocking reports surfaced of his secret sex ring. Amid chaos at The Way’s Ohio-based headquarters, Charlene knew she had to escape—for her own survival and her child’s.
Reading like a novel, Undertow is not only a brilliant cautionary tale about misplaced faith but also an exposé of the hazards of fundamentalism and the destructive nature of cults. Through her personal story, Charlene Edge shows how easily a vulnerable person can be conned into following a deceptive authoritarian leader and how difficult it can be to find a way out.