Facing marital problems and eventually divorce, author Makena McChesney found herself a single mother. Seeking comfort, she was befriended by the charismatic pastor of a nondenominational Christian fellowship of believers, and she joined the cult in 1978. In Seeking Oz, she discusses the twelve years of entrapment in this cult, predominantly in the 1980s, in a rural community in the United States.
In this memoir, she answers the often-asked question, “How did you end up in a cult?” Starting with her formative years in a mainstream Pentecostal Christian church, she underscores the underlying issues that contribute to victimization—conditions that develop from being raised in a fear-based, shame-based religion. McChesney narrates her journey through restrictive doctrines in early childhood and adolescence, through a resultant dysfunctional marriage, and ultimately through the twelve cult years.
McChesney travels down the “Yellow Brick Road” and through the “Dark Forest” as she finds herself getting increasingly entangled and her choices taken from her. As the entanglement progresses to a form of imprisonment, she angrily and secretly challenges the God of her religion in the way of questions for which she demands and expects answers. Answers pour forth in waves of several disturbing events that impact her and her family until a time of death and destruction that serves to eventually pave a way out.
She tells her story not to condemn the offenders, but to encourage victims to be strong and take personal responsibility.
I had forewarned Bud that I needed to talk to him, and he was waiting for me when I arrived.
I briefly explained that I was having chest pain and would like some relief from teaching for a time. Without any dialogue, Bud motioned for me to sit in a chair near him while he pulled a book from his small bookshelf. He quietly and solemnly reached for his reading glasses, and under the dim light of a lamp, he read me a short story.
The story was about a widow who was raising her small child alone, when she contracted a fatal disease. She was concerned about leaving the earth and her young dependent child. Though she was worried, as fate had it, someone came forward and offered to raise the child when she died. As it turned out, it was for the best, because that person was better equipped than even the mother to do the job.
When Bud finished the story, I felt mortification. Bud removed his glasses, set them on a nearby desk with the book, leaned back in his chair, folded his hands across his chest, and offered no further explanation for reading me such a story.