Sunday, January 11, 2015

4 years

Almost exactly 4 years ago today Pnina sent me the Foibles of Abba article. I don't know if I will ever forget how I felt upon reading it. It was a life-defining moment.  It was a moment where time seemed to stand still as I was caught in an odd introspection considering where I came from, re-adjusting the lens through which I viewed all of my experiences.  With the shock wave of uncertainty that followed, I had no idea what my future would hold. Those moments do not fade easily from memory.

Four years seems so long and so short a time for the changes in my life. As my anger has ebbed. I am embarrassed by this blog. I even took parts of it down for a while.  I thought having some of the posts up was giving people the idea that I am someone I'm not. Many posts are things I would never usually think about or say.  I'm usually a pretty trusting and optimistic person, and when I read back, I cringe at the person I painted myself to be.  It was the worst of myself. It was opposite of the Pollyanna life that most people put up on the internet. Some people made sure to put me down for the things posted here. I didn't want to care, and I didn't want to be hurt by what people were saying, but I was. This blog was far too integral to my healing and my mindset at the time. I couldn't separate what people were saying from my self-esteem. I guess it just took me a while to learn a few lessons that seem so simple now:
1) Never read the comments
2) Fighting on the internet will never change anyone's mind
3) Most people don't care about the truth, they care about protecting their interests.

That means I really have nothing left to post. I'm not in touch with anyone in the Family anymore. I have no knowledge of what they are up to. I deleted anyone I thought still had a part in it. Until recently, I have not given it much thought at all. It's just no longer a part of my life. It's part of my past, and I am finally ready to leave it behind. Truthfully, I hope nothing bad happens to people.  I feel bad for the kids when they get older and realize what all of this was. There is nothing else I can do but leave the blog up for them. In case some youth comes looking for information about Abba and the Elders, and how the Family started, they can look here.

I remember the Foibles Article seemed unreal to me at first. I realized immediately that I had been deceived. I've known my whole life that I had a shitty childhood, so that was no surprise. I still remember chatting my with PCP about going to therapy and him saying "do you think you were abused?" I laughed at him and said "I've known that forever, but I still need to go to therapy for a while about this whole thing." My memories weren't PTSD latent and coming through in waves that seemed hallucinatory. My memories were clear and I knew what they were. I just finally had a way to understand WHY.  When I told my husband and he found Rick Ross and the Jack Hickman forum, and I stayed up all night reading how many other people were hurt... that's when the enormity of the Family and the wrongs finally struck home. Because as shitty as my parents and immediate family were, I really wasn't alone. There were other people and the fact is, the abuse spanned decades.  Even the people trolling and basically agitating the posters told me that people were still invested in keeping the secrets of the past a secret. It meant that there WAS a seedy underbelly. If the accusations were baseless, people wouldn't feel the need to respond. They would laugh and shrug it off. You wouldn't get the heated denials found on Rick Ross, and now some of the blog comments.

I'm thankful for Rick Ross, but I fucking HATED the anonymity of it. It only helped to strengthen the paranoia. Oh the paranoia. I absolutely do NOT miss being paranoid. It's such a scary lens in which to view others. Its so unnatural. It made me feel crazy on more than one occasion. I was also terrible at it. I'm sure not everyone I spoke with was who they said they were. I'd be surprised if they were. Then the blogs started. After the blogs started, the internet bullying seemed to hit a spike, but I noticed that youth looking for answers were no longer being pulled in.  Rick Ross is barely used anymore because it was becoming more and more difficult to pretend to be someone you weren't. I think the blogs brought that about. We started naming names and people knew who we were, so you couldn't totally discredit it all.

For that reason, But Seriously will stay up. For public record on the Abenseur Family, or Shoresh Yishai, or the 13th Tribe. What do you call yourselves now?  The-50th-order-of-the-tribe-of-Israel-once-removed-under-kingly-leadership-until-the-prophet-names-the-Abba? Wait, it's not a prophet, its a kid that sees a Maggid and old men will dream dreams, to confirm his vision, right? Anyway, this is here for you guys. For whoever needs it. I'm sorry there is nothing else I could do. Religious freedom is still a protected right in this country and your parents have the right to raise you into any form of belief that does not break the laws under which you are protected, or they are able to raise you into beliefs that actually do break laws that protect your personal freedoms as long as they were smart and savvy enough to hide your abuses and keep you quiet. I'm saying this, because that's what happened to me.

This year has been a great one for personal growth for me. My Family-related panic attacks are gone. I haven't had one in a long time. I'm not afraid of running into someone's grandma, or traveling to Augusta to go shopping, or talking about my odd religious knowledge or practices. I used to be really sketchy when people asked where I was from. Little things would cause pangs of anxiety like, I might say the wrong thing. When you grow up your whole life in a secret society that trains you to lie about the truth of your life, AND you're a terrible liar... you carry a lot of anxiety about anything that comes close to letting the cat out of the bag.

I have been openly talking about things for a few years, but this year is the first that I don't have anxiety or an emotional response about it. My heart rate doesn't hike, my face stays the same color, I don't start sweating. That's a pretty big deal for me.  It's peaceful. It feels good to be done with secrecy. I can really look back at how poisonous secrecy was for my life and how many ways it affected me. I can talk to my family about things openly now. My extended family are not worried about talking to me anymore. That's apparently something they were always worried about. They had no idea how indoctrinated we were in this religious "thing" my parents were into and they were afraid of hurting us or just not being able to tolerate the bullshit. So for the first time in years, I can have a real relationship with my sisters and my family.  Knowing anything about my family, this is pretty fucking amazing. I spent my whole life being told that I couldn't have a relationship with people I was related to because they wouldn't understand "who I was." Whatever that means. Thanks Mom and Dad--not a part of my current or future definition of "family," FYI.

I also seem to have regained my life and let live mentality. Actually, I don't think I can say "regained." The religious experiences of others were at the least "other" and at the worst "inferior," so that I had a ton of unconscious judgment about the ways in which other people worshipped or found meaning in their lives.  I find now that it doesn't matter to me. This actually applies to the Family as well. The Family was clearly not for me. It didn't help affirm a life mission for me, it didn't offer me a place that I felt that I belonged, it did not help me deal with mortality, it did not offer a sense of purpose. Those are the things I perceive people get from their own religious or spiritual experiences.
But, when the house of cards fell down, I didn't cling to any of it. There's this weird feeling I have about the Family that I know will never pass. I KNOW there are bad guys hiding in the leadership and amongst the rank and file. I also KNOW there are good people trying to live a good life and do good things. That's not easily reconciled, but if not for the good acts that the Family promoted, they would have had no followers in the long term.

I think I went atheist for a while because it made sense to me in a rational way. I felt as if there were a deity somehow in charge of life and good vs. evil then they seriously let me down.  I could not have continued to hold onto that belief in the face of the reality of my life.  Now, I'd say I'm agnostic. I still believe that my experiences with the Family have soured me. I don't believe I could walk into any congregation and find meaning again. Yet, I still find myself being grateful for the connecting life strings that seem to tie us all together as humans, the circumstances of coincidence that seem anything but, the answer to a question that never made it past your lips arriving at just the moment that you needed it. Maybe it is a universal consciousness, maybe it just a life spark, or just how energy circles the universe. I don't know. But I do get a feeling I can't shake once in a while, and I know its this other thing. Not having the answers to that is okay with me. I don't need this feeling to have a name. At least I no longer need to deny it's there in order to feel normal.

Of course there's my parents in all of this. Thinking about them makes me wonder how people could have a saying that says to "forgive and forget."  I can never forget.  The forgive part is also a little strange to me. This seems too big for forgiveness. Over the years I can only apply a little understanding to how and why they made the choices they made.  I still think that they were adults that were culpable for abuses they engaged in, and the abuses they ignored. Neither came from great family circumstances. Neither had anything like a good support systems. Both wanted desperately to belong to something. Both got a tremendously good feeling from being a part of something exclusive and that they had a life calling. I can remember in 1997 after the first "Youth" retreat, and the revival of family meetings and the "sign up or you're out for good" calling came out. Both of them were pissed. In a few meetings it was made clear that the parents were done. They were old hat. They had their kids and they sent them to the retreats and they were done. Thank you very much for playing, now run along while the big kids handle the little obstacle of saving the world from judgment.

For these two people who struggled with and yet clung to this Family to feel as though their life was over and to be cast aside, it devastated them.  I think that's why by 2004, they were out. They had stopped having a relationship with their brothers and sisters, they rejected so many things, and now weren't even being rewarded for it. They were never even close to inner circle, but despite hanging onto the doctrine, they were pissed. Talk about Daddy issues. Rejected again. I can't imagine spending my life the way they did, only to be pushed aside.

I think of them in their 30's, not too far off my age, dealing with having a daughter come home from people you wanted desperately to belong to, someone in a position of prominence, someone you came to rely on for childcare... to hear that she was assaulted. I have no idea what was said to them. I know the incident made my Mom crazy, because it brought up her own assaults that she never dealt with. I don't think she believed my sister. I think she honestly would rather believe she lied. If she lied, then she wouldn't have to deal with her assault, and how she didn't get help, and how her family glossed over what happened to her. It was a totally different time. I know this intellectually. It still pisses me off. But in the effort to understand, I can actually see it from their perspective. I know I would have made other choices, but I know where they were, and they were vulnerable.

I also think it's why we moved away from the D's and the abusers within 2 years. I also think its probably why we moved in the B's, a family I have no memory of until we were suddenly moving to Central NY to live with them. The dad was an Elder, my parents couldn't make waves by asking too many questions, and that family was already dealing with a "problem daughter."  My sister and I both remember that Dad giving my Dad some training on how to deal with insolence. I remember my Dad punching my sister for the first time when we moved in with them. Force was how you dealt with it. Something to do with the proper respect being shown to head of household and blah blah blah. My Dad did like to feel that he was in control. Having smart-mouthed kids that were not obedient was something he could never stomach. And Mom, well, Mom knew she couldn't hit us, but she was a good manipulator. She was long before we moved in with the B's. With Dad's new-found "confidence" she was able to put her skills to new use. We definitely were scared straight for a while. We were probably the best behaved kids ever. Fear of a beating can do that to you.

That's where I'm at. I know the what's, and I'm only beginning to guess at the how's and why's. But in reality, the Abenseur Family was SO MUCH of what happened to my family in the long run that I cannot separate the two. And my parents had so many chances to change their minds and their actions. They couldn't, and wouldn't after too long. I recall one starting and stopping therapy multiples times, unable to deal with it when they actually started to talk about the hard stuff. I remember the other never agreeing to go, probably petrified of having to talk about the truth. Mental illness is a terrible thing. I can give you first hand accounts of how the people that really need the help the most, will not accept it.  So there's a part of me that is feeling like I need to forgive them. I need to forgive them for me. I need to let this go. There's another part of me that thinks, how can you forgive people that refuse to change? Isn't that like saying that what they did was okay?

This is my conclusion:
I don't like what happened. It sickens and disgusts me. I know as an adult that I would NEVER make the same decisions. I also know that I was made stronger by my own circumstances. I know my entire childhood wasn't a piece of shit, or I wouldn't be who I am today. I know that I have good character traits in my life that came from the support and teaching of my parents, some of them even from the Family. I know all of this. I can see all of this. But the good will never erase the bad. I will never condone what happened to me at the hands of Kevin and Maureen, or the various people I was forced to interact with while a member of the Family. I will never forget. Please do not ever assume that any forgiveness on my part would make what you did to us and other people okay. It will never be okay. Just because you were nice to me for a while, or did something altruistic as it concerned dealing with the Troubled Girls that we were... it doesn't make it okay to lie to people, manipulate, or indoctrinate someone into a way of thinking to keep you from having to deal with the demons of your past. No good can erase that bad. None. I don't think you can conveniently say "I repent" at some future date and think that your wrongs will be erased, because they won't.

I hope you all use George and David as a cautionary tale. Shit, you should use John as the same. As an organization, you did not protect the innocent. You protected the guilty, and because of that gross negligence, you have allowed other innocents to be hurt.  We have seen the sins of the father passed to the sons already, with Lev and David both in jail. Will the next generation share the same fate? When will it end.

I know I will think about this for many years to come. It will be the thought I have that will have no answer, and it will be the one I think on the most. But I will sleep well at night knowing that my abuse did not extend to another generation. I made the difficult choice. I am living another path. It's the right one. It was hard and embarrassing and at times disorienting. But it was also affirming. I know who I am. I know exactly how much I can and cannot take. I know where the line in the sand is, and I know what side I am on. I will never have to wonder if I did the right thing.

I am a person who was abused. I am a person who was in a cult. I am also a person who made a new life. I'm not a survivor, or a victim. I'm just me. I am profoundly happy with that.

Cheers to 4 years of being free.




Friday, February 21, 2014

3 years gone... and I've found compassion

My father has been in the hospital this winter. I only know this because my sisters broke the "Don't talk about our parents to me and about me to them" code. Heart trouble does that to people. What surprised me was the lack of "about fucking time" or "serves him right" epitaph that should have left my lips. I am the angry sister, most days of the week, so hearing Dad was going to get a pacemaker, probably, and not feeling righteously dignified by his poor health was a very eye-opening look into how I've changed since last year.

Don't get me wrong, I hold no sentimentality toward my malevolent patriarch. My parents were abusive pieces of garbage that were desperate to cling to a dogma and spiritual lifestyle so much that they exposed their children to rapists and liars, even allowing their own child to be raped and doing nothing about it.  I was recently accused of being blasé about abuse and the fact that this happened. I just want to ask, what is the correct way for a 7 year old to out her sister's rapists, their father, the clanhead, and the elders that covered it up and quit being a part of cult?  It wouldn't do me any good now, but it would be interesting to know how other people would handle that. I'm just wondering how people feel that abused children should handle being abused? Because if I did anything my father didn't agree with, I would have been flung around like a ragdoll and hit until I pissed myself and he only stopped because his jeans were wet. At what point should we lay everyone to blame for happened to us? At what point can I condemn other people who were children just like me, for choosing to ignore it?

That's what's changed for me. I will always abhor the elders. I will always want to throw up when I see George's mugshot. I will always wonder how many abused kids have compartmentalized their experiences in order to try to find peace.
I will not lash out at other people for not getting it. I will not use my anger to try to get other people to see things the way that I do.

Somewhere in this last year, I found some sense of compassion and respect for the youth. Even the youth that know about the Foibles article and are so emotionally retarded they can't even say what it said. They cannot even talk about how their parents knew the accusations and said nothing.  They cannot begin to hold their parents negligent in the least, and complicit at worst for what is contained therein.

Those are the things that I did. I responded in a very definitive way after reading Foibles. Other people aren't me, and they're not responding the same. What can I do about that? I don't know. But, I do know that I can allow them their opinion, respect it, and not allow it to rattle me and make me feel differently about my choices.

Do I feel bad, Oh Anonymous One, for not leaving the cult and continuing to be a part of it after what my sister and best friend went through? Yes. Thank you for trying so hard to make me feel like a piece of shit about it. Success is in your corner. What more could I have done? I ask myself that often. I don't have the right answers. The fact of their rapes and our continued abuse by our parents was such a pervasive truth in our lives, it was almost like background noise. Maybe you can't imagine it. I bet you can't. It wasn't even the elephant in the room, it was the painting on the walls, almost the sheetrock itself. There was no point that this abuse was surprising to me, because there was no time that it didn't exist.

Does that make you sick? Yup, it should. I makes the adult non-cult me feel horrible. But that's what it was like. So watching them continue to be a part of the cult, into adult years, what was I going to say about that? What was I going to do?  In what way would my behavior not have been abhorrent to those anonymous's that didn't grow up in abuse and a cult-mentality, what way could I have been different?

You know what I did do, I supported them. Pnina and I went through a lot of shit together. We were thick as thieves, we grew apart, and we came back together. She is still my best friend because I have always supported her. Always. My sister and I have a lot more shit to wade through, family being a cumbersome entanglement, and we still talk to one another. We have found a way to find peace with one another. We have a relationship and we are moving ahead. And when she was unable to talk about what happened, I took up the mantle for her, because it's what she needed. She needed to know it wasn't all in her head. And when people started victim shaming people who have been raped, I was right there, on the front lines, not standing up for that bullshit. Because I love them, and no one deserves to be made to feel like that.

But three years out, I'm not seeing villains where there aren't any. I'm not calling people to carpet who are still trying to find their own way. I not screaming at people who don't know how to respond to all this because it will completely unseat their own reality.  Somewhere, surprisingly, I have found a compassion for these people and found the ability to give them respect, and let them have their own opinions.

I'd like to think that doesn't negate what has happened in the cult. I'd like to think that it's me finally learning to choose my battles.  I'd like to think that no longer painting everyone as the bad guy, is a huge emotionally mature step for a person who has been emotionally stunted due to years of abuse. It should not minimize anyone's story, and change their feelings or attitudes. It's my coming out of this cycle of letting the cult run my life.  It used to do so by being cornered by adults that pretended to be well intentioned, then later with the blog, and trying to out them, and trying to send the Foibles article to every youth I know, and being the first person to say, there has been abuse, I have been abused. These abuses were ignored, and we know they were.   I put so much energy into that. So much. You don't even know. Even when I wanted to stop, I felt I had to keep going until it was done. I pushed myself to the breaking point. Now I'm done. I have nothing left to add. There's nothing else I can do that would be healthy for me. If I hear any inkling of kids being abused now, of rapes, the authorities are on my speed dial. I'm not going to just fucking blog about it. I take that shit fucking seriously.  But I'm not hearing anything anymore, because I'm out.

That's where I'm living my life now. I'm out. I'm not 7 years old wondering what to do about the bad guys. They are pieces of garbage. In my mind, it's time for me to be 31 years old, love my kid and my husband, and a build a life that has nothing to do with elitist assholes from long island who have funny ideas about religion, the after life, and survival.

Wishing you all the best, don't rape anyone, and don't beat your kids.

Freckles


Saturday, December 14, 2013

gilding the Lily

The problem that I had after reading the Foibles of Abba was that I really liked some of the people in the cult hierarchy and I could not tell myself that they were really the bad guys.  I tried not to think about it too hard, and mostly was content in being angry with my immediate family.  You'll notice a huge disparity between when I posted about the Foibles Article to when I really started talking about my cult story.

What was happening in that time period was a tremendous coming to terms and reconciling my memories to try to figure out the Truth.  What I found out was, truth is relative.  What seemed true while I was a true believer seemed absolutely ludicrous as an ex-member.  When I shined the light of "abuse"and "fleecing" on the Family, a lot of strange things that happened seemed to make more sense. I had avoided thinking about some really weird or bad experiences because they didn't match up with the Love experience and the good the Family was trying to do. Mostly I couldn't figure how something bad and mean-spirited could stand up to what I had told myself the Family stands for. Remember, the Family means different things to different people. Just ask a member what the whole "point" is. Actually, ask 5. Then see how different the interpretations are.  I saw the Family as a religion. It was somewhat a way of life for me, but mostly a system of belief, and an attempt to improve my spiritual knowledge and personal behavior.  Not being a Maine Ministry kid, the focus on the "end times" was less for me than many others. I was a spiritualism junkie. Never having been an inner circle kid, the Family didn't offer that true sense of community that it offers other people. I was always just enough an outsider. My biggest sense of disillusionment came with the destruction of my entire belief system and what I thought my spiritual purpose was in life.

During my Truth finding phase, I talked to so many people.  I called people I had never met, I called people I had known years before and lost touch with, I facebooked, I emailed, I skyped. If you've followed right along, you know I interviewed some people.  On rick ross I found a lot information about cult members that I would never have known otherwise.  Being "out" about who I was really dropped the paranoia. Most people on rick ross won't reveal their true identify because everyone seems like they could be Ricky or Helga in disguise, reporting back to the hierarchy to come up with a counter story... masters of spin that they are. And those paranoid people are probably right. I think there were people on there pretending to be people they were not. But not all. Some people who I know were members or significant others, they contacted me. They told me things.

The hierarchy and the anon's want to paint me as a liar who is spinning an agenda, who is just saying nonsense. Because, indeed, one CAN just SAY anything.  If I can, so can they. And they do. What I'm actually trying to do is present the alternate history of the Family. It's a battle over which version of the Abenseur's story is actually true.  You know what they say: history is written by those who win the war. I offer this: it is possible, in some instances, for both stories to be true. It's all perspective.

The Goon and Lily love story I have told was compiled through contact with multiple sources. As a member of the community,  I wanted to believe that they loved each other from afar, almost star-crossed lovers. He, bound to the life of servitude with the King-Father, and she swearing off any other man until she could have the one man she truly desired. Both waiting for the release, and the death of the Father to finally live the life of love they always dreamed, but feeling ashamed for those feelings because the death of the Father would be catastrophic. But, still they pined to their celibate ends, hearts full of longing.

It's a bad romance book cover and you know it in your rational mind, but in your Family identity and how you receive and perceive information, you have to believe this.

In the alternate reality of the cult, remember that "Celibacy" is a code word for homosexual behavior.

Goon had no romantic entanglements because Jack wouldn't let him. Jack didn't want to share. Goon was his greatest success of young male fleecing and it worked out better than he could have hoped.  Ask yourself this one very important question:

In the mentality of the Family... with Abba being the magnanimous all-knowing leader, full of Love and Teaching, wanting the family to continue in it's priestly heritage... don't you think he would have wanted to see Goon married? Don't you think he would have released him, and performed the service, and blessed the marriage?  Don't you think he would have wanted to pick out the Young Tzadok from Guf himself when they conceived, as he did with all of the youth?

If it was really true that Goon and Lily loved each other so much that they spoke soft words to their pillows and their hearts about the other every night, don't you think a Loving and Kind Abba-Father would have released Goon from his service?

Why didn't he?

Abba, Jack Hickman, was an angry man, jealous, terrible, and cruel.  He cared only for his own wants and desires.  A really loving person, someone who lived with another man and probably knew his heart better than anyone, would have wanted that person to be happy.  A really loving Abba who wanted to truly preserve a priestly line, would have wanted it done by himself.  A person who lived with someone in celibacy and spiritual mentorship for over 20 years should have let Goon go.

But, if it wasn't just a spiritual mentorship, and it wasn't just a celibate relationship, and it wasn't just a caregiving relationship for an old and dying man, if it was really a romantic relationship, if they were really involved, then of course Jack would not let Goon go. It would have been a betrayal, a divorce.

Say what I will about Goon, his devotion to Abba was admirable. Whatever their relationship may have been behind their closed doors and closets, Goon truly knew how to "die to self" and do what was best for Jack. Always what was best for Jack.  Because, underneath it all, Goon is probably truly a nice person. He cares, displays caring, loves, shows compassion. He is not a sociopath who runs a cult.

Now you have seen my cognitive dissonance.  If anywhere in the cult still makes me confused, any aspect of teaching or practice, it is this: If Goon is such a nice, loving, compassionate guy, why the hell is he still running the cult?

Or better yet, because he's such a kind, compassionate, maybe too honest man... is this why he's been stepping down and going on long trips? Maybe he's bowing out and doesn't know how or doesn't want to shed light on the lie of the group?

When I was in the action of leaving and beginning to expose, I had this one fear: to break loose the binds of the cult might make people crazy.  Literally, it could cause a mental break for people in the group to find out the alternate truth behind it all.  Perhaps Goon also agrees and just can't bring himself to do it.  Perhaps his dropping away is his attempt to let it go.  Even now people say it is breaking up. But, the same was said in the 80's my friends, and I wouldn't hold to hard to hope that it will just fade away. Some people have so much momentum with the doomsday bits, they are like rail cars careening down the track; they don't need a driver, and something like brakes simply does not exist. For those people, they probably don't even read the internet because their only reality is living in Jack's kingdom, and everything else is a lie. If Goon were not there, these people would continue, because they can't stop. No amount of Truth will change their minds. If only Jack had the Truth, and Jack is dead, they cannot change their path. It's a bit like being hypnotized and being put under, and the person performing it dies before they bring you back. You are stuck under the influence of the hypnotism.

Back to the gripping jacket cover of the star-crossed romance of Goon and Lily.

You have asked: how do you know it's a farce?

The answer is that I don't. Only they know their own feelings.

This is what I have put together from sources. The best of which was the woman living with Lily in Florida prior to her starting the relationship with Goon.  This woman posted on the Rick Ross forum. She posted with she was taken aback because she had a relationship with Lily.  She thought things were good. Then one day Goon comes to ask for her hand, she has a personal crisis, then suddenly moves up North and marries him with barely an explanation.  She was worried for her friend and love because of the info on Rick Ross and the knowledge that she wasn't just with anyone, but the now-leader of the cult.

I think her story was deleted when Rick Ross converted to culteducation.com

I also heard the story from other sources.

I'm a realist, so I don't happen to believe the "celibacy" bit.  Both Goon and Lily are attractive, dynamic, fun, loving personalities. They are both capable of love. I don't think either of them was celibate all those years.

And if they weren't truly celibate, I don't care, either. Let me make that plain. I don't want them to be shamed for choosing who they loved just because it might not have been a hetero relationship.

I think both stories could be true though.

I think, perhaps, as implausible as it may seem, they really do love each other.  Being the personalities that they are, I don't think they could remain together if they didn't.

I think being at the center of group and constantly being exalted might actually strengthen their love, because being the selfless people that they can be, they need to keep it together for everyone else, not just themselves.

Although Lily may have lived a different lifestyle, she was a part of the group enough that she may have had misgivings about her homosexual lifestyle, and had a spiritual "awakening" that involved her "repentance" of her previous choices, immersing her completely into loving Goon and being his wife, and eventually bearing his child.

Now you see how both stories can be true.  Both are plausible.  To carry on the way they have, I don't think it could be all an act. People are capable of deceiving themselves in mazing depths in order to avoid uncomfortable truths.

But...

Here comes the conspiracy theorems:

If it was LOVE...
Why did her family suddenly get into the money?  Why after years of saying the entire thing was hogwash did Lily's Dad suddenly decide that not only was this cult a really great thing, but also move to Maine, leaving their waterfront property in Huntington?  Why did Man and Goon have a "revelation" that Lily's Dad needed to run one of the most powerful and large clans in the group? A group that was run by one very powerful cult father, who ran/helped run Shoresh and has a multitude of grandchildren, one of which was thought to be the next Abba?  Why would it all of the sudden conveniently happen, if it was just Love.

All of the rules were broken by that little bit of a power play. People are still angry about Mr. Udder's grandchild being passed up from being a clanhead. It broke all of the conventions of the covenant and the rights of power and hierarchy. Why not just start a new clan?  No, they took a large group of people and transferred them to Lily's Dad. Inexplicably.

Clanheads are responsible for collecting tithe from members, and setting the rules about safe houses.

Sounds like a pay-off to me.