Hi. My name is Boze Herrington and I’m the author of “The Prophets,” a forthcoming memoir about the four and a half years I spent in a dangerous Charismatic religious community. My story has been featured in “Rolling Stone” Magazine and The Atlantic. You can read a synopsis in the three posts to which I’ve linked at the top of this page.
I met Bethany Leidlein at the beginning of my sophomore year at Southwestern University in August 2005. Though initially we had to work through a lot of issues in our friendship, over time we became best friends and kindred spirits. We were both fascinated with literature, fairy-tales, and Scotland; we both wanted to become novelists. She was witty and kind and beautiful and fiercely intelligent.
The same week I met Bethany, I also met the man who would become her husband. Tyler was probably the most zealous Christian I had ever met. He was also a brilliant debater who had never lost an argument.
In the fall of my senior year Tyler felt God calling him to start a prayer group that would meet every night to pray for revival on our campus. Initially it was just me, him, Bethany, and two other people; but within a few months the group expanded to include twenty-five others. Stories of prophetic encounters and visitations with angels became common. Notoriety spread when we tried to heal a girl with cerebral palsy who was incapable of walking.
In my last semester at Southwestern (fall 2008) it became obvious that the group was taking a dark turn. Tyler grew increasingly authoritarian and controlling. He began shunning people he considered rebellious. Some of us felt God saying that He was about to rain down wrath on our school, and that people were going to die because of our prayers. In the last week of classes a friend of mine was killed crossing the street at the edge of campus, and we believed and proclaimed that God had killed him.
After graduation most of the group moved to Kansas City. Tyler felt God was calling him as a chosen apostle of the end times. He instituted corporate financing. Dinner and worship meetings became mandatory. I fought with him and was ultimately shunned for being hateful, angry, and anti-social. For eight months (Oct 2010 – June 2011) I lived in the same house as the rest of the guys, but no one was allowed to talk to me. People in Texas were also forbidden from talking to me.
Shortly after the shunning ended, Bethany and Tyler were engaged. A few weeks later (April 2012) I moved out of the house. They were married in August and by the end of October she was dead. The day of her funeral a friend of ours turned himself into the police, claiming Tyler had ordered him to kill her. He has since recanted his statement and is awaiting trial. The group was broken up at around this time and everyone returned home to Texas.
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Mine is a story of despair and tragedy redeemed in the light of God’s greater story. Through my experience I’ve learned how Christianity can be subtly twisted into something dark and oppressive. I know firsthand the warning signs of spiritual abuse and how easily it can flourish in a Charismatic environment. And I want to raise awareness of the dangers but also to celebrate the faithfulness of God in the land of the living, the beauty that constantly radiates through the sacraments and the Scriptures and all created things.