All she wanted was to know God and understand the Bible.
What harm could that possibly bring?
Join us on March 2, 2019, at the Interlachen Country Club at 11 a.m. to hear Charlene Edge tell her amazing story.
RSVP to Diana Secor (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Monday, February 25. Cost: $45
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, teen-aged 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.