The book Killing the Victim... devotes an entire chapter to the topic of idolatry, called "Idolatry- The Victim's Way of Relating." It begins by giving several examples of idols: "Every victim sets up some idol, whether it is an idol of appearance, image or form, which he then worships" (P. 139).

The authors then give three examples of times they worshiped idols, and the effects of this on their lives. One described how his worship of appearances prompted him to lie about and exaggerate his spiritual power, in order to impress people so that they'd make large donations to his work. Another said his idol had been a desire for an inflated image, or outward persona, which prompted him to try to hide painful emotions and maintain an image of rationality in front of his wife. Another author said he worshiped the idol of form, asserting that a thing can only be done in one way, which caused him to look suspicious and guarded in front of a group. Concepts and principles can also become idols, they write.

The real problem with idolatry, the book says, is that idolatry interferes with relationships between people: "We sacrifice many relationships on the altar of these convictions.... our convictions often keep us from others, because we serve the idols" (pp. 143, 144). The examples mentioned here all illustrate the authors' main point, that idolatry harms relationships between people.

The chapter defines idolatry as being devoted to things or people so that they harm relationships. It defines the opposite of idolatry as finding hope and identity inside yourself and building relationships through keeping promises:

"Idolatry and despair are bedfellows, because whenever we relate idolatrously to a form, appearance or person, we place our hope outside of ourselves.... Our visions become a reality, only when we place our hope in our own ability to give of ourselves- not in someone or something external.... If the declaration of our vision, dreams and whole life and the sending of ourselves to another in promise kills idolatry, then the opposite action must define idolatry, The opposite action would include not declaring my vision, not sharing my dreams, guarding my life from pain and discomfort by playing it safe, not making promises, not risking rejection by withholding requests, and dishonestly hiding my bitterness behind the appearance of contentment (p. 169).

On the surface, much of this makes sense.

But what is missing from these descriptions of idolatry?

The descriptions of idolatry quoted above never once mention God. This describes a human-centered, humanistic view of idolatry, not a God-centered, theistic view.

The Bible, by contrast, describes idolatry in a God-centered way. Idolatry is wrong and harmful not because it interferes with our relationships with people, but because it interferes with our relationship with God. Idolatry is wrong because it violates the command to love God, not because it violates the command to love your neighbor.

The Decalogue begins, "I am the Lord your God.... You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol..." and goes on to explain that worshiping idols is hating God (Exodus 20:2-3). The chapter subtitle in Killing the Victim quotes 1John 5:21, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." But the context of 1 John isn't relationships with people- it is avoiding idolatry in order to keep pure one's relationship with God. As the verse before states, "We are in Him who is true- even in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20). In contrast, this chapter of Killing the Victim doesn't even mention God until six pages into the chapter. When the book's introduction speaks of the work of Jesus Christ, it again says nothing about God, but concludes, "Wasn't His purpose to set us free to govern ourselves, to forsake the life of a victim and to live victoriously?" (P.20)

It is disconcerting that Christian authors should say (as quoted more fully above) that idolatry is when "we place our hope outside of ourselves," and that the opposite of idolatry is "when we place our hope in our own ability to give of ourselves," and declaring my dreams, my vision, and sending ourselves to another (p. 169; emphasis added). Biblically, the opposite of idolatry is not focusing inside us, on our own ability, dreams and vision (as this book asserts)- since this is the worst form of idolatry, a narcissistic worship of self. Instead, the opposite of idolatry is being devoted to and expressing God's ability and vision. Trusting God is certainly hope in someone outside ourselves, namely God.. It is ironic that the authors condemn narcissism on one hand (in the sense of caring for appearances rather than sending out your vision as promises), yet advocates narcissism-- hoping in your own ability and declaring your own vision and dreams, thereby creating your own new reality instead of being a victim of others' actions and vision.

The authors wind up the chapter by summarizing idolatry: "Whenever the form becomes significant to us, we are being idolatrous. Whenever we put on an appearance for someone, we are worshiping an idol! Whenever we are concerned about an image that is not fully revealing of our authentic soul, we are serving an idol. When we believe that the form matters or is significant, we are serving an idol" (pp. 174-175). Note that this summary definition of idolatry never once mentions God, but it does mention the importance of revealing our soul and truthful relationships with people.

This humanistic teaching on idolatry is the opposite of Bible teaching, which focuses on God. The chapter began with three examples of recognizing and overcoming idolatry-- not exaggerating one's appearance, being authentic rather than trying to maintain an image in others' eyes, and trying to keep a form which makes one appear suspicious to others. But an atheist could have said he overcame idolatry in these same ways, and yet have no faith in, worship of, or covenant with God.

This chapter does in places define idolatry in a Biblical way, such as this one, "...when we indulge in idolatry, we put something else in the position that only God rightfully fills in our life" (p. 149). But by far the dominant theme and content of this chapter is a humanistic view of idolatry which focuses on relationships with people, not with God.

These two opposing views of idolatry- God-centered and human-centered, often seem to be muddled together in this chapter. While it says that idolatry is when people believe "something else is worthy of greater devotion than the Lord," only three sentences later it adds that the evidence of idolatry was that the author valued the image of an unemotional man "more than sharing that moment of pain with my wife and sons" (p. 144). It seems almost as though the authors have trouble distinguishing between idolatry in the Biblical sense of maintaining a relationship with God from idolatry in the Killing the Victimsense of maintaining relationships with people.

One would hope that the book would describe idolatry in the Biblical, God-centered sense, then say something like, "from now on in this chapter, we will be using the term 'idolatry' in a metaphorical way, quite different from its Biblical use," then go on to talk about "idolatry" (however misnamed) in the sense of prizing image, etc, above authentic relationships with people and above finding your own ability and vision. This would not even be applying God's Word on idolatry to concrete situations, because it is using idolatry in a significantly different sense than the Bible does. This practice appears on the surface to be Biblical, but mainly it tries to use Biblical rationale to support preexisting philosophy.

The book also takes other Biblical terms and concepts and interprets them in nonbiblical ways. For instance, while the Bible sees transformation as killing our sinful nature and renewing our minds so that we know and practice God's will (Romans 12:1-2), the Glossary of Killing the Victim defines it in terms of relationships with people, "Transformation: The process of shifting the relationship taken to a person or event; such shifting occurs moment by moment and is not permanent" (p. 237). The focus of ransom in the Bible is Christ taking the punishment for the world's sin and giving his life to redeem us, while the Glossary states that "Being a ransom demands everything that we are," because people must sacrifice themselves to others in making promises (pp. 235, 212). Oddly, it also offers a violent-sounding definition of peace, "having your knee on your enemy's neck" (p. 213). On the other hand, some other Biblical terms are defined in Biblical ways.

Why does Killing the Victim seem to muddle up Biblical and nonbiblical ideas of Biblical concepts?

The answer to this lies in the roots and origin of the philosophy imbedded in Killing the Victim. The book is largely an expression of the Momentus (now called Breakthrough; hereafter referred to as Breakthrough) training which the book mentions in several places. Breakthrough was founded by one of the book's authors, Daniel Tocchini. Breakthrough and most of the concepts in Killing the Victim are rooted in Lifespring, one of many Large Group Awareness Trainings (LGATs), which Tocchini has been heavily involved in and promoted widely. This tie to Lifespring is both admitted and obscured by three references in the book. Tocchini's author biography reads, "Daniel previously worked as a consultant in conflict resolution, productivity, and motivation for companies of all sizes." (P. 254), but neglects to acknowledge that this was eight years as a Lifespring trainer. The book obliquely refers to Lifespring and similar LGATs as "secular 'new age' groups," which seems to acknowledge that these have new age elements (which contradicts Biblical teaching in many ways). The book's acknowledgments adds, "The impact of some individuals has been so profound in our lives that they stand in a class by themselves. John P. Hanley is one such individual. Thank you John for your stand for transformation and passion, and for your stalwart guidance through the years" (p. 11). This fails to mention that Hanley in the founder of Lifespring, a LGAT that has been sued over 40 times for allegedly harming its participants (including at least six that alleged that the training caused death in trainees; most were settled out of court). Although Killing the Victim and Breakthrough are heavily based on Lifespring principles and practices, neither are forthright and "authentic" enough to clearly name Lifespring.

Lifespring (and similar LGATs) does not even claim to be Christian or reflect Biblical thought and concepts. So it is not surprising that many of the concepts in Breakthrough and Killing the Victim come from Lifespring and do not accurately reflect Biblical teaching. However, as Breakthrough (Momentus) developed over the years, it has apparently taken on more and more Biblical terminology. But beneath the Scriptural appearance, it maintains many elements of LGAT philosophy with its nontheistic (and nonbiblical) focus on human potential ("my ability, dreams and vision to change my reality" as quoted above) instead of on God. This is reflected in the book's schizophrenic treatment of "idolatry." Breakthrough/ Killing the Victim begins in many cases with LGAT concepts and philosophy, and marries them to Biblical terms and concepts, which results in imposing foreign meanings and applications on Biblical teachings.

The book admits that the Breakthrough training uses LGAT practices: "The complaint leveled against Mashiyach Ministries by watchdog organizations boils down to this argument: we are pursuing noble aims (love and transformation of character) but in a form that is tainted because it is similar to forms and exercises used by secular 'new age' groups. This argument is concerned with the appropriate appearances..." (Pp. 166-167). This neglects the fact that it is not a concern for appearances, but for the underlying philosophy which is expressed through the training and exercises, in addition to the often negative character and effects of some of the exercises.

Breakthrough's trainees and reads of Killing the Victim are often mislead by the Biblical terms which are used. But this is overcome when people see the missing connections between Biblical teachings and Breakthrough concepts, and when they understand LGAT philosophy well enough to see the humanistic nature of the concepts imbedded in the training and in Killing the Victim.

Review of Chapter 6 of Killing the Victim Before the Victim Kills You, by Derek Watson, Daniel Tocchini and Larry Pinci, Mashiyach Press, 1997

Dr. John Juedes, 2002

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