Imagine a young boy, just barely into his teens, living in a world that is dysfunctional from its very core out, only to discover that the abnormality of his reality was about to change forever. For the worse.
At 13, Michael Klein experienced just that.
Klein was born to a black mother and a white father, a successful Irish Jew with whom his mother eventually fell out of love and divorced. After a long and ever changing string of men in her life, Klein's mother remarriedówedding a Jamaican-born hot-headed gadabout who turned out to be a wife beater and child abuser. Between the constant strife at home, a strained life at school, a marginal existence in the ghetto, and being charged with caring for his siblings, Klein had no time to himself, no time to be a child, no time to grow up.
That's when his mother made the decision: She had found the Lord, the true Son of God. She found him not on her knees in the neighborhood church and not in the pages of the Holy Bible but on the face of a flyer that fell into her hands. The flyer featured the image of Yahweh Ben Yahweh, self-proclaimed black messiah whose role in life was to return the black race to the position of power and prominence from which it had fallen. Finally, for the Klein family, everything was right again. The mother, abandoning her second husband, took her children and swore their allegiance to the mysterious Temple of Love.
That's the beginning of the story that leads the reader through some of the darkest and most insidious revelations imaginable. Through beatings and torture, physical and psychological subjugation, sexual abuse, and physical imprisonment, the temple leaders worked their way into the minds and lives of their followers--one of the most eager of whom turned out to be Klein's mother. Anxious for redemption, desperate to find a better way for herself and her children, she committed everything to the temple and ended up losing just as much and more.
As with all successful cults everywhere, the leaders of the Temple of Love learned early how to control, manipulate, and brainwash its new arrivals, and they wasted little time in stripping the Klein family's pride down to nothing. When young Mahmood, Klein's baby brother, failed to say "Praise Yaweh" at Elder Obadiah's command, switches were handed out to the congregation, who led the child off into a room to learn the meaning of obedience. The other children, hungry and aching for sustenance, were forced out into the streets of New York to beg for $10 apiece for the day's food. Six hours later, when Klein returned, he was horrified to find his brother still in the room. When the young boy finally emerged, Kiein could barely stand to look at the welt marks from the whips, "all over his body, from his neck down to his ankles."
The warning worked: the family quickly learned to fear--and obey--the Elders and Sisters of the Temple who wielded the power.
Despite the fear, or perhaps because of it, Klein remained a keen observer, a challenger of the concepts being forced into the followers' minds--even if in subdued silence. As the days moved into months, he noticed that the newcomers entered not from a single socio-economic group, but from all walks of life. "The members consisted of professional football players, lawyers, and doctors. They all started believing [Yaweh Ben Yaweh] was truly God himself and would unselfishly give up their worldly possessions and freedom to be led by this man. They would do anything for him. They would even kill for him if he asked them to."
Little did young master Klein realize it at the time, but that is precisely what the cult leader would eventually charge them to do.
Sectarian Song: Cult Escapist is a hauntingly real memoir from someone who obviously experienced the worst that life--and its practitioners--has to offer. He tells his tale from the eyes and ears of a young boy trapped in the horror, still struggling to this very day to survive outside the Temple in the real world.
To their shame, the editors who worked on this book for publisher Booksurge failed miserably in their most basic tasks of conducting their duties: correcting even the most basic problems of syntax, language, and punctuation. If they had not done so, this book would read more easily and comfortably.
To his benefit, Michael Klein--obviously not a professional writer nor even someone skilled in those most basic areas of the English language in the teaching of which our schools and educational system are supposed to excel--recounts with truth and bravery everything that happened. Despite its mechanical weaknesses, the author's story shines through as genuine, touching, heartwarming, frightening, and eventually cautionary.
From his earliest years in the ghetto, through his tormented teens, to his eventual escape with his younger brother to safety (only after the intervention of a genuine Guardian Angel) and word that Jaweh Ben Jaweh and six of his disciples had been convicted in 1992 of conspiracy to commit murder in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Michael Klein tells a good, gripping, fast-moving story.
Sadly, it is all real.
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