Designed to be an inspirational story for those seduced, at times literally, by a cult, WALKING WITH THE ENEMY does have relevance for those wanting out. But Read’s relentless Manichaeism, and reduction of everything down to God vs. Satan, will repel readers of less fundamentalist persuasion.
If there is a phrase that runs throughout this sincere, but at the same time, somehow repellent memoir/spiritual journey book, then it would be “the Devil can quote scripture.” It is apparent that Read’s journey out of a cult that masqueraded as a Bible study group has value, and can be instructive in a “you can too” kind of way for those deceived by Bible-thumping libertines. Such an escape has relevance in our own era of red-state fundamentalism, where religious leaders perform exorcisms and speak in “tongues,” and more often than not, young girls on the verge of puberty and teenage runaways fall under their sway.
And it must be said that Read, unlike other cult members, doesn’t go to the other extreme by chucking her Christianity overboard and bashing those who don’t with public expressions of atheism and paeans to the joys of hedonism. Read, a former Marine, doesn’t give up on her Christian fundamentalism. But there is a difference between keeping one’s faith and retaining its Manichaeism. Read is as uncompromising in her reduction of everything down to God vs. The Devil as she was when in the charismatic way of a David Koresh-style leader (the leader, unmasked, has Koresh’s sexual appetites with his “flock”).
As recounted in the book, God is repeatedly saving her from the Devil, and the Devil, and his earthly beings are everywhere, especially in the guise of those pretending to be Christians. A woman who successfully “exorcises” Read’s daughter by speaking in many “tongues” turns out to be an acolyte of Satan. Reading through this book I was reminded of the fundamentalist parents in Stephen King’s Carrie (1974), in which the father carried a gun in his lunchbox to work in case he ran into the “Anti-Christ.”
Read is not as lethal-minded, and to her credit, she does pray for those in the sway of “Satan.” But if her “ravenous wolves,” “false prophets,” and other undercover followers of Satan are truly so embedded in our society, then it is hard to see where prayer will be enough; and violence will begin to look more attractive. Read does not subscribe to such actions—she states she continues to pray for the cult leader—but ultimately, that is where the book leads, especially if her cult leader truly is like David Koresh, who armed himself and his followers against the “unbelievers” in the government.
Meant to be an inspirational story, and at times it is that (Read literally ran out of the cult, and had, for a time, to use evasive tactics), what WALKING WITH THE ENEMY ultimately leaves even fundamentalist readers with is depression. For if everything is reduced down to God vs. Satan, then that leaves the humans in between as nothing more than puppets a la Job (and we know what he went through). And if, as Read attests, the devil is everywhere, and in all guises, especially those who brandish Bibles, then the only way out is to give oneself completely over to God, without reservations. Those who seek to bring free will and rationality into the mix are only fooling themselves and inviting the Koreshes in.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader