Chapter 18.    The Morning After

The morning started with people tip-toeing and whispering, to avoid waking Roger. But with the first clink of coffee cups in the kitchen he was awake and out of bed, eager to learn about the routine that lay ahead of him.

"Maybe I was wrong about you having second thoughts this morning," said Dave jokingly. "No, you're probably right. It'll catch up with me later; but for now I'm still running off last night's adrenaline," Roger observed wisely.

The others were impressed to see him listening intently to the mail, even though much of it would have made little sense to him. He also showed good sense in not trying to run too quickly on his first attempt at the morning run. Most visitors tended to space out during mail call and try too hard to impress the others in the run, only to give up without completing the course. Roger's ability to pace himself and to pay attention were probably the same traits that had made him a successful worker. Such traits were rare amongst new recruits to the bin raiders.

After some coaching from Dave, Roger called the office and asked for a week off to deal with some "personal problems".

"It's best to keep your options open until after you've finished the trial week," Dave said. The study that morning was on the differences between the kingdom of heaven and religion. It was longer than most of the other studies, and it led to a lot of discussion, which continued after breakfast, and right up to lunch.

Roger not only was able to grasp the concepts quickly, but he immediately applied them to other situations, and he came up with further observations which supported the points being expressed. "It won't be long before he's leading his own group," Cherry whispered to Dave when the discussion was over and the group was preparing for lunch.

"Don't be too hopeful," said Dave. "Nobody's perfect, and he'll have his problems as well." Before leaving for the city, there was more discussion about what Roger was getting himself into. He was, as he had been from the start, full of questions. Only now the answers to the questions meant even more to him, because his whole future depended on them.

Roger still had one unanswered question from the list of accusations he had heard from John Groenig.

"What about you all being messiahs?" he asked. "Groenig said that you believe you're Jesus. Is there any truth in that?"

"Hmm… Haven't heard that one before," said Dave, "so I'll have to guess at what was behind it. Something I've noticed is that cult busters try, in one way or another, to accuse the leaders of every group they attack of claiming to be Jesus. I guess it's something that convinces people more than anything else that the group really is off the rails. There are people who claim to be Jesus, of course, but don't rely on a cult-buster to tell you who they are, because they'll accuse just about any charismatic leader of claiming to be the Messiah, just like they accuse them all of being manipulative and control freaks."

Dave had been thinking as he had been talking, and he came up with an explanation for the messiah thing.

"We teach that the anointing of God's Spirit is available to anyone today. It's a pretty ordinary Christian teaching. But maybe it was something in the way we said it at some time that made them say we're all claiming to be messiahs. The word 'messiah' means 'anointed one'; so if we say we're all anointed by God's Spirit, then they could technically say we are all claiming to be messiahs. Of course it hasn't stopped us from looking forward to the day when Jesus himself returns to judge the world. Like I said, it's just a guess. There'll be plenty of charges that you either have to do that with, or else accept that they're just full-blown lies."

"Sounds reasonable," said Roger.

After lunch, Roger headed off to the bank with Greg to clear up the debt on his car. The two men were ushered into an office, where an attractive woman in her forties took down the particulars, punched the information into the keyboard in front of her and then studied the screen for a few seconds before excusing herself to check with the manager. When she was out of the office, Greg, who had been sitting at the far end of the desk said, "Check this out," and he swung the computer monitor around so that Roger could see the screen.

There at the top were the words, "DANGEROUS CULT INFLUENCE. DO NOT RELEASE FUNDS."

Greg quickly swung the monitor back, just before the bank officer re-entered the room. Roger was too shocked to say anything at first. Then the woman sat down and said with perfect confidence, "I'm sorry, Mr. Seeker, but there has been a problem with your account at our head office, and there will be some delay in clearing this transaction. Would you be able to check back with us in a week to ten days?"

"A week to ten days?!" exclaimed Roger. "What are you going to be doing that takes a week to ten days?"

"The computers are down, and we have had to order in some new hardware," she lied.

"Look, I only want the money so I can pay off a loan that I took out with this same bank last year. What's so wrong about that?"

"There's nothing wrong with that, Mr. Seeker. It's just an internal problem, and there's nothing we can do about it."

"Are you sure you're telling me the whole truth," Roger asked.

"As God is my witness, it's only a problem with the computer. There's nothing to worry about."

"And are you quite sure that this has nothing to do with my religious beliefs?"

"Your religious beliefs?!" said the woman, with a convincing show of surprise. "Goodness, no, Mr. Seeker. Banks have better things to do than to worry about people's religious beliefs. Believe me, it's just a slight technical problem at head office."

"Would you take any punishment that God wanted to give you if you was lying?" Greg asked abruptly.

"What a strange thing to say," said the bank officer, as she wrinkled her nose and backed away from Greg like he was giving off a bad smell. "What reason would I have to lie to you?"

"That's what I keep asking myself," said Greg, "because it's right there on your computer. Says you're not 'posed tuh release funds to my friend here, 'cause of something called 'dangerous cult influence'. Funny thing for a bank to get itself mixed up in, don't you think?"

"You have no business touching this computer," said the woman, who was now blushing with embarrassment.

"If you have any further questions, I think you should direct them to the manager. Now if you'll excuse me, I have other work to attend to."

Greg looked at Roger and jerked his head toward the door, to let him know that there was no point in pushing further to get the money.

"What was that all about?" asked Roger when they were out of the office.

"Banks keep more records than most people think," Greg explained. "They got lists of anyone who bad mouths them. We handed out tracts against the smartcard a couple years ago, and we got on their lists. My guess is that Groenig or Toogood knows someone in head office, and called them up to let 'em know you're working with us now. I reckon you'll get your money, but not without a lot of hassle. 'Course they'll still want ya t'keep up your car payments while you're waitin'. Crazy, isn't it?."

"It's more than crazy; it's downright unfair," said Roger. "The payment's a few days overdue already, and there'll be late charges if I don't pay it straight away. Can I get something from our joint account to make one payment today? Then we can deal with the rest later."

"Try if you like, but my bet is that Barbara and Ganley cleaned your account out even before they froze your fixed deposit."

Roger tried, and once again, Greg proved to be wiser in the ways of the world than his more formally educated charge.

"I can't believe she did that," Roger said after seeing the teller. "There's nothing left in it at all. But that money belonged to both of us." He was talking to himself now. "It's not fair."

"Fair? You won't get much of that if you join us," said Greg. "The word 'cult' is like the word 'Jew' was in Germany during the war. Nobody needs to be fair with us, 'cause we're not the same as other people. Even nice people will look the other way if they think they're gettin' too close to a 'cult'. You may's well get used to it, 'cause there's gonna be a lot more unfairness in your life from now on."

"But we're not a cult!" replied Roger. "And it's not their money!"

"That's what we say," explained Greg. "But who's listenin'? After they stick the 'cult' tag on us, what we say don't make no difference."

Roger was not satisfied. It took some heavy coaxing from Greg to keep him from going back into the bank and challenging the system.

"Trust me," Greg argued. "The more ya fight, the harder they'll make it. It won't do your spirit no good neither."

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