Scaring young people with stories of the Rapture

That excellent radio program This American Life devoted its entire hour this week to a single story. It is about how parents hired a private basketball coach AJ for their son Cody who was in third grade and that over time, the boy formed a close bond with the coach who then, over a period of years and unbeknownst to the parents, proceeded to indoctrinate the boy with elaborate stories about the Bible and the Rapture and how there was an evil supercomputer somewhere in Belgium that was going to take over the world and how the Illuminati were planning to implant everyone with RFID chips as a way of controlling them. These chips are the prophesied ‘mark of the beast’ that any Rapturite will tell you identifies those who worship the anti-Christ.

It is pretty engrossing and also disturbing for any parent. At the end, Cody says that he cannot believe now that he believed all the crazy stuff that AJ told him, a common experience for those who eventually escape from the indoctrinating influence.


  1. Andrew Dalke says

    My father’s parents believed that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. They were wrong. On one summer holiday with them, we did a two-week-long morning bible study of Revelations. I remember my grandfather pointing out similarities between the Biblical description and the effects of an H-bomb, as evidence to support the Bible’s veracity.

    Even before this, I recall my grandmother saying the Second Coming would occur when no one expected it. For a while, I went to bed trying to expect the Second Coming would be the next day, so that it wouldn’t come. I quickly realized there was a problem in this logic, which I later learned was the ‘unexpected hanging’ paradox.

    I once told this to a friend, also raised in a strongly religious family. She recounted a similar story about how as a kid she was told about a sick child who was in the hospital for a long time. He had strong faith the whole time. My friend was told that when he died he had his arms out, as if to say “take me Jesus”. For a long time, my friend made sure to keep her arms under the blanket so she wouldn’t be taken by accident.

    Marcus? Who gets to decide what is sufficient bullshit as to constitute child abuse?

  2. Jackson says

    Marcus @1

    FWIW, at the end the parents and the kid do sue AJ, and a jury finds in their favor.

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