Book Review - Tabernacle of Hope. Bridging Your Darkened Past Toward a Brighter Future
Cultic Studies Review, 8, (2), 2009, 185-186
Tabernacle of Hope. Bridging Your Darkened Past Toward a Brighter Future
By Kerry Noble
Fort Worth, Texas: Noble Strategies. 2008. ISBN-10: 0982008406; ISBN-13: 978-0-9820084-0-9, (soft cover), $18.95.178 pages.
Reviewed by Arthur A. Dole, Ph. D., ABPP
Kerry Noble, an ordained minister, is a professional writer and speaker about destructive political groups. His story is a familiar one: Idealistic young man joins a commune; finds himself second in command of a destructive political cult. Eventually he leaves the group and becomes an expert on combating dangerous right-wing extremist “patriots.”
After Noble left The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) group in 1983, he developed a personal philosophy—a mixture of Christian principles and positive psychology. In its first 134 pages, Tabernacle of Hope concentrates primarily on Noble's adult autobiography over three decades; it concludes with his formula for overcoming a “darkened past.”
Noble's story is dramatic, with many twists and turns. Upon finishing his theological studies, the young, idealistic, pacifist evangelical, accompanied by his pregnant wife Kay and their small child, accepts an administrative position at a small commune (the CSA) in Arkansas. Noble becomes second in command to Jim Ellison, its mesmerizing and charismatic leader. As the group, influenced by signs from God, changes in its philosophy and objectives, CSA develops an extreme right-wing fundamentalist philosophy; it is anti-Semitic, anti-Communist, anti-federal government, and racist and homophobic. Although often feeling shame and remorse, Noble becomes an American fascist—in his terms, a terrorist.
Jim has an affair with a group member and takes her as a “second wife.” When Noble proposes to follow his leader, Kay becomes very upset. Noble, ashamed and guilt ridden, then ends an adulterous relationship.
When CSA joins the Christian Patriot movement, it plots to overthrow the U. S. government, adds new violent members, buys arms and ammunition, and turns the commune into a fortress. Examples of consequent episodes include the following:
Tension between Jim and Noble increases.
CSA plans to bomb courthouses and assassinate federal officials.
Noble enters a gay church with a briefcase filled with explosives.
The FBI surrounds the CSA compound. Noble acts as negotiator between Jim and the FBI.
Noble spends two years in federal prisons, often in isolation.
Noble is increasingly troubled by inconsistencies in the group’s ideology and moved by the kindness and respect of his “enemies.”
Once he is released, (no mention of exit counseling?) Noble builds a successful life as a salesman, writer, lecturer, consultant to federal officials, and promoter of his new philosophy; and in 1998 he publishes Tabernacle of Hate: Why They Bombed Oklahoma City.
How do you build a bridge from a troubled past to a productive future? Noble proposes hope, plus the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Various specific suggestions for self-improvement conclude the final quarter of this book. In addition, 12 cheerful and optimistic “Noble Strategies” are scattered throughout, from “Write Your Dream” to “Have Fun ... Every Day.”
Those who like a good yarn will enjoy Tabernacle of Hope, as will those interested in understanding violent political groups. However, those who believe that humankind is complicated, and who stress nuance over platitude and gray over black vs. white, may be turned off. Finally, I recommend this self-published book to the deeply religious, particularly to troubled seekers of personal improvement and to victims of extreme political cults.