Review of Unveiled
by Tammie Willis
Director of Communications
Lalich Center on Cults and Coercion
In speaking with Newsweek in early December about the Netflix documentary, Unveiled: Surviving La Luz Del Mundo, director Jennifer Texeira is quoted: “There are a lot of good people in this organization who do good work. Hopefully this is a wakeup call about what needs to change.”
In my opinion, a wakeup call would not change anything. The infection within La Luz Del Mundo has already spread too far. I’ve seen this within the groups of extreme Christian fundamentalism that I grew up in. These organizations have institutionalized the power structures and abuses, so that they are not able to be separated from any “work” that is done in their name. There is simply not one, without the other. The hope is that any good people within the organization will see it for what it is and walk away.
In the four generations since La Luz Del Mundo was founded by the first “Apostle” in 1926, generational indoctrination has been employed as a means of control, grooming, and abuse. Eusebio Joaquín González and his two successors have constructed massive temples and churches, created a media empire, amassed yachts, cars, ranches, churches, land, cities and communities, all built on forced tithing, slave labor, and sending children into the streets, selling things for the church.
Survivors tell of human trafficking, rape, forced marriage, enslavement, physical, spiritual, and psychological abuses, secrecy, greed, corruption, and absolute power in which loyalty is not only demanded, but sworn. This loyalty is exacted in promises from “unconditionals” – who serve the Apostle for life, with no free will, and “secretaries” – women, often abused themselves, forced into slave labor including finding and grooming children for the Apostle to abuse. Unconditionals and Secretaries must obey without question or doubt – or suffer horrific abuses.
After almost 100 years and three Apostles, there are too many in the church who will never accept the truth of what it is, what it always has been – a cult. They have become trapped by their belief systems, enmeshed within what Dr. Janja Lalich describes as Bounded Choice.
In addition to the Apostles themselves, high-ranking officials in La Luz Del Mundo know about and participate in these abuses. They groom the children. The secretaries literally direct the sexual abuse at times, while telling children “it’s a blessing and privilege to give (the Apostle) what he wants.” They tell the children targeted for abuse that they are “born to serve him” and tie their “willingness” to be abused to their “salvation.” One survivor notes in the documentary: “The church is a magnet for abusers.”
Those who bravely appear and tell their stories in Unveiled know this. Many have been shunned, ostracized and estranged from family still in the church. Some have experienced brutal physical retaliation. They live in fear as they attempt to rebuild lives devastated by La Luz Del Mundo, the Apostles, and those who perpetuate the power structure. They are fighting to bring the truth forward in an attempt to seek justice for themselves and others. The result has been a grueling trial which culminated in a sentence of less than 17 years for current Apostle, Naasón Joaquín García, and a global “church” that is still running in his absence.
These brave women and men struggle with the things second- and third-generation cult survivors know all too well:
They speak of never having a frame of reference for normalcy because the cult is all they knew. They were terrified of what would happen if they tried to leave. They have holes in their memories.
They have had to learn to do the unthinkable – to forgive themselves for things that were not their fault. They are spending their adult years coming to terms with the indoctrination and abuse they suffered. They are angry over the lives they never got to have and the lifelong damage that was inflicted on them. They have had to teach themselves how to think critically. They have fractured relationships with their families, and those they grew up with.
And they want to break the systems of control and coercion so this kind of indoctrination and abuse can never happen to another child. This is at the heart of what Sochil and Alethea and Keila and Jemima and Anna and all the people who had the incredible courage to speak in Unveiled are trying to do. This is what the five underage Jane Does speaking out in an ongoing civil case, despite harassment and threats from the church, are doing.
No, I don’t think there can be a wakeup call in La Luz Del Mundo. But more and more survivors are finding each other on Reddit, You Tube, Tik Tok. They are exchanging stories of their experiences and abuse, offering validation and support. They have hope that more ex-members of La Luz Del Mundo will step forward and unite, until the voices of the survivors reach a critical mass – until the only acceptable outcome is that Naasón Joaquín García is faced with a Federal trial and real justice can finally be served.
Because, as Sochil says in Unveiled, “He will never stop.”
Carter, Simone (2022, December 5). ‘Unveiled: Surviving La Luz del Mundo’ HBO Doc Reveals ‘Cult’ Abuse. Newsweek, https://www.newsweek.com/unveiled-surviving-la-luz-del-mundo-hbo-doc-reveals-cult-abuse-1764824