An excerpt from
Father of Lies
by Brian Evenson
When I first met him, Eldon Fochs was a thirty-eight-year-old accountant as well as lay provost for the largely conservative religious sect the Corporation of the Blood of the Lamb ("Bloodites"). He was clean shaven, pale in complexion, respectably dressed in a fashion typical of the Church's leader-ship, wearing a dark, sturdy suit, a white shirt, and a conservative tie. In our interviews, he never departed from this fashion of dress. He was a large, soft-spoken man, slightly overconscious of his body but nevertheless possessed of a relaxed demeanor. He had sought treatment at the request of his spouse, who was concerned by recent changes in his sleep behavior, which included "talking in his sleep in somebody else's voice," sleepwalking, and brief violent behavior toward his wife upon being awakened (behavior he had no memory of). Though Fochs believed his wife was overreacting, he chose to come to me nonetheless for two reasons: first to pacify her and second because during the past year he had had "disturbing dreams and thoughts" which he "wanted to be free of."
In our first interview Fochs stated a preference for being called "Brother Fochs" or "Provost Fochs" or simply "Fochs" rather than being called by his first name, Eldon. He was initially reluctant to discuss his family history. The disturbing dreams and thoughts, he felt, had "nothing to do with the past" since they had only originated a year ago.
Once he was comfortable with me, Fochs himself raised the issue of his "disturbing thoughts." When I asked if he heard voices, he hesitated but said no, just "loud thoughts."
Fochs admitted these had to do with children.
"Lots of children."
"In what way?"
"In the thoughts, you might say it is as if I am writing on them."
"They have no clothing. I don't know what has become of their clothing."
"Writing on their skin?"
"Yes. My mouth is dry and I know it is wrong to do but I am doing it anyway."
"What are you writing?"
"Sometimes I am writing God's name. Most often I am writing my own."
He would at this time go no further. However, the suggestion was already present that these thoughts tended toward a pedophilic or pederastic nature, writing one's own name on the body of a child being as well an indication or claim of ownership.
Fochs, on the grounds of the little he had told me, wanted me to "cure him." Yet he at first rejected my suggestion that if we were to go further, he would have to discuss the issue of the thoughts further and be honest about them. I told him that it was wrong to think if he arrested his thoughts on children, he would be cured. What was needed, I suggested, was a deterinination of what lay behind his thoughts, what had caused them to occur. Otherwise, though they might vanish momentarily, they would repeatedly resurface in different forms. He was somewhat impatient with this suggestion.
When I asked Fochs, in a later session, if he had thoughts written on his own body he claimed there had been things written there, but he had erased them all. In the same session he was finally willing to admit that the thoughts had been of a sexual nature, directed toward children.
"I would never act on such thoughts, mind you," he said. "I would never even tell people about them."
"You've told them to me."
"Sure," he said, smiling, "but you're not a person: you're a therapist."
Fochs had feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, resulting at least in part from his church-related duties as a provost. Indeed, both his sleep disturbance and his disturbing thoughts and dreams did not begin until shortly after he was asked to be the provost.
As he became more comfortable with me, he expressed his doubts about his role in the Church. He declared to me that he was "not worthy," that he "had been called to serve as provost against God's better judgment," that "God had allowed the Church to make a mistake." We discussed whether he had any legitimate grounds to feel unworthy, but from the information he gave me, it seemed that he was more committed and faithful than most members of the Church. Indeed, perhaps too committed: he would feel guilty if he went a day without reading in his Scriptures or if he missed a prayer. He had maintained an idealized view of church leaders, believing them to be more than mortal. He, in his own mind, didn't meet the ideal. There were the "thoughts on children" as well, as he had taken to calling them. He was convinced that "sins of thought" were nearly as bad as sins of action, and that it was a short distance from one to another.
The Thoughts on Children
Having Fochs fully acknowledge and discuss his "thoughts on children" was critical to effective analysis and treatment, but it took some time before he would speak about these thoughts in anything but vague metaphors. As I had suspected, they involved abuse of children. The thoughts, he claimed, he couldn't stop or control, though once he had thought one he'd be "left alone" for a little while.
I can be just walking down the street and see a young child, you know, eleven or twelve, walking home from school carrying school books. I won't think anything about it. But in a block the child is still in my head and without clothing now, and in another block I am doing things to the child's body, and in another block... [a long silence] It's hard for me to talk about this. In another block the child is battered and beaten and dead.
Then another block and it's over. I'm fine again. Just like normal. I go on with my day.
Such thoughts, Fochs claimed, were always threatening to assert themselves not as thoughts but as reality. It was wrong for him to think them, he felt, but he claimed he could not stop. And if Fochs imagined himself engaged in an act of sexual violence, he would remember it vividly and suffer guilt over it as if he had actually committed it.
Fochs' thoughts about children seemed related to his sleep disorders and to his difficulties with his church position. They were a means of reasserting himself in the face of doubt, allowing him to imagine himself in a position of power. During the thoughts themselves and for a short period thereafter, he felt above and beyond guilt. Yet, soon, because he doubted his worthiness to be a church leader and because he felt that the thoughts were wrong, he was nearly incapacitated by guilt. His life thus became inscribed into a vicious circle, in which the tension of guilt would lead to thoughts of a forbidden nature and momentary release, followed by a period of rest and the subsequent return of guilt, the cycle moving more and more rapidly. His sleep behavior (parasomnia) can be seen as providing a similar sort of release.
I asked Fochs if as a child he had ever been approached for sex by another child or by an adult.
"I don't remember," he said. Later, he stated that had he been approached or even accepted (which, he insisted, he would never do), it wouldn't have mattered. He had been washed clean when he had been confirmed at age twelve and anything that came before that had never happened.
"Anyway," he said, "nothing like that ever really happened to me. And even if it had happened, God would have washed it away."
A Dream of Boys
From the first, Fochs attempted to be a model provost. He conducted worthiness examinations every six months with each of the youth of his congregation, as recommended by the official Bloodite Provost's Handbook of Private Instructions. He asked me in his early sessions if it was a good idea for him to meet with the youth, considering the thoughts he was having about children. Wasn't it possible, he asked, that such thoughts might translate into action? At the time I felt that to work productively to help the youth might force Fochs to see them as people, and thus give him encouragement to face his thoughts on children and learn to control them. I encouraged him to continue meeting with the youth as usual, but we agreed that if at any moment he became too uncomfortable, he should suspend the interview and telephone me.
The interviews seemed to move forward without problems. Soon after beginning them, however, Fochs admitted that he had begun to have dreams about some of the specific youth in his congregation. These dreams felt so real he wasn't always immediately certain they were dreams-on first awakening, they felt more like harrowing memories. He said that his fear that the dream might somehow be real (or if not yet real, his fear that it might become real) had made him reluctant to meet with the youth.
In the dream there was a boy, about twelve years old. Fochs called him into his office to speak of initiating him into the priesthood. In interviewing him, he asked the boy if there was anything he had done that would make him "unworthy to accept the gift of the priesthood." The boy shuffled his feet and mumbled no, but Fochs said that he could tell from the way the boy rested his hands one over the other that he wasn't telling the truth. Fochs felt a peculiar sense of disquiet, and this disquiet he felt literalized in his own breath, which gathered into a figure beside him. The dream went through a phase shift and the shaped breath became configured into human form.
This man made of breath insisted that Fochs continue to prod the boy until he confessed. It would be better for the boy to get it off his mind, the man told him. If it hadn't been for this man, Fochs claimed, he would have let the boy alone.
I asked him to describe what the man made of breath looked like once he had solidified. He said the man was wearing tattered clothing and had a "shaved, razor-knicked head." I asked him what the man's name was. He said that he did not know but he did not think he had a name.
Fochs asked the boy again if there was anything he wanted to confess. The boy shook his head emphatically.
Fochs came out of his chair, feeling a little more urgent and distraught, and took a chair next to the boy. He took the boy's hand in his own hand, though the boy resisted slightly. When the man of breath began to prod him again, Fochs repeated the question, staring without blinking into the boy's face. The boy seemed frightened, and this, Fochs believed in the dream, was fear because of his guilt rather than fear of the sudden shift in Fochs' behavior.
The room grew darker and smaller. The other man dissolved into breath and was "drawn back in." Fochs and the boy were left alone.
"Why are you lying?" he asked the boy.
The boy glanced toward where the door had been. The door was not there anymore. Fochs said he could feel the boy's panic, and in the dream he liked the way it felt. The boy pulled his legs up into the chair and hid behind his knees.
"The boy insisted he wasn't lying," but Fochs said God told him that the boy was lying.
He grabbed the boy's mouth, opened it and tried to look in, stretching the jaws apart until the boy began to cry, his tonsils throbbing. Fochs saw his crying as an admission of guilt. He let go and told the boy that God loved him and that he loved him as well. All he wanted, he said, was to help.
He forcibly took the boy's hand again and asked for the truth. He told the boy he needed to know what happened. He needed to know the details. The boy was sobbing now, rubbing his arms, but still insisted there was nothing to tell.
"I don't think you even know what truth is," Fochs remembered saying. "I think you need me to force the truth out of you."
"No," said the boy. "I told the truth."
"I know what you need," Fochs said. "Don't tell me I don't know."
He says he told the boy to turn to face the wall. At that point he was inspired by God "to know the boy's sin and to understand it thoroughly."
Brian Evenson, author of Father of Lies, reveals the inside of his Trojan Horse in the article, "When Religion Encourages Abuse: Writing Father of Lies."