Disclaimer: I have tried to verify any information written here. There are many rumours floating around that I have left out as they are not (yet) fully verifiable.
On Sunday December 20, I was contacted regarding the horrific murder of 4-yr-old Jessica Mast in Missouri. (READ THE NEWS UPDATE HERE: 4-year-old girl ‘beaten, submerged in a pond, then left to freeze on the bank’). The accused (Kourtney Aumen and Ethan Mast) allegedly claimed the mother, Mary S. Mast who was also beaten, had a demon and the children would turn out just like her if they did not remove the demons. Arrested for her murder at the time were Kourtney Aumen (21), and Ethan Mast, (35). As of December 24, 2020, the child’s parents, James Mast (28) and Mary S. Mast (29) have also been arrested. (READ THE NEWS UPDATE HERE: Benton County Sheriff: Parents arrested in connection to child’s death).
People noticed I am friends on Facebook with Kourtney Aumen, one of the two individuals charged with the murder. Truth is, I did not get to know Kourtney. Beyond a friend request over the time of the CAM and Jeriah Mast fiasco, we had no exchanges of any kind. In spite of not knowing her, it hit pretty hard knowing that sometimes we just don’t know what depravity hides behind a religious facade. Looking at her FB profile — the pic and what she writes — would never have indicated a young woman sexually entangled with two married men, capable of murder and sexual assault. Her one accomplice, Ethan Mast, I had never heard of before. James Mast, the father of the murdered child, I vaguely recall hearing of his disappearance.
What is to be said about the present murders is in the links I posted. Rather than retell it, I encourage you to read the news updates. The backstory, however, is not covered there.
Aumen allegedly got ‘counseling’ support from James Mast a few years back. At some point, James allegedly said he was driving her to a counselor, but instead he disappeared for two weeks to a cabin with her. This, over the time that his wife Mary was very pregnant and gave birth. The story starts somewhere back there, or maybe before. Aumen is not one iota innocent, nor is she the victim in this case. However, whenever grown men (or women) take advantage of the vulnerability of someone coming for help, they are responsible for violating that trust. No matter how messed up the person is who is looking for help or counseling,. If anything, the more messed up, the more you are responsible for how your actions will further harm them. Whatever the story is here — if it didn’t start before that ‘counseling’ — it was the prelude to the present situation. What she did in this present crime is on her. But what went down back there is part of the story that led here. And it sounds like she was reaching out for support, as allegedly did get counseling from another well-known unlicensed Mennonite counselor.
SHE HAD A DEMON, SOME SAY (GOD FORBID THEY MENTION THE MEN INVOLVED)
No matter the backstory, Aumen is responsible for her crimes. Even so, it reeks to high heaven when people start declaring “Kourtney had a demon”, or “She was demon possessed” or “She had a spirit not of God, and totally overlook the men — “leaders” as we call them in our Anabaptist settings — as though they were her victims.
‘Thank you, Captain Obvious. I’d have not known quite to which power to attribute this heinous act without that insight.” It’s seems some people get a religious ego boost labeling women as demon-possessed.
No Christian will look at this horror and say, “What Aumen did was of God!” Obviously, then, if not of God, it is of the devil. But to put the focus all on Aumen having a spirit not of God and say nothing of two grown men -who were part of it does not speak well to the character of those speaking. This habit of demonizing women (even when their actions are demonic) is the voice of the religiously emasculated crying out. Real men of God, those who take their leadership seriously, hold other men accountable, first and foremost. No, they wouldn’t let Aumen off the hook; she did very wicked things in the name of God. But, as men who preach leadership, they would first call out the men for not stopping this horrific act. These men could have overpowered Aumen if they wanted. And I can’t imagine it would have taken two of them. Instead, they slept with her and then participated in a murder; whatever their respective roles were. These men should be called out, if not first, at least equally.
The father’s belt was used to do the beating. Somewhere in there, as a parent, you would say, “Over my dead body!” You would let them shoot you first, before you let them kill or beat your child. And for days on end? No one in that position gets to step back and be the victim. How it shakes out with the law is not of greatest interest to me. (Though I fully support putting them behind bars. If a defenceless innocent child is not safe with them — if they stoop that low — then they should not be on the loose. Same as sex offenders). But that is not mine to orchestrate. As a believer, I know my God will be their judge and it is before Him they are guilty of their various roles, including James and Mary Mast, whatever those roles may be. (And save the ‘maybe James was being nonresistant’ speech. No one living in adultery with the murderess and engaged in sexual immorality gets to lay claims on that as a religious excuse).
Both James Mast and Ethan Mast were having sex with Kourtney Aumen. For these adults to actively beat the life out of a child for two weeks, or stand by while the other(s) did the beating with the father’s belt, does not leave any of them innocent. Children were being assaulted. Jessica ran around the table crying for her parents to intervene. Adults did nothing to intervene. That makes the latter guilty. It is our duty as adults to protect children.
NOT ONE OF US
As I watch some in the Anabaptist community scramble to disassociate themselves from these people, I shake my head. It is true, most would not in a million years do these things. I hope. I trust. But when you raise someone — whether in your home or in a church (such as Charity, in this case, which by all rights is Mennonite with a different name) — you cannot simply wash your hands of people when they do wicked things. Especially when those wicked things were inevitably rooted in some of the horrible beliefs taught in your home or church.
In 2018 and 2019 I publicly called out the Charity (Ephrata Center) church for their ‘spanking rooms’ in which they kept a paddle (or paddles) with holes in it to make it more aerodynamic. This was to allow for a good sting without leaving bruises or marks so they would not get caught as they did not want Child Protective Services of Pennsylvania or Pennsylvania Law Enforcement involved. Parents were encouraged to spank their children until they went limp and broke (or gave in), I was told by numerous individuals who attended there then. This violence was encouraged for babies under age one. (Read some of the conversations here, especially the comments: July 17, 2019, October 20, 2018, October 20, 2018B). It is not possible to practice this kind of perverted discipline and then stand back at Pilates washing bowl and declare yourself innocent. Those who endorse this kind of violence, and the teaching of it, have no right to gasp at what Aumen and the two Mast men did. No right at all.
While I respect what Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox stated in the article shared above, that this is not the work of a cult, I do not believe the Charity church in Ephrata as innocent. When a church system — and in this case it was Charity who raised and/or influenced at least some of these men and women — teaches the kind of violence that was taught in PA, and when someone practices it to the extreme and it goes so badly wrong, the church does not get to stand back and say, “Well they left a few months ago and started a home church. They are not one of us.”
They left a few months ago? In the grand scheme of a their lifetime, the influence in their experience did not happen in the last few months. This went badly wrong long before a few months ago. The entire mind gets twisted up when you buy into the kind of violence taught there (not by all, and not endorsed by all) and the church sets up a spanking room (which at some point was soundproofed, I am told by former attendees, they are not innocent.
To every father, mother or other person who sat in that ‘spanking room’ or outside it and heard the screams (before it was soundproofed) and did nothing, you are not innocent. What happened in Missouri, the perversion of believing you can beat the demons out of someone, a child, no less, started on a pew in church, back in PA.
At least take responsibility for that much. Let Aumen, Ethan Mast and James and Mary Mast take responsibility for their crimes. But take responsibility for that perverted teachings gone wrong, and repent before God.
And all those ‘leaders’ who demonize women (calling them Jezebels, naming them Matriarchal witches, calling them demon possessed), they are not helping. What if we stopped preaching demons and focusing on demons, and started offering the hope of Jesus instead?
Even in this horrific case, what is the benefit of declaring demons? What does it prove? That I am spiritual enough to observe the obvious? And why has the doctrines of demons taken such deep root in the body of Christ, that we associate ‘demon theology’ more powerfully with some ministries than we associate the ministry with Jesus Christ?
What if His name escaped our lips more often than the declaration that there is a demon here or there? What if His love was the power that overcame the darkness in lives rather than pointing out demons whenever a woman does not measure up to your image of who a woman should be.
Somehow, that seems more like something Jesus would do.
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger 2020