This post won’t require a great many words. Thomas Hansen, whose real name is William Kronsel (or Cronsell? I’ve been sent several spellings), and also goes by Joshua Smith and Jordan Overcomer, has done the speaking for himself. Now, a man is entitled to his opinion. We all get to choose for whom and what we advocate. That’s none of my business. But sometimes the things we advocate for and our career interests create a public concern, as is the case here. And on that front I will write enough to set the stage.
To be clear, I don’t know Mr. Hansen. Never heard of him until today. I was alerted early this morning to a FB group he created called, “Trudy Metzger EXPOSED“. No skin off of my nose. Since I try to keep my life an open book being ‘exposed’ doesn’t frighten me.
What did alarm me is some of his posts I saw, unrelated to ‘exposing’ me, which I think would also concern most parents.
I don’t know how Mr. Hansen knows or is affiliated/aligned with the Conservative Anabaptist people. When the group was brought to my attention this morning, it had three members; Hansen (the admin), a person whose name I do not recall, and a Mr. Miller who is a trusted and gentle Anabaptist leader. (This mention should not be misconstrued as judgement against Miller. It merely indicates that Hanson may be strategically aligning with Anabaptists, and there is strong indication it is not for noble causes).
UPDATE: Mr. Miller received a personal invite to the group by Hansen. This attempt by Mr. Hansen to align with individuals of influence and standing in the Anabaptist community is, in itself, concerning. Again, it is no reflection on Mr. Miller. I do not know him, personally, but trusted friends have spoken to his character. I also reached out to him last evening to apologize for the appearance created by using his name. In spite of attempting to blatantly state there was no known alignment, some took it that way. I found him to be humble, gentle and gracious of heart.
This connection is my concern in light of the other concerns stemming from Mr. Hansen’s advocacy against age of consent and his interest in teaching children, who by their nature and lack of experience, are vulnerable. If he is affiliated with the broader Anabaptist community, then having knowledge of his advocacy is important in the event he would try to get a job within the community. For any failures and shortcomings in addressing sexual abuse, the Anabaptist community also has many strengths. One of them is their views on giving older men permission to date young girls. A man in his thirties or forties is not going to find blessing in dating a child who has just hit puberty.
That kind of relationship — between a full grown (even ‘older’) man and a child is what Mr. Hansen is advocating for. He believes that when a young girl hits puberty, an older man should be allowed to wed her. Maybe what is most concerning is that he declares he “has worked as a teacher and know(s) how things are.”
It is also alarming that he posted in an Amish group asking how he can find a teaching job without being a church member. So he wants to teach without being a church member. He is advocating for grown men and older men to have access to any female who has hit puberty. He knows how it works because of his teaching career. And he wants to do this in a nonresistant Anabaptist community. There he is not likely to be reported if he ‘loves’ a child. (Using the term love in quotations to reference his post in the previous screenshot. It isn’t love). The following is his post in an ex Amish and Mennonite Facebook group, which appears to be seeking advice on how to infiltrate Amish/Mennonite groups.
Fortunately, every Anabaptist I know would take their minors and run for the hills before giving this over-30 man access to their children, whether in their homes or in their schools. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I have chosen to do this blog. I would normally not bother giving a man with this mindset a platform by mentioning his name publicly. But I have many loved ones in the Anabaptist community, including nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. To have this man teach them would make me ill.
So, if he comes knocking at your Amish or Mennonite church schools for a job, member or not, you now at least know what he would bring to the table. You make the choice from there. You’ve been informed by his own words.
Sergeant Wilson’s account of the events that occurred at the Mast residence December 19-20, 2020, and the weeks leading up to that day when little Jessica Mast was murdered at the hands of Ethan Mast, Kourtney Aumen, James Mast and Mary S. Mast, is brutal to read. As a child raised observing vile beatings, it has been a gut-wrenching story to follow, and has impacted me in ways that I cannot put into words, but are observable to my husband. (Our abusive home-life is well documented in my book, Between 2 God: A memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community). I caution anyone who has been through severe trauma including, family violence (including harsh beatings, often referred to as ‘spanking’, religious abuse and extremism (including the teaching to ‘spank until limp’, and the like. Be aware that the Probable Cause statements which describe the scene of the crime may be triggering, and it may be wise to have a friend, your support person or someone with you when reading, or available to debrief after.
Besides the terror that sweet child felt, and the unthinkable neglect as she ran for her parents and they fled, what is so utterly horrifying to me is that she and her little brother were to hold still while they were beaten; they were to surrender. A two year old and a four year old, to surrender to a beating and hold still for it.
This is the same mentality that I was raised with. We were forced to hold still and comply with violent whippings. The more we moved, the more we were whipped. On at least one occasion, my father intervened when my mother whipped a sibling. Had he not done so, she would likely have beat my sibling to a bloody pulp. Other siblings bear the scars to this day, of the violence they endured at the hands of my parents.
It is the same mentality that is taught when I child is to be “paddled until they go limp” as a sign of surrender; a teaching at least one of the accused killer’s churches taught.
I understand that my call, in my previous blog, to the Charity church that taught this to acknowledge the wrongness of that teaching, and repent (recant) of it, is offensive to some. Those offended by a call to repentance are the people who are the least safe. When was a call to take ownership of a faulty teaching and a call to repent of it ever a bad idea? To see something as horrific as what happened in Missouri, by someone raised with that mindset, and to see in this report how shockingly it mimics the teachings, should bring all to a place of brokenness who teach such things.
It is not my place to say all spanking is wrong. That was and is not my point. The law leaves room for it, with restraint. The Bible has been terribly misinterpreted as allowing for beatings that go far beyond loving discipline. That simply is not the way of Jesus, and it is not the way of love. Spankings, with restraint, I leave between an individual and God. Sadly, those of us who were raised with harsh spankings (aka beatings), or the mindset of ‘spank until they go limp’ or surrender, are conditioned for ‘discipline’ that is very unhealthy, and is, in fact, abuse.
An Anabaptist gentleman I met on Facebook, who is 16 years my senior — therefore 16 years wiser, though he stated he wasn’t sure about that — and who started gently calling me out on things that he finds questionable in my writings — wrote me after I posted my last blog. I appreciate him and consider him a friend, though we’ve never met. The following is our exchange, shared with his permission:
Hi Trudy, just some thoughts…what happened in Mo., simply awful. I would like to point out another side, tho. I attend a church, (not Charity style) that has LOTS of small/young children. These children are bright-eyed, open faced, happy, contented (tho not perfect)…they love their parents, and they know their parents love them. These are parents that believe in spanking (properly done, NOT in an abusive way). They love their children in every way, and these are some of the happiest, obedient, full-of-life kids I’ve ever seen. Proper use of spanking (which is only part of the big picture), produces great children. These parents and their children have some of the greatest relationships I have seen, ever, anywhere. What happened at Charity was often wrong, but at the time they probably thought it was the right thing. So sad.
I responded with the following:
If I could go back, I would not spank our children. I was too broken. Too lost. Too unaware of God’s grace and the kind Abba Father He is. And that is the story of many of us. As I say in the one FB conversation [referenced in previous blog] — and I don’t even know if it’s one of the ones I used [in my blog] — I don’t judge every parent who spanks as [being] abusive. I thought I was doing what was supposed to be [right]. And it was wrong. It wasn’t relational. God is a relational God. I didn’t know that. So I won’t judge the parents who reserve spanking for the rare situation (although I [also] did not spank often) and who are gentle. But I wouldn’t do it again.
Having worked with victims of sexual and domestic violence for eleven years now, I know that the number of homes that beat children ‘nigh unto death’, or where children are actually threatened with death, is shockingly high. By that I don’t mean “90% or even 50%”. I mean, it is shockingly high for what we would expect in a nonresistant people claiming to know Jesus.
Anyone who feels compelled to defend that mindset and teaching, or respond with knee jerk reaction to my call to repentance, by taking what I said out of context and making it about ‘hating Anabaptists’ or blaming them, has an agenda that is not inspired by Christ. It’s that simple.
So I say again, without apology, that I pray those who have taught these things will repent and recant of those teachings. They are abusive and damaging teachings. It isn’t their ‘fault’, what happened in Missouri. I am not blaming the Charity church for this. That was not my message last blog, and it is not my message today. But to recant those teachings is drawing a clear line between what is right and Christlike, and what is wrong and abusive.
I am told by someone with whom Mose Stoltzfus (preacher of Ephrata Christian Fellowship who passed away December 6, 2020) spoke firsthand, as well as having it confirmed from someone who was from Charity, that Mose was extremely concerned about the situation with Kourtney Aumen living with the James Mast family. He was concerned about how it came to be that Kourtney lived with them, and tried to influence against it, but he was not heard. He was especially concerned that James Mast — a male in his twenties — had been asked to drive Kourtney — a troubled girl in her late teens — some 15 hours by himself. He saw the dangers, but others involved in that decision disregarded him. So it was not that the leaders did care. Thus, my message is not one of harsh criticism or blame.
My message is that some of the teachings in Charity and Charity-type churches, regarding spanking until limp — including infants — were abusive. I believe there would be value in recanting them. Out loud. For those they influenced to hear. I believe there would be healing that comes to the many who were negatively impacted — whether those who practiced this, or victims of that practice. I believe it would be a good and God-honouring thing for the church to do. And the Bible states that when we know of good that we could do, and we don’t do it, it becomes sin. (James 4:17)
That was my message two years ago, and it is my message today. I pray that we will live to say the day this is done. If we are the body of Christ, and if we are to reflect Him well, then we must be humble enough to learn a better more loving way. (And I do consider Charity-type Christians as my spiritual family. Some of my most loved and respected family and friends are Charity-type. They are gentle. Kind. Christlike. Spirit-led). I pray that God will bring redemption out of this tragedy, and a new and more Christ-reflective way will be birthed out of this, so there is a much clearer line between abuse/violence and loving guidance.
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.