Meet Wayne Bent, aka Michael Travesser aka the Messiah. The Charles Manson-looking yahoo is the prophet and leader of the Lord Our Righteousness Church, and he was arrested on Tuesday on three counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor at the church's compound in rural New Mexico. The three allegedly molested children were also taken from the ranch. (At left is Bent with his wife, Emma. He is 66. She looks about 20, tops.) The compound is a former ranch near the Arizona border, which Bent and his followers have dubbed Strong City. According to the Associated Press, "Wayne Bent has acknowledged having sex with followers - including his daughter-in-law - and lying naked with virgins. He said the virgins asked for sex, but he refused."
Bent is a former Seventh Day Adventist who founded the church in 1987, though most of the current members of the cult do not have roots in Adventism, reports CNN. Bent moved the whole operation to a remote corner of New Mexico in 2000, which was also the year, he says, that God informed him he was the Messiah. It gets better: Bent says on his church's website that the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal was the first harbinger of the apocalypse and also told his followers, around the same time, that the world was ending on October 31, 2007 (he also claims to have predicted 9/11).
Um, but then it didn't! (Apparently, according to Bent, the apocalypse is a "process"!) Anyway, a former cult member, John Sayer, says he broke away from the church in late 2005, but only after Bent said he wanted to sleep with 7 virgins, two of whom were Sayer's 14 and 15-year-old daughters. "I just told him no. ... I'm not in agreement. I don't see it's right," Sayer tells the AP. (Sayer still allowed his daughters to "lay naked" with the prophet, though he insists that nothing sexual occurred.)
Interestingly, the National Geographic Channel is airing a documentary tonight about Bent and his Lord of Righteousness followers called Inside A Cult. NYT reviewer Neil Genzlinger says, watching the documentary "you might find yourself thinking, 'These people obviously didn't understand the power of the medium or how insane they would sound on film.' But think again: the cult is thoroughly media-savvy, maintaining an extensive Web site (strongcity.info) full of video and blogs." Reading the church's blog just shows how utterly brainwashed the followers of Bent are — so much so that the impact of the outside world just doesn't register. Sayer's younger daughter, posting on the cult's website under the name "Healed" is clearly one of the true believers. She wrote on the site late last year, "Michael DID NOT molest me, and my laying with him was not sexual in any way, either. Michael sacrificed himself and was willing to look like a pedophile so that I might be bonded inseparably to the Father in Heaven." Jesus Christ.
Church Leader Arrested On Sex Charges In Northeast N.M. [AP]
Sect's 'Messiah' Arrested On Sex Charges [CNN]
Strong City [Lord Our Righteousness Official Website]
Ex-follower: 'Messiah' Wanted To Bed 7 Virgins [AP via CNN]
New Mexico Compound's Enraptured Believers [NYT]