N.Y. Apocalypse Now: Doomsday Cult

New York Post, December 13, 1999
By Kirsten Danis

Armageddon begins Saturday.

So say members of a doomsday cult who arrived in New York a week ago amid growing fears they could be planning a mass suicide -- or something worse. "I'm scared to death she's going to kill herself," said Shirley Brownlee, a Colorado woman whose half-sister Darlene Knotts is among the cult's devoted followers.

Leader Monte Kim Miller "has got them snowed enough that it could happen," Brownlee said.

The cult, Concerned Christians, believes the apocalypse kicks off next Saturday, the day Miller predicted he and a top lieutenant would be slain by Satan on the streets of Jerusalem.

With "doomsday" frighteningly close, relatives and cult watchers are uneasy about the fate of the 75 or so followers -- who also believe they will be slaughtered.

"My fear is [Miller] is so paranoid, who knows what he's going to do?" said Hal Mansfield, director of the Religious Movement Resource Center in Colorado. "This guy is not stable."

Miller's whereabouts have been a mystery.

A former pharmaceuticals salesman, he formed Concerned Christians in Denver in 1985, using the radio and a newsletter to preach against cults and New Age influences on Christianity.

Critics say he became a cult leader -- claiming to be the Trinity and speaking in a dramatic, eye-rolling, mouth-twisting "voice of God." Miller, 45, has persuaded followers he is one of two "End Time" prophets mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

"There is no grace for anyone, because the church has married the Whore [America], and anyone involved with the church is going to hell," Miller reportedly wrote in a 1997 letter.

He convinced about 70 followers to abandon their homes in September 1998 and follow him around the world after predicting an earthquake would swallow Denver a month later.

In January, millennium-wary Israeli authorities deported 14 cult members, sending them back to Denver after accusing them of plotting to spark Armageddon in a police shootout on the Temple Mount.

The deportees holed up in a hotel for six weeks before vanishing again -- many of them joining other followers in Greece.

Last week, Greece kicked out 25 members, including nine children, shipping the 16 Americans among them to Kennedy Airport because their visas had expired.

Another 40 members are believed to still be living in Greece. Relatives are unsure whether the followers will stay in New York. Denver Police Officer Mark Roggeman, who tracks the cult in his spare time, said he believes the deportees will remain in the New York area until members raise enough money to hook up with Miller again. "America is Babylon the Great. We have been called out of her, and because of this we have suffered extreme slander and persecutions," one unidentified member told a handful of relatives and reporters at Kennedy Airport last Sunday.

One woman who arrived at JFK to see her daughter found out she had become a grandmother -- but her son-in-law wouldn't let her hold the baby. NYPD and FBI officials say they are "aware" of the group but do not believe its members are planning anything violent.

Members of Concerned Christians expect to be slain by the forces of evil -- and have not talked about hurting themselves or others, noted one longtime observer. "They've really done nothing wrong. They have some beliefs that are not popular ... but for this group to be villainized the way it has strikes me as patently unfair," said Brenda Brasher, [Ms. Brasher has shared news conferences with seeming cult apologist Lonnie Kleiver who is recommended as resource by Scientology] an associate at the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University and an Ohio religion professor. Israeli authorities found no weapons in the two suburban homes where followers were living and never disclosed what evidence they had against the group, Brasher said.

Miller -- like most doomsayers whose prophesies don't come true -- will probably find a way to justify the mistake and keep preaching, Brasher said.

Followers have told their families that they are not a "Kool-Aid" group, referring to the poisoned drink used in the 1978 Jonestown massacre. Others aren't so sure.

Nicolette Weaver, who left Concerned Christians three years, ago at age 14, told a Colorado court her mother, who is still in the cult, "told me that if Kim Miller told her to kill me, she would."

"They believe the world will end in December 1999," Weaver told reporters this year. "I'm sure they'll do something to make it end in 1999."


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