Cults: The Moribund Kingdom of Ben

Riding a milk-white steed, dazzlingly attired in a white flannel suit and golden necklace with ruby pendant, bewhiskered, 240-lb. Benjamin Purnell cut a commanding figure around the Michigan fruit-marketing community of Benton Harbor. A grade-school dropout who was the master of mostly untaught arts, he was the self-proclaimed Seventh Messenger of Christ. Though one coruscant message was celibacy, Purnell was accused more than once of seducing teen-age girls in so-called purification rites. Another tablet from Purnell's private Sinai was the promise of earthly immortality, a cup that Ben himself let pass,...

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