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The Big Lie

KwaSizabantu repeated a series of lies so often that almost everyone believed them to be the truth. And then they called it “revival”.

The political propaganda method “The Big Lie” (große Lüge in German) was first mentioned by Adolf Hitler is his memoir Mein Kampf  published in 1925. The methodology was perfected by Joseph Goebbels and the saying: “Repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it as the truth” sums it up. The psychology behind it is simple enough. The bigger and more grandiose you make a lie, adding some truths to the bigger lie, the easier it is for people to believe it. The was the method the Nazis used to discredit the Jews that ultimately lead to the holocaust.

On a smaller scale something similar happened at KSB and the great perpetrator of their “Big Lie” has been Erlo Stegen. On page 49 of the book “God among the Zulu’s written by Dr. Kurt Koch he relates the story of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Maphumulo in 1966. The adherents of KSB refer to this as the “Revival” and it is crucial in the sub-culture they created around Erlo Stegen. Erlo and many others has repeated this story many times all over the world.

Erlo claimed that he came to Maphumulo some time in the middle of 1966 and was in a desperate state after years of unsuccessful ministry. He contemplated to leave the ministry but decide to “give it a final change” and he started a small Bible-study. Some of the local people, joined him in this. So, the illusion Erlo creates here is that some unknown local Christians came to join him. The truth is that in 1963 already Erlo was going around with Hilda Dube. She would go into trances and speak in tongues whilst Erlo would interpret her Glossolalia. This truth only recently came to the light from an old co-worker of Anton Engelbrecht now living in Australia. I checked this with a few other people who were also members of the cult around Engelbrecht, and they confirmed this. Erlo knew Hilda Dube from years back and she was his active co-worker partaking in super-natural gifts known and practised in many Pentecostal groups. The meetings at Maphumulo were normal gatherings of a Pentecostal group where the gifts of the Spirit were practiced according to Pentecostal theology. The was nothing strange or unique here.

Another two co-workers of Anton Engelbrecht happened to be travelling between Ladysmith and the North Coast of KZN on that day. Those days the roads were still dirt tracts, and the journey was tedious and tiring so they popped in a Maphumulo to see Friedel and Rita Stegen whom the knew well. After some refreshments they heard of the Bible-study, so they decided to attend it even though the meeting had started some time before. When they arrived, there was no open seats available, so they just stood at the back listening to Erlo explaining a section from the book of Acts. He then announced a time of prayer and Hilda Dube fell on the ground in a trance and started speaking in tongues. Before Erlo started interpreting her glossolalia he told the group assembled that the Holy Spirit had come and that they should all fall on the floor. Most on them did but the two co-workers of Anton standing at the back did not do it and left shortly later to proceed on their journey.

Some days later they returned going back to Ladysmith and they popped in at Maphumulo again. Astonished they heard claims that the Holy Spirit came down mightily with the rushing of wind and flames of fire and that a real revival had broken out. They disagreed stating that they were present and that it was just a normal Pentecostal meeting and something that happened many times before with Hilda Dube going into a trance and Erlo interpreting her speaking in tongues!

A few pages further, on pages 51 – 52 of his book, Koch relates the story of how large crowds would gather near the house at Maphumulo. It was the house of Friedel and Rita Stegen. Erlo told this story many times claiming that at times more than 200 people would gather spontaneously asking him for spiritual help. I asked the late Friedel Stegen about this way back in 2000 and he honestly answered that he did not witness it. Years later I asked 3 other persons living in the same house with Friedel and his family about this. They all stated that they never witnessed it.

The same goes for Erlo’s claim about the healing of 11 blind people at Tugela Ferry as recorded on pages 94- 95 of the book by Kurt Koch. I had a telephone conversation with the late Barney Mabaso on 6 June 2020 enquiring about that. Barney told me that he repented in 67 and came to Maphumulo in 69. By 1970 he moved back to Tugela Ferry to head up the work there. “Even in 1970 I could find no evidence of the so-called miracles and many conversions that Erlo claimed happened two years before. There was nothing. After year of requests about these ex-blind people I could not find one.”  These are the words of Barney Mabaso.

Let’s look at a final example of these “Big Lies”.  Koch wrote a whole book about the so-called death of Lidia Thofozi Dube which appeared in German. On pages 171 – 172 he refers shortly to this matter in his book “God among the Zulus”. The “fact” of her death is propagated far and wide by all adherents of KSB and it is one of the prime important happenings in the history of the cult. In 2000 I asked the late Friedel Stegen if he was present when Lidia died, and he confirmed that to me. I then asked him what time of day it was, but he could not remember it. I asked him if it was in the morning or the afternoon or the evening and he answered that it was in the late afternoon. I then asked for how long was she dead and he answered that he could not remember that either. I replied that with such an extraordinary miracle surely, they would have remembered if she was dead for an hour or more and he answered he thought it was for some minutes. I then asked him if there was medical doctor or any person with medical training present who checked her. He replied in the negative. I then said to him that I doubt this whole matter. I told him there are many instances of “near death” experiences recorded, and it was a lie to proclaim this happening as a fact. He answered that Lidia said when she awoke that she had died and gone to heaven and thus all present accepted it as the truth. I replied that it was her subjective experience with no medical proof and thus it was wrong of KSB to proclaim it as the truth. He did not respond to that.

What is the conclusion of these four examples?  Is Erlo telling lies trying to deceive all of us? There are many people who believe that and they include some of his closest family and previous co-workers. But there is also another possibility that we need to consider.

 In the book of Acts chapter 2 from verses 1 – 13 is recorded the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  It states clearly that there was a large group of the followers of Jesus gathered. They heard a mighty wind and experienced tongues of fire descending on them. They started speaking in different tongues. Outside in the city, ordinary people also heard this wind and they rushed to the place where the followers of Jesus were gathered. There they heard these followers speaking in many different languages that was known to them. The experience of the followers was witnessed by many outsiders thus this experience was absolutized, and it became the “Day of Pentecost” accepted by all Christians of all ages all over the world. 

If we turn a couple of pages in Acts, we come to chapter 9 where the conversion of Paul is recorded. In verse 3 we read how the then Saul saw a light from heaven shining on him. Then he heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him. The men accompanying Saul did not see anything although they heard a voice speaking but they did not know that it was Jesus speaking. This experience of Saul was a live-changing experience for him only. It was a subjective experience but to those who accompanied him it had no consequences. Christians do not have a holy day called “Saul’s conversion” day or something like that.

Here we have 2 supernatural experiences that are life-changing but the one is absolute and the other one is subjective. Can it be that Erlo Stegen experienced something personally? Something that was live changing to him? Something subjective?  Perhaps.

But here is the problem.  For a cult to develop, a new sub-culture must be created around the figurehead or figureheads of the leaders. This is called “romanticizing” of the leaders in order to create a new subculture with its own experiences and important happenings. The way to attain that is to take the subjective experience of the leader or leaders and to absolutize it. This always happens in cults, and this is how cults are born and operate. They take the experiences of the leaders and make it into absolute experiences for all the adherents and thus they create a sub-culture with its own points of view;  of references to what is good and what is bad. This sub-culture becomes the absolute culture to them, and they will break any law, they will contradict the Bible, they will lie and cheat for the reference-points of their lives had been completely altered by the sub-culture.

The conclusion we come to is thus that either Erlo Stegen was a total deceiver and with his lies deceived thousands of people all over the world. Or Erlo Stegen absolutized his own experiences thus deceiving himself and so create a cult based on his subjective experiences. I leave it to you to decide.

But a Big Lie is a dangerous thing – as Nazi Germany is the example of.