Just when you think you’ve had all the political stupidity you can stand, along comes a story that restores your faith in humanity, or at least in the capacity for humans to pledge their lives and their sacred trust to a completely sleazy grifter. In this case, the sleazoid is Dr. Craig Stasio, the head of “Agape Massage Therapy and Chiropractic” in Clinton Township, Michigan. Dr. Stasio has a pretty good deal going: he runs a Christian-ish massage school attended mostly by young women who call him a “prophet,” and teaches them, kind of, to do massages while also saving their souls for Jesus. Also, the whole thing may be a doomsday cult, which always seems to be the downside of the kind of place where you can get a 1-hour massage for $17.50. The whole sordid situation was investigated by WJBK-TV and its elite “Problem Solvers” News Team Action Help Unit, in the hope that the families of these young masseuse/cultists can look forward to a happy ending.
The young women who work at the clinic — how many? Darned if WJBK includes a total number, though reporter Rob Wolchek says he spoke to a dozen family members — live communally and appear to be together at all times, and according to the WJBK report, are wholly devoted to Stasio. The parents say that their daughters refer to Stasio as “the prophet” and he reportedly “teaches about a coming ‘tribulation’ that ‘will last for 3 years’ and end in a great ‘fire.’” Then again, a lot of fundamentalist churches talk about the End Times in similar terms. Several parents told Wolchek that their daughters had dropped out of college to work at the massage clinic, and that they seem to be “brainwashed” and under Stasio’s control.
It certainly sounds culty — and there’s also a 2008 State of Michigan Department of Community Health citation against Stasio for “negligence” in a 2004 incident in which Stasio did sex stuff with a student while “evaluating” her massage technique. And then there’s also the footage of the girls dancing and singing ecstatically out in the parking lot. And the instant clamming up whenever a reporter asks the young women questions. And the lawyer not returning phone calls.
So it sounds like maybe there’s something nasty in the massage shed, and yes definitely it looks like someone should do some investigating into this outfit. But can we also just say that the WJBK report is just about one of the silliest messes of Action McHorror-Show HypeNews Sensationalism you could wish for? We were especially impressed by the inclusion of music clips from Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” — instrumentals only, of course, lest anyone on the production staff be accused of having a sick sense of humor. Please watch, for cringes that have as much to do with the reportorial style as the alleged cultishness.
I am a 26 year old intelligent, independent, mature woman. Last time I checked, in this country, I have the right to decide where I live, where I work, what I do with my life and what religion I follow. The ridiculous story about me and the other Christians I fellowship with is nothing but that, a ridiculous story. I do not desire a life filled with Irish dance, I don’t want to live at home with my parents and I don’t appreciate peoples attempts to control me and my life by saying they care for me and are praying for me. If any of my apparent friends or concerned relatives would like to sit down and have coffee, let me know. But be advised that I am fed up with ridiculous, misguided attempts at unnecessary interventions.
So, maybe in denial, or maybe just not someone who appreciates a life filled with “Irish dance?” The comments on the WJBK story include a message from Sandi McDonald, a woman who claims to have worked at Stasio’s clinic; her story is less about a cult than about crappy massage instruction:
Worked for this man for a year and a half 2010 to 2011. He was recruiting people through his FREE massage school. If you didn’t want to be SAVED by him and his followers you were told you had demons. Most of those workers have no training and could not pass a test if they tried. Some girls had a day learning some techniques and was put in a massage room, to do a one hour massage on paying customers. I reported this to the State and they sent a women out who happened to know him and did nothing. He needs to be shut down and not be able to just change the name of the business and continue this.
A second commenter also said that they’d been fired from the clinic for not attending Stasio’s worship services — and sure, Facebook comments, so take with a shaker of salt, but they seem at least as truthy as the original report. Wonder what a real journalist would do with this story? Hahaha, don’t ask us.
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