After “Is What I’m Feeling Okay?”: Where I’m At Now

As the name implies, this is regarding the article I had written back in 2018, which I called “Is What I’m Feeling Okay?”, which was slightly controversial with a few perspectives that did raise some eyebrows about my current state regarding the church as a whole. I continue to reference back to this every once in a while, but now I feel like there’s been enough change in my life to address where I’m at now, how I’m dealing, and what the future holds.

First of all, I want to start out this by saying that I am in no way going to say what I was feeling back then was ever wrong. To answer past me’s question, despite some opinions that had been thrown my way within the journey, yes, it is absolutely okay to feel as you do about the church controversy. And yes, I know you weren’t using the word because you didn’t feel like it was dramatic enough to be considered an actual problem, but you were in a cult and were dealing with some sense of emotional trauma. And that’s okay.

Past me had a lot of issue trusting, especially when 13 years of trust gets crushed within 3 months time. It’s funny how long it takes to gain trust with someone but it can literally be taken away in a moment’s time. Sometimes that’s just how it is, and as human beings with emotions, we must figure out how to deal with this when we become the victim of trust issues. I had mentioned multiple times that I had become hard to very specific doctrines, and it definitely did not help that when I opened up about this, more of those doctrines were pushed onto me. Watching Christians online either lash out on others for their beliefs or being misguided, or witnessing them purposefully putting people down for their struggles through the Bible was not a good part of trying to heal. They pushed for only their doctrine being correct, and eventually people push so much you’re literally trapped back into the hole you tried crawling out of.

I was also dealing with a lot of anxiety issues, but I think this was prompted by the friends I had and the fear of being in a new state, since then I had moved from Indiana to Florida. I was away from the cult, from what was intending for harm, but I was now in a new atmosphere and didn’t know anybody or much of even where I was, so there was a lot of anxiety placed within that. It got pretty bad until I did finally warm up to everything and began to start fresh.

Time does heal wounds, but I’ve had to make a consistent effort regarding that, because I found that sitting and hoping that the pain would end didn’t work. It was depressing and lonely. So I opened myself up to research and to people specifically, lending an ear to anyone who just needed to vent about their own issues within the church. I was told that I needed to fix myself before I tried helping to fix others, but do you really know WHEN you’ll be fixed? No. I’m not sitting around and waiting for that. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. That’s God’s timing, and my responsibility to focus on healing.

I found a lot of healing in the people I met. It opened me up to a lot of other perspectives and views, which in turn, allowed me some clarity on my own end. It breaks my heart when people talk about their own horrible circumstances within the church, because either you’re instructed to trust these people to a certain degree or it’s just natural. You’re supposed to be worshiping the same God. That has some sense of trust involved. So therefore, when someone breaks that trust and you begin to realize maybe you weren’t worshiping the same God or even that you thought you knew the same person, it gets difficult very easily. I got to find out that I had a lot of similarities with the people I met, and I made a lot of friends through this.

Community has also been a huge part of healing, and something I’m still trying to work on. This is the part where I’m more working on gaining trust than anything, but I’ve also found being able to connect with people again has been a major part of working past the issues. Is this the cure? No. And to be honest, I was never really told what the cure to this sort of emotional trauma was. I literally found a sense of peace through prayer, people I love, and God. I’m not cured, but I am at peace.

Some days I spiral back. I often ask myself why I’M the one who has to bear this pain? It’s painful for myself to see other people being able to live normal lives without the struggles of these emotions. There’s people who don’t have to bear the pain of exactly the same issues as me, and I envy that sense of freedom. Maybe it’s selfish. But as someone I dearly love once pointed out to me, maybe I’m supposed to be carrying this experience so that I can be able to reach out to someone else. And I think they’re right.

This post is probably the hardest to journal on moving on from the church because I’m not as open about sharing my own experiences as much as I used to. More than likely, the belief I came from will not be viewed as cult anytime soon if at all. I don’t think I have any control over that, but what I can do is be open to other people and to love them as Christ loved me.

I think one of the hardest struggles is the spiritual struggle. It’s literally a battle of the mind and soul. People need loved through this struggle, to be told that it’s okay to feel what they feel and that better things are coming, and Someone loves them. In the end, it’s not about who was right or wrong. It was about what difference we were making.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

Cults and Why They’re Not Talked About Often

Regarding a post from just about a year ago, I spoke a little about my struggle and recovery from being in a Calvinist cult church. During the time I wrote the blog post, I was having internal struggles with whether or not it was okay for me to have a sense of distrust during my healing process, and in the end, I came up with an answer: yes, but I had to decide when I’d get back up on my feet again and recognize that not everyone is going to be a cult church or member.

This was fairly good advice, but easier said than done. A year later and I’m still struggling with a sense of trust, though now I’ve participated in a few church experiences and have gotten to see firsthand that some Christians are not the sort of types that I grew up with. That aided a lot in my healing process, and though I still have scars that are scabbing over, it’s a step towards the right path of letting go of the frustrations I have.

This, however, never diminishes my past struggle, and I very well recognize that my past struggle actually aided me in my future to be able to recognize and assist people who are/were facing the same things. That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time within different blogs of mine to help advocate for the healing and recognition of cult survivors. That in itself has been a struggle, because people have also acted as if their own problems aren’t being addressed properly and have thus jumped to judging the witness I have been blessed to have.

Which also leads me to my post here. One thing I have noticed within especially the Christian community is the lack of discussion of cult abuse and recovery. I have seen many survivors approach them, definitely, but it’s usually shot down with phrases like “you were never a Christian to begin with”, “you need to get over that and get back into a church”, “you are not an Elect”, and several other judgmental comments that have resulted in a lot of people cowarding back into the dark. A few have come to me for advice, some have questions about hope for the future, and most of them just want love.

So why exactly are cults not being talked about within the Christian community? It comes down to a couple of reasons, in my personal opinion. I have watched several blogs, done a lot of research, studied up on different denominations, and I think it comes down to three things: perspective, motivation, and frustration. And I truly believe these three things mostly cover why these are not talked about.

To give an example, let’s take a look at a popular topic within the community right now, which is prosperity Gospel. This has been an ongoing debate and Christians have been cracking down on other Christians regarding this and essentially, again, in my personal opinion, have made a rather large mess of things that have resulted in a blown-out-of-proportion dramatic affair. For those who do not know, prosperity Gospel is basically Christians translating the Bible into “you will be blessed with money, wealth, healing, and happiness” by God if you’re a follower of Him. They believe that if you’re following God, you will get everything you want.

This has been a topic of a lot of Christians as of lately, and therefore, comes to my point of perspective. People have a different idea of what a cult is, so people in the Christian community cannot agree with what is a cult and what is not. Of course, those who ARE in a cult would never admit that they’re in one, because normally, they don’t recognize it, and this makes it harder. Just as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not see themselves as a cult, so others do not also.

It makes the fight against cults all the harder, because unless someone is already struggling with the belief in a cult, they’re not going to automatically jump into “yeah let’s get me out of there.” Not only that, but cults also use manipulative tactics, emotionally and physically, to keep that person into the cult. Whether or not they know, those who believe in the Elect (which is mostly the Calvinist belief) and say, “You were not Chosen by God or ever a Christian if you walk away from the faith” are basically guilting that person into believing that their faith wasn’t really genuine in the first place, and the one doing the judging here has absolutely no CLUE what that person’s relationship with God looked like. Like I always say, context is important, and this is true when we go to judge someone or something. We have put it upon ourselves to make ourselves the judge or “correct” other people based on whether or not they think we’re doing something wrong. Essentially, we’ve made ourselves the parents of believers and nonbelievers alike.

And this brings me to my second point, which is motivation. What is the motivation of the Christian who has or hasn’t tackled the issue of Christian cults? This depends on the person, and motivations are different for different folks. One person’s motivation might be to usher people into Christianity, another’s might be to teach those people, and another might be to assist the people. These are “gifts”, and they’re all different, so do not get me wrong when I speak on people’s motivations and why some people don’t have the motivation to talk about cults. Not everyone has the experience or knowledge to be able to talk about it extensively if even at all.

My point being here though is that the mere intention of the Christian might be wrong, depending on the approach. I should hardly consider it a good intention if someone tells someone, “You were never a Christian to begin with.” Was there a positive motive to this? Did this encourage the person to come back to Christian? Hardly. Instead, it tells the person that they are not welcomed because the person has already made up his mind about the relationship status with God with the other person.

There are arguments to this, and a lot of Christians would argue with me that we are to judge the fruit that the person produces. I don’t agree with this statement. As the verse goes “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” (1 John 5:2). This does not say to judge that person’s fruits. It just says we KNOW. And I think we really, truly need to know before we jump to an assumption. I don’t think it’s ever okay to judge someone, no matter appearance, character, religion, social status, etc. And I don’t think it’s any of my business either. I’m just here to shine a light and help others along the way.

This also brings me to my last point, which is frustration. The reason I leave this point for last is because I think this is going to sum everything up, and it’s my most important point. Just from my own research and observation, I fully believe the frustration of other beliefs is distracting people from the Ultimate goal. And what exactly is the Ultimate goal? Depends on your calling, but for the majority of Christians, it is for that person to know Jesus. However, I think frustration towards others is being used as a tactic to distract people from the true issue of cults, whether purposeful or not.

I also would like to mention frustration because quite frankly, a lot of frustration towards people who have left the church also happens from Christians, and it’s hypocritical. Rather than putting ourselves in that person’s shoes, we’re pointing fingers and accusing people, which… not close to being the right way to ease people back into a proper, healing, and loving place. Instead, it proves to that person that left that they made the right choice. Now here’s a little bit I’ve learned from my own experience: the focus of that person who has left the church is probably looking at things wrong.

I say “probably” here because different cults have different methods of teaching. Here, I am going to give two such examples: a person who has left an actual cult, and a person who has left a church:

The person in a church cult has been taught the fundamentalist way, and that is all they have known. They have their Bible, sure, but if they’re fairly new to the teachings and are not being taught correctly, how then are they supposed to interpret the Bible. They cannot, because they don’t have the proper teachings. And saying that this person knows they are in a cult, they somehow find a way out of the cult and walk away from this church.

Now let’s take a look at the second person. This person is in a normal church that teaches from the Bible in a knowledgeable way. The church know their facts, they know their research, and they’re well studied. However, this person decided that they have had enough and walk away.

So what’s the difference? How they’re being taught, and what they’re doing with it.? If the person is being taught wrong, how else are they supposed to be looking at Scripture? HOWEVER, and this is a strong point I’d like to make here is that both people who have left are not less valued than the other. Just because one had a decent reason to leave the church and the other one didn’t does not mean that one is more important than the other. They both need help through whatever struggle they are facing.

And here is why I think Christians are frustrated. They’re only seeing the second person here. Cults aren’t especially well-known, and the ones that are, such as Scientology and Jehovah’s Witnesses, are incredibly difficult to get out of or speak out about. ALL the more reason to help the survivors. We need to be listening to their stories with an unbiased outlook, guide them to healing, and THEN offer a solution.

These are just a few reasons why I think cults are very rarely talked about, and I hope to be able to help more people as more and more knowledge and research is found out and done. We need to be putting aside our doubts about survivors and start lending out a hand with an attitude of, “I’m here for you.” That’s what love is all about.

Is What I’m Feeling Okay?

There’s been a lot of changes in my life since two years ago, when I was still in high school and youth group and still dealing with the hardships of juggling my fun life and school life as well as homework assignments and whatever other extra curricular activities I had going, like karate. They were definitely good times, but there also came a lot of hardships involving the church I grew up in. I won’t go into too much detail, for it’s a longer story that I’ve intended for the article, but after 13 years of knowing almost everyone, growing up alongside people I knew too well, and meeting some good friends that kept my spirits high, I had to tear myself away from the conflict and the unbiblical teachings and behavior the church was showing to the congregation and their own pastor. It was incredibly hard to witness after so many years of knowing these people.

It’s also incredibly hard to know that this kind of situation, though not exact, was not something new to my family, and that they’ve been dealing with church conflicts, splits, and other issues since for a very long time, and after witnessing various Christian’s behavior, the Baptist teachings, and the way people have twisted the Bible, I’ve become very hard to the concept of “church”.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand church is important and that we should honor God by going to church and meeting other Christians who can help strengthen and encourage us, but when almost none of that is taking place within the church and making it so that there’s a certain level of mistrust towards a particular denomination and other Christians, it’s really hard to talk myself into going to church again.

However, I have not stopped going to church and exploring with my family to various new church locations here at my new home in Florida. There are a lot of possibilities out there, and any one of those could be a good fit for me and my family as we try to figure out where the best place to go to church is, but I still am unable to shake off the level of distrust I have. Is what I’m feeling alright?

I’ve often asked myself this as I’ve socialized with other Christians, whether online or offline. Certain conversations and theological discussion and opinions have raised barriers for me that I find extremely difficult to want to break down, and really, SHOULD i break these barriers down? Is it okay for me to be cautious about these types of situations I find myself in? Is this distrust I have logical or uneven understandable? Do I look ungodly?

I’ve stopped really caring about what I’ve looked like a long time ago, really. I’m scarred, and I’ve accepted that; now I am working on healing from the wounds I have dealt with. But there are people’s doctrine I run into, things I see that come across my dashboard or feed, certain conversations……….I begin to despise those types of things.

It’s become incredibly hard to accept the Baptist beliefs. I hate the things the majority of them stand for. I despite the level of negativity it seems that denomination seems to hold. Yes, I acknowledge not all denominations or even people are perfect, but when the Baptist church you’ve come out of after knowing the majority of your life is borderline a freakish cult, you begin to question certain things. And you begin to wonder why these people bother in these denominations.

I could go on and on with what I disagree with in the Calvinistic mindsets of the Baptists. I’d have an extremely long list, but I also have an extremely long list of things I disagree with in a lot. I disagree with Godspeak, with flowery language from the Bible, of people who don’t say “thank you” for a compliment and instead say “it’s all God.” But right now, I’m merely only asking myself “is what I feel okay?”

Those three things I mentioned above are some of the distrust I deal with when watching the Christian community. It gets tiresome. It gets angering. And all the while, I ask myself if the emotion is okay to face, if it’s ungodly. I’ve often asked myself “why am I so different from other Christians? I don’t even THINK like they think. They quote such flowery Biblical speech, and I never once thought of doing something like that.” I don’t post verses, or small sermons, or little theological ideas. Heck, I don’t even mention my faith on sites like Tumblr. My opinions, my views, are so different from other people’s. Maybe it has something to do with the pain I’m still trying to struggle through.

After a lot of thought on this topic, I’ve finally concluded that it’s okay to feel hurt, to feel scarred, to be cautious, just as long as I make sure I’m healing and not holding onto to the past. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely healed; even almost two years later, I’m still battling the feelings I am today of betrayal, mistrust, anger….but that’s okay. I’m allowed to feel these emotions. I don’t have to think like all the other Christians, don’t have to overly spiritualize like they do, and that is okay. It’s alright to be cautious too, even, because rather than throwing yourself into a church you barely know a thing about, you can research their morals and principles, their doctrine, and decide what best fits your beliefs. I am no longer a Baptist, and to be honest, I’m not sure I really was one. I don’t have to choose a denomination to obey God. It’s not needed.

If anything, I understand why people walk away from the church. I understand the hurt they’ve faced, the confusion that they have to deal with. I also understand why they choose to walk away from God. It’s a painful process to see your childhood church split up, and then in the next church be told you had too much baggage to participate. It’s hurtful to see this kind of action be done to so many already hurting people.

Unless you’ve been in the same situation as I have, I’m not quite sure a lot of people can relate to the types of feelings I’ve been facing. The betrayal and suspicious activity of cultish churches seem somewhat hidden for whatever reason, but I hope that by allowing my thoughts and emotions to spill out, I’d be able to reach out to someone who doesn’t know what it’s like but would like to help hurting Christians in some way. The world is already harsh enough on us, let’s not make it so the church is as well.