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…..is 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.