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It all came in a package.

The abuse I suffered. The control I was under. The theology I was fed. The denomination I was in. The community I was provided.

It all came as a package.

Some people tried to convince me, and some still do, that it was just the abuse I suffered. Find the same thing but without the abuse.

I couldn’t find it.

Then some tried to convince me that I just needed to find the same things without a controlling leader.

I couldn’t find it.

Then some tried to convince me it was the theology I was being fed and that I needed to find what I was looking for with a better theology.

I couldn’t find it.

Then they tried to convince me that the problem was with the denomination. Join a better one and all will be well.

I couldn’t find it.

Then they finally said it was the quality of community that was the problem and that there were better people out there to be a part of.

I couldn’t find them.

I’ve watched several documentaries and read lots of articles and books on cults. I wouldn’t say I was ever a part of a real cult. But I can say I was a part of cultish groups. For me, I think it is fair to say there are lots of groups out there that use control, shame, guilt, mind-games and brain-washing techniques, overcommitment, and all kinds of cultish methods. Even some families do that. But what makes a cult is when it becomes criminal, such as involuntary confinement, kidnapping, beatings, sexual assault and rape, etc., to control its members.

But the overwhelming commonality is the cult-survivor’s grief over missing the community. They miss the intensity of the love and fellowship they shared and with tears wish they could have that part back. I always identified with them because, indeed, that is what Lisa and I miss so much too.

Now I realize that I can’t get that back and I don’t want it back. Why? Because it was a part of the package. Those intense and overwhelming feelings of love and fellowship had a symbiotic relationship with the style of leadership and the theme of their teaching. At some point I acknowledged that the whole thing was designed to control me and that the only way to escape from it was to run and shake the very dust off my feet when I left. It meant having nothing to do with it ever again.

I learned this out in the real world. I also learned about it online, even in TLS a couple of years ago.

For me, what is most important… more important than community… is the spiritual independence of the individual… the personal and autonomous liberty of each one… and THEN figuring out how to do that in a healthy community context without violating one another’s freedoms.

You must be free. I must be free. And we can celebrate that together.

Peace, my friends,