I’m becoming increasingly aware that even though I wasn’t in a cult, I feel like I’m learning how live beyond leaving one.
Do you know what I mean?
Most of us know the signs of a cult:
- one charismatic leader
- very strong herd mentality
- uses of guilt and shame to pressure you to conform
- insists that this community is the right or best one
- claims of special knowledge
- independent thought is discouraged
- elevates the community and its leader above relationships
- demands to invest time and money in order to reach the next goal
- it is or feels impossible to leave
So, even though I could say that all those signs could apply to some degree or another in my Christian journey, I still say I was never a part of a cult.
But is that really true? This is a question I’m asking myself lately.
Because if all the signs are there, then why wasn’t it a cult?
Pile on top of the signs of a cult the advice given on how to leave a cult, and it only makes me question even more.
Here are the steps suggested for leaving a cult:
- recognize that you’re in an abusive religious group
- list the reasons why you want to leave the group
- plan your departure
- have a place to stay in advance
- be prepared for judgement and attempts to get you back
- remain strong in your convictions
- seek support from other people
- continue journeying
Well now! These also apply to my life! What does this mean?
If the signs that I was in a cult and the ways to leave a cult both apply, then was I in a cult or not?
For me, it means admitting that the Christianity I found myself in embraced cult-like values with its members.
Here’s a clue: a lot of the sites devoted to listing the signs of a cult share the same characteristics as the cults they are warning us against!
I conclude that my desire and willingness to submit found a perfect home in the church. I did it because I wanted to be mentored into a wise and holy human being. Instead, I became its slave to meet its own ends.
Any religion, any group, any relationship, any job… anything… can possess cult-like qualities! That’s my claim. Remember the movie, “The Firm“? It clearly had cult-like qualities, and she began getting clues that it was when she was told, “The Firm encourages children”, even exercising dominion over her reproductive rights.
I suppose I’m telling you this because sometimes one of you will remark on how long it is taking to get over changing your beliefs, leaving the church, or even rejecting your inherited beliefs. You’re finding it more difficult than you imagined it would be. It’s taking longer than you thought. You are feeling afraid of the unpredictable and unpleasant emotions you’re feeling as you try to move on.
Now maybe we know why: leaving a cult can take a long time to process.
But you’re doing it! Be patient with yourself. One day you will not only know you are free, but you will feel it!
Oh, the memories and the wounds will still linger, but as a fading badge from an ancient war.
I know this because I’m seeing this happen with so many of you. And it’s wonderful to watch.
I’d love to hear from you.
Peace on your path my friends!