Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Someone recently told me that it takes the average person that leaves a cult five years to clear themselves of its fears and distortions. That makes a lot of sense when one has been in something that they have embraced as the epitome of truth and right. In this day of so much confusion and so much calling from every direction, it behooves us to pay attention to the warning signs and above all, to pray and seek God and ask him to be our light. Don’t allow anyone or anything to destroy that mustard seed of faith God put into your heart. Treasure it. Water it. An above all guard it.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
University of California at Berkeley (19 Characteristics)
1. Deception – Group identity and/or true motives are not revealed. The group leaders tell members to withhold truth from outsiders.
2. Emotional Leverage/Love Bombing – Instant friendship, extreme helpfulness, generosity and acceptance…Group recruiters “lovingly” will not take “no” for an answer-invitations impossible to refuse without feeling guilty and/or ungrateful. “Love”, “generosity”, “encouragement” are used to lower defenses and create an ever increasing sense of obligation, debt and guilt.
3. Exploit Personal Crisis – They use an existing crisis as a means of getting you to participate. They exploit vulnerability arising from:
- Broken relationships
- Death in the family
- Loss of job
- Move to new location
4. Crisis Creation – They employ tactics designed to create or deepen confusion, fear, guilt or doubt. i.e. “you aren’t serving God the way He intended.” Questions areas of faith never before examined or explored and attack other faiths specifically.
5. All The Answers – Provide simple answers to the confusion they, themselves, create. Support these answers with material produced or “approved” by the group.
1. Intense Study – Focus is on group doctrine and writings. Bible, if used at all, is referred to one verse at time to “prove” group teachings.
2. Opposer Warnings – Recruiters are told that “Satan” will cause relatives and friend to say bad things about the group to try to “steal them away from God.” Recruits soon believes group members, alone, are truthful/trustworthy.
3. Guilt and Fear – Group dwells on members’ “sinful nature” (many use public confession). Guilt and fear arising from “failing God” are magnified to manipulate new member.
4. Schedule Control & Fatigue – Study and service become mandatory. New member becomes too busy to question. Family, friends, jobs and hobbies are squeezed out, further isolating the new member.
5. Attack Independent Thought – Critical thinking is discouraged as prideful and sinful, blind acceptance encouraged.
6. Divine Commission – Leader(s) claim new revelation from God, within past 200 years, in which all but their group are rejected by God. They, alone, speak for God.
7. Absolutism – They insist on total, unquestioning obedience and submission to the group, both actions AND thoughts. Group “love” and acceptance becomes dependent upon obedience and submission. Unconditional love…isn’t.
8. Totalism – “Us against them” thinking. Strengthens group identity. Everyone outside of group lumped under one label.
1. Motive Questioning- When sound evidence against the group is presented, members are taught to question the motivation of the presenter. The verifiable (sound documentation) is ignored because of doubts over the unverifiable (presenter’s motives). See Opposer Warnings (#2 above).
2. Information Control – Group controls what convert may read or hear. They discourage (forbid) contact with ex-members or anything critical of the group. May say it is the same as pornography making it not only sinful and dangerous but shameful as well. Ex-members become feared and avoidance of them becomes a “survival issue.”
3. Isolation, Separation & Alienation – Group becomes substitute family. Members encouraged to drop worldly (non-members) friends. May be told to change jobs, quit school, give up sports, hobbies, etc.
4. Coercion – Disobedience, including even minor disagreement with group doctrine, may result in expulsion and shunning.
5. Phobias – The idea is planted that anyone who leaves goes into a life of depravity and sin, loses their sanity, dies, or will have children die, etc. Constant rumors of bad things happening to people who leave. No one ever leaves for “legitimate reasons.”
6. Striving for the Unreachable – Group membership and service are essential for salvation…”Work your way into God’s favor.” NO matter what you do, it is never enough.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. . . So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. . . Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. . . It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. . . You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. . . You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. . . For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. . .
(Study and pray over Galatians for a more in-depth understanding of these scriptures)