Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cult-like Mentality

God’s word contains many warnings about false prophets and teachers.  They take people captive by philosophy and empty deceit (Col 2:8), they are wolves who don’t spare the flock (Acts 20:29), they will come out of churches (2 Peter 2:1-3), there will be an increase in the last days (Matthew 24:23-26).  While the Bible calls them false prophets or teachers, some today call them cult leaders.  Whatever you choose to call them, it starts with bad theology.  The leadership on GCM is so poor that it allows bad theology to run amok (more on their bad theology in later posts) …And bad theology can lend to the genesis of a cult very easily.

According to the Cult Clinic website, one-on-one cults do exist where there is one leader for just a handful of followers.  It doesn’t have to be many people.  Also, Cultwatch recognizes that some groups may have a “positive influence in general, but there are some rogue leaders, or cult-like practices.”  This is why I think there is a cult within the GCM forums.  So as you are reading, keep in mind, I do not know if all of GCM is a cult or just a portion or if there is just a cult-like mentality.  All I know is there is a problem.

Here is a definition of what a cult is from Cultwatch.  They are a Christian based organization.   (Emphasis added.)

“First, a group that uses manipulative psychological “mind control” techniques to recruit and control their members. These techniques might be “love bombing”, instant friends or emotional blackmail. At extremes it might include keeping people away from their friends and family and isolating them both physically and emotionally.

The second definition we use (when saying a group is a cult) is any group which claims to be a Christian group yet teaches something that is not primarily a Christian belief. For example, a group that teaches that Jesus was an alien from another planet but claims to be Christian.”

The following are cult characteristics from Cult Clinic  that reflect my sister.

“ALIENATION: Separation from family, friends and society; a change in values and substitution of the cult as the new “family;” evidence of subtle or abrupt personality changes.”

YES!  This was the first warning sign our family saw.  One day she just decides to cut us off.  Who is her family now?  Her GCM friends who helped change her into what she is today.  She did subtlety change over a few years but we didn’t realize how much so at the time.  I have written about this before in previous posts.  One big change was her becoming more paranoid about people she has known for long periods of time.  Another significant change was in her theology.  Through the years it is normal to understand the Bible better and make corrections to your theology.  But GCMers have a way of twisting the Bible.  Twisting God’s word does not help you grow in your understanding.  One other change I will comment on here is my sister became more controlling (i.e. boundaries are good but GCMers have a bad habit of turning boundaries into a control tactic).  I had a nagging feeling something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know then what I know now.  I just didn’t know enough.  Signs were there, my family and I just didn’t understand them.

“ISOLATION\SEPARATION creates inability or lack of desire to verify information provided by the group with reality.”

YES!  Everything a GCMer (the ones who are abuse experts) told her was right.  Everything people from her past told her was labeled as abusive or toxic by the GCMers.

“SLEEP DEPRIVATION encouraged under the guise of spiritual exercises, necessary training, or urgent projects.”

YES!  Sleep deprivation happened whether it was encouraged or not I do not know.  The poor GCMer was abused and has to deal with the awful abuse.  They get others so worked up over every behavior of their loved ones being abusive, they can’t sleep.

“BLACKS AND WHITE WORLDVIEW (we\they syndrome):  Everything in the group is good while everything outside the group (including individual goals) is evil, bad, or crazy. While claiming goodness, unethical behaviors are used to promote group goals.”

YES!  All family and most old friends are considered bad, crazy, abusive, and toxic.  My sister’s cult group within GCM are, of course, not this way.  Sin is promoted (possibly as a way to heal).

The following warning signs came from freedomofmind.com:

  • “Change in religious beliefs.”  Replacing sound Biblical doctrine for the ideas of men.  Click on the Psychology category for a few examples.
  • “Use of “buzzwords,” canned speeches, “tape-loops”.”  Conversation stoppers and same thoughts repeated over and over.  “I’m having big feelings about this.”  “Toxic.”  “Abusive.”  “Unsafe.” “Boundaries.”  Making issues over things that shouldn’t divide families (i.e. discipline techniques).
  • “Change in appearance”: clothes, piercings, etc.
  • Defensiveness“- “They just don’t like the fact that I don’t spank.”
  • Judgmental attitude towards family members“-  To paraphrase, “I can do anything, but you can’t.”  “You are being judgmental.”
  • Change in level of honesty.”  Lying is encouraged – after all the people aren’t safe so it is okay.
  • “Lack of interest in former hobbies” – life becomes all about the abuse.
  • “Family and friends preached to as though they need to be saved.”  Family preached to as if Graced Based Parenting is the only way to parent.
  • “Decreased sense of humor.”

And still other concerns:

  • Too much personal information shared online.
  • Too little interaction with people outside of GCM (or cult friends).
  • Have to consult with their “friends/support network” before making decisions.
  • Outsiders are considered unsafe.  They don’t understand.
  • They think they are overcomers of abuse but they maintain a victim mentality.
  • They make the women believe they are so powerless that she has to have absolute control over her husband and relatives.

There is an interesting you tube video, Mind Control Cults, on how to become a cult leader.  While the makers obviously aren’t trying to convince people to become cult leaders, it presents very scary stuff.  Some of the “tips” on how to be a cult leader had me thinking of my sister.

  • Make them have mental breakdowns disguised as spiritual break throughs.
  • Make them paranoid.
  • Encourage separation from family.
  • Encourage dependency and conformity; discourage autonomy and individuality.
  • Demonize their early life and rewrite the past as terrible even if it was great. – YES!  My sister rewrote her past.  She never knew she was abused by her family before meeting her GCM friends.  They enlightened her to her sad, sad state she is currently in.
  • Isolate.  Us vs Them mentality.

Some quotes from the video that also made me think of my sister:

  • “Your family and friends probably won’t understand.”
  • “It doesn’t sound like your family and friends really love you if they can’t support your new decision.”
  • “Maybe you should stay away from them.  It’s unhealthy for you to be around unenlightened people anyway.”
  • “If you can’t recruit your friends, cut off from them.”
  • “Stop wasting time with non believers.”

If you think your loved one is in a cult, please learn all you can about cults.  One thing I have learned through all of this is that you can’t say anything bad about the cult OR its teachings OR its leader(s)/members to your family (friend) or they will just shut you out.  That is a big NO-NO!  Other than that, I am not the one to be asking.  I really don’t know except it takes a lot of patience.  I look back at some of my e-mails to my sister after she wrote us out of her life.  Although they were truthful and blunt (I am a bit too forthright with my family at times.), I can see that in my rashness and haste, my e-mails caused my sister to withdraw further from us.  I am the type of person that tells it like it is.  Unfortunately, someone in a cult can’t handle that.  So watch what you say and be patient (see 1 Peter 3:15 on giving answers with respect and gentleness).

What should you do if you think you are in a cult?  The first and most important thing to do is dig into God’s word.  There you will find absolute truth (John 17:17).  You will find a loving God who forgives sinners through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.  Jesus rose from the dead defeating sin, death and the devil.  He is victorious!  To quote Jesus in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Jesus also said in verse 39, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  You can be free from the cult and its lies.  You can be free from your sin through Christ Jesus our Lord!

Three other articles for your perusal:
Character of the Cults: A Christian Perspective by Patrick Zukeran
How Cults Work
The Cult Within by Me

Showing Love

How can you show love to a person that twists everything into being abuse? I have no idea!

My family and I struggle with this.  My mom loves my GCM sister, she is her daughter.  How can she just say good-bye to her?  She sends her gifts at Christmas and on her birthday.  How does my sister respond?  She thinks my mom is trying to pull her back into her “crazy”.  Somehow my sister thinks this is passive aggressive.  I don’t get it.  She will not say any of this to my mom.  She doesn’t even acknowledge my mom at all.  She will just talk to all her new friends about it.  All my mom wants to do is show my sister she loves her by sending her a gift.  She doesn’t want to ignore or treat her differently than her other children.

I too send a gift every once in a while to let her know I love her and am thinking of her.  I also know my sister is not living in reality right now and if she ever comes out of it, I want her to realize I never left her and I am there for her.

So what do you do with someone like this?  Do we just not send gifts or thinking of you cards since she twists it into abuse?  Will she be happy if we ignore her like she ignores us?  Can we in good consciousness ignore my sister?  We would feel like we are turning our backs on her if we never did anything to acknowledge her existence.  It is a terrible situation.  She changed her personality then her name.  It is like the person we know and love doesn’t exist anymore.  Maybe we should just consider her as dead?  My family is so torn.  We don’t know what to do (except we do know we can always pray for her!).

Legalism

GCMers are confused over what constitutes spiritual abuse.  If you try to gently restore them who are caught in sin as Galatians 6:1-2 says to do, GCMers will accuse you of being a legalist and an abuser.

Below are excerpts from Shooing Away the Legalism Boogeyman by Eric Davis.  My comments are in maroon. 

More and more I’ve interacted with Christians humbly and faithfully working out their salvation with fear and trembling, only to have the legalism card slapped on them. As such, they’re being fallaciously warned about legalism boogeymen. There are many I’ve heard of lurking in Christendom.

Here are 5 all-too-common legalism boogeymen we need to shoo away:

1. Encouraging others to turn from sin and obey Christ’s commands.

This too-frequent error typically goes something like this: “You know, I hear what you are saying about _____ in my life, but honestly, Romans says I’m free and forgiven, so stop laying up legalistic burdens on me. Nobody is perfect.” But this is far from legalism. In Galatians, Paul says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:1-2).  (Unfortunately, many GCMers sin and don’t care.  They use the grace excuse, but that is not grace.  They have perverted God’s grace into a license for immorality according to Jude 4.  Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound?  Romans 6:1-2 answers that with a big NO!)

Notice, that gently helping others to repent of sin and obey Christ, so far from being legalism, is instead fulfilling “the law of Christ.” It’s loving. You are laying aside your comfort, your time, and, potentially, that person considering you their friend, for something greater: love.

How could that be love? Encouraging repentance is like encouraging someone to put in the effort to take their winning lottery ticket and drive the few hours to the state capital to get the winnings. Yeah, it’s a little bit of a pain to get there (confess and turn from sin), but the rewards of arriving at the capital (restoration, God’s forgiving, unchanging love in Christ) far outweigh the inconvenience.

Obedience is God’s best for us. We get to obey. We have to turn from thinking that repentance and turning to greater obedience is some kind of drudgery. Repentance and obedience are not “just grin and bear” it living, like slamming that delicious raw kale and wheat grass smoothie our doctor recommended. But by the power of the Spirit, repentance and walking in obedience is merely travelling the variegated avenues of grace, assurance, and intimacy with our good God.  (What a great burden it is to try to obey God when we are still dead in trespasses and sins.  But when God makes us alive, though that sinful nature is still with us until we leave this earth, it becomes a joy to obey our great God who lovingly saved us (see 1 John 5:3).  Matthew 29:19-20 says to teach other disciples to observe all that Christ commanded.  Teaching Christians to obey Christ is NOT legalism, otherwise Jesus Himself is a legalist.  If there are any GCMers reading this who approach obedience in a “just grin and bear” it way, please know that keeping the law does not save you.  You are saved by Christ’s work on the cross alone.  Find out why God’s laws are a burden to you.  We should all examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor 15:5).  Read Psalm 119.  It is about God’s commandments, precepts, and statutes being a delight.)      

2. Being discouraged over our failure to obey God’s commands.

This boogeyman comes in the form of, “Ah, come on, don’t be down about your sin. You’re being too hard on yourself, you legalist.” This boogeyman has an aversion to being broken over our sin and mourning our disobedience. But is that legalism?

“For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa 66:2). To be “contrite of spirit” has the idea of lame or broken in spirit, similar to those at Pentecost (Acts 2:37) who were shattered over their sin. God looks favorably to such a demeanor.

Stuart Scott has rightly said, “We never find the Scriptures saying, ‘Come on now, you’re thinking too poorly of yourself’ or ‘What you need is to consider yourself more’” (The Exemplary Husband, 177).

In a similar vein, Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:3-4). So far from a legalistic mindset, discouragement over sin is a demeanor that is pleasing to God. You are blessed, in that it evidences you’re of the kingdom of heaven and under the grace of divine favor.

3. A feeling of guilt.

Guilt, or a sense of one’s violation of God’s commands is not inherently legalistic. This boogeyman protests, “You made me feel guilty. That’s so legalistic of you.”

It presupposes that a feeling of guilt means something wrong is happening, and is legalistic. But guilt can be a good thing. It’s like the sounding smoke alarm of the soul. Certainly it’s possible to feel guilty for wrong reasons, for example, if I have a misinformed conscience. But I could feel guilty for sin. So when the guilt comes, instead of playing the legalism card, I need to investigate what triggered the smoke alarm.

Plus, crying legalism in response to guilt is to put subjective feeling as the end-all determination on the matter. But legalism needs to be evaluated, not by feelings, but biblical truth. Was this person actually placing legalistic standards on me? Is what they said really insisting that certain works are necessary for me to merit right standing with God? Or might I be shooing away the Spirit’s work of conviction with the legalism label?  (Please don’t change God’s word so that your sin is no longer sin.  Different sins are mentioned in the Bible (1 Cor 6:9,18-20; Gal 5:19-21; Mt 5:28; Rev 21:8; Mk 7:20-23; 1 Thes 4:3-4 for just a few examples).  If a church or family member tells you to repent because you are fornicating, getting drunk, lying, etc.  don’t accuse them of being legalists.  They probably want to see you growing in your sanctification.  If you feel guilty, it is not the other persons fault.  Remember the job of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sins so that we may repent (John 16:8).  We are not to walk in the ways of evil any longer.  If you feel guilty, confess your sins to God.  But if you feel guilty, refuse to acknowledge your sinful behavior as sin, blame it on your church instead; be very afraid.  God says that you deceive yourselves and the truth is not in you (1 John 1:8-10).  Plus you are calling God a liar.)   

Guilt is often God’s good gift to us to trigger repentance from error in belief or living. Like in Luke 18:13, the tax collector was crushed with guilt, and it was not due to a legalistic demeanor but the convicting power of God. His guilt was a gift of grace from God to generate repentance unto salvation. And Jesus commends him for his shattered demeanor. Richard Greenham wrote, “Never any of God’s children were comforted thoroughly, but they were first humbled for their sins.” The presence of guilt is not an automatic indicator of legalism.

4. Great desire for increasing spiritual maturity.

This boogeyman typically says: “You know, you’re so focused on wanting to mature and grow. You’re putting legalistic standards on yourself. It’s legalism to think on growing so much.”

We need not meditate all day long on, “I need to grow, I need to grow.” However, an inner desire to have Christ increasingly formed in us is a sign of spiritual health. It’s an attitude akin to when Christ said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6). Like a baby with a voracious appetite, a consistent longing to grow in Christ is a sign of the Spirit’s life and health in us.

We’re saved to grow. Like a baby born, we’re born from the Spirit to mature into spiritual adulthood. NT writers rebuke professing Christians for not having progressed in spiritual maturity (1 Cor 3:1-2, Heb 5:11-14). And the Apostle of grace greatly desired to increase in spiritual maturity while in no way being legalistic (Phil 3:12-14).

5. Trying hard to obey Christ’s commands.

Being one of the more tragic errors, this boogeyman comes in the form of, “Mellow out on trying hard to obey. You’re free in Christ to let go and let God,” and chides humble saints from giving efforted consideration of obedience to their Lord. Ironically, this “legalism” label is sometimes slapped on someone as a solution to the conviction solicited by the other person’s godly life.

GCMers, I want to encourage you to get back to God’s word.  Don’t just believe what other GCMers tell you.  Read God’s word everyday in its entirety.  Why not start with Ephesians?  Here is just a portion of Ephesians 4.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24, ESV, emphasis added)