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