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On Leaving a Cult - Pt One "Without Natural Affection"

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

"God gave them over.... without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." Romans 1:28b, 31

as'-tor-gos gr. translated "without natural affection" by KJV and ASV literally "hard hearted towards kindred"

In that early morning mist between awake and Rem sleep, the sub-conscience sometimes communicates to our conscience mind something we know, but have not verbalized, could not put into words, heretofore; Perhaps an enigma the mind was working on overnight, and finally made a connection with a similar event... which leads to illumination about the problem...

Hmm. Yes, this is like that. These two events are very similar.

The mind lays two things alongside each other, and recognizes, "these have the same genesis, the same root cause." That was my experience this morning. Unsolicited.

And to understand our experience, we lay it alongside scripture...

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

This entry is very personal, and painful to write. I don't want to write it. It will invoke great animosity from certain parties, if discovered. Nevertheless I leave it here in the hopes it will benefit others. Or, perhaps someone will have further light, or counterpoint, to share with me on my experience. I know I don't see things perfectly. I can't. I'm too close to the problem [especially since part of the problem is me! This is why we need other true Christians, and why we need pastors.] Perhaps this is the only way I can move on in my own pilgrimage, to write about the trauma as a means to overcome it. You see, I've been stripped of everything and everyone who in this life are dearest to me... my wife, my children, my grandchildren... a horrible nightmare that won't end. I would never have guessed these events could come about, had I not experienced it. The Accuser is attempting to murder our Spiritual Legacy, but I have promises from God that the liar is not going to be successful. [ Promises discussed another post, perhaps]

Perhaps this post will shed light on the path of some other Pilgrim.

I've been silent for too long, for years, out of fear of reprisal, out of fear of further rejection by my family. I've been silent in the hopes that loved ones would return to me. But they have not; they've only grown more distant, more unforgiving (another cult tell, which I will chronicle later) and more determined in their discrediting and discarding of me.

So, will a frontal assault with truth be useful toward reconciliation?

The Holy Spirit uses the truth of the Word to convict. Nonetheless:

- there is no indication these blogs will have any positive impact with my family.

- Yet, no one else can better speak the truths which address our common experience.

- They have insulated themselves from those who would speak truth to them.

- They have rejected elders who have known them for years, [their whole life for some.] And, - They present a "Christian" happy face to the other godly Believers still in their lives.

- They seem like godly, well adjusted adult Believers to others, and very accomplished

- they are erudite, scholarly, lettered, successful people, all of them.

- Such appearances are a lie, and deception, {a stage play} if one is walking in clear disobedience to the truth of God's Word.

Truth is the only remaining strategy. The outcome is in the Lord's hands.

Connecting some dots....

In 2014 I saw my relationship with my youngest son had been fully supplanted by 'the church' and all it provided, including the "church boys" clique. I was only an option with him. A necessary element of his dependent life...he possessed some measure of love, but no discernable 'affection' for his dad. Full on rebellion would not be tolerated in 'the group', "the church". But Silent supplanting - very much tolerated, and even promoted by the "pastor".

I recognized this trend in the young boys, whose Sunday School I taught. It began pre-adolescent, really from the time we arrived at this evangelical church in 2005. Ben was almost 5 when we got here. I brought it to the attention of the pastor a few years into this. Not only did he do nothing to stop it, he seemed to harness it, and groom it in the coming years.

This was more than the adolescent change when a young man of 14 begins to find his own place among the society of men. Being his own man really wasn't Ben's aim, fitting into the group was. I took my son aside, once, about 7 years of age, after I observed how one of his friends manipulated him and held him captive. Ben wept with pain and acknowledged it was very clearly so, but said he didn't know a way out. Spencer would ostracize Ben when he wouldn't do what Spencer wanted. My son would play along, because he couldn't bear the pain of separation, from Spencer, from the group. It was an unhealthy attachment, and he had made his decision to accept it. I encouraged my son then, and all these boys in my Bible class, from that point, that they had to each learn to stand alone, and walk with God personally, even if no one else followed. I called them to this repeatedly over the years I taught them. It didn't take, with most.

Scouting taught young men leadership. They had to learn self discipline, personal fitness, communication skills, time management, and they had to learn how to stand on their own back legs, and interface with grown men, virtuous men who held respectable positions in the community, and their corporation, other good dads; men besides their dad, or their pastor, or their clique. Scouting was part of my own redemption, as a troubled youth, from a divorced home. Scouting also helped my first two sons immeasurably, and led to their advancement elsewhere, including college scholarships.

But by 2012 the Boy Scouts of America had imploded with scandals and by abandoning their "Timeless Values". We no longer had that additional outlet which my first two sons had benefitted from. I had been an Assistant Scoutmaster in our Troop, and also as a Marine I knew quite a bit of outdoor skills, and manly 'stuff'. I pulled together the other dad's in the church and we launched some "Boys Camps" to fill the void, attempting to give the life experiences and impart man skills that Scouting would have. My 2 Eagle Scout sons were counselors. These were great times, by in large.

I now see, however, that they also served to make Ben even more dependent on his church peers. "The church" was already a one stop shop. In addition to church meetings, and a strong sense of church body-life being promoted (a scriptural concept, when healthy), we had already helped start a homeschool coop there, the pastor catechized our children [another mistake I made...a later post], I had already begun the outdoor ministries through church campouts, and now the church provided quasi-scouting.

Ben's peers were not bad boys. They are actually good young men, and most have credible testimonies of conversion. These are productive young men, and respectful of others. Some are making fine fathers and leaders.

But some had an unwholesome soul-tie to each other; to the group. They needed other inputs. (They still do. A large percentage of them now room together at college) They were too inward focused, myopic. They could not "lift up their eyes to the fields", as Jesus called us to consider the harvest, and our individual calling in it. The horizons for each were limited by the wingspan of the group, by the proximity of their 'buds'. College selection was a group decision (my input not even solicited). At times they took oaths to not even consider any girlfriend who wouldn't accept their group, and their membership in it. (I was comforted to know they at least thought of girls (!).

So in 2013 I decided the negative aspects (and there were others) of our church situation outweighed the positive and it was time to make a move. In my estimation our spiritual health, as individuals, and the health of our family left me no choice. A change was essential. I began a two year plan to relocate.

In my given predicament - I would have to obtain "permission" from the pastor (called counsel but amounted to permission), and permission (called buy-in, an unscriptural term) from my family to make such a move. [This was another reason I knew an exodus was essential for our survival, spiritually, and as a family, and as a couple.] We had past scriptural guideposts of how God had relocated us before, and how to discern His purposes. I would not make a knee jerk reaction, but using the same scriptural principles, I would wait on Him, and wait for all green lights. [The fact I attempted to pull us out in 2015 and we're now shattered as a family, and a couple, is exhibit one that there were other forces holding us.]

Back to 2014 -- I pitched the move in a positive light to my son Ben, "Let's do a side business together, spend time as father and son, get you transferrable skills to use in your own vocation." I had wanted out of I.T. for years, and told my wife so. The family would build a side business with a primary aim to regain our closeness, especially dad and Ben, growing closer as dad and son. As a contract Aeronautics Engineer I could run my cad-cam software from anywhere, even while watching the cash register in our new storefront in South Texas, so I reasoned. But Ben showed little interest in this, because it would mean moving 2 hours away from his buddies. He was not disrespectful, but totally unresponsive. He was full of reasons not to move, all of them rooted in 'the church'. There was already a long pattern of being apathetic about his relationship with me his dad; this could not be chalked up to adolescent growth. It wasn't that.

Roll the clock forward to 2020. It was mine and Stella's 31st wedding anniversary. (The move never happened, as I said. Stella, Ben, and our young adult children opposed it, so I dropped it.) We had been in counseling for a number of years at this point, and the marriage was now "on life support" in the words of our new pastors (in 2017 she had at least agreed to move our membership back to the church where we were married, an hour away, while the children remained in 'the church'). So I asked Stella to come away with me for an anniversary weekend getaway. "Lets work on "us"... have some warm times together; Build fresh memories; Leave the hurtful past behind us." Her response was a flat "no". No explanation, no compromise, just a hollow no. This decision began the complete unraveling of our marriage, and our home.

Five years earlier I had come to the realization (I'm slow, really really slow) that my wife not only had big problems with me, but really had no desire whatsoever to be around me. She had some kind of love for me, maybe, and appreciated my acts of service, and my providing quite well for her and the children. But the "best friend" aspect of our marriage had died a long time ago, and even 'friends' was now a stretch. She really had zero interest in being with me. And, what was more alarming - SHE WAS CONTENT WITH THIS ARRANGEMENT. She was perfectly fine with the trajectory of our marriage. She gave a nod to the idea of restoring the intimacy of our marriage, but there was nothing she viewed as her part to actually change to make marriage intimacy a reality for us.

So here's the connection between these events:

- "The church" has a group identity which becomes the supreme allegiance, more important than even one's kin (even if that kin is a genuine Christian with a credible testimony of Grace). This is not the love for Christ which is prerequisite for discipleship "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37 How do we know? Because it's not centered on the person of Jesus Christ, Himself.

- The group identify is deceptive in that it gains control over one's conscience. A good standing in the group is equated as a right standing with God, and as true godliness. It doesn't matter if you are nominal in your personal devotions to Christ, or personal piety (this will be explored later).

- In verbal and non verbal ways the cult leaders identify the 'model' members, the 'valued' members and the 'unacceptable' members of their 'community'. The unacceptable members will become increasingly devalued and 'black listed' (albeit with non-verbal communication, or devalued and discredited subtlety - such as hint dropping), once identified these members are to be increasingly discredited by everyone in the group, until they can be discarded, with group consensus. (Silence is consent.) The discarded person will leave at some point in this process, perhaps for their own sanity or spiritual survival. The verse "they went out from us because they were not part of us" will be replayed many times, both to justify why that person left, and to squelch any questions from the remaining members. The discarded person will be forbidden by the cult leader(s) from sharing their reason(s) for leaving. Contact with the discarded will be discouraged.

- The 'place' of the discarded member will not leave a void or vacuum, because the group "love" will fill the void... will take the place of the discarded friend/parent/spouse. [What must it be like to sit in the church house and view the spot where your dad used to sit? And how does that not alarm you, nor give any tinge of conscience?] The group member who bears the loss of that discarded parent, or spouse (in whose arms they slept for decades) will be comforted by the group, and elevated to a martyrs' status, "for the sake of truth". The child who 'lost' their parent for the cause of truth will be rewarded with increased status in the group, and held up as an icon of virtue. ...all the while breaking the fifth commandment. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." (Ephesians 6:1-3, & Exodus 20:12)

Scriptural Alarm Bells:

- In this setting, "forgiveness" must be redefined. Obviously, 'the group' MUST keep a record of wrongs, in order to black list the unworthies of the world; in order to identify "the swine", whom they cannot cast their pearls to. ["I can never forgive/never trust/never be close to xyz-person again because of ________what they did!] The cult leader encourages his followers to offer some kind of perfunctory, bogus 'forgiveness' which does nothing to restore fellowship or trust. Reconciliation is not in view at all. Forgiveness in this setting is actually a component of DISCARDING. When they say RELEASE, they actually mean 'Put away' from your life. There is no redemption in this setting. You can't get back into their good graces unless you writhe on the floor in utter self loathing and self hatred. They are God and you are a worm. They will examine your godly sorrow and determine if it passes their muster before they are even willing to discuss trying to reconcile. Whereas the God-like forgiveness which Jesus gives, and calls us to, debts are released upon request.

- Confessions of sin are used to humiliate the devalued member. Confession of Sins are used to control people, manipulate them, keep them subservient. You WILL face your record with these people. Confession is used to divide, not to reconcile. But the Word says, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;" 2 Corinthians 5:18 Another 'tell' of this cult and its leaders is the division they bring, and become known for it in the community, and thereby bring a stain on the testimony of Christ.

- Christian Charity is not the glue in this setting, but 'earned love' from the cult leaders. e.g. The closer you are to the pastor's wife, the better your standing, and more 'love' you'll experience because she has major power in determining standing in 'the group', and in dispensing mercies in this setting. She largely decides who is Model, who is Valued, and who is to be devalued and discarded. This is the demon of haughtiness. It may be a Jezebel demon. The figurehead leader is called 'pastor'. The cult leader(s) are kinder and more tolerant of some, based on the counsel of the haughty/jezebel spirit, until you cross it.

- Not every member is a cult member in this setting. Some are unsuspecting seekers who wander in. Some sincere Christians will sojourn through this 'church', or other churches like it, enjoying however much biblical truth is preached, sometimes for a few years, and not get the least drift of these things. Some will also leave after a few years just because they feel its time to move on, they just may not be able to verbalize why.

- The closer in you get, the more vested, the more deeply embedded, then the greater hatred and disdain you will experience when you attempt to leave. If you leave without permission or attempt to remove your family, you will be slandered, your failings magnified, your name used as an invective, your testimony cast dispersions upon, and your salvation questioned. So, when you see such treatment dispensed to others who left, hopefully you will lace up your running shoes... But if they sense your are of tender conscience or grieved at your losses, their disdain may be hidden from you. Instead your discarded member will be "pitied, and prayed for" spoken of in hushed tones of feigned concern. I'm pretty sure this is where God vomits.

- An alpha male, or any father who has a true shepherd's heart toward his family will not be tolerated. A Beta male can exercise some of this, with sufficient deference to the cult leader(s). But Alphas will be made to feel unwelcome, then discarded, then called a Patriarchist or worse, or given other brands for wanting to exercise biblical oversight, and loving care for his family and home (albeit imperfect in his efforts). His character will be besmirched, his motives questioned, failures published, his beliefs misrepresented. He will be silenced and walled out of the conversation, not allowed to answer for himself, or even make his offenses right with those he's unintentionally hurt. Why? Because there is no argument against his love. For control to be maintained, he must be CANCELLED. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

- The authority of 'the church', 'the group' aka, the cult leader(s). will be over emphasized, extended beyond scriptural bounds, so as to eclipse the fathers/husbands biblical authority, and to bring accusations on him. <to be continued>

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