Dear Abbey Article Rings Morningland Bells

This is a Dear Abbey column that appeared in newspapers in Late July, 2001.

Dear Abby:

Last year, our family went through the most traumatic
experience of our lives: We left the church we’d been attending for
more than a decade. I always suspected our church was a little
“unusual,” but because I saw what appeared to be positive changes in
people’s lives, I kept telling myself we couldn’t possibly be involved
in a cult.

My family and I were led to believe we were members of a “special” group
- that we had a “different” calling than other churches, which was why
we had to work harder and sacrifice more than the average Christian. We
were ordered to terminate any activity or relationship that pulled us
away from our our church obligations or planted seeds of doubt in our

Finally, things got so weird my husband and could ignore it no longer.

We informed the pastor we would not be coming back. He said if we did,
we would become “shipwrecked” – doomed to divorce, and our kids would
not serve God when they grew up. Then two church leaders called to beg
us not to “leave the fold”

By the grace of God, we escaped. I suffered nightmares, depression
and total mistrust of any other church for a long time after that. We,
who were once part of the trusted few, the “elite inner circle,” were
now the enemy.

We lost all our friends. We had known some of them more than 10 years.
Although they claimed to love us, they were forced to cut us off – the
same thing we had done to those who had left before us.

Please print my letter as a wake-up call to let people know that scare
tactics, manipulation and mind control techniques are very much alive.
They are not just reserved for cults, but are used by some churches.
It’s called “spiritual abuse,” and it’s as real as any other form of
abuse. Books on the subject can be found at local libraries.

Thankfully, we now belong to a church that does not control our lives,
does not shame us when we ask questions, does not resort to belittling
and name-calling, and does not blame us for its failures. Instead,
our church serves as a positive symbol and source of strength.

If people have doubts about an organization or church to which they
belong, they should check it out. It it’s a legitimate organization,
it will stand up to scrutiny. Please, Abby, urge your readers not to
ignore their conscience or bury their feelings. If someone feels
something is wrong, there’s a good chance it is.

-Free At Last

Dear Free:

You are 100 percent right in saying if something feels
uncomfortable, it’s time to examine it more closely and do something
about it. It’s not a sin; it’s healthy, mature behavior. Anything that
requires all your time and money is depriving you of a balanced life.