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When I first realized that I had been in a religious cult for six years, it was one of the most devastating things that had ever happened to me in my life. The realization that I had actually been brainwashed was even more of a shock. In my case, I never once doubted God, but I certainly doubted my SANITY. The shame and horror mingled with a frightening uncertainty was enough to leave me with seemingly endless sleepless nights. The saying, "It was like somebody had pulled the rug right out from under me..." is grossly inadequate in attempting to describe the chaos of emotions I experienced.

I had been a member of The Way International (TWI) for six years in the early 1980's. However, subsequent to my leaving this cult, I remained brainwashed for two years despite never attending any of their meetings (called "Twigs") or any other related functions by TWI for those two years. I had in essence been "freefalling" from the effects of having been involved with this destructive cult for those wasted years. In a May/June 1994 issue of Ministries Today, a sidebar article I wrote describes some of the sensation of this deliema:

I had physically left the cult, but I was still immersed in the teachings of the founder. As a result, my marriage was in peril, and I felt adrift. While neither my husband nor my three children had ever become heavily involved in [TWI], my emotional state naturally affected the entire family.

It is extremely difficult when one decides to leave a cult. I once heard an ex-cult member say that an "emotional free fall" follows the severing of organizational ties. This is so accurate. I firmly believed I had left the only source of biblical truth.

I also firmly believed I had disappointed God. I wasn't able to "fit in" with God's only true believers on earth. My hearts desire was to know God, to serve God and to be "perfect" for Him. But I wasn't able to "conform" to the "standards" God had set for me. I was lost, alone and terribly confused.

There is also the embarrassment of knowing I had been duped. How could such nice, clean-cut, conservative-valued people have lied to me? In retrospect, how could I have let myself be taken in by the tactics of TWI? I wasn't a stupid woman, I was quite savvy in fact. I had been a lead singer in rock bands for years, going on the road, seeing "the world." I thought I had heard every line, every trick. Obviously, I hadn't.

Here I was, a college educated woman, married to an Army Officer. I certainly hadn't led a sheltered life! Yet, I had been taken in by TWI because I was sincere about wanting to know a God I had never known all my life. I wanted to learn more about this all-powerful Lord. I believed for over six years that I had found the only organization on earth that had the revealed truth about this God of the Bible. I believed that the founder, Victor Paul Wierwille had received special revelation never before given to anyone since the apostles about the Bible. It was through this man that I believed I had been led to the only "truth" in the world these days about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible and my salvation.

What I didn't know was that almost every religious cult has a charismatic leader who receives "new" revelation about God and the Bible. TWI provided quick "answers" to my life-questions. Most cults do this too. I didn't know that most all religious cults teach another Jesus, reject Orthodox Christianity, have their own "double-speak" as well as non-Biblical teachings on the nature of God and the Trinity. All were characteristics of TWI that I was totally unaware was shared by almost every destructive religious cult. I was in my own reality that TWI created for me and I believed that the teachings and the atmosphere of The Way to be totally unique. I was so very wrong. I pridefully and gleefully accepted the notion that I had become a part of the Biblical elite. As Proverbs 29:23 says: "A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit."

I wasn't humble and pride certainly brought me to the lowest of lows. It was when I was at my lowest, and I had lost all arrogance that I realized that I had allowed myself to be a member of a cult, believing their false teachings about God and salvation, for years. The humiliation of this was enormous. Almost too much to bear. It nearly drove me to the brink of insanity. How could I have been so wrong about things I felt had to absolutely be so right? These same things I had studied over and over in the Bible, day after day, year after year!

Yet, it had happened, despite my sincere desire to be good, and to do good. I was spiritually and emotionally deceived. I was led by the doctrine of a cult that seemed to fit all the criteria I had been searching for. I "belonged" and while my personal desire to know God superseded any social ties I wished to develop, that ultimately was one of the main reasons I kept staying in the organization I began to know was very imperfect. I liked the idea of being a part of a "special" group of people who surpassed the "worth" of all others on earth in God's eyes. It was quite a heady experience. I literally believed I possessed superior knowledge to even the most decorated or titled Biblical scholars and so-called Christian intellectuals. I loved the feeling of "telling off" those I believed to be my intellectual inferior concerning Biblical matters. I had made TWI my god.

Of course, I would never admit this. I knew idolatry to be a horrible sin. I wasn't prideful, I was just certain beyond a shadow of a doubt of what I knew to be true!

So it was from this lofty position I began my free-fall. I didn't know what to believe anymore, even with the simple things of life. I doubted even the easiest daily decisons. My belief in God never waivered, but I was angry. How could God have allowed me with my sincere desire to know Him, land in a cult? What was I to believe now? What was the truth about what The Way had taught me, and what were the lies? How could I sort it all out?

If it wasn't for the help and support of my husband and some wonderful friends, and a dynamic Pastor of a local Pentecostal church, I do not believe I'd be sitting here today able to write this. At one point, I had seriously made arrangements to take my own life. I was lost and I felt as if I was the only one that this had happened to.

The sad news is, I am not the only person who has been deceived by a cult. There are organizations out there, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons (Latter-day Saints), Children of God, Moonies, etc., who still lure unsuspecting people in by the droves and literally brainwash their members. Cult membership grows today at greater rates than mainstream religious organizations. I take a stand against the lies and destruction the cults impose on our society. I pray my contribution can in some way prevent others from making the same mistakes I did.

There is hope. There is a way out and a way to heal. I believe the best way is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Today, I am whole, in charge of my life through Christ, and completely delivered from the brainwashing techniques of The Way International. I use my experience to warn others about cults.

Copyright 1997, the author

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