Several years ago I met a woman who had been imprisoned within a cult. She recalls how she and her husband believed that they had been saved by this pastor who persuaded them to give everything they had to the church. They slept in a communal house. They would work at jobs but turn most of their income over to the pastor. They would spend their free time preaching on the beaches. She started to get sick and she couldn’t understand why. She started to have nightmares. Finally, a friend from work convinced her to see a doctor. It was the doctor who started to figure out that she was imprisoned by this predatory truth. She told her to leave the church. But to leave the church would mean she would have to leave her husband. Finally, she found the strength to do that. And yet, she was afraid and lonely and hungry for community. She wandered into my previous church. She sat in the back. She left right after the service. I would come up to her and ask how she was but she didn’t want to tell me. She told me later she was afraid of me. Not me but pastors who controlled people. Finally, she told me this story. We met several times as she worked through the false truth and the only real truth which is that what she believes shouldn’t be coerced, shouldn’t be punishing. True faith is freeing I told her, we are free to ask questions, to explore, to doubt and to find a community like this one that accepts her as she was.
With Grace and Grit, John