Picking Up the Pieces
– by Craig Branch
It is always exciting to either hear about or be a part of
someone coming out of a cult and coming to Christ. But
occasionally there are those who leave a cult but are not
interested in Christianity, or drift away into the gray
world of non-commitment, or surprisingly, enter another
cult. This happens too often because the church and
individual Christians do not understand the dynamics of
psycho/spiritual abuse that effects a cult member. Some
groups employ more coercive mind control techniques than
The extent of re-entry problems depends on the degree of
controlling techniques in place in the group, how long the
person has been in the group, and the emotional maturity
of the person. For instance, a church like the Mormon
Church is not as intense as the control of the Jehovah’s
Witness organization. Even though this is true, to leave
the Mormon Church is like leaving another culture.
A person is often faced with the dilemma or problem of
having to leave their family, network of friends,
memories, theological orientation, and even understanding
of Biblical words. This can be traumatic and requires
understanding, sensitivity, patience and much support from
the Christian community.
People who have been exposed to the more intense
controlling cults present an additional set of problems.
These problems come from two directions. One is their own
psychological/spiritual scars and trauma from associations
with the cult, and the other is an unprepared Christian
Dr. Paul Martin, a Christian psychotherapist, operates one
of the only rehabilitation retreat centers in the country.
In an article in the 1989 winter/spring issue of the
Christian Research Journal, he gives some helpful
instruction in “Dispelling of Myths: the Psychological
Consequences of Cultic Involvement.” He identifies the
myths that Christians hold toward people coming out of
cults. They are:
1. Ex-cult members do not have psychological problems.
Their problems are wholly spiritual;
2. Ex-cult members do have psychological disorders, but
these people come from clearly non-Christian cults;
3. Both Christian and non-Christian groups can produce
problems, but all of the people involved in the groups
must have had prior psychological hang-ups that would
have surfaced regardless of what group they joined;
4. While normal unbelievers may get involved with cults,
born- again believers will not. And even if they did,
their involvement would not affect them so negatively;
5. Christians can and do get involved in these
aberrational groups and they can get hurt emotionally,
but all they really need is some good Bible teaching
and a warm, caring Christian fellowship and they will
6. Perhaps the best way for these ex-members to receive
help is to see a professional psychologist,
psychiatrist, or mental health counsellor.
The trouble with dispelling these myths is that there is
some truth in them, but a half-truth is usually only half
helpful and can be very harmful.
The fact is that Christians as well as non-Christians get
involved in cults and many do need a combination of a
knowledgeable Christian community and rehabilitation
counselling to put the pieces back together again.
After evaluation of thousands of ex-cult members, experts
like Dr. Margaret Singer, Dr. Michael Langone, Dr. Paul
Martin and others, agree on the common problems associated
with re-entry after cult involvement.
These problems include confusion, depression, indecisiveness,
loneliness, anger, guilt, fear, disillusionment, and shame.
Many have been so indoctrinated that they think with the
cult mind, one that has been manipulated and controlled.
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