Report of a Former Member about Recruiting Methods Experienced (2000)
By means of this report of my personal experience, I, Hjalmar (the name has been changed / age 19), would like to give a glimpse into how my contact with the Holic Group came to be.
On a Friday in December of this year (1999), I was in a bookstore in Dresden, sitting in chair and paging through a book. After a while, a young woman who was 30 or 35 years old joined me in the next chair. She spoke to me shortly thereafter about the topic of religion. I replied very quickly by asserting that I am a Christian, because I discerned immediately by her manner that she was part of the Christian “scene.” I wasn’t bashful about admitting that I’m a Christian.
In the brief conversation, she also touched on the topic of “reading the Bible” – and I admitted that I had to drag myself through it, and that I often had to force myself to do it. At that, she invited me to “her” group, which read the Bible together. I accepted the invitation for that evening – perhaps these people would turn out to be a group in which I would feel comfortable and where we really could read the Bible together now and then.
When I arrived at the agreed upon place that evening, I found her and a second person. We went walking along the Elbe River a bit, while they began to examine my “faith situation.” They discussed, among other topics, the life of the first Christian congregations, and in comparison, the life of contemporary congregations.
After that I was invited to continue the conversation in their apartment, where I met other people. Already after only this first meeting, I went home with many new thoughts, because the conversations were very intense and rich in content.
The next meeting was set for Monday, because the group traveled away over the weekend.
Again there was an initial walk, followed by a conversation in the shared apartment. During these walks, there were always two people “tending to me.”
On this evening, it was merely mentioned in passing, that I should get a flashlight for the future (for reading the Bible during nighttime walks). The phrase “for the future” provoked uneasiness in me, because it expressed a certain commitment which they were expecting from me. But I tend to be more individualistic / independent, and I don’t like to commit myself.
The next meeting was on Thursday, because I could come up with schoolrelated scheduling conflicts for Tuesday and Wednesday. I was really happy about that, because the expectation to get together every day repelled me.
Thursday evening followed the same pattern, with the exception that later, in the shared apartment, I was invited to travel along this weekend to the common meeting in the Czech Republic. This didn’t suit me, because I actually wanted to travel back home (I’m originally from a region called “Vogtland”). After [I declined] there was an endless discussion (until 2:00 AM) to overcome my resistance. The result was that they talked me into traveling with them.
Friday. It only began a week ago.
Once again we took a walk, and later conversed in the apartment. Then, during the night, we traveled to the Czech Republic, while I slept in the bus.
A very intense weekend followed, with many conversations which (as later became clear) were tailored to me. All in all, the last nine days had a really influential effect. I eagerly expected to be able to get back to Dresden after the weekend and to have some time alone to be able to think things through. When I got back, I was completely agitated, and I felt absolutely alien in what had been my environment up until then , as if I had been thrown into it.
Note: Up to this point I had no discussion with any other person about my contact with the group. The next meeting was set for Wednesday, because “happily” I had school-related things to do on Monday and Tuesday.
In these two days, I never really found peace, and I couldn’t really enjoy anything. I was simply very serious and in a bad mood. I didn’t listen to music any more, and I gradually began to accept that this is the only way to live out one’s Christianity. Zest for life? That was gone with the wind.
On Wednesday we took walks and conversed in the town of Moritzburg (near Dresden) with the siblings from Oelsnitz and Berlin. Recognizing the people from Berlin and Oelsnitz, and some people’s joy that I was there, sparked a nice feeling of belonging in me. In my thoughts on this day I had already resigned myself somehow to adopting this way of life and giving up everything else. It seemed to me only a matter of time until they would win me over (at that time, I naturally still thought that this path was my “calling” and wasn’t a matter of being talked into something or not).
On this evening I still had to reveal that I was traveling home on the weekend, which I had pretty much already arranged, and I wouldn’t let myself be talked out of it again. They weren’t exactly happy to hear this, but after all, the weekend belonged to me. I was so glad to be able to travel back home and to talk about the entire matter. Note: I started the trip home believing that I’d found the correct form of being a Christian, and I wanted to literally convert the others. The attempt to convert [them] failed very quickly, as I noticed that the knowledge given to me, which seemed in itself to be absolutely unassailable / ironclad, began to crumble in a new perspective.
I returned to Dresden somewhat relieved, if by nothing else than the fact that there were now people who knew about my situation and whom I could phone and ask for advice. That was very important, because in retrospect, I was shocked about what had happened to me, in less than 14 days of influence – without any reflecting with others about these events. I now seemed to myself as if between two poles [Holic Group vs. the people at home], where each person wanted to pull me in his direction. So I came to the conclusion, not to have any more contact with the group for a while, in order to finally be able to consider without influence, to put things in order, and to figure out where I stood in all of this.
On Monday, nothing worth mentioning happened, but on Tuesday I was “intercepted” after school by two people from the group – I allowed them to start a conversation. They naturally wanted to know how things stood with me. It resulted in us agreeing to meet on Thursday, at which time I intended to make an end of things – I had a few things to return and a few things to pick up anyway.
Thursday was, then, tentatively the last meeting. At some point, I broke off the ongoing conversation (when the time limit which I had set for myself was reached), in which we were talking about me and my relationship to the group, among other topics. But I felt totally awful, as if I’d decided in favor of the pleasures of this world and against God.
I used the following weekend to think, just me alone, without any influence from the outside. This was very important for me. At this time I made some notes, which allowed me later to better clarify to others what I’d experienced.
Now, in hindsight, this experience was actually good for me personally, and it profited me greatly (this is only true for my personal situation).
Nonetheless, it is simply insane, the type of enormous “change of mind” these people accomplished in effectively nine days. I think that my particular susceptibility to the group consisted in this: because of my temporary living place in Dresden, I was removed from people with whom I could have talked about this. The group quickly noticed this. I couldn’t immediately ask for the viewpoint of an independent person whom I trusted, and I was vulnerable to the group’s emotional effects on me. Further, through contact with these people, I stumbled upon things in my own Christianity which clearly couldn’t remain as they were. Subsequently, I made myself very aware: you’ve got some flaws. But it never occurred to me that these others also could have “skeletons in their closets.”
Because of my apparent faults, the group always had a “trump card” in their hand. Without contact to outsiders, one experiences among these people a view of Christianity which seems, on its own terms, proper and correct, and conversely, that all others [outside the group] are on the “broad path.”