The Faith and Life Attitude of a Cult Member

The individual member feels himself to be superior to outsiders by means of his belonging to the “true congregation.” This is reflected in the corresponding arrogant demeanor – which is naturally expressed in different ways by individual members. Within the group, on the other hand, the member is challenged to a humble life of selfdenial (humility as well as self-denial and obedience are central concepts of the group). A Christian must gladly allow himself to be reprimanded by others.

Faith becomes mainly a matter of pure reason and is no longer simultaneously a matter of the heart. The precise following of laws, allegedly known from the Bible, and continuous (missionary) work form the group’s concept of an ideal Christian. Consequently, there is very strong pressure to perform. Former members share: “In the group, your personal relationship, your love for Christ, becomes continually smaller and then eventually ceases entirely. But you don’t even notice that you’ve stopped believing in God’s grace.” That could be stated somewhat casually as a motto: “Always at work, and no foolish emotions!” Secretly, a Holic member seems to actually fear true feelings, because he can’t control them. A former member gave an example: she was subconsciously happy about a visit from relatives – because she had good memories about common experiences, or because she was simply happy that someone lovingly and warmly made an effort and took an interest in her. But then she experienced this feeling as a threat, because the relative actually belonged to the sinful world and must be rejected. At this point, Holic members tend to flee toward rationality and attempt to act primarily on the logical level of thoughts or doctrine. To outsiders they appear cold and deflecting.

Working for God (reading the Bible, missionary work, and group prayer) has absolute primacy, and everything else is subordinated to it. The phrase is often quoted in this regard: “Redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16 or Colossians 4:5). Connected to this is an occasionally emerging fear of not being fit for God’s Kingdom. Corresponding Bible texts (e.g., Luke 9:62 “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”) take on great significance. This fear, initiated already in the recruitment phase (“What would happen if you suddenly died now?”) doesn’t always appear openly, but it lurks continually and subconsciously in the background. For them, the purpose of life is obediently maintaining this lifestyle to the end.

In the Holic Group, life is shaped by a great seriousness. One tries continuously to act rightly and therefore scrutinizes even mundane activities. Likewise, one thinks very carefully about what one says. The choice of words is precisely monitored and “useless” words or phrases are avoided. To outsiders, this mechanical way of talking creates the impression of speaking from memorization, even if it’s not the case. (However, this has its basis, too, in the rehearsed arguments given to certain questions.) Humor generally fades. One still laughs in a comical situation, but, e.g., jokes aren’t told anymore.

Despite the warmth in the group and the euphoria that the elitist consciousness produces, and despite the inner peace arising from the certainty of being chosen, life in the group is depicted by former members as being rather sad. Many things which produce happiness (music, attending concerts, hobbies, personal friendships, a private life, the consumption of enjoyable refreshments, etc.) are forbidden; the lifestyle is very strenuous and draining. Because of their emphasis on the simple life, the community’s lodgings appear cold and impersonal. A former member expressed it this way: “Life is almost a punishment, until one gets to heaven. What can you be happy about? What is really meaningful?”