Letter from a 22-year-old cult member to his parents
Written from the town of Z. (in Hungary), 1990
Before I engage intensively with this newspaper and the notes in its margins, I would like to say that I am well aware that you love me, humanly speaking, and that your concern for me is based on that. But I love you, too, and not only because I have much to thank you for, but rather also as one person to another [having lived] through many shared experiences and problems we’ve overcome.
[But] now comes the problem of truth. For me, the only truth is the Bible – God’s Word to humanity. If this is our common foundation, then there’ll hardly be any problems. And if you are outraged about my plans to leave the church; if you are in direct contact with the pastor; and if you are even using the “Sunday” [magazine] as propaganda, then the Bible’s truth, which you have indeed acknowledged, calls you to account. Or are you simply using the truth of the Bible as a cover, and then going about life as you please? Why are you members of the protestant church? These two questions must really be answered beforehand, but I will nevertheless work my way through everything [in this letter].
I should study what you’ve written with understanding – but where does understanding come from?
God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. Let’s apply our understanding to this proposition. What does it mean, “believes in him”? The human being is a union of body, soul, and spirit. That means that whatever he says, believes, and thinks, he also does. If those aren’t in sync, then one generally speaks of a hypocrite.
To believe in Jesus, therefore, does not mean to speak of him now and then, but otherwise to do whatever one would like (even if they are quite good and useful things).
How did my life go up until now? I didn’t ask, “God, what do You want me to do?” Rather, I acted according to my own discretion. I busied myself with music (time which I could have used for God), and this took me captive. It was my idol, and those who serve idols don’t inherit God’s kingdom. Occasionally, I smoked and drank too much (the body is a gift from God, which one is not allowed to willfully destroy), participated generally in wild parties, debauchery (cf. I Peter 4), and lived for years in immorality (cf. I Corinthians 5). I hope that it is not a horror for you to open the Bible, and if it is, then all further discussions are really superfluous. If you think that you’re on the correct path, and that this path doesn’t need God’s signposts, then it’s clear what you’re trying to pull me away from.
But God plays a role in your life, and so I’m looking forward to the day when we agree spiritually, which can’t be far away. Whoever relies on the world’s wisdom (the teachings which come from human beings – e.g., Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, or even Goethe, Schiller, Mann, Hesse, etc. – but also, too, one’s own ideas), for that person, the words and deeds of the crucified Jesus are foolishness (cf. I Corinthians 2:18ff). [Verse 14 is probably intended, because the chapter doesn’t have an 18th verse.]
According to the Bible, God gives His Spirit to every person who wants to obey Him. Therefore a Christian can judge everything (I Corinthians 2:15). So I judge, too, my previous life as well as yours, and in general, everyone, to the extent that I know him. But I don’t use this judgment to elevate myself (that would indeed be contrary to the words of Jesus), or in order to pass sentence (for God avenges, but nobody else), but rather I want to show the person the discrepancy [between himself and] God’s word. That is completely legitimate and absolutely necessary within God’s community (the Lutheran church calls itself this, too). It is part of brotherly love. Where is the love, if I let a brother, or any person in general, go the wrong way, when I know the only correct way? Then I’m not loving the person, if I let him go into ruin without a warning. Besides, the Bible is almost always to be interpreted unambiguously, and isn’t a rubbery text which everyone can stretch in the direction he pleases. The only people who say that [the Bible can be interpreted differently] are those who don’t busy themselves with it. But is there anything actually more important [than the Bible]?
According to I Corinthians 6:9-11, certain people don’t inherit God’s kingdom in any case, if they don’t allow themselves to be washed pure. How does that work, and what consequences does it have? In any case, I can no longer continue doing [what I did before]. I needn’t think about the correctness of these words, for they are irrevocable truths, and every delay [of obedience] is merely an interpretation in my favor. The Scripture is sharp like a two-edged sword. Consider whether you are in the right! I myself belonged, until recently, in the list of the characters described there [in I Corinthians 6]. But what does Jesus want from us? Or is all of it, until now, the foolishness of a stupid boy possessed by faith?
The so-called church, of whichever type, prefers to have paying members, not scrutinizing ones, who live in sin, rather than people who take the faith seriously. The faith should determine one’s entire life, not only Sunday or at certain times. Cf. Romans 12. Whoever wants to understand [this] and not contradict [it], that person understands the content of those lines.
The congregation is the gathering, the church of the Christians, not those who pay [church] taxes and pray at altars. Everyone who wants to follow Jesus does it with his entire heart, and seeks fellowship with those who are likeminded every day. Other people do the same thing in other areas [of life], e.g., those who like going to bars, who love the conversation, and who find it meaningful, go there every day. Likewise, whoever finds his life’s meaning entirely in music meets daily, as far as possible, with those who think similarly, etc. (A later comment in the margin: we will all recognize that these two examples don’t reflect the meaning of life. The meeting [of like-minded people] which is later indicated refers unambiguously to the gathering of Christians.)
And for such meeting I don’t need a building constructed especially for that purpose, because “They were together unanimously every day in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” The temple was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 A.D. Aside from that, the work world (and work is part of how we serve God daily) is now organized in such a way that during the day, a person is usually busy working, so people can’t meet then. But how do we spend our free time? We study newspapers, we read books by evil spiritualists to the confusion of our minds, we “enjoy” art in order to chat about it later at appropriate occasions when we can’t talk about people any more, or we simply watch TV, or yield to wild binges of drinking and eating. I recognized that God wants something different from me. Recognize that God wants something different from you, too! I [am] not [the one who is asking this of you]!
Now, concerning [your] indirect accusation that we now belong to a cult. What is a cult, anyway? According to common wisdom, it’s a religious association which adds a few mandatory statements, or which omits a few statements from the Bible, i.e., it either adds or subtracts something. Take the Mary cult of the Catholics, or in general, “Church celebrations.” Christmas, e.g., is supposed to be the birthday of Jesus. That is, first, not provable; second, completely unimportant because as a Christian I rejoice every day; and third, the elevation of any one day in the year is actually un-Biblical (Galatians 4:8-13; Colossians 2:16). Aside from that, Christmas was always the winter solstice for the heathens, and some church father wanted to make a Christian festival out of it. That doesn’t mean that we condemn anybody for this reason, but the protestant Lutheran church and the Catholic church must examine themselves regarding this, e.g., whether they don’t attribute more meaning to these festivals and raise them to [the level of] dogma, than take the Bible seriously. Otherwise they are actually quite clearly cults.
Until now, I’ve read nothing but the Bible with siblings in the faith from East Germany and from Austria, and I can’t label anything in this fellowship with the term ‘un-Biblical.’ I can, however, [label things] about the protestant church [as un-Biblical]. If I were to remain in [the church], I would indirectly be giving my consent to some false teachings. You can see for yourselves how greatly the rumor of [my] leaving the church whips up waves. As long as I was “in,” nobody was interested in judging my life and thereby bringing me away from some bad paths. Why the big fuss now? On the last day, God will quite certainly not ask about whether I was protestant or whatever; He wants me to orient myself toward Christ, and His body (the community) to be united (John 17). Does that still play any role in the life of the church’s so-called congregations? Examine this in the case of yourselves and of other people you know. And please understand that I don’t want “hell on earth” for you, but rather a spiritual conversion, which Jesus labeled as “repentance.” I hope that you don’t harden your hearts toward the only saving doctrine.
As you, dear Mother, quoted me, it’s not correct. “ … People like you and K’s mother … ” sounds really like condemnation and contempt. But please believe me: I don’t despise you, no, I love you, I only despise your path and your distance from God. Or do you seriously believe that you can stand before God without a conversion? If I pretend to understand, then I’m not helping you, and I myself am also lost.
As I’ve said, this all makes sense only when you open yourselves to the Bible, and curb your inner reservations, because it is appointed for a person to live once and die once, but after that [is] the judgment. Jesus wants to be your “lawyer,” and His fee is unconditional obedience, and then He’ll never leave you.
We don’t reckon ourselves to be among the so-called charismatic groups. We don’t need any special name or any obligations like a club. “Whoever is not against you is for you” but “Whoever is not with me is against me” – Jesus speaks this simply and this sternly to us. Only one who wants to be under this range of conditions [only somebody who sees himself fitting into the concepts Jesus expresses] and draws the consequences from them, will be recognized by Jesus before the Father.
You say that you’d like to help me, [but] I’d like to know from where, by what means, and to which end this help should lead.Which alternative, which path do you want to offer to me? Don’t you notice that God offers something to you, a path that you’ve probably never seen until now, but that can’t mean that it must be [the] wrong [path].
You ask what you’ve done to me. Do I reproach you in any way for my own sake? Do I treat you badly in any way – objectively seen? Or is it, in your eyes, simply wrong of me to recognize the truth and to follow a different path in life than you follow? Is it bad [of me] toward you to want to spend my life differently than you do? What does the saying mean, “you Christian!” What are you? How do you evaluate yourselves and your life? Which standard do you apply and which goal do you pursue – these questions are, taken together, not reproaches, but rather authentic questions, which you should answer, less for my sake, than for your own.
As I said, I naturally thank you, that you are always there [for me], but please tell me when you’ve “had enough” of all that, so that we can look for new viable paths. I am in any case not inclined to sacrifice my life to the business (prior to [the son] entering the cult, the [family] operated a transportation business / editor’s note). Conflicts, “power struggles,” and similar things arise from [the business], and the reward for that is a life which is distant from God, senseless, and merely instrumental [for worldly purposes], which finally then also leads to hell.
If you desire from us a life with wrongly arranged priorities, as we see it, then it’s clear that our paths must diverge, if only to preserve the alternative of repentance. I hope very much that you understand all [of this] correctly and don’t think that I want to destroy your “life’s work.” It is important, above all, that this “life’s work” will be useless to you [when you stand] before God, if you don’t “repent.” This repentance , however, is not invisible, otherwise it isn’t authentic. And God looks at our hearts, not at our lips. We are slaves to whichever lord we set over our heart. That doesn’t mean that we are perfect people now, no, but we presumably don’t want to repeat the mistakes of earlier, which Christ forgave us through His love. Inasmuch as we allow ourselves to be sanded smooth by God’s Word, we want to make (added later: ourselves) pleasing to God, and not to allow ourselves to be drawn to false passions and doctrines any longer.
So we know that we have made many mistakes towards you through our words and thoughts, and we ask God that such things don’t happen again. We don’t want to scream or be rude any more, or to work against Christ’s teachings, and thereby against love toward all people, by means of bad thoughts and unspoken words.
From now on, our speaking should be no longer our own [words], but rather God’s word should decide everything, and whoever is contrary to that, he’s acting against his own wellbeing and life.
Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. (Read, for better understanding, Matthew chapter six.) There is much more to write, but this should suffice for today. I may not eat anything today and tomorrow until 11:00, and for this reason I am somewhat weak. (This restriction on eating was medically necessary during a stay in the hospital. Noted by GK) But otherwise, things are going well for me, don’t be worried about my health, rather, think about your life and which role God plays in it.
Thanks again for the chicken, but don’t worry about my physical wellbeing, they’re taking care of me here.
Don’t be bitter in your hearts, and please think without prejudice about that which [I’ve] written in love.
I assume that you’ve already guessed that we won’t be coming to [your] birthday. I know already now that you will see this as further coldheartedness and disregard towards yourselves, but despite this I would like to write my thoughts about the matter briefly for you.
Such a birthday party is, in my eyes, a godless meeting, where people mainly eat and drink. The joy of seeing each other after a longer time disappears quickly, and the conversations ripple along pleasantly but superficially. I’d be happy if it were different this time. Certainly, there are interesting conversations now and then, but the life of the individual remains unaddressed. If somebody tells something about himself, then it’s merely the successes or the curiosities, but not his inner life, his innermost feelings and problems. A person can only do that when people trust each other, and trust doesn’t arise at parties, but rather when people share their lives with each other.
Don’t think that I’m talking only about the celebrations you have, no. My birthdays, too, and those to which I was invited, went just as superficially. And when I think back on those celebrations, I only remember the food and who was the drunkest, if I recall anything at all.
That you’ve turned 65 years old, and can retire, is certainly a reason for happiness, but that is not something you’ve earned. It is, rather, a reason to especially thank God, but actually we should be thankful for each new day. But God wants us to use the time that He’s given us for His purposes. That is really quite normal.
Now you’ll think that we’re presuming to know and to do God’s will, and that we despise you because you’re not doing this. But we respect your decision to do as you please, only you think that we wouldn’t do what God demands. But you would have to seriously engage with the Bible yourselves, and not merely page around in it briefly in order to refute us with incorrectly interpreted passages. If our path is the wrong one, and you think that yours is the right one, then place that onto a firm foundation, and don’t take people’s tradition and opinion as the basis for your reasoning.
Please understand that we are refusing to attend so that you realize that this is serious for us, and that we separate ourselves from that which is false so that you can still [have a chance to] decide what is correct.
I wish for [both of] you, that you will open yourselves to God and thereby obtain life. But if you cling to the old [ways], then we accept that, but don’t demand that we do the same!