Report from a Pastor about Recruiting Activities in a Youth Group (1992)
One year later, the person concerned (named “Monica” in the text) read through this report once again. Her comments are inserted in a different color. The names have been changed, but are known.
Monica Kleine, from our St. Mary’s congregation, 21 years old and the leader of our congregation’s youth group, was pulled into the influence of this cult. The contact occurred as follows: Monica had been “searching for the truth” for a long time (words in quotation marks are the words of the person concerned).
A later comment from Monica: This isn’t exactly right! I was not searching for the truth, but rather searching for a closer community, a group of young people, who would strengthen my faith and be my friends. I didn’t find such a community at that time in my congregation, and not in my town. So after a youth worship service, I asked one of our staff members about a youth group I might able to attend. The staff member found this difficult, and in a subsequent conversation with a woman from the Holic cult, [the] corresponding [thought] emerged: every Christian must yearn for community, and every Christian community must be open to admitting me.
Monica didn’t find that in our congregation; then she had contact with a youth group in another town, but that didn’t do much for her, either. Her search had gone farther, to St. Anne’s Church in Dresden, where larger youth worship services were regularly held.
After such a worship service, Monica attempted to discuss her problems with one of the church workers. While she was waiting for him, two young women came up to her and asked her why she was still sitting there. According to her account, they said to her: “Why have you had to ask someone whether he will help you clear up spiritual problems? Did he not offer to do that on his own? Christians offer themselves on their own initiative!”
That was the first contact. From that point forward, she lived a double existence for some time: half in the congregation, half in “the community in Dresden.” Because we had always had good contact until then, she still discussed with me much of what she experienced there. After a first conversation of several hours, I was left with the following impression: a recognition of many truths, wanting to force the Kingdom of Heaven to arrive with the impatience of youth (“Pastor, if you promise me today that we in the congregation here will live together daily as a community, as they do there [in the Holic Group], then I’ll come back.”) All joy of life gone (“One must leave everything.”) Perfectionistic ideal for community (“Purifying the community from sinners.”) “We will have to give an account of ourselves before God on Judgment Day! How will we stand then?” The fact of salvation through Christ fades completely into the background. I have never heard her speak of this [salvation through Christ].
The next decisive experience was that Monica, after not coming to our Bible class for several weeks, suddenly came to this event with the two young women (estimated age: likewise in their early 20s)
After a few minutes, both of them took control of the Biblical discussion. It was very clear to me that I was hearing phrases there for the second time, phrases which I had already heard from Monica. Two central statements from the two of them at this event.
- The Bible passages telling us not to judge others have always been improperly understood. Christians must judge whether those who call themselves Christians really are.
- Whoever doesn’t meet daily with the community to read the Bible is not a real Christian. (Children must be taken care of for that time. - In response to a comment from a young mother from our church, they said that young families would also be able to do this in their group. This would indicate that apparently young families belong to this cult, too.)
The atmosphere emanating from them seemed to me, and to all the other participants in our Bible class, far worse than all their lines of reasoning. While otherwise an animated conversation usually arose, after a while everyone sat there silent and visibly depressed. Something which generated anxiety, something inexplicable, lay onto our souls like a dark shadow.
During the following week, I spoke with all the participants from the Bible class about how they perceived that event. Impressions were, e.g., like the following:
- merciless, loveless, severe, cold
- spiritual arrogance
- the way they deal with the Bible is almost like the Jehovah’s Witnesses
- what they say is totally out of touch with life and aloof. They hover in some high place. But they probably haven’t experienced the realities of life.
What also made me anxious was that Monica didn’t really say anything at that event.
But still, all of this didn’t make me think about a cult, but rather more likely about a radically pietistic group, as they were sprouting up in Dresden at the time.
After some time, Monica hosted an event in the youth group, where she tried to convey her “knowledge” to the young people:
“It is necessary that you progress from darkness into the light. That happens as you give your life entirely over to Jesus – not only partially – Jesus must entirely fill you up. There is only a very small gate from darkness over into light. You fit through only if you throw away everything which you still have in the way of burdens that you carry around with you. And you still have so much ‘baggage.’ For example, you can’t take cosmetics along, nor all your hobbies." After she noticed that she couldn’t relay her “knowledge,” because the young people held out against her opinion of Christian life, she broke out in a fit of tears. “Now I see that I can’t communicate this to you. I won’t host any more youth events. But I only wanted to have said it to you, because we do have to give an account of ourselves at the Last Judgment.”
It is observable that she feel responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of others who are dear to her. (“I must remain with the Dresden community. I want to save my parents. Only there will I find the spiritual power to do that.”)
What is also observable is the deterioration of the nervous system, so typical for youth cults. Torturous crying occurred, primarily in the beginning phase. (In the case of her sister, Veronica Kleine, 19 years old, an apprentice [at her workplace], whom she had been taking along, it began exactly the same way:
In midst of playing in a brass ensemble, she broke into loud sobbing without any occasion: “I desperately want to be with Monica’s group right now. But I have to sit here and play.”) At that moment, one can see that they are totally fatigued. They have huge rings about their eyes. [This is] explainable by the stress through which they have been put.
On that evening after the youth group meeting, e.g., I accompanied Monica through the city toward her home. It was 9:30 PM, and there stood the two young women, and a man who was unknown to me until that moment. They stood in front of the house’s door and received Monica. (And that, even though she always had to get up in the middle of the night for her work.) In this phase, Monica gave a very absent impression during conversations.
After her phone call of yesterday, I went to the Kleine family home to inform them. On the way I met Monica and Veronica. I could still talk rationally with Veronica. She was shocked and doesn’t want any contact with the cult anymore, and she came to the youth group again last night. But I still have concerns, because she has some “withdrawal symptoms”: “But there in the group, everything was different. They really do live exactly as it’s written in the Bible (a very central Bible passage for the cult: Acts 2:37-47). Here (in the youth group) everything seems so ‘empty’ to me. There, every person was there for the other. We were a really close community there. And you can’t cite a Bible passage to me, which shows that the group does anything against the Bible.”
Indeed, you can’t pin them down regarding the content [of their teachings]. It all seems so pious and proper. It was less the content that troubled me (although one notices, too, that the Bible passages are all chosen according to a certain plan), but rather much more the frightening psychological changes. It also set off alarm bells for me, when I heard that the group came from Austria/Hungary, i.e., when I figured out that there had to be a larger organization behind this, and when Monica mentioned that communal ownership of property and communal living were pursued. [The group says that] living together is good, because one can better create daily community. They deal with money this way: each one can retain his own account, but when something is needed, then they all donate. (What that “something” might be, e.g., what could be needed, I unfortunately didn’t ask.)
Yesterday, I couldn’t get through to Monica rationally anymore. The very thing happened which the cult experts had predicted to me: criticism [of the group] is considered to be a retreat into darkness. “It’s not at all true that those three [people] put pressure on me [that evening] after [the] youth group [meeting]. On the contrary, the conversation did me good. It’s not at all true that they totally fatigue me. I only look this way because I have a cold at the moment. It’s not at all true that I want to do something for myself on the weekend. I simply don’t need such things anymore. I have now found everything that I need. It gives me joy to travel away with the others every weekend to start new communities.”
Comment: I don’t know whether I really said: “ … to start new communities.” For me, it wasn’t really about starting new communities, but rather, such a thing would have taken me aback. I experienced these weekend trips as an international “getting to know you” experience with hiking and lots of conversations about my feelings and about the Bible.
As a last-ditch effort, we tried yesterday to use a psychological trick. We told her that she wouldn’t be able to prove to us that she could live without the group.
Comment: I didn’t want to live without the group any more. The psychological trick was more likely this: that my father told me that I wasn’t free; that I couldn’t decide about my own life; that only the group [was deciding]. He reminded me of my own words: “I want, most of all, to have some peace, and to examine everything all alone (with God’s Spirit).” He urged me to prove to him that I was still freely making decisions about my life. He wanted me to show that I could do these things [without the group] the next weekend. Here I was actually in a predicament, and I began to realize that my father was correct in this point. [He said] I should have a conversation with my grandfather; so I went to my grandfather’s place, and I was safe from the grasp of the cult. When I came home again, I had time to examine everything in peace. That was the most important time for my further development.
[Her father was telling her that] if she could, she should go with her parents to the grandfather’s place this weekend. ( – He was always the one with whom she still could speak the best) After a long back-and-forth, she didn’t want to accept this accusation, that she was incapable of being without the others, and she allowed herself to be persuaded to travel away with her parents on this weekend. Whether these two days are sufficient for a “detox program” is dubious to me, but still it’s a last opportunity which one should at least try.
Monica later – as is already alluded in the comments above – left the cult.
The pastor also drafted a list of the Bible passages which are often used by the group in [the process of ] recruitment.