I was asked how these “red flags” played out for me in my life at CJ. My response to each point is italicized.
So what constitutes a cult? Eichel listed several factors: (LaRosa, 2017)
- “Beware of any kind of pressure. That’s probably the single most important advice I can give anyone. Any kind of pressure to make a quick decision about becoming involved in any intensive kind of activity or organization.”
- Pressure was put on me from the very beginning. I speak some about this in my blog posting of March 2014 entitled “Thumbnail History and Teachings”. In our first meeting with Cay and Judy, Judy yelled at us, expressed a great amount of anger, and made sure we knew that we were to be obedient to the letter of the word, and that we were not to take any independent action. The teaching centered on exposing daily, continuous sin and a lot of pressure was put on us daily in the households to tell each other where we were wrong in everything we did. The new people (us) did not get to speak to others, but were the recipients of this “wisdom and love”. I was pressured to take vows, not overtly, but peer pressure, the desire to be seen as dedicated and spiritual, and knowing what the leaders wanted all contributed to me making a quick decision about vows. If the leaders said they thought I should be in a group (Band, Choir, Art, an office, etc.)I felt great pressure to acquiesce right away. There was no opportunity to go away and think about it. If I said ‘no’ I was considered to have a rebellious spirit.
- “Be wary of any leader who proclaims him or herself as having special powers or special insight. And, of course, divinity.”
- Cay and Judy pretended to be humble. According to them, they were just 2 housewives who read the Bible and tried to apply it to everyday life. In word they said they were not special. But they also said that they heard God speak to them directly. Betty P. once said to me that when she prayed she heard God’s voice audibly. C&J taught as if they had the truth, the whole truth. They taught absolute obedience, and came down hard on anyone who questioned or doubted their teachings. By this negative reinforcement they showed that they believed they were always right. Betty said that because God had put her into the role of leadership, that He guided her, and what she heard in prayer was always His will. I dared to semi-question her once when we were talking about how to handle a problematic sister, and she shut me up abruptly and severely. A few weeks later she said I had resisted her and “fought” her. Hardly. I was meek and was just trying to give my viewpoint about that sister, which happened to differ slightly from her viewpoint. I didn’t think she was as bad as Betty and the other sister were saying she was.
- “The group is closed, so in other words, although there may be outside followers, there’s usually an inner circle that follows the leader without question, and that maintains a tremendous amount of secrecy.”
- We were very closed from the outside world. We even went through a year of discipline/training where we were not allowed to watch TV or read newspapers or magazines. I also behaved very differently when strangers were around. I was always smiling and saying how blessed and happy my life was, even when I was crying inside. New members were treated well at first, especially if they had money to donate. But even they, after years of commitment, were subjected to humiliating treatment, ostensibly to deal with their sin. The vowed members had meetings that the non-vowed people could not come to. In those meetings we talked about the ‘deeper life’, that life we were supposed to get to through “the daily cross of dying to our sin”. Even for vowed members, there was an inner circle. Cay and Judy, and then Betty would pick those people who were the most compliant to be close to them and help with the running of the organization. They were called the Council, and on paper were supposed to be advisors, and a check and balance for the leadership. I knew that was in word only and that Cay and Judy, and then Betty, held sway and gave all directions. Their word was law, and more important than God’s. I did not compare what she said to the Bible to see if it was in line with God’s word. I accepted her edicts as the word of God.
- “The group uses deceptive means, typically, to recruit new members, and then once recruited will subject its members to an organized program of thought reform, or what most people refer to as brainwashing.”
- I wish I had the transcripts of the early teachings. They would show the progression of mind control that we went through. We are all lovey-dovey to the outside world, proclaiming how wonderful our life is, and how happy we all are. And yet in the Convent and in the homes I saw every day how miserable, unhappy, stressed and anxious everyone was. Once someone becomes a member, they are put in a household, and the head of that household is their ‘counselor’. That counselor makes sure they learn obedience. “God Blesses Obedience” is a clarion call of CJ. It might be true in some cases, but it is used at CJ to make you give up your own thinking. The mind control is insidious because it is cloaked in Christianity, and scripture is used in a warped way to make you think God wants this of you.
- “Typically cults also exploit their members…. mostly financially. Within the group, they’ll exploit members financially, psychologically, emotionally and, all too often, sexually.”
- My husband and I were exploited financially in that we could never save any money for our own future or our children’s future. We were pressured all the time to give money to CJ. We could never get ahead, even when he had a good paying job. Those who came with lots of money gave most of it to CJ. I have heard rumors of sexual abuse, but have no proof. The emotional and psychological abuse/exploitation was extreme. I suffered greatly because of it. It would take a book to go into all the ways this happened, and I am trying to write that book. A few of the ways: constant humiliation, constant fear of having my inner life exposed (sin-hunting), having my children taken away from me and raised by others, never having my talents recognized, never receiving any help for my emotional turmoil – being told I should just ‘give it up’, etc.
- “A very important aspect of cult is the idea that if you leave the cult, horrible things will happen to you. This is important, and it’s important to realize. That people outside of a cult are potential members, so they’re not looked upon as negatively as people inside the cult who then leave the cult.”
- The leaders taught, often, that if you left your ‘call’ you would be out from under the protection of God, and all manner of bad things would happen to you, your life would spin out of control, you would end up on the streets, homeless, a junkie, a whore, etc. When someone did leave we were told to not think of them, not contact them, refuse to answer any contact from them. They were dead to us. And yet someone kept track because we would hear of any bad things that happened, and it would be said that proved how God would not protect those who left. An even greater pressure was the teaching that if you left, you would be breaking your promise to God, that you would be a Judas, an unforgivable sin. You would be turning your back on God if you left. That is why it took me so long to leave, and I was afraid God would strike me down. I took my vows seriously. Cay and Judy said they may be Christians out there somewhere that were living a committed life, but they had not met them. Betty P. said that everyone outside of CJ was “dead” (meaning spiritually). We were the special group with the special call.