A Cult Within a Cult

Image from Suzanne Titkemeyer used with permission
Image from Suzanne Titkemeyer used with permission

by Suzanne Titkemeyer cross posted from her blog What Would Roger Sterling Do? originally published December 17, 2014

I was going to talk about my scintillating and thrilling day yesterday gravitating between lying on the sofa, the kitchen to shove batches of Christmas cookies in and out of the oven for Jim’s office party, loading unloading folding ironing laundry between more bouts laying down on the sofa because of the flu but then I ran into a posting on Facebook that make me take a look at something I’d been heavily involved with over at the Creek Church – Gwen Shamblin and her Weigh Down Workshop.

It must have been around 1997 or so when one of the older ladies at Creek Church started a Weigh Down Workshop class and I was exposed to the grating hog-calling voice of one Mrs. Gwen Shamblin and her ideas that all fat is sin.

Since I’d been fully immersed in a church that saw sin in every breath and the devil under every bush I wasn’t scornful of this idea, like I should have been. I joined the group, watched the cheesetastic videos of Gwen saying you could eat whatever you wanted as long as you were spending scads of time with God every single day, were actually hungry when you sat down to eat and you ate only until you felt the beginnings of fullness.

This dietitian with a degree from a legitimate university, not some Bible college without accreditation, claimed that your body could make whatever nutrient you needed from whatever you ate. Carbs, proteins, fibers, vitamins, whatever, God had designed your body so magnificently and perfectly that He could turn that baked potato from a starch to a protein if your body really needed protein.

Did she have scientific analysis or tests or anything to back up her claim? Nope, just the Bible, like others in a shilling for that fat stack of sweet Jesus cash from Christians ministry (business). Even at my most indoctrinated True Believer ™ swilling the koolaid mode I had doubts about that claim. But I found out that a combination of eating only when I was hungry, only what I was hungry for and only to fullness combined with her Bible study worked for me. I lost fifty pounds pretty easily.

The whole simple idea of eating when you are hungry and only to full is so so so simple and basic that I don’t know why any of us took this as a novel new idea! But all the Bible study was just some Evangelical mental masturbatory material to make us feel so special and holy.

Eventually I took over as the WDW coordinator for our church. I held the meetings, I led the study, I pushed ‘play’ on the VCR. We went through many cycles of the WDW, and I lost about twenty more pounds. But… as time went by I saw the same faces repeating the WDW every three months and they
weren’t losing weight, most playing mind games with the material and claiming they were following Gwen’s instructions. This went on nearly three years.

Then my father had a stroke. Jim and I had to drive through the night as I’d missed the last evening flight from DC to South Louisiana and by driving straight through we figured out we’d arrive about an hour sooner than if I caught the first flight with an open seat the next day. What followed was a horrible couple of weeks where I arrived only to be told my father was brain dead, had to make the decision with my step mother to turn off life support and watch him die. Lots of family dysfunction from my aunts and others, one funeral where I was the only one not too emotionally wiped out so all the arrangements and planning fell to me. Drama.

When I came back I was still so wiped out, just then starting to deal with the emotional fallout of my beloved father’s death, that I never restarted the WDW meetings. I told the members that between work and working through my grief I had to take a sabbatical from the meetings. Before many months had passed I was called into our pastor’s office where he told me that we could no longer do WDW as an officially sanctioned church activity because there was some question about the faith of the founder Gwen Shamblin.

I didn’t investigate it, taking our pastor’s word that Gwen had denied the Trinity and told the rest in the group that we would no longer be meeting. Handed all the materials back to the pastor where they were promptly thrown out with the trash. I thought no more about it and shortly after got pretty heavily involved with conference hopping, going to Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, Brownsville Revival (which I’d started attending every time I went down to Louisiana a few years before my dad’s death) and up to Global Awakenings in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I’ve always said that the moment I started doing the conference hopping thing was the moment where my faith went from staid black and white to techicolor wide screen rainbow. I’m still glad I had that experience even if I no longer believe everything that was taught at those places. One thing that was pretty short supply at any of those places was legalism. Had I left the Creek without the teachings on love and the exposure to different types of theology I received I don’t doubt I would be dead now, a suicide in the aftermath of our painful leaving from the Creek. The things I learned at other places sustained me during that time.

Years later I heard that Gwen had said most Christians weren’t very Christian or serious about their faith. At the time I was shocked by her statement but after eight years out I have to say I agree with her. Where I disagree is in the fact that she started her own church, The Remnant, which has more in common with Michael Pearl and other dangerous theology than any movement to free Christianity from legalism.

After seeing someone mention Gwen and the Remnant church on Facebook this afternoon I did a great deal of Googling and reading, finding one of the best written pieces on the whole mess at SpiritWatch.org.

SpiritWatch.org describes her new teachings and church as this:

Each course, which is essentially a rehashing of her WDW philosophy and spirituality, is written with emphases that are rife with this unhealthy dimension of indoctrinating pressure. The targeted audiences for Shamblin’s product line are all people already troubled by carnal perfectionism and pious obsession with one’s “temple” – namely overweight people and her WDW/RF flocks. And Gwen expects her followers to not only agree with her fear-ridden view of God’s severity but to adopt it into their own mindset with all of the spiritual, emotional and philosophical implications such fearful assumptions will personally bring to them.

Yep, like so many different hateful legalistic groups the Remnant church appears to be all about fear, fear, fear, getting others to join in the fearing and being exclusive.

Obsessed as she is with a desire to lead people in a church she would head and control, Shamblin has been repainting her entire WDW superstructure with all the bright colors her marketing successes could display. Gaining exposure on national and local TV markets provides for her new opportunities for market share. Such publicity is color coordinated seamlessly with the  promotional scheme of her Remnant programming, down to the “Before/After” photos, the teary testimonies by glowing, well dressed members, and the supremely self-assured visage of a beaming Gwen “loving on” her followers. But beneath it all to this day are the beautifully concealed snares of fear and dread Gwen had set for her audience to walk into.

Shamblin has long known what she is doing. By continually making these fear-invoking moral and social codes binding upon all who join her Remnant movement, beginning with a rebaptism, she has established in essence a new body of pseudochristian religious law. Drawing from her obsession with Old Testament Judaism’s perspective on Yahweh, and by adapting Jewish festivals and holy days out of her fertile religious imagination, Gwen Shamblin has – as she likes to point out through what others say about her – become a Lawgiver of a Remnant “Law” that her flock is to enthusiastically keep.

In effect, she has become a modern day Ebionite, having created her own diet-oriented religion and culture, complete with its’ own unique customs, rules and language using reinterpreted Christian and Jewish terminology.

Many WDW and RF members and their families, tragically, never knew what hit them when they were seduced out of their Christian churches into this new cultic one. They smile and reckon themselves to be a “pure” and “free” people, but bear within themselves hidden wells of apprehension, terror and anxiety all the while hiding it so well from their fellow members of Zion. They are people of scarred and burnt out conscience in Remnant who will stand by it no matter what outrage of principle and practice evolves there, primarily because they are too petrified or fearful to come to grips with the consequences of freedom from it – namely the loss of their Remnant spouses, friends, even job connections and family circles.

Any time anyone tries to tell you that only their group is ‘pure’, ‘righteous’, or ‘free’ run! People that want you to divorce your spouse because they don’t believe the same way as you – RUN…to quote Mr. Hoggwallop of  the movie ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou” you better R.U.N N. O.F.T! As fast as you can!

For all the faults and foilables of my old church and i’s cult-like behaviors at they were able to recognize the cult in all of this and shut it down. Being drawn into Shamblin’s Remnant would have made everything I went through leaving the Creek all that much worse, even if I’d been pressured by those at my old church to stay and divorce my husband because he wanted to go to a mainstream denomination church.

People that wander off into their own weird ponderings on the Old Testament sure do end up in some odd places.

One of the big scandals of the Remnant church is the death of an eight year old boy disciplined to death in the same way that children who’s parents use Michael Pearl’s ‘To Train Up A Child’ book killed them. More from Religion News Blog, who reported on this along with many other media outlets:

But the new charges filed against two Remnant Fellowship members, Joseph and Sonya Smith from Atlanta, may raise even more questions.
The Smiths are accused of killing their 8-year-old son Josef.
The new indictment claims that not only did the Smiths beat Josef, they also had locked him up in some sort of a wooden box.
And, in charges that could reflect back on their church’s teachings, they’re also accused of cruelty to children and false imprisonment — specifically for confining him in a small room.
It’s an idea that, in a church tape obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Sonya Smith told Shamblin that she’d learned from another Remnant leader.
“We got everything out of there and locked him in there from that Friday until Monday and only left him in his room with his Bible,” Sonya Smith boasted.
Shamblin told us, “Remnant does not advocate any of that.”
But here’s what she told Sonya Smith:
“That’s a miracle. You’ve got a child that’s going from bizarre down to in-control. So praise God.”
In addition, Joseph Smith, who is shown in one of Shamblin’s videos with an older son, is still charged along with his wife with child cruelty for allegedly beating young Josef with rod-like glue sticks.
“Glue sticks are actually sort of common within the Remnant Fellowship culture to be used to physically discipline children,” said former Remnant recruit Adam Brooks.
“Because they hurt like switches, that it really hurts, but it doesn’t make marks on your children,” former member Teri Phillips recalled.Former members say it’s an idea they heard at church.
Shamblin insisted it didn’t come from her.
“It came from a member somewhere, someplace else and then it went around.”

Sounds suspiciously like “To Train Up A Child” and Michael Pearl.

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Suzanne Titkemeyer is the admin of NLQ and also the wife of a man who had sense enough to recognize their church as a cult before dragging her out. She is a crazy old cat lady keeps busy with her grown children, her rescue animals, foster care animals and her love of all things art. Contrary to Fundy-Belief she’s usually smiling, laughing or smirking while swilling diet coke and dispensing sarcasm. She blogs at What Would Roger Sterling Do? and True Love Doesn’t Rape

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