Cults and Cult Behaviors

Cults and Cult Behaviors July 11, 2014

by Suzanne Titkemeyer

Yesterday over on Reddit someone submitted the question:

[Serious] Former cult members or friends of cult members of Reddit, what is you creepiest, scariest or most disturbing story and is that what made you leave?

…and the answers poured in. There was even talk of some cult activity in the Islamic realm, Jehovah Witness’, Moonies,Hari Krishna, Catholicism  and Scientology along with a great deal of scary postings about fundamental evangelical Christianity. All of it is a fascinating read.

Someone had this to say about their time in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist college Hyles-Anderson about the fact that convicted sex offender Jack Schaap having keys to every room in the college dorms and his habit of just showing up in the girls dorms:

The creepy factor is, I know for a fact that this man had keys to every door on campus and he was known to make surprise visits to the girls’ dormitories. Meaning…this convicted predator had a key to my room and no one dared question him on anything.

This story sounds very much like something that could have happened at Teen Mania, like many of the story at the Recovering Alumni site  – Living That Cult Life. My daughter Laura has her own abusive story of her time at Teen Mania here on NLQ.

The Pentecostals had their own ‘discipleship’ program:

We could only talk to our families once a week for 10 minutes at a time. the leaders would listen to our phone conversations and if we said anything that the ministry deemed “unwholesome” the phone call was terminated and you lost your right to speak to your family indefinitely. Every aspect of life is regimented. you were never by yourself, unless you were using the bathroom or showering. If you broke one of their rules (like blaspheming the holy spirit for one, or questioning authority) you were put on discipline. Discipline lasted usually from 2 weeks to up to 3 months, depending on the infraction. You ate last, getting the leftovers once everyone else was done. You couldn’t speak to your family at all. You had to work out in the shop for long periods of time (this was bad because there was no running water or toilet, just a bucket.)You had extra prayer time, had more scripture to memorize etc. They didn’t allow you to take medicine, or go to the doctor. If you got sick it was because you allowed the devil into your body and the only way to fix it was through prayer. I was put on discipline alot when I first came into the program. Being 19 i was the the youngest girl there; and coming from a non-Pentecostal religious upbringing I was shocked and scared by the environment. I couldn’t tell my family however, and they wouldn’t have believed me even if I could tell them the sort of environment I was in. I came in on March 10th 2009, and after 4 months of being on pretty much constant discipline, I resigned myself to my fate and started buckling in.

But it was the reply by a young man who’d been part of ATI’s Eagle Springs Training Center that was the most compelling.

For the next two years, I am tortured, brainwashed, starved, sleep deprived, threatened with a shotgun, punished, humiliated, interrogated, and terrorized. I lose 40 pounds in the first month or two. They take me off my medications (believing it is wrong to take them) cold turkey; I exhibit severe symptoms of withdrawal and they go ignored. I am worked grueling hours, sent on aimless hikes and marches, scrubbing floors on my hands and knees until my knuckles are cracked and bleeding from the bleach, punished with hard labor until I’m near fainting. They had fun coming up with new and strange “punishments” (this implies that it is deserved, when in fact they are instructed specifically to break their students’ will whatever it takes). One was a forced vow of silence: You were told never to speak for days or weeks on end – if you do, you are punished further. I was given tasks designed to fail (for example, extremely short time limits on difficult tasks) in order to be punished and humiliated. I was forced to grovel and confess humiliating sins (existent and non) in front of the 30-or-so members in the compound. I was given spoiled, undercooked foods, and even chemically-treated water that burned my throat and left me horribly sick. I was placed in solitary confinement for 2 1/2 weeks, while they blared music to torture me (the song lyrics went, “Trust in the Lord, he makes no mistakes, he knoweth the end of each path that we take – for when I am tried, and purified, I shall come forth as gold” — basically it was a blatant message…you’re being tortured because God loves you and he’s going to put you through fire to melt you into gold) and gave me endless confessional papers to complete detailing what a terrible sinner I am. I was interrogated for hours on end, as well as hypnotized. I was screamed at and “exorcised” for hours on end. I had no privacy, even going to the bathroom they would stand outside the door.

Dear readers, have any of you come across this Eagle Springs Training Center in your years as part of Bill Gothard’s ATI/IBLP group?

I think Reddit contributors did a good job exposing the fact that any religion can devolve into a cult. Anyone have anything they’d like to add?

Comments open below

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M Dolon Hickmon


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