From “Social Justice Warrior” to Kingdom Hopeful

I just thought I’d share a little more about my background, so you can see where I’ve come from and how God has brought me here through His grace and love 💞💖

I was basically brought up to be a “Social Justice Warrior”, in a rather liberal Christian environment. As a teenager, I campaigned energetically for “Third World Debt” to be dropped, taking part in protests and political action and other charity work… I even travelled to Genoa, Italy for the G8 protest in 2001 and I was also present at another large international protest in Geneva, Switzerland and London, England…

I had been told that I could “change the world” and help bring an end to poverty and injustice, but as the years went on, I started to feel more and more disheartened and discouraged… I saw that our human efforts to bring positive, lasting change were always limited by our own brokenness and inadequacy…

At that time (from around 1999 to 2004) I firmly believed that the church was Christ’s “hands and feet” and that it was our job to bring God’s Kingdom to earth… However, as you can imagine, trying to carry that out was extremely exhausting and frustrating, because I saw that the church itself was riddled with corruption, apathy and general disorganisation…

By around 2005-2006, I was thoroughly disillusioned with my naivé, idealistic ideas about “changing the world”. I was at such a vulnerable, lost stage of my life, with quite a lot of family trauma and baggage that I ended up joining a cult…

But despite this, I am extremely grateful for God’s mercy and grace through all of that, and especially the fact that he showed me the truth of his Kingdom, that He has promised to establish on earth through his Son, our Messiah, Yeshua. I will NEVER let go of my STRONG conviction that this planet will be redeemed, restored, renewed and cleansed of all the toxic injustice, corruption and pollution that it is infested with, when Jesus comes in glory to put everything right.

This is the only thing that brings me real hope when I watch the news and am tempted to despair at the current state of the world.

I know that not everyone here shares my convictions, and that’s okay. I don’t wish to start a debate here or stir up controversy, but simply to “come clean” about who I am and where I’m coming from.

If there are others here who also share in this Kingdom hope, please don’t be afraid to admit it… The fact is that not every single detail of what we were taught in our former cult was lies; now the challenge is to sift through all those teachings with the Scriptures and see which ones we can continue to cling onto, and which ones we can let go of 🌿🌿🌿

Protecting your heart over the holiday season

If you’re having to deal with very difficult people over this holiday period, this is something to keep in mind (for your OWN sanity):

When speaking to very toxic, manipulative people, we could consider the following, well-known words, which do seem to be relevant here:

“You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you…”

If we can’t avoid these kinds of people completely, we do need to be very careful of our words around them, so they can’t twist and manipulate us to their advantage.

At the same time, as Christians we’re called to love and pray for them. However, that doesn’t mean subjecting ourselves willingly to their abusive behaviour, but it can mean distancing ourselves emotionally while remaining kind, firm and polite.

If, through the power of the Holy Spirit in us (because this is EXTREMELY difficult in our own strength) we can calmly rise above their lies and manipulation, they will eventually see that they can’t provoke an emotional response from us and they may lose interest and leave us alone.

We need to realise that some people just seem to be HUNGRY for drama and attention; they want to be the victim in every situation and need to find a villain to point at and shout about. Don’t take the bait; don’t try to reason with them or attempt to change them, just pray for them, walk away and seek healthier people to surround yourself with.

The challenge of communicating with cult members

People can be educated out of ignorance, with much patience, gentleness and tact, but if we use the tools of shame, sarcasm or ridicule, we will just alienate them.

If we’re feeling angry because someone REFUSES to listen to reason, it’s best to simply wipe the dust off our feet and stop trying to throw our pearls to “pigs”. Otherwise, we’ll become exasperated and may resort to the unhealthy methods mentioned above.

This can happen sometimes when people try to communicate with fully indoctrinated cult members. It can be extremely frustrating to see how “brain washed” people are, and tempting to try and “get through to them” with raised emotions or a barrage of information.

Sadly, this very rarely works. Their “flight or fight” mechanism will probably kick in, and they’ll either run from you or aggressively defend their group.

This can end up leading them even deeper into their cult mindset, as they will see you as a “persecutor” who wants to “attack” their group.

So, does that mean that we can do NOTHING to help wake them up or sow some seeds of doubt that could help them to break free from their mental oppression? Not at all. NOT AT ALL.

According to Steven Hassan, internationally renowned cult expert, the first thing to do is to try and build up a friendly rapport with the cult member. Start with a smile, a warm greeting or some neutral small talk. If you’re dealing with a friend or loved one, you’ll need to work hard to establish TRUST with them, otherwise they will always see you as the “enemy” in some way. Tread carefully and be patient, showing great respect and compassion towards them as human beings.

When you feel like you’ve gained their trust or broken the ice (if you’re speaking with a stranger), it’s generally much better to ask intelligent, searching questions, rather than bombarding them with facts in an overwhelming way. If you’re speaking to a Jehovah’s Witness, the following link has some great questions that you could use to initiate a discussion:

https://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/questions-to-ask-a-jehovahs-witness.php

Finding joy after guilt

“Every time we violate our values or faith, we suffer from inner tension and guilt feelings. This principle is true, regardless of our religious commitment or ideological orientation. It is a function of conscience that God has designed, as part of His image within us. Each time we intentionally commit a sin or consciously fall into a temptation, we endure serious consequences. Some element dies inside of us, as if sin has a destructive power to kill healthy spiritual cells in our organism. To recover from that impact is, at times, like recovering from a major surgical operation.

On the other hand, our conscience will stop bothering us if we repeatedly violate the same value or standard. Gradually, we lose the intensity of the guilt, not because our conscience has become crippled but because our norms have been modified, softened, and therefore, compromised.

Mercifully, God affirms us in that when failure occurs, restoration is needed and forgiveness is available. We are called to be a people of principle, to cultivate righteousness and to have clear moral and ethical values based on sound biblical standards. May the Lord grant us that virtue.”

By Naji Abi-Hashem from Lebanon

“Welcome those who are weak in faith”

I simply adore this message in Romans 14. I find it SO DIFFERENT to the highly controlling sermons I used to hear in my former cult

Instead of spelling out every little detail of what people could and couldn’t do (regarding day-to-day issues like eating meat or vegetables etc), Paul gave instructions for mutual tolerance, respect and compassion. He told them to follow their own consciences and not to judge one another:

“Welcome those who are weak in faith, but do not argue with them about their personal opinions. Some people’s faith allows them to eat anything, but the person who is weak in the faith eats only vegetables.

The person who will eat anything is not to despise the one who doesn’t; while the one who eats only vegetables is not to pass judgment on the one who will eat anything; for God has accepted that person.

Who are you to judge the servants of someone else? It is their own Master who will decide whether they succeed or fail. And they will succeed, because the Lord is able to make them succeed. Some people think that a certain day is more important than other days, while others think that all days are the same. We each should firmly make up our own minds.”

Romans 14:1‭-‬5

Experiencing God’s grace while sick with the ‘flu

For the last five days, I’ve been stuck in bed with the ‘flu. I’d love to say that it’s been a great opportunity to rest and catch up on worthwhile spiritual activities, but the reality is that I’ve been feeling so lousy, all I can manage is to binge-watch silly comedies on Netflix and toss and turn at night, feeling feverish and miserable…

This experience of coming face-to-face with my broken human weakness has been VERY humbling.

Although I have been trying to learn to develop a more self-compassionate attitude, I actually seemed to be stuck on a loop of self-pity, complaining, and regret…

I kept trying to give myself little pep talks, to count my blessings and remember those less fortunate than myself…

But the truth is that it hasn’t been working. Earlier on today, I sat on the floor in the hallway and complained bitterly to my poor, long-suffering husband, about all my woes and my terrible frustration at not being well… 😩😩😩

Then, I felt ashamed of myself and apologised for my childishness…

And so, I’ve been ping-ponging between feeling sorry for myself and then becoming embarrassed for not coping better with a simple bout of the ‘flu.

I realise that I am trying to regulate my emotions in a very human way: either by expressing them openly and unrestrainedly like a child, or attempting to control them with an iron fist.

The fact is that neither strategy has brought me peace.

Before starting to write this, I lay down on my bed and cried out in anguish to God, asking for help and relief. I apologised for my immature behaviour, and then began to feel that I don’t really deserve pity or help, because there are many more people in the world who are suffering much more than me… I mean, I have a warm bed, nutritious food to eat, a husband who cares for me… I thought: do I even have the right to feel bad???

Then I sensed a still, small voice of grace in my heart, telling me: it’s not a competition, Emily. I love you. Rest in my love”.

And then I began to cry, as I felt so moved and humbled again.

Jesus knew that I didn’t need a motivational pep talk about my emotional “failures”… During my moments of pure weakness and brokenness, he knew I just needed to feel loved and appreciated.

If you have been feeling unwell, undeserving or alone, please do let me know so I can pray for you. I’ve been so grateful today for some lovely, supportive friends in the Faith after Deception Fellowship who have been sending me prayers and encouragement during my illness. I almost thought I didn’t deserve to ask for prayer as it’s only the ‘flu, but I’m so glad I did. We often need to reach out of our comfort zones to receive support and that can be hard and scary, but it’s definitely worth it. Big hugs to everyone, and have a great week

Finding our true identity after spiritual abuse

I personally find that when you’ve been around toxic people long enough, either in a family environment or as part of a cult or a highly controlling church, (or worse, BOTH!), you tend to get a very twisted view of your own identity and also human nature in general.

In a religious context, you may end up feeling that you are a “lowly worm” and that in general, people can’t be trusted. Since all you’ve known of relationships has been painful, complex and tiresome, it can give you the impression that this is the norm and that’s all you can expect 😫😫

Neuroscience has proven that when we’re chronically tired, stressed and/or emotionally depleted, our ability to make wise decisions is severely impaired. We’ll generally just resort to what feels comfortable, familiar or safe. The problem is: if we aren’t used to being in a truly safe environment, we may find ourselves surrounded by yet more toxic people, because that’s what feels normal to us.

On the other hand, if we meet people who are genuinely kind, sincere and loving, we may get scared and run away, because they just feel so unfamiliar and foreign to us. Or, we may be terrified of opening up and being vulnerable, because we’ve been hurt so many times in the past and fear we just can’t risk it again…

Maybe we don’t believe we actually “deserve” love or are worthy of someone else’s affection, so we distance ourselves from them…

This is also the reason why toxic churches and cults can be so damaging to our ability to form healthy friendships and relationships. There is a constant environment of criticism, blame, and gossip, and they don’t teach that we are beloved or saved by grace, but that we must strive after perfection in order to earn God’s love.

However, once we begin to stand in our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Most High, we can move towards healthy relationships that are not dictated by fear, manipulation or selfishness.

I truly believe that once we can accept that God is good and that he loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, we can really flourish and start to form healthy relationships. When we receive His love in our hearts and it starts to irradiate through our being to others because it will be Christ’s love that is flowing through our veins, not our own. Our whole self will be founded on the rock of Christ’s love for us, rather than on the slippery sinking sands of fear, self-loathing or insecurity.

This transition to self-compassion and the deep knowledge of our belovedness can take time and isn’t usually immediate. We have acquired many toxic thought patterns in our brains that tell us that we “aren’t enough” and can constantly slip back into anxiety, self-doubt, and envy… Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to make a conscious effort to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:12) so we can finally understand with our heart and mind that we are beloved and not cursed. This can be a long process, and we will need the encouragement of others on the way and great patience and grace towards ourselves.  If you’re currently going through this process and are looking for a safe place to share, I invite you to email me at faithafterdeception@gmail.com or to join our Faith after Deception Fellowship group if you’re not a member already. I’d love to hear from you and to pray for you.

Much love in Christ,

Emily

The Prodigal Son