My ex husband, Mr. Marty Warner, Independence, Oregon was the one who was “involved in the Catholic/Christian cult groups. I was forced to “submit and obey. Often I would run away from these groups only to be harmed further.” Below are some of my personal notes from the experiences. You may review if you wish.
- Coral Anika Theill
Author, Advocate & Free Lance Reporter
Salem-News.com Staff & Reporter
Contributing Writer for Leatherneck Magazine
Coral’s Website: http://www.coralanikatheill.com
“Comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable.”
Notes from Coral Anika Theill’s journal in 1984 – 1985 after leaving a Catholic Charismatic Community (Cult) in Corvallis, Oregon named “People of Praise.”
My ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner, Independence, Oregon, was also involved in “Bridgeport Community Chapel, Monmouth, Oregon, and the Yahweh cult movement, Bill Gothardism, Church of God and other movements that involved the extreme oppression of women and children.
The following are characteristics of this community and other church organizations my ex-husband belonged to.
Cults: One definition is “little groups” which break off from the conventional consensus and espouse very different views of the real, the possible and the moral.
They are authoritarian, manipulative, totalistic and sometimes communal. It would include such factors as authoritarian leadership patterns, loyalty and commitment mechanisms, lifestyle characteristics, and conformity patterns including the use of various sanctions in connection with those members who deviate.
Besides the doctrinal concerns of these groups – the most damaging is the psychological, physical harm and moral injury, and disruption of family ties.
Here are common characteristics of a cult:
1. Authoritarian – there is always a central human leader who commands total loyalty and allegiance. The leader exercises authority over both doctrine and practice and his interpretations of the “truth” are accepted by the members without question. The members’ self-identity and life goals are re-defined and have meaning only in relation to the leader and the group.
2. Oppositional – their beliefs, practices and values are counter to those of the dominant culture. They often place themselves in an adversarial role vis-a-vis major social institutions. (Community teaches that you will be persecuted for your beliefs and for being a part of “community,” but that we would have to oppose them because you know this is God’s will for you.)
3. exclusivity – elitism and exclusionism. The group is the only one which possesses the “truth” and therefore to leave the group is to endanger one’s salvation. Inside one can begin to feel mentally isolated because you feel that nobody “outside” was walking in as much truth as you were and thereby their opinion was not valid. You become cloistered in a world of Bible meetings and spiritual pride. You can feel that you have the only right truth and that no other people have anything to offer.
4. Legalistic – tightly structured autocratic groups operate within a legalistic framework which governs both spiritual matters and the details of everyday living. Rules and regulations abound. The specifics of a member’s life are controlled by policies and procedures originating with the leadership.
5. Subjective – cultic movements place considerable emphasis on the experiential – on feelings and emotions.
6. Persecution-conscious – perceived persecution is one of the hallmarks of virtually all new religious movements. They believe they are being singled out for persecution.
7. Sanction-oriented – cults require conformity to established practices and beliefs and readily exercise sanctions against the “wayward.” Those who fail to demonstrate the proper allegiance, who raise too many questions, disobey the rules or openly rebel are punished, formally excommunicated or merely asked to leave the group. (I experienced shunning from the members, even to this day.)
The more extreme cults regularly employ fear, intimidation and guilt to manipulate members. Frequently, members are inculcated with the fear that something terrible will happen to them or their loved ones should they ever leave the group. “Rebelling” members are sometimes subjected to emotional public confessions and humiliations including physical “rebukes” like slapping.
The signing of covenants and loyalty oaths is another means to achieve control. (The cult were involved in had a “marriage ceremony” that all members participated in and signed a “life covenant agreement,” in 1984. They believed they were all married and could never leave. I did not participate in this ceremony, but was forced to attend and watch. Members of this community are professional engineers at Hewlett-Packard, teachers in the Albany and Corvallis community, carpenters and contractors, secretaries, etc. Many of the women suffered mental breakdowns and or/severe depressions and other serious health problems.)
8. Esoteric – cultic religion is a religion of secrecy and concealment. There are levels of secrecy within the organization. After being there for a while and partaking of the regular services, one is then introduced to what is termed “deeper truths” at special meetings.
(The cult were involved in had “open” meetings once a month for new members -
the rest were “closed meetings.” No one but members could attend.)
9. Antisacerdotal – cults tend to be organizations composed of lay people. There are no paid clergy. Cults may tend to have spiritual hierarchies. They often choose to hold their meetings in centers, meeting halls, private homes, meditation rooms and sometimes even barns. (The cult we were involved in paid the lay people who were the leaders by our required tithes. Tithes were expected each month – at least 20% of your income. A retired priest was also a leader of this cult.)
Members will associate primarily with each other, but usually do not establish a separate communal existence.
The wordings in cults are often a visual delight of paradoxes and double
negatives. Their teachings are fully presented half-truths and cleverly
disguised lies mixed in with a good helping of people’s hopes and dreams.
Spiritual and mental bondage is often soon realize by those who are under
submission. Invasion of privacy is a signature feature of cults.
The most powerful emotional control tool cult leaders use on its members is
fear. The leaders create a phobia indoctrination. A member will have a panic
reaction at the very thought of leaving the group (cult). A member will
perceive that it is almost impossible to conceive that there is any life or
spirituality outside of the group. There is no physical gun held to the member’s
head, but the psychological gun is just as, if not more, powerful.
I had learned as a child that if I didn’t do as I was told, my personal safety would be
endangered. My experiences in this cult reinforced these experiences–isolation and
emotional and mental pain would follow any questioning of others’ motives, power and
control of me.
Shunning is a cruel and inhumane practice within many church groups and
cults. It is a form of “silent ridicule.” – Coral Anika Theill
“The Dark Side of Christian History” by Helen Ellerbe
“Woman Church and State: A Historical Account of the Status of Woman
Through the Christian Ages with Reminiscences of the Matriarchate”
Published in 1893, reprinted in 1998 by Matilda Joslyn Gage
BONSHEA: Making Light of the Dark by Coral Anika Theill
People’s Temple, People’s Tomb by Phil Kerns
“The Education of Little Tree” (family film, starring Graham Green)
“Burning Times” (Documentary of the witch hunts during the Inquisition of
the Catholic Church – Nine million women in Europe were burned at the stake -
“What the ‘Bleep’ Do We Know” (Independent Film, can be ordered through Borders/Barnes & Noble)
Coral Anika Theill