Leadership,  Mindfulness,  Mindset,  Parenting,  Relationships,  Spirituality

I was recruited into a Religious Cult IRL. It was traumatizing.

We don’t know anything about some of the religious “leaders” we follow or even the friends we keep.

Since I was born up until 2009, I attended a popular “denomination” that claimed to love God and revere Jesus Christ. I followed this denomination because my birth mom, some of her sisters, and their children (my cousins) attended also.


Within the congregation, members appeared to have it all. They wore modest clothing, gave each other warm hugs, smiled at those who were considered ‘newbies’, organized picnics and member only parties, made house calls and were always attending the most hyped up conferences which they termed “assemblies” (held every quarter) and “conventions” (held yearly).  


Not only were members termed beloved “sons and daughters” of God, but they also had a special love relationship with God. They were considered the “chosen” ones. They were leaders of the lost souls, and the rest of the world was doomed to destruction, that is, if you weren’t a part of them and them only. The members presented themselves as kind, loyal, and compassionate people, to those people they wanted to recruit and within their members and newbies. It was all a front. 


They discouraged higher education and mocked education and academics in general. So was critical thinking. Men growing beards were chastised. Women wearing trousers were rebuked. Reading books aside from those published within the congregation was discouraged. Making friends outside the denomination was not allowed.


At the time, I felt trapped. I despised feeling that way.


When my friends offered to leave and escape this high-control environment, I was ecstatic. I looked forward to leaving too, and started seeking a way out.

The Escape

My father encouraged me to apply to several university colleges abroad, and I did. I got accepted into a small, quaker college and received a 4-year scholarship.

I arrived in a rural town, in Richmond, Indiana, in 2010. I entered my dormitory and began noticing the change of scenery. It felt like a breath of fresh air to be away from such a restricting environment.

I plunged myself into the first group of people I could find. I started calling them my “friends.” We partied, and lived an active lifestyle. Quite the opposite of the sedentary lifestyle I was introduced to as a child. I completely ignored any talks of church, evangelism, prayer, or communion with God.


I thought to myself: Church people are so boring. I thought the point of going to church was so that I didn’t have to deal with any more problems? I desperately wanted to feel liberated. Not caged!


Without looking in their direction, I continued to live a lifestyle that mocked religion. It was my way of reclaiming my stolen sense of childhood. After college, I continued surrounding myself with people who boasted about how much they hated going to church. They would make inflammatory remarks about their childhood upbringing and church folks. Especially the women. From their perfectly plump and lip-glossed mouth, emerged some of the ugliest words I have ever heard.


I was stunned. I found myself tolerating bad behavior, bad habits, and bad attitudes. I had picked up some myself. I was enraptured by their stories. I made some of my own. Lots of my friends at the time even agreed with me. I was so lost. Now that I think about it, I can’t believe the way I geared myself off the path. In 2017, I excused myself and fell to my knees at the feet of Jesus. I was tired of running and hiding. Although I don’t think any of my secular friends noticed I was changing.


When I returned to Christ, my “friends” started mocking me. Even some family members who belonged to the cult I escaped from ridiculed me. They couldn’t believe that I was becoming a different version. Transforming. Embracing a new concept of self. Reclaiming my true identity. When speaking about me, some of them used my own words against me. Betrayed. The people I was once loyal to, became disloyal towards me.


I was extremely uncomfortable for a long time. I took a hiatus from everything and everyone. I isolated myself from the world. I needed some one-on-one time with God. I regretted, and still regret to this day, not calling my friends out on their “untruthful”, “disloyal”, and “insulting” behavior. After seeing them for who they truly were, I just wanted it all to be over. But they kept hovering on and on about how I was “changing”.

After about two years of listening to them gossip incessantly about me, and making me the enemy, I decided to end things with them and block out their communication. I needed a new set of people around me, a new set of friends, a different environment. When I ended things with them, they gave me dirty looks and were irritated I stopped talking to them.

Through my brief experience with these different sets of people, I learned several things:


  • People who do not have any cult experience just don’t get it at all
  • People who leave cults lose their sense of reality and who they are as a person
  • Cults are all about conformity and compliance
  • Their lifestyle is funded by hate, pain, bitterness, jealousy and judgment
  • Sometimes jealousy is hidden and other times it is openly revealed. Run away, don’t accommodate it
  • Whether you are good, nice or kind, there will always be people sent by the devil to you
  • Shutting betrayers out of your life is important. Don’t hesitate to do this because if you continue to give them room, they will hurt you and limit you
  • Most often, God isolates you because He wants you to hear from Him directly
  • When you have so much going on around you, it brings distraction which will only slow you down
  • Good friends are people who have a heart for you and will not betray or sabotage you
  • You can be loving, supportive, and accommodating and still have boundaries with people
  • When you see the red flags, stop and run the other way

Cults and bad friends still exist and present the image of being your allies. They’re still out there deceiving people, pretending to love people, and pretending to care about you. Some of them may even profess to be Christians. Pray for them.

*Forming the proper alliances and friendships is the only way to succeed.


*Character is everything.


*Be careful. Nobody has all the answers, only the Bible does, and once you turn that over to someone, you put yourself at great risk.


To learn more about how to recognize cults, controlling leaders, and occultic denominations, listen to this episode of my podcast. 


And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24: 11-12)

**Erica weaves themes of transformative hope and grace-filled leadership into everything she shares on her blog. She’s an author, a speaker, and a life coach, who offers honest encouragement and road-tested wisdom about topics ranging from leadership and lifestyle, to discovering your God-crafted identity, design, and purpose.

This post is sponsored by: https://hype.co/@ericakenechi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *