Thursday, February 18, 2016


Last week I finished Amanda Lindhout's compelling memoir, A House in the Sky, recounting her 15 months as a hostage in Somalia. Aside from being food for nightmares, what impressed me deeply was the community she had back home that was working to save her. Although isolated and alone in her dark room, separated from her fellow-captive, there were many many people in Canada that worked tirelessly to obtain her release.

Then I listened to a talk by Steve Hassan, who, according to Wikipedia, "is an American licensed mental health counselor who has written extensively on the subject of cults." He joined the Moonies when he was 19 and was in for a couple years when a traffic accident landed him in the hospital. His sister visited and convinced him to go home with her to meet her son who had been born after Steve joined the cult. He agreed, but asked that she not tell his parents because they didn't like him being in the Moonies. Fortunately, she did tell his parents, and they arranged an intervention in the form of a deprogramming, and after five days of this, he came to his senses. He went on to study cult recruitment methods, write Combatting Cultic Mind Controland become an expert on cults.

I wonder if people take their families and friends for granted? I know it's easy to take our "normal" for granted. Both of those people's salvations were made possible by others. What if they had had no friends and family? Or what if their parents were dead and their friends and families were so caught up in their own lives that they had no time to think about them? The endings may not have been so happy.

So much of the power of cults to keep its members comes from their burning of bridges - cutting off contact with their friends and families and keeping them isolated. Orphans are even easier to keep. Where can they go?

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