Report of an Encounter with the Group in Stuttgart (2005) and in Königstein / Taunus (2007)
During my college years, sadly, I had to experience how a fellow student and housemate, who studied religious education with me, stumbled into a group which I can only categorize as a cult. This experience was very drastic for me and other students.
Today (May 2007) while on a bike tour in the forest in the area of Königstein, I encountered this exact group, including my former housemate. There were around forty men and women, ranging in age from the early 20s to the mid 40s. I would like to briefly report about this encounter.
At first I saw only two women, who approached me. When they caught up to me, one of them suddenly asked me whether I had already talked to anyone today. Bewildered, I asked how she came to [ask such a question]. Then she said [that] they were Christians. Happily, I answered at first, yes, I am too, and I asked which congregation they came from. They [said that they] belonged to no congregation, that they consciously didn’t want to. They were simply a few Christians who lived together in community. At that moment, when I was asking about where [they belonged], I recognized the second woman as my former housemate. She recognized me in that instant, too, and she said that there was no point in having a conversation with me. We knew each other already.
“So, now you’re here in this region,” I said. She replied that, yes, now she was here, but that was beside the point. With that, they walked further, and the conversation was over. I walked my bicycle farther, because it was a relatively steep incline. More people, similar to the two women, came across me at different points along an extended route. During this time, in which I passed them, I was addressed three (!) times. In this way, I recognized that they are extremely missional.
Missionary zeal alone is certainly no reason to label a group as a cult. How, then, do I come to that conclusion? Among other things, the changes which I and others could see in our fellow student convinced me. This was during the time when she fell, bit by bit, into the group in the area of Stuttgart. She became continually more withdrawn, to the extent that, as she sought [more] contact with the group, she reduced contact with her friends. Conversations revolved more and more around the Bible exclusively and how one actually must live in order to please God and to be an authentic Christian. In addition, one must know that all her prior friends [from the time before she joined the cult] were and are sincere Christians! She allowed fewer and fewer other opinions, indeed, she even became aggressive sometimes. Many people said that a formerly fun person with a zest for life turned into a serious, withdrawn, and even partially aggressive person. If other people didn’t share her opinion, then they were out of favor with her. [She reckoned that] they were not interested in the “real truth,” and were therefore [considered] lost sinners. One shouldn’t have any fellowship with such people, as she had learned from her new friends in the meantime. Sadly, we only really became aware of all these changes in her when it was already too late. She always only told us that she was meeting with friends who read the Bible intensively and who live with Jesus radically. Who would have thought that this was something evil! We, i.e., her housemates, sadly only woke up [to the reality of it] when she announced that she was moving out the next day (it was in the middle of the semester) and discontinuing her studies in order to move in with her new friends.
Then, sadly only then, did we begin to inquire. I’d like to reproduce our questions, because the answers which our friend gave are typical of the information one gets from the group, or rather doesn’t get. If you hear such things, beware!
We asked, e.g.:
Question: “So, which church do your friends belong to?”
Answer: “They’re simply Christians who take their faith seriously. They don’t want to belong to any church, in order to be open to everyone.”
Question: “But they must have some type of name -” (Up to that day, I had honestly never experienced Christians who don’t belong to some type of congregation or denomination, or who don’t have a name!)
Answer: “No, they have no name.”
Question: “Where are you living now?”
Answer: “With them in the community.”
Question: “Yes, and where does this community live?”
Answer: “I don’t want to say. But we’re meeting this evening at Killesberg (a park in Stuttgart). If you want, you can come along and get to know them.”
We: “Yes, O.K., we’ll come along.”
During this conversation I had become perplexed. A community of Christians which doesn’t belong to any category, has no name, and doesn’t want to say where it’s located. We looked on the Internet and found the description of a group on the website of a cult specialist. This description fit hand-in-glove. The group was listed there under the name “Holic” (http://sekten-sachsen.de/holicgroup.htm). We confronted our friend on the way to the meeting with the printed-out material. She promised to read it through. When we arrived, we were anticipated by two women in the group – and – we were immediately separated. They agreed to meet again at a certain time. I was immediately confronted with all the things that one could find objectionable about our regional church (I list them here, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with all of them), like, e.g., divorce and remarriage, blessing gay civil unions, that most people in large churches don’t live at all according to their faith. Those are only some of the many criticisms with which I was confronted. Added to that was the statement that if a person really wants to be a Christian, she or he couldn’t remain in such a community / church, which not only tolerates sin but partially even calls it good!
In case you’ve ever attempted to have a discussion with Jehovah’s Witnesses, then you know approximately how the rest of the conversation went. We beat each other over the head with quotes from the Bible and with lines of reasoning, always with the intention of persuading the other. Sadly, this accomplished nothing.
The following points, however, became clear to me during the conversation. For me, these are also the points which qualify this group as a cult:
- They acknowledge no other Christians outside of their own group, not even those from the very pious free churches. [They say] that whoever is really a Christian will join their group.
- They are as legalistic as possible. In conversation, they do not deny grace, but in fact it becomes clear that only a life which is as “sinless” as possible leads to salvation.
- They reject any and every contact with sinners, and in this case that means everyone who does not allow himself to be converted to their way, regardless of how faithful that person might be.
- They acknowledge no baptism outside of their community, not even adult baptism.
- They do not pray with Christians who do not belong to their community.
- They have an extreme consciousness of elitism and missionality.
- They are extremely familiar with the Bible, so that even someone who studies religion appears almost ignorant [in comparison]. It’s guaranteed that they have a quote corresponding to every argument from your side: a quote which refutes you, so that you finally arrive at the thought that maybe they could be right. But then you have almost fallen into their trap.
- They attempt to exploit your desire for community and for radical discipleship.
Finally, at the end of our conversation, I confronted the members, inasmuch as I questioned them directly.
To my question about where they lived: They didn’t want to answer that directly. To my question about whether they had something to hide: [They replied that] this has nothing to do with the matter. To my question about whether they belonged to the Holic Group: Why would I want to know that? They’d already told me who they are. To my statement that I would like a yes-or-no answer now, they said: No, they didn’t belong to [the Holic Group]. That was a pure lie.
You can ask yourself how that’s supposed to fit together, that they lie directly to a person’s face and simultaneously claim that they radically follow Jesus.
How did things go for my housemate?
On the next day, like in a bad movie, a Ford van with obscured windows parked in front of the door. My housemate and the group members picked up her things. She attempted to avoid any conversation. Nonetheless, I confronted her with the lie. At that, she answered that I was not interested in the truth anyway, so it was O.K. to lie! After she moved out, she broke off almost all contact with her friends and also with her family. Visitors were turned away at the door [of her new lodgings] with a smile, but with no sympathy. Conversation was no longer possible. When I say that she broke off almost all contact, that means that at the beginning, she still kept some contact with those whom she thought possible to convert to her group. If it became clear that this person wasn’t moving in that direction, then she broke off this relationship, too.
Which brings us to a further point, which makes this group a cult:
- The rupture of all previous relationships and friendships. You can imagine which Bible texts are used to support that.
How and whom they evangelize, and how a person can recognize them:
- As my encounter in the forest shows, they recruit basically at every opportunity. My former housemate was approached while reading the Bible on a commuter train.
- They prefer to travel to large Christian festivals and events and attempt to enter into conversation with young adults. They try above all to gain young people who want to live radically for Jesus. I’ve [already] indicated some of their lines of reasoning.
- Likewise, they attend youth worship services and even go into youth or young adult groups, attempting to sow seeds of doubt there and calling into question people’s own Christianity.
- Their lines of reasoning are almost exclusively Biblical, and they appear to know their way around [the Bible] extraordinarily well.
- They’re always inviting people into their group. But the meetings are always in a park or someplace outdoors.
- They never give a name for the group, or say where they live.
- They don’t pray with anybody and don’t accept it when anyone says that she or he is a Christian.
- They are always plainly, austerely, and simply dressed, you could almost say “Franciscan.”
- They can act very friendly, affectionate, inviting, and convincing.
- They are normally always in pairs and attempt to isolate one person from any others, in order to “process” that person.
- They have a totally negative worldview.
Meanwhile, they have almost 40 members in our area.
Because they are so difficult to recognize, information is the only thing that can help, in my opinion. I would like to ask you, therefore, to forward this email to all your friends, but above all to Christian friends, and also to congregational leaders.
The name and address of the author is known to the webmaster.