Which Problems Can Arise with Former Members?

Members who’ve left the Holic Group may have great difficulties in reorienting themselves to normal life. They describe it as a real withdrawal. They miss the group, the daily Bible reading, and the mutual lifestyle organized around the Bible. A former member described it this way: “I want to die; everything is gone!” Prior to joining the group, most members had significant problems: life seemed empty to them, they were disappointed by the world, and they were on a frequently painful search for meaning. In the back of their minds lies a fearful thought: “If I leave the group now, then it will all start over again.” This can sometimes even lead to suicidal thoughts. In addition, there are feelings of anxiety and shame after leaving: doubts that they may have made a mistake in leaving the group, and have therefore fallen away from God; and feelings of guilt, because they’ve pulled others into the group. They’re ashamed of their arrogant behavior toward parents, friends, and those who believed differently, as well as for their naiveté which allowed them to be trapped; they perceive themselves to be guilty before God, because they’ve gone down this wrong path.

The group itself exerts massive psychological pressure (see the letter to “fallen away” former members). The group blames the deserter for leaving the cult: for falling away from God and for failing because of selfish and other despicable reasons. The group prophesies the expected negative consequences for the deserters. It takes considerable effort for somebody who’s left the group to see through the weakness of the reasoning. The persuasion which the group used was laced with Biblical quotations and seemed very convincing at first. Because the group mixes good Christian concepts with doctrines which it reads into the Bible, it is difficult to unravel the web of truth and lies. The group attempts to establish direct personal contact with a member who’s “fallen away.” Even if, after a few visits in the group, someone [who was never really a member] wants to avoid further contact, the group believes that others, like parents or relatives, are blocking contact against the will of the individual. The group urges a personal conversation, so that the individual can express his position to them himself. Not even letters are accepted (they could, after all, be dictated under pressure). It has even occurred that false legal charges were filed against the parents of a former member. The ex-member wanted to avoid contact with the group, while the Holic members thought that the parents were using physical force to restrain the ex-member.

Former members describe it as especially difficult to free themselves from the cult’s ideology and its rules for daily life, because in this matter, too, good ideas worth preserving are mixed with twisted and exaggerated ones. They were positively astonished at how freely they could live (go to the opera or the theater, enjoy music, play happily, go to a café, etc.). During this phase, they need the considerate help of friends and family, who can unlock the freeing aspects of the Christian faith for them, and who can pray for them. Here, too, a thoroughly honest reflection can take place, about which things that the cult practiced are worth keeping. Perhaps some things are worth imitating in the ex-member’s circle of old and new friends and family. E.g., a Bible study group could be formed. However, it should not exist only to meet certain needs of the former Holic member, or to make him resistant to backsliding. Rather, those who are in the Bible study should take it seriously for themselves as well.

Even if someone has separated himself from the Holic Group, he still feels positive emotions toward his friends who remain there. Even if he articulates criticism, he still doesn’t want outsiders to speak too strongly against this group.