It’s Back

I’m in tears right now. A few years ago I deleted this blog. I was 100% sure I was done blogging about cults and dealing with Internet hate.

In truth, I was done with so much: politics, hateful comments, and people stealing my goddamned intellectual property without crediting me or asking.

But after deleting the site, I had some regrets. As a writer I felt a twinge of guilt deleting 512 posts. Let’s say each averages 700 words. That’s 358,400 words GONE. That’s the equivalent to several books, although truth be told, just because it’s the length of a book doesn’t mean it needs to be a book.

So recently I’ve been writing a lot more. (You can find out why I quit blogging and just recently returned to writing here on my Huffington Post blog.) And I started telling people, “Oh yeah, I blogged at My Cult Life for years.” They’d ask for the link. I didn’t have one. I deleted the site and it was redirecting elsewhere.

I started feeling like I might have made a huge mistake. Here was all this history – about me, about my writing, about my research – and it was gone.

The problem is that I’m somewhat tech savvy but the minute I regretted it (almost after it was gone) I didn’t know how to restore it. I didn’t even mean to delete the site. That was an accident. One shouldn’t mess with her files if one isn’t sure what she can delete and can’t without losing all her content.

I had backups but they were in SQL not WXR. I didn’t know how to convert them and Bluehost isn’t what it used to be as far as helping inexperienced people like me. I couldn’t find any information online except to go into phpMyAdmin (which could wreck my whole site if I messed it up), create a new database (which I was clueless about), and upload it. Then what? It took several hours before I figured out how to edit some files and it was actually quite simple from there.

But this trial and error process took two days and a lot of frustration. Even an XML or CSV conversion using plugins weren’t working so well and the pro versions were pricey.

Thank goodness I’m persistent. I saved myself some money and look…the blog is back!

Now you’ll notice that my photos aren’t uploaded and that means there’s a lot of broken images. Images that are broken in 512 posts, so bear with me as I fix them or delete them.

Also, you’ll notice that I no longer blog at www.lisakerr.net. I’ll remove those links with time, as well. I do have another blog called www.storiesintheend.com, which has some new writing, but we’ll see if that’s necessary to keep since I have this one.

Anyway, I hope you’ve been well and I’ve missed you all!

Drop me a line. Say hello.

Cheers,

Lisa

It’s Been Awhile

It’s been awhile since I’ve had anything to say here. If you need the tl; dr version, anxiety + intellectual property preservation = brief respite from this blog. Not to mention that the blog (amazingly) became something I didn’t anticipate-a hub for real investigative journalism on cults and abusive religious groups. But let’s be honest. When I started, I was a published sex writer with a bad attitude who really just wanted to write about my every day life. And I’ve gotten away from that for a variety of reasons (see above). Some bloggers can handle the constant attention with grace; others freeze up.

I’ve debated whether to change the name of this blog and archive the old material or whether to start a new blog under a new (more anonymous) name. I’ve actually started two anonymous blogs, but they haven’t had the pull that these had. I wasn’t as passionate about them as I was this one.

Recently, a blogger I used to read changed her blog name. It didn’t change the direction of her blog all that much because she literally wrote about her daily life before that and didn’t go off on investigative journalism tangents. I’m not sure I could pull that off as easily, but I think I could. I’m mulling it around right now–having bought a new domain name and I’m working on plans. A lot of time and research goes into blogging. It’s not just like “Oh let me sit down and type on this keyboard thingie!” There are legitimate technical and business plans that operate behind the scenes.

As a writer (and here’s a protip for you newbies and up and comings), your number one job is to protect your intellectual property and ideas. Your number two job is to get yourself out there. Some people reverse those priorities, like I did when I began to blog. I was naive about the scope of what would go on and how far my blog would reach. I would say that’s an amazing problem to have and I have no regrets. My career has been a huge surprise and despite all the downsides to success, the upsides have been amazing. In fact, I think one of the perks was getting to a point where I achieved “gold status” (Reddit joke, sorry) and let myself take an extended break from working my damn ass off so much. My break still includes writing a novel, writing articles for publication, blogging, developing extended business plans, editing and consulting writing clients, and rewriting my memoir, BUT it’s a lot less work than what I was doing. Thank god.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a lot of personal information online and I hope you know that you’re not just readers, you’re friends. Maybe one day, when I’m successful enough to go talk about being successful, I’ll share a bit more into what this past year has been like and why I made the decisions I made.

Until then, I hope to continue with regular updates until I figure out my next step and most of all, I hope to catch up with you all.

xoxo,

Lisa

Email of the Day: “Read the Bible, Lisa”

Hi. I was browsing a forum thread on the mertis of WordPress over
SquareSpace when I tripped on your comment about your “mycultlife.com
site. As I was skimming your blog I was saddened to hear what you’ve had
to go through with the cult, not just the false teaching but the false
life based on it. It’s wrong how some of these “church” leaders prey on
unsuspecting folks for their own purposes.

At the same time, I saw a link to “What Is Christian Fundamentalism”,
thinking I’d see something on extreme fundamentalism, only to find that
you reject the theology of sin and react against teachers like John
Piper. I don’t know how much you’ve studied American Christian
fundamentalism and how the meaning of the word “fundamentalism” changes,
but John Piper wouldn’t be considered a modern fundamentalist. If the
word is being used negatively and somebody doesn’t like John Piper, then
putting a “negative” label on him would suit their purposes, but it’s
not a fair assessment.

I don’t usually reply to folks who are reacting against what they
believe is wrong, because often times if we hear a dissenting voice, we
tend to automatically defend ourselves and add our personal experiences
as proof that we’re right. But please consider—your personal experience
with a cult *loosely* based on Christianity aside—that these cults tend
to attract persons who don’t have a strong understanding of the Bible.
Otherwise, it would be very hard for false teachers/churches to gain
sway in people’s lives. You probably know that Apostle Paul (in the
Bible) warns against false teachers (1 Timothy 6:3-5). I think being
under false teaching warps a person’s understanding of whatever
scripture is being used as a foundation of their belief. I was glad to
hear that you broke away from these guys. At the same time I’m saddened
that you lump the cult, sin, the work of the Holy Spirit, and Piper all
into the same boat and reject all of it. I hope that, if you believe in
God, that you would study the Scriptures diligently and grow healthy in
Him.

Sincerely,
A believer in Christ

An Update, Between Drafts

I’m departing the world of cults for a bit to jump into a fictional world that I can’t discuss (yet). It is beyond exciting to write this novel and I might be able to post updates here and there along the way but there’s something wonderful about keeping all my ideas totally private and just knowing that one day I’ll reveal them and until then…no one can steal them! They’re safe with me.

I’ve literally been writing morning, noon and night and I am in such a good place with all of that. Writing is my number one love and while blogging is writing, books are such different (and also wonderful) beasts. I love books and I’ve loved them since I was a kid. Blogging is such immediate satisfaction–readers read right away (oooh look! alliteration!). Books are intense, and done in bursts and when you have energy and don’t. Books are written up and down and all around and rewritten in places like parking lots, offices, coffee bars, national parks, and the list goes on. I keep a print out of my draft with me at all times, so when I have five minutes, I edit and rewrite. My book, though, is always in my head. After all, that’s where most of the writing and rewriting happens first.

I think you will all love the book, actually. It’s nothing like the memoir and nothing like I’ve ever published. Ever. It’s fun and you won’t be disappointed.

Anyway, with all that being said, I still get a lot of emails from people who need help and I wish I could help you. I have, though, written exhaustively on this blog and in my eBook and covered literally everything you could need to know (emotionally, legally, for parents, for students, personal stories about being in my cult, how I felt when I left, how I left, etc.). If you’re curious about me, check out the blog a bit more, all the FAQs and Welcome pages and then check out my official website. If that doesn’t satiate you, come to my Facebook or any million other social media I’m on. Or Google “Lisa Kerr.” I’m there. Everywhere…

I really need to say this: the best resource you can have through all of this is a good therapist, not me. Instead of emailing me for help, please reach out to a professional. I am a writer and I hope my future books serve you well, but I cannot counsel you over email or the phone. Please respect that and please understand this is nothing personal, but this is a question I’m asked hundreds of times. No one on Earth has that kind of time. If you want to send me your story, I’d love to read it! Send away.

I will be back…after this draft, or maybe the final draft, is complete.

All my love,

xo, Lisa

The Big Reveal

Welcome to the NEW design of My Cult Life.

I want to say a special thank you to those who worked tirelessly to produce my really awesome design and layout, especially Jason Sanders who designed the layout, the header, drop downs and pretty much everything. Jason worked his ass off with very demanding, quirky me to produce what I think is one of the best websites out there. 🙂

Another thank you to Ryan Smith of Raul Santos Pictures, who spent time creating the photos you see in the slideshow. Ryan worked with my vision of having his sister, Chelsea, model in the desert with black wings on in different shots. I wanted to invoke the feeling of an outsider, and the Bible being used to silence someone. Ryan took those ideas and created some even better photos than I would’ve imagined.

Lastly, thanks to my family (Mom & Dad) especially, who have supported me and walked side-by-side with me throughout this entire exit of Master’s Commission (the cult) and into dialoguing about my experiences here. I’d also like to thank my boyfriend Chris, who has listened to me through my ups and downs, hugged me when I had my crying days and told me to take a break when it was too overwhelming. To the rest of my friends who’ve been in my life, you know who you are and how each word of kindness has meant so much to me.

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

In 1978, Jim Jones’ group of over 900 people, The People’s Temple, committed group suicide by drinking a grape drink laced with cyanide and a number of sedatives, including liquid Valium, Penegram and chloral hydrate.

What does Jim Jones have to do with My Cult Life? Eerily enough,

“Jones kept his commission so busy they were often in a state of exhaustion.

Jones exercised the powers of suggestion, persuasion and manipulation to create a kind of alternative social universe amongst his followers. By 1975 the Chaikins and others were conditioned to accept without question public punishment and humiliation at group meetings…Jones’ dismissed the nuclear family as “noxious” and did everything possible to undermine traditional family ties. There could be only one “Dad” for everyone. (Quoted from Rick Ross’ site: http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown61.html)

“What Jones did was try to break all ties that were not to him,” said former believer Vernon Gosney. “Transfer all that loyalty, all that bonding to him. And so families were broken apart. Relationships were divided…Jones deftly justified his actions to his followers by saying that what he did to them was actually for their own benefit, or the benefit of making the church a stronger, tighter-knit organization.” http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown63.html

Everything above is similar to my experience in Master’s Commission and working at Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, LA.

I’ve spent time lining out these specific moments and traits of my leaders, but more than anything, we were kept in a constant state of exhaustion, and all ties with the outside world and family were cut off or highly discouraged. We were to accept things without question or risk the shame of humiliation in front of everyone, or the embarrassment that went along with getting kicked out of the group and no one speaking to us for fear that they’d get kicked out too.

No More Excuses by Daniel Venie

My name is Daniel Venie, and it was MY cult life, too.

I’ve been a christian for thirteen years here in Wasilla, AK. During those years I’ve done just about everything a good christian should do. I’ve done missionary work in China and went through two years of ministry school training, as well as becoming heavily involved in my local church. Through that ministry school I received a License to Preach with the Assemblies of God denomination, although I decided last year to let my credentials lapse so I am no longer affiliated with the A/G. I’ve also worked extensively at a church where I live. For about six years I served as the Assistant Youth Pastor at that church. From there my wife and I had a desire to be more involved in worship so I added that to my repertoire. After a few years of serving in both ministries my wife and I decided to pursue worship ministry as our sole focus and served as my church’s main worship leaders for the last two or three years we were there.

Currently I still live in Wasilla with my wife and two kids. We stopped attending church and have not been in well over a year now. I enjoy being a husband and father and most importantly, having a life. I also play video games instead of reading my bible. I have a deep love for people and enjoy seeing others set free to live life as God intended it.

***

So I’ve been reading and commenting on a few of the posts on this website for the last
several weeks. I, like many others, have found it to be very eye opening to the spiritual
abuse that takes place in these Master’s Commission programs which have become a
staple program for most healthy and “cutting edge” churches to have.

It’s opened my eyes up to the reality and severity of the problem as well as it’s depth.

It goes well beyond the borders of MC programs and takes place in churches across the nation. While I attended a
young adult ministry training program, which was modeled after an MC program but not
affiliated, I didn’t experience much spiritual abuse until after I had graduated and moved
into full time ministry at my church. I’ll save the telling of that personal story for another
article so for now, this will have to suffice. One of the things that surprised me when I
first found this blog was how easily I could relate to what Lisa had experienced, along
with many others who have commented and testified of their own experiences of being
spiritually abused. For me it has really blown the door wide open on all the shit that my
wife and I experienced and caused me to face a lot of hard and difficult truths. So I have
decided that I can no longer sit idly by and continue to ignore or make excuses for those
who manipulate and abuse others for their own gain.

I left my church over a year ago now and haven’t been attending anywhere since then.
After leaving I’ve had many talks and meetings with people that I was close with. These
weren’t strangers or casual acquaintances but people that I have known for years and done
lots of ministry along side of. People I trusted my own children with and vice versa.
Usually these meetings would be about how much they miss us and how badly they want
us to come back; and they would say it in the most sincere and genuine way possible. I
then would explain to them why I could never come back and be apart of the church
again, the main reason being because of how much the pastors controlled peoples lives.

What is sad to me is how often these people agreed with what I shared in regards to the
spiritual abuse we experienced. As I’m talking they will nod their heads as if they really
understood and knew what I was talking about. They would even share stories of how
they too have been hurt and abused by the church.

Without fail they then will take an about face and begin to make excuses for those doing the abusing.

WHAT!!!??!!!

To go from agreeing with me to excusing the spiritual abuse doesn’t even compute in my mind!
The excuses I have heard range from: “Their intentions are not to hurt you Daniel or even
to control you,” or “They don’t realize how their actions are affecting people,” or “They
just don’t know any better.” I can’t think of a more offensive response to my pain. First of
all, by excusing the pastor’s behavior they are instantly disqualifying what I experienced,
things they supposedly understood and even agreed with. Second of all, if these people
were really my friends, why are they not standing up for me? And most importantly they
are sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what their own heart is telling them
about their current situation!
I’ve often asked myself if I was justified in how upset and angry I am at what my wife
and I experienced at our church.

What if they really didn’t know any better?

What if it all was some big mistake or misunderstanding on their part?

Shouldn’t I give them the benefit of doubt?

Shouldn’t I too excuse their behavior?

The answer that I have come to is no. For years while I was involved in ministry I made excuses.

I ignored my own heart and feelings and hoped for the best. I’d tell myself over and over that they just don’t know
any better or that this is how it is and I have to accept it. The truth is that it isn’t how it’s
supposed to be, it isn’t okay, and most importantly it is not something you can excuse away.
Whether someones intentions are to NOT hurt and control people is besides the point. If a
person accidentally kills another person they are still held responsible.
It’s called
involuntary manslaughter and doesn’t change the fact that someones life was destroyed.

The truth is that there are thousands of people every day that are being torn to pieces by

spiritual abuse. It is a HUGE problem in churches and Masters Commission programs

around the nation. I can no longer pretend that nothing bad happened to me. It’s got to

stop and for me, it stops right here. I will never excuse away spiritual abuse, or cover it

up, or be silenced for fear of speaking against the supposed men of God. My own heart

compels me to speak up, and that I can no longer ignore.

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Bubble Boys and Girls: There’s LIFE Outside!

One day, many years ago (five or six, to be exact), I was driving from a small, bayou filled town named Broussard, Louisiana that just contained our church, an Albertson’s and a pizza place to Lafayatte, a slightly larger city. I remember turning the corner of one street, the clouds hazy over my car looking like it might rain, thinking, I really hate living here. I hate the weather. I hate this city. Nothing is appealing to me here…But I feel like I can’t leave.

There were many times I didn’t feel fulfilled at my cult life. I felt my dreams were stripped of me, while I was forced to do a job that would get someone higher up their dreams. It was a sad place to be for someone who dreamed a lot–like me.

There are some readers who are still in that ministry group, or in that church, who read this and want out. I know how you feel. I felt that once. At that point driving, I thought of leaving, but I wondered, What options do I have? What would I do with my life? What ARE my dreams?

I’d never given myself full liberty to think about MY own dreams and ambitions, while I was “serving my pastor.” I didn’t think about my options in life, either. I just assumed I’d wasted seven years of my life in ministry and if I left now, I’d leave everything I’d built my life around.

One afternoon, I told my sister I wanted to leave and how the pastor had told me he COULD send me to India to do missionary work (which was at the time, my dream) but he wouldn’t. He didn’t think I could handle it.

My sister said, “You know, Lisa, there are so many groups you could work overseas with. It doesn’t have to be them. The Catholics have missionaries, the Seventh-Day Adventist groups, etc.” She went on to list various groups who did missionary work similar to what I’d wanted to do.

It gave me hope. If someone was going to stop what I thought was God’s will and MY dream for my life, to abuse me for their own, then I could do something about it.

I also started thinking about college. I’d been thinking about college for years prior, and had asked to go, but the answer was always, NO!

In high school, I’d always gotten good grades and been very academic, so I knew I wanted to go to college. I finally started looking into it during my last few months in Louisiana. I even filled out an application to University of Louisiana, Lafayette. I was going to stay and work for the pastor, but he said he didn’t think I could work for him AND go to school at the same time. It’d be a lot for me to handle.

Instead, I ended up moving home to attend a California State University close to my parents. Within weeks, I was accepted to the school and to the Helen Hawke Honor’s Program based on my high school GPA and SAT scores.

Over the next few years, I finally decided that creative writing was something I’d always wanted to do–since I was a little girl. I said good-bye to the dream of becoming a “missionary” but didn’t say good-bye to my humanitarian nature. Instead, the more I learned in college, the more dedicated I became to humanitarian crises and awareness of how to help. Mine was not a religious calling, I found. It never was.

My writing developed over the years. For years, I knew I was a writer, but felt people would judge me and I just felt mute. I couldn’t show anyone anything and worse yet, I couldn’t even type things out for fear someone would read them and judge me. I cried in class when anyone would criticize my work.

Then, I moved cities and took some writing classes. I was published and had to read to around 300 people. I made friends with a great writing community of wonderfully creative, smart people whom I miss. I was surrounded by writing professors who believed in me.

I’ve also taken up painting, drawing and photography. My writing is often realistic and unapologetic but my paintings are lively and show life as eternal springtime.

The point of my post? There is LIFE and DREAMS and AMBITIONS in this great, big world out here. Come out and play! It might just be the best decision you’ve ever made.

It was MY CULT LIFE, too.

I received this email last week and since I had this person’s permission to post it, I thought it would be a good time to share it. I have changed a few minor details to protect the identity of this person, because no one deserves to be harassed the way I’ve been harassed for speaking up. Please read on:

Dear Lisa,

Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know I’ve been following your blog. Thank you for speaking out, I feel the exact same way but I never understood the importance of confronting it until I recently read everything you’ve been posting. 

I spent years at MCID (now Master’s Commission 3D), and it took me a year or two to realize what had actually happened: that I had been in a cult.

God bless you, L! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me.

I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t believe it for a while. I’ve spent the last several years being content to say to myself, “Well I know that a lot of things that took place were wrong, but I’m just going to hold on to the good things that God did in me and forgive and forget the rest.” Boy, a lot of good that has done for the naive ones that have followed our footsteps, eh?

I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with another one of my former peers who has not regarded our time at MCID with contempt.

Thank you for sharing, I’m reading and pursuing my own path of healing and desire for justice. I don’t want this to continue to happen, and I pray that the Lord will move on their hearts as they read and hear about those who have been hurt and scarred under their leadership.

Signed,

“It was My Cult Life, Too”

Dear “It was My Cult Life, Too:” What a beautiful letter! Thank you (you and I know who you are). I hope you know that you are a valuable, wonderful human being and are not responsible for what happened at that place. You are a child of God. Keep your head up and keep smiling. I wish you the very best life has to offer.