Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Maybe you are a teacher, colleague, or neighbour of a member of The Truth, and you’re wondering how to interact best with them.
These are some generalist tips. Please consider them within the context of the relationship you have with that person and/or family.
1. Expect that if you show interest in their religious beliefs – they will mistake that for an opportunity to convert you. How to manage that – firmly remind them you have your own faith or that you are atheist for instance.
2. Non-judgemental support is important – especially with children. Young children do not have a choice about the religion they grow up with. They have no context for the life they live, and it is particularly unkind to ask difficult questions of their faith or to quiz them about their beliefs. Be open with your own children about the fact that the child has a ‘different religious belief’ to us, but that they are none-the-less a valued/kind/nice friend.
3. The more people they know on the outside, the more likely they are to leave and to find leaving smoother/less isolating, in my experience. It takes guts to meet new people and build a new life. If you can build rapport and demonstrate that ‘worldly’ people are good people too – you’re playing a small part in that process of leaving (should they want to).
4. Don’t tell them ‘you’re in a cult’. Its not helpful. And they do not believe they're in a cult – all you’re doing is creating conflict and putting a wedge between you and them.
5. Be supportive, encourage them to ask questions and contemplate different ways to see the world – for example asking if they’ve ever thought about trying a different church, just to see how other religions operate.
6. They’re unlikely to say ‘I’m leaving the group, and I want help’ – it is more likely to be a gradual process over a number of years. it will more likely happen as they ask questions, get unsatisfactory answers, and feel unfulfilled. It is also possible they will never leave or have thoughts of leaving. In my experience – some people thrive on the structure and control of these groups. Men can have a level of authority that they would never get outside The Truth – so they have fewer reasons to contemplate leaving, in my experience.
7. Leave the door ajar for help and conversations – don’t shut them down for having unusual beliefs, wearing unusual clothes, or using strange language.
8. Impact on children – encourage your own children not to treat sect children as ‘odd’ or ‘strange’. Its not helpful to alienate children, in my experience it hurts them and reinforces the belief that they’re taught inside the group, that the world isn’t a good place. Encourage your children to treat them like they would other children, while being respectful of their differences – in clothing, language and general appearance.
9. Here are some examples of the key ‘outsiders’ which Fundamentalist children come into contact with – so don’t underestimate your impact:
Teachers, Doctors, Librarians (they do not have access to TV – so they read a great deal), Supermarket/corner store staff, Neighbours.
You are probably having a bigger impact than you realise, please take that seriously.
10. Fundamentalists have underdeveloped language to communicate their beliefs with you – will use phrases like ‘our people’ ‘or beliefs’. Often they will not identify as being in ‘a church’. - but refer to their beliefs as ‘The Way’, ‘The Gospel’ ‘ The True Way’.
11. They may be hostile at the idea there is a leader, a church structure, a financial model or religious ideology. Be gentle when probing or questioning in these areas.
12. It can be dangerous to bring ‘worldly’ things into the home – so be aware of the impact of giving gifts to children such as jewellery, make up, trousers. For adults avoid giving gifts of alcohol, and tobacco.
For children and/or young adults it can result in shame and abuse by parents or leaders if these items are seen or found in their posession.