‘Join Us’ documents families leaving an abusive church

The film “Join Us” screened on the Sundance Channel recently. Newsday reviewed the documentary:

Why in the weird-world would anyone join a cult?
[…]

In “Join Us,” filmmaker Ondi Timoner goes into one of what her Web site says are thousands of cults that captivate small and large groups of people around America.
[…]

They break away and spend two weeks at a live-in cult-treatment center in Ohio. But then what?
[…]

How does one know the difference between a cult and a utopian community, or an economic commune, or a religion?

The borders between definitions are soft, and they remain awfully squishy here.
[…]

One of Melz’s former followers admits, “I never would have known I was in a cult.” And we appreciate her confusion. An expert in “psychological totalitarianism” – that is, brain washing – lists ways to identify a cult with such specificity that his certainty seems, well, almost cultlike.
– Source: ‘Join Us’ explores how people get caught in cults, Linda Winer, Newsday, Aug. 31, 2009

The film deals with an abusive church in South Carolina, USA. Ondi Timoner follows four families who realize they were part of a religious cult.

The film documents them as they enter Wellspring, the only accredited, live-in cult treatment facility in the world, where they learn the true extent of the brainwashing they have all experienced. Eventually they return home to bring the Pastor and his wife to justice, and to try to begin to rebuild their damaged lives.

The term ‘cult’ here is used in the sense of dictionary definition 3.

Abusive churches tend to be cult-like in both a theological and sociological sense. More often than not, a faulty theology results in bad behavior. Since it is rooted in theology, such behavior is often referred to as spiritual abuse — but it can also include physical abuse.

People do not join cults

One of Melz’s former followers admits, “I never would have known I was in a cult.” And we appreciate her confusion.
– Source: ‘Join Us’ explores how people get caught in cults, Linda Winer, Newsday, Aug. 31, 2009

Deborah Layton, one of the few survivors of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, in her book about the cult wrote:

Nobody joins a cult. You join a self-help group a religious movement a political organization.

They change so gradually, by the time you realize you’re entrapped – and almost everybody does – you can’t figure a safe way back out.
– Source: Seductive Poison, Deborah Layton

Cult Experts

An expert in “psychological totalitarianism” – that is, brain washing – lists ways to identify a cult with such specificity that his certainty seems, well, almost cultlike.
– Source: ‘Join Us’ explores how people get caught in cults, Linda Winer, Newsday, Aug. 31, 2009

Cult counseling is done by people ranging from licensed mental health professionals to lone rangers with a bone to pick, and from well-meaning former cult members to folks with a need for recognition and/or a cottage industry.

Cult experts come from different perspectives and take different approaches, and some are quite a bit more controversial than others.

If you are in need of a cult expert, be sure to research the field. See CultExperts.org.

See Also

Cult of Christianity
Spiritual Abuse
Churches That Abuse (Online book)

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