TMU student “Janie” lost a relationship with her dad when he became a leader of a cult, but God has filled the void.
It was the first time she saw him after he had left. He asked her whether or not she was still eating kosher, the food that conformed to the Jewish dietary regulations. In that moment it was revealed to her who he truly cared about, and that was himself.
“I was 14 but it really just struck me,” explained TMU student, who, for the sake of anonymity, will be referred to as Janie. “I feel like the LORD gave me the eyes to see that [my dad’s] entire purpose in our relationship was about him and about me making him look good. There wasn’t any love there.”
Janie experienced something that nobody should go through. From the ages of 10-14, her father began a cult, pulling away from his family to pursue what he wanted and what he found right in his eyes. This destroyed his marriage and most of the relationships with his children, including Janie.
Janie’s father demanded obedience and was good at showing when it was not met.
“If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you become that bad person,” Janie said.
He would use tactics such as gaslighting to avoid being called out by both Janie’s mom and older sister. Pairing that with being emotionally abusive, it led to a horrible family situation.
“My dad started getting into some weird theology stuff. He is not a believer but he was a nominal Christian who went to church with my family,” Janie said. “When I was about 10, he started to get into the Hebrew Roots Movement where he believed that you should be following the Old Testament laws and the Mosaic Covenant. Eventually that got more and more extreme and to this day he has a group of people that he leads as a religious leader.”
Elimelech Nuñez, a former member of the same cult, answered how he would define a cult.
“It is an organization that is led by one individual. There is full submission to whatever this leader says. His word is the authority. They may point to another source as the justification for their guidance,” Nuñez explained.
These leaders pronounce lies over what the Bible says, or even claim that they have had visions. Nuñez explained that most of the followers of these cults have no knowledge of the Word of God, so they follow the leader without question.
Janie described how a lot of it began with her father justifying his sin patterns, bending and twisting the Hebrew in the Bible to fit his desires.
“I believed that I was a better person than the people around me because I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and they weren’t,” she explained.
Her father would praise her good works, reinforcing that and labeling her as the good child. Her older sister, on the other hand, would be labeled as the bad child for questioning his actions and not obeying the rules that he was trying to push on them.
“I think he really wanted our family to split up. I remember him talking about how Scripture is a double-edged sword that divides families and how my mom and sister aren’t really saved.”
Janie’s father wanted her to convince her younger brother to go with him as he prepared to separate the family, fully tearing away from her mom and older sister. But he was surprised when she chose not to go with him and join this cult he had created. She has not had a relationship with him for 10 years now. Her younger brother is the only one in the family to keep in contact with him.
It was through this split that Janie’s family found their current home church. People from this church came alongside their family during this time, caring for them and helping them since She and her brother were still pretty young. The Word of God was poured into Janie’s heart as the LORD began to transform her.
“I feel like God took out a huge idol in my life when he left,” she said. “It was painful, but that relationship was so completely and utterly destroyed at this point. Our relationship didn’t really matter to him. That was painful, but ultimately, I praise God for it. I am glad that he is no longer an influence in my life.”
Nuñez explained that, through studying God’s Word, it was revealed to him that cults are created because of the evil in man’s heart.
“That’s what creates these things, the evil and the hunger for power,” he said. “It is spiritual warfare.”
One of the final things that Janie shared of her story was how the LORD revealed to her the importance and value of good doctrine, especially the doctrine of adoption.
“In this world, all we have are shadows or signs that are pointing to the real thing, which is God the substance,” she said. “My father was a poor shadow and a poor example of what a father is to me, because God is the true father. He, through the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, has made a way for me to be adopted.
“My relationship with my earthly father is utterly destroyed. There is nothing there anymore. That’s sad because that’s not how God designed relationships to be. We are supposed to be imitators of God and my father was not an imitator of Him.”
Greatly valuing her relationship with her heavenly father, Janie shares how knowing God in a personal way will always be more valuable than anything this world can offer. When someone has God in their heart, they have everything.
“God has adopted me as his daughter and that is my great consolation,” Janie said.