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Out of the Cults and into the Church
- Understanding & Encouraging Ex-Cultists

by Janis Hutchinson,
Kregel Resources, Grand Rapids, MI (1994), 222 pages

A book review by Pat Knapp

During the past 12+ years of working in the counter-cults milieu, I have found that while Evangelicals give a cogent case for the need for the conversion of cultists, equally many have an inadequate perspective on the process of personal growth for the ex-member. While many ex-Mormons, Moonies, Jehovah Witnesses and the like come to a saving knowledge of Christ, they are then left to flounder in their attempts at entering (or reentering) and adjusting to the traditional church. In Out of the Cults and into the Church, Janis Hutchinson makes some headway in braking from this norm.

The intent of the book is to address the problems ex-cultists experience after having converted to Christianity. Of particular concern are the problems which occur during the first three years as they may attempt to enter a church setting. Her target audience is the pastoral staff, friends, relatives and other interested persons, who have need of the necessary tools of understanding.

As one focused on making clear and understandable the kaleidoscope of issues, she carefully paints a sociological and emotional portrait of those having come out of abusive religious groups. She frames this picture by drawing on the experiences of former members of Mormonism, the Unification Church, the Hare Krishnas and her own recovery adventures as an ex-Mormon.

Interlaced throughout this portrait are vignettes of interaction with a variety of former members. These are used to illustrate a sense of the undiluted reality of the struggles that plague those coming from such backgrounds. Each of the ten chapters outline specific issues of recovery and concludes with practical answers to the question, "How can Christians Help?"

Some responses include: "Understand how essential roots, identity, and story are and what it means to lose them."; "the former cult member needs Christians who will provide the necessary outlet by inviting him to share openly without fear of criticism"; "Be prepared to give up your time"; and "Explain to the former cultist what to expect in his or her [new] church."

While a Biblical context to recovery questions is given appropriate credence, she accurately presents recovery from cultic groups as a process that involves the whole person, and not a mere theological or philosophical shift. Particularly noteworthy is her treatment of the sense of grief and loss which she has a good understanding of, both from having exited 36 years of involvement in Mormonism and having been widowed twice.

Of the many recently published books on the subject of recovery from cults, this is one that deserves particular note. Not only does it come from an ex-member who obviously has gone through a good deal of personal recovery, but it is written in a clear and readable form that provides practical answers to frequently posed questions. Both ex-members and those who have chosen to come along side of them to help in the task of recovery can benefit much by this very helpful book.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Pat Knapp is an ex-member of an aberrant Christian sect, facilitator of several ex-member support/ recovery groups, and a degree seeking student in Denver Seminary's Philosophy and Counseling M.A. programs.

The above book review was posted on this Web site in January 1997.

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