Memoirs of a Cult Survivor by Chasity Jones

This blogpost is a reflection on my experience creating a podcast series concerning religious trauma experienced in cults as well as how to heal from traumatic cult experiences.

Firstly, I had to be very intentional about the word survivor as opposed to victim. Survivor was the obvious choice because I used to cringe when thinking of myself as a victim. However, As I heal, I can honor both the survivor and the victim, for they are the same. I cannot forget to acknowledge though that some victims do not survive and this is the same concerning cults. Many people at this very moment are in exile or in hiding from their cults when they escape and for that reason some of the people who engaged in this series were forced to engage anonymously.

My goals for the series

  • First and foremost, I want to educate the collective about how common cults are and how sneaky they can slide their chains onto your wrists. Many people think that only fools end up in cults, or that cults are only religious, NO. I encourage us to think more critically about that assumption. This we discuss the characteristics and tactics that cults often use.
  • I have never had a space to reflect on, express, process, or heal from my own cult experiences so I was forced to create one.
  • I also desired to create a  platform or space for other survivors to reflect on, express, process, and heal themselves. In the season finale I answered questions directly from the audience as we were able to share an incredibly brave experience of someone who escaped the same cult that I did. This was one of the most beautiful aspects of this entire experience. Thank you for trusting me with your stories.
  • I knew I had to explicitly draw the connection between cults and abusive relationships in general. When I study cults and when I study abusive relationships, but even deeper than that as a survivor/victim of both, I am able to see that they are the same, unequal power dynamics. Cults and abusive relationships are the same as victims and survivors are the same. In fact, I wonder if the fact that I was a cult survivor made me more likely to be in abusive romantic partnerships later on. Who knows?
  • As a Womanist theologian, ex-evangelical, and decolonization consultant, I couldn’t be true to myself without exposing the harm inflicted by conservative evangelical theologies and cosmologies onto unnamed and unknown individuals. Human beings with feelings, dreams, hopes, nightmares, fears (of hell), and loved ones. The cult uses all of these things to brainwash and control the minds of their members.
  • As a cult survivor myself (survivor of Oak Tree Life Center/Harvest in Hammond/ Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and it took me 8 years to finally speak my truth. That’s 8 years of suppressing my emotions and experience with this organization. It took me 8  years to honor my truth and allow others to witness my scars that once seared my soul. They are now healing and this podcast series has been a tremendous tool in that healing. I must honor the whole truth, including the people responsible for this cult. I must also acknowledge my own weaknesses so that I can learn from them.
  • I chose to name my cult because no one has ever named them. Also because it’s how I resist the intimidation and psychological manipulation (all of which I talk about in the series) utilized to silence me for 8 years. I chose to hold those people responsible.
  • None of what I am doing is motivated by vengeance or anger but by love. Love which can be embodied through accountability; a fruit of love. This is an act of love towards myself, and everyone else susceptible to cult tactics and methods (abusive power dynamics). As a daughter of enslaved Africans who were not allowed to read, I deeply believe (idealistically perhaps) that education equated empowerment.
  • I purposefully incorporated many healing modalities (clinical, therapeutic, and holistic) to heal from religious trauma and psychological abuse, control, and domination as an Interfaith Spiritual Advisor. I want to encourage, catalyze, and facilitate the healing of other survivors.

Podcast Series Outline

Part 1: Discusses the six sociological characteristics of a cult, the astrological event of the Lionsgate Portal and the full moon in Aquarius and how to harness its energy for our healing.

(Links to hyperlink : https://www.buzzsprout.com/1995633/11142773)

Part 2: Explores cult tactics and methods to become a drug to their members, the creation of the dependency as well as how to protect ourselves and what makes us more vulnerable to being targeted by cults. ( https://www.buzzsprout.com/1995633/11225631)

Part 3 (Sexual healing): The purity movement and how it harms the human relationship with their own sexuality and sexual energy AND healing modalities to address sexual dysfunction (which shoes up in MANY ways). We also glean lessons about our emotions and dreams from the full moon in Pisces. (https://www.buzzsprout.com/1995633/11306198)

Part 4: I answer questions sent in by listeners and share a very powerful testimony from someone who was a child in the same cult that I was in (when I was in my 20’s). (https://www.buzzsprout.com/1995633/11490429)

For Spotify podcast click here.

I am so grateful to be able to live life in the fullness of the patanjali school of yoga concept of Satyam truthfulness. As a Black woman this is a crucial part of liberation and wellness.

BIO: Chasity Jones, M.Div is a Louisiana native and came from a conservative, Evangelical background until moving to Seattle, WA to be a interfaith community organizer. It was here she began to challenge traditional mission work in the context of colonialism and began her own process of liberation and decolonization. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in history and a master of Divinity (’22) from Boston University School of Theology and a certified yoga teacher. She is currently a spiritual advisor at a substance use recovery center.

She has recently launched Fourth Wave Revolution, a consulting agency, in an attempt to educate as well as decolonize! Fourth Wave Revolution is committed to digging deeper. Chastity is the host of SpiritualiTEA with Chasity podcast that explores the intersection of decolonization and spirituality through a Womanist and yoga lens. To contact, collaborate, or connect with Fourth Wave Revolution please email fourthwaverev@gmail.com



Categories: abuse, Abuse of Power, General, Healing, Herstory, Power relations, Race and Religion, survival, trauma

Tags: , , ,

8 replies

  1. What an important, educational, and insightful post and podcast! You are so right that anyone can get caught up in a cult — the people who create them know exactly what to say and do to recruit so we all need to be aware of what you have written in the post and said in the podcast. This information about how to recognize a cult and how to heal from being in one will help so many readers who may now see themselves in a similar situation and know what to do. Thank you for your courage in sharing your own experience and using it to help others!

    Like

    • Thank you so much! This has been such a healing process by just being able to first speak and then reflect on how it impacts myself as well as others. Thank you so much!

      These cult experiences are a painful Knot in MANY painful experiences that I hope to explore with this podcast eventually.
      -Chasity

      Like

  2. “I have never had a space to reflect on, express, process, or heal from my own cult experiences so I was forced to create one.” This is a line in your important post which really struck me. It takes a special energy and drive to heal to create your own space for your own healing.

    As I’ve told you, I too, was trapped in a cult. I’ve listened now to one of your podcasts and I hope others do as well. You are very articulate and lay out the issues as “one who knows.”

    Thank you for this important addition to FAR and to the broader discussion. Many others will find healing from your work.

    Like

    • I hope many others find healing!!!!!!
      I agree though that it would be worth it to explore each episode in more depth. I have to simplify sooooo much sometimes for these episodes so people will stay with me lolololololololol

      I have sooooo many more topics I want to explore the in the future that are related to be survivor in many other ways.
      -Chasity

      Thank you Janet!!

      Like

  3. Thank you, Chastity, for your awesome and important work. I also grew up in a Christian (of sorts) cult. It haunts me to this day. Therapy does wonders when you are paired with a “good fit” as I am/was. Am so grateful. Please continue doing what you do. You are so needed.

    Like

  4. I look forward to listening to your podcast Chastity. I think that abusive spiritual community is so much more common that people think; and giving people the tools to recognize this, as you do, is really important work.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  5. Thank you so much for your courage and honesty in posting this!

    Like

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