Continuing from Leaving the Fold Marlene Winell’s encouraging list of some of the good one can take away from the fundamentalist or cultic experience, mingled with my own thoughts . . . . (See also her newly established Recovery from Religion website.) — earlier posts under the Winell and Fundamentalism categories linked here.
11: Community Experience
To quote this section from Winell (p.110)
Belonging to a group with common goals and values can be a valuable experience. If you analyzed all you learned about human relations as a church member, you might be surprised. You probably had opportunities to learn about group dynamics, leadership issues, organizing activities, and so forth. You may have learned things about power struggles within an organization as well as the strengths that a group has to offer. A group can be a cohesive environment of social support, or a place to socialize and have fun. It can be a place to explore relationships. Potentially, these may all be elements of your legacy.
It was positive in the sense that I learned to love other people for the first time in my life, albeit not normal, human love. It was described as a sort of divine love, which meant that it was an unrealistic kind of love that didn’t take into account people’s real feelings about each other. You always had to be loving: you always had to have this sort of benevolence towards other people, even if you didn’t feel that way. But it did allow me to open up to other people.
Learning about group dynamics, leadership issues, organizing activities, power struggles, the strengths that a group has to offer — no doubt everyone who has lived for any time in such a group will be able to unpack several of these. Add that to the skills one has taken from the cult/tight-group experience, and one comes with solid raw material to make positive contributions to others and possibly the broader community in one’s post religious life.
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