Book Review - Out of the Cults and into the Church

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1996, Volume 13, Number 2, pages 220. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - Out of the Cults and into the Church: Understanding & Encouraging ExCultists. 

Janis Hutchinson. Kregel Resources, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, 222 pages.

During the past 12 years of working in the countercult milieu, I have found that while evangelicals give a cogent case for the need to convert cultists, many have an inadequate perspective on the process of personal growth for the exmember. While many former Mormons, former followers of Moon, former Jehovah's 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, author Hutchinson makes some significant headway in breaking from this norm. The intent of this book is to address the problems excultists experience after having converted to Christianity. Of particular concern are the problems that occur during the first three years as they may attempt to enter a church setting. The author's target audience is pastoral staff, friends, relatives, and other interested persons who need the necessary tools of understanding.

Focused on making clear and understandable the kaleidoscope of issues, Hutchinson carefully paints a sociological and emotional portrait of those who have come out of abusive religious groups. She frames this picture by drawing on the experiences of former members of Mormonism, the Unification Church, and the Hare Krishnas, as well as her own recovery adventures as a former Mormon. Interlaced throughout this portrait are vignettes of interaction with a variety of former members, which are used to illustrate a sense of the undiluted reality of the struggles that plague those coming from such backgrounds. Each of the 10 chapters outlines 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, Hutchinson 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, of which she has a good understanding, 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 exmember 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 exmembers and those who have chosen to come alongside them to help in the task of recovery can benefit much by this very helpful book.

Patrick Knapp

Former member of a Biblebased cult

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1996