I Narrowly Escaped Being Recruited By A Cult. Then I Realized I Was Already In One.

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The author is pictured at church camp.

While visiting an exhibit at the Frist Art Museum in Tennessee, I recognized the familiar face of an old schoolmate.

“Oh, hey E,” I greeted her.She made eye contact but turned away without any other reaction.

Then, on the other side of the room, I saw her: the famous weight-loss magnate turned cult leader, guiding a flock of women and girls through the exhibit. They were dressed in their uniform whites, and sported identical, enormous coifs that their leader was famous for. Hers, of course, was the largest, reaching the highest toward heaven.

I knew Gwen Shamblin, her family and many of her followers from my childhood community. I was raised in the Church of Christ in Nashville, the Buckle on the Bible Belt. The Shamblin family attended our church before Gwen founded a congregation dedicated to thinness and beauty called Remnant Fellowship Church, whose members said they pulled out of “mainstream” church culture to pursue the truth.

I was in her swimming pool with my youth group the time I got slut-shamed by a minister for wearing a two-piece to a church event. Other girls wore two-pieces, but with my curvy figure, it was more noticeably shameful. Even the T-shirt I wore over mine was obviously not sufficient. We almost never did “mixed bathing,” or males and females swimming together, to avoid lust — the deadliest sin in the American South.

I had listened to tapes from Weigh Down, Gwen’s Christian weight-loss program. She called the weight struggle a gift from God, and instructed her adoring listeners on how to control their eating. I longed to be thin and beautiful, much like the girls who were leaving my church to attend hers. I was never invited.

I went to a church-affiliated school attended by the young Shamblins, as well as E and many other future members of the Remnant. They were all pretty, middle school royalty, and they became Remnant royalty, with some marrying into Gwen’s family or joining the church leadership.

Content retrieved from: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/narrowly-escaped-being-recruited-cult-130001175.html.

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