Twelve hours of Bible study a week, no questions: Melbourne cult encounters

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Deep on Reddit, Georgia Barron found stories of personal encounters with a high control group. It hit her: “I think I’m in a cult.”

She was feeling the same depression, isolation, and exhaustion ex-cult members described. But she had been told it was just a normal part of following Christ.

While also studying full-time, Miss Barron spent up to 12 hours a week in Bible classes. She was told to keep them secret from her friends and family.

Any questions Miss Barron asked in class were brushed off, and she was eventually told her questioning was the devil’s attempt to lead her away from God.

It took her five months to learn the name of the group she had been studying the Bible with. They had warned her not to search their name on the internet.

She was desperate to visit their church, so she ignored their warning and searched their name: Shincheonji.

That was when she read what the teachers later confirmed to her when confronted. They believed cult founder Lee Man-hee was the second coming of Jesus.

If what Shincheonji taught her was the truth, leaving them meant giving up her only opportunity for a relationship with Christ. But what she had learned did not sit right.

She decided it was finally time to tell the people around her about Shincheonji so they could help her decide if it was the truth.

Miss Barron’s housemate was the one who first invited her to a Shincheonji event. They progressed through the Bible classes together.

One of Miss Barron’s Christian friends set up a video call with leaders from her church to help her debrief. Miss Barron invited her housemate to join too.

During the call, her housemate was uncharacteristically angry and defensive. She brought up Shincheonji teachings Miss Barron had never heard before.

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