Thank you for sharing your story. I had almost made up my mind that GCC was not a cult and maybe not even cultic. I decided it was not really a safe church or a church I would recommend but was pretty sure it wasn't right to call it a cult. But your account tells me I need to reevaluate my conclusion.
You are the first person I have heard from who has been to the college or the seminary. It sounds like you had a very bad time at the college there. There is a lot in your posts that I would like to ask you about.
and you are not told how they really believe until you have paid your money and moved onto the campus.
What did you know about MacArthur's teaching before you went to the school? What did you learn once you got there that was not what you expected? Another way of asking that is, what is the "big print" and what is the "fine print"?
When they sent their recruiter to my high school I was told that MacArthur was pastor of a large church in the LA area, but was assured that the college was made up of various Christian denominations and that the school was non-denominational. The only requirement was to be a bible-believing Christian. They said I would be required to attend a church of my choice and would have to minor in Bible, but that the classes would be taught from a non-denominational standpoint with students from different denominations of Christianity. Once I got there this was obviously no the case. I had no idea what "Lordship Salvation," "Nouthetic Counseling" or any of MacArthur's unique doctrine or terminology was. When I got there and first expressed concern about it, I was told at first that MacArthur more than likely believed the same way I did, he just expressed it in a different way. So they really do make the indoctrination process rather slow at first.
There have been two high profile suicides in the church, one of which occured while I was there when a girl named Angelica took an overdose of heroine in her dormroom.
I knew about the one suicide because there was a law suit over it. I didn't know there was another one. How did they handle this second one?
This was actually much later than the first one. This one actually happened on college property. Angelica Ericson was the daughter of a good friend of MacArthur's who was a retired basketball player for the Lakers, and was a student at the college as well as an active member of Grace. The death dealt quite a blow to the college community and left most of MacArthur's followers scratching their heads wondering if she was saved or not. This prompted MacArthur to call a special chapel session in which he addressed the matter and said he believed she was saved. He spent a lot of time telling about the volunteer work Angelica did (off the top of my head, one thing I remember was that she made baskets for the homeless) and that she had a love for the Lord. He also said that he believed she was saved and went to heaven. Two things at the time bothered me about this: one was that I was told I was going to hell for listening to rock music (not bad rock music, just regular) and this girl used heroine to take her life but in MacArthur's book was still going to heaven. The second thing that bothered me was that I felt she received this attention because it was a high profile member. I wonder if in the first suicide if MacArthur addressed it as much as this one. While I believe that what happened to Angelica was a tragedy, I don't like the hypocrisy of MacArthur altering his theology just because it was a family he was acquainted with.
but to the ones that don't they use very aggressive and hostile tactics to try to pressure you into accepting it.
What do they do? And what happens if they don't succeed in getting you to accept it? Also, what is their attitude in general toward those who disagree with it? How are you taught to regard believers who don't agree with MacArthur?
In addition to forcing you to minor in their Bible classes, making you attend two church services and three chapel services per week, attend dorm and small group Bible studies, if you are known to disagree with any of their doctrines you are constantly being confronted either from staff or students that are church members. If you disagree with Lordship Salvation you are told that you may be "self-deceived" and were not really saved when you accepted Christ. At this point they usually insist that you see a counselor that will talk to you about your life to find out if you have unconfessed sin. One of their members kicked me in the shins real hard and told me I was going to hell. Eventually several students even threatened me with physical violence when I wouldn't want to accept what they teach. I do not believe that works are necessary for salvation, and MacArthur teaches that you must be constantly demonstrating you are saved by doing works, constantly increasing the amount of works as you "mature." They believe that only those that accept Lordship Salvation are saved, and this is kept from you during the first few months. I eventually read "Faith Works" and "The Gospel According to Jesus" and it was obvious to me that his beliefs are not compatable with Christianity.
After so many attempts to get you to believe it fail, eventually everyone around you that has accepted it will shun you to the point that they will not even speak to you, and if they do they talk to you like you are an animal. It's hard to live in an environment where you can't eat around people in the cafeteria, make friends, or even have a friendly conversation. You feel like an outcast. It was hard to not cave-in to the peer pressure, and the counselor they make you see picks apart your life to find things that they use to say you are unsaved, be it the music you like, the movies you watch, going to theme parks more often than you go witnessing. It's a very works-oriented cult, and they even said I was going to Hell for refusing to go on a missions trip for them (during Spring Break) to the most dangerous part of South Central Los Angeles instead of going to take care of my grandmother and aunt who were both sick at my home.
My therepist immediately recognized this as a cult when I explained to him what I went through.
I would like to hear your therapist's take on it. What did he say?
The therapist I went to after immediately leaving there said that it was obvious to him that MacArthur got some of his counseling views from L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He said its normal for cults like this to make you deny psychiatric treatment because any psychiatrist would recognize it right away as being mind-control. The main thing was that MacArthur's teachings had placed so many scary thoughts in my mind that I kept wondering "What if they're right and I am going to hell?" Even though I rationally knew that MacArthur did not speak for God, the thought was still there. Also, part of the brainwashing process they use is when they befriend you at first. You think these people love you so much they will die for you, but when you see how quick they shun you when the church tells them to it deals a huge psychological blow.
My therapist also said that after examining MacArthur's teachings, he believed MacArthur himself may suffer from bipolar disorder, or have an inflated sense of self with grandiose thoughts the way cult leaders and dictators often have. After knowing the man personally, I could definitely see that.
I have been afraid to speak out because I know they will come up with some false witnesses to refute what I'm saying
Don't take this the wrong way. I am not trying to challenge you with this question. I think it could sound like that but I'm not sure of a better way to ask it. I don't mean to be challenging, though. How do you know they will do that? And who will do it (who is "they"?) Is this a common practice of GCC?
This group has a heavy "end justifies the means" mentality. For instance, when I would get attacked physically at the campus not one person around there would witness for me, and when I would turn the person in at the Student Life office any witnesses around would say I made the whole thing up. They use false witnesses a lot, such as the shin-kicking incident I mentioned earlier. Similar to Scientology's fair game doctrine, the church will not discipline anyone that lies against or does harm to someone hostile to the church or MacArthur's teachings. While they believe a strict works doctrine, it goes out the window when it comes to protecting the church and other members.
I sent a 10 page report of what I went through to a Christian ministry that is dedicated to exposing MacArthur and other cults and they were going to publish it on their website with the names changed but I stopped them at the last minute because I remembered the threats they made at me before and I know they have a good legal team. I'm still considering it after I can get an attorney to read the report and confirm there's nothing in there they could possibly use to come after me with legally.
I was asked by them once to separate from my father because he disagreed with MacArthur's lordship views.
I would really like to hear more from you on this. They asked you to separate from your father because he disagrees with Lordship salvation? What does your father believe that they found to be grounds for separation?
At the time my dad was buying heavily into the free-grace movement led by Bob George of People to People Ministries. My beliefs at the time were also heading in this direction, although the high school I came out of was Reformed. I talked to John MacArthur about George's views in his office and he told me that he knew I loved my father, but it was time I made a choice. He looked at me very cross when he said that and I knew what he meant. This was actually common, I met several students in various small group Bible studies I was in that wouldn't have anything to do with their families because they favored "easy believism" and would not accept Lordship Salvation. That's probably the most sad element of this cult. Parents send their kids off to college only to have them give up all their time to this church, even during vacations they go on missions trips to spread Lordship doctrine and don't even go home. While some go home, it was common for them to keep one dorm open during breaks for kids coming and going on missions trips.
but if you have had bad experiences there please send me a PM
Just so you know, you will be able to receive PMs but you won't be able to respond to them until you have made 10 public posts. (I found that out the hard way myself.)
Thanks again for your story. I hope to hear more from you.
Thanks for letting me know ahead of time. If anyone does PM me I will try to get back to you once I get 10 posts, or maybe we can correspond during e-mail.
I appreciate you wanting to know more about this. If it can stop even one person from getting pulled into a situation like this it will all be worth it. Like I said, they should have the right to practice these beliefs, but they should be honest about it and not try to convert people using deceptive methods. Take care and feel free to ask me anything you would like explained further.