There was an extended discussion of Xenos on Byron Harvey's website and the following is
I was in the college Ministry.
Now, I would not classify Xenos as a cult per se, but in the college group at least, I saw quite a few cultlike elements in the social structure that the church structure fed. Let me take you on a journey. I will probably tip my identity in sharing this, but I am not too concerned with that.
I moved to Columbus Ohio in the fall of 1996. I was lonely, immature, and depressed, although at the time I would not have said it as such. It was not long till an acquaintance of mine told me about this meeting in one of the dorm study rooms where a bunch of Christians were having a discussion group. At first, I was against it, but he enticed me with the prospect of attractive young females. Being a young man of 18, I went of course.
Over the next few weeks, I became a regular attendee, debating points of the Christian faith, and giving the arguments that were presented to me more creedance than they were worth, for at the time I was not trained to spot logical fallacies. To an impressionable mind, they made extraordinary claims, claims of God’s perfect love, perfect justice and whatnot. Growing up in a blue collar catholic family, I ate this stuff up.
Meanwhile, my class attendance started slipping. I had a lot of evening classes, but was encouraged to attend first CT, and then a homechurch, both while skipping out on classes. My grades plummeted.
Now I do realize I had a choice here, I could have stuck to my studies, and surely my life would have been easier for it, but I was confused, empty, a lost soul, and one of the promises Xenos made to me about God is that with the spirit, you are no longer empty.
I accepted Christ on easter of 1997. A week later I was kicked out of school for failing to meet the conditions of my academic probation.
Now, I am grateful for what came next. Xenos took me in, provided a couch to sleep on till I got a job and an apartment, and when my sublet was up, moved me into a ministry house. By this time, I was attending a homechurch, CT, a cell group, along with myriad prayer meetings.
I was on a spiritual high at the time. I was learning all I could about God, about Christianity, and looking back was starting to be groomed for leadership. My house and homechurch leaders started referring to “when I would be a leader”.
Meanwhile, I was still as depressed and as empty as ever. When I talked about this with other xenoids, I was told to keep to the path, God would sort it out.
I also started seeing things that sat very uneasily with me. All other Christian sects were bashed to one form or another, but particularly Catholics, Jehova Witnesses, and to a lesser extant, Mormons. I won’t even go into the venom reserved for non-Christian religions.
I started missing meetings due to work, or just being too depressed to leave the house. One hear or there did not merit comment, but if you missed more than three in a month, leaders started coming to you to voice thier concerns for your spiritual walk.
Finally, a few weeks before Christmas of 1998, things came to a head. I had been neglecting some of my house chores for a few weeks (as had other members of the house, but I was singled out it seems) and was put on probabtion. No missed chores for a month or I was outs. Three days before the month was up, I had been out late with friends seeing a movie, and forgot to do some cleaning. I did it first thing in the morning, but the house leaders decided to make me leave. At first, they wanted me out immediately. I managed to get a whole week out of them.
Needless to say, a week later I was homeless. I was crushed. Everything I had built my adult life around was suddenly gone. I had no friends outside of the church, as outside friends were not forbidden, but they were not encouraged unless they were outreach. My only support network was two hours away, so I went home to my parents.
The next year and a half were hard. I was removed from any support network, and was slowly slipping into darkness. Only a handful of people kept up with me, I would thank them, but all but one have left that group.
I moved back to Columbus in mid 2000, a mental wreck. Like an abused spouse, I went back to the only thing I knew, Xenos. I puttered on for about 7 or 8 months, never regaining the acceptance I had enjoyed previously. I was a fringe member, and outsider. Being on the edge I saw the truly bad aspects of that group. The cliquishness, the social control wielded over members, the selective enforcement of morality and the unhealthy focus on “Sexual Sin”.
My end with the group came with a woman. We started dating, and she was not Christian. I tried to bring her around at first, but she was offended at the groups attitudes towards other religions. We ended up having sex. Knowing I was violating Xonos’ rules, I removed myself from the group. However, that was not enough. Even though I had left of my own accord, they still instituted their church discipline against me, and the few friends I still had in the group were forbidden from speaking to me “For my own good”.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Since then, I broke away from the false promises of my faith, and found my own way. I conquered my depression, have built true, lasting friendships, and have finally gotten my life back on track, all the things Xenos tells you are not possible without God, with the undertone that to be right with God you must be right with Xenos. Looking back, I see the broken people they pulled into their group, and some have gon on to lead rich, fulfilling lives, I can honestly say as of my last check, there were not that many in the college group that were.
I have overcome any resentment I had towards that group, a process that took many years. Through it I have become a better person, and in a way, am glad they treated me the way they did. I would not be the person I am today without Xenos.
I just hope for all those that go to them listening to false promises of fulfillment and meaning in their life, that they find what they are looking for.
I invite any and all comments to this on my own blog at gothic_oreo.livejournal.com. I will make a public post with anonymous comments aloud specifically for that purpous.
What's interesting about the story is that the person has clearly seperated from evangelical Christianity and is quite happy about the effects of the shunning.
If there are any Xenos people out there:
- Why discipline on a non member?
- Why shunning?
Addendum: There is an interview with the lead pastor for Xenos on discipline at a later post Interview with Xenos on membership and discipline policies