CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.
HA Note: Danica is a MK and homeschool alumni. She blogs at Ramblings of an Undercover TCK.
In this series: Part One |Part Two
As Nancy slowly became more and more enmeshed in the prayer group, things started to shift.
I don’t know if it was the shift was so slow it was imperceptible to me, or that by that point I was so caught up in Nancy’s paradigm I didn’t notice it, but either way, the end result was that after six months, the prayer group had lost half its members, and the ones who stayed were sold out to Nancy’s vision. It was a vision handed down by God’s Apostle and Prophet Chuck Pierce, who Nancy had traveled to see at one of his conferences.
Chuck Pierce was someone I had never heard of. Looking like Santa Clause on vacation with his snowy head of hair, matching beard, and penchant for colorful Hawaiian shirts, Chuck is a top apostle and prophet in the New Apostolic Reformation movement. The NAR is based on a hierarchy pulled from the list of spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4:11. The so-called ‘Five-Fold Ministry’ places apostles first, followed by prophets, then evangelists, pastors and teachers. Devotees promote a strict adherence to this order, saying that this structure must be in place for a church to be properly aligned.
The year that Nancy went to his conference, Chuck and Dutch Sheets, another NAR prophet, had traveled around the country and received what they said were words from God for each State in the Union. Prayer warriors were supposed to ‘pray the words in’. At his conferences, you could count on the blowing of shofars and the waving of banners as the praise team sang prophetically, coming up with songs on the spot (inspired directly through the Holy Spirit, they said) that they recorded and sold to conference attendees. Nancy came home from the conference with CD’s for all of us, which she encouraged us to play in our homes as we ‘warred with praise’.
She said she had received a ‘mantle’ from Chuck’s team to do the work of ministry in our area.
(Interesting side note: Chuck Pierce also gave a ‘mantle’ to Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck when Beck and his wife attended a service at his Global Spheres Center, later playing it off to critics as a ‘mantle from Israel’, not from Chuck himself).
Nancy also came back with the year’s Vision for America, handed down by God’s prophets to us lower prophets to ‘pray in’. There was a Kingdom Shift coming, apparently, where a New Door would open into a New Season. Those who had Ears To Hear would answer the call, forsake king and kin, and enter into the New Season.
But there was a catch. Nancy had a vision foretelling our church and pastor weren’t going to enter into the New Season. They had welcomed and embraced the anti-Christ spirit.
If I, or anyone else in the prayer group, didn’t leave the church and join the home church Nancy was starting under the leadership of Chuck Pierce, then we would be partnering with the anti-Christ spirit and would be left on the other side of the closed Door, missing out on God’s New Season.
A Season that would surely usher in the End Times. As part of this new season, Chuck had issued a call for people to start up home churches, and Nancy was answering that call. She was sending her tithe to his ministry, she said, and encouraged us to send our tithes to her so she could pass them on to Chuck as well.
Now let me stop for just a minute. Writing this all out, it sounds like utter horse bologna. It sounds, literally, crazy. It’s honestly embarrassing. I mean, I had been raised to be able to spot cults coming. I knew the scriptures. I prided myself for my entire life on my critical thinking. So how was it that I couldn’t see this fledgling cult for what it was?
The simple answer is … I ignored my intuition.
My intuition warned me several times that something was off, but each time it reared its head, I firmly squashed it down again, misidentifying it as criticism and judgement.
The turning point for me was when she said I must leave the church and join her. I cried and prayed and agonized over this for days.
By that time, I had completely given away all autonomy of thought, relying on her to interpret any words or visions I had and give me understanding of scripture.
I was terrified of partnering with the anti-Christ spirit, but something in me, something very deep down at my core, said, NO! so loudly and so adamantly that I came up against an internal brick wall. I literally couldn’t follow her, even though I desperately wanted to.
The last contact I had with Nancy was on the phone when I told her, “I can’t leave the church. I probably am partnering with the anti-Christ spirit but I just can’t leave.” For about a month prior I had felt a change in my ‘inner circle’ status. Instead of the loving acceptance and happy understanding we had shared at the beginning, I increasingly felt a subtle but growing disapproval. It caused me to ever more frantically try to figure out exactly what to say, how to curry favor, to discern what it was I was doing wrong in her eyes.
I hung up from that phone conversation with my soul in splinters.
Without constant exposure to her presence, Nancy’s influence over me started to wane.
One day I woke up, like Edmund in the White Witch’s palace, to see with devastating clarity the web of lies she’d woven around me.
I made an appointment with my pastor, sitting broken and crying on his couch, to apologize for my part in misleading the people in the prayer group.
My faith, it was shattered.
I have since spent hours researching what it means to be pulled in by a narcissist. Every first-hand account I’ve been able to find follows a predictable pattern.
1. The Enchantment – The narcissist seductively woos you through fantastical stories that are tailor made to appeal solely to you. Narcissists have an uncanny ability to read their audience, intuiting exactly what that audience wants and needs to hear. Since they see their audience as a mirror, reflecting their own grandiosity back to them, the narcissist will choose what image to project depending on their audience, in order to communicate, See? I’m exactly like you … only BETTER. Thus they pull their audience in.
2. The Enlisting – Now that they have you, the narcissist enlists you into their Grand Scheme. This could be as a romantic partner, business partner, cult member, band member … the manifestations of a narcissist’s Grand Scheme are as varied as the people creating them. But the common thread is that the narcissist will have an image they want you to spend yourself for, and since by this time you’re fully under the narcissist’s enchantment, you’ll do so willingly and wholeheartedly.
3. The Execution – Everyone has a shelf life. I really don’t know why narcissists cycle through people, but it is a recurring pattern. Some people are willing to stay on the ‘outside’ long enough for the narcissist to cycle back to them and eventually start over again with Enchantment. Others get ‘executed’ and are left, bleeding and hopeless and alone, like I was.
My faith, it was shattered.
Everything I had ever known and believed to be true, I now second guessed.
I had so completely surrendered myself to Nancy that I couldn’t think critically for myself anymore. Like we’re warned about in junior high youth group pep talks, I had checked my brain at the door. Nancy had become, in essence, my Holy Spirit.
I was wholly and thoroughly brainwashed in the most insidious way possible, because the entire time I was thinking I was learning something new and different. A revelation of a higher order. Something not to be entrusted to just anyone. A Truth that only those who were called and set apart, only those who really had the discernment to see, could comprehend.
How does a person even come back from that?
My head had become so twisted that I had to shelve everything, in order to examine anything.
I started with God. For the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to doubt if he was real. And if he was real, was he good? And if he was good, was his word true? And if it was true, what did I do with the things in it that had been used to hurt me?
It was a long, slow, painful journey, this dark night of my soul. And yet somehow I have come out of it a better, more complete and truer version of myself. My faith I can hold with mystery and wonder and joy and sadness, knowing that the God I trust gives me the freedom to be honest and ask difficult questions. The swirling winds of doubt and pain that surrounded me in the aftermath of my involvement with Nancy and Chuck Pierce’s NAR cult have blown away the chaff that had grown unquestioned for my entire life, and now only the wheat remains – some of which I never knew was even there, some of which has grown up now that there is room since the chaff is gone.
The thing about a cult is that you don’t know you’re in one until you’re out of it.
The good news is that once you experience the pull of a narcissist, have sacrificed your intuition and your very self upon the altar of their cultish, narcissistic image, then you are able to more easily recognize when the next one … and then the next one … and then the one after that … come along.