“Unfortunately, the incident with the Golden Calf sets the stage for the Israelites’ recurrent faithlessness during their forty-year sojourn in the desert. Their attitude seems to be an extreme example of the “What-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” syndrome. At the slightest provocation, they turn on God and Moses, and God finally concludes that a nation raised in slavery is unfit to form a country of free men. As Rabbi Irwin Kula has said: “It was easier to take the people out of Egypt, than to take Egypt out of the people.” God declares to Moses that the entire generation of freed slaves must die before the Israelites can enter Canaan (see The Twelve Spies).
For me, the episode of the Golden Calf proves that, for most people, faith and doubt exist independently of anything that God does. Although every promise Moses had made in God’s name was fulfilled, that was not enough to keep the Israelites faithful for more than forty days. What makes us so sure we would be any different?” — Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
This was a most thought-provoking question that Telushkin asks. It really made me think about the “old” me. The “me” that spent more than 18 years in a fundamentalist cult. Sure, I did everything I was asked to do and, not by myself, my family did too. The fundamentalist blood ran deep in all our veins. We had become “clones” of the cult system we served. Just as the Israelites had a “slave” mentality that cost them the promised land, our family had fundamentalist beliefs that hindered our relationship with God and others. It stifled my growth and prevented God from doing any great work with me and my children.
However, exiting the cult, and the trauma it caused me, would lead one to wonder how I still have my faith in God intact. As a matter of fact, this is the number one question people ask me that have read my book, “Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse.” The next question I get asked is how I overcame the mindset of the fundamentalist sect. I guess it would be safe to say that people wonder how I got the “Egypt” out of me and moved on. The answer is: I didn’t. God did a great work in me to prepare me for a purpose. God knew exactly what I needed to go through to bring me to a place of total reliance on HIM (this is called “humbling” a person) instead of ministry, church, church leaders, pastors, and church family. . . just Him and Me. That’s how God likes it. He doesn’t like middle-men!
The Israelites let the hardships in the dessert “cement: their thinking toward Egypt and the slave mentality. They had trouble letting their foundations go so God could rebuild new foundations and do a great work with them. We must be careful, as this is all about pride. I firmly believe that pride in the heart of man causes him to fight against what he knows is right and to hang on to the “old ways” of thinking. As a result, the Israelites were never used for the glory of God. God had to wait until their children were grown (raised outside of the “slave” mentality) and used them to do great things.
If one was to read my book and see the pattern of abuse the church uses against women and children in the sect I came out of, I could understand their questioning my faith. However, for me, it wasn’t a matter of “faith”. It was a matter of survival. My life, and the life of my family, hung in the balance. The only person I could count on was God. It was God that carried me along, bound up my broken heart, my wounds and my broken spirit through his Word. No one else knew how to do that. What God did, man could not do. Therefore, out of desperation, I kept my faith in God and trusted wholly in him to lead me along. I am thankful today, as a result. God broke down the very foundations that I had based my life upon in the cult and removed them, leaving me with only “faith.” I had no dogmas, no “churchology”, no “theology” that I could base anything in my life upon anymore. From the foundation of “faith” alone, God healed me and lifted up my weary head to allow me to do greater things for him.
Telushkin may be right. There are some that exit a cult (Egypt) and cannot retain their faith because of the excessive cruelty they endured from so-called “Christians” (Egyptians). Just as the Israelites turned from God, they do too. Can anyone really blame them? Thankfully, God is full of mercy and grace, knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He is forgiving and knows who to hold responsible for where we are in our lives if our “faith” has died as a result of abuse from those who claim his name. Be sure, He won’t hold the victim accountable as much as the perpetrators. His judgment will be harshest on them, not the victims who have suffered at their hands.
God can take “Egypt” out of anyone as long as they have a humble spirit and a heart that is seeking the truth. That’s all he needs to do great things with a person for his glory.