In the fall of 2002, my life was deeply impacted when my mother and father both died within a three-week period. Then I lost my job after nineteen years in the public mental health field. These losses were compounded by the fact that two years earlier my husband and I had left the Trinity Foundation, which we came to believe was a religious cult. We were still in the recovery process after years of spiritual abuse.
While engaged in grief counseling, my therapist suggested that it might be helpful to write about my cult experience. I nodded politely and said, “Maybe I should,” but I was actually thinking that it was a preposterous idea. How could I write a book while I was still struggling to understand the experience, and especially having a difficult time overcoming the awful shame of having been involved in a cult?
I was overjoyed when I first discovered the Trinity Foundation, a Bible-based religious community in Dallas. I felt that I had finally found a “church” where I could have a sense of belonging. The Trinity Foundation seemed to be a group of sincere believers who were committed to living like the first-century Christians. Most of the members lived on a two-block area in east Dallas. Everyone lived as one big family. The children were home-schooled by designated members and home-cooked meals were eaten together. The New Testament concept of “holding all things in common” was very appealing. I thought I had found a group of believers who were truly living as Christ envisioned.
When my husband and I came to realize that the Trinity Foundation was a spiritually abusive religious cult, all of those feelings were gone. Before, we felt we were involved in a great and meaningful expression of Christianity. After the realization, we were devastated. Both of us had our sense of self wrapped up in the mission of the Trinity Foundation and the lives of its members. When my husband and I left, I felt like an empty shell of a person. There was an overwhelming sense of loss—loss of community, loss of family, loss of faith, and loss of a vision. It was devastating to my sense of who I was and what I believed. My husband and I met through Trinity and he had been involved even before I came. For over eleven years he had worked for the organization as a “Levite,” making only eighty dollars a week. We both tried to come to terms with the futility we felt due to years of living in a religious community of lies.
Doug found a job and enrolled in evening courses to pursue a master’s degree in counseling. As a result, there were many hours when I was alone and lonely. I exchanged e-mails and talked for hours on the phone to Crystal, another former Trinity Foundation member who left around the same time that we did.
In February 2003 Crystal was admitted to the hospital unconscious and in critical condition. I visited her at the hospital during the next four days while she clung to life. One morning, I was deeply distressed and I cried because I could not remember all the details of Crystal’s experience with the Trinity Foundation and her struggle to leave the community. She had not regained consciousness since her admission to the hospital, and I realized I might never have the opportunity to talk with her again. After Crystal died, I found an e-mail she had written two years earlier that read, “ Maybe you should write a book–not of anger, but of enlightenment. Who knows [but] that it might be a source of healing for others?” It was then that I knew I had to write this book.
Since I began the research process for this book, I have located people who were members of the Trinity Foundation during its early days in the late 1970s and early 1980s who were willing to be interviewed on tape, as well as some who left Trinity Foundation within the last ten years. The former members all expressed a common theme of spiritual abuse suffered at the Trinity Foundation. Their stories were compelling and haunting.
My hope is that this book, I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult, can provide spiritual healing to former members of cults and help others understand how “normal” people can get caught up in cult-like groups. This story can prevent others from falling into the grip of a religious cult, and encourage those who are involved in one to have the courage to leave. In our society, we are careful to teach and learn about sexual harassment and abuse so that lives are not ruined. Just as importantly, we must warn others of the dangers of religious abuse.
Wendy J. Duncan