Many people have found the blog recently who don’t have firsthand experience attending the sect. Their only knowledge of it is through a family member or loved one. The more you hear, the more red flags pop up. Sirens go off in your head, but you don’t know enough to do anything about it.
But the more you take the time to learn about the sect, the more your loved one’s behavior can start making sense. Only then can you get inside their head and help them rethink their commitment to the teachings of men. That’s why this blog exists, to deepen everyone’s understanding of Stanton’s historical roots and the premises of their often bizarre unbiblical doctrines.
Don’t get me wrong, understanding them doesn’t justify their behavior. But at least it will help you understand why your loved one acts the way they do. I want to give loved ones of Stanton members some tips for (a) understanding, (b) maintaining a relationship, and (c) helping those in the group find their way out.
I offer this advice with a profound sense of humility, since the main reason I started this blog was to help my mom see the chains she’s placed on herself. I wanted desperately for her to taste the freedom in Christ that I have, and that is hers for the taking. But after nearly 30 years of trying, she’s still entrenched in the Stanton sect. She helped start it. It’s a huge part of her identity as a human being, much less a Christian.
The fact that she’s resisted my efforts to convince her she was deceived nearly 50 years ago is no doubt a badge of honor in her circle of friends. I’m sure her superiors lavish praise on her for “standing firm” against my efforts to reason with her. But the truth is, there is always hope. Something could still click with her, and maybe someday she’ll be honest with herself that she’s been deceived. But it’s not as likely now as it was a decade or two ago.
Not everyone who reads this is in the same situation. Maybe your loved one is not as entrenched as my mom is. Though I have lost hope in ever seeing my mom free of the chains she’s placed on herself—free of the darkened pair of glasses through which she views our loving and gracious God—I know others whose loved ones are on the brink of leaving. Maybe they have doubts, and already see through some of the teachings of men.
For them, they might just need a little more courage to slip the chains off their feet and walk away. If that’s your loved one, this article is for you. Read the history here, study your Bible with renewed zeal, and develop a strategy for influencing your loved one to reconsider their undying commitment to fallible teachers.
Here are some tips for dealing with your loved one who is a Stanton member:
- Avoid a document dump. Giving them a document dump on all the cults and their techniques for manipulating members doesn’t work. “I’m in a cult”—said no cult member ever. They obviously don’t believe they’re in one, and they’ll just point out all the differences from the examples you bring up to justify their beliefs. You’ll need to invest in the relationship enough to filter through factual information and only bring up to them what you think they will see as persuasive objections to Stanton’s doctrines or practices. Take the time to understand their unique motivations for getting involved in Stanton, and work backwards from there. Ask them outright, why did you join? What convinced you? Show a genuine desire to understand their train of thought.
- You’re not a Christian. You are not a fellow Christian to them. This is why they leave their heads down after the “amen” when you pray over a meal. They can’t acknowledge that your prayer was actually heard by God, because you’re a “sinner.” You are either in a false church, or the “off church” if you’re from a mainline Church of Christ. Approaching them from the standpoint of a fellow Christian will just bring out their need to convert you and/or disregard your opinions. If you want to reach them, you’ll need to swallow your pride and humor them enough to communicate to them with the understanding that they have zero respect for your faith in God, no matter how deep it may be.
- They consider themselves Bible experts. They consider themselves experts on the Bible, although they’re clearly not. So unless you have a good grasp of scripture and are familiar with their lines of reasoning AND their objections to your lines of reasoning, pulling a few verses out for their consideration will have no effect. They will completely disregard what your pastor says about this or that verse, and pick apart any superficial arguments from Scripture—especially if it’s John 3:16 or any other popularized verse. If you want to base your reasoning with them on scripture, really get to know your Bible first so you can talk intelligently about the context of the verses they twist.
- Don’t be a hater. When you do bring up your objections about Stanton, don’t bash everything about it all at once. Just create food for thought. Ask questions that will help them reach the right conclusion. “Why do you have to ask permission from a Teacher to go to your niece’s wedding, just because it would require you to be out of town on a weekend?” Then ask where they see that in the Bible—because as far as you know, it’s not. A little humility and tact goes a long way in getting your concerns heard and taken seriously. Don’t be shy about planting seeds of doubt about lies they believe.
- Relationship is key to influence. I’m a foster parent, and a common truism for foster parents is “connect before you correct.” Kids, especially teens, need to feel a connection before they’ll be receptive to you correcting their behavior. This is true in dealing with your loved ones in the Stanton sect. Develop a genuine relationship, as much as is possible, and communicate clearly to them that you care—long before you bring anything up about the sect. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”