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My Years in a Campus Christian Cult

TW: religion, depression, rape, and suicide

After watching Going Clear, I decided to share my experience being involved in a campus religious group. Names are changed.

About halfway through my second semester at college I started attending Campus Crusader's for Christ (what is now known as Cru). I had just lost most of my friends and was pretty much desperate for new ones when a cute guy from my dorm asked me to join him. The meeting was at our student union, and a small group of maybe 50 of the friendliest students on campus joined together to worship god and sing incredibly uplifting songs.


Groups like this one weren't exactly new to me, a part of playing on my high school's basketball team meant going to YoungLife every Monday. Still, there was something much more welcoming about Cru. Every one of the students personally came up to introduce themselves to me. I had two different coffee dates before I left. The music was good, and the talk (sermon) was relatable.

Within a month Mason, the cute guy that originally invited me to join, asked me out. Dating within Cru, while encouraged, came with many strings attached. Mason's roommate was also involved in Cru. This was a good thing, more accountability. No being in a room together behind closed doors, someone to tell you when you should probably cover up while walking through the dorms, and his girlfriend and I would meet up to discuss our struggles with sin within our relationships.

Now Mason and I weren't perfect at following the rules. There were many times we would go just a little too far before one of us would finally stop it and we would sit together and pray. He would often talk about ruining me for my future husband as he prayed. I found out later he would then pray about how far we went to his men's group.

By the time sophomore year rolled around, I decided to go to DCC, Cru's Christmas conference. We carpooled to Denver for a week of god and community. The first time I went was overwhelming to say the least. I honestly don't remember much of that trip, just being in continuous awe. We spent our time evangelizing, worshiping, building community, and learning in breakout sessions with topics from The Bad Science behind Evolution to Better Ways to Evangelize and The Truth about Homosexuality.


After getting back from conference, I noticed a changed. I started believing people when they said you could talk openly about your struggles. I finally wanted to start talking about what led me to join this group and what was keeping me up at night. I knew Katie, one of the staff members, had been raped in college, not because she was open about it, but because her husband was. I decided to talk to her and finally told someone outside my original group of friends I had been raped freshman year.

About that time I started realizing I wasn't happy in my relationship with Mason. The continual cycle of almost having sex and then him spending an hour crying and blaming me as he prayed started to eat at me. He had also started talking about taking a real leadership position in our relationship, letting me know that if we were ever going to get married, I needed to stop being so strong-willed. I broke up with him right before summer break.


That summer I spent some time back home. At this point I was completely in. I drove around listening to K-Love and talked to anyone who listened about my new relationship with Christ. When one of my friends told confronted me on my new passion, expressing her concern, I told Katie about it. She told me I needed to cut that friend from my life. She then had me pray about anyone else that was holding me back and told me if I really wanted to grow closer to the life god has planned for me; I needed to cut all ties. By the end of the summer, my roommates were the only friends I had outside of Cru.

When junior year started, I was officially in a leadership position within Cru. Along with running the computers during meetings, I also helped lead a bible study and mentored younger students. Evangelizing was the hardest part, but I was so desperate to keep my leadership role I didn't care. I would go up to strangers in the union or walking around campus and ask if they wanted to "take a survey." The survey was a card game that started off harmless enough: which picture represents your life? By the end of it, you were given a perfect setup to talk about god. I did this countless times to so many strangers all throughout campus, including the nice freshman trapped in their dorm rooms.


About two weeks into the school year Jason, one of the seniors, asked if I would tell my story during a weekly meeting. Just a short 2-5 minutes about how we join Cru and found god. I was so excited to be asked, I said yes. As I prepared that week, I met with him to go over just what I would say. I had decided to include how I was raped.

At this point the only person who knew about the rape was Katie, who I just found out was leaving for New York. After the meeting, another one of the staff members, Jessica, asked if we could meet. I was always fascinated by Jessica; she was one of the prettiest, kindest girls I had ever met. I would have done anything to get closer to her, so we planned to meet up later that week.


I really don't remember much of the conversation with Jessica besides her telling me it wasn't right to talk about my sexual experiences in front of the guys in the group. Most of them were really struggling with purity, and with a girl talking about that kind of stuff, it just wasn't good for them. She prayed for me, and asked me to continue being open about my struggles with sex, but during a smaller, all female group.

After talking about my rape openly, it seemed to open a flood gate that I had managed to close during my last interview with the police. I stopped sleeping and caring about class. I was anxious all the time. I spent most of that semester evangelizing, doing work for Cru, and failing 2 classes.


About halfway through the semester we had a girl's retreat. When I talked about my rape and the depression I had felt since, Jessica started a group prayer for me. Each girl took a turn praying for me and my sexual sins. One girl prayed that I could be pure again.

That winter I went back to DCC. It was there I met Mica and Johna, two staff members from headquarters in Florida. They took me and a few other juniors out to lunch and talked to us about doing an internship with them. With my history of campaigning and fundraising in high school and college, I was an ideal candidate. After lunch, they introduced me to three different CFOs from different companies along with one of Cru's lawyers. I listened as one CFO talked about his company and how they were using Christ based teaching in managing their employees and investing their money. The lawyer talked about different cases she was interested in and how they could affect what Cru does worldwide. It was at that point I learned Cru was one the largest religious charity.


Soon after that conference I was flown out to Orlando to the official headquarters. During that trip I met senators, congressmen, owners of large companies, and the president of Cru, Steve Douglass. We sat through meeting about what it meant to be on staff with Cru at the headquarters and raising funds as both interns and staff members. Cru doesn't pay a normal salary. Instead to come on staff or take part of any internship or ministry, you must raise your own funds through supporters within your church or local community. They told us to estimate about 6 months to raise enough.

I came back from that meeting more excited than ever. I decided to really focus on graduating because I finally knew where I wanted to be when I was done. I called my parents, so excited to tell them the news and they responded with skepticism, saying they weren't going to pay for me to spend a year in Florida. When I told Jessica about this, she told me I really needed to consider cutting contact with my parents if they weren't going to support what god had planned for me. For the next month or so, she would ask me about my contact with them, chastising me if I had talked to them.


While all of this was going on I started a relationship with my roommate. It started with just sleepovers in each other's bed, innocent even though I knew I wanted more. I kept this hidden from my Cru friends, and for a few short months enjoyed forbidden romance filled with sneaking around. After a while she of my relationship with Cru and inability to be honest with myself and her and moved out.

One weekend, when I was having a rather bad depressive episode, Jessica took me to another staff member's house. They took away my phone and spent the weekend praying for me and locking me in a bedroom, checking on me every so often.


About a month later I was invited to go to a fundraiser. Since I had such a great coming to Jesus story about a being involved in partying and alcohol before I finally found Cru, I was to meet and greet the guest and let them know how much Cru had saved me. I felt honor to be there as a success story.

That Sunday, after a leadership bible study group I went home and took an entire bottle of Tylenol. One of my friends had returned a call I made to her earlier, and I told her what happened. She came and picked me up and rushed me to the ER. After about a gallon of charcoal, I was moved from the ER to the ICU. Jessica came and visited at that point. She prayed for me, calling what I did selfish and sinful.


My brother came up to move me to a closer hospital. My parents were in Mexico at the time, and I wasn't able to see them until I was released from the hospital.

In a weird way, that attempt saved my life. I moved back home with my parents, and while I went up to visit a few times, the distance allowed some clarity. Church stopped being part of my daily routine. I started seeing a counselor that helped me see that I don't have to apologize or beg for forgiveness about any part of my rape. I finally started having open dialogue with my parents. And once again, I felt open about my sexuality. The final straw with my friends from Cru was when I told the girl I was closest to I was bisexual. She told me she didn't agree with my choices and hung up. After that, I lost all contact with that group.


I used to feel like Cru saved me after my rape, now I don't believe that so much.

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