If you ever wondered why people stay in cults, Shari Howerton’s Breaking the Chains: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel gives a clear, readable explanation. Her story details a life molded and constricted by the sometimes arbitrary rules of a church that exercised control beyond what most Christians have ever experienced.
Howerton’s story is detailed and gripping. Because she was born into this cultish church, you will not learn much about the way such groups lure people in the first place, but you will see the mechanisms in place for keeping them captive once they belong. The intertwined relationships of family members, elitist doctrines and inculcated fears are clearly depicted.
In reading Breaking the Chains, you see one woman’s struggle to stay obedient, to follow the dictates of leaders, to conform to the expectations of the group while also fighting to maintain her personal identity. You follow the development of her mind and her search for truth and see her finally reach a point where she can break free from the bonds that held her life for decades.
It is sometimes hard to keep different individuals straight, especially toward the end, but it really makes no difference. The image of the church is a monolith and members work together as one to preserve the image at all costs.
Church leaders covered up pedophilia and sexual abuse, exerted pressure on members and their families, controlled through manipulative techniques very personal parts of members' lives and caused much pain and anguish. Members could not see that there was anything wrong with the controlling nature of the church and ostracized those who raised questions.
The role of the Internet in helping Howerton affirm her choice to break free from the group is made clear. Postings on message boards allowed former members to find each other and compare notes, resulting in a sense of wholeness and release. More on the main Provender site.