Inside Dangerous Cults
By Linda Michaels
CBN.com Senior Producer
CBN.com In her latest release, The Black Cloister, author Melanie Dobson probes the secret and sometimes terrifying world of abusive religous cults.
Set in Germany and inspired by the story of Martin Luther’s wife, Katharina von Bora, the novel offers valuable insight into how cult leaders entrap their followers. It also offers hope to those who have been the victims of abuse at the hands of cult leaders.
Dobson was living temporarily in East Germany when she became interested in the life of Katharina von Bora. Katharina was five years old when her mother died and her father sent her to live in an abbey. “I didn’t realize that, in the 14 and 15 hundreds, once you were in an abbey you weren’t allowed to leave,” says Dobson. “The penalty was death for escaping.”
Katharina did safely escape from the abbey, with the help of Martin Luther and she later became his wife.
When the author returned to the United States, she met a woman who was ensnared by a religious cult called “The Family”. At first, she didn’t believe the woman’s bizarre story, but time and research brought Melanie to the realization that her cult experience was real and a new novel was birthed.
Intertwining the experiences of these two women, The Black Cloister tells the story of a young woman named Sara who is trapped in an abusive religious cult. At the same time, a woman named Elise is traveling across Germany to search for answers about her mother’s death. Elise's quest for truth brings her to the abbey where Sara lives. There she meets the cult leader who once ensnared her mother and fights for a way out of the cult for both her and Sara.
Intriguing and enlightening, The Black Cloister is an emotionally engaging and enjoyable novel that will leave you wishing you didn’t have to say good-bye to the two women who are sure to capture your heart as they journey toward freedom. The novel may also open your eyes to the painful and long-lasting wounds of the victims of manipulative cult leaders.
"The children that are born into cults and children that are raised in cults have to think a certain way and they have no choice," says Melanie. Once they escape -- if they are able to escape, Melanie says many find it difficult to find someone to hear their story and believe that the horrors they experienced were real.
"These cults do exist. They still exist today." says Melanie. "People who saw the story about the polygamy cult in Texas didn't understand why these women would stay in a cult like this or why the children would stay. Hopefully after reading The Black Cloister people will understand how scripture is manipulated to keep people in a cult and how people who genuinely want to serve and follow and love God are misled by these leaders who are abusing this power."
As a novel, Melanie says she wanted The Black Cloister to be an entertaining suspense story. But she also hopes those who may be going down the wrong road with their faith -- following a person instead of Christ -- will have their eyes opened to the dangers of following such a path.
Readers of this novel may find it easier to understand people who are hurting as a result of their experience with a cult. Or they may be challenged in their own walk with the Lord. But they will definitely find themselves entertained along the way.
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