Office of Religious and Spiritual Life
Learn to be a . . . Questioner!
What Is the Difference Between Healthy Religious Groups and High-Pressure Religious Groups?
Among the clubs and organizations you’ll find numerous religious groups. Some are well organized , and some are very informal. Choosing a religious group is an important decision. We want to offer you some information that will help you make an informed, free choice.
Healthy religious groups will tell you a lot about themselves, who they are, what they stand for, and what they expect from you. An open and responsible group will offer an easy entrance and more importantly an easy exit to their group. Within the health group one finds an appreciation of diversity, an openness to criticism and doubt, and affirmation of other religious traditions. Healthy groups encourage the the individual’s comfort and growth and support the college experience.
There are several organized and informal campus religious groups that use high-pressure recruiting tactics. Listing names would be a waste of time since the names can change frequently. However, you can identify these groups by what they do.
How Can I Identify These Groups?
Observe the group’s responses to you and how you feel. If you can answer “yes” to any three of these statements, you should seriously reconsider your involvement.
- The group seems cheerfully.
- The group claims to have “all the answers” to your problems.
- You are asked to recruit new members soon after joining.
- You begin to feel guilty and ashamed, unworthy as a person.
- The group encourages you to put their meetings and activities before all other commitments, including studying.
- The group speaks in a derogatory way about your past religious affiliation.
- Your parents and friends are defined as unable to understand and help you with religious matters.
- Doubts and questions are seen as signs of weak faith.
- You are shunned if you persist in these doubts.
- Leadership of the group is mostly male, and males in general are believed to have different rights and abilities than females.
- You are invited on a retreat with the group, but they can't give you an overview of the purpose, theme or activities before you go.
Why Are They So Harmful?
- They isolate you from family, friends and other groups.
- They ask you to give up control of your life, thoughts and decisions.
- They fill you with guilt and shame.
- They may promote crises with school, your career or your love life.
- They frighten you to the point that you stop making decisions and asking questions for yourself.
You Are Most Vulnerable When . . .
- You are lonely
- You are hurting
- You are having a tough time socially
- You are in trouble academically
- You are new at DU or preparing for graduation
- You are feeling overwhelmed or confused
You Can Take Steps To Deal With These Groups By . . .
- Ask the opinion of someone you trust who is not a member of the group - a friend, professor, RA, parent, counselor, or a member of the clergy.
- Find out about this group from you religious organization back home.
- Don't be afraid to ask specific questions. Be skeptical. Don't accept evasive answers.
- Take a stand. Learn to say no!
- Get support from dorm advisers on how to protect your privacy.
- Examine yourself; are you vulnerable? Get the support and help you need!
- Resist their efforts to isolate you. Stay in touch with family and friends.
- Before you to to a meeting to check out the group, think carefully. Will you get a clear picture?
- Tell residence hall staff or the University Chaplain about overzealous recruiters.
For more information, or help, please call the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at 303-871-4488.