What I Know of Shincheonji - By Anonymous
So firstly, their recruitment or evangelizing process has also moved online. This is in Australia, Queensland btw so we're not even in lockdown therefore not really necessary to start recruiting online. I was recruited through Facebook by a Korean girl that was in the same anime university club Facebook group as me. She pretended that her new year’s resolution was to connect with more people this year, for about a week we just talked casually about anime, k-pop and life in general up. Throughout this casual period, she also asked about my visa status, which I didn’t really find weird since I thought she was an international student and just wanted to know if we were the same and then if I was here with family which I was a bit iffy about. And every time I took long to reply she’d text again attempting to start another conversation, which I found it pretty refreshing since you know how this generation is with making online friends; but obviously now I know it was just because she was looking to recruit me. Eventually the Christian topic was brought up, she said she was a new believer and that she goes to this bible study group that really helped her makes sense of the bible as a new Christian. She also asked about if I was Christian and if I went to church, and which one it was, I found it kinda weird how she wanted to know the specific location and name of my church and then she started hyping up this bible study that she goes to called ‘Zion Church’ which obviously I now know is a complete bullshit front (excuse the language, I am from Australia after all). Then she started getting really ‘vulnerable’ by talking about how Christianity saved her from hardship which I think was just a tactic to gain more of my trust.
Onto the second part of the recruitment, out of the blue she asked me to join a zoom call with another friend who she said likes k-pop too and how she’d been telling them about me and how she wanted to know me as well. Again, I thought it was weird but there had been no indication that she had bad intentions that I just went with it. During the zoom call most of it was about my schedule, thoughts on god and the bible and the other friend just encouraging me to try and get to know him better like she did. I did notice how they didn’t really act like friends, the girl who recruited me didn’t talk much; looking back, it was like she was delivering me to the screening process and the friend was just there to check if I was worth the time. A couple of days after that in came the ‘mentor’ who she said was super excited to meet me. To be honest I probably should’ve questioned the amount of enthusiasm she had for me. We then started this one-on-one bible study sessions through zoom about basic stuff like history of the bible, how to read it, parables, etc. etc. It’s not really that important since I never reached the advanced classes so what they were teaching were pretty basic and true to the bible, therefore I never questioned the credibility of the bible study.
The one-on-one session went on for about a month, three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), the recruiter would always call me before the bible study starts which she said was to make sure I woke up in time to attend it. Every time I couldn’t make it, they’d change the time for me which made me feel guilty and therefore I kept attending. One time I came in like 15 mins late but the lesson seemed like it was just starting, so obviously the whole thing was just to brainwash me. Halfway through I was also introduced to someone else who was the same race as me and only a little older. I’m pretty sure she was my second ‘leaf’ because later on she revealed to me that she already took the bible study course, again I probably should’ve questioned why the hell she was doing the whole thing all over again. Then the three of us (the mentor, myself and my original recruiter) met up at the city where once again my citizenship, church, family situation and schedules were brought up throughout the casual conversation then they took a selfie at the end of the meeting (through reddit I found out that this was to save my face on their records). After that one-on-one stopped and I was sent to attend the intro class which had about 100 people on zoom, it ran for two weeks again three times a week and had the same content being taught by my ‘mentor’ on the one-on-one sessions. They had the homeroom teachers and connect lessons after every class where we reviewed the content then we’re made to sign up on a google survey page for the beginner class. They asked for full names, number, email, citizenship status and availabilities.
The beginner class then started and I was in it for almost the whole duration which I believe was four or five weeks. The teachings were still very basic but each lesson would extend longer than the last, first it started out as one hour then an hour and a half then two hours and the longest was around two and a half. I had almost missed class because of their inconsideration for their student’s time. In these lessons they demanded that the camera is turned on. They always said that attendance was optional and come only if you want to get closer to god, but obviously my ‘leaf’ would always be messaging me asking which session I was going to (morning or night) to make sure I’d go. If you missed a lesson you would have to catch up with your homeroom teacher on zoom because the lessons were structured that it wouldn’t make sense without knowing the last lesson, they never sent out the recordings, so they always made you watch it on zoom with a teacher. I asked why and they said it was because someone once used it to ‘hurt the church’, when asked for elaboration there was never any given, at this point I still had no clue they were a cult. The two ‘leaves’ I had would also question me about what I thought about the lessons after every class, probably to check if I had any doubts.
Two things stood out as odd to me during these lessons, firstly was how much they talked about persecution and how Jesus and his disciples were persecuted in their time as well and secondly how much they shamed Jewish people for not believing in Jesus or specifically the first coming of Jesus by always emphasising how they were condemned. I found it pretty rude that they were judging another religion but I figured that’s just how serious Christians were (close-minded and a bit egotistical of their religion) because I myself was just born Christian and didn’t really practice or devote to it. Now I know that this was setting up for when they eventually reveal their real church name and justify them being called a cult as persecution like with Jesus and his disciples and the Jewish thing as a scare tactic to when they reveal that their leader who they claim is the ‘promised pastor’ is here to fulfill the second coming and if we don’t believe in them like how the Jewish people didn’t with Jesus’ first coming, we’d be condemned by god too.
Eventually around the end of the beginner class, they revealed their real church name. And I forgot to add in a very important detail, both of my ‘leaves’ actually came over my house in the guise of hanging out then doing bible study together. I think it was just to figure out my living situation and to know my address without sounding suspicious asking for it. So, I had one of my ‘leaf’ with me during the lesson in which they reveal their church name. During the lesson they utilised the lamp shading method by talking about the controversy surrounding their church such as the COVID situation in Korea and them being called a cult and twisting the story to make them seem like victims, nothing about the creepy leaf stalking and demanding schedule were ever mentioned. The leaf who was with me kept steering me away from any suspicions since I was looking it up on the internet, and she would just say things like “he’ll explain it soon don’t pay attention to that” (referring to an article about them being a cult that I pointed out to her). I found that super weird, that she already knew what he was about to discuss since I asked her specifically if she’d been to the morning class and she said no. During this meeting she was also being very vulnerable sharing her story (which is quite tragic and personal so I don’t want to share it behind her back even though she spied and reported on me for like 3 months) but I was still super sus about the church. So, I looked them up, stumbled upon reddit and found out about their ‘promised pastor’ belief and their ‘leaf and fruit’ system. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if it was just the Korean Jesus thing since I believe that everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs and no one can say if any religion is right or wrong since we’re all just guessing but the breach of trust and creepiness in that ‘leaf and fruit’ tactic just irks me so much. It is such a violation of trust and just plain morally fucked.
So, on the same night I told my home room teacher I was leaving, I listed the recruitment method and the ‘promised pastor’ as the reason and they offered to zoom call so I could ask questions, after refusing she tried the guilt method by saying how she was sad I was leaving without ‘properly learning before judging’, I stayed firm and we just wished each other the best and said we’d ‘keep the friendship’. Almost around the same minute I messaged the homeroom teacher one of my ‘leaf’ messaged me, so it confirmed in my mind that they were stalking and discussing me. Both my ‘leaf’ acted as if they had no clue that I already told the teacher I was leaving and asked what session I would join. I said I quit and almost like they were following a script they both asked why, I gave the same answer I gave the homeroom teacher, then offered a zoom call to explain, I declined, then they asked if there was anything wrong with the ‘Zion bible study’ lessons, so I specified that it wasn’t the content I had a problem with but the moral degeneracy of their tactics, the original recruiter never even read the message and hasn’t replied in 3 days when previously she’d reply every day. The other one is still texting back probably still going to try to get me back