In my book, “Where the Willow Weeps”, I share my story of how I grew up in a cult, left it, and found freedom in Christ. In the next several YouTube videos (this blog/video included), I will recount that story, in less detail than my book, to give ya’ll a summary and get a chance to answer some of your questions.
Before we dive into my childhood and other crazy happenings, I wanted to answer a few basic questions about Branhamism; What is Branhamism, how do I know it’s a cult, and lastly, what are some defining doctrines?
Firstly, What is Branhamism/”The Message”? Well, it all started with a Baptist preacher turned Pentecostal who was popular the mid 40s and 60s. His name was William Branham, and members of the The Message or Branhamism believe him to be the end times “Prophet of God”. They believe that what he said is essentially an extension of the Bible. They believe that his words were inspired, the same way that scripture was inspired by God.
False prophets as defined by the Bible:
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”2 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV)
“And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”Deut 18:21-22 (ESV)
I won’t share the specific prophesies that he made in this post, but I will link a resource for those of you are curious.
In addition to these false prophesies, Branhamism is labeled a cult because of the definition of a cult both by dictionaries, and as laid out from a psychological standpoint.
The Oxford’s dictionary version of a cult is:
A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object. ‘the cult of St. Olaf’
1.1A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister. ‘a network of Satan-worshiping cults’
1.2A misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing. ‘a cult of personality surrounding the leaders’Oxford Dictionary
I do not think this definition is complete, but it works in this case. The other things to pay attention to our the social manipulation and psychological factors that contribute. Things like gas-lighting, scapegoating, spiritual abuse, abuse of power, shunning, and isolating from the outside world are all common in cults and were present in Branhamism. I hope to do a longer blog post dedicated specifically to defining what a cult is, but for now I just wanted to give you a starting point.
Doctrines in Branhamism that deferred from Christianity included the doctrine of the serpent seed, Curse of Ham, Stature of a Perfect man, and others. Some other notable teachings are extra-Biblical rules taught. Women got the majority of rules, while men still had some. Women were expected to never cut their hair (not even a trim), no piercings, no wearing makeup, no painting their nails, no tattoos, and follow a strict dress code including skirts or dresses below the knees, no slits, no pants/trousers, must have short sleeved tops or longer sleeves (no sleeveless or off the shoulder), no neckline below the collarbone, and no midriff showing. Men were expected to be clean shaven, with short hair, not to take their shirt off in the presence of a women, full length pants (no shorts), and naturally no piercings, tattoos, or makeup. Education was also heavily discouraged, especially for woman, whose goal was to become a housewife and mother, and have a “quiverfull” family.
In conclusion, I hope you enjoyed this brief explanation of what The Message / Branhamism is and I would love to hear your questions in the comments. Over the next few months I will share about my story growing up in and leaving the cult of Branhamism. To stay up to date on all my new content, as well as the devotional book I am working on right now, please sign up for my email list here. If you feel like you just can’t wait to hear my story, I’d love if you purchased a copy of my memoir, “Where the Willow Weeps” which is available in Kindle and paperback formats.