An Australian man has opened up about being dramatically saved by Jesus Christ after growing up in a disturbing religious cult.
Ben Shenton was just 18-months-old when he was handed over to Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the woman at the helm of Australia’s most notorious cult called “The Family”—no association with the new Netflix series.
Over the next decade and a half, Ben faced daily indoctrination and forced drug-taking—the cult believe that Hamilton-Byrne was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. The leader would spend hours a day “re-educating” a group of up to 28 children, teaching them a mix-match of Christian and Hindu philosophy.
Much of the exercises taught by Hamilton-Byrne involved chanting, yoga and pseudo-spiritual meditation—she was herself a yoga teacher. The inner circle of leaders claimed authority over their subjects and vowed that they were Apostles of Jesus himself.
Over the course of his upbringing in The Family, which was also known as “Santiniketan Park Association” or the “Great White Brotherhood,” Shenton suffered horrific emotional and physical abuse. Teenagers in the group were also forced to take LSD, while younger children were administered sedatives, to make them more susceptible to the force-fed indoctrination.
Women in the group, called “Aunties,” would frequently hold the children’s heads underwater and force their hands above candles until they started to burn. Anne would often personally beat the children with her stilettos.
“Watching it was enough to leave some serious emotional scarring,” Shenton said in a recent interview with the BBC.
The brave survivor went on to describe his elation when, in 1987, he was rescued from the cult, aged just 15.
“I think for the first time in my life, I realised I was free,” he explained. But that wasn’t the end of his struggle. For years, the traumatized teenager suffered from the devastating mental health effects of having been in such an abusive situation. He spent years depressed and suicidal.
Jesus as the true savior
However, Ben’s healing only really started to occur when he joined a church and started to learn about the true savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
Speaking to Faithwire, Ben said he “met the real Jesus Christ in a vision” after reflecting on “how far he was from God due to his life choices.”
“[I was] confronted with the truth that Jesus Christ came to die in [my] place so I didn’t have to pay for my own sin,” he said, noting that he went on to ask “Jesus to be His Lord and savior.”
After taking this brave step of faith, Ben said he began “to learn about the true savior of the world, Jesus Christ,” as opposed to the counterfeit God that he had been forced to follow as a child.
Quickly, Ben began to see distinguishing factors between the fraudulent Anne Hamilton-Byrne and the Son of God himself—the only one who, as Ben told us, has “made a way for us to make heaven our eternal home and can make us whole.”
“[Jesus] died but then rose again and appeared to over 500 witnesses”, he wrote at his website, as cited by the Christian Institute. “What Anne peddled was a twisted version of this that removed Jesus Christ out and put her there instead.”
Ben went on to declare that “after nearly 30 years of serving the real Jesus Christ; the damage done by a counterfeit Jesus Christ, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, has been fully restored and I’m in a far better place than what I could of ever thought or imagined.”
“The real Jesus Christ promises this to all that would allow Him to be their saviour and Lord!” he declared.
Now running his own non-profit, Rescue The Family, Shenton seeks to “share lessons he’s learnt on how to overcome trauma from his childhood experiences and successfully build a family.”
Anne Hamilton-Byrne dead
Hunted by law enforcement, in the late 1980’s, Hamilton-Byrne fled to America and was eventually apprehended by the FBI in 1993. Despite being extradited and brought before the courts on a number of charges, Anne was never convicted on any serious counts — the Hamilton-Byrnes pleaded to making a false declaration and were fined a mere $5000 each.
Anne died in June of this year.
You can find out more about Ben’s book “Life Behind the Wire,” here.