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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Does it Look like a Cult? UPDATED!!

As you read through this post please also read from Leonardo Ricardo's dual post on Purity Cults.  It seems we provided dual coverage on a very important topic and the both combine for a fascinating read!


I had a very good friend.  Jim was possibly the most literate person I have ever known.  A high school dropout who graduated from UC Berkeley cum laude and then graduated from Hasting School of Law.  He turned to schools and what he was doing with the likes of me in a doctorate in Educational Leadership program is subject to speculation.  He had turned his attention to autism and was set on exposing the "solutions"  that had thus far come up in this field.  

Jim and his first wife were married by the Reverend Jim Jones.  Yep, the one and only.  The guy that went to Guyana and ultimately everybody had koolaid shooters.  Jim shared with me that Jim Jones was an incredibly charismatic guy that one could not be around him otherwise he would simply suck you into his "group".   Jim died around this time a year or so ago and I have thought about the loss to education recently.  The point, however,  is the issue of cult.  

Let us take a quick look and see what gives.  

UNIVERSAL DEFINITION

 CULT - Any group which has a pyramid type authoritarian leadership structure with all teaching and guidance coming from the person/persons at the top.  Would that sound like the Primates Council or GAFCON in general. The group will claim to be the only way to God; Nirvana; Paradise; Ultimate Reality; Full Potential, Way to Happiness etc, and will use thought reform or mind control techniques to gain control and keep their members. This definition covers cults within all major world religions, along with those cults which have no OBVIOUS religious base such as commercial, educational and psychological cults. Others may define these a little differently, but this is the simplest to work from. THE 'ORTHODOX BIBLE-BASED CULT'

A group is called a cult because of their behaviour - (would that behavior be that of John David Schofield or Bob Duncan or Peter Jensen or Peter Akinola OR how about BISHOP MacBurney - not their doctrines. Doctrine is an issue in the area of Apologetics and Heresy. Most religious cults do teach what the Christian church would declare to be heresy but some do not. Some cults teach the basics of the Christian faith but have behavioural patterns that are abusive, controlling and cultic.(Sound vaguely familiar?)

This occurs in both Non-Charismatic and Charismatic churches. These groups teach the central doctrines of the Christian faith and then add the extra authority of leadership or some one's particular writings. They centre around the interpretations of the leadership and submissive and unquestioning acceptance of these is essential to be a member of good standing. This acceptance includes what we consider non-essential doctrines e.i. not salvation issues (such as the Person and Work of Christ.) Primates Council Jerusalem Declaration? The key is that they will be using mind control or undue influence on their members.

An excellent book on this subject is "Churches that Abuse" by Dr Ronald Enroth.

OTHER IDENTIFICATION MARKS

(a) The group will have an ELITIST view of itself in relation to others, and a UNIQUE CAUSE. e.i. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES RIGHT the one true Anglicanseveryone else is wrong. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING GOD'S WILL - everyone else is in apostasy.

(b) They will promote their cause actively, and in doing so, abuse God-given personal rights and freedoms. This abuse can be THEOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL, SOCIAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL.

HOW THEY DO THIS

  1. Their leader/s may claim a special, exclusive ministry, revelation or position of authority given by God.

  2. They believe they are the only true church and take a critical stance regarding the Christian church while at the same time praising and exalting their own group, leader/s and work.

  3. They use intimidation or psychological manipulation to keep members loyal to their ranks. This could be in the form of threats of dire calamity sent by God if they leave; certain death at Armageddon; being shunned by their family and friends etc. This is a vital part of the mind control process.

  4. Members will be expected to give substantial financial support to the group (like other peoples money and real property). This could be compulsory tithing (which is checked); signing over all their property on entering the group; coercive methods of instilling guilt on those who have not contributed; selling magazines, flowers or other goods for the group as part of their "ministry".

  5. At the same time bible-based cults may ridicule churches that take up free-will offerings by passing collection plates and/or sell literature and tapes. They usually brag that they don't do this. This gives outsiders the intimation that they are not interested in money.

  6. There will be great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its teachings. The lives of members will be totally absorbed into the group's activities. They will have little or no time to think for themselves because of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is also a vital part of the mind control process.

  7. There will be total control over almost all aspects of the private lives of members. This control can be direct through communal living, or constant and repetitious teaching on "how to be a true Christian" or "being obedient to leadership". Members will look to their leaders for guidance in everything they do.

  8. Bible-based cults may proclaim they have no clergy/laity distinction and no paid ministry class - that they are all equal. (Peter Jensen lay presidency)

  9. Any dissent or questioning of the group's teachings is discouraged. Criticism in any form is seen as rebellion. There will be an emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission. This is vigilantly maintained.

  10. Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in some way. This could be in the form of "dobbing" on fellow members (including family) under the guise of looking out for "spiritual welfare".

    They may be required to deliberately lie (heavenly deception/theocratic strategy) or give up their lives by refusing some form of medical treatment.

  11. Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may be met with threats. (St. Andrew's Taft) Some may have taken oaths of loyalty that involve their lives or have signed a "covenant" and feel threatened by this.

    Refugees of the group are usually faced with confrontations by other members with coercion to get them to return to the group.

SOME ABUSES OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS:-

1. ABUSE OF INDIVIDUALITY They adopt a "groupness" mentality. They are not permitted to think for themselves apart from the group and only accept what they are told.

2. ABUSE OF INTIMACY Relationships with friends, relatives, spouses, children, parents etc are broken or seriously hampered.

3. ABUSE OF FINANCES Pressure to give all you can to the group. In non-communal groups, members usually live at the lower socio-economic strata, not because of a lower income level, but because they are always giving money to the group for some reason.

4. "US VERSUS THEM" MENTALITY Isolation from the community in general. Anyone and everything outside the group is seen as "of the devil" or "unenlightened" etc. Their enemies now include former friends; the Christian church; governments; education systems; the media - the world in general. Those who are involved with these in any way see such involvement as a "means to an end".

5. ABUSE OF TIME AND ENERGY The group controls and uses almost all the members time and energy in group activities. They are usually in a constant state of mental and physical exhaustion.

6. ABUSE OF FREE WILL They must unquestioning submit to the groups teachings and directions and their own free will is broken. Their "will" actually becomes the groups "will" without their realizing it. This is done either by coercive methods including low protein diets and lack of sleep, or over a period of time through intimidation. Both methods make heavy use of "guilt".

Well, there you have it.  Now, I am just spitballin' here but sure seems to ring a bell?  How about you?  Ring any bells for you?

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