. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Religious Cults
RELIGIOUS CULT PATTERNS
Most have as a strong teaching the familiar Gnostic line that they have a "new" revelation or interpretation of the truth. It is usually presented as a "secret"....that they are the knowing ones and that this revelation is apart from or an addition to the Scriptures. Many give respect to the Bible but in fact their teaching is presented as superseding the Scripture or doing away with its authority.
Examples of this are seen in Mormonism,
Masonry, aspects of New Age, the
This is a common manifestation. It is characteristic of nearly all extremist movements throughout history. These leaders are usually persons of great personal magnetism with a flair for attracting large numbers of people, (e.g. Hitler.) They have an air of authority and command which develops confidence in their followers. They usually are masters of the types of manipulation mentioned in the earlier study..
As the movement develops there is a growing tendency of such leaders to consider themselves the chosen "Messiah" or God's person for today. Later development of this self-aggrandizement can lead to him/her thinking themselves a mediator between mankind and God or even developing the delusion that they are God. An almost superstitious awe develops towards these leaders and often their death only serves to strengthen this attitude. Their writings take on a "holy" character and are above analysis and criticism by devotees.
(Such false leaders can arise within the church when we fail to understand the true function of the five ascension ministries and avoid multiple eldership ruling in the local church. e.g. Apostolic ministry is set in the church to establish; not rule over. The elders are the ones who have the oversight.)
Examples of this delusion are seen in Brigham Young, Rev.? Moon, David "Moses" Berg, Armstrong, Charles Tase Russell and Mary Baker Eddy, Sai Baba; just to mention a few.
In many of the systems of religion generated by cult leaders is to be found a blend of beliefs taken from a number of previous or existing cults and religions. This collection is then labelled "the truth" Such a belief system is "custom made" to suit the founders felt needs at the time. Very few extremist groups present anything that is really new. Careful examination will show their teachings to be a rehash wrapped in contemporary packaging. Often an old heresy re-presented with a few added attractions. A classic example is found in the Jehovah's Witnesses. Their teaching is a representing of the Arian heresy, which appeared very early in the church's history.
Often the "new" ideas are presented as being "true" Christianity. Within the group is often found a slander campaign against the established church and its members.
Often great efforts are made to produce a package that is tailored to the perceived prejudices, hang-ups, dreams and hopes of the target community. There is a tendency to adopt the " ends justify the means" philosophy.
Very conveniently doctrine can often be adapted to suit new situations, new problems as they arise, or to suit the whims of the leader. He/she has of course a "God given right" to change and interpret at will. (Questions are usually not acceptable.)
Close scrutiny of many cult structures reveal that what is taught is little more than an untested set of irrational ideas that may stir the emotions but only confuse the mind. This leads to mindless emotionalism. With this kind of bondage any serious examination of the belief system is strongly resisted by devotees. All other ideas are shut out as being rubbish or outdated..
(e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that all reading other than Watchtower publication are worldly and should not be touched. Some other groups reject the bible on the grounds that it is irrelevant. Such people will talk endlessly to convert you to their way of thinking but cannot tolerate any in depth examination of what they believe. )
Scripture is similarly adaptable in the mind/s of leaders and passages that might be used against the group are often revised or twisted out of context to use against the "enemy" This is a familiar technique used by the "doorknock" evangelists of such cults.
A number of "new?" translations of the Bible have been written expressly for this purpose .
The idea of "salvation" being the free gift of forgiveness and new life, comes to a believer simply by faith in all that Jesus is and all that Jesus has done, stands in direct opposition to the cultic pattern.
To a greater or lesser degree depending on the particular group the "cult style" of salvation depends on membership of the "club", works done, character, heightened consciousness, self-righteousness, personal achievement, and a whole basket full of other alternatives.
The depressing thing is that the devotees are never quite sure that they have made it. Of course they are the chosen ones but there is very little security to be found. There is always that feeling of living in fear of not having done enough, not given enough, not prayed enough, not meditated enough.......... And this fear is used in many cases by the group or the leader to enslave the mind and with this the person.
Most "cult" leaders ignore the principles of leadership laid down in Scripture. Giving all power into the one set of hands gives rise to "power corrupts". As the cult grows, devotees, sometimes willingly, become the "possession" of the leader. A possession that can be mercilessly manipulated to further the ends of the cult doctrine. This kind of centralizing is a great danger for any independent local church group also, and sadly such "lording over the flock" can and has happened to some. Many denominational churches have guarded against this by developing a hierarchical clerical structure e.g Roman Catholic, Presbyterian (in fact most others) but this idea brings its own problems. Scripture teaches that the rule of the local church is to be by multiple elders but few denominations pay heed to this. Tradition has a very strong grip
The very worthy and correct teaching that we should be willing to give all to God is twisted to "give all to the cult" This is emphasized to a point of unthinking behavior and rash promises given of "blessings" to follow giving "all".. The follower may thus be exploited to the point of financial and physical exhaustion.
An almost universal mark of cultic activity is the extreme grasping for financial power. Excessive spending on giant buildings of luxurious design (for the glory of God???) Lavish buildings and luxurious lifestyles are often seen as being appropriate for the leadership while quite often the devotees live simply and sometimes in poverty. (Click & Read This)
Many groups and especially many of the pseudo-Christian cults demonstrate surprising persecution complexes. Cult leaders and devotees manifest strong paranoid behaviour. They view with suspicion and often antagonism any who seek to find out more about their activities. Any searching questions or critical comment is taken to have come from "Satan". Those who are members who behave in any way that challenges the cult doctrine are severely disciplined even to the extent of being disfellowshipped. Even family members are encouraged or forced to reject each other for this kind of "rebellion". Main stream Christendom is named as being "deceived" and as such is the "enemy"
Devotees are often taught to expect persecution and come to revel in such negativism.
e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses (although not pseudo Christian and outside this discussion Islam manifests this kind of behavior. Particularly among the Arab nations.)
This can be varied from group to group and as with all the aspects being mentioned in this study does not apply to all. Secrecy is quickly revealed when a genuine inquirer is met with evasions and unwillingness to have legitimate questions answered. There is often a denial of teachings and practices at a public level even though they are clearly true of the cult practice. A pyramid structure is sometimes evident which keeps those at "lower" levels ignorant of the so-called "higher" truths until they are "worthy" in some way. Some groups keep from new members and potential members the real nature of the movement. This means that the junior members are kept in ignorance and are not reliable witnesses to the religious undertones that prevail, or the final object of the worship involved.
E.g. Masonry, Mormonism, New Age
The Christian church has come to their understanding and belief about the deity, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus and His uniqueness because the weight of evidence and experience leaves no alternative. Cult beliefs right from New Testament times have almost inevitably found difficulty with the question of who Jesus Christ is and what he accomplished for humankind. An almost unvaried pattern is the cult practice of leaving out or endeavouring to change some fundamental teaching about Jesus and his instructions to His people. Examples are.......Jesus is only a man, he was a created being, he didn't die for our sins because we have to work that out by karma, the church isn't needed, its only a fable anyway and the list goes on and on.
At the back of most objections will be found the age-old problem. If you can't obey the teaching of Jesus one way to overcome this, is to change the teaching. This is a typical cult behaviour.
The new convert may be asked to make certain "sacrifices" to test their sincerity or loyalty. In the majority of cases this involves a rejection of all previous relationships. Often these include family, friends and similar healthy associations. Physical, emotional and spiritual aspects may be addressed in this move to separate the convert from all other activities. The object is the same in all these moves. The past must be submerged so that the present cult belief becomes the only reality. In the more dangerous cult groups followers may have to "give up" vocation, family, material assets, education, close friends, normal in family relationships with wife, husband or children, normal relationships with the opposite sex and any other very normal behavior that might distract them from being channelled into the cult patterns.
(If you have a clean slate a clever manipulator can write whatever he/she likes on it.)
Examination of extremist cult movements will show in most cases that they are prone to seek out the confused, the idealistic, the lonely and the searching. Once a tentative interest is expressed, intensive group pressure is applied in order to break through normal reticence. A busy round of lectures, worship times, indoctrination sessions, changes in eating and sleeping habits and a deliberate crowding out of privacy. (These methods used with intent may deprive an individual of physical and psychological defences) An example of a well-known technique is the isolating of the person from familiar surroundings by taking them to "special" communities where they are vulnerable to cultic manipulation.
Indian "ashrams" are typical examples of this technique.
This is a very useful device for establishing control over the individual. In some groups the person is stripped of "self" in favour of the group identity. Individual symbols of dress and appearance are discarded. Often a "NEW" name is given.... Ostensibly for spiritual reasons but in fact this reinforces the break with former identity. In the case of the young in years it can also be used to hide from searching and caring parents and police. Carried far enough these techniques can result in a drastic change in behaviour and mannerisms. (Usually regressive.)
Having established the new patterns of thought i.e. the cult program The next step is usually a strong and consistent emphasis on the imperative for high standards and high levels of achievement for all devotees. This level is usually so high that a member can seldom achieve them and so falling short feels remorseful and repentant. This leaves them more open to control by the leader acting as "divine counsellor". In some cases fear and subtle threats are attached both to failure to perform and failure to be absolutely loyal to the "doctrine" Similar fear and threats of disassociation are cleverly used towards those who contemplate leaving the cult.
An immediate barrier to outside information is very often used to isolate members. Outside teaching, literature and written material is expressly named as being either forbidden or evil and hence not to be read or contemplated. Some of the larger groups have their own literature and produce a large quantity of their specially biased reading for cult adherents. Critical analysis is discouraged and groupthink is paramount. The pressure is not to understand or analyse but to "accept". Every attempt is made to bypass the mind and establish a passionate devotion. (Which is often irrational.)
e.g. Jehovah's' Witnesses adopt this outside teaching barrier.
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