Monday, November 27, 2006

Cult Expose

Dear spiritual and beloved Friends of the Heart,

Some of you have very kindly offered your material support, should Love Ministries ever find a project that needs or requires it. Happily, we have now discovered precisely such a fine project. Its intention is to relieve and alleviate suffering, and restore people to peace and sanity. In a very real way, it is a "rescue mission," attempting to "save" people all the nightmarish and ghastly experiences that arise from getting trapped in a cult.

This is one of the finest and most needed efforts on our poor, tiny planet. In harmony with the overall calling of Love Ministries, it is an educational enterprise. Its producer, Steven McDaniel, is a mystic poet, oriented along the admirable lines of the Sufi masterpiece-poets of the past. In this, we feel a very powerful resonance. Steven has also attended the "Pneumarium" discussion-group and gathering.

Nothing, and certainly not quality film-work, can be done without any expense. Steven, and the co-producer, nevertheless, have volunteered their time and energy to support the project. Steven has asked whether we, the uld efamily, as a community of caring people, could support him in this very important project. It, and he, are very deserving of a hearing. And that is why we are going to share some of the technical details of the project here in the uld. Please carefully, prayerfully, and in meditation, consider giving financial assistance to this project. As Jesus showed, it is a necessary part of teaching truth to reveal falsehood, and that is one of our shared goals. NOTE: In the following document, the producer, Steven, makes it abundantly clear that his first priority will be to reimburse anyone who has invested in the film. So, donations can be seen more as loans than simple donations. Here are some selections from the information sent this week by Steven:

CULT WATCH VIDEO

PROPOSAL AND FINANCIAL OVERVIEW:

A video (approx. 55 minutes.) Documentary style, featuring interviews with ex-cult-members from the Jehovah's Witnesses, combined with experts in the fascinating field of cult-psychology. This is designed to provide resources to inspire those in psychological transition to reach out to others.

PRIMARY THEME of the video is to reveal the mind-control and -influencing techniques, and other factors that rob freedom in recruiting members. This occurs under false pretenses, and offers false promises. Ultimately, a goal of the video is to relieve suffering and pain. The video is to be produced by Steven McDaniel, and co-produced by Richard Francis. CAMERA, LIGHTING, SOUND AND EDITING BY STEVEN MCDANIEL. ALL EQUIPMENT SUPPLIED BY THE PRODUCER-- INCLUDING BUDGETED ITEMS. PRODUCER AGREES TO PRODUCE VIDEO WITH RICHARD FRANCIS FOR GRATIS EXCEPT FOR BASE EXPENSES FOR PRODUCER-EDITOR OF $100 PER WEEK FOR APPROXIMATELY 16 WEEKS. SINCE THE PARTIES HAVE AGREED TO DISTRIBUTE THE VIDEO WITH MINIMAL DISTRIBUTION FEES, FINANCIAL RESTITUTION IS NOT A PRIMARY OBJECTIVE, BUT IS A SECONDARY OBJECTIVE TO RECOUP INVESTOR MONIES AND TO PAY FOR REAL PRODUCTION COST PLUS ANY PROFITS. CO-PRODUCER AGREES TO ARRANGE THE INTERVIEWS WITH EX-JW’S AND TO HELP IN CONSULTATION OF SUBJECT MATTER AND CONSULT IN EDITING. CO-PRODUCER AGREES TO HELP IN DISTRIBUTION.

APPROXIMATE LAUNCH COST (SEE BUDGET) FROM PRE-PRODUCTION PLANNING TO POST PRODUCTION EDITING: $3,000. INVESTOR REQUESTED MONIES WITH PAYBACK CLAUSE OF MONIES MADE BY DISTRIBUTION OF VIDEO. PRODUCER AND CO-PRODUCER RESERVE THE RIGHTS TO APPROACH INVESTORS FOR ADDITIONAL MONIES-- NEW OR INVESTED, TO FURTHER ANY UNFORESEEN FINANCIAL NEED OF THE PRODUCTION AT A LATER DATE. (Re: distribution costs, stock footage charges, production &editing, equipment failures, etc.) SINCE PRODUCERS ARE INVESTING A LOT OF THEIR OWN TIME AND EXPENSE FOR GRATIS FOR THIS PROJECT, IT IS NOT
FORESEEN ANY ADDITIONAL NEED FOR EXPENSES AT THIS TIME OUTSIDE OF THE ENCLOSED BUDGET REQUESTS.

PRIMARY GOAL AND OBJECTIVE:

TO HELP ALLEVIATE THE SUFFERING OF INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR FAMILIES, TO HELP EXPAND AWARENESS AND FREEDOM OF MIND TO SAVE INDIVIDUALS FROM THE BRINK OF PERSONAL DISASTER. In conjunction with the video interviews, the production will:

# Offer exit counseling sources; and provide information on counseling and rehabilitation of former members

# Some focus on sociological, psychological, or theological research on new religious movements or cultic groups via deprogramming sources.

TIMESPAN FOR PRODUCTION: 4 months APPROXIMATELY, BUT SUBJECT TO REVISION

SHOOTING & FORMATS: BROADCAST DV, DVD

EDITING: SONY VEGAS, PC PLATFORM

PRIMARY TARGET AUDIENCE:

People who have left the JW or other cults.
People who are thinking of leaving the JW or other cults.
People who have been forced to leave the JW or other cults.
People who are thinking of joining the JW or other cults.
Interested people of various backgrounds, parents, siblings, religious and spiritual.
General audiences.

DISTRIBUTION:

General sales, web, cult watch groups, mental health organizations, libraries, PBS, local community television, university-courses, religious institutional courses, private ex-members and their groups. After post production, press releases and talks about subject set up in various venues which could include linking with other experts in the field and workshops, etc.

INITIAL BUDGET REQUIREMENTS:

Materials:
Lighting for sets: 525.00
Monitor: 240.00
Tape stock: 200.00
Travel expense: 400.00
Producer,
Camera,
Sound
Editor
Base Expenses 1600.00 (based on 100. Per week).

Total cost to launch project: $2,965.00

RIGHTS / PAYBACKS TO THE INVESTORS:

75% OF THE RIGHTS REVERT TO THE PRODUCER WITH ANY FIRST PROFITS TO PAY BACK THE INVESTORS, PROFITS AFTER PAYBACK TO THE DISCRETION OF THE PRODUCER WITH SHARING OF 25% TO THE DISCRETION OF THE ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

25% OF THE RIGHTS REVERT TO THE CO-PRODUCER WITH ANY FIRST PROFITS TO PAY BACK THE INVESTORS, PROFITS AFTER PAYBACK TO THE DISCRETION OF THE CO-PRODUCER

SHORT BIO OF PRODUCER:

Steven McDaniel is an award-winning video producer. His last award was a prestigious Telly winner award in 2002 on teen depression in Appalachia, Ohio produced for the Ohio Department of Mental Health. He was project coordinator and producer who directed 75 teens and 5 VISTA volunteers in a year long in-depth look at the stigma of depression.

McDaniel worked many years in video production houses in Cincinnati and he is an award-winning writer, published photographer and video editor. He is also poetry editor of an online magazine, graphic designer and published poet who believes in social justice causes.

SUPPORT MATERIAL:

From cultwatch.com: Jehovah's witnesses are very strongly cultic in both doctrine and behavior, thus fitting both categories of doctrine and mindcontrol. What they will tell you:

Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians (although this varies - some JWs will not say this).

What they won't tell you:

They believe that all "other" Christian churches are of the devil.
They believe Jesus is not God, but is the Archangel Michael-- the first being created by God.
They deny that God is a Trinity.
They believe Jesus died on a stake, rather than a cross.
They deny that Jesus rose bodily from the dead.
They believe that only 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses will ever go to heaven. The rest will live forever in a paradise on Earth.
They believe that salvation is impossible outside of their doctrines and dogma.
They are not allowed to question the Watchtower leadership or teaching.
They claim that you need to read the cult's magazines and other material in order to understand the Bible correctly. If you don't read the Watchtower's books, you will "fall into darkness" - what they call reverting to Christianity.
They have falsely predicted the end of the world five times.
They have just changed a major Watchtower prediction that the end of the world would come before the generation of Witnesses born before 1914 died.
This cartoon is from the Watchtower publication Golden Age of March 30, 1932, page 409, and is typical of similar pictures or Watchtower cartoons of the era.
They used to forbid any vaccinations or organ transplants, even to save lives.
They are not allowed to have blood transfusions, even to save a child's life. Note that at the meeting of the European Commission of Human Rights, the Jehovah's Witnesses agreed to radically alter this position.
In practice, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not acknowledge that they need to change their control methods.

"The applicant [Christian Association Jehovah's Witnesses in Bulgaria] undertook with regard to its stance on blood transfusions to draft a statement for inclusion in its statute-- providing that members should have free choice in the matter for themselves and their children, without any control or sanction on the part of the association."

They visit homes for at least 10 hours per month distributing Watchtower materials (books, magazines, pamphlets).
They use their own special translation of the Bible, which mistranslates the original Hebrew and Greek texts.
They are well known to disown, shun, and ignore any friends and family leaving the cult. They teach that ex-members are to be regarded literally as dead people.
They discourage tertiary education.
They are not allowed to be in the army or wear crosses.
They are not allowed to celebrate birthdays.
They are not allowed to celebrate Christmas, Easter, or even Thanksgiving.

All this they will not tell you, and yet they still claim that "Before a person becomes one of Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bible standards are clearly explained."

The anti-cult movement: a taxonomy by Jeffrey Hadden

Jeffrey K. Hadden sees four distinct classes in the organizational
opposition to cults

1. Religiously grounded opposition
* Opposition usually defined in theological terms
* Cults viewed as engaging in heresy
* Mission is to expose the heresy and correct beliefs of those who have strayed from truth
* Deception rather than possession is the likely metaphor
* Opposition serves two important functions:
Protects members (especially youth) from heresy
Increases solidarity among the faithful
2. Secular opposition
* Individual autonomy is professed to be the manifest goal. This is achieved by getting people out of religious groups.
* The struggle is about control, not about theology.
* Organized around families who have or have had children involved in a "cult."
* Disabling or destruction of NRMs (New Religious Movements) organizationally is latent goal.
3. Apostates
* apostasy = the renunciation of a religious faith
* apostate = one who engages in active opposition to her former faith
* anti-cult movement -- has actively encouraged former members to interpret their experiences in a "cult" as one of being egregiously wronged and encourages participation in organized anti-cult activities.
4. Entrepreneurial opposition
* Individuals who take up a cause for personal gain.
* Alliance or coalition to promote their agenda is ad hoc.
* Broadcasters and journalists leading examples.
* A few 'entrepreneurs' have made careers by creating organized opposition.

Note: Hadden's attitude towards NRMs (New Religious Movements) and cult critics has been questioned as a too one-sided view in the scholarly field (Robbins and Zablocki 2001, Beit-Hallahmi 2001, Kent and Krebs 1998].

Cult watching groups and individuals, and other opposition to cults

Most opponents to cults differentiate between "cults" and "legitimate religious groups". The distinction is not by belief but by actions of a group. Cults are defined as groups, which exploit and abuse their members; are often centered around an unreliable charismatic leader; and may use deceitful ways of recruiting and retaining members.

Most opponents of cults share the belief that the public should be warned about the actions of such groups and that current members should be as well fully informed on the negative sides of their group. This is so that they can make an informed choice about staying or leaving.

Family members of adherents

The beginning of the opposition to cults and new religious movements started with family members of adherents who had problems with the sudden changes in character, lifestyle and future plans of their young adult children who had joined NRMs. Most of them are found in cult-awareness group. Also the former Cult Awareness Network (CAN) grew out of a grassroots movement by parents of cult member.

Psychologists and psychiatrists

Already in the nineteen-seventies there were some psychiatrists and psychologists who accused cults of harming some of their members. Sometimes, [this was] based on observations on therapy. Sometimes, [it was] related [to] research regarding brainwashing or mind control….

Former members

Some former members have taken an active stance in opposition to their former religion. Some of those opponents… have founded cult watching groups often with an active presence on the internet. [They have] made their experiences public in books and on the internet; and [some] work as expert witnesses or as exit counselors. Most of them are found in cult-awareness groups,… but some of them also [work] in the counter-cult movement….

Cult-watching groups often use testimonies of former members. The validity and reliability of these testimonies is the source of intense controversy amongst scholars:

Lonnie Kliever asserts that former members present a distorted view of the new religions and cannot be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Massimo Introvigne argues that the majority of "apostates" holds no strong feelings concerning their past experiences. But "apostates" who dramatically reverse their loyalties, and become "professional enemies" of their former group, are a vociferous minority.

Phillip Lucas came to the conclusion that former members are as reliable as those who remain in the fold. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi is a professor of psychology at the University of Haifa. [He] argues that, in the cases of cult catastrophes such as People's Temple, or Heaven's Gate, allegations by hostile outsiders and detractors have been closer to reality than other accounts. In that context, statements by ex-members turned out to be more accurate than those offered by apologists and NRM
researchers.

Benjamin Zablocki conducted an empirical study to assess whether "leavers" are as reliable as "stayers," and confirmed the conclusions of Lucas.

Established religion

Main article: Christian countercult movement

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Christian countercult movement. (Discuss)

Within established religion, two basic reasons for opposition to cults and new religious movements can be discerned: one is mainly based on theological differences; the other is based on defending human self-determinism. [It] targets mainly groups (religious and non-religious) with alleged cultic behavior-- according to the definition of secular opposition.

The group focusing on theological differences has a very long tradition in Christian apologetics. [It] is generally not considered part of the ACM [anti-cult movement]. Since the 1970s, "countercult apologetics" has been in use. [It was] out of [this that] the term Christian countercult movement" developed. [This] actually does not designate a movement but a conglomerate of individuals and groups of very different backgrounds and scholarly levels. Other designations are countercult ministries, discernment ministries, or "heresy hunters" (mainly used by their opponents).

Countercult ministries are mainly conservative Christians, the majority of them Protestant, but it includes also Catholics and Orthodox. Their concerns are religious groups which they feel hold dangerous, non-traditional beliefs, especially regarding the central Christian doctrines. [These are] defined according to conservative views in their respective denomination. These ministries are motivated by a concern for the spiritual welfare of people in the groups that they attack. They believe that any group which rejects one or more of the historical Christian beliefs is a danger to the welfare of its members….

Their activities and orientation vary: Some are missionary and apologetically oriented, directed at current members of divergent groups; some are therapeutically oriented, directed mainly at former members of divergent groups; and others [are] educationally oriented, directed at members of their own denomination or at the general public.

Countercult ministries concern themselves mainly with religious groups which regard themselves as "Christian," but hold one or more unorthodox beliefs. [These] include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Unification church, Christian Science, and Jehovah's Witnesses….

Countries and international entities

The secular anti-cult movement is not a United States singularity, although a number of sizable and expanding cults originated there. Some European countries, such as France, have introduced legislation or taken other measures against cult abuses.

Cult watchers

Controversies

Polarized views among scholars

The field of cults and new religious movements has been studied by social scientists, sociologists, religious scholars, psychologists and psychiatrists since the early 1980s. The debates about a certain purported cult and cults in general are often polarized with widely divergent opinions, not only among current followers and disaffected former members, but sometimes even among scholars as well.

All academics agree that some groups have been problematic, and sometimes very problematic, but they disagree to what extent new religious movements in general are harmful.

There are many controversial subjects among scholars regarding new religious movements.

Areas of disagreement include:

*The validity of the testimonies of former members (see Former members)
* the validity of the testimonies of current members
* the validity of various theories such as brainwashing and mind control
* the validity and differences between exit counseling and coercive deprogramming
* the validity of evidence of harm caused by cults, e.g. the post-cult trauma
* ethical concerns regarding new religious movements, e.g. free will, freedom of speech
* opposition to cults vs. freedom of religion and religious intolerance
* the objectivity of scholars studying new religious movements (see cult apologists)

Brainwashing and mind control

A very controversial subject between sympathizers and critics of new religious movements is the subject of brainwashing or mind control which is treated in detail in these articles.

The controversy between sympathizers and critics of new religious movements starts with discrepancies regarding definition and concept, extends to the possibility or probability of its application by cultic groups and to the state of acceptance by various scholarly communities.

Deprogramming and exit counseling

Some members of secular cult-opposition have argued that if a person has been deprived of her free will by brainwashing, treatment to restore her free will should be initiated even if it is initially against her will.

Although there is precedent for this in the treatment of certain mental illnesses that are medically and legally recognized as depriving sufferers of their ability to make appropriate decisions for themselves, the practice of forcing treatment on a presumed victim of brainwashing (a practice known as "deprogramming") has always been controversial and has frequently been adjudged illegal. Deprogramming has also been criticized by human rights organizations including the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.
While only a small fraction of the anti-cult movement has been involved in deprogramming, several deprogrammers have served prison terms for the practice, while others have been acquitted in court.

Deprogramming has apparently been abandoned by the anti-cult movement in the USA, in favor of the voluntary practice of exit counseling. However, this is still a subject of controversy between sympathizers and critics of new religious movements, regarding its basic assumptions and its relation to freedom of religion.

The anti-cult movement and cult apologists

Some sociologists and scholars of religion use the term "anti-cult movement" as an expression that includes the whole secular opposition against cults. Or [they use] "anti-cult activist" to classify anyone opposing cults for secular reasons. The term… has since mainly been used by people criticizing the opposition against cults. Often the expression "anti-cultist" is used as well, which makes it sound like a cult itself.

The indiscriminate use of this expression for any and all opposition to cults makes a very varied collective of independent individuals and groups look like an organized group.

On the other hand, the people criticizing the opposition against cults or eympathizing with cults are called "cult-apologists" in a similarly indiscriminate manner.

Scholarly cooperation between the two groups seems to be virtually non-existent.

The allegations that the two groups fling against each other have many parallels. Sometimes they are disputed by the other side and in other cases they are defended as the only right way to address the matter.

* Anti-cultists do not trust information stemming from the leadership of these groups and believe that the only reliable information comes from disaffected former members.
* Cult apologists buy only information from the leadership of those groups and deny that any valid information comes from disaffected former members.

* The anti-cult movement generalized inappropriately, lumping together relatively harmless groups with dangerous groups, such as the Peoples Temple.
* Anti-cultist create a moral panic and witch hunt through exaggeration of the harm and dangers of new religious movements.
* Cult apologists play down any real harm and dangers of new religious movements

* The anti-cult movement endorses pseudoscientific theories regarding brainwashing and mind control.
* Cult apologists deny evidence regarding mind control.

* The anti-cult movement infringed religious freedom through deprogramming.
* Cult apologists deny freedom of expression to former members and critics

* The anti-cult movement polarize the debate over new religious movements due to its focus on the negative aspects of these groups. In the book "Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America" James Tabor and Eugene Gallagher assert that the anti-cult movement exacerbated the fanatical reaction of destructive cults by encouraging a cult phobia among the public and authorities, that helped to precipitate mass tragedies like Jonestown, Waco, and Heaven's Gate.
* Cult apologists turn a blind eye to real abuses by cults, and make tragedies such as Jonestown, Waco, or Heaven's gate possible.

* The anti-cult movement is the main force behind purported discriminative measures promulgated against minority groups in France, Germany, and China.
* Cult apologists work together with cults to attack countries who take measures to prevent abuses and exploitation by groups using the cover of religion.

* The anti-cult movement has a vested interest in maintaining the conflict because they earn money only because of it.
* Cult apologists have a vested interest in defending cults because they are, at least in part, funded by them.

Responses of targeted groups and scholars

Supporters of Scientology have waged a campaign of their own to label former anti-cult activists as "anti-religious" even to the point where they publish literature and Web sites dedicated to attacking these disaffected persons. An example is a page of 60 "Anti-Religious Extremists" [7]

The Foundation against Intolerance of Religious Minorities, associated with the Adidam NRM, sees the use of terms "cult" and "cult leader" to suggest that these are to be detested, avoided at all costs, and see this as the exercise of prejudice and discrimination against them in the same manner as "nigger" and "commie" were used in the past to denigrate blacks and Communists.[8]

CESNUR’s president Massimo Introvigne, writes in his article "So many evil things: Anti-cult terrorism via the Internet"[8], that fringe and extreme anti-cult activism resort to tactics that may create a background favorable to extreme manifestations of discrimination and hate against individuals that belong to new religious movements. Critics of CESNUR, however, call Introvigne a cult apologist who defends harmful religious groups and cults. Professor Eileen Barker asserts in an interview that the controversy surrounding certain new religious movements can turn violent by a process called deviancy amplification spiral.[9]

In a paper by Anson Shupe and Susan Darnell presented at the 2000 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, they affirm that although the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA, formerly known as AFF or American Family Foundation) has presented "slanted, stereotypical images and language that has inflamed persons to perform extreme actions." The extent to which the ICSA and other anti-cultist organizations are hate groups as defined by law or racial/ethnic criteria in sociology, is open for debate.

Further information

See also

* Cult apologist
* Cults and governments
* Parliamentary Commission about Cults in France (1995)
* Cult Awareness Network
* Ronald Enroth the Justice for Jeremiah campaign

"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Cult_Movement"

WHAT IS A CULT?

The term "cult" is a pejorative label used to describe certain religious groups outside of the mainstream of Western religion. Exactly which groups should be considered cults is a matter of disagreement amongt researchers in the cult phenomena, and considerable confusion exists. However, three definitions dominate the writings of social scientists, Christian counter-cult ministries, and secular anticultists.

Social scientists tend to be the least pejorative in their use of the term. They divide religious groups into three categories: churches, sects, and cults. "Churches" are the large denominations characterized by their inclusive approach to life and their indentification with the prevailing culture. In the United States, the churchly denominations would include such groups as the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Church, the United Church of Christ and the Protestant Episcopal Church. Groups that have broken away from the churchly denominations are termed "sects." They tend to follow the denominations in most patterns but are more strict in doctrine and behavioral demands placed upon members and emphasize their separation and distinctiveness from the larger culture (frequently spoken of as a "rejection of worldliness"). Typical sects have disavowed war (Quakers and Mennonites), championed controversial religious experiences (pentecostals), and demanded conformity to detailed codes of dress, personal piety, and moral conduct (the holiness churches). Sects such as the fundamentalist Christian groups have argued for a stringent orthodoxy in the face of the doctrinal latitude allowed in most larger church bodies. More extreme sect bodies have developed patterns and practices which have largely isolated them from even their closest religious neighbors--snake-handling, drinking poison, alternative sexual relationships, unusual forms of dress.

While most sects follow familiar cultural patterns to a large extent "cults" follow an altogether different religious structure, one foreign and alien to the prevalent religious communities. Cults represent a force of religious innovation within a culture. In most cases that innovation comes about by the transplantation of a religion from a different culture by the immigration of some of its members and leaders. Thus during the twentieth century, Hinduism and Buddhism have been transplanted to America. In sociological terms, Hindu and Buddhist groups are, in America, cults. Cults may also come about through religious innovation from within the culture. The Church of Scientology ad the Synanon Church are new religious structures which emerged in American society without any direct foreign antecedents.

When social scientists began their discussion of cults in the 1920s, they were aware of only a few cult groups, well-known groups which they could not fit into their more crucial debates about churches versus sects--theosophy, Christian Science, spiritualism, and the two large Hindu groups: the Vedanta Society and the Self-Realization Fellowship.

Elmer Clark's pioneering survey of The Small Sects in America (1949) listed fourteen New Thought bodies and thirteen Esoteric bodies, showing an awareness of some twenty-seven cults (plus a few others such as the black Jews considered in the body of his text).

A second definition of cult arose among Christian polemicists. In the early twentieth century several conservative Evangelical Protestant writers, concerned about the growth of different religions in America, attacked these religions for their deviation from Christian orthodox faith. Among the first of the prominent Christian writers on the subject of cults, Jan Karel Van Baalen described cults as non-Christian religions but included those groups which had their roots in Christianity while denying what he considered its essential teaching. According to
VanBaalen, all religions could be divided into two groups, those which ascribe to humans the ability to acomplish their own salvation and those which ascribe that ability to God. The latter group is called Christianity. All other religion fits into the first group. In The Chaos of Cults, which went through numerous editions from its first appearance in 1938, Van Baalen analyzed various non-Christian religions in the light of Christian teachings.

With little change, contemporary Christian counter-cult spokespersons have followed Van Baalen's lead. Cults follow another gospel (Gal.I:I6). They are heretical. They set up their own beliefs in opposition to orthodox faith. As Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, two popular Evangelical writers assert, "A cult is a perversion, a distortion of Biblical Christianity, and, as such, rejects the historical teachings of the Christian Church."

The Christian approach to cults would include every group which has departed from orthodox Christianity (such as the Church of Christ, Scientist, the Latter Day Saints, and the Jehovah's Witnesses) as well as those groups which have never made any claim to be Christian. Individual writers disagree over the cultic nature of such groups as the Roman Catholic Church (included and then dropped by Van Baalen), or the
Unitarian-Universalist Church. Little consideration has been given to
non-Trinitarian Pentecostal groups.

The third definition, the one which became the dominant force in the public debates on cults in the 1970s, developed within the secular anti-cult movement. The definition has shifted and changed over the last decade. It did not develop out of any objective research on alternative religions, rather it emerged in the intense polemics of parents who had been disturbed by changes observed in their sons and daughters who had joined particular religious groups. These "cults"--predominantly theChildren of God, the Church of Armageddon, the Unification Church, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and the Church of Scientology--had, they charged, radically altered the personality traits of their children.

Anti-cultists began to speak of "destructive cults," groups which hypnotized or brainwashed recruits, destroyed their ability to make rational judgments and turned them into slaves of the group's leader. While drawing upon Christian counter-cult literature in the beginning, the secular anti-cultists gradually discarded any overtly religious language as a means of designating cults in order to appeal to government authorities and avoid any seeming attack upon religious liberties. Thus, "cults" have come to be seen as groups that share a variety of generally destructive characteristics. While no one group may embody all of them, any "cult" will possess a majority. Marcia Rudin, a popular anti-cult writer, listed fourteen commonly accepted characteristics of a cult:

1. Members swear total allegiance to an all-powerful leader who they believe to be the Messiah.
2. Rational thought is discouraged or forbidden.
3. The cult's recruitment techniques are often deceptive.
4. The cult weakens the follower psychologically by making him or her depend upon the group to solve his or her problems.
5. The cults manipulate guilt to their advantage.
6. The cult leader makes all the career and life decision of the members.
7. Cults exist only for their own material survival and make false promises to work to improve society.
8. Cult members often work fulltime for the group for little or no pay.
9. Cult members are isolated from the outside world and any reality testing it could provide.
10. Cults are antiwoman, antichild, and antifamily.
11. Cults are apocalyptic and believe themselves to be the remnant who will survive the soon-approaching end of the world.
12. Many cults follow an "ends justify the means" philosophy.
13. Cults, particularly in regard to their finances, are shrouded in secrecy.
14. There is frequently an aura of or potential for violence around cults.

Anti-cultists suggest that, as of early 1980, 3,000 to 5,000 destructive cults operate in the United States. However, no evidence of the existence of such a large number of religious groups, either cultic or otherwise, has been produced. Anti-cult literature reflects a great concern with approximately 15 groups, though as many as 75 to 100 have received passing mention. Only five groups--the Unification Church, the Children of God, the Church of Scientology, the International Society for Krishna
Consciousness, and The Way International--have received consistent coverage over the years of the anti-cult movement's existence.

The discussion of cults by social scientists, Christian counter-cult ministries, and secular anti-cultists has singled out a number of groups for attention as prominent or typical examples of cults. Among these groups, some became controversial because of their divergent behavorial norms (polygamy, a leader's claim to divinity, exotic rituals, communalism). Others came into open conflict with the authorities because of violence (the black Muslims). Many groups recruited single young adults and moved them into intense religious communities against the wishes of their parents. Such groups have received the most attention in the last decade.

Included is the most prominent "cults" for analysis and discussion. It is designed to provide a concise overview of each group and a summary of the controversy surrounding it. Along with the "cult," the secular anti-cult and Christian counter-cult movements are also given treatment, as they are a very active element in the contemporary milieu. This will cover most groups which one is likely to encounter; however, for a more complete listing of all the individual religious groups currently functioning in the United States, including a brief descriptive statement of each, the reader is referred to the Encyclopedia of American Religion, which can be found in the reference section of most libraries.

Aftermath of Cult Life

The great majority of people who join groups which deviate strongly from societal norms or have a high disapproval level in society leave after only a short period of time, typically within two years. For these people the time in the cult was what Robert Ellwood has termed an excursus, a spiritual journey away from the mundane structures of established religion. For most the excursion is brief, though it might assume a fact importance in shaping the more mature long-term religious existence.
Having made the journey, former cult members return to a more conventional religion or, increasingly, to no formal religious affiliation at all. They may return to a life so integrated into dominant societal patterns that little evidence of the excursion is visible to the persons' acquaintances.

A minority of persons who join a cult leave under a situation of great stress. Some leave because of a bad experience within the group. Ex-members tell of psychological and even occasional physical abuse, the bitter disappointment of discovering corruption in the leader or leaders of a group, and the inability of a cult to deliver what it had promised in spiritual values. Members who have had a bad experience leave angry and hurt and often turn with vengeance upon their former faith.

Among those who leave cults under stressful conditions are those who have been deprogrammed. Under the pain of physical confinement and strong psychological pressure, cult members have been forced to renounce their allegiance to the group and join the chorus of cult critics.

Those who leave a cult under the stress of either a bad experience or deprogramming frequently have difficulty adapting to the world again. Psychiatrists such as Margaret Singer, who has worked with many excultists who left various groups under stress, have blamed the cults for a delayed stress syndrome in their clients. More recent comparative studies have shown, however, that the delayed stress syndrome is almost exclusively limited to those ex-cult members who have left under stress (i.e., deprogramming). The great majority of people who leave simply because the group no longer meets their needs show no pattern of psychological disturbance.

A small percentage of those who join a cult will remain in it for many years, even a lifetime. For these few, the cult provides a satisfactory structure within which to discover a meaningful existence. It may motivate individuals to make significant contributions to life and culture. While cults and cult members may appear to be withdrawing from society, especially during the first generation of the group and its
newest formative period have generally integrated themselves into American culture and added greatly to its richness.

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Anonymous said...

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