“I’ve been involved in a number of cults both as a leader and a follower. You have more fun as a follower, but you make more money as a leader.” – Creed, Season 4 “The Office”
A simple definition of the word cult would be any sect of people bound together by devotion to a person, object or ideology. There are two streams of cults the protestant Christian church spinoffs and non-Christian new religious movements. In the church, we tend to think of cults as any sect of individuals united by devotion to any religion considered false, unorthodox, and counterfeit. However, with the continued influx of immigrants, the spiritual landscape of our nation is quickly changing. Despite many differences, cults have a set of general characteristics in common. Here is a list of the general characteristics of cults. These characteristics have been organized in an acronym to help you remember:
C = conflict with society – they do not follow the cultural norms of their surrounding culture usually an overall reject all together. Examples of this may be a complete withdrawal from surrounding culture into compounds or small communities built for and by the group.
U = unfamiliar – distinct alternative patterns in fundamental areas of religious life. They deviate from Judeo-Christian teachings, symbols, and sources. This changes their theology, practice, and socially.
L = leader - a stong, charismatic leader with a high level of authority, who formulates dogmas, isolating members from others who do not support their beliefs.
T = totalism – complete commitment, the member becomes dependent on the group for psychological, social, religious, and physical needs. Often, strong and seemingly unnecessary boundaries are drawn in the areas of dress, diet, and names.
S = seeks experience- Oriented towards powerful subjective experiences and meeting personal needs. The group believes that they have exclusive rights to a long tradition of wisdom or practice either corrupted or lost in the mainstream.
I plan to post another blog about American new religious movements soon. For now keep praying for those caught up in these traps, 75% of them will leave within a year of joining. Many who leave cults will not trust religion, especially what they term “organized religion.” The church must be prepared to encourage, evangelize, and help them heal. Jesus is the only one who can free us from the bondage of our sin and the sins of others.
"Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." -John 14:6