WHAT IS A CULT?

                       IDENTIFYING A CULT


SECULAR DEFINITION

CULT - From the Latin "cultis" which denotes all that is
involved in worship, ritual, emotion, liturgy and attitude.
This definition actually denotes what we call denominations
and sects and would make all religious movements a cult. 

CHRISTIAN DEFINITION

CULT - Any group which deviates from Biblical, orthodox,
historical  Christianity. e.i. They deny the Deity of Christ;
His physical resurrection; His personal and physical return to
earth and salvation by FAITH alone.  

This definition only covers those groups which are cults
within the Christian religion. It does not cover cults within
other world religions such as Islam and Hinduism. Nor does it
cover Psychological, Commercial or Educational cults which do
not recognize the Bible as a source of reality.

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. 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 behavior - 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
behavioral patterns that are abusive, controlling and cultic.

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
someone's particular writings. They center 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.) 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.  

Using these guidelines of definition, Bible-based,
Psychological, Educational and Commercial aberrations can
easily be identified.

 
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  -
everyone 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.  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".  
     
     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.  

5.   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. 

6.   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.  


7.   Bible-based cults  may proclaim they have no clergy/laity
     distinction  and no paid ministry class - that they are all equal. 
     

8.   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. 
  
9.   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 their
     "spiritual welfare".  

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

10.  Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may
be met with threats.  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 "group ness" 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".  

RESULTS OF THIS ABUSE
 
1.  PERSONALITY CHANGES
    
     Relatives will say they no longer recognize  the  person. 

From a warm, loving personality will come heaped abuse, rejection and
feelings of hate.  The cult member sees himself as "righteous" in
comparison  and  this comes across in their attitude toward all outsiders.  

2.  LOSS  OF  IDENTITY
   
     They cannot see themselves as individuals apart from the group. 
     Some even change their name as a rejection of their former life.  

3.  PARANOID - WE ARE BEING PERSECUTED

     Any time you say anything  negative  about the  group,  whether 
justified  or  no, it is regarded as "persecution".  Any criticism of
the individual is also seen as persecution only because  they  are the
"true Christian"  or "enlightened" one - not because they,  as an
individual, have done the wrong thing.  However, at the same time they
will feel free to criticize whatever you believe, say and do because
they are "the only ones who are right".  

4.  SOCIAL DISORIENTATION
   
     They lose their ability to socialize outside the group.  This can
go so far as to not being able to structure their time or make simple
decisions for themselves when they leave.  

     Their world-view alters and they perceive the world through their
leaders eyes.  They become very naive about life in general.  

5.  SEVERE  GUILT  COMPLEXES
    
     They are made to feel guilty of everything they did before entering
the group and are to strive to be "good" and "worthy"  for "eternal
life".  Misdemeanors are made into "mountains" so that members are in a
constant state of guilt for infringing even the most minor rules. Guilt
comes because they aren't doing enough;  entertaining doubts or
questions; even thinking rationally for oneself.  

     This guilt is piled upon pile with new rules constantly
being laid  down  about what  is  sinful  and what is not.  Illness may be
seen as lack of faith - more guilt.  Emotional illness may be seen as
proof of sin in your life  -  more guilt.  


SUMMARY

     Not  all  these  points will be found in every cult,  but
all cults will have some if not most of them, although these may vary to
some degree.  


Copyright 1985  Jan Groenveld
Freedom In Christ, PO Box 2444, Mansfield, 4122, Australia

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Cult 
Term 
Cult Definition 
Christian Definition 
Mormonism God Many gods One God
Jehovahís Witnesses Jesus Christ Not god, created by Jehovah God the Son, Creator of all
Christian Science Sin Illusion, error, not real Disobedience to God
New Age Salvation Becoming One with the Universe/God Reconciliation with God by means of Christís atonement

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