Caught up in a cult?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By Marsha West
Countless people are caught up in cults and cult-like groups. To avoid being one of them it couldn't hurt to become familiar with the nature of a cult and their schemes. Granted, there are no easy answers to the question, "What exactly is a cult?" But there are some cold hard facts about the cults that most people are unaware of.
One thing you can count on is that some of your relatives, friends, neighbors and even the friendly face who checks your groceries at your local market may be caught up in a cult or a cult-like group. Cult typically refers to "A system of intense religious veneration of a particular person, idea, or object, especially one considered spurious or irrational by traditional religious bodies; as, the Moonie cult." Add to that: "A strong devotion or interest in a particular person, idea or thing without religious associations, or the people holding such an interest; as, the cult of James Dean; the cult of personality in totalitarian societies." 
Probably the most well-known pseudo-Christian cults are Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) and Christian Science, but there are a whole host of other pseudo-Christian cults. Some members of these cults may find my assertion humorous. Others may even be angry. Sorry about that, however, as a Christian I'm not called to be nice; I'm called to speak the truth in love and to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
Here's the truth. JWs, Mormons and Christian Scientists claim to be Christians yet they deny fundamental Christian doctrine and manipulate the Scriptures to fit in with their own beliefs. From the Church's perspective, which is what really matters, these groups have deviated from the historic, orthodox teachings of the Church that are derived from the Holy Scriptures and confirmed through the ancient ecumenical creeds. Thus, they are not true Christians. What I'm saying shouldn't surprise them. After all, they've had to defend their spurious beliefs for decades. More on this in a moment.
Think you're out of the woods because you're not a Christian? Think again. It's not just Christians who get caught up in cults. Pagans, agnostics and atheists may very well be involved in a destructive cult or cult-like group and not even realize it. For example, devotees of any of the following groups/movements/theories/celebrities, can be exposed to mind control techniques and even open themselves up to the world of the occult! So here's a short list to ponder: (Warning! This is not for the easily offended.)
New Age movement (occultism 101 magic, psychic phenomena, astral travel, divination, tarot cards, astrology, reincarnation and a whole lot more)
Spirituality (new term for New Age occult beliefs)
Eastern mysticism (pantheistic)
Secret wisdom (occultism)
Oprah Winfrey (New Age guru who claims to be a Christian but denies Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and promotes occultism)
Secret organizations (Freemasonry, Ku Klux Klan, New World Order)
Radical political/social groups (feminists, environmentalists, "gay" rights, animal rights, abortion)
Global warming (mind manipulation)
Self-improvement (personal transformation)
Holistic Health movement (occultism)
Esoteric groups (UFO's, Mind Science, Mind Therapy)
Multi-level Marketing (mind manipulation)
Advertisements (mind manipulation)
Academia (mind manipulation)
Darwinian evolution (dare to question "settled science" and see what happens)
For the record, some of the above mentioned groups may not be bonafide cults, but they may not be averse to using mind manipulation techniques on the public as a means to an end and this is what the cults do! Granted, some cults or cult-like groups may not be psychologically harmful, however, for the true Christian it can be spiritually harmful to get involved in any sort of occult practice. And it's spiritually harmful to follow the teachings of charismatic cult-like leaders whose teaching is decidedly unorthodox! The Bible calls these men and women false prophets:
"The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" (Jer 5:31).
Some people will believe almost anything, regardless of its absurdity. When confronted with the facts they refuse to listen. Why? Because knowing the truth could deflate their fantasy world so it's better to remain in denial. This is why religious/spiritual gurus, social activists, the media, advertisers, celebrities, doctors, dispensers of pills/vitamins, multi-level marketing groups and powerful political leaders have such an easy time sucking people in -- then sucking the life blood out of them! Take est for example. Chances are you haven't heard of est, as it was big in the late 60s. I don't have the space to go into the details, but the trainers used mind manipulation techniques on willing participants during feel good weekend seminars. "We're going to tear you down and put you back together." Critics of the training called it a cult. The organization changed its name to Landmark Education and now promotes the Landmark Forum but only the name has changed.
I'd be remiss not to mention the cult of liberalism. Liberals fit right in with groups that have a "strong devotion or interest in a particular person, idea or thing without religious associations [but not always], or the people holding such an interest."
Ever notice how your liberal friends refuse to look at both sides an issue? An area of thought where this approach prevails is global warming (a subject for another column). The eco-crowd is brainwashed to believe that the evidence for global warming is compelling and that scientists on their side are the best and the brightest blah blah blah. And of course scientists who deny that global warming is manmade are charged with being utter morons. When you try to present the other side of the issue, which is equally compelling, they simply plug their ears.
Liberals continually carp about how people of faith are narrow-minded unenlightened nuckle draggers, yet they themselves walk in lock step behind their own spiritual gurus and pay homage to radical activists. And by the way, some of these radicals are our congressional representatives! These people are so focused on their leftist social agenda that they really don't give a rip what the voters want! One example is Proposition 8 in California.
What about those who dare voice an opposing opinion like, say, a conservative? Shut up, or else! Opposing viewpoints should be respected and they're not. In fact, the opposition is demonized.
But this column isn't about the cult of liberalism. It's about pseudo Christian cults who have their tentacles wrapped around the entire globe and are pulling people in by the millions.
Admittedly, it's sometimes difficult to tell a fake from the genuine article, even for the discerning Christian. According to the Christian Research Institute, a common mark of a "Christian" cult is manipulation of Scripture:
"The Bible is twisted to fit the leader or group's interpretation. Private interpretations are forbidden because the leader of the cult is the only one, of course, who is able to understand God's voice properly. Their teachings distort the historic, orthodox claims of Christianity." 
Another mark of a cult (religious or otherwise) is that they use thought control techniques on the unsuspecting:
"There is little concern for individual thought and development. Education is usually discouraged while the convert is bombarded with the cult's doctrine and literature. Members are called to leave or neglect their old family and life-style for a brand new one." 
Cults typically manipulate reality:
"They tend to have an exclusive "us"/"them" mentality in which society and old associates are all out to get them. Anyone outside of the group is suspect." 
Consider reading Dwayna Litz's experience with the "Church" of Scientology to see how this cult operates footnote 5.
What does the Bible say about those who stray from the truth?
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Mat. 7:13-14).
Why do so many seemingly intelligent people end up in a cult? Principally because their hearts have been hardened by sin. (Eph. 4:18) Thus, they are easily led into a cult because of pride, or whatever else, and they allow themselves to follow teachers or teachings rather than the God of the Bible.
"There is a real church and a real work for God," says Mike Oppenheimer. "The difference is in the motivation--the why they do it. The cults do things for rewards and good standing in the church, the real Christian does it because they love God and are motivated by love to people having real compassion. The cults become offended when you speak ill of them or their teacher or teachings and become emotional. The real Christian does not take offense and they know it is the Lords [sic] battle not theirs." 
Indeed. The believer is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, only the Holy Spirit can change a person's heart. (1 Cor. 15:1-4) It is the work of the Holy Spirit that regenerates us, convicts us of our sin, and brings us to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 3:6)
"The other difference is in teachings, about the person of Christ, the gospel, even the Bible itself. Although cults may use the Bible they have a false understanding of God and salvation and the way we are to relate to Him. 
In his article, Mike explains that cults receive their understanding of the Bible from an exhaustive study of their own books and from their teachers, but not from using main stream Christian resources and Bible study tools to better understand the Word of God. Hence they're unaware of what historic, orthodox Christianity really teaches. Mike also points out that cults will "focus on the minor things and make them major ones and make the major things minor. When this happens doctrines that are not core teachings become amplified and used to make the group exclusive and unique."
It's a sad fact that most professing Christians are not well-read on the cults. Many Christians believe that the JWs and Mormons are non-Christian cults but they're unable to explain why they believe it! I don't mean to pile on the JWs and Mormons but the reason these groups are in the category of a pseudo Christian cult is that, as I said earlier, they claim to be Christians yet they outright deny many of the essentials of the faith. The truth is that their beliefs are incompatible with Christianity. A mouse in the cookie jar is not a cookie!
Here are a few of the Jehovah's Witnesses non-Christian beliefs excerpted from the "Jehovah's Witnesses Doctrinal Comparison Chart" :
The Trinity does not exist. It is an evil doctrine that teaches the existence of 3 gods. "...sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God" (Let God Be True, 1946)
Jesus Christ was Michael the Archangel before becoming a man. "...the Son of God was known as Michael before he came to earth" (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 218).
After Jesus died he was resurrected with His original identity as Michael the Archangel. "Read carefully the following Bible account: 'War broke out in heaven: Michael [who is the resurrected Jesus Christ] and his angels battled with the dragon'" (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 1982, p. 21).
Jesus is "a god" and he is lesser than Jehovah God. In the JW version of the Bible, John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was a god." [emphasis added] "...that is the Word was a powerful godlike one. Clearly, Jesus is not Almighty God." (Ibid., p. 40). Salvation must be earned through works. "To get one's name written in that book of life will depend on one's works, whether they are in fulfillment of God's will and approved by his Judge and King." (Watchtower, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />August 15, 1972).
We will be gods when we join Christ in heaven. "...we are begotten of a divine nature...Jehovah is thus our father...we are divine beings - hence all such are Gods...Now we appear like men, and all die naturally as men, but in the resurrection we will rise in our true character as Gods" (Watchtower, December 1881, 1919 repr.).
Here are a few of Mormonism's non-Christian beliefs:
"God the father used to be a man on another planet, that he became a God by following the laws and ordinances of that God on that planet and came to this world with his wife (she became a goddess), and that they produce a spirit offspring in heaven. These spirit offspring, which includes Jesus, the devil, and you and me, are all brothers and sisters born in the preexistence. The preexistence spirits come down and inhabit babies at the time of birth and their memories of the preexistence are lost at the time. Furthermore, faithful Mormons, who pay a full 10% tithe of their income to the Mormon church and go through a Mormon temples, have the potential of becoming gods of their own planets and are then able to start the procedure over again." 
Jesus was the spirit-brother of Lucifer (Satan):
"The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called, Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind." Quote from Milton R. Hunter's book, The Gospel Through the Ages, page 15. Hunter was a member of the First Council of the Seventies.
"Joseph Smith asserted that the golden plates were translated "by the power of God" and produced "the most correct of any book on earth." And Joseph F. Smith, by the way, the sixth president of the Mormon church, went so far as to say that the words were not only correct but that "every letter was given to [Joseph Smith] by the gift and power of God." But the reality is this: the Book of Mormon has had to be corrected thousands of times to compensate for Smith's poor grammar and spelling. The Book of Mormon is fraught with all kinds of other errors as well. For example, "Benjamin" was changed to "Mosiah" after Mormon leaders finally realized that in the chronology of the Book of Mormon King Benjamin had already died so he would have been hard pressed to "interpret" the engravings mentioned in Mosiah 21:28. Perhaps the greatest crack in the credibility of the Book of Mormon is that whole sections were derived directly from the King James Version of the Bible and that despite the fact that according to Mormon chronology, the Book of Mormon predates the King James Version by more than a thousand years." 
To see how frustrating dialoguing with a Mormon can be, even for a Christian apologist, read Matt Slick's heated discussion with Craig here.
The New England Institute of Religious Research website contains a "Short List of 'Cults', Aberrational Christian, and Other Controversial Groups." "This Christian ministry also provides exit counseling," says Apologetics Index approvingly, "and operates Meadow Haven, a residential retreat that helps 'people through the radical and many times traumatic life- changes that can accompany the departure of a high-control group.'" 
According to cult experts, given the right circumstances a cult's sophisticated mind control techniques will work on just about anyone including highly intelligent individuals. They prey on your emotions, not your intellect. You are sorely mistaken if you think you are immune to their psychological coercion.
This may surprise you. According to the Cult Information Center , cults want people who are:
Intellectually or Spiritually curious.
According to CIC there are two basic principles of psychological coercion:
1. If you can make a person BEHAVE the way you want, you can make that person BELIEVE the way you want.
2. Sudden, drastic changes in environment lead to heightened suggestibility and to drastic changes in attitudes and beliefs.
CIC also gives this dire warning:
Protect yourself! Why go away for a weekend or longer with a stranger or a strange group unless:
You know the name of the sponsoring group.
You know its ideas, beliefs and affiliations.
You know what is going to happen at the gathering.
You know what will be expected of you.
You know that you will be free and able to leave at any time.
Sadly, some people do not protect themselves. They end up in a destructive cult because they fail to ask questions. They're too trusting. Trust but verify!
People should want to know the truth -- no matter where it leads. So here's a word of advice. Before committing to anything or involving yourself in any sort of group, do your homework! In other words, investigate -- dig, examine, study, ask probing questions and demand answers. You have that right!
I'll close with 2 Cor. 4:3-4, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
 Definition of cult define.com
 What are the commons marks of cults? -- Christian Research Institute
 An Afternoon Inside the Corridors of Scientology--By Dwayna Litz
 How Did I Get Here? Let Us Reason Ministries/Mike Oppenheimer http://www.letusreason.org/Cult19.htm
 Jehovah's Witnesses Doctrinal Comparison Chart Contender Ministries
 Mormon Beliefs, Are They Christian?--Christian Apologetics and Research Ministries
 What are the commons marks of cults?--Christian Research Institute
 The New England Institute of Religious Research Apologetics Index
 What is a cult?--Cult Information Center
Rightly Interpreting the Bible--article by Dr. Ron Rhodes
The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response, By Dr. Ron Rhodes
Dr. Ron Rhodes has written books on the various cults that can be purchased on his website:
Copyright by Marsha West, 2009. All rights reserved.
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