During the first two weeks of December, I have several interviews:
12/2 WTLF-AM 1550 Los Angeles, CA 8:30 AM PT
12/4 WAMT-AM 1190 Orlando, FL 11:30 AM ET
12/10 KCWJ-AM 1030 Kansas City, MO 7:30 AM CT
12/11 WMUZ-FM 103.5 Detroit, MI 1:00 ET
12/12 WRGA-AM 1470 Atlanta, GA 9:30 AM ET
12/17 KOA-AM 850 Denver, CO 2:00 AM CT (reaches 38 states)
During the past year I have noticed the only people who speak of cults are those over 30.
Whenever someone speaks of a cult, I find myself asking them if they know the characteristics of a cult. More often than not, these people can't answer the question. How do they know if what they are talking about truly IS a cult?
That got me thinking about why we don't see churches inviting people in to speak against cults. When I was a teenager, churches seemed to have someone come in to speak against cults 2 to 3 times a year. Then again, when I was 15, the Jonestown massacre occurred.
Recently I looked into who the leading cult experts are today and what their definition is for "cult". To my surprise, the definition has changed from the definition used 20 years ago when churches last regularly invited speakers in to educate the congregation on the characteristics of a cult. One of the reasons I went searching after the four principles to determine truth is to have an objective way of identifying a cult.
Today I will summarize the current definition of a cult. The rest of the post will cover aspects of the old definition of a cult...
Steve Hassan is recognized as a modern day cult expert. His site is pretty exhaustive.
Steve actually says there is a difference between destructive cults and benign cults!
"A destructive cult is a pyramid-shaped authoritarian regime with a person or group of people that have dictatorial control. It uses deception in recruiting new members (e.g. people are NOT told up front what the group is, what the group actually believes and what will be expected of them if they become members). It also uses mind control techniques to keep people dependent and obedient. The BITE control model is my way of understanding the phenomenon."
"Destructive mind control can be understood in terms of four basic components, which form the acronym BITE:
Behavior Control includes: regulation of whom the member associates with, what clothes the person wears, what the person eats, what the person drinks, individualism is discouraged, rigid rules, rigid regulations, need for obedience, and need for dependency.
Information Control includes: deliberately holding back information, distorting information to make it acceptable, lying, information is not freely accessible, and spying on members is encouraged (pairing up with "buddy" system to monitor and control).
Thought Control includes: need to internalize the group's doctrine as "Truth", adopt "loaded" language (characterized by "thought-terminating cliches"), thought-stopping techniques, rejection of rational analysis, rejection of critical thinking, rejection of constructive criticism, and no alternate belief systems are considered. Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words".
Emotional Control includes: excessive use of guilt, excessive use of fear, extremes of emotional highs and lows, programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group, no "happiness" or fulfillment outside of group, shunning of leave takers (fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family), and never a legitimate reason to leave.
"KNOW THE MARKS OF CULTS" BY DAVE BREESE
One of the most popular books on cults from the 70's through the mid-80's was by Dave Breese. In "Know the Marks of Cults", the guide is mostly based on doctrine!
Extrabiblical revelation, false basis of salvation, doctrinal ambiguity, defective Christology, segmented Biblical attention...as well as some of the characteristics mentioned by Steve Hassan (enslaving organizational structure, financial exploitation, denunciation of others, and dictator led regimes).
"The Christian believes the Bible to be the final and only verbal revelation of God. Believing this, he must give himself to the study of the Word of God with a higher degree of intensity than ever before."
False Basis of Salvation
"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)"
"How wonderful is the message of the Gospel of the grace of God that is presented to us in Holy Scripture."
"No message is more viciously attacked by the cult promoters of our present world than the Gospel of the grace of God."
"The word "doctrine" has no meaning in the fever swamps of the mind which are inhabited by the cults, for doctrine means a systematic presentation and understanding of truth. The idea of doctrine is therefore virtually unique to organized Christianity."
"By contrast what passes for doctrine in the cult is really a sub-rational set of disconnected thoughts and practices that only serve to confuse the mind and the emotions as well."
"Who is Jesus Christ? This is the most important question any person will ever face."
"By this we understand that Jesus Christ was not partly man and partly God on the basis of some percentage or formula. He is true humanity. He is true deity in human form."
Segmented Biblical Attention
"It is therefore of great importance that the doctrine by which a Christian orients his faith and his life come from all Scripture."
"The major deficiency of the cults of our time is that they have neglected to base their faith on the Bible as a whole."
TAKING THE BITE OUT OF CULTS
The Steve Hassan acronym "BITE" illustrates the value of the information in "Modeling God".
The root of Behavior Control comes from denying uniqueness. The cult's focus is to make everyone value everything the same. First of all, this limits mutual profitability. Profitability occurs when there is an exchange between people who value things differently. If everyone values everything the same, then the ONLY way someone can be profitable is through justice...someone else has to be losing value. The members of the cult are losing a value and the leader(s) are gaining. This can even come masked as being unselfish or altruistic.
"It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole ... that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual..."
"This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise ... The basic attitude from which such activity arises, we call -- to distinguish it from egoism and selfishness -- idealism. By this we understand only the individual's capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men."
This is an example of a leader preaching altruism and selflessness. This leader truly believed this because it led to him determining what was best for everyone. Who is this leader? Adolf Hitler (Oct. 7, 1933)
The root of the Information Control comes from rationalizing truth and not being in fellowship (sharing). The leader(s) believe the member can't handle all the facts, so they deliberately change the information in order to keep the member comfortable. The leaders don't share everything about themselves or the organization because they are being driven by appearance.
"Fornication" means "to commit idolatry". "Idolatry" means "to worship an image". Every organization and person who places pre-eminence on the way things look instead of how they truly are is guilty of fornication.
The root of Thought Control comes from violating the four principles. Thought Control is impossible if people are contrastive, remove contradictions, focus on causality, and pursue growth. Notice the key to thought control is to focus on WORDS. Thoughts are made up of WORDS. People who won't define their WORDS, or use simple abstract definitions for their WORDS are actively limiting understanding.
People who say WORDS can't be defined or completely understood are the biggest hypocrites in the world! Think about it...they are USING WORDS to convey the thought that words CAN'T be understood or defined. In order to be right about their conclusions, they have to be wrong about their method. IF they TRULY believed this, they would use something (ANYTHING) other than WORDS to make their point.
We think with words. The point of the book "1984" was to show that you can limit peoples' ability to think by limiting the words they use. This is cultish behavior. I don't limit the words people use. In fact, I tell people they can use any words they want as long as they define the words they use. People who can't define the words they use are NOT THINKING! They want to APPEAR to be thinking without actually thinking. Cult Leaders don't define their words...THAT is one of the ways they control others. The quickest way to expose a cult leader is to ask them the definition of the words they use!
The root of Emotional Control comes from denying thinking. The cult actively works towards increasing the guilt of the individual. Any organization or person who actively avoids thought AND increases the guilt of the individual is REALLY focused on controlling the individual through their emotions.
THE NEXT BILLY GRAHAM?
There is a preacher who is just came out with a book. During the publicity campaign, he is being touted as the next Big Time preacher. Let's look at some passages from his previous book...
"If there is a divine being who made everything, including us, what would our experiences with this being look like? The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up. And if we made him up, then we are in control. And so in passage after passage, we find God reminding people that he is beyond and bigger and more."
"The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can't be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not."
"The mystery is the truth."
"It's not so much that the Christian faith has a lot of paradoxes. It's that it is a lot (of) paradoxes. And we cannot resolve a paradox. We have to let it be what it is. Being a Christian then is more about celebrating mystery than conquering it."
"It is possible to make the Bible say whatever we want it to, isn't it? How is it that the Bible can be so many different things to so many different people?"
"Which for me raises one huge question: Is the Bible the best can do?"
"Notice what Jesus says in the book of Matthew: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." What he is doing here is significant. He is giving his followers the authority to make new interpretations of the Bible."
"The assumption is that there is a way to read the Bible that is agenda- and perspective-free."
"To think that I can just read the Bible without reading any of my own culture or background or issues into it and come out with a "pure" or "exact" meaning is not only untrue, but it leads to a very destructive reading of the Bible that robs it of its life and energy."
"A Christian is not someone who expects to spend forever in heaven there. A Christian is someone who anticipates spending forever here, in a new heaven that comes to earth."
"To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone."
The author is Rob Bell and the book is "Velvet Elvis". Hopefully you know why the above statements aren't true (and I will follow up with an explanation), but all I really needed to do was share his analogy for Christianity.
I love analogies and parables. Jesus was a master at presenting parables. The key to a great parable is that IT KEEPS TEACHING. A truly applicable parable illustrates the point the teller is making AND can make additional points after the teller is done. One of my favorite parables is about the Talents. Jesus gave His explanation and it fits perfectly...AND we can get more understanding of God by continuing to apply the parable to other areas.
"It is on this trampoline that God has started to make more sense to me."
"When we jump, we begin to see the need for springs. The springs help make sense of these deeper realities that drive how we live every day. The springs aren't God. The springs aren't Jesus. The springs are statements and beliefs about our faith that help give words to the depth that we are experiencing in our jumping. I would call these the doctrines of the Christian faith."
"They aren't the point."
"They help us understand the point, but they are a means and not an end. We take them seriously, and at the same time we keep them in proper perspective."
"We can take it (doctrine) out and examine it. Discuss it, probe it, question it. It flexes, and it stretches."
"In fact, its stretch and flex are what make it so effective. It is firmly attached to the frame and the mat, yet it has room to move. And it has brought a fuller, deeper, richer understanding to the mysterious being who is God."
"I'm far more interested in jumping than I am in arguing about whose trampoline is better."
"The point is our joy."
"Sometimes when my boys and I are jumping and one of us starts laughing, we all start laughing. We're jumping and we're short of breath and we're sweating and we're having such a great time. When we're too exhausted to jump anymore, we'll lie down on the mat and stare up at the vast blue sky above us and watch the clouds go by and listen to the breeze as it moves the leaves overhead. I'll be there on my back, and I'll say a short prayer: 'God, I can't believe I get to live this life'."
So, the Christian faith is:
-specific to each person (own trampolines)...
-is made of doctrines (springs)
-that allow us to understand God (jump higher)
-and results in joy (laughing)
-that wears us out and can't be sustained (too exhausted to jump anymore)
Applying this analogy further, one realizes:
-a trampoline ends up getting you nowhere
-half the time you are going down
How does he describe the other (and wrong) analogy for faith?
"It hit me while I was watching that for him faith isn't a trampoline; it's a wall of bricks. Each of the core doctrines for him is like an individual brick that stacks on top of others. If you pull one out, the whole wall starts to crumble."
"This is because a brick is fixed in size. It can't flex or change size, because if it does, then it can't fit into the wall. What happens then is that the wall becomes the sum total of the beliefs, and God becomes as big as the wall. But God is bigger than any wall. God is bigger than any religion. God is bigger than any worldview. God is bigger than the Christian faith."
I don't know about you, but when I see a brick come loose from a brick wall, I don't go running towards it to hold it up or away from it in fear. The PURPOSE of the wall is to be GREATER than the sum of its parts!
The value of the wall is NOT equal to the sum of the value of each individual brick! It is the value of the EFFECT! A brick wall that keeps out an attack gives the value of life. A brick wall that keeps out the elements gives the value of protection.
I worked at SC Johnson Wax and am a HUGE Frank Lloyd Wright fan. The Johnson Administration building has been called "a symphony" of architecture. There are over three dozen different types and sizes of bricks in that building. The different curvature of each brick used in exactly the right place and relative to other bricks gives the impression of movement...bricks actually appear to be moving. Not only does the building entertain and inspire...it gives protection, serves as a place of business, etc. To say THAT building is JUST the sum total of the construction materials is to grossly underappreciate beauty and creation.
I've written about this in another entry, but the summary is the CAUSES of God are definitive: Righteous and Just.
The EFFECTS of God are infinite.
We can KNOW precisely who God is...it would be unjust and cultic for us not to know AND be required to believe in God in order to make it to Heaven. If we can't define God, then we can't be sure we are worshipping the right God.
However, to say that we can comprehend the EFFECTS of God is naive...
People who say we can't define God, that is know the CAUSES, are contradictory in EVERYTHING else they say.
It is CULTISH for a leader to require people to believe in something that the leader refuses to explain and/or define!
Be careful when a leader makes an excuse for why they can't explain something they want you to believe in.
Be careful with ANY organization that holds back information, says you CAN'T understand, and/or says you are UNABLE to understand.
Cults tell you WHAT to think.
You OUGHT to be in an organization that teaches you HOW to think.
If people knew HOW to think, they wouldn't join cults.
However, our flesh avoids thinking and looks for "endorsements".
More often than not, when someone endorses an author or teacher, they are telling you NOT to think.
When people say that words are NOT definite, they are actually being egotistical...
They are saying that their explanation is contradictory BUT it can't be their fault.
If it isn't their fault, then it must be God's fault (He's being able to be understood) OR words are to blame...words are just not definite enough to express MY complex thoughts.
The MOST intelligent people that I have met are the ones who think and understand well beyond me AND are able to explain themselves to someone like me who is less intelligent than them.
What would be the characteristics of the MOST Supreme Being?
-A Being beyond us who is unable to make Itself known and understood.
-A Being beyond us who ALSO has the ability to make Itself known and understood.
Is it blasphemous to say that God is Awesome BUT unable to explain Himself AND/OR didn't realize our beliefs are made up of words (a method He created) AND/OR intentionally created a method that limits our ability to understand Him?
It is cultish for an organization tells you to believe in something it can't explain.
It is idolatry to believe in a God that you can't explain.
The OTHER major sign of a cult is faulty doctrine...however, it seems this requirement as been abstracted away with current definitions of cults. Is this because we have been unable to give a non-contradictory explanation of our doctrine?
Let me point out two misconceptions...
First, we are commanded to treat people differently based on what they believe!
In I Corinthians 7, Paul talks about how you can treat an unbelieving spouse differently than a believing spouse.
My favorite example is how to treat someone who has trespassed against you?
The first question you have to determine is whether he is a believer or not!!!!!
Matthew 18 says if he is a believer, you need to confront him.
The rest of the New Testament says if they are not a believer you are supposed to forgive and walk away.
The reason? You will spend eternity with the brother, so you want to help them.
The unbeliever isn't going to heaven, so you are actually getting reward off them through justice by forgiving them!
Jesus said ALL of this!
Speaking of eternity, the second point is that this earth and current heaven are going to pass away.
They are not going to get fixed, improved, converted, changed...they are going to cease to exist.
A brand new earth and heaven will be created from scratch!
Christianity is the ONLY religion that believes the righteous will be REMOVED from this earth.
EVERY OTHER religion believes the unrighteous are removed and the righteous rule over this earth.
In conclusion, the BEST advice I can give you is to NOT judge.
If you call someone else a cult, justice says you NEED to have a non-contradictory explanation of YOUR beliefs otherwise you are a hypocrite.
A non-contradictory explanation is ONLY proved when you can write it down.
A lot of people have a logical explanation in their head or when they speak, but it is actually contradictory because the WORDS that are being used are either abstract or contradictory.
THIS is the reason I have spent the last 13 years intentionally discovering the non-contradictory worldview...
...without it, we are opening ourselves up to blasphemy, idol worship, and hypocrisy.