Thursday, February 05, 2009

Marks of a Cult

On a Yahoo!Groups mailing list called Church_Of_Christ, okie_cole62 writes the following:
Here are eight cult distinctives:

Scripture Twisting --- Proof-texting would also fall under this category. Passages are frequently taken out of context, manipulated, misapplied, and/or forced to do duty as the justification of wrong conclusions.

Controlling Leader/Leadership --- Near total submission is generally implicitly or explicitly required of the members. The leaders are "in charge" and are not to be challenged or questioned. What they say is law.

Separation/Isolation of the Membership --- To protect the members from "harmful influences," the group leaders will do all in their power to isolate their disciples from others who may have differing views, or who might dare to challenge the thinking of the group in any way. Outsiders are banned from coming anywhere near the group, and the group members are banned from any type of interaction with outsiders which might cause them to doubt their beliefs or question the direction of their leaders.

Spiritual Elitism --- The group perceives itself as the "chosen of God." They are the ONLY ones who have ultimate Truth all figured out. They have "arrived." They are the enlightened ones, the "one true church," the ONLY ones going to heaven. If you are not in their group, you are lost. Period! Salvation is simply not to be found outside their walls, thus these aberrant groups rarely, if ever, cooperate in any way with other Christian groups. Indeed, other groups are not even perceived as being "Christian."

Uniformity --- Diversity among the membership is scorned, and the idea of having any kind of "unity in diversity" is mocked as godless heresy. The members must think the same things, speak the same things, practice the same things, proclaim the same things, believe the same things. Even in areas where Scripture is silent, uniformity of thought and practice (the standard being, of course, the traditional perceptions and preferences of the group, or its leaders) is rigidly imposed.

Doctrinal Mutation --- Doctrines and practices have a tendency to devolve and mutate further and further from healthy beliefs and expressions. For example, some groups started out with a very narrow view on divorce and remarriage, which eventually devolved to the point that the leaders insisted on certain members terminating second marriages that, in their view, were unapproved by God. Thus, these aberrant groups have gone from promoting a particular doctrine to actually promoting divorce! Families are destroyed to promote the fallacious findings of the Faction's Fathers!

Dissent Discouraged --- Nothing will get a member of an aberrant group tossed out into the cold more quickly than when they dare to question or challenge "the way things are" or "the way they have always been done." In non-coercive groups, differences with regard to convictions and personal preferences, perceptions, and practices are more lovingly tolerated. That is not the case in an aberrant group. Such "rebels," "liberals," and "digressives" will be ousted before they know what hit them. Dissenters are "marked" and maligned.

Traumatic Departure --- Coming out of such a group is almost always an extremely traumatic experience ... the group will see to that. Painful confrontations are common; months, even years, of being mercilessly hounded and harangued by the "faithful" is typical. Shunning by former friends and family is to be expected.
I don't know if this list is original with him; I don't know what qualifications he has to make these definitions. I actually suspect that he has intentionally designed these distinctives as a swipe against abuses and faults which he has experienced/witnessed/perceived in traditional churches of Christ (almost as if he's had a "traumatic departure" and is now looking to rescue others from the "cult" from which he came).

Nevertheless, I found the list interesting.

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