to Recognize a Cult
The 700 Club
-- It is easy to identify certain religious groups as cults. Groups like
the Branch Davidians and Heaven's Gate are two obvious examples. But what about
those religious groups that take a more subtle approach? Pat presents several
key identifiers to help you clearly recognize what four underlying practices make
Practically every cult has certain characteristics that can tell
the careful observer that something is wrong. First, what does a group think about
Jesus? Jesus Christ is God, Lord of all, the only source of salvation. Invariably,
a cult will put something else on an equal footing with Christ. It will have a
ritual that is equal to Christ, or it will have a doctrine equal to Christ, or
it will have a leader who is equal to Christ. In other words, even if it acknowledges
Christ as Savior, it will say that you need something else before you can get
into heaven. Cults teach that salvation comes through Christ, plus their little
unique way. Some cults do not acknowledge Christ at all. They may make Him coequal
with their religious teachers or with certain great men of history. The quickest
way to recognize a cult is by its treatment of Jesus.
Second, cults frequently
attempt to instill fear into their followers. The followers are taught constantly
that salvation comes only through the cult. "If you leave us, you will lose your
salvation," they say.
The third area has to do with the exaltation of the leader
of the cult. Cults often center around a man or woman who is trying to gain power,
money, or influence from manipulating people. This appears to be the case in the
Unification church with Sun Myung Moon. In the Children of God, Moses David Berg
is an autocratic leader. In the People's Temple, Jim Jones drew attention to himself
and asked his followers to die with him. A true leader who serves Jesus Christ
has one goal, and that is to exalt and manifest Jesus. When someone says he has
unique insight into God or is the special one that God has anointed to reach the
world, you are dealing with cultic behavior.
A final mark of a cult is the
unwillingness of the leaders to let the people grow up. A true shepherd will do
everything he can to bring Christian people to maturity as quickly as he can.
He will not seek to avoid necessary teaching, nor will he try to keep people from
maturity. Many cults perpetuate spiritual dependence so that their followers lose
the ability to make independent, rational decisions. Often techniques of brainwashing
are used to create robot-like behavior.
Although there are other marks of cultic
behavior, these seem to be the ones that stand out.
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