Unscrupulous Leaders Twist the Scriptures
and Manipulate People With Half-truths and Lies
by Mark Mountjoy
The Heaven’s Gate cult, the People’s Temple Christian Church and the International Bible Students Association are three groups which come to mind when we think about cults in the United States. But what is a cult? A cult is a group that uses mind control techniques to seduce and hold its members in its grip. The members tend to pour almost worship on the leader or founder and membership comes with rigid rules that stifle freedom of choice and latitude of action. When one disagrees with some of the beliefs of the cult, this cannot be tolerated.
Self-policing and spying and tattling usually run rampant in cults.
Cults are typically exclusive, believing (as they do) that the leader or founder has special insights or a special channel to God or to spiritual entities.
Cults may use the end of the world as a way to pressure members to work. They will rebaptize Christians to say that the Christian church is not a legitimate or acceptable body in the eyes of Almighty God. But the Bible says there is one baptism. Baptism in one church is no less legitimate than baptism in another church if it is a Christian baptism at all. But cults consider themselves to be the chosen few, the remnant, the little flock. This is expressed in the idea that they alone comprise Revelation’s one hundred forty-four thousand, or their group will be removed from the earth in some imminent apocalyptic event (which is always just around the corner).
Red Flags to Look For
Signs that one is dealing with a group that may be a cult will appear first in their doctrine about who Jesus Christ is. Jesus asked his Apostles, Who do you say that I am? Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ By Son of God the New Testament frames Jesus as one with the Father in his beingness, but Second to the Father in his person. The Holy Spirit, too, is a third person included in the one beingness of the Biblical deity.
Cults usually reject the Biblical doctrine of the Triune God. These beliefs can run the gamut of Jesus being his own Father (Modalism), to Jesus being a created being (Arianism), even the brother of Satan (Mormonism).
Another red flag is a works based salvation. Works include heavy door to door activity; tireless volunteer work building buildings and managing properties for the sect. The work is done for free, but the property is usually sold for extravagant profits, but the members have no say nor do they reap any benefit from any later commercial transactions that happen after they have done their part.
A schedule of Bible studies, for meritorious purposes, causes members to missionize (at their own expense), foregoing adequate rest, pushing them to reach a point of physical and mental and spiritual exhaustion.
If one begins to slack with missionary work, one’s motives, commitment and their salvation are called into question.
Manipulation to produce comes through fear, obligation and guilt rather than love, liberty and self-motivated altruism. The ‘FOG’ is heavily favored and employed to galvanize the entire group to keep statistics high as great pride is had by the number of people that are being baptized into the group’s ranks.
Giving is mandatory. Cults are hungry (even greedy) for money. And whatever is given is never ever enough. This author was raised in a Christian church which was not a cult, but bordered on being cultish only in this respect. No amount of giving was ever enough and the climate around collection was typically oppressive and stifling.
Later on in life I became a member of a different kind of Christian church and it was amazing to see how willingly Christians gave in ONE OFFERING when they are not being pressured and badgered to give more. This latter is in the spirit of the New Testament where it is enjoined upon us “not to give unwillingly or of necessity because God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
The B.I.T.E. Model and Cults
Internationally recognized cult expert Steven Hassan has written a book about the dynamics of cults. He himself was a part of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. For years his concerned family frantically sought ways they could free Steven from the tentacles of Rev. Moon’s sect.
Hassan, by the providence of God, got free and then began to examine the dynamics which caused him to stay as long as he did.
Hassan developed the B.I.T.E. model to describe what is going on to capture and keep people in the parameters of the cult. The acronyms BITE stand for Behaviour, Information, Thought and Emotions. Cults will try to change, alter and control a person’s behaviour. This may be blatant or insidiously subtle. Disapproval and punishment and even shunning can follow if one deviates from the cult’s proscriptions.
In behaviour control the cult will be eager to control its members actions. A schedule will be established that will require the adherent to be present, probably as much as at all possible. Undesirable traits that the cult deems 'bad' will be targeted so that action will at the soonest possible time, cease and desist. The use of medicine, caffeine and meats can be no-nos.
Cigarettes, among all groups, will probably be frowned on, since it is a universal truism that tobacco products kill more people than any other thing on the planet earth. While we cannot say that cigarettes are a good thing, still the biggest danger of all is being in the clutches of a group that will assume inordinate control over one’s own free will and judgment.
In information control the cult wishes to restrict and close off any avenues where a person can read anything not published or authorized by the group’s press. Watching the news or reading the daily news, reading the literature of other religions or commentaries may not be O.K.
Thinking about things in a different way than that approved by the group’s leadership may incite suspicion, hostility and censure.
It is as though the cult wishes to retard the exercise of perspective. Without the ability to enjoy perspective a person can run into serious trouble for lack of circumspection WHICH THE BIBLE commands:-
“See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time for the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-20).
The Christian way is a path of liberty and self-control, not other control.
In thought control gas-lighting can be employed where even the claims of the group which are no longer accepted can be denied, out and out. One is only allowed to believe the group is always right about every utterance, large or small.
If a prophecy date should come and go and end in non-fulfillment, one is NOT allowed to reflect on the implications of that failure to materialize.
If the cult leader[s] is/are doing something that is immoral or socially reprehensible, one is not allowed to think of what it means in light of the cult’s own teachings.
If the cult claims it has never asked for money, one is not allowed to wonder why it is asking for money right now? In short, one is trained to obey and discouraged to ask any questions. One must believe and serve and trust and continue without reflecting on what exactly is happening. But one must not ask why things are happening and the reason why glaring contradictions exist?
Cults can run the gamut when it comes to emotions. On one hand a cult may forbid the expression of effusive emotions. For all intents and purposes, cults like this have members who seem more or less robotic. On the other hand there are cults which value and pursue flagrant gestures of emotion, bordering on self-induced hysteria.
In any case one does not have a choice: those in the staid cult must not show their emotions; those in the emotional group must constantly generate exaggerated feelings. In either case if they don’t play the game, they can risk being called out and made an example of.
The Upshot of Being a Member of a Cult:
Slavery, Deprivation and Disappointment
So what is the upshot of being a member of a cult? Three things sum up what happens as a result of association with a cult: Slavery, deprivation and disappointment.
As a slave the person has no rights and must only obey, receiving little or no pay for one’s contributions. One also cannot leave without being inflicted with heavy consequences, psychological or otherwise. The cult’s supervision really amounts to attendants being wardens whose job is to make sure no attempts of escape are entertained or allowed.
Deprivation in a cult is always a near and present danger. This is because once all friends and loved ones are all in the cult, they can be cut off just as soon as one refuses to continue to go along with the cult’s mission, vision and goals. This means where once one was surrounded by the love, support and agreement of all around them, all of a sudden one is without any of these, alone in the world, for all practical purposes.
This is not how Christians normally act. When I was young, even if someone left our Christian church and “backslid” or joined another religious organization, that never changed anyone’s attitudes or actions toward that individual. They could always count on our love, support and concern. No phone call of theirs would go unanswered. No call for help would be in vain.
Prayers on their behalf were a given and when they came back everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
At no point was their falling or their departure seen as an excuse or occasion to justify retribution or malice. And this is where cults will show their true malicious nature. Once the cult realizes that the individual is really determined to stay the course to get out and away from the control, the cult’s instincts to strike out and strike back will quickly surface.
A favorite of cults is emotional blackmail: If you do not want to be a part of us, you cannot have your family! If you leave us, you also must leave behind all your friends! is the steep price a person has to pay to be allowed to leave a cult. For this reason suicide is rampant in cases were people have left cults but had to forego cherished connections with loved ones, family and friends alike.
The cults wish to kill dissenters (metaphorically and sometimes literally) but they fail to realize that it is in their own best interests to preserve human relationships, as Christians typically do. When Christians exercise moderation to those who wane or leave it leaves ajar an open door for future willing return and participation. Nobody wants to naturally serve God under the pressure of duress or in the shadow of fear and obligation and guilt.
This is why going away on one’s own volition and coming back when one feels the hunger of need is a God-given liberty. The ability and the liberty to come and go (willingly) means Christians are far happier being who they are than those whose days pass slavishly pleasing self-appointed lords who teach what is not true, relish control and make promises they cannot keep, deliver or make good on.
If their deluded followers realized this was the case to begin with, they would have never become members and wasted their precious time, squandered trust or pillaged their resources—all in the name of an impending promise of an elusive social Utopia.
In the final analysis nursing homes and infirmaries, mortuaries and cemetaries are a grim testament to hundreds of thousands who fell prey to the regimental and penitentiary-like life of cults, but in the end they saw nothing but emptiness or a reality in eternity they were completely and utterly unprepared for.
Caption: A pyramid prophecy diagram authorized by Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and the International Bible Students Association. Splinter groups which came out from Russell's efforts are: The Layman's Home Missionary Movement, the Associated Bible Students, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Independent Bible Students. Source: biblestudentdaily.com.