COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF HOW THE CULTS OPERATE
The key word is CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL by Submitting to the Leadership - Leaders tend to be the absolute end, looked to as prophets of God, as specially anointed apostles, or just a strong, controlling, manipulative personality who demands submission even if he changes his views or conflicts occur in doctrine or behavior. They can be looked on as God Himself. To obey a leader and their teaching is equal to obeying God.
It can take time for them to gain power over the new convert, but it will eventually be there. Control is usually overwhelming and can cover most aspects of the followers' lives:
Dress codes, activities, finances,
time, possessions and relationships. They can dictate to
the member who to see, what to do, what is the right thing to
say, and how to say it. Various degrees of control can be
experienced, from subtle manipulation to blatant ordering. They will expect
rigid obedience of the member’s time and activities - involving their followers
in physically and emotionally draining activities leaving little time for
privacy and reflection, or questioning their authority. Expecting one to show
up when everyone else does, and everything is usually done in groups.
The methods of control, which are used, are usually FEAR of displeasing God, the leader, or both. Fear of rejection, punishment, losing ones salvation, missing the rapture, going to hell. Guilt, Fear and intimidation are Weapons used to maintain their loyalty and devotion to the group.
Intimidation and accusation are the most often used. For example, any questioning of authority is treated as rebellion, and not trusting. They suppress questions and conform to the group’s behavior. They Discourage Critical or Rational Thought and Questions. They will reply with comments like, "Satan is the cause of all doubt; he is keeping you from the Truth," or it will take time to understand the deep things of God. Critical thinking is discouraged being called prideful or sinful or rebellious. No independent thinking is encouraged.
They over simplify answers to life's questions, making everything for all situations as simple as black or white.
COMMAND OVER THE GROUP IN INTIMATE MATTERS:
Telling one who to date or who to marry. Decisions are made
by the leader as to whom and when you’re ready. (Moonies International churches
Extremes can be no seeing the opposite sex to promiscuity in sexual relations, (Children of God), group sex (New Age Therapy groups, Some Eastern religious gurus) child sex, adultery, and polygamy (Branch Davidians, certain Mormon sects, children of God) sex is used as an initiation into the cult (as well as occult and Satanic groups).
Sexual impurity especially among the leaders can be common and promoted. Doctrinal deception is more than often displayed by moral deception. (Polygamy, spiritual wives, adultery, fornication and sexual sin are acceptable). The leader believes that he is above everyone or is an exception to God's laws so he may not follow his own rules.
GROUP TRUST: Confession Sessions are used to build relationships. Full disclosure of all secret sins, thoughts, temptations, and desires are expressed with those you know and may not know to build up your trusting them with your life. These can become powerful tools to emotionally bond you to the leader or group. They later can be used to manipulate, or blackmail some one if and when they decide to leave.
A DOUBLE STANDARD: There is one standard for the followers and another for the leaders. Leaders can do almost anything wrong while others will be rebuked and made examples of if they do the same things.
Christ teaches that leaders should be servants of those they lead. Cult leaders exalt themselves, requiring the followers to serve them or the church’s program. Jesus said, "The greatest among you will be your servant" Matthew 23:11. He said of Himself, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" Matthew 20:28. This is a sure way to see what your involved, since what cults practice is backwards.
TAKES LICENSE WITH GOD'S WORD: The Scripture is not rightly divided. Private revelations and interpretations are added to the Word and sometimes substitute for it. Passages contradictory to the orthodox beliefs are being twisted and taken out of their context. Strong emphasis is placed upon certain passages making them their thrust in ministry. While other pertinent scriptures on essentials and practice are completely ignored. Bible scholars who give a different interpretation from the cultists' are ignored or ridiculed.
MISPLACED LOYALTY: Someone involved in an abusive system finds their loyalty is nurtured and even demanded. An organization, church or leader replaces loyalty for Christ. Because authority is usually from an individual or a group one is asked if they will be loyal to God, confusing the member that to be loyal to a person or group means the same. With the Jehovah's Witnesses it’s their blind loyalty to whatever the Watchtower says.
ISOLATION: Information control is practiced where members of the group are not allowed or discouraged to have contact with outside family members, other ministries or Christians that could influence them. This is done to prevent information that may expose what is going on internally. They cut off or denigrat outside sources of information, especially if it is critical of the group. One is not allowed to read or converse with those who say these things or were once part of the group and left for whatever circumstances. Ties are severed with former friends and family and the circle becomes tighter as the only people you are exposed are the ones in the group. One reads only their books and are discouraged or forbidden to read other books especially if one opposes their views.
If evidence is presented that they have had false prophecies or they are used to make money. The focus is shifted members are taught to question the motives or character of the person and ignore the evidence. So the focus is on the others character and not the proof that they have. They will be called emissaries of Satan so that they can’t be trusted with anything they have.
AN "US AGAINST THEM" ATTITUDE AND PHILOSOPHY: Anyone who challenges the cult's doctrine is automatically branded as an enemy, which is usually anyone who disagrees. The cultists feel that they are being persecuted unfairly. On the other hand, true Christians accept persecution, knowing that it tests the genuineness of their faith. New members are told Satan will cause friends and family to say bad things about their group and that they should only trust their new family. We should expect to be persecuted for the truth we have. It becomes an “us against them” mentality. Clichés are given, such as "Who is more important, God or school?” or "Don't you love God with all your heart, don’t you trust us, do you know of anyone who cares about you more?" "We are the only ones who have the truth," "don’t you want to be found faithful."
FOCUS ON AN IMAGINED ENEMY: The enemy is seen to be the government, the IRS, Blacks (other ethnic groups if they are politically oriented) certain church denominations are considered the enemy. The focus shifts from inside and instead of God's truth and purpose, keeps the adherents busy towards something outside, It also stops them from looking in and really thinking things through.
END-TIME REVELATION: Special insights into the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ are claimed. The book of revelation is mostly used, among other immediate prophecies. Koresh claimed an exclusive understanding of the "seven seals" in Revelation, and believed that he was the one ordained to open them. Elizabeth C. Prophet of the church universal has prophecies from ascended masters telling about the end times.
MOTIVATIONAL TEACHING: Techniques designed to stimulate emotions, usually employing loud speaking or music with group participation; group dynamics are used to influence responses. You’re overwhelmed with smiling faces and handshakes and hugs with unconditional friendship. Those who were newly invited will be asked how they liked it and told how much fun they have and what they have to offer. They will immediately become your best friend and want to know when your coming back.
RULES OF SILENCE: There are rules, which govern churches, which are often not stated or written down. Beware if they say the only statement we have is the Bible. Since the rules are not spoken verbally, you don't find out that the rule (s) exist until you've broken one. It is taken for granted that you should know them. Or you taught them after you have joined.
The unspoken rule may come across like this: Do not disagree with the church authorities -- especially the pastor or your spirituality and loyalty will be questioned. Silence becomes a fortress wall of protection, shielding the pastor's position of power from any scrutiny or challenge. If one questions what is said or the rules they are seen as against them or divisive.
The “can’t talk to others” rule is probably the most consistent one used. If you speak about the problem to others, YOU JUST BECOME THE PROBLEM. You must become silent and just ignore it or will be asked to leave. Neither can you discuss things with others who left, while you are still in the group or it will be considered betrayal.
CONVERSION TECHNIQUES: Conversion into a cult is done by dynamic interactions. They look for those who are new to the town or school. The easiest to involve someone is when they are weak and vulnerable they instantly become a potential recruit. This vulnerability can be enhanced by transitional situations in life such as divorce, depression, abuse, handicapped, a job or career change, moving away from home or leaving college, few friends, an illness, or death of a loved one, new to an area, loneliness, loss of job, or someone backsliding. Those whom have had numerous bad experiences with love in their lives, feel rejected by people and insecure are attracted to cults. These groups make them instantly feel accepted and superior giving them friendship and acceptance. Many people who become discontent and disappointed in their prior church experiences are open to something new, even something radically different.
The tactics used to convert, indoctrinate the members. Some groups attempt a radical and quick conversion with an intensive weekend retreat or weeklong seminar such as The Forum or Scientology. Others have a more subtle approach, which may take weeks or months such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and International churches of Christ, although all push for something for quicker decisions to join.
REVELATION KNOWLEDGE: Emotions, intuitions, revelations and mystical insights are promoted over the objective word. They become more important than objective conclusions and what has already been revealed in scripture. Critical Thinking is discouraged; independent thought can be looked at as selfish, and rational use of intellect as evil.
MYSTICAL ALTERED STATES: The flesh
is considered evil the Spirit is good (Gnosticism). Subjective experiences
are accepted more quickly than constructive teaching. New age uses Repetition
of words, Techniques which include relaxation, chanting, hypnosis, meditation,
trance states, guided imagery or visualization, deep breathing exercises - all
of these bring a person into an altered state, a highly suggestible state. (This
can also be done in Pentecostal groups by the use of repetitive songs sung over
and over for long periods of time or listening to long drawn out sermons for
hours on end.) These techniques can cause psychological imbalance. What is
relaxation becomes the opposite promoting anxiety. Many cannot handle stilling
the mind or visualizing. The affects are not immediately noticed and usually
catch up later.
LEADERS HAVE A PRIDEFUL UNTEACHABLE SPIRIT: The attitude that "no one can Judge me or tell me what to do" is fostered by pride. The leader is in deception and promotes deception to the followers. The leader becomes untouchable by anyone. He is accountable to God only and everyone must obey what he says like it is Gods words. Included in this is the attitude that 'we are always right" from the leadership. When Hobart Freeman began Faith Assembly, loyalty to him and his teachings were to be accepted without question. To question Freeman, a self-acknowledged "prophet of God" was to risk the charge of blasphemy. Many people died including himself from his teaching on healing. This continues today by the word/faith movement and believing for your healing. All false doctrine has pride as its catalyst and arrogance as its practice. A good example of this is the phrase; “don’t touch the Lords anointed.” According to John Avanzini and Paul crouch, Dr. Walter Martin (a cult apologist) died because he spoke out against the Word-Faith teachers and their messages. (John Avanzini with Paul Crouch, Spring 1990 Praise-a-thon, Trinity Broadcast Network.)
PRIDE OF THE GROUP: We are the only ones who are right. If you are not one of us, then you are destined for hell. Correct doctrine is used by them alone, to the exclusion of any others, they alone have the truth so one must join them to be saved. They have an us against them attitude which can be very dangerous.
They appoint new "inside" meanings to ordinary words or the use of an exclusive vocabulary subtly moving a person to want to become a member. An appearance of false Spirituality is given from the language. What was formerly known by a certain phrase or word now has a new meaning behind it.
BRAINWASHING: New inductees are brainwashed increment by increment, until the convert identifies with the Church and its leaders and ties with family society are broken. Many claim no one can be brainwashed if they don’t want to be. But who ever wanted to be unless they were convinced first it is a good thing? So it is disguised as what is right and true. While there are some subtle differences between mind control and brainwashing the results are the same, obedience. A systematic teaching indoctrinates members into the beliefs of the cult. This is a methodical process of seducing and deceiving. A lie is told over and over until it is accepted and believed. A reprogramming of the conscience is done by other members and systematic teachings. Certain techniques used for what is called thought reform and mind conditioning. Members are kept under physical, mental and emotional pressure (Such as two and three day meetings which last for long hours.) they can become too fatigued to resist or think for themselves, or they become to busy as they can comply with all the groups activities.
DEVOTION TO CONVERT OTHERS TO THEIR GROUP AND ITS BELIEF SYSTEM: Cults demand a strong commitment from their members. They promise rewards for being faithful to their leaders and organization. EX: one can be kept out of the tribulation if found doing God's work (JW).
Service to the church is understood as service to God. Meetings are mandatory. In the I.C.C., one's meetings will keep them so busy they will no longer have time for their friends and family, job or hobbies. They are replaced with a new family and friends and a new view of life.
The priority, rather than bringing others into a saving relationship with Christ is to have them gain membership. Flattery is used, they can be very are crafty and everything is done with an objective. Instead of plainness, openness and honesty. They hide their real motives and teachings until they know one is ready. When they are convinced that you will do anything for God and their group, it is then that they will disclose the full extent of their teachings and mission.
DISTORTED TITHING OR EXCESSIVE GIVING: Certain members Keep track of your commitment of what your to give. They may have you write down what you can give and keep you to the obligation. More and more money is needed to attain higher degrees of spirituality (word faith, International churches of Christ), or complete submission to God requires one to give up everything to the group or leader for the cause. Give to get back from God, the more you give the more God will give back.
We must be ready to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1), and to "beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's (Christian) clothing" (Matthew 7:15). The key to discernment is awareness (Hosea 4:6), for how can one beware unless one is first aware. We become aware by first by familiarizing one self with the truth, but also become aware how the enemy distorts the truth to attract and snare us.
ATTEMPTING TO BRING IN THE KINGDOM NOW: It is up to us to change society and government. Force may even be promoted. Distrust and paranoia may empower the Cult as they could feel that they are threatened and subject to attack. This causes them to stockpile food and weapons and take extreme measures to insure protection from their imagined enemies. In Christianity some want to take over the world and Christianize the government and the people so that after it is done Christ will come back.
TOTAL COMMITMENT: is expected of the followers to the leader(s). Their commitment requires that property and money be given in the hands of the leader(s). Ones time, talent, and money are all at the disposal of the church or leaders. It is all focused on their mission, which is interpreted as Gods. While many do use the great commission as a basic concept they change it to mean something than it actually does.
INDIVIDUALITY IS SACRIFICED FOR THE GROUP: The group's concerns supersede an individual's goals, needs and aspirations. Conformity is the key. The end justifies the Means - Any action or behavior is justifiable as long as it furthers the group's goals. To lie to others outside the group is ok since they are serving Satan.
INCONSISTENT DISCIPLINED LIFE: Very strict rules in some areas and completely loose in others. Will make up extra rules to either forbid things normally done (legalism such as movies male or female swimming) or will allow total freedom to the extreme such as in the family and sex for Jesus. There is no balance but only extremes.
MARTYRDOM COMPLEX: Cultists may be willing to die for what they believe to he true, out of loyalty to the man or God they follow. Even to the point of mass suicide as we have seen with Jim Jones Koresh, Heavens Gate etc. Others such as the Christian Science and Jehovah witnesses convince individuals of suicide by denying medical treatment or blood for their life.
CURSES and THREATS: Are put on those who leave the group or oppose them afterwards. They are told their is no where else to go. Threats are made subtly or to their face. Once one is in there is no easy way out. The hardest part is when friends and family are involved. One will often have to give up their friendships and fight for their family.
Are you frustrated trying to figure out how to leave? Don't let this be you. There are ways out, they don't own you, and you can be set free.