Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political Pietism: An article ahead of its' time ..

I normally don't tackle politics here but there's a point to this brief commentary:

With the headlong collision of presidential elections on the way, one wonders if America might be best served by considering the third party candidates who will be on ballots nationally but who will be largely invisible and off the radar of American voters this year as in most all other Presidential election years. That's because the American electorate are all largely lemmings and they aren't going to act a whole lot more differently this year then in 2000 when third party candidates had their best shot at becoming a real voice in American political change.

There aren't deep enough wells of political consciousness (spelled critical thinking) among Americans to vote anything but Democrat or Republican. Both the Obama and McCain campaigns demonstrate a ruthless energy in spinning the facts about one another and their own policies even as we speak through the mass media. Both demonstrate an inordinate ability in evading any real answers to the challenges an American President will need to deal with in the next four years. So therefore, we're stuck with them. There's no sufficient depth of mass outrage and real taste for change to look beyond both parties. No one wants to gamble on the unknown and the third parties have utterly failed to attract attention to their platforms since most Americans are too disinterested enough to engage in real reflection, let alone political passion, that might fire a new third part alternative.

And any third party, regardless who they are, are going to have insurmountable odds in cracking the liberal bias of the mass media and gain sufficient respect to garnish the kind of attention they'll lavish on things Republican or Democratic. So it's a wrap as far as I see it. Unless the third parties consistently master and then sustain an eye catching campaign that engages those voters who look beyond the obvious and encourages them to critical political thought, it ain't going to happen and I'm not going to waste an ounce more of my own taps of idealism on a battle that won't be won.

But that surely won't ever stop the continued Red vs Blue state antagonism from rearing it's head anyway. The inevitable obliteration between the circles of secular civic duty and spiritual Christian influence in American politics gets particularly noticeable every four years when the more outspoken and activistic circles of evangelicalism get involved. This hasn't been lost on Christian observers as well as less reverent ones like Bill Maher and the producers of "Jesus Camp" who see this ugly diffusion. They raise a stink over religion being visible in the secular seats of American political discourse ... and an equally loud rhubarb has been sounded by Christians who refuse to allow encroaching and antichristian secularism to dominate the debate.

In so doing, however, Christians can certainly seem as dense as their secular counterparts.

One such Christian observer, pastor Joseph McAuliffe of a Tampa, Florida congregation penned the following essay in the June 1993 issue of Charisma, barely four months after Bill Clinton first became president of the United States in November, 1992: it bears out what we've observed:

POLITICAL PIETISM by Pastor Joseph R. McAuliffe, Tampa, FL (Charisma, June 1993)

Considering his political leanings, it's not surprising that President Clinton would be endorsed by homosexuals, radical feminists, ultraliberals and MTV rockers. What does surprise me is the widespread support Clinton is enjoying from the Christian community, particularly the charismatic group some refer to as "the prophetic movement."

A recent copy of The Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin featured an article titled, "The Clinton Administration: Its Meaning and Our Future," which was discussed in the Editorial column of the March Charisma. The Morning Star article is based on a dream that well-known prophet Paul Cain received prior to the election - a dream that predicted Clinton's win.

Cain's interpretations of why God wanted Clinton to win is, in my opinion, dubious, if not altogether amiss. Paul Cain's revelation contains several salient admonitions such as the importance of humility and prayer. But overall, I believe it is misguided political pietism.

Cain claims that he "saw the Lord putting His Spirit upon Bill Clinton and changing him into another man just as he did King Saul." Cain says God is going to give Clinton "the power of the Holy Spirit to lead this country. What some people in the church regarded as a defeat is actually a blessing from the Lord. "If the church will pray for this, it will come to pass" (emphasis mine).

That last phrase is most telling. If Clinton turns out to be in the future what he's been in the past - a tax-and-spend statist of questionable morals who espouses abortion and homosexual rights - then it's the church's fault for not praying. That seems lame to me. I know God works through prayer, but doesn't the Bible teach that He distributes His Spirit principally in terms of His initiative and calling?

Sounding like the chairman of the Democratic party, Cain says the Lord showed him that Clinton's "waffling on the issues" was "really a genuine openness...to do what is right and fair." The Lord said that Clinton "was a listener" and that listening "is a demonstration of humility."

Since the inauguration and Paul Cain's prophetic dream, we have witnessed the "humble listener" appoint a cabinet comprised of all pro-abortion leftist Democrats with no track record of upholding biblical values. Listening is an important social skill, but God admonishes us to "take care what you listen to" (Mark 4:24, NASB).

The Morning Star article makes a statement typical of' the latent anti-doctrinal disposition of the prophetic movement: "In many ways it is better to have wrong doctrines with humility than to have right doctrines with pride."

That's the kind of aphorism you might find in a Kahlil Gibran greeting card. Innumerable blunders have been inflicted upon humanity by humble bumbles. The unorthodox Gandhi, Sun Myung Moon, Mary Baker Eddy and Albert Schweitzer were all theologically misguided despite their reputed humble bearings. Sometimes it's better to have right doctrines with a little arrogance like Athanasius, Martin Luther, John Calvin and even the apostle Paul, who once declared that the apostolic pillars "added nothing" to him (see Gal. 2:6).

Cain correctly predicts that, like Solomon, Clinton's first test would be "the issue of life" - but he contends that if the church would repent and pray, the outcome would be different.

Well, on January 22, (1993) with more than 100,000 God-fearing citizens gathered in Washington, D.C., to pray for the unborn and millions more praying in their home churches, Clinton swiftly issued five executive orders making it easier to obtain an abortion. In April, he proposed revoking the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits funding abortions with tax dollars. The following week he recommended the federal health insurance policies include funding abortions.

Are we supposed to believe this happened because Christians didn't repent or pray enough?

In Cain's dream, God reportedly blames the church for the moral degeneration in America. So corrupt politicians, porn-peddlers, leftist educators and criminals are all absolved from blame for the moral woes of our nation. Certainly the Church needs reformation, but should it be the scapegoat for America's sins?

Cain's dream ends with a call for the church to be humble and pray accompanied by the promise that, if we do, the Lord will "give us great cause for rejoicing." That would be swell. I pray that Bill Clinton does experience a Nebuchadnezzar-type conversion, but it's more likely that he and Hillary will be a repeat of Ahab and Jezebel.

I believe God gave us Bill Clinton not to bless this country, but to judge us for our rebellion. Perhaps the damage that Clinton will inflict upon America will humble this nation and turn us to God. But I fear the effect of Cain's prophecy will be to turn Christians away from the public square and back to the monastery.

Joseph R. McAuliffe pastors Tampa Covenant Church in Tampa, Florida.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Deconstruction Of An Atheist: Following Evidence Can Be Enlightening

Reasons To Believe is one of the wonderful group of Christians in the Body of Christ who are devoted to the noble task of defending the faith from a more classical apologetics stance that grapples head on with the challenges posed by skeptical question and secular attack. These are the kinds of issues raised by agnostics, atheists and those raised in the postchristian era we live in that is becoming as pagan and devoid of the Judeo-Christian frame or theistic reference to reality that we've taken for granted. This is the kind of worldview that our secular age on this side of the Enlightenment has come to increasingly prefer, one in which Christianity is just one of many choices in the metaphysical marketplaces that's been tasted and found wanting.

So when one of atheism's most erudite spokesmen, British philosopher and author Anthony Flew announced that he was abandoning atheism for a theistic worldview that posited the existence of a Creator a few years ago, there was no little fanfare in those corners of the world where secular atheism has reigned as its own religion of reason.

You can read how Mr. Flew arrived at his conclusion by clicking HERE.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Second Coming of Christ, Episode DCCVII

And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there;
believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things
Mark 13:21-23

Is this dramatic picture a depiction of great religious fervor and piety? An inspiring glimpse into a reenactment of the earthly ministry of Christ somewhere in some religious theme park in Florida? Is it a photo snapped at some church pageant playing in Peoria? Could it be part of some Christian passion play in which a long haired actor portrays Jesus Christ before a modern audience before he takes the robes and sandals off and goes home to eat pizza and help his kids do their homework?

Nope. The reality is considerably different, yet hardly unique.

It's a picture taken of a Russian man calling himself Vissarion, a former KGB agent and traffic cop who, since 1989, openly claims to be Jesus Christ Himself, denying that he is God incarnate and preaching to his spellbound flocks a gospel tinged with New Age universalism as well as a stringent call for retreat from a fallen world not of their sect, the "Church Of The Last Testament". His followers embrace a discipline of simple, communal life among other believers where the "Word of Vissarion," several volumes of his personal teaching, become their focus for spiritual life. And thousands have flocked to his Siberian stronghold mostly from Russia but from Europe and Asia as well to assume his discipline and worship him daily. According to many reports, between 4 to 5,000 followers live in 40 small villages within a few hours drive of his mountain home where he lives in simplicity, preaches, receives visitors and paints. He's started to travel around the world in preaching tours to spread his Word and his sect grows daily.

It is at once obvious that Vissarion's great draw lies in his public persona as a robed, long haired and bearded sage whose beatific smile, calm personal magnetism and inspirational oratory play to the Christ ideal firmly entrenched in popular Russian society for centuries thanks to the Russian Orthodox Church and more recently, Western and home grown Evangelical influences. For many of the millions who have been sensitized to these concepts of a Savior named Jesus who came to deliver the suffering from their sins and the madness of the world, this vision is compellingly embodied in Vissarion's self-representation and preaching that exhorts love for all, virtuous life of restraint and renunciation of the outer world. With their spiritual sensitivities aroused, they readily become the itinerant support systems for preachers and prophets of all philosophical and spiritual stripes.

But what seems to become the inevitable hook for Vissarion's followers that goes way beyond his Bible costume persona is his teaching that prophecies a soon coming transformation of mankind that resonates with the spiritual ideals many of them held that were nurtured by global mysticism and New Age evolutionary theory that has arisen in these postchristian times. He teaches that salvation for mankind can only begin with "the emergence of a single field of conscience in the whole human society on earth. This is an important condition for full-scale development. The task now is to immediately articulate a new doctrine for all people." (This quote is taken from the first link in this paragraph to an interview held with Vissarion)

This is precisely the kind of nebulous metaphysical singsong that has echoed throughout pop spirituality since the advent of an occult revival in the West. It plays in the Peorias of personal longing for a world free of war, hatred, pain, fear and want .. and it has become a smash hit for many a weary man and woman with spiritual sensitivities seeking a Savior, however they defined "him" .. which Vissarion readily does for them. After redefining His "first incarnation" without any reference to an atoning death for the world, Vissarion says he's now returned to begin the next phase of divine revelation, one that involves the creation of a "a micro-community .. that will be able to become the foundation of a bigger society, a new civilization of the future." In short, Vissarion preaches the development of a Utopian society similar to the Oneida, Shaker, Bruderhof and Moravian Herrnhut communities that will spiritually transform the darkened world around them by spiritual osmosis.

And those same thousands think this is just swell, flocking to his spiritual communities in Siberia to live off the land in shacks, giving all of their earthly wealth and possessions up to Vissarion's ever receptive hand, and praising him as the second incarnation of Christ, cheerfully oblivious to the fact that the Christ of the Bible is a unique incarnation of God as the Son, not another fleshly creation he set up shop within. Reports of extremism in the movement have surfaced that suggest that the usage of all too well known tools of social control in new religious movements could be employed and yet cannot be substantiated. Only investigation and monitoring of the movement, as well as interviews with members who do leave, could provide any clues and frankly, it would not be a surprise if it was going on. Human nature is the same everywhere.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, posits that the kind of unfeigned fervor expressed by Vissarion's flocks was to be expected. In the midst of a materialistic and hardscrabble post-Soviet society impoverished of spiritual and moral foundations, people seeking meaning and hope for otherwise empty lives will gravitate towards those who exhibit the irresistable "works of the spirit." For those sickened by the hypocrisy, cruelty and dehumanizing conditions of modern society, the convicting argument for their truth claims seen in their chaste, sober and simple lives become what she calls "a sturdy guideline" that they swallow wholeheartedly. The old saying that a man with an experience will confound the man with an argument everytime holds true here. And Biblical illiteracy doesn't help either. With no other objective source of truth, the dynamic power of personal charisma will seize the masses every time.

Oh, and it helps when all time in the Vissarion communities is measured from Vissarion's birthday to keep your sense of reality where he thinks it should be - meaning that it is actually the year 48, since he turned 47 in January.

Click here to watch and read an ABC report on Vissarion .. most fascinating .. and sobering.

Such overweaning megalomania doesn't bode well for the Church of the Last Testament. I fear that, hidden behind the rustic simplicity of naked, child like faith that propels the talents and destinies of thousands into community building, the potential for the creation of a spiritual hothouse answerable to no one is off the charts. The most scrupulous and observable morality and chastity has a tendency of becoming the most inpenetrable and inscrutable cloak to unspeakable evil before the eyes of those who don't want to see it (see "Germany, Nazi" in your history books). Prayer that the power of God's Word and Spirit will somehow find its way into the obsessive attentions of Vissarion's followers to turn them back to Him is certainly needed by all who care about these misguided people.

But remember, as Jesus Himself said .. false Christs will arise in the last days. He said they would arise and deceive many. And remember also that I said that Vissarion is hardly a unique character. There's no shortage of messiahs, prophets and cranks today who have created their own cults of personality or full blown religions that have targetted the Christian church and the idealist for their own ends. Sun Myung Moon, the octogenerian founder of the Unification Church cult is one such character who is known as the "Lord Of The Second Advent" but there's always been room for one too many of these frauds: click here to see a photo gallery of recent pretenders to the crown of the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The unimaginably vast multiplication of these spiritual deceivers is a frightening fulfillment that what the real Jesus Christ prophecied in Mark 13 would happen IS happening. Those who gaze upon these developments and don't feel even one touch of icy conviction that we now live in some of the most perilous spiritual times in history are either spiritually naive, wilfully ignorant or someone who needs to repent and do their first works of submission to Christ all over again.

Remember, Jesus said it would be like this ..

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rob Bowman's Done It Again: Read His Study On The Doctrine Of The Trinity

Twenty years ago, Christian researcher Robert Bowman put together one of the finest study outlines I think I've ever seen that helps illuminate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity from a purely Biblical stand point. It is - quite probably - one of the finest Christian resources to trace the revelation of God in Three Persons you'll ever find. Robert's now updated and streamlined it and you are just a mouseclick away from one of the most valuable study resources I think you can find today outside the Bible itself.

Between all of his travel, ministry, research and labor in apologetics, one wonders when this man sleeps! Our congratulations to Rob's promotion to executive directorship of the Institute for Religious Research, one of the finest Christian countercult ministries on the planet. We expect IRR's already vast accomplishments in Christian apologetics to excel even further, bringing greater light upon the Christian faith when contrasted against the heretical and divisive work of the cults!

To read Rob's magnum opus, a newly revised version, click HERE and bring an open Bible, an open mind and the Holy Spirit into your study!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Down But Never Out: The Latest From The Church of $cientology

The Church of Scientology is one of the most ruthless and vicious cults on the planet even as it calls itself a church, enjoys charitable tax-exempt status from the IRS and fields "clergy" who extol the virtues of its dogma. It has more than abundantly proven over and over that far from being the benevolent brotherhood of the only truly sane people on the planet that it's authoritarian control over the lives of its followers is without question perhaps one of the most onerous examples of human authoritarianism concealed under a mask of self-assured virtue.

Based upon the Co$'s late founder L. Ron Hubbard's worldview that mental purification and embracing the rule of Scientology's "applied religious philosophy" would better mankind, the organization has morphed into many forms over the years since its incorporation and has tried hard to come off as an exciting international movement aimed at bettering the human condition and bringing spiritual and social wholeness to a world awash in tragedy and oppresssion. No slouches in using mass media from its start in the early 1950's, the Co$ has poured millions upon millions of dollars in promoting itself, Hubbard's "Dianetics" book that set forth his belief system and a self-improvement cottage industry it fostered. Hubbard's persona was exalted by his followers in all the typical ways one might expect adulation of a saintly sage or anointed adept who had come to save the world from itself.

Yet the truth behind Hubbard's operations couldn't stay under wraps forever. Many have been the testimonials of former members who have seen the dark side of the Church (click to read a disjointed yet factual online text of ex-member Bent Corydon's book "L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah Or Madman?" - be warned, it has an 800 KB download size). The organization Hubbard created throughout the years attracted scores of people whose idealistic longings for personal fulfillment and the betterment of mankind became fuel that fired the boilers of his megalomanical ship that set a course for domination and coopting of Western culture in the most Machiavellian way possible. Hubbard's misanthropic spirit of feral confrontation with critics and those he marked as enemies aimed at completely destroying them eventually began to become public record, as well as the bizarre concepts of his religion which were more like flights of surreal science fiction that were viewed as cutting edge truth he was restoring to a world lost in darkness. The Church's well known habit of assigning astronomically expensive price tags to the self-improvement "auditing" one had to go through to become "clear" from their personal demons is also on record, which is why $cientology can be described with a dollar sign up in its' own name. Hubbard's open rumination that the best way to make money was to start a religion is also on public record, as well as the Church's targetting of the wealthy as well as the celebrities of the land. Keeping thousands of not so well known or prosperous Scientologists in virtual slavery as toiling laborers throughout the organization under the thumbs of tight hierarchies of manipulative leader helped to keep costs down as well and keep the bottom line well stocked.

Slowly but surely, resistence to $cientology's and critics began to arise, unite and speak out to expose the almost innumerable deceptions Hubbard committed as he developed his Church "vision." This occurred even as the IRS and the FBI, who initially were involved in investigating some of the criminal activities that the Church engaged in throughout the 1970's and 1980's, lost their resolve and withdrew from the arenas. These individuals ranged from Hubbard's own son to former high level members who'd seen enough of the brutality and hypocrisy that reigned in $cientology circles. Several prominent lawsuits and dramatic incidences took place that began to show the public that there was more to $cientology than just the public delight that John Travolta, Isaac Hayes and Kirstie Alley took when talking about L.Ron - "the Commodore" - who'd become the captain of their destinies.

For years, Hubbard's "church organization" spawned various auxiliaries who operated as Hubbard's private army of spies and storm troopers, seeking to lash back, discredit and intimidate any one seeking to speak out against their doings. The ferocity of this goon squad has become one of $cientology's greatest weapons into silencing opposition, using harassing phone calls to litigation to surveillance to worry their prey to defeat and capitulation to them. The destruction of the Cult Awareness Network, at one time one of the finest countercult organizations in the world, and its absorption into the $cientology collective as another agency staffed by Church operatives is but one of these stories.

But the tragedy of the Lisa McPherson case, in which a young and mentally unstable Scientologist died in a $cientology facility under the "care" of other Scientologists, brought even more attention to the Church in the mid 1990's than ever before - along with various European government's clear identification of $cientology as a menace to society, even as it enjoyed a renewed season of growth in the U.S. With the advent of the Internet made it possible for activists to unite, pool their efforts and launch concerted, coordinated responses to the many attempts Scientology, as well as begin to make it's rigid, abusive agenda and history known.

Today, Scientology still goes about seeking audiences from those it believes it has a mandate to deliver from ignorance through Hubbard's spiritual "tech." Looking to the charisma of Hollywood luminaries like Tom Cruise, a $cientology convert, to keep their movement in the public eye in the best possible light, their campaign soldiers on. But it no longer can rely upon its Office of Special Affairs agency to be its attack dogs whose snarls of harassment can cause critics to become meek and silent. A critical mass of resistence ranging from well documented websites and exposes such as Operation Clambake to the grassroots counterculting of the shadowy movement of anti-Scientology activists who call themselves Anonymous has become the bane of $cientology and its' worse nightmare come alive, hosting protests across the world at Scientology centers: click here to watch an Anonymous chapter in action in Australia and watch the video below to view Anonymous' video release that announced its formation and objectives:

$cientology, for it's part, continues to recycle and repackage itself as a source of enlightenment even as world wide dissent against it mounts. It's newest attempt as of late is a new series of PSA's (public service ads) being aired to promote a Hubbard book called "The Way To Happiness," a tome that expounds 21 dictums on the virtues of restraint supposedly written by Hubbard in the 1950's. Representing themselves as prophets crying out in the vast wilderness of a Western moral vacuum, they use edgy humor, probing questions and well crafted filming in their campaigns and general promotion of the book (click here to watch one of their 21 - count em' - 21 separate spots the Church created to do so).

In today's modern Babylon where situational morality and generally postmodern liberalism have undermined moral standards, such ads and preaching will find a choir to bewitch, and $cientology leaders know that they have to augment their aging Hubbard's Dianetics "tech" product line to draw more disciples from a new generation. Watching the video above on CNBC reminds us how far along the end time apostacy has gone and how crucial the need for discernment in the Christian Church really is against wolves in sheep's clothing.

But of course that hasn't stopped some members of the Body of Christ from nibbling on the hook of Scientology anyway. You can't make this up - click HERE to watch a CNN report on how a Pentecostal church has embraced Scientology teaching as cutting edge truth needed to bring new light on their spiritual walk.

Jesus said it would be like this. I guess the pastor at the church we just mentioned didn't read that in his translation of the Bible.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cult Evangelism: A Question From Evangelism 363

When I was asked by Dr. Bill Effler to help teach a couple sessions on evangelizing those in cult groups in his evangelism class at Lee University, my alma mama, back in 2005, I was sent a few questions to respond to from his students. This was a great one that was direct and to the point in regards to reaching those in cults with the Gospel of Christ:

How do we actually effectively evangelize people who are in cults?

I wrote in response:

Evangelism always is and always will be the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. The critical point in any evangelistic sharing is whether or not the person you witness to fully understands what you have said – they grasp the truth claims of the Gospel and their personal implications and you’ve used language they understand coming out of a heart and soul passionately concerned for them.

You would share the Gospel of Christ to a cultist with a strong emphasis on the love of God for them, the authority of God’s Word and that faith in Jesus alone is what brings them to God – not any cultic program of busywork and admonish them to reconsider their claims in light of Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16-20 and 1 John 1:9.

In any cult evangelism, there are two important points in effective witness of the Gospel of Christ to cults that must be very intentionally focused upon – dealing with the cultist’s personal understanding of their cult’s path to personal salvation as they understand it and dealing with the terminology differences they hold as well that confuse the dialogue.

Knowing what Cultist X believes about their Leader’s orthodoxy about ultimate salvation is crucial to reaching them where they are and being ready to define terms (like “righteousness,” “grace,” “faith,” etc.) to clearly represent the truth of the Gospel when it is confused with cultic redefinitions of that truth is equally important. If evangelism is, at its ultimate core, the sharing of the Gospel, these two crucial issues must be engaged in any sharing with a cult member.

We have contended that cultic mind control is the great cognitive choke hold that hinders a cult members ability to understand and even personally relate to what you say, and that dealing with those aspects of cultic mind control that effectively suspend (in various degrees) their ability to critically think is just as vital to helping them grasp the truth you share. Reliance on the Spirit of God’s piercing of the veil of cultic blindness that this mind control brings is also just as essential.

I wrote two papers describing the problem and our own approaches to it for the class and adapted them for distribution. I greatly expanded upon these brief responses - and included further discussion on what the differences are between evangelizing and restoring. As Dr. Paul Martin so well said years ago, the great need for many of those affiliated with cults today is not so much outright evangelism at first but a need for an intentional shepherding - to supply guidance of deceived, broken people back to the folds of truth, security and objective thought where they can decompress, mourn, grieve, rage and recover from the cult experience they've been hypnotized with.

Too many Christians fail to realize that the need for a person bound by deceptive wiles in the context of authoritarian spirituality to regain freedom of thought is vital for them to make intelligent, personal and authentic choices about what they will believe. This extends to whether the Gospel of Christ, when shared respectfully with them, is something they'll accept. All too often, quite out of the best of intentions, Christian evangelism for the cult member trying to break away from their abusive group can sometimes seem like just another hard sell tool of spiritual oppression they're trying to be freed from - hence the need to be aware of where the person is at in their spiritual journey.

We respect God's work in the lives of those we try to help, their need to heal and integrate back into real life and await their questions about what we believe while also praying fervently that they will turn to the healing and transforming encounter with the real Jesus that they thought they'd been walking in. Our evangelistic ministry objectives are based upon that and we're not changing any time soon

You can find these papers on the Evangelical Ministries To New Religions website here and here as .PDF files you can save and download. I've just been too lazy to upload them to the Spiritwatch site and may adapt them for online articles with hyperlinks and more of our award winning cool pictures. Any questions, feel free to email.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Children And Cults: Some Things Should Never Mix But It Goes On Anyway

Childhood is a time which we are shaped in what we are to become as not only a human being but as a free individual. It's a well known fact that one's essential approach to life is shaped indelibly by the seminal influences of their childhood. You are what you went through as a little boy or a little girl in a big, wide world you took as it came to you, learning things by raw experience mediated by parents, other kids and the culture you lived in.

The writer Robert Fulghum was right when he stated years ago that by the time we've passed through our kindergarten years that the most formative experiences we've encountered are those that took place as young children .. very young ones. Only those in denial or completely out of touch with their childhood due to trauma, abuse or other reasons could possibly disagree. I can't precisely remember the verbiage, but I remember reading as a child a set of proverbs, formed in couplet form that explained it pretty clearly, stating things like:

If a Child grows up with Criticism,She will learn to Criticize.
If a Child grows up with Hate,He will Learn to Fight.
If a Child grows up with Shame,She will Learn to feel Shame.
If a Child grows up with Praising,He will Learn to Appreciate.
If a Child grows up with Encouragement,She will Learn to be Confident. .. etc.

And of course, the foundation for all of this will be the kind of cultural environment you've been raised in. No matter how well meaning the parental or mentoring relationship of a child, the culture of the social setting they live in largely defines reality for them, assigning biases, fears, observations and values that color all of the positive regard they may receive. Obviously, the more darker side of this culture stains their own consciences and value systems in the hues of the social milieux that they are meant to assume. It's all done instantly, effortlessly, definitively. Children are socialized into becoming who they are by whom they are touched by - be it the most solicitous of parents or slimiest of foster parents.

However, in the toxic world of cultism, where sectarian fellowships and authoritarian worldviews effectively seal their members away from the larger world they live in by invisible bonds of relational influence, the impact of abusive cultic influence on children is far more insidious than can be easily described and yet it is also Constitutionally protected. The slippery slope downward into religious abuse is a descent from the high grounds of freedom of religion that tragically haunts the lives of the members of cultic groups and abusive religions. It must be remembered that religious abuse is an equal opportunity human blight - it occurs in all religions, all faiths. The evangelical Christian church is sadly just as subject to harboring this as the local ashram and Hindu temple or the Jewish synagogue. That is because human beings are pretty much the same and all of us suffer under the same twisted side of human nature that lends itself to dysfunctional human relationships. And all of this is governed by the Western ideal of individualism which asserts the right of an individual to follow their own dictates and be governed by their own conscience, as long as none of the "laws of the land" aren't broken.

So the sexual, physical, social and emotional exploitation of children will automatically follow religous abuses, with predatory and/or manipulative adults working within their cultural frameworks to gain access to and dominate, control and abuse children. Whatever cultural mores the group follows may actually empower and embolden the abuser to pursue one kind of abuse while enabling them to opportunistically engage in another. These twisted people (male and female) may be the hidden minority in any group, but in cults and abusive mainline faiths, the same sick group dynamics that enable and conceal these horrid things are firmly entrenched in their culture where the abuser moves freely, taking cues from the authority claims adults can make within that culture to prey upon children and teens.

For example, a mentoring male adult figure will sexually abuse a pliable teenage girl in his given religious setting on the basis of his given right to assert a divine authority over her to monitor and correct any errant behavior. He might approach her as the Religious Authority or the Counselor or the Good Family Friend or any other cloak he can assume, get her someplace quiet and then force her to yield in any number of ways. He then is able to silence her effectively because he shames and guilts her into silence with dire spiritual censure and citing the consequences of truth coming out (no one will believer her, it was all her fault, her parents will disown her, she'll prove she's a "bad girl", she tempted him, she'll burn in hell, etc.).

Or he can use the infinitely more damaging approach by trying to maintain the image that this was part of a divine plan, that someday she'll "understand," that this was something God wanted her to experience as part of a special "time" in her life, playing upon her immature emotional and sexual drives, fears, longings and lusts to firmly embed her in a deceptive snare of the soul. With her own personal sanctity now utterly violated and redefined against the broader moral standards of the group twisted to fit the abuser's fable he creates to silence her, she's now a toy in the hand of the abuser who will likely continue to use the unique group mores about this in a viciously exploitative way to manipulate her .. and others.

And sexual abuse is just the most visible form of abuse .. there is of course physical punishment as well. The adult figure could also easily engage in emotional and psychological badgering as well as battering which leave no physical scars but which profoundly traumatize at many different levels the self-image, self-esteem and worldview of the child in the cult, giving them a skewed view of themselves, reality, other people and their place in the world - which is, of course, to serve and exalt the "pure doctrine" of their group at the expense of their own minds, hearts and consciences.

It is THIS influence that probably is the far more dangerous and insidiously abusive influence of cults on children and is what leaves millions of them as broken people who plod along under the malign influence of their group's exploitative attentions all of their lives. The cost this leaves them - from depression to suicide to broken marriages to the perpetuation of the cycles of abuse - is a social blight no religious leader of ANY faith could possibly view as indicative of their highest spiritual ideals.

And yet, it happens.

Jehovah's Witness children still get sexually abused and their cries smothered to protect the Watchtower (click here to watch by Real Video my talk I did on this a few years ago). Remnant Fellowship teens mature with the shadow of belief that eating outside "God's boundaries" will send them to hell which is setting a lot of them up for serious psychological problems later. Mormon youngsters clam up and self-destruct internally as they struggle with their hormones and the tension set up by their religion's perfectionism bidding them to be "worthy Mormons" who will some day become gods.

It's all done as part of what the adults think is ultimate spiritual truth that governs how we are to live. That's probably the worst spiritual dead end of all .. to see a nice bright morality imparted to a generation of children who find it tied directly into a performance based religion that relegates their individuality into menial personal busywork to keep the image of the Revelation or the Doctrine or the Philosophy squeaky clean, no matter what it costs them.

Don't forget that these are the dominant form of ruthlessly controlling group dynamics in a cult that scars and injures more people than you can ever possibly imagine.

They are lost behind the ad print, the snappy videos, the happy faces of youngsters .. it is the most horrific reality imaginable, to endure terrors inflicted upon the powerless by those they trust most of all.

The recent Texan FLDS case sheds light upon this potent dilemma. This was the case earlier this year in which hundreds of children, raised in what Texas law enforcement and human services officials believed were coercive social conditions that involved sexual and physical abuse of many of them, were forcibly removed from the "Yearning For Zion" ranch to investigate their well being. It once again exposed the grotesquely shadowed and secretive world in certain corners of Mormon fundamentalism.

Having taken the position that patriarchal dominance of several women in polygamous relationships was a religious norm for their lives extended this warped principle (which they have a Constitutional right to believe) to such a degree that underage girls who were far from adults were taken routinely as brides for men with several other wives who were easily the age of their grandparents. An interstate network of these groups exists all across the West to facilitate this literally human trafficking. Reports of underage boys being expelled or driven off from Mormon polygamous communities as well as others to keep the available pool of nubile virgins ripe for the picking also have been common.

And all of this is going on, right now, in America while law enforcement and human services officials wonder how to approach the nightmare to address it since these coerced and criminal couplings of 15 year old girls to men three times their age are inextricably wedded (pardon the pun) to their Constitutional right to practice their religion. The ACLU stands up and cries "foul" and these girls' mothers, who were those 15 year old girls in the past, give press interviews and delicately protest the exposure of their religiously exploitative lives in chillingly Stepford Wife fashion.

This horror is simply just one of the most obvious icebergs of cultic impact in our world, with their far more dangerous bulk hidden in plain sight beneath the seas of humanity, smashing them aside as they drift in the uncharted regions of human society. There are social institutions and settings that are beyond belief in which this kind of cultism routinely, mundanely, shamelessly trods all over the hearts and minds of its young. They going along for the ride - no matter what it costs them.

It's our world and you're welcome to it - whether you want it or not.

Read some more here about how children in cults suffer in silence while the church fiddles about and does little to nothing to reach their parents and help end the nightmares.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Signs Of The Apostasy Department: When Cults Freely Use The Media To Enslave Souls

Expecting the Fox News Channel to exercise a little bit of discernment would be like asking a teenage boy to respect your daughter if she looked and dressed like Angelina Jolie when they go to the drive in showing an "American Pie" Triple Feature.

You know he'll both swear up and down he will but you're going to be just a wee bit skeptical for some reason.

So when we received another email advising us that cult leader Gwen Shamblin was again going to be on Fox's The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet to contribute what the show's website characterizes as "engaging segments about topics relating to viewers’ lives," we didn't think it was going to be a show in which hosts Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy were going to "lend their dynamic personalities" to a probing exploration of Gwen Shamblin's grotesque and authoritarian theology that has destroyed lives all across America. The Angelina Factor kicked in.

The website said that Mike and Juliet instead would lead "discussions about hot topics in pop culture; family-focused subjects such as women’s health, fashion, parenting and relationships; and general entertainment." And I am sure that the discussion wasn't more different then the last TWO .. not one but TWO .. visits to Fox News to spread Gwen's gospel of dietary purification which would inevitably lead astonied converts to "the truth."

Fox needs to revise their website to include the caveat

".. and general entertainment, including being a media whore for the gratification of cult leaders' lusts to spiritually rape and pillage the lives of potentially millions of people."

That would be a bit more accurate .. and what would be an advance of truth in media.
I just had to drop Mikey and Jules a note on their website which you can do here also if you like:

How does it feel to be a tool of a cult leader who thinks your city was a target of God's judgment on 9/11 and uses your show for her recruitment drive?

What's it like knowing you've been punked by Gwen Shamblin as she tries to turn the world's overweight women into clones of herself who lick salt off potato chips like her and in the process divide families, destroy marriages and put them in psychological, spiritual and emotionally coercive and scarring settings?

It's called Google. Do you know about this strange but unusual perspective on things? Have your interns or production assistants heard about it?

How does that sit with you, Mike? Do you sleep good at night Juliet? It's always easier after the first time to lose that troubling little flicker of guilt at the edge of your conscience, isn't it?

Do you watch Geraldo, by the way? You guys might mosey down the cubes there and do lunch with the producers there and ask about Gwen Shamblin. Just don't be gnoshing on a Nathan's when you do. I guarantee you'll not feel well afterwards.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Obama Or McCain - The Only Change Coming Is Of The Short Variety

This nation is heading for judgment no matter WHO runs it after the next election.

As a collective nation, we've tolerated sin and abomination among us in every sphere of human enterprise -- from Capital Hill to church to the family. We've winked at it, ignored it, and our sense of moral outrage collectively and effectively been anesthetized by the countless little compromises we've yielded throughout the years. The scandalous a few years ago is perfectly passe now .. and all of the debatable history of whether America was or is a "Christian nation" means, to paraphrase Henry Ford, bunk.

There is, IMHO, no prophetic pastiche of divine revelation to prove Obama is the Antichrist or McCain to be the next Revival leader. They are just two ambitious men who delusionally think they'll get "America back on track." The problem is that their individual shticks are no answers to the rot we wallow in and there's not a thing they are going to do that will turn us back. They're going to try to be the ringmaster in the next American circus in Washington - which will address NOTHING that will change the moral climate of this nation.

America is already poised for a spanking of epic proportions. If unpopular wars abroad, diseases claiming those all around us, weather disasters, financial meltdowns and the moral blasphemies of the generally antichristian secular atmospher among us haven't been enough to get our attention, believe you me, God has no shortage of ways to do so. More are on the way. It has been said that if 9/11 was a wakeup call to America, then it's rolled over and gone back to sleep.

And the Christian church is hardly much better. Keith Green's haunting yet prophetic song is still right .. we're asleep in the light, so dead when "we've been well fed."

It's time to get ready to meet God. It's time we realize that taking up the evangelical hobbyhorse that leads us every 4 years and thinking our votes will urge Revival in is a piously fraudulent diversion. It's time we let our prayers be what they should be and not reckon they're a part of a salvo of first strikes on a Strongman. It's time we take heed to ourselves, lest we fall. It's time that we preach the Gospel and when necessary, as has been also well said, use words.

When Jesus comes, He won't be concerned about political activism - He will judge the nations.

Where do WE stand in the midst of that?