Friday, 11 January 2013

WHAT EXACTLY IS A CULT.

The problem with English is that words keep changing their meanings. For example, "suffer" used to mean "allow" four centuries ago. Likewise, "gay" used to mean "happy" or "cheerful" a mere fifty years ago.

The meaning of "cult" also has changed. We use it in one way to describe a following of a popular entertainer or film star. It has also taken on a sinister meaning, particularly after the deaths of nine-hundred people in Jonestown, Guyana.

In the category of religious cults, two types exist. The sociological cult is one in which a leader runs the lives of his followers. In a theological cult, the leader only dictates the religious practices and ideas of his flock. Jim Jone's ill-fated cult was an example of the sociological kind. The Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are examples of the latter. Sociological groups often isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Theological cults let their members live in society but they must eschew the activities that the leader determines are sinful.

In my recently-published paperback, How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, I described my involvement in a theological cult. Like other aberrant groups, this church believed it had a teacher who received revelations from heaven. All other churches only had fragments of the truth but we supposedly had it all. In a theological cult, such as the one I joined, learning "advanced truth" was what kept us attending the meetings.

Not surprisingly, cult members never think of themselves as being in a cult. I know that I would have hotly denied back then that Thee Church, as I called it, was cultic. As far as I was concerned, all the other denominations were ignorant of the advanced truths that we learned. Any attempt to correct me met with stiff resistance, as when a woman tried to evangelize me at the CNIB smoke stand where I worked. Now I realize that I was the deluded one, not her.

So how did I break free from Thee Church? The elders' continual condemnation of my supposedly weak faith and criticisms about my non-church activities built up a seething anger in me. One Sunday, a woman condemned me from the pulpit, without mentioning my name of course. I stormed out of the house as soon as the meeting was over and never attended another of their services.

All this and more is laid out in my newly published memoir, How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm.