[Vision2020] Characteristics of a cult

keely emerinemix kjajmix1 at msn.com
Mon Dec 10 13:35:41 PST 2007

Gee, now that you mention it . . . 

But in all seriousness, these are the sociological characteristics of what is considered cultish, particularly the centralization of control, the separatist/elitist/stratified manner of looking at others, and the absolutism of doctrine.  In terms of religion, the identifying marks of a cult are present sociologically, with an added emphasis on aberrant doctrines, i.e., doctrine the departs from the norm of the "majority group" beliefs from which the cultish group emerges.  For the Christian, then, it's not just the sociological characteristics of a cult that make some of us so alarmed about Christ Church, but also the strained rationale behind  non-Scriptural beliefs and the spirited absolutism of what most would consider secondary doctrines -- especially when the elevation of the errors that comprise these secondary doctrines proves to be harmful to its own followers.  

An offline correspondent has asked me why, for example, I don't attack the error  of hyper-Arminianism or "process theology" with the same zeal as I attack, say, "Biblical" sexism.  Both are, in my mind, not in harmony with the teachings of Scripture; still, hyper-Arminianism hasn't become too significant a thread in the fabric of Moscow's social history.  Church-embraced sexism has, and it also -- everywhere it's practiced -- results in harm to men, women, and families.  Christ Church men may really love their wives, but their incorrect exegesis of the New Testament and, more important, their extreme devotion to the cause of male headship mirrors a sinful society in its devaluation of women.  That's not their intent, but it is the result; being wrong on this particular point of doctrine, and being so gleefully and extremely wrong, causes the Church in Moscow to squander its moral authority and prophetic voice on gender issues.  That's bad.  What's worse is that the effect is, in the eyes of Wilson, et al, simply not their problem.  It takes an almost breathtaking amount of both arrogance and insensitivity to diagnosis the Church's problem as one of "effeminancy" while ignoring the violence that women suffer from the pathological "masculinity"  of male headship gone awry.  

The day Christ Church's pastor and elders demonstrate a concern for their
neighbors, for the poor, and for those who feel threatened by it will
be a step out of the darkness and into the light.  If these men called
for racial harmony, ministry to the poor, and an end to hierarchy and
sexism with the same fervor as they embrace the Federal Vision,
slavery, and patriarchy, they would cease to be a pseudo-Christian
movement and, instead, be welcomed into the fold of both their
communities and other Christian churches.   Those ideals aren't just
from "Keely's List Of What A Church Should Be;" they're the testimony
of Scripture.  It's not unreasonable, and certainly not an example of
persecution, for believers and non-believers to hold them to the
standard they themselves acknowledge as normative.  As a matter of
fact, I believe it's incumbent upon other Christians to rebuke them
publicly for their offenses and excesses, and I continue in my
disappointment that so many of Moscow's fine evangelical men of the cloth can't
seem to muster the heart, mind, and soul to do so.  

It shouldn't be necessary to point out as "uncivil" that many of its congregants are afraid to leave Christ Church because of examples of pastoral abuse.  It's "uncivil" to appropriate email names and addresses to humiliate, threaten, or even get a giggle out of speaking for other people.  Imprecatory prayer is pretty damned uncivil, and pretty damned, period.   Flouting the law is uncivil, and calling people names is uncivil.  Attacking public schools, sending out fake press releases, coddling sex offenders -- these aren't hallmarks of warmth and humility in civic engagement.  And on it goes.  Clearly, a group whose members are afraid to leave is a group rife with
difficulty, and suspicion on the part of "outsiders" is an inevitable
result of behavior that is at once careless in its dealings with the
larger community  and controlling in its relationship with adherents. 
This is what makes Roy Atwood's call for civility so ironic -- Christ
Church's leaders have mastered the fine art of obnoxious, belittling,
and arrogant engagement with the community, and in doing so, it has
incurred the wrath of those who don't choose to be obnoxious and
belligerent.   Lowering the bar, so to speak, of reasonable  engagement
with the public and then criticizing those who choose not to limbo
under it with the same glee they do is  a lamentable exercise in 
hypocrisy.  Christ Church -- its elders, pastors, publications and
alliances -- has utterly eviscerated the testimony of the Gospel on the
Palouse.  It is responsible for the stink and the rot it's left Moscow
with, and attempts to sanitize it with the faux nobility of "a call to
civility" is unworthy of any group professing to care what its God
expects of them. 

Not giving up -- ever -- in my hope of their repentance OR my intent to continue my criticisms if they don't,



From: dickow at uidaho.edu
To: vision2020 at moscow.com
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2007 08:49:15 -0800
Subject: [Vision2020] Characteristics of a cult

Hi all, A minister friend of mine in England provided me
with this rather comprehensive list of characteristics of a cult (or ‘destructive
group’ – defined more generally). Does this stuff remind you of


Bob Dickow, troublemaker



Characteristics of A Destructive Group

While not all groups exhibit all these traits, destructive
groups will have many of these characteristics and attitudes: 


 Authoritarian hierarchal control;  


 Black and white thinking: either or, we they, us them;  


 Centralized power structure;  


 Child abuse and neglect;  


 Competition with other members or with outsiders;  


 Conflicting opinions viewed as moral assaults and


 Control of information within group environment;  


 Criticism of group, system or leaders is discouraged;  


 Different beliefs or ideas are perceived as threatening;  


 Discrimination (economic, emotional and psychological): 
race, gender, age, religion, politics;  


 Effusive praise and flattery for leaders;  


 Enemy making, a common enemy outside the group: other
business groups, other religions, other countries, other life styles, other 



 Fear (or feelings of guilt) about the prospect of leaving
the group;  


 Feelings of superiority and exclusiveness;  


 Gender-based abuse in any form;  


 Group becomes like a family and is more important than
individual's family and outside friends;  


 Group has the "truth" (the answers) others


 Group (system) mission is more important than the


 Group's doctrine repeated over and over, lots of
repetitious lectures and meetings;  


 Group leader(s) are looked to for answers involving
personal choices in life;  


 Labeling: Dissenting members, other groups, and different
belief systems are given negative labels/names;  


 Large pay and power gaps between members and leaders;  


 Loaded language: the group has its own clichés, jargon and
slogans that become simplistic explanations for complex situations;  


 Missionary consciousness: converting others to group
ideology, product, beliefs, trying to persuade others to be like


 Need leader(s) permission for everything;  


 Overuse of plural pronouns: we, us, they, them;  


 Peer pressure: non group ideas receive icy silence,
ridicule, or condemnation;  


 Propaganda used to persuade members and internalize group


 Public humiliation or embarrassment in any form;  


 Public sharings, testimonials, confession, witnessing;  


 Scapegoating within or outside the group;  


 Secrecy between members or between different levels of a
group's structure;  


 Selfishness is putting yourself above the group;  


 Strict dress codes, everyone looks alike;  


 Suppressing legitimate feelings when they do not fit the
group's mind set;  


 The need to be like leaders or like others in the group;  


 There is always something to do, excessive business;  


 There is a group explanation for everything;  


 Thought control: there are "good" and
"bad" thoughts;  


 Unquestioning obedience to authority.  




Emotional and Psychological Aftereffects from Membership in
a Destructive Group: 


Note:  Aftereffects will vary depending on the specific type
of group and the length of time spent in the group.


 Feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blaming;  


Difficulty making decisions and simple choices.  Excessive


 Short term memory loss;  


 Anxiety and panic attacks;  


 Depression and anger;  


 Loneliness and feelings of detachment and isolation from


 Loss of self-esteem;  


 Lack of self-confidence;  


 Difficulty concentrating and focusing attention;  


 Inability to think critically and "uncritical


 Posttraumatic Stress:

    Flashbacks including images, thoughts, and perceptions.

    Recurrent nightmares or distressing dreams.

    Efforts to avoid places or people that arouse memories
of the group.

    Significant diminished interest in important activities.

    Sense of a foreshortened or non-existent future.

    Irritability and angry outbursts.  


 Hyper critical of others, other ideas, other philosophies,
other life styles;  


 Loss of a sense of self and identity;  


 Difficult or impossible to stop mental or other group
ritualistic practices;  


 Feelings of emptiness and loss of a unique mission in


 Disassociative episodes, floating, feeling spaced out;  


 Afraid to join other groups or make commitments;  


 Difficulty forming a new value system or philosophy toward


 Nervous tics--often induced by meditative techniques used
in the group;  


 Fear of the group;  


 Estrangement (also while in the group) from family and
former friends;  


 Difficulty making and expressing opinions.  

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