Science in Christian Perspective



The Cults: Why Now and Who Gets Caught?
William F. Campbell, M.D.
7 rue Samarcande
Sousse, Tunisia

From: JASA 34 (September 1982): 189-191.

I am writing in reference to the article in the June 1981 issue of the Journal ASA entitled "The Cults: Why Now and Who Gets Caught?" The "Why Now" part doesn't disturb me, but I am very disturbed by the rest.

I have a long article-one complete newspaper page-written in Classical Arabic, accusing us missionaries of "brainwashing" peo- pie so that they will turn from Islam to Christianity. And our method is set out in order. First we are nice people who make a good impression and we make friends with the people of this land, then we invite them to our homes and engage in discussion-bringing up religion in general and then comparing Christianity with Islam. In your terms "We heap love, warmth, friendship, and concern on the neophytes-thus making them feel right at home." In biblical terms we think we are "loving our neighbor" (occasionally our enemy but that is much harder) and expressing I Cor. 13 concern.

The article continues: "In the next stage they invite them to Bible studies and teach them their doctrine and songs and have tremendous parties at Christmas ... .. Other Christians give testimonies of how they have been persecuted and the Lord helped them ... .. The neophytes are asked about their problems and offered help from the collections of the church." And in your article you say, "During this second stage the cultic group prepares the visitor, now a guest, for indoctrination," and "mobilise guilt and anxiety in the indoctrinees in order to inhibit their judgemental processes. " (I don't understand the italicized words.) However, we preach, "All have sinned;" "Out of the hearts of men proceed evil thoughts;" "You are dead in your sins;" and "The wrath of God is upon you." All of which I thought would be used by the Holy Spirit to create guilt and fear of judgement,

You write, "The cult bombards individuals with the idea that self amounts to very little". I preach, "Give your body a living sacrifice;- "He that would save his life would lose it." You write, "The leader is everything." I preach, "Jesus says, 'There is no other way unto the father but by me"; "Unless you hate father and mother you can't be my disciple." You write, "A sense of community dominates the cults ideology." I preach you are a "holy nation," "A living temple built on the phophets and apostles." You write, "Cultic groups develop a we-feeling by stressing the exclusivity of their belief system." I preach "There is no other name give among men by which we may be saved." You write, "The cults impose a harsh standard of discipline." My Bible says that Jesus did too, and my response to that would be "Oh that our church would be more cultish." As in your stage three, the Tunisian article goes on, "And when the neophyte has believed, he must be baptised and the meaning of this is that his sins are forgiven. He is now a true believer and that which he believed in Islam was blasphemy." (Blasphemy is the word used for unbelievers who worship idols.) "Now he goes about telling others this same terrible doctrine and he must marry only another Christian." You write, "At this point the neophyte must make a total commitment to an absolute system." I preach, "You must make Jesus the Lord of your life. You are bought with a price. You must marry a Christian, etc." We don't demand that a person bring all his possessions, but we preach that all belongs to God and the first church brought all their possessions. As for arranged marriages they work as well as freely contracted ones here in Tunisia and in the Old Testament.

You state that, "most cultists have an uncanny ability to immediately recognize susceptible people and therefore concentrate on them while avoiding . . . others holding to firm religious beliefs." We missionaries spend our time with people who are " open and want to know more" and much less with those who are firm in their convictions and would oppose us. We talk in our churches about visiting newcomers in the community before they have made friends-while they are "susceptible people" in the terms of your article.

You state that visitors are invited to a center where contact W-= the outside world is reduced. This action increases "the sug gestibility of the mind for the cultic ideology and ultimate conversion to the group." We have conferences and church camps to get. away from the world and its attractions and present our doctrine-with more force and some of them have cheap starchy diets. (Three of my five children accepted the Lord in church camps.)

You quote Enroth as saying that most people who join the cults are between 18 and 22 years old at the time of the first contact. We concentrate on the young because they are the ones asking the questions and we ourselves almost all believed before we were 25 years old when, in the words of Enroth, we are, "involved in a search for identity and a quest for a spiritual reality that provide clear cut answers to their (our) questions." Enroth says, "The average cult member, most studies indicate, is white, college aged, middle class, moderately well educated (some college) and at least religiously oriented." My observation agrees with your own statement that this "fits the image of the average American in the immediate post-high school period," and, we could go on to say, the image of the average young American sitting in our churches. Has a study been done to compare those who joined the cults with those who join our Evangelical churches? Has a study even been done to see how many young people leave an Evangelical church to join a cult?

Your article states that "most cultic groups do engage in some form of spiritual and psychological manipulation." What is the definition of these words that makes them bad? Do not we Christians hope for spiritual and psychological change from our preaching? Is this manipulation? When we say that Billy Graham has the "gift from the Holy Spirit to cause people to see their need," is this something that can be measured as different? I think it is difficult to establish that Peter in Acts 2 was not using hardsell evangelism. When he said, "This Jesus whom you killed is Lord and Saviour," it was certainly designed to cause guilt and fear and allow the Holy Spirit to convict of sin. Is this psychological manipulation? Sargeant in his book The Battle for the Mind analyses Wesley's sermons and concludes that it is, but we would never agree that this is bad.

There are a few differences that you have brought out in your article such as "They are made to feel guilty if they want to be alone or raise questions, or even speak of something pertaining to the outside world." We encourage people to raise questions, be alone with God in a quiet time, and we pray for kings and leaders and try to teach application of the Bible to problems in the world. But for the most part the differences are ones of degree and offer no help on deciding on church action. If we can't tell much difference between the methods of the cults and hard-sell evangelists, maybe it is because there isn't any. To find that the Devil uses God's methods is not surprising,

But that is not why this article disturbs me. It disturbs me because it leads to fear of the cults and says almost nothing about what to do. A denominational magazine, from a very missionary minded denomination, had an article with an even greater fear producing title and effect-"The Eastern Religions Are Out to Get You".

In a church that is very dear to me, I was present for the final result. A letter was read from the pulpit stating that a cult was asking permission to have a street stand in a nearby town of 100,000 people. The pastor then commented, "Don't go near these people. Don't talk to them. If you see them coming go to the other side of the street. They're set in their doctrine and can't be changed." This is great!-just great! Now lets all get under the pews and sing Onward Christian Soldiers"! I was so angry I could hardly sit still.  When we got out I said in an even tone of voice to my family, "Did you hear anything in Church today that bothered you?" My seventeen year old daughter said, "I knew you would be unhappy."

I went to the stand of the cultist and talked to the person. My conversation as a missionary with 25 years of field experience is beside the point, but while I was there, there were 5 or 6 saved people who came along and initiated conversations and were well able to defend orthodox Christianity.

In and around that town of 100,000 people there are at least 30 Evangelical churches. They could have easily sent elders and other knowledgeable Christians from their congregations-two by two-to cover all the hours the cultist were there with 100's of people to spare; and people who stopped would have heard the Gospel preached in opposition to falsehood. But No! Under the seats faithful followers of Christ!

Your article certainly does not go that far, but even so the accusation is carried in it that these are under-handed people out to get our youth. Well, it seems to me that we are also underhanded people out to get everyone else's youth, by almost all the criteria you have in your article. There is a pastor in my denomination whose Jewish in-laws have never spoken to his wife-their daughter-since she became a Christian and married him. Obviously he is a horrid cultist in their eyes.

While in the states in 1975 1 attended a meeting where three former Moonies told how they left or were "rescued." Two girls told how they were attracted by the love and warmth and at least one had some difficulties in leaving. The Mooney director said that she could go, but tried to avoid taking her where she could leave. I think that she finally left by just leaving her things. The young man was a different situation. He was from a non-practicing Jewish family and had gone to New York where he was studying art. His friend met the Moonies and joined and the boy said, "I went to see, too. If it was good enough for my friend it was good enough for me" He went for a 21 day camp; after which he got his things and decided to stay. His mother was very upset now because he didn't want to come home. So she lied and said that she had a heart attack. Then they locked him in the bathroom when he got home and kept him up all night and I think at the end of 36 hours he accepted to stay with his family. But as he finished his "testimony" he said, "I don't know what I'm doing and what to do now." And he said it in a very sad tone of voice as though inside of him he still wished he was back with the Moonies. I felt sorry for him. When he was in New York living any old way, his mother was not concerned. When he found a group that answered a spiritual need his mother lied and used real "brain-washing" techniques.

Frankly, I am much more afraid of the brain-washing of the mother, than I am of the cults as described in your paper. What if someone starts on me and my family with that?

Therefore, I await some guide lines in your next article or response. I recommend that we take the following position. Physical punishment and threats of it are illegal. Imprison; refusing to let people leave is illegal. The other things you mention are legal. Otherwise limitations on them become limitations on us.

Meanwhile to the streets Christian soldiers! Out from under the pews! We must put on the whole armor of God and witness to these cults. It may be that some Evangelical people will be lost in the conversations and arguments. But if being bought with a precious price is not precious, if sitting now in heavenly places is not comforting, then we have to let them leave. "They went out from us because they were not of us."

The way to beat the cults is to attack. How shall they hear without a preacher? Soldiers of Christ arise!!