A cult is most commonly thought of as a religious or utopian group with a charismatic leader though not all cult leaders are charismatic. Such groups can do a lot of damage causing anything from the breaking up of families to horrific acts of ritual murder, mass suicide and terrorist acts.
Some cult members exhibit obviously bizarre behaviour and wear strange clothes. Yet most cult behaviour is only a slightly more extreme form of the normal cultural behaviour that we are steeped in from childhood — for example, peer group pressure to conform.
As one writer noted, cults are a mirror in which we can see, more clearly focused, aspects of the wider culture — the process by which the norms, values, ideas and shared perceptions of a society are passed down from generation to generation. In conforming, we thereby become ‘cultured’.
Cults, usually, come out of nowhere; they fill a vacuum, for individuals and, as we’ve seen, for society at large. Even Christianity itself, some will postulate, proliferated most widely as a result of a similar vacuum: the relative decline of state religious observance, and political hegemony, in the Roman Empire.
Arthur Deikman, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco who took part in a research seminar on new religious movements, noted that the desires that bring people to cults, including the need to feel secure and protected, are universal human longings.
Their effect in our daily lives can be shockingly similar to the effect they have within the most bizarre cults, propelling people to take self-destructive paths toward the security they seek, to fail to think realistically, suppress healthy dissent and autonomy, devalue outsiders and accept authoritarianism.
The culturally pervasive failure of mainstream institutions – from the healthcare system to mainline Protestant churches – to address the needs of their members, as some have pointed, gives rise to individuals or societies susceptible to conspiracy theories, or cultish behaviours: to anything that might provide them with meaningfulness.
“Cults form and thrive, not because people are crazy, but because they have two kinds of wishes. They want a meaningful life, to serve God or humanity; and they want to be taken care of, to feel protected and secure, to find a home.
The first motives may be laudable and constructive, but the latter exert a corrupting effect, enabling cult leaders to elicit behaviour directly opposite to the idealistic vision with which members entered the group,” says Deikman.
Cult leaders demand loyalty and suppress criticism.
For them, power must be absolute. Authoritarianism takes precedence over anything else. They often claim that ‘special gnostic’, secret ancient doctrines or divine revelation are guiding them.
Because they only serve the leader, cults exploit and pervert useful habits, establish and maintain itself, does everything possible to destroy family ties, and any other secure and conventional anchor in a person’s life. This has the effect of strengthening a member’s bond with the cult and its leader.
From this viewpoint, the cults that promote celibacy and the cults that encourage indulgence in sexual promiscuity are seeking the same ends — the destruction of normal family life and the substitution of dependence on the cult group authority.
Although ordinary institutions in our society do not yet directly seek to destroy family ties, ‘nanny state’ interference may have a similar effect.
In recent times, a large number of Christians are living in fear of anything that may exhibit signs of cultism.
Just under a week ago, there was an irrational alarm within the Zimbabwean ecumenical fraternity after Hak Ja Han Moon, leader of a successful Korean multinational religious corporation worth many billions of dollars, Family Federation and World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), visited the country to grace the inaugural Peace and Family Festival in Africa.
Moon, a global peace crusader and the surviving spouse of Sun Myung Moon who founded the theologically controvertible Unification Church, was the guest of honour at a government organised fete held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare last Wednesday.
Reports, however, submitted that the much-heralded “Peace Starts with Me“ Festival was poorly attended after fans and gospel musicians stayed away citing the presence of alleged cultist, Mother Moon.
The church’s followers’ who are known as “Moonies” believe that Jesus miscarried God’s plan for man’s salvation because he did not marry, among other things.
Speaking to News Day, Minister Michael Mahendere who withdrew his performance from the high-billing event said,
“At first, we did not know much about this event until we did our research. My team and I are Christians. We believe in the Bible and we don’t really agree with what they believe in. That is my faith, and I feel I cannot compromise on my faith over this event.”
Mathias Mhere also added,
“I have noted that Hak Ja Han Moon is not a Christian, and I, as a Christian, have seen it not fit to be associated with the event she is hosting.”
In response to the presence of Mother Moon and the sudden hypnotic alarms that have since swept the country, following all the series of unfortunate events across the country, another local cleric who spoke to this publication, Rev Guthrie Melusi Gwanzura, sent to us what we have come to dub as The State Of Cult Address.
In it, the Amazing Love Church minister argues that cults have always been intrinsic parts of human society.
Here is his contribution;
“The Korean leader has been labelled an occultist, or the movement has been labelled a cult with several rituals being ascribed to that organisation. But, since time immemorial, cults have existed. For example, if you want you could argue with regard to some who say the Seventh Day Adventist itself is a cult, some will tell you about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, some will tell you about the Apostolic sects.
Some will even point to the prominent churches that are in the new order of the apostolic and prophetic movement in the Pentecostal board. So, cults have always been part and participle of our society, it is what we use to judge whether an organisation or an individual is a cult or cultist.
First and foremost, were given a prerogative by the Bible to judge all spirits according to John 4, and it says especially in these last day we should judge all spirits. It’s a prerogative and a prerequisite for any clergy or any Bible-believing Christian to judge all the spirits that are going to minister to them.
Secondly, we should know that these are the last times a lot of things will happen. It’s not strange that you hear that this woman is a multibillionaire and that she’s had an influence in America and people quote all the good things that she has done there. Money plays a pivotal role when you want to influence nations and organisations, especially Zimbabwe right now that it is in a tight space and it’s between a hard place and a rock financially. The government, even the president himself, they need such people with money that can promise them investments.
So, they are open to or they are prone to every kind of attack because they are willing to open themselves without any caution. Anything that happens, they should be optimistic caution. We should take caution and precautions should be put in place. It starts with Zimbabwe is open for business, which means that every cult is also invited in that business and this is what we have witnessed.
Theologically, what she propagates or what she is pushing for, I would openly say it’s a false teaching. Jesus married the church. Like the first Adam married Eve, Jesus Christ married the bride which is the church and the church should present herself holy and acceptable without blemish, without wrinkle according to Ephesians chapter 5 in preparation of the return of the bridegroom to take her and have a marriage supper for seven years.
These are basic doctrinal facts. This issue of her being the true mother of the universe or whatever she calls herself is a false teaching, and it’s a false doctrine but what I would urge the nation is those who believe in God, those who believe in their bible, as much as there are different theologies that are peddled around, but those who believe in salvation of the Lord, those who believe in the lordship, the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ should stay away.”
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