Kidnapping and the Cults

James Walker

Just how far should you go to get a loved one out of a cult?

In the 1970's Americans were exposed to a new practice, kidnapping and deprogramming cult members. This desperate action was usually taken by distressed parents whose children had joined bizarre new religious groups like the Hare Krishna or Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.

Hundreds of parents hired professional deprogrammers to "snatch" their children from Ashrams or cult communes around the world. Convinced that their children had undergone brainwashing, they paid enormous sums of money for deprogramming sessions which often involved techniques which were probably unethical and possibly even illegal.

Often while counseling Christians in my office, they share how desperate they are to do something to win their loved one. Sometimes they are tempted to take drastic physical action, reasoning that anything is better than doing nothing.

I always try to encourage patience in cult ministry. By our human nature, we expect God to give us fast results by Friday at the latest. But God often works slowly in people's lives.

I know in my own situation it took nearly ten years to receive Christ from the first time the first Christian witnessed to me when I was a Mormon.

While I can empathize with those who will go to any extreme to rescue their loved ones from religious cults, I believe that this approach can often cause more harm than good.

We live in a free country where everyone has the right to believe what they want...even if that belief is not true. Even with good intentions we cannot force anyone to believe the truth and a strong arm approach can often further alienate those who we wish to reach.

I have found that joining a cult does not involve "brainwashing." That word generally conjures up visions of prisoners of war with bamboo shoots under their fingernails and water dripping on their foreheads.

It may seem like this is what has happened to family members who exhibit changes in behavior, inability to communicate and robot- like responses. But this is not the type of control that cults exert.

Instead, those who are in a cult suffer from what could be better described as "spiritual deception." This type of mind control, unlike brainwashing, takes place with the total cooperation of the victim.

It is very subtle, even taking place without their knowledge. Even the cult leader may not be aware of what is actually happening. What takes place most often is a slow shift in the person's point of authority.

Everyone has a source of ultimate truth. For some it is human reasoning, for others intuition, personal desires, or parental guidance. The Christian's point of authority should be God's Word, the Bible.

But whatever the person's source of truth, the cult will redirect them towards a new point of authority - namely the cult's own leader, scriptures or doctrine.

Once the person's truth is linked directly to the cult, they can be taught anything! They now look to the cult as God's channel of truth and will believe it no matter what it contradicts.

This is why it is so difficult to reach a cultist. But it is also why trying to force a person out is so dangerous.

Ultimatums and threats are seen as being "from the devil" and "against God's organization." The family member who attempts to force their loved one out of a cult risks losing their relationship and influence completely.

The cult member sees this as forcing him to choose between God and family. Once faced with this dilemma, they will almost always choose "God" (i.e. the cult).

Christians must take a Biblical approach in dealing with spiritual deception. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, such as kidnapping, un-brainwashing, or forced evangelism at gunpoint.

Instead, our weapons are spiritual. They include love, prayer, a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and an accurate understanding of the cults beliefs and errors.

If you have friends or loved ones in a cults, I encourage you to avoid trying to force them to accept the truth. Prepare yourself to know the issues and love them out and to a right relationship with Jesus Christ.

(Reprinted from Watchman Expositor Vol. 6 No. 2, 1989).

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