Vol. 7, No. 3, 1990

Articles on Cults and New Religions

Mind Control and the Cults

Craig Branch

In order to grasp the whole issue of cults and mind control it is important to understand the surrounding issues.

To the average person when one says the word cult, this conjures up many images. If one uses the term "mind control," it also can evoke many different pictures. It would be helpful to be more precise.

There are normally three perspectives in even defining a cult - a media or sensational¬istic; a sociological/psychological; and a Christian/Biblical.

Most people's impression comes through the media which reports on the bizarre, dangerous, criminal or exotic practices of groups.

A sociological/psychological definition would involve consideration of a groups size, its longevity, authoritarian leadership patterns, lifestyle characteristics, conformity patterns, extent of isolation and control, and degree of disruption of a person's healthy psychological and sociological growth.

A starting place for the Christian, are the most significant issues: theological or doctrinal.

In other words, do the teachings of a group present a different Jesus/God, and/or a different gospel.

Respected authority James Sire offers a good definition in Scripture Twisting, "Any religious movement that is organizationally distinct and has doctrines, and/or practices that contradict those of the Scriptures as interpreted by historical, traditional Christianity... and as expressed in such statements as the Apostles Creed," (p. 20).

The theological issues are important for the evangelical as there is a spiritual component involved as well as the fact that beliefs will translate into behavior and practice.

But Christians have been guilty of focusing almost exclusively on the doctrinal concerns and have neglected the psychological aberrations of cults.

As well known cult expert, sociologist Ron Enroth writes, "A more encompassing definition of what constitutes cultism would contribute to more effective rehabilitation as well as evangelization of those persons caught up in aberrational relig¬ious groups," (Cults and Consequences, ed. by Andres and Lane, 1988, p. 1122).

Professor Enroth was writing on the subject even before Jonestown focused the world's attention on mind control and destructive cultism.

His book Youth, Brainwashing, and Extremist Cults began to educate the Christian community of the seduction methods, psychological/spiritual vulnerabilities of converts, and parental concerns concerning the actions of Hare Krishna, Children of God, Unification Church, The Way, Divine Light Mission and others.

Professor Enroth's later book The Lure of the Cults is also very helpful.

Christians should understand and agree with the psychological/sociological descriptions of destructive cultism.

Several cult ministries are beginning to apply this knowledge as a preventative, and in effective evangelism and rehabilitation.

The destructive characteristics of cults are things like absolute submission to authority, altered and deficient diet, doctrinal confusion, exclusivity, hypnosis meditation, isolation for outside, love-bombing, value rejection, lack of privacy and time for reflective thinking, etc.

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