Catherine Beyer, a practicing Wiccan, defines a cult as follows:
We quite agree with the conclusions of Catherine Beyer. As far as society as a whole is concerned, and not just the narrow definitions based on personal, religious or denominational agendas, the only 'cult' must be those who promote murder, abuse or suicide, which we have also included in our 5-point definition of "extreme cultic activity"" (Cry Wolf! The Problem of Sects and Cults).
"The term cult can be applied to any religion or spiritual system. Using slightly more narrow definitions, the term often highlights smaller religious movements or movements involving particularly intense religious devotion. Within academic texts, for example, one can commonly find the early Christian church referred to as a cult as well as references to such things as the Cult of the Virgin Mary.
"However, since about the 1970s the term has attained much more derogatory, negative and judgmental connotations. Today, many people use the term to refer to any religion he or she deems dangerous. This commonly includes what law enforcement deems dangerous or destructive cults (such as those promoting murder, abuse or suicide) as well as religions deemed to be spiritually dangerous, untrue and/or heretical. For some people, all religions – and sometimes even all denominations – outside of his or her own are termed cults.
"Because of the wide varieties of usage for the term, the term shall be avoided whenever possible on this website, outside of the phrases dangerous cult and destructive cult." (Catherine Beyer in About.Com, Definition of a Cult).
We are not the first Christian or Messianic ministry to be accused of being a "dangerous" or "destructive cult" by people with grudges, malicious intent or chips on their shoulders, which has led all kinds of abuses against us. Indeed one person, hoping to ruin us for personal gain and willing to lie to achieve it, reported the ministry to a local government authority. After some preliminary research and interviews, the authority quite understandably dismissed the case as nonsense, a waste of its time, and consequently unworthy of a serious investigation at taxpayers' cost. We have since informed the same authority of the dishonest activities of these abusers themselves since we have nothing to hide.
As Christians we are, of course, strongly opposed to murder and suicide, and oppose all forms of mental, emotional and physical abuse. Though it should not be necessary to define "abuse", since this is basically common sense, in our distorted world of political correctness 'abuse' these days can even mean something as obviously harmless as expressing a point-of-view someone does not agree with. It really depends what standard of morality you are measuring against which of course differs from culture to culture. Most sensible people in all cuktures broadly agree what abuse is - see, for example, a Definition of Abuse in English on the Internet which includes physical maltreatment, the use of foul or abusive language, sexual assault, violation, rape, etc.. Quite clearly a number of political ideologies and régimes fall under the category of "dangerous and destructive cult" (e.g. fascism and communism) including atheistic mystery cult philosophies like evolution which inspired them and the governments of some liberal democracies which resort to political assassination and religions like fundamentalist Islam which promote murder. But then there is no end to duplicity and hypocrisy in this world.
In the meantime, if the silent majority uses their common sense and does some research, they will be able to identify the true culprits deserving the designation "dangerous and destructive cult".