I must confess that there are times when I feel a twinge of sympathy for proponents of decentralised government, political and ecclesiastical organisations whenever I read reports of abuse by people in high positions. I have, over the years, engaged in some interesting and spirited conversations with anarchists whose passionate belief is that power should be decentralised and every individual be literally given the freedom to do as he wishes.
It's a nice dream but in practice always fails because it rests on a fatally flawed assumption: that man, given the kind of freedom that anarchy implies, will always act responsibly. Sadly, history does not support such an optimistic view of human nature.
At the other extreme we have the proponents of totalitarianism who, echoing the thoughts of Vladimir Lenin, believe that freedom is so precious that is must necessarily be rationed. Accordingly, power must be concentrated in the hands of a ruling élite who will (of course) serve the interests of those they are ruling. Again, history demonstrates the complete stupidity of trusting in such a notion. Give a man too much power, and it at length goes to his head. Before long he is oppressing those he is supposed to be benevolently leading.
And then we come (on the political scene) to that misnomer called 'democracy'. The idea behind this ancient Greek idea is that if you give power to an electorate with universal sufferage that the people, in their wisdom, will, by popular vote, remove abusers of power and elect those who genuinely serve their interests. But like anarchism and totalitarianism (whether communist of fascist), this notion is based on a fatally-flawed assumption: that people will always follow an enlightened instinct to choose leaders who will genuinely protect their freedom.
Doubtless, most people who have tasted liberity and value it would agree that democracy is the lesser of the three evils ... most of the time. There are times, however, when benevolent dictatorship is preferable to a democratic system which admits a criminal régime to power when the electorate has lost its sense of moral direction. (The problem is trusting how long the benevolent dictator will remain benevolent). And so it was that in 1933 the German people democratically elected a criminal, Adolf Hitler, to power, whilst in neighbouring Poland, national hero Marshal Josef Piłsudski (who defeated a Bolshevik invasion after the First World War) seized power in a military coup d'état to prevent the nation from sliding into complete and utter anarchy, certain ruin and a communist take-over. Which of the two systems served their nation the best? A liberal democracy voting fascists into power or a benevolent dictatorship which saved a newly reborn nation from the extinction of its newly found liberty?
As human beings we have a tendency, unfortunately, to oversimplify at times and come up with trite dogmas about what is 'best' for us. Our modern god, Liberal Democracy, has in latter years revealed itself to be a kind of covert, hidden totalitarianism. The people we elect into office, whether in Poland, France, Great Britain, the United States, or any other Western nation, do not in reality hold the strings of power. The real organs of power are secretive organisations who remain well-hidden and who have little regard for what we commonly understand as 'democracy', a word which, in my opinion, few really understand. It must not be forgotten that communist nations regard themselves as 'democracies'. In neighbouring East Germany (the German Democratic Republic or DDR before reunification with the western part) a communist state consisted of many political parties, including right-wing ones common to West Germany like the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Communist East Germany was a multi-party state, with right, centre, and left political parties. It had democratic elections. But the system was so structured that the SED (Socialist Unity Party, an amalgam of the Communists and Social Democrats ... you can guess which of the two wings was in control) always won each and every General Election.
I don't particularly want to go into too much politics because it is not frankly very interesting. I am personally an apolitical person who regards politics as equally corrupt and filthy from left to right and through the middle ground. But I introduce my topic today with politics because it is useful in illustrating how carnal man uses and abuses good and evil for his own selfish and despotic ends. No matter what political system he may find himself in, he is more than able to exploit, misuse and corrupt for his own unphilanthropic ends. He is expert at covering himself with a mantle of respectability and virtue. He waves the national flag, gladly receives the acolades of the decent and honourable people he has tricked into believing that he is a paragon of virtue, and is more than happy to trample on these self same people though always in a subtle and unobvious way if he makes any pretense at decency.
The story of the Christian Church (and indeed of any religious organisation) isn't actually too different from the unhappy story of secular politics, atheistic or otherwise. Men have taken the helm of Christian institutions, large and small, and - in the Name of Christ - steered them down paths unflattering to the Gospel Message.
This article is not, however, about 'cults', neither is it saying that (as yet) there are any what one might call 'Christian Polygamy Cults', though I know one or two have uncharitably and unjustifiably waved accusing fingers at some and as good as accused them of being so simply because they disagreed with their own point-of-view. I do not want to get into a discussion on that because it is already well treated in some good articles on the NCCG.ORG website. Before we go any further, I think it is important that we define what we mean by the word 'cult' which is used differently by different people (the most common being any group or organisation which doesn't agree with one's personal theology or with what is regarded as the 'orthodoxy' of the day): please see, therefore, Cry Wolf! The Problem of Sects and Cults. The article concludes with a very useful list of 'traits' of cults by John May which I used to identify cultic traits in my article, Cultic Tactics of the Monogamy-Only Camp. Not wishing to be biased (another human weakness), I subsequently undertook a brief introductory study of cultism in Christian Polygamy in my article, Beware of Cultism Even in the Polygamy Movement. If you have not read these articles, I invite you to do so before proceeding with this essay.
Nobody likes to be called a cultist, even if the accusation is toned down with the suggestion that one only has cultic tendencies. And to be sure we ought to be careful before we point a finger at anyone if for no other reason than anyone in a position of leadership is susceptible - because of the Adamic nature - to this condition.
We must also realise that there are many different kinds of 'cultic tendencies'. There is a world of difference, for instance, between the extrovert psychopath who exudes the word 'cultic' from every pore (people like Jim Jones and David Koresh spring to mind) and the more introvert snake oil merchants with their smooth talking and charm. Any fool (well, almost any fool - I guess millions were duped) can see that Hitler was a cultist par excellence (the cult of racial superiority) but people like former American President Bill Clinton are not so obvious, a man capable of charming millions into ignoring or glossing over his pathological dishonesty and
immorality. Even he is in a league of his own compared to the comparatively harmless (I use the word 'comparatively' advisedly) antics of some of the current leaders in the Christian Polygamy Movement.
So when I come out with the statement that certain ministries have 'cultic leader-control tendencies' I am not crying 'wolf' but gently warning people to be careful because the glossy squeaky-clean exterior belies what is often going on beneath the surface.
In a bid to throw a smoke-screen over such unhappy realities, a devotee of one of these ministries decided to launch a crusade to 'expose' me and this ministry as being a money scam, about which I briefly wrote in my article, Shocked by the Mud-Slingers, though this was followed up by a denial that any sort of 'exposé' was intended. It is, as we know, a well-known device in political circles to launch an attack on an opponent before he exposes you because of all the damage early media coverage brings. We read of 'wars of convenience' to distract public grievance with a failing government, as when, for example, the military dictators of Argentina distracted their nation's attention from its failed government by whipping up national sentiment by invading and capturung the British Falkland Islands. The crooked devices of men to cover up and silence opposition, or to distract from their own failings, are legion.
This is not to say that we do not have failings, or do not have the right to have failings. All leaders have their defects. What marks a good leader out from a bad one is, if caught in a fault, humbly acknowledges it and rectifies it. He does not try to effect a cover-up and he certainly does not try to smear the person or persons who have called him to account.
The ways people react to accusations of cultic tendencies vary depending on the personality. The 'bull-in-a-china-shop' type just spontaneously ignites and charges with all his might. Just his reaction may betray guilt (though not necessarily - some people are just impulsive and bullish by nature).
Some may ignore the problem and hope that it just goes away, believing that they carry enough authority to sway their followers. Typically such encourage - directly and indirectly - devotees to do their 'dirty work' for them, though never publically acknowledging association and always predictably denying it if a link is ever established. The Mormons are craftsmen in this art of subterfuge, their leaders never getting involved in refuting anti-Mormon press, but always relying on the loyalty of their followers to act as their unofficial apologists. (Many pro-Mormon organisations exist who disseminate propaganda in defence of their faith).
Others - the more sophisticated deceivers amongst them - react to such exposés by projecting an artificial aura of sanctity by carefully cultivating a "smooth talk" consisting of selective words of piety, affirmation, flattery of devotees, and by using what is commonly called 'snake oil' to grease the works of their propaganda machine. Of all the cultic tendencies, I consider this to be one of the most dangerous because it is so dishonest and slippery. I much prefer the bull-in-the-china-shop who reacts from the heart of his genuine self to one who spins layer upon layer of subtle distortion. And in my experience, the former is far more likely to repent than the latter because the latter becomes mesmerised by his own power of suggestion and actually comes to believe the lie he has created. And though Hitler was not such a smooth-talker as, for example, Bill Colinton (he was a coarse liar), he certainly did come to believe his own false propaganda in the end.
There are many signs of cultic tendency but one unmistakable one I have found, especially in cyberspace, is the lack of links to other ministries whose exposés are considered a threat by them, especially if they claim to maintain a comprehensive link of websites on a particular subject like polygamy. It would be amusing, were it not a tragedy. These ministries link polygamous sites whose religious philosophies are hostile to Christianity and whom these ministries openly view as cults! Yet here is the irony - rabidly anti-Christian polygamy sites, viewed by them as cults, such as Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, and others, are linked by them - and who is the one conspiciously absent site? You've guessed it! And why? That, I am sure, the honest reader can surmise for him- or herself. Might it have something to do with an emerging 'political correctness' even amongst certain Christian polygamists in order to win public recognition? For there is an agenda which, I believe, has compromised their Christian values: they want Babylon to recognise polygamy, and to do that, there are certain Babylonian 'rules' that must be followed. It's a possibility, isn't it?
I wish them luck - certainly, I wouldn't want Babel to recognise anything that the New Jerusalem stands for, which is why this ministry does not campaign to make polygamy legal (see my article, What is Your View of Polygamy and the Media? and others like it). Let the world legalise sodomy if it wants to but let's keep godly principles like polygamy out of their polluted basket. They'll persecute us whether they legalise polygamy or not, so why shake hands with the world when the other conceals a dagger? Best to keep right out of their way and let Yahweh take care of them when the appointed time arrives. Besides, as I have pointed out in various articles, if they admit polygyny they'll bring in polyandry and homosexual polyamory too. Would you want children to be legally brought up in such abominal unions? How about adopting a child to a homosexual triad? Legalise polygamy, and that's what you'll eventually get, and worse. Let the state legislate for ordinary monogamy or keep out of the marriage estate altogether.
But I digress. The point I am trying to make is that once you get your fingers in Babylon's pie, you start compromising in order to receive Babylon's approbation and accolades. And the ones who invariably suffer are those who have their fingers clean, since they represent a higher, scriptural standard, which condemns the compromisers:
Now I suppose it could be argued that this is exactly what Jim Jones and David Koresh did, and yet look what happened to them? Yes, they did, but that was not their problem (though that's what the system will want you to believe in order to keep you in its fold). Their problem was doctrinal. Jim Jones ran a New Age Cult, and the Branch Davidians were a horrid mutation of Seventh Day Adventism. Neither were biblical. (Of course, the New Agers disowned Jim Jones after the mass suicide in Guyana and tried to make him out to be an evangelical Christian even though he was listed in New Age registers - typical tactic of the Cult-of-cults, our modern liberal-fascist-occultic state). So let us not be fooled by that ploy. There is nothing wrong in coming out of Babylon - indeed, we are commanded to - what you've got to watch out for is what you do when you come out. This is no justification or excuse for staying within Babylon to flirt or fornicate with her.
"Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and Elohim (God) has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.' "Therefore her plagues will come in one day -- death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is Yahweh-Elohim who judges her" (Revelation 18:4-8, NKJV)
I do not believe that the polygamy ministries that I have listed are 'cults' but I am deadly in earnest when I suggest that those leading them are inching their way towards such a condition and could end up as such if they are not very, very careful. Some of the things they have done in recent times are the tell-tale hallmarks of the birth of cultism.
I have been asked by some people in the polygamy movement to 'name names', events, and locations to substantiate my claims. It is not, however, my purpose to start a 'polygamy wars' or discredit the movement as a whole on a public forum such as this. And I certainly don't want the public to gloat over Christians or Messianics in a state of spiritual civil war. It is better that we go our separate ways for now. Should any of these ministries become fully blown antichrist cults, going beyong merely exhibiting cultic tendencies, then I will be the first to expose and denounce them here. I believe the right course is for the leaders concerned to converse and dialogue and resolve matters internally, and that loyal devotees not be the people to interface with on such matters. It is for this reason I have tended not to answer requests by these devotees to 'spill the beans' to them since this does not get to the root of the problem. Since my attempts to talk with the leaders in question have not so far yielded fruit, this is the course of action I propose to follow, viz. to expose cultic tactics in general so that anyone encountering them in a ministry can expose them for themselves.
I do, however, feel justified in giving some examples of cultic leader-control tendencies since these could be applicable anywhere, and that is how I propose to conclude this already too-long article.
Let us imagine that you are the leader of a ministry which is growing well and that you are getting substantial media attention because of your interest in getting polygamy legalised in your country. You may have been interviewed on radio and TV, perhaps even published one or two books. The interest in your website(s) has grown explosively and you find yourself administering this work full-time, perhaps having laid down your secular job in order to devote yourself 24/7 to the ministry. In order to survive, you must raise money somehow to support your family. You can do this through sales of books, tapes and videos, you might perhaps introduce a special membership fees for supporters on your website, solicit donations, and all the usual things that Christian ministries do these days.
In the beginning you are small and unheard of and you are anxious to increase your profile in order to promote your ministry and get it to the place where you feel Elohim (God) has called you to take it. To do this you befriend other patriarchs, who may also have similar ministries, and try to recruit them to support you by, for instance, assisting you as moderators in mail lists, bulletin boards, and so forth. Because your organisation is at first small you treat all these newly won friends as your equals and, perhaps, help promote their ministries also, even if your respective teachings and goals are not necessarily 100% agreed.
In time, as knowledge of your ministry becomes more widespread and as you successfully recruit lots of supporters, many of them paying you, several things begin to happen. First, you realise that many of the original ministers you recruited aren't needed by you anymore because you have recruited people who don't have ministries with differing views to you or who don't have ministries at all and who are more willing to place themselves 'under' you. These newer recruits seem better allies to you than the earlier ones and you would, if the truth be known, rather have them as your unquestioning 'right-hand men (or women)' than the earlier more critical ones who pledged their support and friendship. You want to be broad-minded enough to to include the earlier supporters with disjunctive views to your own but you would rather substitute the newer ones in who are likely to support you all the way down the road.
What do you do? You are a Christian committed to as broad-a-based fellowship as your conscience will allow and yet you are becoming irritated by them because in their bulletin posts and emails they are starting to disagree with you in public and polarise opinion. You are by now, because of the interest of the media, particularly keen to promote a 'united front' so that the media will be more readily persuaded to support you in your goal of getting polygamy made legal. So important do you think this unity is, that you even ask all your supporters to take down their polygamy webpages and direct all their supporters to your pages! (The Mormon Church did this recently in order to promote 'unity of doctrine' amongst its members).
By now you are 'plotting' to achieve your goal and the first spirit of cultism starts entering into your thinking process. You begin by first 'love-bombing' your original supporters by constantly affirming how wonderful you think they are even if in reality you know very little about them. You convince yourself that you are loving them as Christ would, not realising that you have actually gone over the line by flattering them. And before you know it, you are using well known cultic techniques in order to marginalise those you want to assume a 'secondary rôle' in your organisation (those who don't agree with you 100%).
On the one hand you are love-bombing those who agree with you and on the other hand you start censoring the posts of those who do not tow the line. You begin editing the posts of your supporters who agree with you as soon as they start saying nice things about those who don't by taking out references to those you want marginalised. Those who become marginalised get frustrated because they can't defend themselves and may from time to time use sharp language. This is your perfect opportunity to put on a display of Christian piety by saying how much you love them, understand them, and so desperately want to help them, skirting around the issue and instead making this a public relations exercise for yourself. Knowing that these people will probably try to make contact with those who support you, and anxious to break these links of communication, you speak with certain key supporters and moderators privately and 'warn' them about 'deviant' beliefs or practices that the ones you want isolated espouse. Because they trust you, and because you are a gifted wordsmith, you persuade most of them to agree with you and to 'look down' on or pity those you wish to marginalise.
As your power and influence grow, you get bolder, and decide to launch a personal attack - veiled, of course, and presented as deep concern for the one you want to marginalise. You imply that the early relationship was not one of equality but that in fact the ones you want to marginalise always looked up to you as a mentor, and now you imply that they resent this and want to 'strike out' as equals - something you know they were originally but which you can conveniently deny in order to try now to present them as envious and jealous of your success and who are 'demonstrating' that in their opposition to you.
You have the majority supporters of your ministry on your side. You lose a few members who sense what is going on ... who 'smell a rat' ... and engineer them out of your ministry. Most leave of their own accord, not wishing to parry swords with as masterful a wordsmith as yourself, so that is a major burden off your shoulders. But there are still some others who will not be browbeaten by your sophisticated manipulation techniques. You don't want to publically attack them, as this will destroy your reputation as a reconciler and a healer, so you 'spread the word' to some followers in private and before long they are launching out as your defenders while you can sit back. If they make some mistakes, well, it becomes their responsibility and not yours, and you can cover yourself.
In a matter of a very short time you become a typical deceiver, resorting to lies which grow in time without your ever realising it. That is, unfortunately, what happens to 'white lies' (so-called) because they eventually reveal themselves to be black.
There is one major Christian polygamy ministry which resorts to these kinds of tactics. The image of affability, kindness, love and tolerance on the outside, a cankerous and dishonest scheming grows on the inside. If the technique works (as it invariably does), self-justification becomes the rationale and the technique becomes 'standard practice' for the ministry. And because the change from truth to dishonesty is so subtle, nobody realises what has happened because a new spirit replaces the old éspirit de corps. The whole ministry, and its supporters, gradually becomes a cult without realising it. And when this cultism is unveiled, the reaction of the supporters is typical of all those in cults: they spring to a reflexive defence of their leader and ministry and attack the exposers en force. Rather than defending the truth, they are now defending dogma and a spirit.
I do not say that any Christian polygamy ministry has reached this stage yet, but the process is definitely underway. And as in the major cults, good people are attracted to the good in them and do not themselves at first display cultic tendencies. They are ideal defenders for the cults because they are as yet uninfluenced by its sordid spirit. But in the process of time they acquire the habits of the cult they are loyally defending (but which they don't realise is a cult) and so, very surrepticiously, Satan ensnares them.
The problem with the spirit of cultism is that it leads to blindness. You can't see you're in a cultic spirit because you're seeing and judging from the perspective of being inside. Because you are enjoying the positive affirmations of your worth from within the cult, you cannot see the subtle manipulative tactics behind them.
The difference between true Christianity and the counterfeits is that a liberated follower of the Lord Yah'shua (Jesus) is free to express him- or herself in whatever way he or she wants to without fear of being stamped on or being craftily snake-oiled away from 'embarrassing' questions. In a cult the reputation of the group and its leader is paramount, not the truth itself. That is not to say, of course, that this freedom gives us the right to behave in an unchristian fashion - there are certain standards we are expected to follow as a condition of our freedom in Christ. This includes giving our opponents the benefit of the doubt until that no longer becomes tenable, demonstrating self-control, showing kindness and grace, and so on. But this does not mean we have to be 'sweet-tongued' at all times. Sometimes we must call a spade a spade. We mustn't try to 'laugh' or 'smile' problems away but get to the point until we have agreed, and if necessary, agree to disagree in a kind and tolerant spirit.
Because of the tendency of churches and organisations to rapdly become cultic through the abuse of power and privilege, many patriarchs tend to shy away from them altogether. I understand them only too well. However, I am also of the belief that we can get along together as larger groups if only we will apply Christ's teachings diligently. It means, in practice, that leaders of churches and ministries have to have some kind of accountability. And the ones they are accountable to should not be croney 'yes-men' or 'yes-women' but solid, honest types whom you can count on to say what they mean and who will not compromise with Scripture.
Many leaders, however, will brook no criticism. They want absolute power. I meet these types all the time. Their rationalisations are varied - fear that their original vision will be contaminated by others challenging their authority, a belief that they are divine 'owners' of their mission and the untouchable 'Lord's anointed', and so forth. True, they do from time to time have to defend their ministries and churches from wolves bent on destroying them, but this is not licence in itself to adopt draconian self-preservation tactics which negate genuine accountability. The truth always defends itself.
I could go on at great length to describe different sorts of cultic manipulation. There are all kinds, from the overt to the hyper-subtle. We must remember that because of the Adam-nature, we are all potential wolves-in-sheep's clothing, and it isn't until that carnal nature has been fully crucified that we can afford to let our guard down against cultic tendencies.
Finally, this is not an exclusively male phenomenon. Indeed, the kind of subtle cat-like manipulation I have described is much more in line with the female cultic spirit than the male - it is a variation of the spirit of Jezebel. The male tends to be much more overt and brusque, more obvious. But because of the ever watchful secular feministic mindset with which we have been conditioned, even men seem to be adopting the dark female wiles in preference to their own 'natural' ones because they have discovered it is more successful in the modern world. The brute male, though still around, can no longer pass himself off now as anything but a beast. And so carnal man has adopted the Lilithian methodology, made all the more adaptable to the Christian situation because Christianity is usually seen and therefore portrayed as an exclusively 'meek and mild' faith. Let us not forget that the Babylonian whore is a female prostitute and not a male pimp.
Don't be fooled. Smooth-talking is not evidence of humility or a loving nature. True love is a balance of male strictness and female gentleness enmeshed in a matrix of pure TRUTH. True love is not flowery. It comes to the point - always. Just read the Bible and see the way Yahweh or Yah'shua (Jesus) speak. They are not love-bombers. They are not snake-oil merchants. They state the truth unapologetically but in a way that attracts rather than repells the honest-in-heart.
The bottom line in this discussion is, of course, the different 'spirits' that characterise various ministries and churches. You can find ministries and churches with impeccable doctrine but whose spirit is definitely devilish. And on the other hand, you can find 'unorthodox' churches and ministries whose spirit is everything we would want in terms of genuine love and christlikeness.
As ever, we are challenged to "discern the spirits" and that itsn't necessarily easy, especially if you have been raised in a home, society, church or ministry where various forms of cultic manipulation have been in use on a more or less constant basis, and which for you is habitual and normal. Satan will always portray good as bad, and bad as good and will manipulate the art of fine speech in order to achieve that. Do not be fooled. Get to the core. Find out what is really happening, and respond appropriately.
Perhaps having read this you will spot a spirit of cultism somewhere. If you do, you have a moral duty - a divine imperative - to expose it constructively by first approaching the leader-dispenser of this spirit and gently confronting him/her. If, as is so often the case, they reject your Christian counsel, then shake the dust off your feet and move on. Elohim (God) will take care of them soon enough.
May Yahweh make us all righteous judges in these matters. May He also make us bringers not just of bad news to those who are off the way but also of the good news to fill in the vacuum left by a way of life thus exposed and dispatched. If we ever do any knocking down, we must always build-up afterwards, otherwise we just become agents of destruction. And to build up means devoting labour to teaching and gently guiding them on the true path of Yah'shua (Jesus).