There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 16v 25
Loads of people have been using the search engine through this blog with the word CULT… so I thought we would raise a page to begin providing info about what is a Cult… or what constitutes cultic characteristics… 5 or more of the following indicate that a group has crossed the line into cultism
1 Questioning is discouraged– individuals are made to to feel invalidated & silly for asking questions- total agreement is expected & required – if you have a problem with something you become the problem — often there is no discussion what the top leader says goes He/she will dominate conversation & shut down all adult & proper discussion in favour of telling you how it WILL be. the leader is unapproachable, distant, extremely difficult to talk to (closed)
2 There is really only one leader – the group may have a leader team in place but the reality is that they endorse everything that the leader says does & thinks- they appear as “yes men” & become the top leader’s mouthpiece – often they will talk & you may feel it is the top leader talking through them. even to the point where words, phrases & mannerisms are copied.. There is a feeling of inner circle (which is almost inpenetrable) with these second tier leaders who behave in an elitist , superior manner. The inner circle defend all inappropriate behaviours demonstrated by their senior leader & justify those with any reason – but come down heavy for more minor misdemeanors that are demonstrated by those they are directly responsible for… all roads lead back to the senior leader & there is no meaningful independent accountability that the top leader is actively submitting to outside of the group. There is also a sense of hierarchy, rankings & favoured ones within the group. These favoured ones are such – simply because of their level of agreement with the senior leader – they suck up, & never hold him to account – defend & protect everything he does or says – & promote everything he teaches, with vigor…
4 Dissent is forbidden – as is being negative, expressing any opinion which does not fit into the pre scribed “way of thinking” there are lots of unsaid rules which only become obvious once they are crossed.. there is information control with certain books, or internet sites being identified as MUST NOT go there… or in extreme control situations any un authorised information from media sources is banned… Discipline is all too easily dished out or threatened, people are made examples of, singled out & humiliated for crossing the line- fear is often instilled to control others who observe & yet often it is not necessarily made clear what the line is for what is expected or not from group members… lots of double talk, hidden meanings, insiduous teachings that are veiled threats in reality to keep people in check & under control
5 Isolationism if a group is not (yet ) living communally members in the group are increasingly expected to give up more & more & more of their time (& money) to work for the group… the higher up in the group, the more is expected…particularly staff. the reason for this is that it produces separation from friends & family outside of the group. It isolates the member & further indoctrinates their perspective because literally, this removes other reference points in the life of the individual & replaces this with “group think”
6 Secrecy It is (increasingly) obvious there are some (usually the favoured ones) who know some information & others are purposefully excluded – this goes way beyond the bounds of personal confidentiality… The senior leader also seems to “know” or there is a mechanism in the system for him/her to find out any sins or issues in any members lifestyle – yet simultaneously he declares that gossip is destructive & any one found to be engaging in it would be disciplined.
7 Financial irregularity accounts are not presented properly or audited properly as the law dictates, or mispresented with confusing explanations which are not easily understood by ordinary members who have no reference point in decephering them. There is a sense of lack of integrity surrounding money, accountability, priorities of spending. etc & a constant push about obtaining more money-. Tithing is taught in terms of how it will bring blessing to the tither. There may be a stated requirement to tithe 10% & a requirement to declare how much individuals are giving. There is an increasing feeling that the vision & enterprise becomes “all about the money” – a group with charitable aims & origins shifts from being centred on the welfare of individuals & operates more as a scheme of business & or to make a profit etc..
8 There is no (democratic) process for removing the leader he can only go if he leaves or dies
9 There is an uneasy feeling of CONTROL in every area of operations within the group… it is very difficult for individuals to operate on their own initiative in any way & if they try they are are mostly reprimanded for not seeking permission or checking first. For up coming leaders there is a climate of conditions & criteria to be met – on reflection those given responsibilities are consistently concerned with keeping out of trouble – there is mentoring in place which may feel like being groomed in to the ways of “inner circle” thinking. “Leadership” is considered a prized goal to be obtained through compliance more than it is considered a responsibility & privilege to serve.. “Power” is enticingly sold & used as a tool- so that punishment & rewards are used by the top leader to offer or remove”power & responsibility” from other leaders dependent on the level & amount of compliance & agreement they demonstrate towards him/her
10 There is a trail of damaged people who have managed to leave the group (or the influence of the leader) over a long period of time & they report at the most basic level, the same issues… often citing the over control of the top leader… they ALL have a story to tell & it isn’t good… people who have left or express a desire to leave are not treated well.
11 The top leader has been & is highly regarded by people outside the group & uses plenty of charm & charisma & sometimes outright forceful bullying (plays hard ball) to get whatever he wants in order to obtain compliance from anyone..
- Often this individual is not satisfied with any role unless it gives him/her a sense of complete power or authority & status. He/she may consider himself the messiah, a prophet more prophetic than any other… an Apostles’ apostle
- He/she may also believe that he cannot be deceived & thus is always correct… He/she feels he has a handle on “the truth” like no other…
- He/she sucks up to those he sucks from & admires (which is few & far between)..but also drops them quickly in his estimation.
- He/She may engage in blame shifting- setting people up to fail- rarely if ever apologising or admitting to being in the wrong.
- He/she creates a climate of fear although is oblivious to it & believes that what she/he has created is wonderful/blessed/utopia/anointed/ unity/pure.. ordinary members – perceive that very differently & are unable to speak about it.
- He/she will deny things they may have said or done or twist the meaning – to mean you understood it wrong – to the point of outright lying instead of taking responsibility & they may make it appear that it is others – particularly those of the inner circle who are the “Controllers”… –
- Over time the inner circle as individuals become far far more ruthless & controlling in their own way & time over any members they are directly responsible for as this is the model they have been shown – however, if & when this goes too far – the top leader will either defend the inner circle leader so completely that the complainant has absolutely no where to go with his/ her legitimate complaint & is alienated or (less likely) the top leader turns on the inner circle individual & completely blames/alienates them for “being that way”… either person feels that there is no further place they can have & will desire to leave..
- uses “it wasnt me” or “I didnt say that” language in defense of self when challenged & this may be true as his/her communication has been heavily loaded to imply those things without actually saying them. our compliance – does the job for him in our thinking.
- The top leader will never see any of the effects of their behaviour as their fault –
- the only compromise he/she will ever make is to protect himself – sometimes through the use of misinformation style “damage control” & spin.
Im not going to say if any group is a cult – you must come to that conclusion for yourself… I will say that I saw many of these traits beginning in my circumstances.. & have lived through some of this stuff.
Also,, please know that in terms of identifying a CULT- it is not what is taught in or by the group – there are many, many cults from religious to political to self help & all sorts; so heretical teachings on their own as a presentation do not equal Cult…. it is how “the system” operates… 5 or more of these above traits indicate a problem..
We must come to know too that the True Church does NOT behave in these ways & does not deliberately, or by “just being church together” create these types of environment whereby these traits can flourish & grow..