Who Really Is a Cult? Part 1
February 14, 2019
Zealots find it irresistible to expand negative terminology so that it will embrace those that they would like to see shamed, discredited, or punished. Often this makes the terminology all but meaningless. For example, the Economist of August 2009 observes that the current child sex abuser registries are so long as to be absolutely useless to law enforcement. They include teenagers who had sex with underage girlfriends. They include persons who urinated in public, as well those who exposed themselves in public. None of those things are great, of course, but if you include them all on a master list with violent predators, you make it all but impossible to track the violent predators, which is the purpose of the list to begin with. Adding various levels of severity does not remedy things: people are preoccupied, sometimes obtuse, and can only work with uncluttered tools.
It is much the same with the word “cult.” Time was when if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from society, and did peculiar things, you just might be a member of a cult. These days the word is expanded so as to embrace peoples not popular. Just thinking outside of the box is enough to trigger it.
One whom we have called Steve, who goes by the Twitter handle “cultexpert,” has developed what he calls the BITE model to describe the ingredients of a cult. Long ago, he used to kidnap those he thought were in cults so as to “deprogram” them. He was himself at one time a member of the Unification Church, commonly known as Moonies. BITE is a model outlining the means by which one party can “control” another though various techniques, some direct and some subtle. Each letter stands for something. There is Behavioral control, Information control, Thought control, and Emotional control. It is not a silly idea in its concept. It is silly in its overreaching application.
Most families are cults by this new definition, especially those conscious of a family reputation, and God forbid that any should still insist that members live up to a higher standard. “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump off, too?” It was once the statement of everyone’s mother. Now it has become the words of a cult leader. “What’s wrong with ‘everyone else?’ Why are you making out as though you are better than they?” And if a family head maintains standards of discipline—that would appear to be a sure red flag. Who is he or she to seek to control persons that way?
Nations are certainly cults by this new definition. Any military organization is. National sacrifice, long thought laudable, is out of the question today by those intent on avoiding the modern cult label. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” are the noble words of former U. S. President John F Kennedy. They are the words of a cult leader today.
One tweet from the BITE-man invited all to hear his upcoming podcast, in which he tells how President Trump is like a cult leader. When you think half the country has fallen victim to cult manipulation, is it not evidence that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself?
One wonders if the cult expert did not become what he is as penance for having been so impulsive as to join the Moonies. Later, realizing that there really aren’t enough Moonies to build a career upon, he broadened his sites to target larger groups. However, even with Moonies—are they violent? If not, why would they especially compare unfavorably to—say, the “turn on, tune in, drop out” model of the 60s? That model has never been condemned, to my knowledge. Usually the young who chose it were romanticized as dropouts from a too cruel world. It is only by adding a God component to the mix that condemnation is unleashed.
Can one live a fulfilled life as a Moonie? Let others make that argument if they care to—it’s not my gig. Still, before condemning them it does seem that it should be demonstrated how sticking with the mainstream leads to fulfillment. If it cannot be demonstrated, then is it not just thought control of a different type to forbid persons from going there? If the greater world was not so bereft of answers to the significant questions of life, the Moonies, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Scientologists, and a host of others would not succeed in drawing a single person. Let it produce a few answers before it forbids straying from the beaten path.
These days, under common assault, the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” meme even kicks in to an extent. Legal members of these groups have been known to buttress one another. One Witness apostate made much of a well-known Watchtower attorney sitting in at a seminar with Scientologist participants. “I thought they were no part of other religions,” he taunted. “Don’t worry, he keyed their cars in the parking lot,” I told him.
We can maintain a healthy skepticism toward the latest mantra as well—“that clean, articulate, capable people fall for these cults all the time. They aren’t stupid. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.” One way to boast is to condemn others; the same relative distance is established as with unrestrained chest-thumping. This smells akin to boasting. It is a way of saving face. It is to say: “Look, if it happened to me, smart as I am, it could easily have happened to you—probably much more quickly.”
As to Scientologists, the only thing I know about them for sure is that Tom Cruise, in his fifties, still does his own stunt work. BITE Productions Inc. would no doubt hire a nice, safe, and fake stunt double. By all accounts, Scientologists enjoy success in beating back the scourge of drug abuse that decimates general society, the same as do Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s not trivial. They, too, will have to make their own arguments. But with Jehovah’s Witnesses being slaughtered in an irreligious media, there is no reason to assume that Scientologists are treated fairly, nor Moonies, for that matter.
Make no mistake, the overextension of the BITE model is no more than an effort to silence voices not liked so that other voices may prevail. One is reminded of the H. G. Wells observation about the quick popular acceptance of the theory of evolution—that it suddenly “seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.” Who are the big dogs of the human pack? Are they not those of the mainstream and those who would enforce the mainstream under the guise of “protecting people?” They are the deep-pocketed businesses and governments. They are those of the prevailing philosophies and new norms that comprise the very air of Ephesians 2:2—air that “has authority.” It is not thought control that they object to. It is thought control that is not theirs.
Do they decry “brainwashing?” It is largely because they want to do it themselves. College is more brainwashing than anything having a Jehovah’s Witness connection. Study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and you remain 95% of the time in familiar surroundings. Enroll in college and you are, from Day One, cut off nearly 100% from those surroundings. Find yourself immersed in a totally new culture, where guardians of this world’s latest thinking have full opportunity to play with your head. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not keen on higher education—the fact is well-known. It could be argued that their discouragement is too across-the-board. Still, how can one not be sobered by the following report from the October 19, 2018 edition of The Week magazine?
As related by Charles Sykes, a trio of hoaxers produced twenty “shoddy, absurd, unethical” papers loaded with incoherent post-modern “gibberish”—seven of which were published in “respectable” academic journals. Among the most outrageous papers included a thesis claiming astronomy is a patriarchal construct that should be replaced by feminist astrology, another arguing “dog parks are rape-condoning spaces,” and still another that demanded that males who masturbate while thinking about a woman should first obtain her consent. The authors “had no formal background in the subjects,” but taught themselves how to produce ridiculous, jargon-filled papers that were greeted with praise by “blindly receptive” academic reviewers. Allow this author to put it even more succinctly: “Yeah, we taught ourselves to write incomprehensible gobbledygook and they lapped it all up as cutting-edge social science.”
Suddenly, Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body member Anthony Morris doesn’t look so stupid, does he? It is he who, in discouraging higher education, observed that the more prestigious the university, the greater the “contamination of this world’s thinking.” The Witness organization has long recommended that Bible values be the source of moral instruction and that supplemental education be used to acquire a marketable skill. Learn to be an electrician, for example, and you have a well-paying skill that is both portable and scalable, so that, if you can line up the other circumstances of life, you can attend to more enriching matters. The counsel dovetails nicely with that of Mike Rowe, the former TV host of Dirty Jobs, who testifies before Congress that “we [in the United States] are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist,” even adding “that’s nuts.”
The hoaxers above fully expect to be blackballed by the higher education establishment, but they say it was worth it. One is reminded of whoever perpetuated the Piltdown Man hoax—a hoax that fooled evolutionists for 40 years. “It really was a horrible, nasty, vicious piece of work!” grumbled Andy Currant on the PBS show NOVA, and the discerning mind knows just why it is “horrible, nasty, and vicious”—because it made the most esteemed men of science look like donkeys. Others said that the great men weren’t fooled at all—from the beginning they had smelled a rat. If so, the gullibility onus is replaced with one of deceit, for it would mean that they knew of the fraud but did nothing to correct it, since it advanced a narrative that they wanted advanced.
Let us hear no more of modern “brainwashing.” Let us once again relegate the word to its proper and age-old context. The “brainwashing” of the prevailing mindset is far more pernicious than that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The latter make no bones about directing persons to sources considered trustworthy. The former encourages “free minds” to roam wherever they will, but in the end manages to stack the deck so as to keep them all on the same page.
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses slaves to their [at present] eight-man Governing Body? This favorite anti-cultist charge reveals a thinking so infantile that it is hard to know how to respond. It is like saying that the motorist driving within the guardrails is slave to the Department of Transportation, the football player who hustles his feet though the hoops is slave to the coach, the student who does his homework is slave to the teacher. To the extent that Witnesses are “slaves” to the Governing Body, it is because they are grown-ups who realize that any project needs direction. They realize that there is no desire to “control” anyone, and certainly not for the sake of any “power trip.” The reason that Obi-wan Kenobi does not want Luke to stray into the dark side is that he really thinks it is the dark side. He is on no power trip. Let the anti-cultists provide convincing evidence that it is not the dark side before they denounce those choosing a different path. They will not find that task easy. When a Witness friend of mine invites people to name the one evil they would remedy if they but had the power, the most frequent reply is that the evils are too numerous to zero in on just one.
It is not an easy task to direct the work of several million people. One will say: “Thanks for the new rule!” and his neighbor will say: “Huh, did you say something?” Striking the right balance is ever a challenge. If the Jehovah’s Witness organization comes across as heavy-handed at times, it is because it does not want to find itself in the shoes of Lot, who warns his sons-in-law only to find that they think he is joking. The Witness organization trains members in Bible principles, the same as do Witness parents. It is not true that if you refrain from training your children, they grow up free and unencumbered and, when of age, select their own values from the rich cornucopia of life. No. All it means is that someone else will train them. These days that someone else is likely to be the anti-cultist himself; he is maneuvering for the position. He should be resisted. He wants you to aim so low. He wants you to revel in what Psalm 90 laments is a great tragedy—four score of trouble-prone years and then curtains for us all. That is bad. He wants you to think it is good. Does faith founded upon accurate understanding of the most widespread book on earth implant the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth? He wants you to discard it and place your hope with the world’s politicians—maybe the next batch will solve a few problems. He settles for so little. The instant gratification that he would deny a child for its own good he wants you to pursue as an adult.
Journalist Vermont Royster, after remarking upon the undeniable scientific progress of his day, observed: “Yet here is a curious thing. In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in the universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.” ‘It’s not curious at all,’ says the anti-cultist. ‘What you see is what you get. If anyone apart from religion figures it out, we’ll let you know.’
“When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus? “Not if we can help it,” declare the anti-cultists. “With any luck, he will not arrive all. If he does, maybe he will get discouraged and go away. We have shed that backwards concept. We’re doing our best to muzzle anyone trying to spread it. We put our trust in human accomplishments and science. It may or may not tell us that our gooses are cooked, but at least it tells us that we don’t have to put up with anyone directing us in what to do.”
See Who Really is a Cult? Part 2
From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!