By Dickson Igwe, contributor
Jack the Pious and Jill Religious should beware of Queen Jezebel.
The following story is a warning about unaccountable church leadership. It is an individual interpretation of an article written by Boze Herrington in The Atlantic Magazine of June 18, 2014: “The seven signs that you are in a cult.’’
The features of a cult – the unhealthy control over the spirits, minds and bodies of members by a church leader – are a sad feature of Christian life and worship.
However, when the control over a congregation dominates every other ecumenical activity; when the core principles and teachings of love and compassion are replaced with the pursuit of wealth and power; then the cult factor becomes a very real threat to life and limb.
A controlling church leader ultimately destroys the wholesomeness of Christian community. He or she becomes toxic to the Body of Christ.
The cult in the church is a very real beast. It is manifested in an all-powerful pastor or minister who is feared and paradoxically revered by the congregation. The type of adoration reserved for God is given to the church leader. The congregants will not admit to it.
But close observation will swiftly reveal this evil. It is an evil that cuts across the modern Evangelical church. It is a tragedy that visits all denominations. People are warned to be very careful.
Now the story of Jim Jones is a very real phenomenon of the modern Evangelical church. The mass suicides may not have taken place after what happened at Jonestown Guyana November 18, 1978. That is because there is no need for the ‘cult beast’ to go that far.
Control over the minds and hearts of the congregation is enough. That is the objective of this ‘blood thirsty monster’.
There is a common narrative. These cults usually begin with a church split; or the establishment of a new church by individuals who believe they have unique powers of divinity, and direct access to God, over and above every other believer.
There is a total lack of accountability. The prime tool of control is fear. There is no real love and compassion in these organizations. The love is for material possessions over human welfare. The life outcomes of the congregants who are deceived into a state of “hypnosis’’ are poor.
The new organization starts off like any other church organization. It follows church orthodoxy. It is well organized.
Soon enough, the features of a cult emerge. The all-powerful leader begins to institute controls over the organization. Everything is controlled: from the marriage bed to the congregant’s dental hygiene.
The more observant, independent, and outspoken congregants, become a threat. They are the worst evil. Why? They have seen under the charade. They have seen the rot lurking beneath the sheets.
Consequently, there is a concerted effort to negate these “rebels”. The wise ones get up and leave. The weak stay under a renewed bondage of control, until they “come to their proverbial senses’’.
There is frequently doublespeak. The church leadership is a secretive cabal. Church finances especially are opaque and a great mystery. The congregants who inquire about how church monies are spent are as bad as ‘the devil himself’. The favorite statement of the cult leader is that “the church is a dictatorship”. He or she is “the dictator’’.
Congregants who ask those “sensitive questions’’ that go to the core of the deception are quietly threatened with dire spiritual ramifications, such as early death, or eternity in hell.
The welfare of congregants is second to the “financial needs’’ of the leader, and his or her selfish interests. Soon enough, this is self-evident. It is all about the “church vision’’.
The core church mission which should be love, compassion, and serving the poor and suffering, is replaced with a “dubious vision’’ that is essentially the personal vision of the ‘leader’.
Membership meetings are a charade. The real decisions are made by a tiny handful of congregants under the total control of the leader.
The needs of the poor and suffering are secondary. It is all about the needs of the leader and his or her travel and living plans. Tithes and offerings never go to the poor and needy. There is some semblance that this happens. However the lie is soon discovered by well audited accounts.
The greatest tragedy is what happens to the youth. Owing to their sponge-like minds, they are the most susceptible to the deception. However, the young are also very perceptive.
The double standards and double speak are soon revealed to their tender minds. They often rebel. Those that don’t are the most in danger. They discover the deception when it is too late.
The cult like church grows swiftly initially. However once the deception is uncovered it enters a state of terminal decline. This is a good thing. Its venom no longer poisons families, apart from those that remain in its nasty grasp.
The place to find the greatest deviancy among youth is the cult controlled church. Why? That is something deep and indiscernible. It is a mystery. It may have something to do with their “escaping the clutches of the devil, and existing in a terrible place – a no man’s land’’. Watch your children. They are the most vulnerable to the cult, and the cult like leader.
Spiritual people state that the ‘cult in the church’ is led by a “Jezebel Spirit,’’ hence the need for control.
This Old Boy will state that it is a predatory mindset lording it over people with a spiritual need to belong to a group. That need becomes a trap. They fall into the clutches of the cult. The congregants are no more than fodder to be exploited.
And this is where the Jim Jones narrative becomes valid. It is difficult to leave a cult. The reason is that the cult already has the congregant in its ‘filthy clutches’.
It may control a spouse, or the congregant’s children. It digs into the congregant’s finances. It attempts to control the congregant’s everyday life.
When the congregant discovers the trap: all hell breaks loose. He or she is public enemy number one, and his or her own family, turn against them.
Ok. What are the seven signs of the cult? Herrington offers the following: an aggressive piousness; dislike of critical thinking; inappropriate loyalty to the church leadership; disrespect for families and even encouraging divorce if it helps the church; separation from the main church; isolating members that leave; and using scripture as a tool to foster control over the congregation.
If these signs dominate, then you could be in a cult. It is better leave that cult without your loved ones, and hope that they come to their senses someday.
It is never too late. By leaving, the ex-cult member may help save the lives of others, who will think about the reason he or she has departed the so called “church’’.
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