Dictionary: cult 1. a) A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. b) The followers of such a religion or sect. 2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual. 3. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual. 4. A usually non scientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease. 5. a) Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing. b) The object of such devotion. 6. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.
PEOPLES TEMPLE – Reverend Jim Jones started the Peoples Temple to help homeless, jobless and sick people of all races, but former members claimed widespread abuse within the group. To remove his group from further scrutiny, Jones started a colony in the jungles of Guyana, where he hoped to build a tropical utopia. When a congressman visited the commune with three journalists to investigate the abuse claims, they were shot and killed when trying to leave. 913 commune members – including hundreds of children – drank poisoned cyanide-laced Flavor Aid in a mass suicide shortly after Peoples Temple guards gunned down a governor and journalists visiting their colony.
AUM SHINRIKYO – Founded some time in the mid-1980s, Aum Shinrikyo is famous for attacking Tokyo’s subway system with Sarin gas in 1995, killing 12 and injuring more than 5,000. The cult’s beliefs are often described as a hodge-podge of destructive aspects of various religions, and while many followers thought they would develop supernatural powers, others relished the chance to fight Japanese materialism.
HEAVEN’S GATE – Followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult, led primarily by Marshall Applewhite, thought Earth and everything on it were about to be “recycled” to a clean slate, and believed hitching a ride on comet Hale-Bopp in March 1997 could allow them to survive. Thirty-nine members (including Applewhite) poisoned themselves in shifts in a California mansion wearing Nike’s sneakers and armbands that read “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.” Leader Marshall Applewhite killed himself along with 38 others in hopes of escaping a “recycling” of planet Earth. Heaven’s Gate waited 22 years for Hale-Bopp.
MANSON FAMILY – Charles Manson, who learned to play guitar in prison, formed his infamous “Family” of criminals in 1968. Manson thought an apocalyptic race war between whites and blacks would occur in 1969, after which the commune would rule the new world. When it didn’t happen, he sent his followers on a string of murders to “show blacks how to do it,” but the victims Manson selected were those who had not helped him with his music career. Manson, obsessed with songs written by the Beatles, thought an apocalyptic race war would allow him and his “Family” to rule the world.
BRANCH DAVIDIANS – A split from Seventh-day Adventist Church, Branch Davidians are famous for a 1993 FBI raid on their Waco, Texas, compound that left 76 dead. The event more or less resulted in the disappearance of what many consider to be a cult, which believed in an imminent apocalypse. The Branch Davidian’s, led by David Koresh, was sieged by the FBI for 51 days. The government agency believed Koresh and his followers were storing illegal arms.
BHAGWAN SHREE RAJNEESH’S COMMUNITIES – Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh founded several cultish towns in Oregon through the 1980s – strangely, communities chock full of Rolls Royce cars. Shree allegedly poisoned hundreds in Dallas, Oregon, with Salmonella bacteria in 1984 to rig local elections in his cult’s favor. It’s considered the first bio terrorist attack in the United States.
ORDER OF THE SOLAR TEMPLE – Luc Jouret, a Belgian religious leader and neo-Nazi, reportedly started the group in 1984 under Christian guises, namely the second coming of Christ and the Knights Templar. Jouret and other leaders in a Swiss village allegedly sacrificed a child they thought to be the antichrist in 1994, days later committing suicide with dozens of followers. The French consider the organization to be criminal today. The cult appeared to place great importance on the Sun – their fiery murder-suicides were meant to take members to a new world on the star ‘Sirius’. The Temple came to prominence when police found the charred bodies of 48 members in a farmhouse and three chalets in Switzerland, and several more in Canada. Not all the deaths were voluntary; some of the victims had been shot or asphyxiated. Jouret, 46, was amongst the dead. More Solar Temple deaths were discovered in 1995 and 1997.
VILLA BAVIERA – Also known as “Colonia Dignidad” (Dignidad Colony in English), Villa Baviera is a commune of German immigrants that was founded in 1961 by Paul Schäfer Schneider — a former Nazi party member. Human rights groups argue Chile’s secret police used the compound to torture and interrogate subjects, and former members have since issued apologies for molesting children as well.
CARGO CULTS – If you’re an island native isolated from modern society, encountering an AM/FM radio – or a boat full of symbol-clad soldiers – can be quite a shock. Many societies form a cult-like obsession with the technologically advanced “cargo.” Some South Pacific islanders reportedly tote wooden guns and paint “USA” on their chests in rituals to attract more of the mysterious objects.
RAëLIANS – The Raëlian Church believes UFOs spawned most religions, mind transfer is possible and cloning can lead to reincarnation. Started in France in the 1970s. A Raëlian follower made headlines in 2003 when she claimed to have conceived the first cloned human, but the event was later called a hoax.
As crazy as most of these cults seem, they do leave a sad trail of media posts ending in tragedy. There are all kinds of cults ranging from religious, commercial, self-help and counseling, and political.
Key points to look for when identifying a cult could include: Deception – Esclusivism – Fear and Intimidation – Love Bombing and Relationship Control – Information Control – Reporting Structure – Time Control – Mind Control Techniques – Pressure Selling. Any group or organization that believes and teaches that you must belong to their organization in order to be “saved” is almost certainly a cult. It is not for us to judge, the Word judges. We must always make sure that the teachings we embrace line up with Scripture.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. – 2 Timothy 4:2-4
Jesus Christ came for us to have a life more abundant. He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He made that very clear. He also made things very simple for us…
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:37-40
Everyone wants acceptance and love. Christians are instructed to portray the righteousness of Christ. Unconditional love without manipulation, guilt and control is available to us all. The Holy Spirit is being poured out onto all mankind. You have the opportunity to receive it. Seek, and you shall find it!
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: Act 2:17
Lastly, do not be leery of a true move of God. Find a body of believers that share the heart of Christ. The Bible instructs us not to forsake ourselves fellowship with one another. Study the Bible and ask questions. Seek Godly Spiritual counsel. Remember that nothing is done in secret that will not be reveled. We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, none other. Pray without ceasing, rejoice in the Lord always, love one another, and make sure your drinking from the Living Water, Jesus Christ!