The Criteria Of A Cult
By Detective Robert Surgenor
During my career as a police detective, I worked with, and studied, cults. I attended schools designed to teach law enforcement officers how to deal with brainwashed cult followers and to attempt the extremely difficult task of freeing someone from the grasp of a controlling cult leader and deprogramming them from the cult’s philosophy.
A cult leader offers a solution or relief to a problem or fear perceived by his followers. Most cult leaders recognize an existing fear or problematic circumstance, and then formulates his own solution and offers that idea to his followers in order to attract their attention. Once the cult leader has the attention of his subjects, he then begins a systematic process designed to gain control over the follower’s ideas and thinking. The subject that the cult leader uses to gain control is usually a subject that is looked upon by the majority of the normal populace as strange or even ridiculous, but is perceived by the followers as logical. Anyone not agreeing with the cult’s philosophy is looked upon as the opposition.
There have been many religious cults. David Koresh led the Branch Dividians religious cult in Waco Texas. Koresh convinced his followers that they were the “students of the seven seals” spoken of in the Bible referring to the last days. Koresh offered his followers a solution to surviving Armageddon.
Jim Jones organized the People’s Temple cult. Jones convinced his followers that he could protect them from growing fascism in the United States by moving the group to Jonestown Guyana. Jones used scriptures taken out of context to convince his followers he was a prophet sent by God to lead his followers to safety.
Marshall Applewhite was leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult in San Diego California. Applewhite realized that there were a large number of people who had serious concerns about the end times and Armageddon. With a limited knowledge of the Bible, Applewhite devised a solution to the fears of those people and offered them a way to avoid the war of all wars. He convinced them that he could save them from Armageddon by taking them with him to his space ship that was following behind the Hale Bop comet.
Ken Ham is the leader of Answers In Genesis. Ken Ham realized that there was a large number of Christians who feared that the theory of evolution would destroy the Christian community’s belief in the Biblical account of God’s creation. This fear was most evident in Christians raising children. Many of those parents pulled their children out of the public school system to shield them from being taught evolution in the classroom and began home schooling their children. Enter Ken Ham, someone who appeared to offer a logical answer to the age old question of where dinosaur fossils came from and how and when the dinosaurs lived and died. His intent was to convince his followers that everything, including dinosaurs, was created by God 6000 years ago and that the theory of evolution was destroyed using Biblical facts. To his followers, this was the perfect answer to their questions about prehistoric dinosaurs.
It’s possible at first that Ken Ham believed his theory that the earth is only 6000 years old, that dinosaurs were created along with other animals on day six of the account given in Genesis, and that Noah’s flood caused the fossilization of the dinosaur remains. But Ken Ham professes to be an expert on Biblical facts. It is highly improbable that since 1979, when Ham founded the Creation Science Foundation, that he has not realized the serious flaws in his theory. There is now overwhelming evidence that Ken Ham deliberately alters the meaning of the Biblical text, deliberately omits and hides scriptures from his followers that conflict with his theory, and continues in this course of deceit even after he has been shown what the Bible really teaches. Answers In Creation, an Old Earth Creation organization, has publicly accused Ken Ham of “deliberately misleading” his followers on matters of both science and theology. If Ken Ham was exposed as a fraud, he would lose his multi-million dollar empire.
There are five main tactics used by cult leaders to deceive and control their followers. Which ever one of these techniques is used, it is repeated over and over again to the followers.
Most importantly, all cults misrepresent God’s Word and change what the Bible really means by taking passages out of context and reinterpreting what the words really mean in order to fit their theory. They are careful to omit any scriptures from their presentations that would conflict with their theory.
Cult leader convince their followers that everyone else is wrong. They must convince their followers that even though the overwhelming majority of people do not agree with them, everyone else has been misled.
Cult leaders mix in just enough truth to make the lies believable. Most cults are religion based, and mix in Biblical truths that do not interfere with the cult’s philosophy. Most cults teach the redemptive value of the blood of Christ and preach true salvation. The intent is to gain the trust of the followers with a subject they feel completely comfortable with.
Cult leaders convince their followers that other teachings present a danger to their belief and society as a whole. The majority of the time, followers are taught that other teachings cause violence, sinful activity, and are disappointing to God.
Cult leaders warn their followers to never listen to other doctrines or they will be deceived. The cult’s philosophy is usually contrary to common sense or what is believed by the majority. The cult leader has the difficult task of making those common sense points illogical.
A Young Earth believer once told me that Christianity could be considered a cult. There is one major reason true Christianity can not be classified as a cult. All cults misrepresent what the Bible really says in order to promote their beliefs. True Christianity is the constant dedicated search for what God’s Word really tells us. Any sect that deliberately changes the meaning of Biblical text and hides scriptures from their followers that conflict with their philosophy, is a cult.
Most cults are religion based. The most trusted document in mankind’s history is the Holy Bible. If a cult leader is going to convince their followers of a false doctrine, then it is paramount to convince their members that the scriptures do not actually mean what has generally been accepted. There are two ways to deceive followers into believing what the cult leader is teaching and to hide from the members what the Bible actually teaches.
The method used most often is for the cult leader to confuse the meaning of the text and to convince the members that the leader’s interpretation is correct and the meaning that has generally been accepted by others is incorrect. When dealing with the Bible, that is not really hard to do, since the Bible has been translated from the original Hebrew and Greek text into an old English version that also leaves room for further interpretation. An excellent example of this problem is seen in Matthew 18:6, where one word, if misinterpreted, changes the entire meaning of the verse. It reads, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” This verse is used by opponents of spanking children as a form of discipline, so they adopt the “plain reading” of the text. Except that the word “offend” does not mean to offend the child.” The word “offend” in the original Greek is “skandalizo,” and it means “to entice one to sin.” The anti-spanking advocate conveniently ignores this interpretation in order to promote their philosophy. This failure to provide the proper interpretation of scripture if the correct interpretation conflicts with the cult’s theory is used over and over again by cult leaders.
No reliable Bible teacher encourages their followers to depend totally on the “plain reading of the text” when it comes to Bible study. That is, unless the correct interpretation of a scripture interferes with the message you are trying to convey to your followers. Then your mission is to discourage your followers from investigating what the Bible text really means.
But what happens when the “plain reading of the text” conveys the accurate interpretation, and that interpretation conflicts with the cult’s philosophy? The cult leader does the opposite of what we have just shown. The cult leader now tries to convince his followers that the plain reading of the text doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.
Because Ken Ham teaches that Adam’s sin was the first in the universe and is the cause of the physical death of all living things, he is faced with a dilemma when asked by his followers about Genesis 2:17 that tells us that when Adam sinned, God told him that he would “surely die” on that day. Since Adam didn’t physically die that day, God had to be talking about spiritual death, not physical death. That conflicts with the Young Earth theory, so Ken Ham convinces his followers that the “plain reading of the text” does NOT apply in this case.
The original Hebrew does NOT say that Adam would start to die on that day there would be a process where he would “eventually die.” The same literary construction is used in Exodus 21:12, where God commands that “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.” The Hebrew phrase “surely put to death” is the same as “surely die.” The same literary rules are used. There is no “slow process” in the death penalty described in Exodus 21:12, and the same words are used.
Ken Ham has just done what every cult leader does to deceive their followers. If the “plain reading of the text” appears to support the cult’s theory, the leader encourages his followers to depend on the plain reading of the text. If the “plain reading of the text” appears to conflict with the cult’s belief, the leader convinces his followers that they should not depend on the plain reading of the text and concocts a different explanation of the scripture. From just the two examples given here, is there any question what Ken Ham is doing?
Ken Ham and the entire staff at Answers In Genesis also omit and deliberately hide scriptures from their followers that conflict with their theory. They cite verses 15 through 19 from Job chapter 40 claiming it is describing a dinosaur, but leave out verses 20 through 24 that unequivocally proves this chapter is describing an elephant.
And Ken Ham’s audience just sits there and nods their heads in approval without without opening up their Bibles and reading the passage for themselves. Ken Ham puts his verses up on a screen in a slide show instead of having his audience follow along reading their Bibles. If the audience was actually reading from God’s Word, they might keep reading where Ken Ham leaves off, and discover the rest of the verses that are describing an elephant.
Convincing their followers that the cult is right and everyone else is wrong is also important, even if the cult’s philosophy is rejected by the majority. This usually isn’t difficult in a religious cult since many scriptures speak of few people being saved and the majority going to hell. Using God’s Word to convey the message to the flock that everyone else is wrong and the cult’s beliefs are right is pounded into the followers heads over and over again.
Preaching the truth in matters that don’t affect the cult’s philosophy is used by every religious cult. Every cult leader, from David Koresh to Jim Jones, to Marshall Applewhite preached the story of salvation. This developed a trust between the cult leader and the followers. The intent is to make the followers believe that if the leader knows the truth of God’s redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, he can be trusted in other matters.
The fourth technique used to control the flock is to convince the followers that any other belief system is dangerous to their survival and presents a danger the Christian belief and to society as a whole. This scare tactic, if used properly, will control the followers out of fear that terrible things will happen if they stray from the tenets of the cult.
The fifth tactic used by most cults is to shield their followers from outside influences, and to convince them that they will be brainwashed by the opposition if they listen to anyone who disagrees with the cult’s philosophy.
Cult members are taught that if they engage in a discussion with the opposition and are given a plausible fact that appears to contradict the cult’s philosophy, to immediately disengage from the discussion. When this happens, the cult member usually states something like “I will not discuss this with you any further.” Police officers and professionals who are trained to de-program cult members recognize this reaction as confusion and doubt on the part of the cult member, and usually will present another conflicting fact to the member. But unless the cult member is being legally detained, they will usually at this point walk away, hang up the telephone, or leave the chat room.
As we have shown, Ken Ham and the staff at Answers In Genesis practices all five techniques that are used by every religious cult.
They change the meaning of the Biblical text to make it fit their Young Earth theory. They also hide scriptures from their followers that conflict with their theory.
They convince their followers that everyone else is wrong and that anyone who does not believe in a Young Earth is a fool.
They mix in undeniable truths with their illogical theory in order for their philosophy to seem more reasonable.
They convince their followers that any other belief presents a real danger to Christianity and society as a whole.
Young Earth followers are encouraged to not listen to any opposing facts regarding the age of the earth and to refrain from discussing other beliefs with the opposition.
It is generally accepted in the law enforcement community that if any religious organization alters the Word of God, and engages in at least two of the other four techniques, they qualify as a cult. Answers In Genesis uses all five techniques.
END OF ARTICLE
of the child of God is that he loves everybody!”
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the Word of God can make you a man of God!”
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