In November of 2017, the police arrested some kidnappers in an industrial suburb, close to where I live. Nisku, the suburb, is a huge oilfield service area. If any place is good for a kidnapping, Nisku is not it. The place is filled with large trucks and welding shops.
When the details were told, the story got stranger; the kidnappers were mostly naked, in cold weather, and they fiercely resisted the police, who tasered and pepper sprayed them. One of the kidnap victims was a tiny baby.
The three kidnap victims escaped unharmed, and the kidnappers have been tried and just recently convicted.
The whole story is bizarre, and it was all about religion. The kidnappers are Jehovah’s Witnesses who worked themselves into a frenzy for several days, and there might have been some hallucinogenic tea in the house.
They all decided that November 6, 2017 was the day of Armageddon, and then they decided to save their neighbors from the destruction at the end of the world. They rushed to the rescue-kidnapping so quickly that some of them did not have time to dress. The victims were neighbors, a grandfather, his adult daughter, and a tiny baby.
How could normal people do something so crazy?
They read the Bible.
If you asked them, they would probably identify as Christians, and their religious ideas were based on the Bible. According to the investigators, the kidnappers worked themselves into a collective psychotic state over three days. A lack of food, water, and sleep over time can make anyone hallucinate, and possibly the strange tea added something.
But what was wrong with their biblical religion? What made their beliefs so distorted that they were willing to put themselves into that strange condition, and do those crazy things? How could they refer to the Bible, to trigger the whole process? There are many layers to this story, but what did they read in the Holy Scriptures, at the bottom layer?
I think I know.
They had an end, but no beginning; the judgement but no pardon; hell but no heaven. They had formed their own doomsday cult. For bad religion, just add Armageddon; and leave out the fist part of the story. A doomsday cult only has doomsday. Information is cherry picked from the whole story.
The Bible has many doomsday warnings:
That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. “I will bring such distress on all people.” (Zephaniah 1: 15 to 17)
We are told about terrible things in the future, but first we are told about our escape from that fate. The second coming only makes sense if we know the first coming. The kidnappers only learned about terrible things to come, and then tried to save themselves.
This is the mark of most cults that control and destroy. They present a doomsday picture of terrible things that are coming, and then invent their own way to be saved. That usually means obeying a cult leader; including terrorists who hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, and abusive Mormon polygamists, and crazy kidnappers.
But we are told what is most important, or what is on the bottom layer:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15: 3 and 4)
If we know the truth at the foundation, other information teaches us, without making our religion into a destructive cult. We should see the first step before we see the second. If we follow the distorted logic of the kidnappers, it somehow made sense for them to run out of their house naked, and kidnap a baby, and escape to an industrial park. They have not been diagnosed with any mental illness, since then. Rational normal and people worked themselves up to their crazy state.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 9 to 11)