Have you ever been in a cult? Do you know anyone who is, or was?
The word “cult” is actually an insult and a label. It is shorthand for ‘stay away from them.’ Using the word “cult” too much is cult behavior. Telling people how to think, without explaining why, is controlling behavior, and that is what cults do.
So, let’s find a better description.
Who wants to control you? Who is telling you what to think, but not how to think? Are you doing this to yourself? Are you looking for a shortcut to the truth from some authority, with all the answers that you need? Our own laziness is an important part of the mix.
Or are you doing this to other people? Is the truth so essential that they just need to agree?
If this makes you think about religious “cults”, controlling groups are not always religious, as we understand religion. They are a “cheat” a short and easy route to some profound truth.
‘Someone else did the thinking, and I just agreed.’
If you want to measure any group, that might be controlling, you have one question: What happens if I leave?
A few years ago, we left one church because it was too far from home, and the commute was too long. Yes, I am that shallow.
And that church did nothing. We just tried a different church, closer to home and no one seemed concerned.
But there is more to this story. The new church was crowded but nice, but then, the first church opened a remote campus very close to us. We tried it, and liked it, and now, on Sunday, we sit in a converted supermarket, and watch the preacher on a video screen, from that church so far away.
We made our own decisions, good or bad, and no one told us that we had lost the truth, or that we were going to hell. I am sure that all the churches in this story are just churches, and not controlling “cults.”
Think of any group you agree with, maybe. Should you join?
My best answer is: what happens if you join, and then quit? Will you become a lost soul and an enemy, or will they even notice? Controlling, “cult” like groups hate it when people leave. Some of them just don’t allow leaving.
So, what qualifies as a controlling and abusive community as a “cult?”
Do you remember the Communists and the Berlin Wall? They built that wall to keep their own people from leaving and shot them if they tried to run. And remember, Communists, are atheists.
We believe many things, these days. Politics is a good example. In most places, we are highly polarized between Conservatives and Liberals. So. What happens if you leave one side and join the other? Will your friends stop talking to you? Will your family stop inviting you for Thanksgiving?
Besides politics, we also have religion, arguments about vaccination and Covid, and sexual preferences, and what did I miss?
Of course, there is truth, and there are wrong decisions that can hurt us, but if we join the group that really has the truth, did we just walk into a prison? Where is the exit, if I change my mind?
Are you a Christian? I am. Is the name of Jesus associated with controlling religion? Yes, that has happened.
If we go back to the original; one man was arrested and given a quick trial, at night, and then executed on a cross the next day. And this was done by religious leaders who didn’t want a preacher talking about a better way.
That man Jesus told us “So if the Son sets you free, you will be really free.” (John 8: 36)
Membership was voluntary, a personal choice, and some people changed their minds and dropped out.
“For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” (2 Timothy 4: 10)
We don’t know if these people abandoned the faith entirely, but they did leave; they exercised their free choice.
So, what does this mean for us today? Almost every other belief system has an appeal to our laziness and claims ownership of the truth. Thinking is not important, just join the tribe.
Following the truth is a personal choice, not something we were born into. We were invited to be “really free.” I recommend that.