The Unculting of Cults

The recent announcement Romney visited Billy Graham after which Graham removed Mormonism from his cult catalogue was amusing to say the least.  Again, “the faith never changes”, but changes all the time.

Why would a group vilified for so long, Mormonism, be judged OK by the stroke of a pen?  The Baptist author below referred to it as a “fascinating intersection of religious pluralism, doctrinal concession and political reality.”

Remaining on the cult list are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists and Unitarians.  It’s hard to understand why Unitarians are considered a cult.  In fact, none of these does mass suicides and such associated with cults.

History tells us these latter groups will be regarded as cults until one of their members is a  Republican candidate for the Presidency.  Then, things change in a hurry.

This morphing of the faith to accommodate contemporary values goes back to the beginning.  The facade of the faith is that nothing changes.

Another announcement this week was the closing of a prominent seminary by the Methodists.   The closure was part of a budget cutbacks faced by many denominations.

One would guess doctrinal change will accelerate among main line denominations as membership falls.  Doctrinal change will accommodate new views among the membership but also accommodate mergers with other declining denominations.

When you think about it, one religious group calling another a “cult” is an insult of the highest degree.  It may fit sometimes but often is the pot calling the kettle black.

http://www.abpnews.com/opinion/item/7914-the-unculted#.UIisu4XfI7Q

 

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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21 Responses to The Unculting of Cults

  1. Avatar of S. L. S. L. says:

    One needs to write about things that they really believe in. You are truly stuggling.

    • Avatar of Demosthenes Demosthenes says:

      “One needs to write about things that they really believe in” Hahah, where on earth did you find this gem?

      So pretty much a Skeptic can’t write about anything……

      You truly must make up your own rules.

  2. Kevin says:

    Like your comments, one of a man of God, the Jehovah witnesses, prolly are more like Jesus then any other group. They go door to door for what they believe. I am not one, and I am like Billy Graham brought up baptist, but not brought up that one should not work for the dollar. I have thought about it before, all I would need would be a bible and I could proclaim God for money. And I prolly would get rich, but is rich really that great? I proclaim Jehovah witnesses, and 7th day adventous or any group that goes door to door, knowing they wont get the time of the day by most, but still willing to try, those are the really true Christians, I admire them for that. Baptists of all people well is well known they only use the back door of the local friendly tavern. If you believe and are willing to tell others without the benifit of monetary donations, many times taking out of your own pocket, I admire you. If your a non believer, willing to tell the world you are and not taking monetary donations, and taking money out of your own pocket at times, I admire you.
    I have to remain as a believer, I respect the thoughts of the non believers, but my life on this earth is short, and it may only be a fantasy that I will live my next life in eternity with out a single pain, and if there is no God, I will only die, my life will be over and my body will turn to dust, but either way, I will have no pain. If I am a believer and I go to hell, well, I think many times I am living in hell, as I have many health issues, and mine are minor, it just hurts to see my two sons suffer as they do. But I dont want to go to a place they call hell. I am the one on the farm that gets the jobs of doing many burnings, sloughs, fields, etc. today a fire got a bit out of control and I had to fight it. With my health issues, I cant shave daily, so I let it grow, well the fire got a bit out of control and its all good in the end, but the beard that I carry, is a bit shorter today, mostly on my right then my left, but as I had to fight the fire, that I lit, I got caught up in the heat.
    One of my favorite sayings is, “if you mess with peoples hearts, you are playing with fire, if you play with fire, people are going to be burned!”
    I so respect people that stand up for what they believe, even if I disagree with them, and I really appreciate if they respect my thoughts.

    I give hats off to John, we so disagree, but he respects my thoughts, and I respect his, even if they are a bit different. I would like to hear more of his thoughts, and I have told him that. John is one of the most respected people I have ever had a chance to converse with. We have had a few conversations via email, and he dont push his thoughts. I am impressed, he so respected what I thought, and even made comments to my benifit in my behalf on my thoughts. He never once pushed his thoughts on me. I respect that.
    You get more flys with honey then you do vinegar.

    Hats off to you, John.

    Sincerely

    Kevin

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Kevin 4:44 Thank you the nice post. I know I speak for all of us on this discussion page in wishing you the best in your circumstances.

      What a story about the fire, hope your beard grows back OK. Wanna probably had experience like I did back in my youth with harvest time fires. The corn picker mounted on a tractor had one big design flaw. Corn husks floated onto the exhaust maniford and caught fire. It happened a lot in my community. Now, it seems so simple how it could have been prevented with a screen or something, but I don’t think anyone did that when I was there.

      Post again whenever you have time.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Had a pull type picker. No fires, but had a 6 ft Case pull type combine with a Wisconsin air cooled engine that caught on fire on occasion if you didn’t keep it clean, Especially if the wind was in the wrong direction. Solution; We had a commercial size air compressor tank filled up in the pickup, and stopped when needed to blow it out. That Wisconsin was a bastard of an engine. Didn’t raise too much corn, only for feed.

        • Henry says:

          “That Wisconsin was a bastard of an engine.”

          We had some on some Versatile 103′s. Thistles were bad for them. The fuzz would get entrapped in the screen. You needed a steel wire brush to remove them. The valves liked to stick on the Wisconsin, too. The next step in the problem was you had to pull the aluminum head off. You would then end up snapping about half the bolts off in trying to do so. Then you would have to drill the embedded snapped-off bolts out and put an insert in. These engines were a lot of fun. I believe they were on a six volt system and were quite cold-blooded.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Tough to start hot or cold. Worse hot. Short crank hurt arm, worse yet, break it.

          • Henry says:

            Sounds like Wisconsin “stepped up” to a 6-Volt system on some of their later engines in the 60′s and 70′s. You are describing a (miserable) hand crank and magneto type system.

            Whoever the Wisconsin CEO/sales staff were, they surely were well connected and likeable.
            They must have had the ability to sell screen doors to submariners.

  3. entech says:

    What is the difference between a cult and a denomination? Probably just the size of the membership list and the influence they can wield.
    The mainline would call anything that moved too far from orthodoxy as a cult – JW, Unitarian and until they had a presidential candidate LDS. The early Jesus Movement was a cult to mainline Judaism until they were strong enough to start calling themselves Christian and begin denigrating the Jews.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      If memory serves, The term “Christian” was given to the followers of “The Way” as a derogetory name given to them at Antioch. Was picked up and adopted in defiance of the opposition. A not too uncommon practice, even used to this day.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wanna 12:49 Thanks for the post providing a definition of “cults”. Seems peculiar to me the Graham organization would include Unitarians and not include Catholics. Not that I would call Catholics a cult, but the level of transperency surely is greater with Unitarians than with Catholics. This Graham cult catalogue should have been called, “Groups we do not like and enjoy preaching against.”

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Jon; In our tradition, we rarely classify “cults” except in the most obvious situations, such as Jonestown, Waco, etc. We do use the term (ready for this?) “Error”, in ascending levels of intensity. (Little error– some error–much error–all error), with considerations for the type of error, and practices involved. There can also be “Unrecognized error” which can be used to aid in correction in a loving manner.

  4. Wanna B Sure says:

    Back to the topic;
    Re. graham and the Mormons vs. Obama; “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
    Re. “Cults”. There are some general guidelines that are/ can be used at least in part to define and identify a cult; Mind controll, financial controll, absolute central controlling person or persons, required isolation, apocolyptic, lack of transparency/ secrecy/ hidden knowlege, occasional physical restrictions, gradual/ systematic indoctrination without benefit of being able to know the final outcome.

  5. .E says:

    Per Merrian-Webster-cult:
    1: formal religious veneration : worship
    2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
    3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
    4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
    5a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion.
    So, based on these definitions, calling an organization a cult is not necessarily derogatory, but has come to be that in the media and culture. I think this term can into usage as derogatory in labeling the Jim Jones’s group and Harikrishnas in airports.
    It is a separate distinction to be made between Christian from Non-Christian. A Christian is a follower of Christ and his teachings. It seems to me that the distinguishing line that is crossed with Morman’s as Non-Christians is they don’t believe that Christ is God in the sense of the persons of the Trinity. It is a similar line with Unitarians. They believe in one God and one person, again, not Trinitarianism, One God and three persons.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      .E 2:10 Thanks–an explanation helpful in understanding the use of this term.

    • entech says:

      Would your last paragraph justify the various Monotheist/Unitarian groups, and there are a few Islam venerates Jesus, as well as the others that are believers in the one God but do not subscribe to a Trinitarian Jesus; would that justify such people referring to Christianity, of say, a Lutheran or Catholic form as being a polytheistic cult.

      In the context of the article quoted as the basis for this topic definition 3. and perhaps 2. would apply. Certainly fans of “a Clockwork Orange” and similar ‘cult’ movies are not included in the context.

      Your post does show how the popular media and culture can distort the meaning of perfectly good terms, some terms have a specific and general meaning. Take ‘theory’ as an example, there is popular usage which more or less equates to an idea; an example would be a group of friends at the race track placing a bet on a horse based on past form, when it lost on the day it was said to be a good idea at the time, or, a good bet in theory. The scientific use is a lot more rigid, which gives rise to some false denigrations being used, such as, evolution is just a theory.

  6. .E says:

    It also helps to make distinctions, rather than generalizations.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Yes It does help. This information is readily available on the internet, and there is no excuse to make unhelpfull or distorted generalizations for the sake of an agenda.

  7. .E says:

    Not that anyone cares, but if you want to get my ire up, make a generalization something that I have some knowledge of. Although, a bit of humility and humor could go a long way on both sides.

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