Is fundamentalism a cult?

Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
So there was a post in twitter arguing that evangelicalism is a cult - I don't agree, becasue this is a theological positon that I hold, and I don't feel that my position is cultish.

Recently, I have read Rebecca Stott "In the days or rain" - a really interesting biographical insight into her family who were hvery eavily involved in the Exclusive Brethren, through the 1960s when they had a period where they became dangerous far more cultish than usual. The view from this is that the more extreme forms of the Brethren ideas are cultish (and abusive and vile).

I also read Vicky Beechings Undivided which explores the terrible abusive cultish tendencies of the fundamentalist church in the US, and how they shunned her when she came out as gay.

And it is also my own experiences in the evangelical church, the more conservative end of which I have seen display abusive tendencies, and narrowly manged to avoid. Mostly. Because i have been involved in cultish groups.

So why is this important? Because I think the Fundamentalist (or at least conservatives) have been behind Trump and Brexit, at least they reflect the religious backing these have. And it feels different that they are supported by a particular group of Christians and they are supported by a religious cult. The latter reflects better the danger of these groups.

Thoughts? I don't think this has been done before. And I am not trying to get at anyone, because one important aspect of a cult is that most people involved are to an extent duped. It is the leadership who have culpability.
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Comments

  • wabalewabale Shipmate
    The first definition I found for ‘cult’ read ‘a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object.’ It then mentioned ‘the cult of St.Olaf’ as its example. Olaf ll’s status as a Christian is doubtful, our guide in Trondheim cathedral pointing out that the axe symbol which was part of Olaf’s badg was a reminder that he used to behead subjects who wouldn’t convert. However, his ‘cult’, based on his supposed healing powers, did actually play a part in the Christianisation of Norway.

    So neither this definition nor the example are much help - is the veneration of Jesus Christ a cult then? - but they do unintentionally highlight the importance to cults of basing themselves on absurd facts or stories. Perhaps the mention of St. Olaf was ironic. Anyway I think it dents somewhat the impression - and there certainly is one - that Fundamentalists or we Evangelicals are the prime source of cults.

    With regard to Brexit, I don’t think it has much to do with Evangelicalism, although I have seen some pretty absurd ‘prophecies’ about the ‘evil’ building at the heart of the EU.
  • I think cults potentially lurk beneath the surface of each and every religious tradition. Some would regard Opus Dei as cultish.

    I've heard Orthodox Christians describe some extreme non-canonical Orthodox groups and even some monasteries as cultic.

    FWIW I wouldn't regard mainstream evangelicalism as cultish but there are certainly cultic tendencies as you move towards the extremes of the uber-conservative or uber-charismatic ends of the spectrum.

    It all depends on where you start from. To a strong agnostic or atheist any form of faith is going to look dangerously fundamentalist if left to its own devices.

    As to where the dividing line between a sect - in sociological terms - and a cult in the pejorative sense - lies, well ... discuss ...
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    wabale wrote: »
    With regard to Brexit, I don’t think it has much to do with Evangelicalism, although I have seen some pretty absurd ‘prophecies’ about the ‘evil’ building at the heart of the EU.

    I have heard more than one prophetic line indicating that the EU is the Antichrist, and it iw our Christian Duty to remove ourselves from it. And the less dramatic but equally important beliefs that we are a Christian Country and shouldn't associate with Athiest France (in particular).

    So the Fundamentalist principle of separation and purity is behind some of the Brexit movement - behind why some of the more conservative churches believe we should leave whatever. The numbers included are significant.

    As for the definition of a cult - there is not one person clearly at the head, but there are a few people who are venerated and looked up to (it changes over time, but their message is the same). It was Nicky Gumbel in the UK for a while, but this changes based on who is hte current Favourite. So maybe not a cult in quite the same way, but maky of the same characteristics - a cult looking for a leader?
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    I don't think fundamentalism as such forms a cult. On the other hand, I can see that it facilitates cults: both as I understand it appeal to respect for authority, and there's a link between the fundamentalist division of people into the true adherents and the worldly, and a cult's separation from outsiders. I don't think you have to be fundamentalist to be a cult, but it helps.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    As is usual in English one word may have a number of definitions and nuance. But I imagine the definition that SC wants to hone in on is one something like this from the British Dictionary at Dictionary.com : "a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents". Not about the fanatic focus of devotion to a saint, or an activity sacred or secular, or a pop star.

    My favorite definition is that you can tell a cult by how they treat you when you try to leave- badly that is. The nastier, the more cultish. I think I first heard this in reference to Scientology.

    Do certain fundamentalists shun former adherents? Some hardcore Amish shun former members. Are they a cult? I dunno.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    wabale wrote: »
    With regard to Brexit, I don’t think it has much to do with Evangelicalism, although I have seen some pretty absurd ‘prophecies’ about the ‘evil’ building at the heart of the EU.

    As most N. American shipmates probably know, "EU = antichrist" is a pretty huge deal in fundamentalist circles in the USA and Canada. I wasn't really aware that it had gotten much of a foothold in the UK, even among brexiteers.

    I'd imagine it could have some devotees among the Ian Paisley types, though the man himself was on record as saying the Pope was the antichrist.
  • stetson wrote: »
    I'd imagine it could have some devotees among the Ian Paisley types, though the man himself was on record as saying the Pope was the antichrist.

    In fairness he shared that opinion with the Westminster Confession, the subordinate standard (to the Bible) of many Presbyterian denominations. It's nutty, but not unique to Paisley by any means.
  • I've certainly noticed anti-EU sentiment increasing within certain independent evangelical circles here in the UK, but certainly not among evangelical Baptists and Anglicans.

    Overall, though, I suspect there are as wide a range of views on Brexit among US evangelicals as there is among the wider population.

    On the links between fundamentalism and cults. I'd suggest that not all fundamentalists are cultists, but most cultists are fundamentalists.

    I use the 'f' word in the broadest sense.

    I also make a distinction between evangelical and fundamentalist, at least here in the UK.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    ... I have heard more than one prophetic line indicating that the EU is the Antichrist, and it is our Christian Duty to remove ourselves from it. And the less dramatic but equally important beliefs that we are a Christian Country and shouldn't associate with Atheist France (in particular). ...
    Yes, there's something in that. It's from a disturbing/ed fringe. I have encountered claims that
    “the outcome of [the] referendum … [is] good news for Christians…. because the EU is the fractured fulfilment of the final empire of Daniel’s vision (the feet in Daniel 2:33)”
    and
    “prophetically …. God’s way forward for us as a nation to take a lead in returning to Biblical standards in Europe, free from the secularism of the French Revolution and Napoleonic law”
    .
    These both came from the same person, who is admired in some circles, and have been repeated at least twice.

    I haven't experienced this as widespread but I know of at least one person who was persuaded by the source in question.

    Representing that by one's special theological gnosis denied to others, one can interpret current events by reference to Daniel and/or Revelation, and by those means to persuade people to vote for the cause you personally support is IMHO either self-delusion or a serious misuse of the office of preacher.

    I could of course be wrong, but I don't think I am.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited March 25
    Evangelicalism is not a cult. It's way too broad a term. You need to identify a particular evangelical grouping and ask the question. Mind you, I do not think that Evangelicals as a group are more or less inclined to cultish behavior than any other group.

    I have been subjected to two experiences I would describe as cultish. The first was my forced attendance once a month at a display of group shouting in an American High School. They called it a 'Pep Rally'. The second one was a Catholic weekend retreat for teenagers where the organisers sought to make me into a compliant young soldier for the anti-choice cause by breaking down my emotional resistence.

    My experiences are certainly cult-lite, and the sustained emotional twisting techniques which both groups of people - the Catholics and the Jocks - employed were limited because I was able to leave after a short period and hang shit on them both. But they are the beginning of serious and damaging efforts, the Catholic one much more sinister.

    Give me a C! Give me a Y! Give me an N! What does it start to spell? The beginnings of a defence to the Dark Arts! Gooooooooooo CYNICISM!!! Yay!!!!

    At least at pep rallys you can begin your appreciation of the legs and bottoms of fit youths. None of that at the Catholic mind-twisting sessions, although I did have one creepy girl say to me that she knew that I would come to that particular Catholic retreat. She was one of the leaders, and had that glazed look in her eye. I considered whether she was into bonking for Jesus (I was 17), but decided it wasn't worth the risk.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    I think that fundamentalism can indeed become a cult, because it leads to worship of a particular book, in the (much-edited) form in which it has been handed down to us.

    As the saying goes, "The Devil can quote Scripture to serve his own purpose," and that's because a book composed over as many centuries by as many people and edited as much as the Bible contains absolute reams of contradictions.

    Some problems arise because of mistranslation or misunderstanding; the KJV, upon which many fundamentalists insist, is magnificent poetry but suffers from both, along with the issue of words changing meaning over the centuries.

    I am grateful for contemporary Biblical scholarship, because without it I could not be a believer. (It helps me, for example, to know that there are actually two different Creation stories blended into the same part of Genesis, and that the older one isn't hideously sexist.) Serious academic Bible study makes a lot of things clearer, but no fundamentalist (in my experience) wants to be confronted with that.

  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    The KJV is beautiful.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    The KJV is beautiful.

    Indeed. But it's a shitty translation and many words and phrases are hard to understand, or easy to misunderstand, for a 21st century reader.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    mousethief wrote: »
    Indeed. But it's a shitty translation and many words and phrases are hard to understand, or easy to misunderstand, for a 21st century reader.
    The words and phrases aren't a problem for me; the changed meanings and mistranslations are. I love it for its poetry, but I don't read it when I'm trying to puzzle out a passage.


  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    edited March 25
    The KJV is beautiful, however it was a translation to be understood by people of a different era. We need modern language versions to study it properly.
    As indicated by others fundamentalism is not just the realm of us Evangelicals. My RC upbringing made it clear that it was the right way and anyone else is just misled. Many is the time I have had traditionalists bludgeon me over the head with how I am wrong and they will not listen to any other view. Let’s not get into fundamental atheists and their inability to see beyond their noses.
    There are also some pond differences. That is a bit of hobby horse for me I know. Yes there are some of the style of fundies you are talking about over here. They are largely influenced by US preachers. Most of us Evos are more open. I would say overall fundamentalism is not a cult if taken for what it actually means. Someone who follows the basic tenants if their faith.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I was going to say they worship the bible, but I don't think they do. However, those groups who slavishly worship the KJV as the only proper interpretation - that is surely cultish behaviour.

    Beautiful language does not truth make.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    The original fundamentals of fundamentalism were these
    Biblical inspiration and the infallibility of scripture as a result of this
    Virgin birth of Jesus
    Belief that Christ's death was the atonement for sin
    Bodily resurrection of Jesus
    Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

    And belief in Young Earth Creationism is often added.

    Source.

    So I don't reckon this can be easily discussed outside of Dead Horses. The cultish aspects of belief in biblical inerrancy and/or young earth creationism are simply aspects of biblical inerrancy and creation/evolution, which are Dead Horses themes. I think the thread will play better in Dead Horses for these reasons so I'm asking Admin to transfer it there.

    Barnabas62
    Purgatory and Dead Horses Host
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    I'd imagine it could have some devotees among the Ian Paisley types, though the man himself was on record as saying the Pope was the antichrist.

    In fairness he shared that opinion with the Westminster Confession, the subordinate standard (to the Bible) of many Presbyterian denominations. It's nutty, but not unique to Paisley by any means.

    In fairness, he has only mistaken the head of one branch for the caboodle. The earthly Church is both the antichrist and the body of Christ. When it denies the gospel, abuses power or fails in love it is the antichrist because it does that which is inimical to Christ in Christ's name.

  • Is a belief that one's particular way is the right way and others are misled a sign of cultic behaviour?

    If that was the case then the entire RC and Orthodox Churches are cultic and certainly the Anglicans at the time the 39 Articles were written. It explicitly states that Rome, Antioch and other Churches have 'erred.'

    I agree with Hugal that UK evangelicalism is a very different beast to its US cousin, but open as it undoubtedly is, most evangelicals here would consider their way to be the right one. Sure, the evangelicals at my local evangelical Anglican parish don't believe that the RCs, Methodists or non-evangelical Anglicans are all going to Hell. But they certainly give the impression that they know better than everyone else.

    You can find that tendency in all groups.

    No, I think we need a more specific definition of what we mean by cult-like behaviour. Perhaps it's the sort of thing that is best illustrated by examples, as Simon Toad has sought to do.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    I have been subjected to two experiences I would describe as cultish. The first was my forced attendance once a month at a display of group shouting in an American High School. They called it a 'Pep Rally'.
    The pep rallies at the high school you attended must have been very different from the pep rallies of my experience if they could be described as cultish. :open_mouth:

  • I'm only an atheist so way out of my depth, but my immediate thought was the fundamentalism refers to what you believe in and evangelicalism refers to what you do about what you believe in.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Here are some characteristics of a cult. .

    The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader, and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

    Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

    Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, or debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

    The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (e.g., members must get permission to date, change jobs, or marry—or leaders prescribe what to wear, where to live, whether to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

    The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (e.g., the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

    The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

    The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders, or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

    The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (e.g., lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

    The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and control members. Often this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

    Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

    The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

    The group is preoccupied with making money.

    Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

    Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

    The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave—or even consider leaving—the group.
  • Last night at the dinner table we were discussing the churches that came out of the Boston church of Christ*, which were big around the turn of the millennium. Several people of our acquaintance were involved in the Paris branch (which is how it came up).

    I was a student at the time and remember being warned off the London church of Christ as one of the most dangerous cults then in operation. They aggressively targeted University of London students and were eventually banned from setting foot on any of its campuses because they caused so much trouble. Husband en rouge asked me, “But how do you know they were a cult and not just a heterodox and very legalistic church?” He was asking because AFAICT the Paris branch was considerably less extreme in its practices.

    In London I think they definitely were cultic. In particular, they strongly encouraged their adherents to cut off contact with their families, which is one of the main reasons they got into hot water with the University of London. They insisted that they alone had the truth and if you already attended a church, you needed to leave it and join theirs. If they once got your phone number, they bombarded you with calls and wouldn’t leave you alone however many times you told them you weren’t interested.

    The whole thing went belly-up in the end when the Grand Poohbah in Boston couldn’t live up to his own legalism and was involved in some scandal or other. The former members we know are now mostly in mainstream evangelical churches (one went on to become an AoG pastor FWIW).

    *This movement had its origins in the mainstream churches of Christ, but is not to be confused with them
  • I'm only an atheist so way out of my depth, but my immediate thought was the fundamentalism refers to what you believe in and evangelicalism refers to what you do about what you believe in.

    That makes a lot of sense, Colin and I'd say it was true on some levels but there's a bit more to it than that. As an 'opener' or broad guide, I think you are on the money, but as a Shipmate observed many moons ago, and I wish I could remember who it was, that as far as Protestant fundamentalism went, 'all fundamentalists are evangelical, but not all evangelicals are fundamentalist.'

    The list Gramps supplies on cultic behaviour is a good one, I think. I would hasten to add though, that not all fundamentalists are cultic or prone to the kind of behaviour on that list, but they can easily veer towards all that given the right conditions.

    I would also add that RCs and Orthodox have their equivalents.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    I think it matters how one defines "cult" - of course at some level, all churches (or even congregations) which have an authority structure could be said to be a cult.

    But I think we are here talking about a general definition, which I think excludes hierarchical church structures with working authority structures. Because in those models, an individual leader cannot have overpowering control over the lives of individuals - because there is always someone else with power over them and some kind of system of oversight.

    In contrast, some Evangelical forms of Protestantism lend themselves to small congregations with powerful leaders because of their congregationist form of church governance and the emergence of a separatist theology. The most damaging sects seem to most often split from Protestant denominations that are already wary of hierarchy and who see themselves already as split from the rest of Christianity, so going more extreme is simply an extension of the same ideas and language.

    There are obviously problems within RC and mainstream Orthodox hierarchies too. But I think that those are not to do with the formation of cults (well, according to my working definition anyway) but because institutional blindness and inertia allows individuals to get away with stuff.

    Which I can admit may not actually be much different.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    In my experience and observation, fundamentalism isn't confined to evangelicals. And cultish behaviour tends to happen when a group is cut off from the rest of the world, with an influential leader who tells people to distrust the rest of the world, and is controlling and manipulative of people's feelings. It could happen in a monastic setting, for instance, or in tiny Mennonite towns.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    In my experience and observation, fundamentalism isn't confined to evangelicals. And cultish behaviour tends to happen when a group is cut off from the rest of the world, with an influential leader who tells people to distrust the rest of the world, and is controlling and manipulative of people's feelings. It could happen in a monastic setting, for instance, or in tiny Mennonite towns.

    That's true but I don't think manipulation = cult
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    fineline wrote: »
    In my experience and observation, fundamentalism isn't confined to evangelicals. And cultish behaviour tends to happen when a group is cut off from the rest of the world, with an influential leader who tells people to distrust the rest of the world, and is controlling and manipulative of people's feelings. It could happen in a monastic setting, for instance, or in tiny Mennonite towns.

    That's true but I don't think manipulation = cult

    It's one aspect of it, not the whole thing.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Plus, it's a specific kind of manipulation, where people are encouraged to feel needy and vulnerable, and dependent on the leader - and the group - for their sense of worth. A fear of not belonging is fostered. And a fear of God, whose spokesperson is the leader of the group - very easy to manipulate using God, as the ultimate authority. Being cut off from the rest of the world means people don't have much opportunity to question, and hear other perspectives, and the fostered fear leads people to see the rest of the world as their enemy.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Well again, if we can't agree what a "cult" is, the it isn't a surprise that we are not agreeing what one is.

    I can't think of a monastic system which has no higher authority. Certainly these things get confused - but as far as I can think, all are highly hierarchical.

    If we are saying that is a "cult" because it has a leader with power, then all churches and models can be called cults. Which makes the term rather redundant.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    In my experience, although in theory there are hierarchies to which monasteries are answerable to, in reality, the superior has an awful lot of power, even over the priests, and such communities do tend to operate very much as self-contained systems. That doesn't of course mean that monastic communities are therefore cults, but certainly the opportunity is there.

    And no, I am not saying something is a cult because it has a leader with power, any more than I'm saying that manipulation = cult. I'm talking about a combination of things, some of which I outlined above.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Plus, you'll see I was talking about 'cultish behaviour.' Monasteries and Mennonite communities are not called cults, and aren't likely to be. But cultish behaviour can happen within such communities, as it can within evangelical communities. The entire of evangelicalism can't be called a cult, unless one is going to call all religion a cult, as of course some people do.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    I think Mennonite communities clearly are cults, for reasons I've given above and RC orders are not.

    And the latter cannot be said to exhibit "cultish behaviour" if it isn't and can't be a cult.

    And nobody has claimed that the whole of evangelicalism is a cult. I have just suggested that the organisation and theology of parts of evangelicalism lends itself to becoming a cult, whereas the only way a cult would be established in a hierarchical system would be to cut itself off from the the theology and hierarchy of the church.

    But again, it depends precisely on what one is defining as a cult.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    Cults are I think characterised by authoritarian leadership and a lack of checks and balances. I think mr cheesy is right to point to tendencies within evangelicalism which may increase the risk of that. But in general I think cults develop because of structural weaknesses in governance, something which can happen in many different types of churches, also in other faiths, also in other organisations. Tin pot dictators abound.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited March 26
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Cults are I think characterised by authoritarian leadership and a lack of checks and balances. I think mr cheesy is right to point to tendencies within evangelicalism which may increase the risk of that. But in general I think cults develop because of structural weaknesses in governance, something which can happen in many different types of churches, also in other faiths, also in other organisations. Tin pot dictators abound.

    This is true, but I still do not think that a tin-pot dictator in a hierarchical church can be described as a cult unless the lines of responsibility have completely broken down.

    Unlike in some of the extremes of Evangelicalism, where those lines of responsibility are simply not there in the first place.

    One example I was reflecting on was David Koresh. He was originally on the fringes of the Seventh Day Adventist church - itself on the extremes of a form of Evangelicalism.

    If one has a theology of exclusion and "correctness" which creates a stark line between them/us then becoming a more extreme version and ultimately a cult isn't a particularly big step.

    To be fair to SDA, I'm sure they were utterly disgusted by Koresh like everyone else. I'm just saying that moving a further extreme direction is easier from a position in an already relatively extreme group.
  • What about the Nine O’Clock Service? I believe that managed to get quite cultish despite starting in the Anglican church. It may be harder for this to happen in established hierarchies, but it doesn’t seem impossible unfortunately.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    What about the Nine O’Clock Service? I believe that managed to get quite cultish despite starting in the Anglican church. It may be harder for this to happen in established hierarchies, but it doesn’t seem impossible unfortunately.

    Well yes - I suppose I'm concluding that it was well on the way to being a cult when the institution stepped in and stopped it.

    That brake existed - albeit one that was used far too late and after people got hurt.

    In many other church structures the brake doesn't exist and there is nothing to stop the thing going full-bore cult.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    I dunno, I can appreciate I'm not saying a lot more than a cult is what I say it is and not what it isn't.

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Fundamentalism is not a single thing, or a single enterprise. An individual congregation, or a tightly aligned/controlled group of congregations, can certainly be a cult.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    And nobody has claimed that the whole of evangelicalism is a cult. I have just suggested that the organisation and theology of parts of evangelicalism lends itself to becoming a cult, whereas the only way a cult would be established in a hierarchical system would be to cut itself off from the the theology and hierarchy of the church.

    I was responding to the OP, which says there was a post on Twitter arguing that evangelism is a cult. My point was that it is not just evangelism, and that it can happen within non-evangelical communities, such as Mennonite communities and monastic communities. Your definition seems to be that a group is a cult if they reject the teachings of the church (by which I assume you mean a particular denomination, like the Catholic church, as Mennonites have their own theology, which they follow). I have not come across this definition anywhere else, so I am not sure where you have got this from, or if you have created it. Usually when one talks of cults, there is the idea of a certain behaviour that the leader exhibits, and manipulation that goes on. And 'cultish behaviour' is definitely a concept, as it can be applied to certain types of abusive family, for instance.

    I'm not sure you can simply decide on a definition for yourself and decide any other usage of the word is wrong. Words are defined by usage. The OED has several definitions, none of which is yours, but a main one is 'a relatively small group of people having (esp. religious) beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister, or as exercising excessive control over members.' This is how I am using the term, and yes, it can happen in monasteries, very easily.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    No, I am following the latter definition. I don't think that can be done in a hierarchical church system where the power and authority structures are working.

    Hierarchical churches have many problems, but tipping into becoming a cult isn't one of them, in my opinion.

    The point I'm trying to make is that being a cult is about power and accountability. In a hierarchical church you can't have full power and you are almost always responsible to someone else further up the chain.

    In the kinds of flat structures as arranged by anabaptist communities and some Evangelical churches , that doesn't happen. They are a law into themselves.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Even in monasteries, the structure is almost always responsible to someone else.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    My point is more that while that is true in theory, in reality it often isn't. All kinds of abuse of power happened in convents in the past, and these communities often are laws unto themselves when it comes to how people are treated behind closed doors, even though the liturgy that happens in chapel is all as it should be. The little details of people's lives can get very regulated and controlled. I would even say the same can happen in schools and care homes - though of course there is much more regulation than there used to be.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Ok we are going round in circles. I'm not saying hierarchies can't be ineffective or abusive or lax or turning a blind eye. I'm just saying that they can't be cults.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    The structure of a monastery is the superior has huge control over the lives of the nuns - what they can eat, what they can drink, when they can sleep, etc. Even some control over Mass - I know a convent where the superior told the priest she wanted the Mass to be done a certain way, and the priest didn't want to, but ultimately she had more power than him over what is done in the convent, so he had to conform.
  • I broadly agree with mr cheesy with the caveat, to repeat something I posted upthread, that I've heard RCs and Orthodox acknowledge that monastic communities can become cultish.

    I'd suggest that there is a difference between being cultish or cult-like and being a full blown cult.

    I wouldn't categorise the restorationist 'new church' network I used to belong to as a cult, but I would say that certain features were cultish or cult-like.

    They wouldn't have ticked all the boxes on Gramps49's handy ready-reckoner list, but they would certainly have ticked some and come close to ticking some others.

    As for cultish behaviour within Anglicanism, I think mr cheesy is right that The Nine O'Clock Service was well on the way to becoming a full on cult when the authorities finally intervened. But at least there were authorities in place to intervene - however belatedly.

    Can Anglican clergy become controlling and authoritarian? Yes, certainly. Can Anglican parishes become toxic? Yes, undoubtedly. Does that make them cult-like? Perhaps not officially but the net result is very similar, as mr cheesy acknowledges.
  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    I have read that a cult is a religious organization one joins as an adult, while a church is a religious organization in which one is raised as a child.
  • Fundamentalist Christians usually have incorrect notions about the Bible, ignoring how the stories got here, and they imagine they are evidence of some eternal truth that just so happens to line up with their politics. Are we not really talking of scale of what fundamentalists do and the ongoing versus specific violence that the smaller cults undertake?
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    To clarify, are people seeing fundamentalism as a purely evangelical thing? I come across fundamentalism in Catholicism too, and also come across people who call themselves evangelical Catholics.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Well - at the risk of being disagreeable about definitions again - Fundamentalist originally was a self-description by a group of conservative Evangelicals, I believe. And I think although that description has generally widened to include hard-line conservatives of all kinds, there is a general distinction to be made between "fundamentalist" and "fundamentism".

    I think, for example, that Roman Catholics can be particularly hard-line conservatives in various theological directions. In a way that generally meets the general understanding of a fundamentalist.

    But I think fundamentalism only really makes sense as a term when the stated aim of a church is a particularly hard-line form of conservative Christianity and where all the members of that church sign up to it.

    I don't think that having extremists makes a broader church "extremist", therefore I don't think having some fundamentalists makes a broader church a part of fundamentalism.

    So I think we are talking about a collection of very conservative churches that do not think well of "liberal ideas". Which are largely, but by no means wholly, Evangelical.
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