As I read this group of characteristics, I am so glad that my religion of choice is not a cult. I am a Christian Scientist. Although, I revere the leader of The Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy, but according to her, I follow her only as she follows Christ. My allegiance always is to God.
Thomas Mitchinson, Illinois COP
How do You Define a Cult?
From the he Official Blog of Thomas Mitchinson, Illinois Committee on Publication
According to the International Cultic Studies Association, there are 15 common characteristics associated with cultic groups. They include the following:
- The group expresses unquestioning commitment to its leader.
- Doubt and dissent are punished.
- Mind-altering practices (meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues) are used in excess.
- The leadership dictates how members should think and act (decisions include job change, reproductive choices, marriage partners etc.).
- The group is elitist.
- The group has a polarizing us-versus-them mentality.
- The leader is not accountable to any authority.
- The group teaches that the ends justify the means.
- Shame is induced in order to control members.
- Members are required to cut ties with family and friends before joining the group.
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members and making money.
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
- Members are required to socialize only with other group members.
- The most loyal members feel that there can be no life outside the context of the group.
As I read this group of characteristics, I am so glad that my religion of choice is not a cult. I am a Christian Scientist. Although, I revere the leader of The Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy, but according to her, I follow her only as she follows Christ. My allegiance always is to God. Individual choices are encouraged. There is no mandate for me or any member to choose spiritual healing, and no punishment by the Church if I feel it necessary to go to a doctor, psychiatrist or dentist. It has been my choice to pray during illness and I have found that means of treatment very practical and healing. There are no mind-altering practices in the Church; prayer is individual communion with God.
Decisions about marriage, reproduction, where I live, and what I wear is left up to me (although my wife tells me if I need to change my appearance!). Far from elitist, I go out of my way to be a part of my community – I have played with a community band, have been part of school organizations, and am willing to share my religion when asked, but certainly not in any proseletizing way.
My Church is governed by a book of rules, The Manual of The Mother Church, and not a group of people. The authority of every church official, as well as all members, lies in the Manual. Obedience to the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is taught – and nothing in those teachings implies that the ends justify the means. Members are encouraged to pray for themselves and come to their own decisions in their lives and are not shamed into making any compromise with their own conscience.
My Church has never encouraged me to cut ties with any family or friends. It would be unnatural for it to do so. It certainly is not preoccupied with bringing in new members, although when a friend wants to join my church, I am glad to share this membership with them. I am always free to give financially to my Church without any pressure of any kind, and my donations are always of my own choosing. I have never been expected to spend an inordinate amount of time with my Church, but love to attend Sunday services and Wednesday testimony meetings – which everyone is invited to attend.
I have always been encouraged by my Church to be a part of the community. I have the freedom to choose the activities I like and hope I am a good neighbor and citizen.
How do you define a cult? The above criteria are a good start, which does not find any relation to the Church of Christ, Scientist. I value my membership in this Church and so do many others. It gives us the freedom to worship God in a way we are very comfortable with and have found extremely helpful in living a Christian life.