Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spiritual Fine line

As some comments have talked about cult like behaviour, I thought I will try to get some materials to put on site for discussion. Of course, the list is not exhaustive but I do believe that sometimes things we do, can border between Christlike and Cultlike in behaviour.

I will attempt to put some teaching we are taught down and maybe hopefully we can address this.

Hope teaching No 1. - This was Dr.J favourite : As long as you can still walk and not tied to the bed and even if you are sick, you should still come to church. By coming to church, you can be prayed for and be healed.


Hope teaching No.2 - We are christian who happens to be student. So, our aim is to be God's ambassador at school. Therefore, in essence our main duty is to bring people to christ and study is "sort of" secondary.

Hope teaching No.3 - We should believe that our church is the best. Because we should be proud of our church. We should never think that we are not good in anything. We should believe we have the best Worship, best teaching, best ministry.

Hope teaching No.4 - We should come for ever activity that the church organize, and be involve as much as you can, even if you have to give up other activities or sports. Of course, attendance sheet is just to get stats.

Hope teaching No 5. - We must get approval from our leaders and go through "proper channel" in all your BGR issues. Non-approval of relationship will result in severe disciplinary punishment. Technically its like arrange marriage marriage only, this time the shepherd and leaders play the " parents".

Hope teaching No 6 - Leaders always knows best, and if you don't understand their decision just obey. Because they are chosen by God.


I suppose what I would like to say is that there is no absolute right or wrong. Just how things are phased and practiced. Anything taken to extreme will be bad for health. There is no doubt about it. Unfortunately, we live in a world where human beings try to use the principles of God to try and integrate with everyday practical living.

To one total obedience is a virtue to be attained, to another its called being brainwashed. Ultimately, I believe we just have to use our own wisdom and come up with our own personal guideline that you believe are within the confines of God's principle.

Hope may believe that church planting and being a church planter is the key, but if you believe that Pastoral care and mercy mission is the way to win the world, then its what God called you.
Some people believe that music can heal and bring the world closer to God, others believe that prayer is the key. There is no one way, no one answer. God gave us choice, so in it he also created diversity, what works for you may not work for another person.

For one thing, God gave us a brain and he gave us logic and wisdom. I am sure He expects us to use it. I am not advocating that Hope teaching is all bad, nor am i saying its the best thing in the world. God's principle never changes, its people that change when they try to box God's principle into prescribed methods.

What do you believe ? Anyway below is an article that maybe can expand our horizon

Warning signs of a destructive cult

Do you know someone in a destructive cult?

Warning signs!

Anyone could attack a group they disagree with by unfairly labeling it a destructive cult. How would you know whether it really were such a cult or not? Isn't there an objective method to evaluate groups for cultic tendencies? Yes. The following early warning signs can help you reasonably determine whether or not a group is likely to be a destructive cult, and if you should be concerned about a friend, coworker, or loved one being involved with it.

The main reason that the following destructive cult tactics are so damaging to both the individual and society is because they debilitate rationality and reduce empathy. Rationality and empathy are indispensable in making good personal and social decisions. History is littered with personal and social catastrophes where a lack of rationality and lack of empathy were its core causes.

Ask yourself if the following criteria apply to the group you are concerned about.

  1. A destructive cult tends to be totalitarian in its control of its members' behavior. Cults are likely to dictate in great detail not only what members believe, but also what members wear and eat, when and where members work, sleep, and bathe, and how members think, speak, and conduct familial, marital, or sexual relationships.

  2. A destructive cult tends to have an ethical double standard. Members are urged to be obedient to the cult, to carefully follow cult rules. They are also encouraged to be revealing and open in the group, confessing all to the leaders. On the other hand, outside the group they are encouraged to act unethically, manipulating outsiders or nonmembers, and either deceiving them or simply revealing very little about themselves or the group. In contrast to destructive cults, honorable groups teach members to abide by one set of ethics and act ethically and truthfully to all people in all situations.

  3. A destructive cult has only two basic purposes: recruiting new members and fund-raising. Altruistic movements, established religions, and other honorable groups also recruit and raise funds. However, these actions are incidental to an honorable group's main purpose of improving the lives of its members and of humankind in general. Destructive cults may claim to make social contributions, but in actuality such claims are superficial and only serve as gestures or fronts for recruiting and fund-raising. A cult's real goal is to increase the prestige and often the wealth of the leader.

  4. A destructive cult appears to be innovative and exclusive. The leader claims to be breaking with tradition, offering something novel, and instituting the ONLY viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ills. But these claims are empty and only used to recruit members who are then surreptitiously subjected to mind control to inhibit their ability to examine the actual validity of the claims of the leader and the cult.

  5. A destructive cult is authoritarian in its power structure. The leader is regarded as the supreme authority. He or she may delegate certain power to a few subordinates for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes. There is no appeal outside his or her system to a greater system of justice. For example, if a schoolteacher feels unjustly treated by a principal, an appeal can be made to the superintendent. In a destructive cult, the leader claims to have the only and final ruling on all matters.

  6. A destructive cult's leader is a self-appointed messianic person claiming to have a special mission in life. For example, leaders of flying saucer cults claim that beings from outer space have commissioned them to lead people away from Earth, so that only the leaders can save them from impending doom.

  7. A destructive cult's leader centers the veneration of members upon himself or herself. Priests, rabbis, ministers, democratic leaders, and other leaders of genuinely altruistic movements focus the veneration of adherents on God or a set of ethical principles. Cult leaders, in contrast, keep the focus of love, devotion, and allegiance on themselves.

  8. A destructive cult's leader tends to be determined, domineering, and charismatic. Such a leader effectively persuades followers to abandon or alter their families, friends, and careers to follow the cult. The leader then takes control over followers' possessions, money, time, and lives.

If you know someone who belongs to a group that demonstrates a significant number of these warning signs and you would like more information on how to deal with destructive cults or mind control, go to www.factnet.org.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

IF that's the case, then my Hope church in Perth is a cult is it?

Because all these definitely happen.

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Anonymous said...

Cult for sure. Can't speak for all Hope churches, just the ones I know and have personally been to.

I definately feel robbed by Dr. J.

Anonymous said...

I was in the Hope student group for 4 years during my uni days.

The things that I could ever get a hang of were 1 why I can't discuss(comment & criticize) the personal lives of top leaders, 2) BGR issues. In a way I was glad I left because all my peers who stayed on married people in the church & relationship with an outsider (non-Hope) was shunned. 3) Planting churches - I'm not exactly the people-hoarder person if you know what I mean. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why God didn't tell me that planting church was my purpose in life for the 20 years I was a Christian, i.e. it was just not for me. I was always hesitant in reciting that part during the pledge. I've always believed in different callings for different people & I pity those who were "forced"/convinced that planting new Hope churches is the only answer to the Great Commission.

Although to be fair, I've grown so much spiritually from Hope than my "Christian upbringing".

My advice is, don't take leaders' words blindly. Test them, question them, think about them. People (in Hope) might tell you these voices are not from God, but always get 2nd opinion, from Christians outside the church etc. If you are a student, your main purpose is to be the best student you can be, because from my experience (other students have suffered in their studies because of time spent on church activities), you'll not be a good testimony either to your other students, parents etc if you are neglecting your studies. "You are a Christian who happens to be a student" - yes. "In essence our main duty is to bring people to christ and study is sort of secondary." - No!! Again, don't neglect your studies!

I'm not saying that Hope is a cult, although there are some elements of it. Again, to be fair, I know of some other churches (non-Hope) in the mainstream that are practising some of the things mentioned as well.

Let's just be vigilant & let the Holy Spirit speak to us. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Facing Reality

In the movie A Few Good Men, we get the iconic line from Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) under cross examination in a trial by Lieutenant Lionel Kaffee (Tom Cruise): "You can't handle the truth!" The phrase jars us even as it resonates. In John's gospel, Jesus taught that we would know the truth and the truth would set us free. However, herein lies the challenge: Truth can set us free, but we can't always handle the truth!

What does that mean? An old preacher used to say that God cleanses sin, not excuses. Yet as I study the human condition, I find that excuses are our specialty. When someone is caught in some wrong doing, when we are exposed in a hypocrisy, when facts speak for themselves, we often find elaborate (and contrived) rationalizations or denials: "You don't understand..." "It was more complicated..." "They brought it on themselves..." Or, as we find in the first book of the Bible, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree."

I have read many books on the Nazi period and those who seemed unable to come to terms with the evil to which they contributed. I have recently been reading a book by Jean Francois Revel exposing the intricate webs of truth avoidance by the French Socialists and Communists in regards to the evils by and under existing communism. Men and women of eminent credentials, from significant educational institutions, employ the most mind-bendingly silly arguments to justify evils committed under their preferred system, whilst simultaneously demonizing those of their clearly defined enemies. We don't need to look to foreign countries or history for examples; the recent Wall Street shenanigans and the on-going denials are evidence that this is a human issue, and not a political, racial, historical, or geographical one.

It is not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but it is real: this self-justifying mechanism, this denial system, this hidden factor that makes me quick to judge others for infractions against me or my view of morality, but which equally quickly grants allowances, justifications, rationale for my own failings, errors, or wrong doings.
When Jesus said that we would know the truth, part of this truth is that we would know ourselves. That is, who and what we are, that something is indeed wrong, that something is wrong with us! We need help, we need healing, we need something to intervene in our lives to address the broken aspects. Sin is the biblical condition named to define this issue. The Greek word often used is hamartia, which means to miss the mark, as when an arrow misses the target. Something in space and time has happened that has disrupted and disordered reality. Though we often see the truth and maybe even at some level want the truth, we indeed cannot always handle it—at least, not without grace.
On the contrary, Jesus knew what was in men and women. He came as God's means of renewal and redemption. He came as light, and he came as the door to another kingdom where light, life, and hearts are exposed. As the door, a way is opened to new life, and Jesus beckons, "Come unto me." So, where are you today? Making excuses, justifying behavior, rationalizing attitudes, or seeking grace to be different? God loves us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us as we are. If we can handle it, the truth will set us free.
Stuart McAllister is vice president of training and special projects at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Anonymous said...

I used to be a part of the uni group. The teachings listed there were exactly what I went through. And being a na├»ve youth, I followed through. I could do it outwardly but in my heart, I could not follow the “commandments”. It was too difficult being constantly monitored and the activities was almost daily. Almost every sun at P&W, I cried because I thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn't grow spiritually or feel the love of God.

In the end, after 2 yrs, I left because i was tired of fearing. And after 4 years of wandering in the wilderness, I went to another church. I realised there was nothing wrong with me.

Guo Xiong said...

Dear Anonymous,

I understand what you've been through. The futile attempt of trying to earn God's favor and our salvation by doing external "good works" without the inward heart transformation is an unbiblical distortion of the gospel of Jesus Christ with man-centered works-righteousness. Whoever attempts to justify themselves through the law and by performing "good works" has strayed far away from Christ and His gospel. It is only through Christ's perfect sacrifice on the cross, that we are forgiven of our sins, declared righteous, not guilty, in the sight of God on account of Christ's righteousness. It is through faith that we are justified before God and Christ's righteousness imputed to us.

So take heart, may you (including myself) stand firm on Christ our solid Rock, for all other grounds are sinking sand.

Regards,
Guo Xiong.

Anonymous said...

I went to a Hope church in UK for a couple years. It definitely was cult like, but not full on. People were looked down upon if they did not give as much of their free time as possible to the church. Same goes for tithes.
People were made to feel guilty if they did not serve enough. I remember a Pastor discussing with a leader a member being lazy.

Those who had girlfiends or boyfriends of a different Christian denomination or different faith were given the sharp end, in the name of Godly love of course. Yes, that old catch phrase of "I say this in Gods love".

Grown adults were told what they can and can not do. Free thought and respectful discussion were frowned upon if it goes against the religious interpretations of the leaders.

Hope Church thinks their brand of Christianity is the truest, when all Christian (trinity recognising) denominations are part of Christs body. If you a Catholic (who belive in the trinty and don't worship Mary), then oh dear you better get your bullet proof vest on if you don't follow their program. I am not a Catholic by the way, but have seen their facist views on them. Though a fair few of Hope attendees are converts.

The main congregation were all nice people. The leaders are nice too if you follow their line. I got fed up of the judgementalness behind the smiles.

Sorry to moan about the Hope Church. It does a lot of good too, but I wanted to express the negative side, though I did have some good positive experiences in that church community too. I think they need to address the Pope infallible mentality of the leaders.

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