Posts Tagged ‘cults’
A cult expert is an expert on the subject of cults, religious sects and/or new- or ‘alternative’ religious movements.
Most cult experts approach these subjects in one of three ways.
- Some come from an anti-cult perspective. Generally, these experts oppose the groups they study for reasons other than theological ones.
- Others operate from a counter-cult approach. Generally, they oppose the groups they study for theological reasons. Such is the case when, for instance, a group claims to be Christian while its teachings and practices clearly fall outside those of historical Christianity
- Yet others claim to take a neutral or value-free approach. Generally they do not oppose the groups they study, and many even object to using the term ‘cult’ at all.
Understand different cult expert perspectives
When selecting a cult expert, it is essential to understand the difference between these approaches.
A cult expert who educates Christian believers on why certain groups that claim to be Christian are in fact outside the boundaries of the Christian faith — making them cults of Christianity — has a different focus and goal than a cult expert who helps people leave groups considered cults in a sociological sense. The former deals with primarily with beliefs; the latter primarily with actions.
Note that many cult experts who deal with cults from a theological perspective also address sociological issues. Actions are informed by beliefs, and many — though not all — cults of Christianity engage is cult-like behavior (sociologically speaking) that is a direct result of their unorthodox beliefs.
However, most cult experts who approach cults from a sociological view do not address theological issues — often because as ‘outsiders’ they lack the expertise and ’spiritual discernment’ to adequately argue theology with a dedicated believer.
Term ‘cult’ is ambiguous
You’ll note that the the term ‘cult’ is ambiguous in that it changes its meaning depending on the context in which it is used.
For instance, most Christians consider the Mormon Church to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity due to its departure from the teachings and practices of the historical Christian faith. Yet an expert looking at the movement from a sociological perspective generally does not concern himself with theological distinctions, and sees too little in the way of sociological issues to consider it to be a cult.
Yet The Family, a movement formerly known as the Children of God, is considered by most cult experts to be a cult both theologically and sociologically — since it includes both beliefs and practices that are outside the boundaries of the Christian faith.
In other words, a movement considered a cult in the theological sense is not necessarily also a cult as defined sociologically — but it does occur. The International Churches of Christ, for example, is widely viewed as, theologically, a cult of Christianity whose beliefs led to cult-like practices as defined sociologically.
Not all cults are religious
That said, cults are not necessarily religious in nature. For instance, there are also political cults (whose followers are willing to give their all), commercial cults (think of the fervor of your local multi-level-marketing enthousiast), and even one-on-one cults — relationships in which one person has a cult-like control over his or her partner. [Note that some commercial cults also market themselves as 'religions'].
Some self-improvement seminars take what many consider to be a cult-like approach. Many hate groups and other extremist movements likewise have a cult-like system of beliefs and practices. Too, one commercial cult that claims to be a religion is widely considered to be nothing but a money-making scheme operated in a cult-like fashion.
Cult experts: Activists vs. Educators vs. Defenders
Most cult experts are activists in the sense that they want to help people stay out– or get out of cults.
Some cult experts are educators in the sense that they are information providers who, generally speaking, take a neutral approach to the subject.
A small number of, for the most part, academics have gained a reputation for defending cults. Some do so in an effort to provide what they consider to be ‘neutral’ information. Others claim to defend a group’s ‘human rights.’
Most educators are not cult apologists, but those who do defend cults should not be relied upon as cult experts.
Deprogramming, Exit Counseling, Thought Reform Consultation
Cult experts use various approaches, depending on the perspective they operate from — but also on their background, education, or professional affiliations.
Experts who operate primarily from a theological perspective use arguments from scripture to demonstrate how the teachings and/or practices of certain teachers, groups and movements differ from those of, say, the Christian faith. They do so in an effort to persuade people either not to join certain groups, or to leave such movements.
Cult experts who operate as activists from a primarily sociological perspective use various forms of counseling in their efforts to get people to leave cults.
Do you need a cult expert?
Some cult experts operate from a philanthrophic motivation, while others merely consider it (part of) their job. Some have received academic training and are licensed mental health professionals. Others are self-taught and unlicensed. The field has also attracted a few loose canons who — while often brilliant at self-promotion — tend to be shunned by the majority of cult experts.
When selecting a cult expert, it pays to first do some research (resources listed below). Be especially on your guard when fees are involved. Some people have ended up paying thousands of dollars where free or low-cost counseling would have sufficed. Too, often a thorough reading of one or two books on the subject would have been just as — if not more — effective.
• If you think you need a cult expert, please visit CultExperts.org
• Guide to selecting a cult expert/counselor
• If you’d like to learn more about cults, see Cult Definition and CultFAQ
• Cult Information Search Engine