How does a cult leader attract and keep his followers?
The proliferation of cults in the United
States in recent years and the uproar generated by their activities make
the question provocative, especially in light of the mass suicides and
killings at Jim Jones' Peoples Temple in Guyana.
Jones is gone. Others, Me Sun Myung Moon, prefer to remain silent. But a relatively obscure member of this circle of self-styled saviors or religious leaders has written what might be regarded as the definitive answer - a virtual primer on cult philosophy and recruitment of young people.
Stewart Traill sees his Christian Church of Bible Understanding Inc. as being locked in a life-and-death struggle with the "powers of the world" - which boil down to "all older people" (over 30) - for the minds and souls of the younger generation.
And he describes how easy it Is to recruit the young by focusing on the "hypocrisy" and "disinterest" of the older generation which he says is too preoccupied with "gratifying its own passions" to mount an effective counteroffensive against his religious movement. "They don't even care enough about you to come and save you from me by showing openly how I am a false shepherd," he wrote In 1974, after his cult emerged intact and several hundred strong from a prolonged attack in which he was denounced as a "tool of the Devil" in eastern Pennsylvania, the cult's birthplace. Ex-vacuum cleaner salesman Traill's perception of his religious mission in life, the future of his cult and the tactics he intended to use to pursue were set down in the "Forever Family Homily," written when his youthful band of religious zealots was still known as the "Forever Family."
Traill warned his followers that the price they would have to pay for their success was the risk of incurring the wrath of "the powers of the world." He defines these powers as "governments (especially local), police, schools, parents (especially world-
ly ones), big business, the press, employers, neighborhoods, normal 'church,' friends, society in general and indeed almost any older person."
Traill asserts that these "Powers" fear that the cult will upset their plans for the next generation and view its success an a threat and reproach for their inability to direct their young. "To put It simply, they are jealous and suspicious of us and do not hesitate to resort to unfairness in their attempts to bring us down. But' war is war, and we must learn to carry a sword in one hand and a trumpet in the other," he said.
Parents, in particular, are to be watched for attempts to undermine the cult's messianic mission, he warned, citing a biblical passage in Matthew: "And a man's foes shall be those of his own household." Former cult members say that Traill uses this and
similar passages to justify his young followers' leaving their families and joining his church "to do the work of Jesus."