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Educating Society On The 'Difference Between Alternative Religious Groups vs.Cults

I would like you to read the following quotes from the article:

"Reconceptualizing the Word "Cult" by Jon Trott [first published in Cornerstone,Jesus People USA Issue 122]

"The term “cult” has become a catchall word used, as one cynic put it , against any organized group one happens not to like."


"There are a few errors we Evangelicals continue to make regarding NRMs. The first and most glaring error we make is the often unspoken assumption that we have the entire truth and NRM members are lost in error. History teaches us of many evils committed by self-proclaimed Christians with a corner on “the truth.” Humility is in order."

"Christians should show profound respect for others’ spiritual journeys, realizing that in fact the others may be journeying toward Christian belief. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and as such it is our duty to present the great news and, by example, show forth His love."

Should we tag peaceful alternative religious groups like Hare Krishans and Bahia long side dangerous killer REAL "cults" like Jim Jones?!?

"Again, the word “cult” has become the property of mass media, and like the word “nigger” some decades ago, is used to completely dismiss those who don’t fit into the majority’s preconceived ideal of “American.” We’ve got to face it: the NRMs often bear little resemblance one to another, but like the Anglo-American viewing a person of color, we’re tempted to say “they’re all the same.” Christians should be on the forefront of defending the legal and social rights of even the smallest and oddest religious groups."

"The NRMs often make specific and exclusive claims regarding the nature of God, salvation, and other aspects of reality." And does not the extreamist branches of Fundamental Protestants? Extreamist Evangelical Protestants tagged Jehovah's Witnesses a "cult" because JW's claim that all who dare disagree with their take on the Bible will not get into paradise. Yet Extreamist Evangelical Fundamental and/or Pentacostal Protestants claim all who dare disagree with their take on things be "left behind" and/or tossed into hell forever. If such exclusive claims to salvation are the marks that call for one to be marked "Cult"..then certainly the extreamist versions Evangelical Fundamental Protestants should add themselves to the list!

"Joining an unorthodox [in both the Evangelical Protestant and societal senses) group may in fact be a sign of coming awake, not of going to sleep. I’m not suggesting that joining the Moonies will lead one to salvation; it may lead to no change in one’s habits, or it may lead to a lifelong adherence to Moon’s false Messiahship. But as sociological studies have shown, the majority of those joining his Unification Church do not remain there. Do they stay awake, or do they go back to sleep? Did any Christians they met along their journey’s path treat them as fellow sojourners rather than brainwashed idiots?"

Yet what of the gentle Baha'i faith, with its martyred leader and beautiful emphasis on reconciliation between races, peoples, and religions? A critique of Baha'i will certainly require our praise as well as our disagreement on key issues of God's identity and the nature of salvation. The New Age movement (host to a variety of NRMs as well as more mainstream groups) exhibits concern over ecology and the caretaking of our planet; this echoes scriptural standards despite their disavowal of personal sin and God's sacrifice for that sin.

Likewise, our discussions of Jehovah's Witnesses rarely, if ever, touch on the fact that the Nazis murdered many of them. To know these things takes commitment to learn about the world of ideas and assumptions a Bahaist or Jehovah's Witness lives in; easier is the quick-stick label, "cult ."


"Cornerstone has used the label "cult" in the past , though we tried to define it theologically. The COG/Family believed in conversing with the dead and other "spirit guides." We called such things "cultish" in trying to define them as outside Christian parameters. We also used the term to describe Hare Krishnas and other Eastern splinters from Hinduism. Looking back, I'm not sure we always used the term correctly, even by these rather loose parameters. The bottom line was that the term could be defined via theology, the groups critiqued via our own openly held Christian set of parameters."

The article explains that he tables soon turned upon mainstream Evangelicals, such as Calvary Chapel, Jews for Jesus, and Campus Crusade for Christ , with the same venomous energy it had directed at other religious groups, it came back in their faces. The article states: "Additionally, the practice (by Ted Patrick and others) of kidnapping members of such groups and "deprogramming" them from their allegedly brainwashed beliefs was to us (Jesus People USA) an outrage."

"Religious researcher Gordon Melton and others have suggested adopting a missionary approach, or what is called a missiological paradigm, in dealing with NRMs. This puts us on similar footing, one less rooted in power-loaded words and more rooted in mutual respect and a common desire for a transcendent life. Discussions may, and likely will, be arguments at times, yet if the sense of respect is part of our approach, our witness will be one more in keeping with God's approach to us. Love is the key word that is supposed to be the mark of a Christian."

"Evangelical counter-cult researchers have paid little attention to sociologists of religion, anthropologists, or psychologists interested in explaining religious involvement in NRMs. Many counter-cult ministries are informal self-taught operations with limited knowledge regarding scholarly treatments of NRMs by individuals such as Gordon Melton." Indeed. Many times I have caught such ones actually telling lies about Alternative religions. For example, I have read accounts where people claim to have been Jehovah's Witnesses for many years and that the group threatened their families with eternal hellfire if they did not join the group. I know this is a lie because JW's do NOT even believe in hellfire!

Does lieing about a group help ones cause? One CAN voice their disagreements with a group without resorting to lies tagging everyone "cult" just to get even. The article says: "They have of evangelical critiques from persons such as Walter Martin." Yes, Walter Martin tags EVERYONE and I DO mean "EVERYONE" who happens to not be the Evangelical Fundamental branch of Protestantsim "CULT!"...this list of his not only includes the dangerous REAL cults such as Jim Jones but also peaceful groups like Bahia. The article says that people like Walter Martin , "Do not to consider what sociologists and others have found regarding these groups", and that this, "Is a major loss for Evangelicals."

In The 60's And 70's The Jesus People USA Were Also Tagged As A "Cult" By The Majority of Extreamist Branches of Evangelical Fundamental Protestants

"For a number a years now, I have been in dialogue with other missionaries to NRMs regarding a simple idea: Why not stop using the word "cult" altogether when describing NRMs or any religious group? Frankly, that idea hasn't been accepted even by some who are quite in agreement with me that the word has been badly abused. Others, however, see the term "cult" as a conversation stopper, an insult to those within the NRMs, and even dishonest in its attempt to wrest the high moral ground from others simply by calling them names. For myself, and for Cornerstone, I can only say that we're dropping "cult ," as we find it neither useful nor loving. Our theological examination of other religions and religious movements will continue, as will (by God's grace) our commitment to His Word as the lens we use to view both others and ourselves.


"We who carelessly use the term "cult" will almost certainly find it leveled at our own heads one day." "Reconceptualizing the Word 'Cult' was published in Cornerstone Vol. 30 Issue 122; Jesus People USA Covenant Church.

2005 The Earth Eden Project

See CornerStone's Complete Article Here!
See The Christian Rainbow Logos Fellowship's Article On Religious Tolerance
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