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Why Do “Christian Cults” Masquerading as Christianity Fly Under … – Crosswalk.com

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When I hear the word cult, the first word that often comes to my mind is brainwashing. The idea of a cult evokes vivid images of individuals faithfully and obediently following a leader. They adhere to teachings that may appear perplexing or irrational to those on the outside. Alongside brainwashing, the concept of mind control and surrendering your ability to think critically also seem prevalent. This can create a chilling portrayal of what a cult is really like. Sadly, there are infamous cases we have witnessed throughout history. People have fallen under the influence of charismatic figures and engaged in harmful or extreme behaviors. Many times, these end in tragedy for the leader and their followers. 
In the world of cults, there are some which are referred to as Christian cults. I want to explore what this means. I also want to help you understand why these Christian cults, which masquerade as authentic Christianity, fly under the radar so often.
A Christian cult is a religious group or organization that claims to adhere to Christian beliefs and practices. However, they often deviate significantly from mainstream Christian teachings. Unlike standard Christian denominations, Christian cults often introduce unorthodox doctrines or teachings. These teachings are usually in opposition to or contradict established theological principles. 
Christian cults often employ methods of control, such as psychological manipulation. They tend to create a culture of fear or dependency. Yet for many in the cult, this happens so subtly they may not even realize it is happening. It is important to note that not all religious groups labeled as Christian cults will subject their members to physical harm. However, because of their divergent beliefs and practices and the errors often found in their doctrine, they may inflict emotional and spiritual harm. This should be cause for concern for every true believer in Jesus.
The distinction between a Christian cult and a non-Christian cult lies primarily in their theological beliefs, practices, and the way they relate to mainstream Christianity. Christian cults claim to be Christian or follow elements of Christian doctrine but often deviate from mainstream Christian teachings. They may reinterpret Scripture or add new doctrines which do not align with orthodox Christianity. Non-Christian cults do not identify themselves as Christian and typically have their own distinct belief systems. They are not trying to present themselves as Christian, and their beliefs have little or no connection to Christian doctrine at all.
There are certain reasons why some groups or organizations that are labeled as Christian cults fly under the radar. Because of this, these groups may not receive as much attention as they should. Here are a few factors.
1. From the outside, it might look and seem similar.
It is not unusual for Christian cults to adopt outward forms of traditional Christianity. They may even use familiar Christian language, talk about Jesus, and engage in some of the same practices. For example, one well-known Christian cult is the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s). They talk about Jesus. They even use a translation of scripture that would look like it is an authentic translation. However, it is not enough to talk about Jesus, the question is what are you saying about Jesus? The JW understanding of who Jesus is, coupled with their error-filled translation of scripture, makes their doctrine untrue. Yet, if you don’t know these things, you might get swept in because much of the language may sound similar. 
2. They use manipulation, fear, and control.
One way for a Christian cult to fly under the radar is to limit the amount of exposure they allow their members. Christian cults are usually tight-knit and tight-lipped groups. They are usually welcoming when people come in but not so enthusiastic when people want to leave. They create an environment of manipulation and control where people become dependent on the group and actually fear leaving the group. This fear keeps them silent because if they speak out, they risk losing their position in the group. Since they tie the group to their salvation, leaving means they are risking their eternal salvation. For those who remain in the cult, very few will ever say anything bad about the group, even when they know it exists. This type of control makes it difficult for people to leave. It makes it even more challenging for people to share what is happening in the cult. 
3. There is rarely any fellowship with mainstream Christians.
The culture of isolation is rich within Christian cults and is common to Christian cults. Even though they call themselves Christian, rarely do they ever fellowship with other mainstream Christians. This internal focus keeps everyone in-house. The fear passed down from the leadership is if they intermingle with other Christian groups, they may try to lead you astray. This is really another manipulation tactic because the leaders are afraid you might discover the truth, rather than risk that they keep everyone close together with no allowance for fellowship with Christians outside the group.
4. They train people to think the same way.
For most Christian cults, there is some sort of educational structure. Some will even publish their own material, and these are the only things people in the group can study exclusively. When I lived in NYC, I would have frequent encounters with JW’s. They would come to my door, and I would invite them in and have conversations with them. One thing I noticed is their answers to any question I had always came from their own internal materials. They were not allowed to find independent answers. This type of situation allows the leaders of the group to remain in control and forces people to think the same way. Usually, in these cults, there is a Vegas-like policy. What happens there stays there, which is why these Christian cults can fly under the radar. People will see something but will find a reason to justify it because that is the way they were taught to think.
5. Respect for religious freedom.
Speaking for America here, our country still allows the free practice of religion as long as your practice is not breaking the law or causing harm to others. Most of these groups are not breaking the law, even if their doctrines are unorthodox. If they are breaking the law, we don’t usually find out until someone who has left the group is willing to speak out against them. Because we still respect religious freedom, Christian cults will continue to operate in our land.
If you engage someone in a cult, whether it is a Christian cult or not, be prepared to walk with them over the long haul. Your goal in dealing with these people is not to destroy their faith but to transfer it from the falsehoods they have been taught to the truth about who Jesus is. This is not a simple journey but one that can be made, as many have left Christian cults to find the real Jesus. The care, love, and grace you show them can go a long way in helping them come to faith in Christ.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/rodkosmos
Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com

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Written by: Christianity Today

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