Monday, July 19, 2004

Hate cult in America?

About 20 years ago, when I was still trying to get from the individualistic, anchorless existence of my youth to the community where I live now, I experimented with Weirwille's Way.

It was, at that time, an Arian (as in the hieroheretic Arius of Alexandria) sect that denied the divinity of Jesus and the personhood of the Holy Spirit, which emphasized signs and wonders as the proof of faith. Some examples: A guy who used to silently speak in tongues as he drove, running red light after red light in the "faith" that God would protect him. A woman who drove a yellow Audi convertible, but who I later learned didn't bother to pay for it. God gave her what she wanted; it was God's business to take care of the practicalities of it.

I heard them out and moved on, but while I was there I learned something about the mechanics of small, self-contained groups that build community by setting themselves in opposition to the Outside and how they manipulate lonely, hungry people into losing themselves therein. They weren't the Moonies, but the word "cult" helps describe the group dynamics.

As I was leaving, I drew an illustration, which I seem to have lost, titled "Weirwille's Way" (Weirwille being the name of the founder, a Scriptural illiterate who, throwing up his hands in despair at all the different interpretations of the Bible, developed his own, unique interpretation unaided by any Christian tradition). The illustration, a large water drop made up of lots of little water drops identical except for tiny differences in facial expression, summed up my understanding of a slogan of theirs that still appears on the website:
These fellowships in the home include an inspiring and positive teaching from the Bible, words of edification and comfort, prayer, singing, and a joyful sharing of abundance, resulting in Word-centered, like-minded believing in a broad range of activities. (emphasis in original)

That small quote contains five slogans that I remember from back then, but the one that my illustration referred to was the "like-minded believers," which went far beyond doctrinal unity or being one in Christ to an actual like-mindedness, thinking the same thoughts, processing information the same way, finding "peace" by filling one's mind with the same gibberish masquerading as prayer.

So that's my background (though some might call it my baggage) when I read this quote from a column by Thomas Lifson in The American Thinker:
There is a good word to describe groups based on common beliefs at variance with society at large, which tend to flock together socially, and which define themselves as smarter, better-informed, and more correct than everyone else. They are termed "cults."

He's talking about house parties, promoting a new movie Outfoxed. There, like-minded people gather for an inspiring and positive teaching from, words of edification and comfort, [don't know about the prayer, singing or sharing in abundance, though there's probably a collection of some sort], resulting in Left-centered, like-minded believing in a wide range of activities [the Way's website showed people playing basketball;'s wide range of activities are probably political].

Clinical psychologist Margaret Singer lists four characteristics of destructive cults:
  • The group interferes with an individual's ability to think freely.

  • A charismatic figure dominates the group, claiming to have a direct line to God or some secret knowledge that makes the group elite.

  • The cult persuades members that the group goal is more important than individual needs, using guilt and shame to keep followers from questioning doctrine.

  • The leader instills fear that something dreadful will happen to anyone who leaves.

Three of the four have to do with "disciplining" renegades, those who question doctrine or depart from the group. On all three counts the hard Left, the mad Left, comes close to fulfilling the criteria, in the slathering animosity especially reserved for those who were formerly in their ranks.

Consider for one example (which I just happened to have read in the past few days) this e-mail to 9/11 Democrat blogger (and novelist and screenwriter) Roger L. Simon:
Among the lesser evils of the world, if there is any sadder sight than a liberal who "converts" to the radical right, I have yet to see it. Moses Wine would be ashamed of you. So am I.

Jim Turner

Simon is a grownup and quite capable of taking care of himself, but the depth of the animosity is not unique to him, and it serves as a warning to any others who might consider leaving the fold.

I despise conspiracy theories, and I don't think even the hardest Left quite makes it up to the level of destructive cult (for one thing, I can't find evidence of an charismatic, all-consuming leader), but the people who have gone to dwell in the fever swamp would be wise to look around at where their ideology is leading.

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