(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
Important Note: You will need to click this icon to download the free needed to view most of the images on this Web site - just a couple of clicks and you're "good to go." For reasons why - go here.
A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
Their story sounded strikingly familiar. When Richard and Joyce Turner sent their son Michael off to a Christian college he was bright, handsome, and talented. Joyce described him as gifted and zealous. He threw himself into things and became so committed that he often neglected other priorities. Michael loved life, adventure and traveling. He often spent his summers at camps, innovative schools, or traveling abroad. One such college-sponsored summer program took him to Chicago for some music seminars. There he was seduced into a cult the Chicago affiliate of the International Churches of Christ (formerly known as the Boston Church of Christ movement). At the time Michael reasoned, "My spiritual search is over. I found God." (Later his mother reflected, "Obviously the leaders of his college don't know how to identify cults, nor did they know they needed to.")
Shortly after Michael returned home from his Chicago trip, his mother noticed he had changed. Normally a caring, sensitive, and fun-loving young man, Mike was now more serious and judgmental of others. In addition, his relationship with his father dissolved. His life did not seem his own anymore.
For the next year and a half, Joyce and Richard told me, "We had a terrible struggle to put this together." They asked, "Who were these people that had such a grip on Michael? Was it a cult? How could we find out?" Joyce, a librarian at a Christian college, was frustrated at every turn. She found to her horror that only two libraries in the United States had a copy of Steven Hassan's Combatting Cult Mind Control, perhaps the definitive book on the psychological aspects of the cult problem.1 "As a librarian," she told me, "I now know information about cults is terribly lacking."
Christian book stores were of even less help than the libraries. There was not a single book with so much as a chapter about the particular cult that Michael joined.
When she finally found and read Hassan's book, she knew there was a problem. Mike had all the signs of a person under the influence of a destructive cult. He was overly serious too much of the time, his sense of humor was curtailed, he had grown detached from his father, and his career and life plans were drastically altered.
Some colleagues who were prominent Christians at her college rebuked Joyce for trying to interfere in her son's life. After all, they reasoned, "It's his life and we don't see anything particularly wrong with the group." Little did they know.
Even though Mike had transferred to another college so he would be close to his new-found group, Richard and Joyce were not going to be stopped in their search for understanding. At Mike's previous college, they found a professor who knew something about the movement their son had joined. Professor Green proved immediately helpful simply by listening to and validating Richard and Joyce's concerns. No, they were not crazy. They learned that other parents had gone through similar agony. But what were they to do? Where could they get more information?
Encouraged, Joyce again returned to the library and began another round of searches, looking under innumerable categories. Finally, in a reference book she learned of an organization that provided information about cults. She called. Yes, they had heard of the group Mike was in. Yes, they had information they could send her about the group. They gave her some advice on how she and Richard could approach Michael without resorting to the extreme measures of deprogramming the illegal holding of an unwilling person while others present information that is intended to make the person want to leave the cult.
With the assistance of a skilled professional, Richard and Joyce sat down and shared with Mike their fears, concerns, and all the information they had learned about his church.
At first Michael rebelled, "I don't care what they say," he thought. "I'm not going to leave the group. I'm sure the material they are sharing with me is all wrong. My parents are probably agents of Satan."
Only gradually did Mike begin to see the truth in what his parents and the counselor were saying. He began to see that virtually all aspects of his life were controlled by the group. Spare time, types of entertainment, dating, hours devoted to prayer, Bible study, evangelism, church meetings all were directed by the leadership. In addition, he saw that he could no longer justify the ICC's purging of negative information about itself.2 Now he realized that if he remained in the group, he would be supporting something that was wrong. And he thought to himself, "I can't believe how serious this stuff is." He also knew the way the group handled criticism was wrong and unethical. So Mike left the cult. However, there were still many issues left unresolved, and it took weeks of intensive daily counseling to help resolve these issues.
Among the questions that still needed answers were these that Richard and Joyce asked:
1. "Will Michael be okay?"
2. "Will our relationship with Michael ever be what it was?"
3. "Is something wrong with Michael? Or is something wrong with us?"
4. "Why weren't we educated about cults?"
5. "Why wasn't there someone to point us in the right direction?"
6. "Why is there such an appalling lack of information about cults?"
7. "Why don't our Christian friends know? Why did these Christian leaders tell us to 'back off?' "
8. "Didn't Mike's college have any responsibility to protect its students from the influence of cult groups? Why did they just sit there and let it happen?"
Michael had questions also:
1. "What about my friends in the cult? I miss them."
2. "Where will I live now? All my roommates are in the group."
3. "How can I find a good Christian group?"
4. "Should I switch schools to avoid being around the group?"
I have heard many similar stories. This needless distress must stop. I write this book primarily because of all the parents and children who have suffered so much, often expending vast amounts of time, energy, and money before they find help. Yet I also write the book for those parents who have not yet gone through the horrors of losing a son or daughter to a cult. I'll share what I have learned and experienced as well as what others, like Richard and Joyce, have learned.
Many Christians think they know all there is to know about cults. They may reason something along these lines: "Oh, I've heard about cults; you know, Jonestown, Satanism, and that survivalist group in Montana. You can bet my kids would never get involved in anything like that. They're simply too smart anyway, they're very involved in our church."
However, most Christians actually know very little about cults and what makes people join cults. To test your own general knowledge about cults, take a few minutes to answer the following true-or-false quiz.
The Cult Susceptibility Quiz
1. I am lonely a good part of the time.
2. I tend to be a follower more than a leader.
3. I am not very satisfied with my church.
4. Somehow, I feel my idealism and purpose in life hasn't been properly tapped or challenged.
5. I've been having some personal problems I can't seem to solve.
6. The cult issue is not much of a problem in society.
7. There are about 10-20 cults in the U.S.
8. I could spot a cult with little effort.
9. Most cultists wear unusual clothing or uniforms.
10. Most cults recruit on the street by selling flowers, books, or requesting a donation.
11. There are very few cultic problems within evangelical Christianity.
12. All cults teach non-Christian or heretical doctrine.
13. I'm not the type of person who joins a cult.
14. Most people who join cults are weird. They have "problems."
15. Truly dedicated, Spirit-led Christians would never join a cult.
16. People are in cults because of spiritual problems.
17. People in cults are not "saved."
18. Cultism has little to do with totalitarianism, or the addiction problems.
19. People who join cults know what they are doing.
20. Groups that preach the gospel and are winning many to Christ cannot be cultic.
If you answered true to any of these questions, you may be susceptible to cults. Most people are susceptible to cults either because of unmet needs or ignorance of cult issues. The first five questions on the above quiz indicate that personal unmet needs make a person vulnerable to the right pitch. The remaining fifteen questions reveal typical "myths" and misinformation about the cult problem.
Perhaps you would never fall for someone trying to recruit you on the street-corner chanting in a long robe, but what if someone came to your church to talk about his or her ministry in India and how they are reaching so many for Christ? Would you ever suspect a cult problem? What if you were dissatisfied with your church and had an interest in missions work and perhaps a desire to see a foreign land? Would the mere fact that your pastor had this person speak suggest it was an okay group?
What if you were experiencing a transition in your life following the death of a spouse, for example, or the breakup of a relationship? If someone came to your door, or you met someone at work, who offered emotional support, would you suspect the possibility of being recruited to a cult?
Chances are your defenses would be down and few, if any, would ask questions.
Tragically, the defenses are down among prominent church leaders as well. A well-known nationally televised Christian talk show in Canada, 100 Huntley Street, frequently recommended the Toronto Church of Christ (part of the International Churches of Christ) to inquirers as a good, growing, vibrant church. Why? The group had all the earmarks of legitimacy growth, high morals, commitment to discipleship, tremendous youth programs, belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, desire to reach the world, etc. A secular cult watch organization had to "educate" this national ministry about the dangers of this group. What is it about some of our leaders that makes them naive to the cult problem within the ranks of Christendom? This book would be useful to them as well.
Everyone is susceptible
Parents may not fully realize the subtlety and deceptiveness of the lure of the cults. But the truth of the matter is, virtually anyone can get involved in a cult under the right circumstances. Richard and Joyce Turner never anticipated a problem with cults. Neither did a missionary family who lost their daughter to an Eastern-oriented cult. In fact, she married one of their leaders! How could this have occurred? This family seemed invulnerable. They had no apparent problems. Their daughter was intelligent and beautiful. She was the "apple of their eye" and the joy of their lives. Yet the impossible happened. The president of the student body at Wheaton College later became one of Jim Jones' right-hand men. David Berg, a preacher's son who was briefly a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, later became one of the most notorious cult leaders in this century. The truth is that smart, well-adjusted kids from good Christian homes can and do join cults.
One reason few recognize their vulnerability to cults is that we fail to understand that our society is faced with a growing and pervasive cult problem. The danger from cults is more insidious than ever as cultic groups become more subtle and skilled in recruiting and retaining members. Many older cults adapt to the times with cosmetic changes designed to make themselves look more acceptable.
The Definition of a Cult
Traditionally, cults have been defined as groups that deviate from the orthodox tenets of the Christian faith. For example, Harold BussÚll, author of Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians, states that among other things a cult is "any religious body that holds beliefs and practices clearly in opposition to historic Christianity as expressed in the Apostles' Creed" (3). In his book The New Cults, Walter Martin defines a cult as "a group religious in nature which surrounds a leader, or a group which either denies or misinterprets essential biblical doctrines." And Ronald Enroth has aptly commented that "for the Christian, the most significant component of a definition of cult is theological in nature" (4).
While heresy can and often does cause psychological damage, orthodoxy, in and of itself, is absolutely no guarantee that psychological and moral injury will not occur (5). Therefore, a strictly theological definition of the word cult is not enough. There also needs to be a psychological definition. Ronald Enroth points out that Christians have neglected the psychological aberrations of cults, and he quotes a concerned Christian layman, who said, "I think there is merit for placing more stress on the other danger zones created by cults, such as psychological and moral injury, disruption of family ties, impairment of scholastic and professional careers" (6).
Therefore, many definitions of cults include not only theological, but also psychological elements. Here are a few examples:
A group that uses methods that deprive individuals of their ability to make a free choice. They usedeceitful recruitment techniques, they deceptively and destructively use the devotees' energies, and they capture the devotees' minds (7).
Destructive cults are those which tend to use extreme and unethical techniques of manipulation to recruit and assimilate members and to control members' thoughts, feelings, and behavior as a means of furthering the leader's goals. Although most cults that have aroused concern are religious, they can also be political, commercial, or pseudo-therapeutic (8).
A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends, family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community (9).
With these three definitions in mind, another aspect of the cult problem becomes apparent cults can include groups and organizations that typically are not viewed as cults. These could be fringe churches, psychotherapy groups, New Age organizations, and various extremist political movements.
In his book The Lure of the Cults, Ronald Enroth categorizes a broad variety of cultlike groups in the following way (10). (Note: Although the groups catalogued below may exhibit some characteristics of cults, they are not all cultic in the psychological sense, nor are they all necessarily abusive to their adherents.)
These groups consider truth to be far more a matter of personal experience or feeling than of absolute unchanging reality. Most groups in this category can trace their origins to Hinduism, Buddhism, or other Oriental religions that view God, man, and the universe to be a single reality in other words, they ultimately subscribe to the religiousphilosophy of pantheism in one form or another. Included in this category are Hare Krishnas, Zen Buddhists, the Divine Light Mission [now Elan Vital], the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO [also Sikh Dharma Yoga]), Soka Gakkai (or Nichiren Shoshu of America once the largest and fastest growing cultic group in the U.S.), Ananda Marga, Meher Baba Movement, and the Self-Realization Fellowship.
Aberrant Christian Groups
These groups claim to be Christian and Bible-based. Some would argue that they are fundamental and evangelical, but these groups deviate by way of practice and belief from the standards of evangelical Protestant Christianity. Some deviate from historical Christian doctrines that evangelicals and other Christians would consider founda tional, but most of their deviations would not be considered actual heresy. This category includes the Family (formerly the Children of God), the Holy Alamo Christian Church, the Church of Bible Understanding, the Love Family (or Church of Armageddon), Faith Assembly, the Church of the Living Word ("The Walk"), The Way International, the Christ Family, University Bible Fellowship, the Fundamentalist Army, the International Churches of Christ, Maranatha Christian Ministries [now disbanded except for a campus ministry called Campus Ministries International], and Great Commission International [now Great Commission Association of Churches; the group has made significant reforms in recent years and is not as abusive as formerly]. Even the excesses of the Shepherding Movement, founded by Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, Ern Baxter, and Charles Simpson may be classed here as an aberrant Christian group.
Although dozens of additional fellowships could be cited, I have included a broad range of groups so that one may get a fuller sense of the nature of aberrational Christianity. Other aberrational Christian groups or movements especially some televangelists, some faith healing ministries, and the Word-Faith movement have been dealt with in recent literature. However, doctrinal deviations evidenced by some televangelists do not necessarily imply they are cultic in the psychological sense.
Psycho-spiritual or Self-improvement Groups
These groups do not normally function as churches or even as religions i.e., they do not typically have a "house of worship" in anything approaching the traditional sense, nor do they have regularly scheduled meetings for the performance of religious rituals. Rather, they more typically offer workshops, seminars, or personal sessions to teach techniques or provide therapy purportedly to aid in self-improvement, self-discovery, self-actualization, and personal transformation. Services are provided for a price (usually steep) and are based on Eastern-mystical philosophy. Some of these types of groups would include Synanon, the Forum (formerly est), Transcendental Meditation (TM), Lifespring, and Scientology.
These groups usually combine strands from several religious traditions into a new "hybrid" religion. This is "smorgasbord religion." The Unification Church, for example, is a combination of Eastern philosophy, spiritism, and Christianity. Other groups in this category also usually combine a mix of Oriental religion and traditional Christianity. This category includes, besides the Unification Church (also known as Moonies), the Church Universal and Triumphant (headed until recently by Elizabeth Clare Prophet), Eckankar, Bahß'Ý, and Sufism.
These groups feast on "secret" wisdom and knowledge supposedly once held by a few ancient seers. It is usually claimed that this secret wisdom was lost with the rise of science and technology. The resulting void has caused some to search for these "lost truths." Although most of these "lost truths" originate from Eastern religions, a fair share of them come from spiritism, paganism and witchcraft. The Aetherius Society, various UFO cults, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (founded by Edgar Cayce), and astrology are included here.
The Established Cults
These are large religious movements that in most cases arose in the nineteenth century as religions that deviated in some significant way from the teachings and practices of traditional orthodox Christianity. These are groups or churches which claim to be based on the Bible in whole or in part, and yet deny or distort core doctrines of the Bible, such as salvation by faith in Christ alone apart from legalistic works, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the person and deity of the Holy Spirit, etc. doctrines which the Christian church throughout its history has consistently affirmed. This heading would include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unity School of Christianity, and others.
Extremist Political/Social Movement
These are movements that can be cultic in the psychological or social sense but are not necessarily religious in nature. They can resort to violence, intrigue, deceit, and terror to achieve their ends. As a rule these movements feel that the existing authorities must be dealt with by any means necessary to remove them from power. In addition, their goals are primarily political as opposed to religious, though they often espouse a twisted version of Christianity. Groups such as the Aryan Nations, Posse Comitatus, the Ku Klux Klan, the White Aryan Resistance, Lyndon LaRouche's political movement, and certain extremist terrorist movements represent this kind of cult.
The Proliferation of Cults
Current estimates of cult membership in America range anywhere from around two million to over twenty million. In addition, there are probably at least two million former members of cultic groups (according the late cult expert Louis J. West of UCLA). Further, the late Walter Martin, a premier resource on cults, noted that eighty percent were once nominally members of Christian churches! The typical estimate for the number of different cults in America ranges from two to five thousand.
Twenty years ago, few had heard of groups like the People's Temple, the Family, the Hare Krishnas, Silva Mind Control, est, Nichiren Shoshu of America (Soka Gakkai), Self-Realization Fellowship, or a plethora of other cults and new religious movements. Many of those groups were so small at that time that few who knew of them even sensed their dangers. Most of the new religions have sprung up in the last thirty to fifty years.
The above estimates of the number of cults and cultists are undoubtedly conservative. Many groups are quite small anywhere from just a handful to several hundred members and usually they do not attract extensive research, study, or publication. For example, the "no-name cult" led by Jeffrey Lundgren in Kirtland, Ohio, would never have attracted national attention were it not for the 1989 murder of a family of five who belonged to this small sect, a split-off of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It would have remained, like somany others, virtually unknown, uncharted, and ignored.
These unidentified fringe and other cultic groups pose three serious problems. First, they help cloud the issue about what is and what is not a cult. Usually only the larger or more established groups, like the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Unification Church, to name a few, are included in books dealing with cults. Readers often get the erroneous impression that if a group in question is not discussed in a book, then it must not be cultic.
Second, the size of many of these smaller groups means they are relatively obscure, making it very difficult to estimate accurately the true number of cults or their members. There simply are too few researchers to identify and study all of these small and sometimes obscure groups. However, a number of nationally known cult-watch groups do analyze and record groups that come to their attention. But even these professionally-staffed organizations cannot keep up with all the new groups, nor, because of limited resources, have they published information on all the ones they do know of.
Third, lack of information on these small groups places a greater burden on parents, educators, pastors, and counselors to determine whether the groups are simply "different" or in fact destructive. Consequently, some self-education and research are a must.
Evaluating a Group
If you want to find out whether a certain group is a cult, ask yourself three questions: First, does this group deviate from orthodox Christianity; that is, are they cultic in the doctrinal sense? Second, does this group practice such things as coercion; that is, are they cultic in the psychological sense? Third, do they believe strange or esoteric things or engage in unusual or bizarre practices; that is, are they cultic in that they deviate from socially accepted norms? If the answer to any of the three questions is yes, the chances are you are dealing with a cult.
To help you clarify your thinking, I have provided the following chart. Take a moment to identify what category your particular group falls into (established cult, aberrant Christian, etc.). Then try to answer the three questions. If you find that you do not know enough about the group to complete the checklist, chapter 13 will give you some specific guidelines on how you can find out more information about a group.
Type of Group
Eastern mystical groups
Aberrant Christian groups
Psycho-spiritual or self-improvement groups
The established cults
Heretical? [yes, no, not sure, not applicable]
Coercive? [yes, no, not sure, not applicable]
Bizarre or Non-conventional? [yes, no, not sure, not applicable]
From what we have covered in this chapter, it is apparent that the cult problem is troublesome for a number of reasons. We have seen that children from good homes, including Christian ones, are not immune to cult recruiters. Estimates of current cult members range from two to 20 million and there are probably as many as 10 million former members. The number of cultic groups ranges from 2,000 to 5,000, yet untold numbers of these groups are never catalogued. This lack of available references to the lesser-known cults poses a number of problems, such as the underestimation of the immensity of the cult problem, and the erroneous conclusion that if nothing is written about a particular group then it must not be cultic.
This chapter also pointed out the problems of definition. Is "cult" an exclusively theological term? The thesis of this book is that crucial psychological and social dimensions of the word "cult" are consistently ignored in most Christian publications.
Because the psychological elements of cultic involvement are usually ignored, the stunning parallels between the damage that can be produced by some of the well-known cults and that caused by aberrant Christian groups are also commonly ignored. If the definition of "cult" is broadened to include the psychological element, then other groups could be classified as cults or cultic. Enroth's six classifications of new religious movements can include cults in the psychological or religious sense. A seventh class of possible cult organizations includes the extremist political/social movements.
It was recommended that all groups in question should be evaluated by each definition of a cult. The Cult Type Checklist was proposed as an initial, simple way to begin to evaluate a group.
- "What is a Cult?," Revised and expanded version of chapter one from Dr. Martin's book, "Cult-Proofing Your Kids," Paul R. Martin Ph.D. http://www.wellspringretreat.org/journal/v9n2/cpyk.html, Wellspring Retreat, http://www.wellspringtreat.org
Dr. Martin's book was published by Zondervan Publishing House in 1993. It is currently out of print.
1 Joan Ross and Michael Langone, Cults: What Parents Should Know (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1989), p. 20.
2. For example, Jerry Jones, a prominent theologian in the Churches of Christ, had been a leader in the Boston Movement (ICC) for a short period. Seeing some of the errors, he left and then sent a letter to some of the members of the Boston Church of Christ outlining his concerns. The leadership of the church told all the members to turn in Jerry's letter unopened to the leadership.
3. Harold BussÚll, Unholy Devotion (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), p. 12.
4. Walter Martin, The New Cults (Ventura, Calif.: Vision House, rev. 1980), p. 16.
5. Ronald Enroth, What is a Cult? (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1982), p. 12.
6. Paul R. Martin, "Dispelling the Myths." Christian Research Journal (Winter/Spring, 1989), pp. 9-14.
7. Personal telephone conversation with Rev. William Kent Burtner, consultant on cults and thought reform programs.
8. Ross and Langone, ibid.
9. From Cults: A Conference for Scholars and Policy Makers, sponsored by the American Family Foundation, the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and the Johnson Foundation, September 1985.
10. Enroth, The Lure of the Cults (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1987), pp. 22-25.
11. See Jamie Buckingham, "The End of the Discipleship Era," Ministry Today (January/February 1990); and the Assemblies of God.
General Presbytery, The Discipling and Submission Movement (Springfield, MO: Assemblies of God Publishing House, 1976).