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The Top Ten Cults in America Today
by Robert T. Pardon
Bob Pardon is director of the New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR) in Lakeville MA. NEIRR was founded in 1991. Rev. Pardon has been an AIIA Resource Associate since 1995. He recently appeared as a consultant on NBC’s national news documentary, Dateline. NEIRR may be contacted directly at 508-947-9571, or visit them at: www.neirr.org
If you truly want to make someone look bad these days, call the group or church to which they belong a cult! Instantly, that person or group is identified with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, or Marshall Applewhite and Heaven’s Gate – a few of the most notorious and contemporary examples of destructive “cults” in America.
The word cult creates a great amount of confusion for many religious and non-religious people. Some would define a cult as “any group of wackos who take religion more seriously than I do.”
But what is a “cult” really?
I would contend that the term cult should be reserved for only the most recognizably destructive groups – from both a Christian and non-Christian perspective.
From the Christian point of view, there are two very important considerations in identifying a destructive or unhealthy group. First, there is the theological consideration. How consistent are the group’s beliefs with the basic tenets of the historic Christian faith? This evaluates the eternal significance of such beliefs. Second, there is the social-psychological consideration. How are power, authority, and control exercised in the group? This evaluates techniques of manipulation and mind control. A group may be deficient in one or both areas and thereby be considered an unhealthy and/or destructive group from a Christian perspective.
The following are the ten most dangerous groups in America today, based on one or both of the above stated concerns:
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism).
2. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses).
3. The Church of Scientology.
4. The Twelve Tribes.
5. The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Unification Church).
6. The International Churches of Christ (Boston Movement).
7. The Family (Children of God).
8. Christian Identity Movement (Aryan Nations, Christian Identity Church, Klu Klux Klan, etc.).
9. The Nation of Islam (Black Muslims).
10. United Pentecostal Church (UPC).