Category: Religion

How to Know You’re in a Cult

There are many helpful red flags to let you know that you’ve inadvertently stumbled into being a cult member. Keep in mind the simple definition of “cult” is a system of religious veneration of a particular figure. A cult doesn’t have to be sacrificing virgins and worshiping Satan to be a cult.

None of the things I list below necessarily mean you’re in a cult, but it sure might. So tread very lightly if you see these warning signs:

  1. The “leader” is revered as the one person with all the answers. This is especially true if he will argue with anyone who challenges his assertions. You can’t be a cult leader without first being a narcissist.
  2. The leader has no actual seminary training or ordination. Folks, there is a reason that the vast majority of preachers go through seminary, or at least through an intensive ordination process. It’s because it weeds out a lot of the potential cult leaders – people in it for personal accolades. It also provides real accountability, as a person who is ordained through a larger organization can be fired and replaced if they go off the path.
  3. The “church” is several years old and still meets in someone’s home. Again, this is from my own experience, and your results may vary. Many churches start in homes, but churches that are planted in this way typically outgrow the home quickly.
  4. People who leave are badmouthed by the leader. In a real church, people come and go all the time. This happens for myriad reasons. Sometimes it’s doctrinal differences. Many times it’s simply logistics. And other times, it’s interpersonal reasons. However, if each time a family leaves, the leader of the “church” talks about “always knowing they were bad people….” you can be sure of one thing – you’re in a cult.
  5. The leader has requirements of members that make most reasonable people uncomfortable. For example, if the leader of your “church” insists on kissing all of the women on the lips, you can be sure you are in a cult. The Bible does say to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” However, I don’t recall the Bible saying to kiss the women on the lips and no one else. Creepy As F. Also, a 100% sign you’re in a cult.
  6. Your “church” only attracts weirdos. Sure, we’re all a little weird, and into every church a weirdo or two will appear. But if your entire “church” is made up of weirdos, misfits, and the fringe of society – there’s a good chance you’re in a cult. Cult leaders prey on the weirdos and misfits. They tell them that if they just follow this set of rules, that they will be an accepted part of the group. That’s what weirdos and misfits want – acceptance.
  7. Incidentally, if everyone “out there” is considered lesser because they don’t believe exactly what the “leader” believes, chances are, you’re in a cult. There are about eleventy-million denominations within the Christian faith. All of them share a reasonably short set of things in common and have many small differences. I would never say a Lutheran is less of a Christian or less of a true believer than a Baptist. However, these little one-off cults are happy to paint with a broad brush.
  8.  The leader makes all the decisions. I’ve been in a lot of churches where they pay lip service to inclusion and accountability. But I’ve also seen people who just “pitch” their ideas to their “elders” and it’s just expected they will rubber stamp it.
  9. The leader meets with and “counsels” people of the opposite sex one-on-one in closed door sessions. No professional, accountable person would ever do this. Pastor’s office doors have windows in them. Pastors don’t meet with women one-on-one without anyone else around. Even if the pastor has no bad intentions, it’s completely unprofessional and is asking for trouble. If your “leader” doesn’t worry about things like this, you may just be in a cult.
  10. The leader tries to act like an altruistic hero. “You don’t even have to pay me, I’ll just do this cuz I’m a good guy.” Mmmhmmm. A wise person once told me… “Pete, everyone gets something out of it.” I’ve never met a real pastor that wasn’t a humble, genuine guy. You can smell narcissism from a mile away, and if you smell it, run away – you’re in a cult.
  11. The “leader” interferes with other people’s relationships. No real pastor or counselor takes a side when doing relationship counseling. To pick a side is to interfere in someone else’s relationship – something only a cult leader wants to do. If a pastor is telling you “he’s no good, you should dump the bum….” he’s WAY overstepping his bounds – a sure sign you’re in a cult. Some exceptions apply, but they are extreme – physical or sexual abuse. “He’s mean” is not a valid reason for a pastor to try and break a married couple up. A real pastor is always working towards helping both parties get better and create an environment for reconciliation. If he is not up to the task, perhaps he should be in a different line of work.
  12. The church ceases to exist when the “leader” moves on. Churches go thru tough times, but no church should be built on one single person. If it is, there’s a good chance it’s a cult.

Bad Things – Good People

All my life, I’ve heard this question. It’s used by those that don’t believe in God to justify their disbelief in a good God. Surely if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then He wouldn’t just wipe out good people with a tornado, right? This is a natural human reaction to suffering, but it’s bastardization of who God really is. God created us in His image, and wants all of us to love Him.

He did not make us robots, because by definition, love can’t be programmed or coerced. What makes it confusing is that He knows everything that will ever happen. So why even bother making Ted Bundy? Christians frequently throw out the “everything happens for a reason” platitude, which isn’t even Biblical, to explain it. Sometimes the reason something happens is that a human being has decided to be an asshole. That’s not a very comforting reason, but it is THE reason. God sent Jesus to die for all of our sins. That includes Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy had free will to choose to follow God or not follow God. The fact that God knew what his choice would be does not mean that Ted didn’t have the choice.

That’s a difficult paradox for us to understand, because in our minds, if God knows in advance, he should just only create people he knows will choose Him. But that’s not love. You’ve gone right back to a scenario where God has simply constructed paradise on Earth. There’s a second aspect to the bad things happening to good people argument. What is a good person? Am I a good person if I follow the 10 commandments, go to church, and pay my taxes? Or am I a sinner just like everyone else on Earth? God doesn’t assign degrees to sin, and when we do, it leads to silly arguments like wondering why bad things happen to good people. A) there are no good people, and B) god doesn’t MAKE bad things happen regardless. Bad things happen for a bunch of reasons.

People are killed by weather because they live where deadly climatic events happen. Nobody’s ever died from a tornado or a hurricane in Arizona. Most bad things that happen in the world are at the hands of other people. Some of those are purposeful, some are accidental. But none are at the hand of God. People die from sickness. Did God make them sick? Does God use sickness as an instructional or disciplinary tool? Or is sickness A) a normal part of life with an imperfect body, or B) a result of crappy decisions like what to eat and what activities to engage in, or C) a 1:1 result of doing something you shouldn’t be doing? People make choices.

For example, we eat garbage and way too much of it. If all you eat is grease, salt, and sugar, you cannot blame God when you have a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. If you shoot drugs or engage in promiscuous sex, you cannot blame God when you get Hep C or HIV. If you do skateboard or BMX tricks, you cannot blame God when you break your neck. People are hurt or killed by other people’s choices.

My unborn but full-term baby was killed in 1998 by a drunk driver. The person driving drunk chose to drive drunk. God didn’t make him drink or drive. He did that himself. Sadly his choice affected others. That’s what happens when there are 6 billion people all making bad choices on a daily basis.

Bad things don’t happen to good people. Bad things happen and there are no good people.

Adultery Part III

In every relationship, rain will fall. You can’t have two human beings in close proximity for a lifetime without some strife, hurt feelings, annoyances, etc. You just can’t. It’s part of the human condition. A result of our sin nature.

When the rain comes, it’s hard to feel connected to your partner, and when there’s a break in connection, one of two things happens. Either you work together to reconnect, or one party says “hey, I tried, and I deserve to be freaking adored, so I’m going to get that somewhere else.”

It’s a selfish act.

Look. I can tell you firsthand what it’s like to be in a miserable, one-sided marriage. Been there, bought the t-shirt. (Still paying for it, in fact.) I felt completely powerless to improve the relationship (and was) because I was the only party putting in any effort. But I made a vow, and without integrity, a man has nothing. I stuck it out until things came to light that both pragmatically and Biblically ended the marriage. Had those things not transpired, I’d still be in a loveless, one-sided marriage.

When you are cheated on, even by someone you no longer have connection with, it sucks. You wonder why you weren’t good enough. You wonder why they were so selfish and couldn’t put some effort into their existing relationship. You feel worthless, undesirable, and pathetic. I know this firsthand.

Every person that cheats (for the most part) feels justified. They weren’t getting what they needed. The person they met is their “soulmate.” They deserve to be happy. They never give a thought to the partner they are betraying, let alone to God or their integrity. They justify their actions in their own heads. They blame the person they are cheating on. They tell themselves they tried everything they could and it just didn’t work.

To that, I say bs.

If you have literally tried everything and it didn’t work, MAN UP and get a divorce. I’m not a fan of divorce, but I’m even less of a fan of cheating. Let them go so they can have a life and move on.

I was recently informed that it’s not an affair if it starts out non-sexual. That’s a laughable comment, because I’d venture to say the vast majority of affairs start out non-sexual. That doesn’t make them NOT affairs. The same person told me I wasn’t mature enough to understand that their affair was God-centered.

God literally spewed out his coffee all over his computer screen when she said that. How deluded, pathetic, and self-absorbed does one have to be to make such a ludicrous conclusion?

God has nothing to do with it. Own what you say. Own what you do. If you’re having an affair and you feel justified, then man the hell up and just say “neener neener, I’m the exception to the universal, Biblical truth that cheating is bad.” Everyone in the universe will label you (correctly) as a narcissistic a-hole, but at least you’re being honest.

I’d venture to say that 99.99% of human beings believe that cheating is bad. And I’m including those that are actually cheating on their partner. The Bible is quite clear. It says to rejoice in the wife of your youth and to run away from anyone that tries to tempt you. It says cheating is like scooping fire into your lap. It says that marriage should be honored by all, and to keep the marriage bed pure.

But seriously. If you need Bible verses to know that cheating is bad, you simply can’t be helped.

Adultery Part II

I opened my Bible to Proverbs (my favorite book) a couple of nights ago, and I started reading at the beginning. I read the first seven chapters. A pattern emerged. I’ve probably read Proverbs 100 times in my life, and it never really jumped out at me before like it did this time. I got a little obsessed with it, and I kept reading to see how many references there were.

Apparently adultery is a really, really, really bad idea. Allow me to give you a sampling:

Proverbs 1:
16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
17 who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18 Surely her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
19 None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.

Proverbs 5:
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
6 She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.
8 Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you lose your honor to others
and your dignity to one who is cruel,
10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich the house of another.
11 At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.

Proverbs 6:
26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread,
but another man’s wife preys on your very life.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
28 Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.
32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself.
33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away.

Proverbs 7:
25 Do not let your heart turn to [the adulterous woman’s] ways
or stray into her paths.
26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.

It appears to say, if I can boil it down, is that if you do this, you’re screwed. And this was written by King David, a guy who had a dude killed so he could sleep with said dude’s wife. So I’m thinking he would know…

Adultery

As most of you know, I was raised in a Christian home. I was taught a lot of things from a young age that I still believe today. It seems like everywhere you turn, spouses are cheating, even people who are “pillars” in the Christian community. Jimmy Swaggart famously cheated on his wife while running his gigantic TV ministry. Countless others did as well. It raises the question as to why this has become so common particularly when people in positions of power are involved.

US News ran a survey that estimates approximately 3-4% of men will cheat on their wife. Other surveys put the number at closer to 15%. According to one survey, 90% of Americans believe that cheating is morally wrong (which makes you wonder what’s wrong with the other 10%).

I believe that some people stray because they are unhappy and they “fall” into it. In other words, they weren’t sitting around thinking about cheating, but they were unhappy and when someone came along and offered them what they felt they were missing, they went for it. Some people stray because they simply don’t respect their spouse and feel they are entitled to do what they want.

People in positions of power or notability find it much easier to cheat. Not because they necessarily look to cheat, but because they attract people to them with their power and fame, whether they like it or not. I would imagine that being a famous professional athlete, for example, would make faithfulness difficult. Women throw themselves at these guys regularly. You’d need to have strong fences and boundaries built up around you to insure that you stayed on track. Most of these athletes that cheat probably actually love their wives. But easy opportunities and loneliness on the road make it too easy. Bill Clinton had things offered to him (icky things, but things nonetheless) and he must have felt that he’d never get caught or that he had enough power to keep people quiet.

I personally have a hard time understanding how you can rationalize cheating. If you really are unhappy, get a divorce. At least then the other person has a chance at finding someone else. It’s completely selfish and wrong to “have your cake and eat it too.”

The Bible is completely clear on adultery. Thou shalt not. It’s one of the stinking 10 commandments. It doesn’t get much more clear than that. It’s on the same list with “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal.” In some states there are still laws making adultery a felony.

I’m not saying people should go to jail for it, just that it’s pretty obvious you shouldn’t do it.

The best way to prevent adultery is to love your spouse. Respect her. Care for her. See the beauty in her. Understand that her love and trust are irreplaceable.

When the opportunity to cheat knocks on your door, the Bible says to “FLEE”. Run away. In Proverbs it compares it to scooping hot coals into your lap. “No one who touches her will go unpunished.” That’s from Proverbs. The Bible also says to “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Yikes.