Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Name That Cult

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Well. Nice lady working near me, has overheard enough to guess that I’m a Christian – Starts in by asking me if I’ve read the whole Bible. 

Odd question.  So my ears are immediately up for “What idiosyncratic interpretations of single verses are driving her people? Is this a cult, or just some heterodox spinoff?” First off she asks me if I know about the Female Image Of God.  So, cult.  Lots of people in mainstream Christianity put energy into correcting what they believe are culture-bound descriptions of masculine and feminine in the Bible, that are not fully accurate pictures of God.  But they use completely different language in describing that. Not bumper-sticker style.  There have been lots of groups through history which have made this duality one of their main doctrines.  The Shakers were big around here, and the teachings of Mother Ann Lee highlighted that idea.  So when my friend follows up by announcing that her church is the only one that teaches the Female Image of God, then I’m concluding “Oh, a new cult, that doesn't actually know much church history.”
She next switches to the day of the Sabbath. She’s quizzing me here (she thinks), asking "if you know the Bible, do you know this fact?" I’m pretty familiar with Seventh-Day Adventists, less so with Seventh Day Baptists, but I know there’s not Female Image of God teaching coming out of those groups.  So that’s confirming my previous impression: new cult. She looks surprised when I tell her that there are other groups that believe in Saturday Sabbath as still in force, unchanged. I’m prepared to pick that up with reference to Waldenses and some 17th C Transylvanian churches, plus the SDA’s in the 1840’s but think better of it.  I’m dealing with an unarmed opponent here.  That she is indeed unarmed is confirmed by a declaration that “Constantine changed it.” Ah yes.

There’s more. “What about Passover?” as if she is checking off some list of unrelated surprises. So whoever this is also celebrates the Jewish festivals, and considers it an important point. The Armstrongites keep some distinctives, but have come over to generally orthodox Christianity at this point. And I like keeping Jewish festivals myself, though we haven’t done much of that since the boys were small. 
So I say “Your church seems to be very concerned about what everyone else gets wrong. That doesn’t seem healthy.  Different groups sometimes have good reasons for their beliefs.”  She nicely agrees but points out that it’s the Bible, not man, that contains the truth. I agree, but note that people disagree more about the Bible.  She repeats that it’s not man’s opinions, but what God says.  I have heard this from many mouths in my time.  What it means is “Everything that disagrees with my prophet is a teaching of man, and we don’t follow the teachings of man but of God.  So those others are wrong.”

So, this new cult that shares some features with Shakers, and SDA, and Armstrongism, but isn’t deeply close to any of them doctrinally is unfamiliar to me.  She tells me her church was founded in South Korea.  It’s the World Mission Society Church of God, and they got some other strange beliefs as well. They believe the Second Coming has already occurred, in the person of their founder.  That’s not uncommon.


Unknown said...

Is this the guy who is in prison on rape charges? There is some material on this cult on the Internet. Australian TV may have done a report.

james said...

There are fashions in these things. etc

The Mad Soprano said...

Didn't the Cathars have some ideas akin to this?

Earl Wajenberg said...

Jehovah's Witnesses score on some of these points:

They believe the proper day for the Sabbath is Saturday (but they don't care; they regard Sabbath-observance as part of the superceded Law).

They think the Second Coming was in 1914, when Jesus returned invisibly to Earth and Satan was cast out of Heaven.

They celebrate the eucharist only once a year, on Passover (and so sort of observe a major Jewish holiday).

As to "Constantine changed it," though, she might be sort of right. At least, I just finished a CD lecture series on the decline of Rome, perfectly mainstream as far as I could tell, and the lecturer said much the same thing. A little more exactly, he said Christians had been dithering on whether to use Sunday because of Easter, or Saturday because of tradition, and Constantine settled it, or had them settle it. The lecturer remarked that it might have been settled on Sunday because, in his pre-Christian days, Constatine worshipped Sol Invictus.

Boxty said...

Didn't one of Paul's letters deal with this stuff?

Boxty said...

Didn't one of Paul's letters deal with this stuff?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Earl, I wasn't clear enough. Constantine was certainly a major factor and made the call that ended up being final. But there had been a lot of other players before that. Worship practice was not uniform anywhere.

RichardJohnson said...

When I made my post-baccalaureate tour of South America in the 1970s, I encountered adherents of what was then known as The Children of God. They acquired a reputation in South America of being mooches.They acquired that reputation by begging in the streets. When you are a Gringo who is by definition wealthier than most South Americans, being a moocher is is something that doesn't go over very well.

Then there were the Moonies.

My memory is that my grandmother said that Baptists, by virtue of prohibiting dancing, went too far. At least Baptists in the Southwest. There were other reasons for eliminating other churches to arrive at my grandmother's conclusion that her church, the Church of Christ, had it done just right. It goes on and on.

My grandmother's town in the Southwest had 1,000 people and 10 churches: one church per 100 people. I concluded that such a tendency towards separatism showed us any fears of there ever becoming an established religion were unfounded. If you can't get people to agree on what the one religion should be, how can you ever establish a state religion?

Donna B. said...

"If you can't get people to agree on what the one religion should be, how can you ever establish a state religion?" -- RichardJohnson

And that's where you miss the point -- it's not the people who establish a state religion, it's the state. And therein lies the danger.

Texan99 said...

Odd how the guys who found second-coming cults so often conclude they can do no wrong sexually.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, that seems to be standard-issue, dunnit?