The Pyramid Structure of a Cult is very Similar to...

I'm reading through a book right now entitled Soul Snatchers on Cults and the manipulation tactics that they use. It's written by a psychiatrist/crimnologist. It's been interesting so far. I wanted to find a book on manipulation tactics that people use and how to avoid them. This book was the best I could find. Actually, my friend at the library found it for me.

This desire to defend myself stems from specials we have seen recently on television about cults and the damage that they have done to people who have found themselves wrapped up in them. Along with me giving in to go to a meeting about a new "internet-based business" that I didn't want to go to in the first place, but the person inviting me manipulated me so easily. I thought that I needed to build up my mechanisms. I'm so weak. Attach that to the fact that we are hunting for a church home right now; I feel we needed to be more educated on the matter.

"Every clear idea that we form decreases our slavery and increases our freedom." - Alain

Although that might not be 100% accurate, I think there is a lot of good truth there.

Anyway, onto what has stirred me from a six day blog hiatus. The following is an excerpt that I found very interesting from the book. What is the difference between what we view as church leadership and cult leadership?

The pyramid structure is fundamental for the coercive cult. Guarantor of secrecy, it is also the indispensable condition of coercion, for it supposes a hierarchization of knowledge, power and benefit. Between the bottom and the top, the recruited and the guru, one observes:
- the higher one goes, the more the benefits increase:
- the lower one is, the more coercion he faces.

Generally, the individual will know only as much as he is told. He has less information than his immediate superior. Progression from one stage to the next is slow. Accession to a higher stage is a sign of fast promotion; the contrary also exists - downgrading and sanction.

Such a system aims to keep the individual under constraint. On the one hand, he finds it impossible to get out of a model of which he knows only the direct demonstration and, on the other hand, the impossibility of attaining the higher levels directly. The way up is the follower's only means of access to the guru, who benefits from isolation because that protects him from unfavorable assessments that might emanate from the bottom of the pyramid.

The guru controls the flow of information from top to bottom. He also has means of gathering and controlling information from the bottom up.

When a follower rises in the structure, it should be noted that the rewards for merit generally include certificates and status, but it also happens that material advantage may be added in a way that can be taken away again if the disciple falls out of favor. It remains essential that the chosen members be dependent. And this can only be so if the psychic dependence is accompanied by a real financial dependence on the part of the follower so that it becomes impossible to leave...

...The pyramid structure is of double interest for the cult member. It gives him a feeling of pride when he climbs up the hierarchy. It also strengthens the feeling of membership and dependence. Further, it "also allows the mystification of the secret to be maintained over a long time, by allowing only gradual contact with the intiates."

The larger the church the more reminiscent it is to the structure of a cult described in this section. I don't know if that is necessarily bad or just a necessary result of being large. I just found it interesting. I also have seen such a heirarchy existent in denomenations and in small local churches. No structure is immune.

One point I would have to agree with is the use of material benefits to manipulate. Without going into details because it is personal and about a relationship between myself and another person, I feel that I was once paid to be in a position at one point in my life in order for the person paying me to have control of my actions. Money is a great tool to manipulate. It makes people clock in every day to work on an assembly line. It is also a great tool to keep ministers or associate ministers in line.

This section also stresses the lack of transparency in a cult. A cult makes decisions and wields them from the top down. I wonder how we balance biblical leadership with the totalitarian leadership of a cult. What is the difference? Is the only difference the direction the leader is taking the people?

Reading this book also makes me comfortable that the church I planted in Lansing, albeit different, is not a cult. My observations only come from when I was there. They might've changed. I haven't seen a more transparent group of people living the call of Christ together. Everyone was involved in decisions that effected them. Nobody was manipulated one step at a time - a famous trick of manipulators and cult leaders. For instance, take the "internet business" I mentioned previously. I wasn't told the reason for the meeting on the phone. I wasn't even told the name of this "internet business". Nope. They take people one step at a time in order to completely engulf them in their business. (The book I'm reading doesn't just focus on religious cults but also on cults of business, politics, etc.)

I struggle with the idea of how to plant a church down here if that is what God calls me to do. The fact that the path isn't clear is a sign to me that planting isn't the direction He has for me right now. Maybe that will change. I don't know. I don't believe a clear path is a sign that is from God either. I don't believe that God only works through the open door/closed door policy. Sometimes it is tough to do what God has called us to. Sometimes when the door appears closed, God still wants us to go into the other room. But I digress.

When I planted the church in Lansing it all seemed so clear. I sought God's will on who to include. I presented my vision for the church and what we would be doing to those individuals laid on my heart, intentionally trying to avoid the manipulation that one step at a time causes. I shared the whole vision. Some joined in; others said no. Down here, I have no idea where to begin. Nobody seems interested. It's like I'm walking in a foggy field on a damp Spring morning. I can't see a thing. I'm lucky to even know where to go.

And since I'm long-winded and nobody will read this far anyway, I will talk briefly about the church hunt. It is so discouraging. We've been to four churches now. One of them multiple times, but I feel that we are no closer to finding a church home than when we began. Since this is a public forum, I don't feel it would be proper to go into details on here. To copy the words of Bono - "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." Most of them seemed like healthy churches, but I just didn't know which one God wants me at. I know some of you reading this don't think that God has a will like this for people's lives, but I do. Maybe getting rid of that belief, comprosing, and joining in somewhere is what I need to do. I'm just not there yet.

After the second week, we made the decision to send Isaac and Eli to church with my mom and dad. The church hunt seemed to be very tough on Isaac, probably because it is tough on us. I just hope we find a church home soon. Here's to another week walking aimlessly in the body wilderness. (I lift up an imaginary glass of liquid). "Cheers."

Watch out for the potholes.