Most of our time, energy and financial resources at MCOI is devoted to exposing and confronting the major cults, popular heresies, unbiblical worldviews and false “-isms” of our time. But over the years we’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that lurking in the shadows cast by the larger cults and movements are hundreds — perhaps thousands — of small, “hole-in-the-wall” groups with aberrant teachings and practices that definitely deserve our attention as a ministry of biblical discernment.
Some of them are no larger than a half-dozen people, while others might have memberships ranging from 200 to 1,000 or so. Some are very localized, while others have memberships scattered around the U.S., and even the world. If it was possible to catalogue all these groups and calculate their collective memberships, we believe their numbers might rival those of much larger cults or false religious groups like Scientology or the Watchtower Society. If all these little factions were to merge together, they’d be a major cult in their own right.
And yet these are the kinds of groups that both counter-cult ministries and the media tend to overlook — until they produce spectacular tragedies. Jim Jones’s People’s Temple (a.k.a., Jonestown), David Koresh’s Branch Davidian, and Marshall Applewhite’s Heaven’s Gate are all examples of groups that fall into this category. Because of their relatively small size they usually evade both close scrutiny and serious consideration, but all the while they’re causing a multitude of local tragedies.
Many people are attracted to smaller cults because of their protest posturing. Just as the monastic movement started out in early church history as a protest movement against increasing worldliness in the church, small cults try to capitalize on that same approach by railing against various features of today’s established churches. Whether it’s sexual immorality, materialism, conspicuous consumption, or allegedly false doctrine, small cults spend a great deal of their time hunting it down in larger churches, denominations and ministries and denouncing them for it. It’s David versus Goliath, the small versus the huge in the battle for the Christianity’s soul, and the small cults imply (some of them explicitly declare) that “small is better.” To be big and have a large number of ministries (and thus a large budget), they imply, is to be corrupt. To be small is to be free from such temptations; to be pristine — unsoiled by the world.
It’s an old theme, as threadbare as it is time-worn. In the 1959 comedy, “The Mouse That Roared,” starring Peter Sellers, a microscopic country no one at the United Nations ever heard of — the Duchy of Grand Fenwick — tries to escape bankruptcy by declaring war on the United States so they can quickly surrender and be bailed-out by foreign aid. But the Duchy’s “invasion” of the US takes an unforeseen turn when the “invaders” capture the prototype of the “Q-Bomb” (along with its creator) while the entire population of New York is below ground for a civil defense drill. The “Q-Bomb,” it turns out, is a zillion times more powerful than the H-Bomb, and now the world gets a chance to see that if only the little nations of the world had all the nuclear weapons instead of the big nations the world would be a much better place.
Oh, really? Is the world suddenly becoming a nicer place as North Korea succeeds in developing a full-fledged nuclear arsenal? Would everyone sleep easier if the leaders of Iran, Serbia and Rwanda become nuclear powers?
Filmmakers (and filmgoers) were so naïve back then probably because rapid transportation and mass communication were not nearly as developed as they are today. These things have changed our perception of the world, surrounding us with the sobering realities of global hatred and violence wherever we go. But aside from the way in which technology has altered our perception of the world, little else has really changed. Threatening new international developments really aren’t new at all. For example: Islamic fundmentalists were just as potent a threat to mideast politics in 1959 as they are today. That very year Egypt’s President Nasser had to forcefully suppress them to protect his government. But throughout the 20th century there was always the danger that radical Islamicists would take over a major middle eastern nation. Just imagine if one of those countries had the bomb back then! We’d have learned the meaning of the word “jihad” about 30 years earlier than we actually did.
Smaller is not better. It’s not even less dangerous! Just as there came a time when world leaders realized they could no longer ignore Islamic fundamentalists (who account for a small minority within all Islamic countries), so also the time has already come when the church can no longer ignore small cults. They’ve been ravaging the lives of Christians, damaging the health of whole congregations — and occasionally even taking over local churches! — for far too long.
When my daughter, Jennifer, and son Lee were young, Jennifer came running in to the living room one day, rubbing her head and wailing, “Dad, Lee hit me back first.” Without realizing it, she had just told the whole story. She had hit him. He hit back and she tried to change the balance of power by painting herself as the victim. The last two weeks or so have seemed like that in the national news. Hip Hop and Rap artists have for a long time been using atrocious language to portray and promote a gangster lifestyle which has detrimentally influenced culture. I was reminded of how pervasive this is when I opened the Chicago Tribune yesterday to see a headline in the business section; “Pimp my Wienermobile.” The term derives from ghetto culture concerning how “Pimps,” those who engage in running prostitution, outfit their cars. The pimp lifestyle seems to be promoted by Rap “artists” as something to be emulated, as reflected by the now popular phrases “pimps out their ride” and wearing “bling.” In this rampant subculture, women are routinely slandered as “Hos,” but rarely is this gross insult against women condemned by civil rights activists or anyone else.
I don’t listen to “shock jocks,” mostly because they say things over the airwaves which I would find to be, well, shocking – and rude and immoral and highly inappropriate, so imagine my surprise when Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cried foul last week over shock jock Don Imus using rap terms to describe the women’s basketball team from Rutgers. It was like they were saying “Don Imus hit us back first.” Practicing moral turpitude is the stock and trade of shock jocks but the descriptors Imus used were coined within the African-American community. Although nasty and vile, I am sure there was nothing there that the good Reverends Jackson and Sharpton had not heard before, blasting forth from car stereos both “in the hood” and in suburbia, but had not lifted a finger to put a stop to. In addition, Jackson and Sharpton have themselves used racist and bigoted language to describe others. Jackson for example, referred to New York as Hymietown and when that remark was made public, he simply offered a tepid apology and moved on in his illustrious career of condemning the sins of other racists. He lost nothing, certainly not his standing with a fawning media. Sharpton is far worse, what with the Tawana Browley affair, where innocent police officers whose careers and lives were ruined by a baseless charge of rape. Sharpton, to the best of my knowledge, did not even apologize for his large role in this fiasco. None of this is meant to excuse Don Imus, because there is no excuse for the likes of Imus, but then again, I don’t listen to shock jocks because what the say is shocking.
Rap artist Snoop Dog was interviewed as more public attention was brought to bear on this lowlife segment of the “entertainment industry” and he made clear that he would not stop using these terms because these things come from his soul. WiIl Jackson and Sharpton picket to have Snoop Dog and other Rappers fired? Well, no. As Jackson tells it, it isn’t the “artist’s” fault – the fault lies with the white guys who own the record labels that these “artists” work for. I wonder, does that mean that Snoop Dog was just reading from some white master’s script when he contends that he has the right to artistic freedom? Yeah, that’s probably it. It is just someone else’s fault.
As this was wrapping up and Don Imus had been fired, the terrible mass shooting took place at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia on Monday. 33 died (including the shooter) and 15 were wounded. Very nearly the first questions asked were “whose fault was this?” The obvious answer to me is that it was primarily the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, who is to blame for the vicious attack. But that would be too simple. Instead, it must be the fault of society. It is our too liberal gun laws or perhaps the fault of teachers and administers who recognized a problem with Cho but failed to prevent him from committing a crime. Or it was the failure to lock down the university soon enough after the first shooting in the dorm. All of these things look great and obvious in hindsight, but can you imagine the howling of liberal activists if Cho’s civil rights had been violated by profiling him as a psychopath, and actually deterring him from acting on his dark thoughts. They would have had to lock him up before he had done anything wrong! All of these and more are being voiced in WORLD REACTS TO VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTINGS . We could keep adding to this list, and as the days and weeks roll on, they will I am sure. Even as I type this, we discover that Cho Seung-Hui stopped between shootings to mail a package to NBC in which he rails against rich people. So, most likely, when all is said and done, the consensus will be that Cho Seung-Hui is not in any way at fault. The system “failed him.” Like the Rap and Hip Hop artists, he will turn out to be a hapless stooge that was let down by “the system” and manipulated by rich white men. Cho Seung-Hui will be just another victim – the fault of the nebulous “them” out there somewhere.
Not to diminish the grief of the families who have lost loved ones, who probably never worried that their kids (or spouses) in a supposedly “safe” college environment would be shot by another student. The parents of Cho Seung-Hui must also be devastated. Not only do they have to deal with the loss of their son at his own hand, but will also be plagued with the question “How could our son do such a terrible thing?” And being the parents of the murderer, they most likely will have to grieve alone. All of these people need our prayers.
Who is to blame? The unfortunate answer is that “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21). We are all sinners. The effects of our individual sin impacts culture in a variety of ways to inflict hurt and damage upon those around us. It is easy to point our fingers at others, for it diverts attention from our own sin. James 2:10-11 shows that even though we sin in different ways, popular “artists,” record company moguls, race hustlers, gangsters, pimps, rich people, basketball players, and all the rest of us will face the judgment of God someday. And, we won’t be able to point fingers of blame at everyone else. How can we escape the punishment we so richly deserve? The Apostle Paul struggled with the same question. In Romans 7:24-25 he wrote:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin.”
If we call on Jesus Christ as God, believing in His death, burial and physical resurrection we shall be saved from the eternal consequences of our sin.
One might wonder what the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Easter Bunnies and Christian Terrorists have in common. The connection is politically correct public schools or PCPS. The tale begins in Rhode Island. A craft fair was scheduled to be held at the Tiverton Middle School in Tiverton, RI, on Saturday, April 7. The Easter Bunny was scheduled to make an appearance at the fair but the district Superintendent was concerned that the Easter Bunny’s visit is “too Christian” and may offend people with other “backgrounds and traditions.” He insisted that the Easter Bunny be renamed Peter Rabbit. What he didn’t realize is that the Easter Bunny and colored eggs have no connection whatsoever to Christianity or the Resurrection of Christ, but have pagan origination, the bunny being the pet of the Goddess Eostre or Ostara . The point here is not to take a position for or against bunny rabbits and Easter Eggs but rather, to question the governmentally sanctioned squelching of a non-school event on school grounds – based on the suspicion that the event has Christian overtones.
But how does this relate to Christian Terrorists? Here again, the PCPS pushed the envelope. It is rare these days that a news program would even mention Islam in connection with the word terrorist. The television program 24 is pointedly about terrorism, yet portrays the Muslim terrorists as unwitting dupes of rich white Americans (most likely of the evil Evangelical & Republican variety) and/or Soviet loyalists. Even so, schools are becoming concerned about terrorism and hostage situations. In order to prepare students for this chilling possibility, a New Jersey School Stages Practice Hostage Drill – Portrays Killers as Fundamentalist Christians.
The school superintendent, Chris Manno, explained that his desire was to make the drill feel as real as possible. He enlisted the aid of two local policemen to carry out the drill. County police as well as emergency response personnel were dispatched as part of the exercise. The pretext was:
The drill organizers explained that the supposedly Christian gunmen “went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class.”
Can you even imagine the absurdity of this? I suppose I can understand why he wouldn’t have wanted to identify the would-be terrorists as Muslims. After all, there is a possibility that some radical Muslims may become offended and storm the school and take hostages in protest! But why identify the “terrorists” as fundamentalist Christians, rather than say, irate ACLU “activists” who perhaps stormed the school and took hostages to protest the school allowing a visit from the Easter Bunny? (Think about it – colored egg hunts, and the annual consumption of chocolate bunnies may cause innocent children to identify the erstwhile Bunny as a Christian symbol and perhaps convert to Christianity in droves). But no, the school could not very well imply that the ACLU might engage in terrorism, since that would be insensitive and might result in the terrorizing of Chris Manno with a big ACLU lawsuit! No, it is much safer to paint the terrorists as gun toting Evangelicals. And if some Jesus freaks are offended or get their feelings hurt, so what?
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; “ (Matthew 5:44)
Listening to well known public figures can be interesting and even entertaining. It also provides opportunities for cultural apologetics if one pays attention. For example, MSNBC carried the headline Obama accuses Bush of ‘Social Darwinism’ as did a number of other news organizations. Obama indicated that it is the government’s responsibility to make sure that all citizen’s are successful or as he put it “prosperous.” Since Bush wasn’t making insuring individual prosperity he was therefore according to Obama a “Social Darwinist.” The first thing that should be noted is there is nothing in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution or Bill of Rights which guarantees individual prosperity. We are guaranteed the “unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But, there is no guarantee that we will be happy, prosperous, successful, healthy, pain free or even smart. What is guaranteed as American citizens is that we have the right to pursue all of these things. My purpose is not to get involved in the political fray on this but rather to wonder if it is Bush or Obama that is the Social Darwinist? In addition, even if it is true that Bush is a Social Darwinist the current official religious and philosophical position of the government of the United States holds that Darwinian Evolution is true. If Bush is a Social Darwinist why would Obama living out the teaching in a consistent way?
For those who are unaware, Social Darwinists beginning in the 1870s were trying to be consistent in applying Darwin’s theories to society. This movement grew in the late 1920s and 1930s. They believed that the human race could be perfected through genetics and selective breeding. The most famous of the Social Darwinists was Adolph Hitler but there were some fairly notable folks in the U.S. at that time that held the same views but lacked the political clout at that time to pull them off. One of the early proponents, American Feminist leader, Victoria Woodhull, who in 1872 became the first woman to be nominated for president by a political party, stated:
Thus society, while expending millions in the care of incurables and imbeciles, takes little heed of or utterly ignores those laws by the study and obedience of which such human abortions might have been prevented from cumbering society with their useless and unwelcome presence. Grecian and Roman civilizations were, it is true, deficient in the gentler virtues, the excess of which in our day is hindering the progress of the race rather than helping or ennobling it. They, by crushing out the diseased and imperfect plants in the garden of humanity, attained to a vigor and physical development, which has never been equated since. And in so doing they were entirely in accord with nature, whose mandate is inexorable, that the “fittest” only shall be permitted to live and propagate. She is a very prodigal in her waste of individual life, in order that the species be without spot of blemish.
Not so our modern civilization, which rather pets its abortions and weaklings, and complacently permits them to procreate another race of fools and pigmies as inane and useless as themselves
Margaret Sanger, greatly honored today as the founder of Planned Parenthood, pushed the Eugenics idea even further than past adherents had. As a devout humanist and evolutionist, she like Woodhull before her, advocated the elimination of “inferior” human beings, such as the poor and minorities. Their problems, in her view, weighed down society and held back the superior human stock – the wealthier and supposedly more highly evolved white race:
She bluntly defined “birth control,” a term she coined, as “the process of weeding out the unfit” aimed at “the creation of superman.” She often opined that “the most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it,” and that “all our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class.”
Sanger frequently featured racists and eugenicists in her magazine, the Birth Control Review. Contributor Lothrop Stoddard, who also served on Sanger’s board of directors, wrote in “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy” that “[w]e, must resolutely oppose both Asiatic permeation of white race-areas and Asiatic inundation of those non-white, but equally Asiatic regions inhabited by really inferior races.
In their view blacks were the least evolved, white Europeans were the most highly evolved and other races fell in between those two on the spectrum of Darwinian Evolution. Abortion, infanticide and euthanasia were, in their opinion, desirable methods to accomplish the Social Darwinian agenda.
Between Bush and Obama only one advocates abortion and infanticide (euphemistically called partial birth abortion). It would seem to me that whoever holds these two views is the philosophical descendant of Victoria Woodhull and Margaret Sanger and would rightly be viewed as advocating Social Darwinism. Hmmm. Which one could it be?