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The word “cult” gets tossed around a lot, even by people who belong to them.  Many definitions abound, so it’s easy to pick one that might not include your own group, especially if you don’t meet all the criteria on a particular list.  Various degrees of denial make cult definitions a subjective pursuit.  This week my friends shared two helpful links about cults and abusive groups that are worth your time to check out.

Looking back on my life, I have quite a cult resume.

My husband and I would have never considered ourselves in a cult, or worse yet, the leaders of one, when we were in the Hebrew Roots Movement.  We did not follow any particular teacher, although we had friends who did.  We saw the movement as something God brought together because it wasn’t started or led by any one particular person.  People from many different Christian backgrounds came together under one common bond.  While every group had to muddle through many various points of contention, we had given our minds over to one idea which became the foundation of belief and the basis for our fellowship.  Nearly anything or anyone we recognized as having this same beginning premise, we trusted, and believed.

As this election season has heated up, I have watched this phenomenon in the political realm too, and see the human condition is so very prone to wanting a framework with neat, concise answers. We want talking points, dogmas, and simplified answers to our dissenters.  Go-to catch phrases head off any opponents arguments.  We become emotionally attached to our systems and ideas, take them on as part of our personal identities, and tie them on tightly with our fear and pride.

Seeing the political sides take shape, I realized that cults can gel around an ideology just as easily as a person.  Candidates are playing into the idea, trying to appear as if they are closely aligned with the values of the group they seek to represent.

Once the idea has become concrete, this is where the danger comes in.  Anytime we give up asking questions, listening, and investigating, we are in danger of cult-like thinking.  If we pledge our support for something, and emotionally invest in a “side”, we are much less likely to think objectively about our own camp, be it religious, political, or national.  It doesn’t matter how free of an atmosphere we have to ask questions, if we don’t.

Our religious “cult” was not formed or held together by Jesus, but a list of commands that pointed to Him.  We saw them as Him.  And He came to open the way for so much more than this in our relationship with Him.  What if I, as a wife, viewed my husband as only our marriage license.  I look at the paper every day, frame it so I can hang it on the wall, and make sure I tell everyone I meet about this agreement and what it entitles me to.  Yet, he is standing there wanting to love and be loved.

Cults of any kind are demanding, but Jesus is inviting.  The spiritual difference is life and death.  People who have not experienced the deep, healing love of Christ are trying to fill a need when they follow a cult of any kind, religious or otherwise.  We want belonging, and we want to be right.  It feels safe and warm in a way, yet we never quite “arrive”.  There is always one more bit of knowledge, or a higher degree of compliance to achieve.

If I could zap you through this screen and give you a sense of how much MORE Jesus has for you than the much less you are settling for, while believing you are in the elite crowd of the chosen few, I would.  But I can’t.  I pray the Holy Spirit does reveal this to you even though you probably found this blog looking for information that you agreed with, and this wasn’t it.  I say, just let Him love you.  He died so You could know the depth of His love, and you are running backward to the shadow.  You don’t have to earn His love, or fear a curse.  Just let Him love you.

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