Guideline for parents
Bizarre cults are attractive
By DAVID E. ANDERSON
UPI Religion Writer
There are some indications the attractiveness of bizarre and offbeat religious cults such as The Children of God the Unification Church and the Divine Light Mission of onetime boy guru Maharaj Ji may be declining But Bill Starr of Young Life believes some of the cults still pose a danger to adolescents and that parents need some guidelines on the various groups when their children come home proclaiming they have found the truth.
For Starr even the use of the word cult is a negative.
"A cult is a distortion of some basic, historical idea of what Christianity is" he said in an interview "A good case in point too would be the distinction between the Jesus People of the 1960's and the Children of God."
The Jesus People he said were for the most part simply an enthusiastic part of Christianity. They came out in a religious way against the war but were not destructive of historic Christianity.
But he said the Children of God, a cult basically found on the West Coast, "was one of the most damnable heresies to touch our kids, it was almost an enslavement.”
One of the crucial guidelines he said would be to look at whether or not the group's teaching, "in a fundamental way distorts" historical Christianity.
"A dead giveaway is the way in which children are turned against their parents" he said.
If the group does not teach the potential convert to "honor thy father and mother, if it completely undermines the authority of parents the loving authority and teaches instead to turn children against their parents, then it is a dangerous group."
"An authentic movement that is interested in the youngster" he said be interested must be interested in the welfare of the whole family.
Another danger sign to watch for is the claiming of messianic authority by the leadership of the group "It is dangerous when anyone acts as if they have all the answers.”
Starr also warned about cults that promote "an irresponsible attitude toward life" and which say the potential convert "need not consider responsibility very important. Only that is important which the organization believes is important."
Other danger signs Starr pointed to included the group's educational process - "whether or not it encourages or allows differences of opinion” - and the demand that some groups make - he mentioned the Hare Krishna cult - of imposing a totally new and rigid lifestyle on the young person. "They tell you your present lifestyle is totally unacceptable as are all other lifestyles but ours." An extreme form of that Starr added, would be a group like the Manson Family, those who gathered around murderer Charles Manson.
Star, said the attractiveness of the cults especially the bizarre manifestations "are definitely on the wane, in particular those cults that tried to shove it down your throats.
"The more subtle ones are the ones we have to watch for, those with more of an intellectual kind of appeal."
But Starr said young people today "basically have their heads screwed on pretty well" even while they still are going through all the turmoil of adolescence.
"We're always going to have our struggle with kids growing up and learning to handle things with moderation but I think we're in a little better shape than we were 10 years ago" he said.