Cults as Religious Traps for Extreme Political Action

Terrence McCoy’s October 15th account of the McDonald’s murder highlights the struggle between the extremist cult called the Church of the Almighty God and the Chinese government. This religious group “claims to have a million followers, aggressively promotes Doomsday scenarios, wants to destroy the Chinese Communist Party and believes that Jesus Christ has returned — as a Chinese woman.” The article explains that two of the five members involved in the murder have been executed after they bludgeoned a McDonald’s worker, a 35-year old mother, to death. Described as China’s “most radical,” they insisted that the woman deserved to be killed after she refused to become a member of the cult. They explained their violent motivations further, saying, “She was a demon, the evil spirit. We had to beat her to death.”

Although McCoy advises the reader that this murderer is extreme, even for this violent cult, a larger issue is still at hand for the Chinese government. The greater message of this article is that this cult and other radical religious groups are continually being monitored and dealt with accordingly by the government. Members of the church face imprisonment and execution for “little provocation.” This group is clearly a threat to the Chinese government and has strong political goals underlying its disguise as a religious organization.

The Church of the Almighty God is, first and foremost, a political effort using religious brainwashing as a method of recruitment and retention of members. This is very similar to Himmler’s SS cult. I learned in Peter Longerich’s biography of Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the SS, that Himmler created a neo-pagan cult. Germany’s loss in faith after WWI led to an opening for the development of other religions. Himmler’s cult was an attempt to fill the gap that other more popular beliefs or institutions could not offer. Himmler used religious aspects to eventually gain control over members by implementing ritual, rules, and strict enforcement into the daily lives of his men. The Church of the Almighty God is based on similar themes. A former member explains his hardship, stating that “the strategy is to slowly draw you in.” In both of these cults, religious dialogue, intense control over members, and manipulation creates a basis for convincing members that the group is not only superior, but capable of expansion and violent acts. Himmler’s SS went on to create concentration camps that destroyed countless innocent lives. What will the Church of the Almighty God be capable of if the Chinese government is unable to stifle their efforts?

In class, we discussed fascism and its implications. Fascism was described as when “a mass-based party of committed Nationalist militants… abandons democratic liberties and pursues redemptive violence and without ethical, moral, or legal restraints.” How is the violent event of the McDonald’s murder any different than fascism or Nazism and why do events such as these continue to occur? The most recognized and supported religions around the world are able to provide peace, a sense of community, and guidance for their members. They culminate positive effects for their members and encourage personal growth. The Church of the Almighty God and Himmler’s SS only bring about terror and abuse. By brainwashing and controlling their members, they ensure that their greater political goals are achieved. These groups give peaceful religious practice a bad reputation and demean human rights. In this way, they are not true religions at all but are cults. Further control of these groups as well as education that explains the dangers of cults and how to recognize them are required to ensure that horrific events such as these will stop.

Read Terrence McCoy’s story, “‘She was a demon. We had to destroy her’: Two Chinese cult members to be executed for McDonald’s murder” here: http://bit.ly/1Fpfrnl

– C.S. #349 #uwreligions

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