Brainwashing and Cultic Practices within Freedom Church
In Lucinda Borkett- Jones’ article, “Swansea church denies radicalising students”, Christian Today, 7 January 2015, (http://bit.ly/1s5dKKV), Swansea University is raising concerns about the operations of Freedom Church Swansea, and as a result has banned the church from Swansea University. Freedom Church is affiliated with the Evangelical Alliance, which is a branch of the evangelical Christians in the United Kingdom. One of the concerns raised in the article involves how the Church is targeting vulnerable members of the community and recruiting them in, what Swansea University claims, a cultic manner. The problem with the University claiming that Freedom Church Swansea is a cult is that it comes with a negative connotation, usually equating a cult with brainwashing.
Many students at the University have complained about being brainwashed. However, Hexham and Poewe reject brainwashing in their book Understanding Cults and New Religions. Since most people who join new religious movements do so under their own free will, and there is considerable evidence to backup this claim that brainwashing does not occur. Therefore, Freedom Church Swansea was simply trying to recruit new members, and was not trying to brainwash students as some claim. Hexham and Poewe state that many people join new religious movements because of social reasons, psychological reasons and because their friends have joined the group. Therefore, it is not the case that people join new religions because they are forced into it, or are brainwashed, but because they want to.
One of the major issues that were raised by the University was how Freedom Church Swansea was recruiting members. The University claimed Freedom Church was using cultic practices in their recruitment tactics. Recruitment has been one of the more controversial issues relating to new religious movements. Typically, new religious movements are attracting middle to upper class youth, which is most likely why Freedom Church Swansea tried to promote itself on a University campus, where the demographic is predominantly youth. Consequently, while Swansea University claims Freedom Church Swansea was brainwashing students and recruiting members in a cultic manner, the church was simply trying to recruit new members, and were doing so in an acceptable manner, therefore, should not have been banned from Swansea University.