The pull of conviction. What makes a cult?

Title: The pull of conviction. What makes a cult?

Author: He Baber, The Guardian, 26 May 2009


341 #uwreligions

Date Jan 31 2015

The author captures our attention from the very start of the

article by relaying a personal story of his direct experience with the

Unification Church in the 1980’s. This came about as a result of his

and other academics’ attendance of a conference in Puerto Rico that

was sponsored by Reverend Sun M Moon.

Based on the level of hospitality and financial generosity

demonstrated by the Unification Church, it was clear that this new

religious movement was highly interested in gaining public and

scholastic respect and approval.

During such times, the Church was negatively represented in the

media. It was labeled as a dangerous cult that targets young and

naïve individuals who were easily recruited as members of the

Church through tactics of deceit and brainwashing. During those

times, de-programming methods prevailed where desperate parents

would hire specialized individuals for a fee to kidnap and force their

sons or daughters to leave the cult and to rejoin society and resume a

so called normal life.

The author’s experience as a student tells a different tale from the

one depicted by the media. In fact, his participation in a Moonie

weekend portrays an ordinary commercial sales pitch observation

versus a religious coercion technique. The Moonie’s weekend for

seekers involved a social event that included free music, food,

housing and dull optional presentations.

The writer notices a preferential interest within the population to

explore new religious movements over traditional sects. One possible

explanation lies in the way cults appeal to new members through a

more direct and aggressive recruitment ploy. This includes street

corner invitations of passerby to theistic weekend getaways. The

author applauds cults’ innovative ways and argues that conventional

churches should follow suit, if they are to compete with today’s

changing world.

Baber’s narration demonstrates a non-judgmental account of how the

Unification Church sect operates. In the past, the media has been

harsh and quick to label new religious movements with negative

connotations in order to spread unjust propaganda. In previous

documentaries regarding the Moonies’ movement such as The Fifth

Estate’s CBC program: Reborn; the deprogramming of a Moonie,

journalist Eric Malling took a more biased and unethical point of view

to modify the truth in order to portray new religious sects as

suspicious business organizations aimed to extort its members out of

money and uncompensated labor. Unfortunately, events were

distorted through news stories. Misrepresentation occurred through

tales of members’ isolation from family, affiliates’ mass suicides and

incompetent and compulsory seminars.

The Unification Church is a new religious movement established by

self-professed messiah Reverend Sun Myung Moon in 1954 in Seoul,

South Korea. At the age of 16, Moon claimed that Jesus bestowed

upon him the duty to complete his unfinished work. Moon moved to

the United States with his wife and soon gathered a strong following

referred to as the Moonies. The Church is synonymous for its

blessing ceremonies that are mass arranged weddings as well as its

strong business sense. In the decades following the founding of the

Church, Moon acquired a business empire that encompassed the

Washington Times newspaper, the New Yorker Hotel, vacation

resorts as well as other businesses within the United States and

South Korea.

Human nature often resists change and views those outside of the

norm as abnormal and difficult to relate to. If one were to remove

such bias and analyzed cults from a rationale and through a non-

emotional standpoint, one would find a logical justification to explain

why certain individuals choose to join cults. More often than not,

people join cults as a result of psychological reasons, sociological

causes, to have a sense of community by joining friends as well as to

seek an ideal union through arranged marriages that are organized

and blessed by the Church. In those days, young individuals who

experienced traumatic experiences post the Vietnam War, would drop

out of college and join such cults in search for a sense of purpose, life

direction and belonging. The de-programming technique that was

originally developed by Ted Patrick with the intention to re-calibrate

cult members’ minds back to ‘normal’ showed inconclusive results

and caused more psychological and physical harm than anticipated.

There is a strong argument against de-programming given the fact

that it is economically fruitful for those who administer it and is

against the law as it involves kidnapping of an individual against their

will. Fortunately, such method is no longer practiced as much today.

In fact, data showed that most new cult members left such

organizations on their own after a few years of participation rendering

de-programming unnecessary.

The idea that cult members are brainwashed falsely assumes that

traditional religions are better than other non-conventional doctrines.

The fact remains that no individual can make such claims of

superiority as it involves prejudice and exercises actions against our

freedom of choice, our religious freedom. Unfortunately, society’s

attitude against new religious movement still exists. Seeking more

tolerance of each other’s belief system would bring mankind closer

together, lessens animosity and enables us to learn more deeply from

one another.



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