One Mind Ministries Cult

Tricia Bishop’s story “Witness: Accused cult leaders had her committed to keep quiet” , The Baltimore Sun, February 26th, 2010 (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-02-26/news/bal-md.cult26feb26_1_ria-ramkissoon-queen-antoinette-javon-thompson)

A women, Danielle Smith, came out and told about her experiences living with a cult leader. Smith tells about her experience living with the cult leader of the One Mind Ministries cult (discussed in the Washington Post’s article as well http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/28/AR2009032801936.html). Toni Sloan, who goes by Queen Antoinette, starved a 16 month old baby, Javon Thompson, and got Smith admitted into the psychiatric ward of Kings County Hospital in order to keep Smith silent of her crime. Sloan, her daughter Trevia Williams, and an associate Marcus Cobbs are all defendants in the case of the starvation of the child, all three of which pleaded not guilty. According to the testimony given by Smith, Sloan allegedly made the decision to starve the child after he would not say “amen”. Sloan told the other members in the apartment that he was rebellious and should not eat until he did say “amen”. Both Smith and her sister moved into the apartment with Sloan and her four children after Smith became friends with Sloan’s daughter. Marcus Cobbs, who has a child with Danielle Smith’s sister moved in after and another friend of Smith, Ria Ramikissoon, who is the mother of the 16 month child, moved in after. No members living in the apartment attempted to save Javon for the days he was starved. In Smith’s testimony she claimed that the front door of the apartment was always locked and it didn’t seem possible for her to escape with the child from the back door. Smith was scared of what Sloan would do if she had seen Smith try to escape with the baby as Sloan turned the Smith sisters against their family with the fact that their family weren’t strong followers of the bible. Also, in the Washington Post’s article they wrote about how the group prayed over his body when he died, hoping for his resurrection. They then put the child’s body in a suitcase which they left in Philadelphia in a shed for a year.

The fact that the baby was only 16 months old but Sloan still felt that the baby not saying the word “amen” was the baby disrespecting their beliefs is hard to believe. I think for most people, it is hard to wrap our heads around an individual punishing a baby for not speaking a word when at this age babies are just starting to talk. The logic of Sloan is almost infuriating as it seems her own ignorance clouded her judgement and an innocent life was lost because of it. Also, she comes off to be unusually defensive of her beliefs which, from a psychological perspective, can lead one to believe that she herself is not one hundred percent assured of her beliefs. It is hard and almost frightening to imagine the influence of Sloan as she was able to convince the mother of the child that her baby should be severely punished for not complying to speak a simple word. She was also able to convince another mother in the household that a child should be punished in this way when in most cases we often see mothers have sympathy for children even if it is not their own. On top of that, she was also able to convince members in household to join her in putting Danielle Smith into the psychiatric ward, which is interesting because she moved into the apartment being friends with one of the daughters and even bought another friend and her sister in. It is also almost shocking to hear that after they caused this child so much pain, the group prayed for his resurrection but where then able to leave his body in a shed for year. Much like Sloan turned the Smith sister against their own family, she was also able to manipulate most of the members in the household.

In the RELS 341 class we had a lecture where we talked about cults and how they are seen from a negative point of view. This news story also agrees with this point of view. In class we discussed a particular news story in which there was a mass suicide in 1978 due to a mass suicide. The individuals taking part in this activity were all a part of a cult. In addition, many of these people were university students. In class Hexham also talked about how university students are targeted by cults because they have already proved to be able to work under pressure, but they are also independent and young. An example of a cult who aims to get young students is the Unification Church. The Unification Church, as mentioned in class, would go to universities (in America) and hand out pamphlets and invite students over for free dinners. These dinners would then extend their invitations to free seminars and over time the students would be involved with this group. The Unification Church relates to this cult because it demonstrates how these acts can make the entire cult “look bad”. One last in class example of a cult would be the “Heaven’s Gate”. This cult also had a mass suicide that took place in March 1997. The Heavens Gate believed that the Halibut Comet had a spaceship that took you to another planet. The leaders of this cult, Bonnie and Marshal, called themselves “Bo and Peep” while they gave presentations about Extra-terrestrials. This is another example of how in class we discussed about why people look down at cults and how these cults and new religions target their victims by seeming to be very normal and welcoming, but by the time their victims come to realize the threats of the group, it can be more dangerous to leave than to stay in the group.

All in all, I do not agree with the motives of Toni Sloan and how she decided to starve the 16 month old Javon. I am also disgusted by the fact that Danielle or any of the people in the household, did not do anything to protect this baby. In addition, I wonder why the people living in the house did not question Sloan’s mental health, and if they did, why they did they not get help for her. However, when I look at my notes from in class, I do understand the fear that these household members felt from Sloan and her cult. Especially when noticing that she was the cult leader, I realize that the house members may have feared their lives.

#uwreligions

NKT

Colonial Remnants in Canada (RELS 348)

The article, “Part of Pictou County Highway Renamed in Honour of Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Cumberland News Now, 21 December, 2012 summarizes the renaming of Pictou County highway after Queen Elizabeth.

In honour of her Diamond Jubilee, part of highway 6 was renamed, which, “Recognizes Her Majesty’s many years of service and commitment to our country” (para. 2). The reasoning behind it as Premier Darrell Dexter notes is because the anniversary has inspired many Nova Scotians to improve the province and raise a family.

This is not unique to this province, as Alberta itself has also renamed highway 2 after the Queen. In addition, there were many Diamond jubilee ceremonies held across Nova Scotia with 200 citizens being recognized and over 60 scholarships for students being awarded.

The Monarchist league of Canada, who requested the renaming, noted the Diamond Jubilee served as a great opportunity to celebrate her service to the country.

Another motivation for the renaming of the highway, as pointed out by the article, is the tourist travel on the highway. It is noted that the Queen has visited 22 times so far.

Whether Canada is a post colonial country or not yet I am sure some could argue, but this article leaves me feeling like the country still is to a certain extent under influence of the British monarchy. The article seems to be very one sided, as it only mentioned the positives about the events, leaving out any details on the costs of the renaming process. I find myself agreeing with the one comment on the article that mentions the ambiguity in how many millions have been spent on the queens 22 visits.

As a member of a post colonial country, I think it is important to avoid these kind of actions, and spending as not only could that money be used towards important things that benefit everyone, but also because there is arguably a large portion of the country that do not feel any ties to the British monarchy, as we are such a multicultural nation, and therefore I argue that the country should cut these ties.

#uwreligions

More from RELS 348: Empire, Colonialism, and Religion

A response to Anthony Egan’s story “Why faith is on the rise in Africa”, Mail & Guardian, 5 April 2012

In this article, Anthony Egan is trying to understand the role of religion in the social and political contexts in contemporary Africa. He explains the existence of Christianity as one of the legacies of colonisation and converting Africans from their traditional religion to Christianity. According to him, this was due mainly to the political parameters associated with traditional African religion while, on the other hand, Christianity promised equality when one is praying to one God. Controversy emerges as those educated in ‘mission schools’ helped to eradicate colonialism. Christianity stays rooted in Africa as at date and is still expanding as compared to its decline in Europe. Pope Benedict VI is quoted as seeing Africa securing the fate of Christianity, a fact reflected in recent surveys showing the increasing number of Christians in specific parts of the said continent. But again, the author questions the decreasing number of Christian adherents in Africa and wants to impart the notion of Christianity not being the only ‘colonial’ religion.

As far as Islam is concerned, Egan is of opinion that it should be considered as a ‘colonial’ religion and pinpoints how some Christians converted to Islam. He questions whether the latter can be considered as one of the ‘first religious colonisation of Africa’, even if Muslims had not been implied in colonisation. According to this article, trade practised by Muslims also involved slave trade and was subsequently taken over by Europeans. Islam offered what Christianity did not: no Western imprint. Furthermore, Egan’s article brings about how Islam tolerated some aspects of ‘African culture’ and modernism as long as they did not clash with the religion’s ideology. As a conclusion to his article, Egan sees these two religions through the eyes of Africans as not offering the solution to the problems faced in the African society. However, although they do not free from ‘corrupted’ political imperialism and ‘social equality’, Christianity and Islam ‘provide education and social services’, which are not always dispensed by the state.

This article brings to the forefront many past events involving Arabs and Christians roles and coexistence in the history of Africa. For instance, Arabs’ implications in the slave trade is taken into account here, adding to what Robert Irwin’s wrote in his book For Lust of Knowing The Orientalists and their Ennemies: “More specifically, Islam was a religion that arose to serve the interests of the slave-owning mercantile bourgeoisie of Mecca and Medina” (Irwin, p. 232). Moreover, Christians ‘characterized Islam as a sensual cult’ that ‘owed its success to force of arms’ (Irwin, p. 21). On the other hand, Muslims viewed the Christians as ‘not true monotheists’ (Irwin, p. 20). So, even the two religions had conflicting opinions on each other, they co-existed in Africa. But what is most important of all is that both religions contributed to the betterment of the lifestyles of Africans.

You Will Be Executed (RELS 348)

The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, now controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. All areas controlled by the Islamic State are sentenced to the decrees and rules laid down by this extremist Islamic faction. The article “ISIS: Horrifying Photos Show Man and Woman Being Stoned to Death ‘For Pre-Marital Sex’” written by Richard Wheatstone on March 30th 2015 shares some photos of a couple who were stoned to death. Richard Wheatstone reports that these two, who were most likely in their twenties, were taken before a crowd of hundreds of people. There one of the militants read from a piece of paper that they were charged with fornication, or having sex before marriage and the punishment for their crime, death by stoning. A witness states that the woman died after the third hit and the man died shortly after. Richard Wheatstone goes on to inform the reader that this is not the first public execution for breaking cultural and religious laws preformed by the Islamic State. Wheatstone ends the article by stating that these brutal punishments are spreading panic in the Islamic State’s lands.

Uwe Siemon-Netto mentions very similar occurrences happening during the Vietnam War in his book titled Triumph of the Absurd: A Reporter’s Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam. According to Uwe Siemon-Netto during 1968 in Hue Vietnam the Vietcong, or the communist extremists, would hold Kangaroo trials where they accused and executed anyone who were not supporters of the revolution. The current estimated death toll from these trials is between 2 500 to 6 000. It is revealed that this caused massive amounts of panic in Hue, because many were unwilling to speak to the “American” (Uwe Siemon-Netto) because they were afraid of being viewed as against the revolution.

While this connection may not be important, there is one point I would like to propose. History repeats itself. In the Vietnam War the Communistic North Vietnam eventually won the war. The important query that must now be asked is will the Islamic States also win their war, as they are using similar tactics to the Vietcong? Also if the Islamic States are using the same tactics as the Vietcong, have the allied forces learned a way to counter-attack yet? Has the world learned from its past, or are we simply repeating it?

Either way if you are interested in reading some more about the Islamic States executions there are some links. Also make sure to check out all the other postings at #uwreligions for more outlooks on current news.

KV 348

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/sick-isis-killers-blindfold-gay-5246481

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/isis-fighters-throw-man-roof-4784798

More from RELS 348: Empire, Colonialism, and Religion

Just like what John McLaughlin says in his story “The Middle East conflict with 3 dimensions,” USA Today, 6 April 2015, never in modern times has the Middle East been so chaotic. The Islamic State has built a nominal “caliphate” in big parts of Syria and Iraq, eliminating the border between the two countries established in WWI; Saudi Arabia and Iran both are against Islamic State, but other issues are there in both Syria and Yemen. In Yemen, the government supported by Saudi has fallen to Iranian-backed rebels. Egypt is militarily striking back against extremists in Libya and has been allied with Saudi Arabia in Yemen against Iranian rebels. When Iran and Saudi Arabia, the leaders of the two religious sides Shia and Sunni are battling each other. All adds up to a conflict with five dimensions. Arabs vs. Persians, terrorists vs. regimes, terrorists vs. each other, Sunnis vs. Shias, democracy vs. authoritarian.

Beginning in the late 15th century, Europeans led expeditions across the world in an attempt to expand their territory and power. During this time, they exerted not only political and economic influence upon the lands they discovered and claimed, but also socio-cultural, and, most importantly, religious influence. This historical process that lasted for almost four centuries until the 20th century is known as colonialism. European colonial powers artificially created states according to their own imperial needs, and implemented a widespread sectionalist policy as to effectively govern their colonies as well as the indigenous population, leaving a legacy of bitter religious and political conflict.

For example, by establishing a new government of their own in Lebanon, France drew borders around the nation within which their Maronite allies would become the population majority and eventually assume socio-economic and political power over the Druze, Shia, and Sunni Muslims. As a result, Lebanon is now festered with sectarian conflicts that are becoming more and more intense with the deteriorating economy. Yemen is no exception to such issues, as exemplified by the aggressive antagonism between Saudi Arabian monarchs, comprised mostly of Sunnis, and Iran-allied Houthi rebels, comprised mostly of Shias.

The Shia-Sunni conflict is the one of many consequences of European colonial policies that endorsed sectarianism in the Mid East. Thus, the political and religious chaos that inhabit the Mid East today, as represented by the dispute between and amongst various ideologies, groups, and denominations like the Christians, Catholics, and the Islamists, can be attributed to a history of wrongful domination by European colonialists.

nlee

Do Religions Create Their Own Empires? (RELS 348)

The actions and impacts of religion have been highly controversial throughout history, and people take very strong, differing stances on it. In Michiko Kakutani’s article “Almighty Empire With a Global Reach,” The New York Times, March 30, 2009, Kakutani is commenting on the beliefs and ideas of the book, “God is Back” by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. The book suggests that religion is becoming more popular, and people are becoming more religious in the era of modernity, while Kakutani believes that the author’s have had some great oversights. The book gives the perspective that “the surge of religion is being driven by the same two things that have driven the success of market capitalism: competition and choice”[1]. That as the world modernizes there will be a continuous religious revival and that religion will create its own form of empire, a ruling, stand-alone body within nations.

Kakutani disagrees with much of what they because he argues that the authors use one-sided evidence, and this view of religion is very Christian-North American centered, and not an accurate view of the world as a whole. Kakutani argues that this perspective completely ignores a large portion of the world, and religions where many people do not have a choice of religion, in places such as the Middle East. However, I would argue that in these nations where there is no choice of religion, and where there is dictatorship type rule by religious groups, that this also results in a religious empire.

Additionally, throughout history there have been many revivals of religion, and cultures adapt to these revivals. Modern day North America is not the first time that religion has become hugely important in people’s lives. It is just one revival of many throughout history.

Religion is so intertwined in peoples lived because it forms the base of their worldview, and whether it is a choice or an assimilated belief it impacts an individuals life. Religion, whether by choice, or by force is such a large institution that is has the chance of having so much influence that it can create real physical empires, or else empires of thought that are within nations.

JML

[1] Kakutani, Michiko. “Almighty Empire With a Global Reach,” The New York Times, March 30, 2009

Tibetan Leader: Chinese Government Can’t Choose Next Dalai Lama (RELS 348)

In the article “Tibetan Leader: Chinese Government Can’t Choose Next Dalai Lama” by Lobsang Sangay on March 30th 2015, Sangay develops different areas of imperialistic practices used on Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism even today. He explains the tactics used by the Chinese government to try and take the power of Tibetan Buddhism away from spiritual leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The main topic of the article is that the Chinese Government demands they choose the next reincarnation of The Dalai Lama. Thus causing mass confusion since they torture Tibetans who practice Tibetan Buddhism and imprison anyone who possesses a picture of the present Dalai Lama.

In 1959, the Chinese communist army invaded Tibet, killing thousands of innocent people and monks. The Chinese even had the nerve to destroy religious temples, monasteries and sacred places. As well as exiling His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama from his home country. The Dalai Lama is the Tibetan spiritual leader and is considered a God in human form to Tibetan Buddhism followers. While the Chinese call him a “devil in disguise” and a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, they still want to choose the next Dalai Lama. This is causing confusion and suggesting that China may have ulterior motives. The only explanation is that they are seeking to have a Chinese influenced Dalai Lama to represent the next generation. Tibetans believe that the next spiritual leader may be an individual influenced by Chinese ideals. These imperialistic tactics go far beyond human rights, the Chinese are seeking to use their chosen Dalai Lama, to brainwash Tibetans like they have done so with their own people, through propaganda and other communist ideologies.

I find it humorous that Mao Zedong previously stated, “Religion is poison” but is now demanding that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is chosen under Chinese terms. If the Chinese leader can’t stick to the words he speaks, what makes him a candidate to make such an important decision, such as choosing the next Dalai Lama. There is no way that this should even be a possibility. What the Chinese are trying to do is to deteriorate Tibetan Buddhism and culture. The same thing they planned on doing when they invaded and imperialized Tibet. For basic human rights purposes, China should just allow Tibetans to practice their own religion and cultural traditions. Tibetans are not causing any type of harm to the Chinese. From what I see, Tibetans are very peaceful and compassionate people. So China, why do you wish to intervene on this matter of choosing the next Dalai Lama?