Evangelical Christianity has become a cult. Does that sound like a game changing statement? It is, and it should be. We’re sounding the alarm. We hope some people listen. It’s not about Jesus any longer, and what he taught. It’s about thought control.
Over the last 35 years we’ve been the proverbial frog in the kettle. The water has gotten warmer and warmer and we’ve stayed in without asking questions. No one knows exactly when it happened but the water reached a boil, and our faith has been cooked beyond recognition. It’s reached the point where the doctrine we churn out is absurd.
Here are the “Six Sociological Characteristics of Cults,” as defined by Ron Rhodes, in “The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response.” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 31–34:
1.) Authoritarian Leadership. You have to see it our way. There are no other options.
2.) Exclusivism. We’re the only ones who are right.
3.) Isolationism. There’s us and there’s them. You can’t be part of both.
4.) Opposition to Independent Thinking.
5.) Fear of Being “Disfellowshiped.”
6.) Threats of Satanic Attack. Members may be told that something awful will happen to them should they choose to leave the group and its way of thinking, and Satan will be behind it.
We believe this is a must read book for Christians who vaguely, or not so vaguely, realize that something has gone very wrong:
I learned a few things growing up as an evangelical Christian: that abortion is murder; homosexuality, sin; evolution, nonsense; and environmentalism, a farce. I learned to accept these ideas— the “big four”— as part of the package deal of Christianity. In some circles, I learned that my eternal salvation hinged on it. Those who denied them were outsiders, liberals, and legitimate targets for evangelism. If they didn’t change their minds after being “witnessed to,” they became legitimate targets for hell.
In this book, I explore these ideas, the “big four,” from the perspective of one racked with ambivalence toward the evangelical community. Racked with ambivalence, I say, because I am emotionally attached to the evangelical culture. I grew up in it; all of my family and most of my childhood friends are from it; and I have many fond memories of singing songs at Bible camp, playing drums in my church’s praise band, and reciting Bible verses in Sunday school. But I am intellectually turned off by much of the evangelical culture. Its homogeneity, politicization, naive views of biblical interpretation, embrace of pseudoscience —they all serve to turn me away. I also explore the “big four” ideas as a seminary graduate and, now, aspiring medical scientist, and one whose theological and scientific training results in a rejection of standard evangelical thought on the big four issues. This background is especially appropriate because all four topics involve the Bible and biology: Life begins at conception and terminating it before birth is murder. Homosexuality is an abomination and gays don’t have to be gay. Intelligent design is the best synthesis of biochemistry with belief in God. Global warming is a myth and the earth will be destroyed when Jesus comes back anyway.
When the Bible and biology are mixed in this way, the products are boundaries. The preceding stances on each issue, in the eyes of many, define the perimeter of the evangelical community. Like walls surrounding a city, the issues serve to distinguish evangelical insiders from nonevangelical outsiders. If you don’t think life begins at conception, or you believe gay marriage is OK, chances are many evangelicals won’t see you as a fellow Christian. When Richard Cizik, head of the National Organization of Evangelicals, declared in 2007 he believes in human-made global warming, going counter to the views of many evangelicals, who have long insisted that global warming is a hoax, evangelical leaders demanded he resign. During the 2008 Saddleback Forum, when Barack Obama told Rick Warren he’s not quite sure when life begins, his response was immediately distributed to evangelicals as proof that McCain (who told Warren that life begins at the moment of conception) was the evangelicals’ candidate. When the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America voted to support gay marriage in 2009, and a tornado occurred on the same day, a leading evangelical pastor declared that God sent the tornado to punish the church. Evangelicals continue to rally around intelligent design and evince grave suspicion toward evolutionary theory. When evangelical pastor Greg Boyd wrote a book arguing that evangelicals needn’t be Republicans in 2007, he lost 20 percent of his five-thousand-person congregation. The problem is not so much that evangelicals are generally Republican as that valid perspectives are squelched, while perspectives that are substantially weaker (as I will argue) are held up as defining “orthodoxy” for evangelicals.
For me, the function of these beliefs as litmus tests for Christian faith is not just an observation of the culture from afar. It is profoundly personal. I recall several stories, whispered in hushed, solemn tones after church, about the latest members who had “wandered from the faith.” This often referred to supporting a pro-choice politician or accepting the theory of evolution. Assenting to the big four, on the other hand, was taken as evidence of moving into the faith, crossing from worldly to Christian and entering the kingdom community. A church friend once commented, “God’s been working in my neighbor’s heart lately.” How did my friend know? Over the years the neighbor had gradually switched from supporting gay rights to opposing them.
What constitutes "the list" is debatable but one thing is for sure, it's growing!
Here are some notable new additions to "the big four."
5.) You can't be a liberal;
6.) You can't vote for any other party but the Republicans;
7.) You can't support President Obama on anything and he's a Muslim anyway;
8.) Islam is NOT a religion of Peace
It's beyond time for the followers of Jesus to speak up. The extremists have taken over the camp and they're running the show, and the nation. It is no longer Christianity. It's a cult. Now what are we going to do about it?