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What defines a "cult"??

Open Discussions About Cult Abuse and Mind Control or Manipulation.

Postby Butterfly Faerie » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:58 pm

Here are some definitions of a cult...

-A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
-The followers of such a religion or sect.
-A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
-The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
-A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

-Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
-The object of such devotion.
-An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.
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Postby kooz » Sun Jul 22, 2007 2:32 am

Butterfly Faerie wrote:Here are some definitions of a cult...

-A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
-The followers of such a religion or sect.
-A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
-The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
-A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

-Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
-The object of such devotion.
-An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.


Honestly, I think psellis's 2 definingin factors of a cult:
1)any religion that proselytizes others and considers itself to be the "only true path" -- (what I call "singular proselytization")
2)any faith that uses scare tactics to keep members from leaving (what I call "departure scare-tactics")

very thoroughly summarize cult-behavior.

Butterfly's definitions lack specificity:

-A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.

Charismatic leaders have nothing to do with cults. You WANT charismatic leaders in any organization. it's the coupling of charismatic leaders with psellis's 1 and 2 definitions (singular proselytizing and departure scare tactics) that make something cult-like, so again, it's the 1 & 2 defining factor's not the style of leadership.

-The followers of such a religion or sect.

WAY too vague; this condemns every organized group of faith to be a cult (but that, in a way, does have veracityjavascript:emoticon('8)'))


we can categorize:

-The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

as absurd logic. If that were the case, "faith in general" and "practice of faith" would become "cult-like" and this certainly would put a huge damper on human evolution.


-A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

Again, don't all medicines, penicillins, etc. originate with unproven hypotheses? This definition refrains from addressing the forward momentum generated by nascent cures that have yet to be formalized and considered "scientific"

Conclusively, the simple "departure scare tactics" and "singular proselytizing" continue to be, as first wrote by psellis, simple, succinct, and complete defing factors for cult-like behavior.

This feels like an enormous issue though. Almost all organized religions proselytize and condemn non-members as people "going to damnation or hell"; they all fit the criteria of a cult, in other words. The importance, however, of practicing faith and positive belief while not engaging in cult-like groups should not be overlooked. Let me propose another question: what would NOT be defined as a cult?

Computer Cults
You could easily say any computer operating software allegiance looks cult-like. Mac advocates "worship" black-turtle-necked steve jobs :lol:; microsoft users denounce non-MS users.

Food Cults
Veganism definitely has cult-like qualities in that they profer their method has superior results and is the only "right way":)

Family Cults
Families fit the criteria of the biggest, most elusive cult of all. Parental programming and conspiracy starts at the young age, familial dissension generates the highest punishment and fear tactics and typical (bad) parents spend their lives preaching what to do and what not to do to their children instead of nurturing their personality and evoking their responses, their genuineness.

Cults have a more frightening and menacing presence than one would think at first glance at society. Sure, some of cult variations I made above appear a little extreme, but such classifications do not sway far from the truth!
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Re: Christian cults

Postby angercoach » Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:50 pm

"What is a Christian cult?"
Alan Gomes writes: "A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible."
Alan Gomes, Unmasking The Cults (Zondervan, 1995)

"A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community." (West & Langone, 1986)

"Characteristics of a Cult"

Popular
Manipulative
Controlling and authoritative: This message is from God; I am a prophet... You must follow these rules...
Fear-inducing
Legalistic
Condemning
Conformity
Exclusivity
Financial involvement
Isolation from outside.
Lack of privacy
Love-bombing
Critical thinking discouraged; can't question.
Indoctrination
Corporate identification with goals of group
Demands Total Committment and unquestioning submission
Value rejection: encouraged to denounce values and beliefs of former life.
Deviates from orthodox teachings of historic Christian faith
Denies and distorts fundamental orthodox Christian doctrines, ie., Trinity, deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith alone.
Threats about leaving and consequences

"Symptoms of cult followers"

Fear
Loyalty
Brain-washing
Emotional vulnerability
Neurosis
Guilt
Identity confusion
Paranoia
Loss of free will
Intellectual sterility
Diminished capacity of judgment
Psychosis
Suicidal tendencies
Resources: Christian Research Institute and Larson's New book of Cults by Bob Larson

Christian Resources: Spiritual Abuse Profile at Watchman Fellowhip
Advice on dealing with spirtual abuse
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Re: Christian cults

Postby kooz » Wed Aug 15, 2007 11:02 am

angercoach wrote:"What is a Christian cult?"
Alan Gomes writes: "A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible."
Alan Gomes, Unmasking The Cults (Zondervan, 1995)

"A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community." (West & Langone, 1986)

"Characteristics of a Cult"

Popular
Manipulative
Controlling and authoritative: This message is from God; I am a prophet... You must follow these rules...
Fear-inducing
Legalistic
Condemning
Conformity
Exclusivity
Financial involvement
Isolation from outside.
Lack of privacy
Love-bombing
Critical thinking discouraged; can't question.
Indoctrination
Corporate identification with goals of group
Demands Total Committment and unquestioning submission
Value rejection: encouraged to denounce values and beliefs of former life.
Deviates from orthodox teachings of historic Christian faith
Denies and distorts fundamental orthodox Christian doctrines, ie., Trinity, deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith alone.
Threats about leaving and consequences

"Symptoms of cult followers"

Fear
Loyalty
Brain-washing
Emotional vulnerability
Neurosis
Guilt
Identity confusion
Paranoia
Loss of free will
Intellectual sterility
Diminished capacity of judgment
Psychosis
Suicidal tendencies
Resources: Christian Research Institute and Larson's New book of Cults by Bob Larson

Christian Resources: Spiritual Abuse Profile at Watchman Fellowhip
Advice on dealing with spirtual abuse



Dayam, anger! Nice details:cool:

"A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community." (West & Langone, 1986)


Yep. My immediate family definitely was cult-like!:evil::!: I was met with vicious criticism, HUGE fear tactics when I expressed different beliefs, brainwashing practices that discouraged my own thinking...etc. all the characteristics... I currently am experiencing a lot of identity confusion after their abuse. :?:x

That aside. Out of all your great quote references. I think the "Symptoms". The EFFECTs that you feel ALWAYS :shock: offer the greatest indication.

For example

angercoach wrote:"What is a Christian cult?"
Alan Gomes writes: "A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible."
Alan Gomes, Unmasking The Cults (Zondervan, 1995)

"A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community." (West & Langone, 1986)

"Characteristics of a Cult"

Popular
Manipulative
Controlling and authoritative: This message is from God; I am a prophet... You must follow these rules...
Fear-inducing
Legalistic
Condemning
Conformity
Exclusivity
Financial involvement

The PGA Tour is exclusive. Politicians can be manipulative. Lawyers are legalistic. Banks have financial involvement...etc. PGA golfers, politiciasn, lawyers, and banks, generally, don't specify cults.

However....

"Symptoms of cult followers"

Fear
Loyalty
Brain-washing
Emotional vulnerability
Neurosis
Guilt
Identity confusion
Paranoia
Loss of free will
Intellectual sterility
Diminished capacity of judgment
Psychosis
Suicidal tendencies
Resources: Christian Research Institute and Larson's New book of Cults by Bob Larson

If you notice about >=5 of those symptoms (with immediate family people, I felt, id confusion, loss of free will, diminished capacity, suicidal tendencies, fear, brainwashing -- VERY scary) you can expect that's cult-like behavior.

Cults, personally, fear me more than anything because if you're in a physical prison, or chained with metal manacles you atleast are "AWARE" of your imprisonment. The scariest thing about cults is sometimes its members rarely know how emotionally imprisoned the cults make them! Ahhh!!!!! Get me outta cults! :twised:

Murderers, starving to death, monsters, sharks, ebola virus, I don't know what else people typically find "scary", but "cults" usually top that list of things I fear, probably because I had been immersed in one fur such a dangerously long time.

Thanks for the wisdom, anger coach!
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http://www.validatelife.com
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Postby radames » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:52 am

"A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader."

I went through this kind of situation and it ended up that the church decided to gang up on me and berate me and ridicule me while I went through a very tough emotional, and mental, time. I think that they thought their attempts at helping me by criticizing me was justified.
Knowing me a bit more every day!
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Postby kooz » Sat May 03, 2008 5:24 am

there's a fine line between cultgroup, and just fun inspirational group. Go with the latter!
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Re: What defines a "cult"??

Postby ELMO-BERTNERNIE » Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:10 pm

There are cults that are not posing as a religion yet are still a CULT in every definition of the term.

I have family members involved in a "Self Development" style CULT opoerating out of Perth West Australia that advertises itself on the internet and has a Facebook page for its leaders where the people who have been indoctrinated by their Cognitive Psychoptherapy style similar to Scientology/EST/Dr DeMartini/Landmark Forums, post messages of love for their leader and thanking him profusely for "Transforming their lives"

You cannot even suggest the slightest bit of criticism of any of the ideas or people in the group without my family members angrily defending everything about it.
They will not even consider that maybe there is a slight chance that something is wrong.

They are rejecting family, communication with us, socialising with us etc.

We keep telling them that we love them and are concerned for them but it is met with aggressive and manipulative attempts to guilt trip us and bully us into attending one of their "SEMINARS".

Just today I was abused for over half an hour by a stream of accusations, fault finding, anger at my sharing information with other family members without consulting this person first, and my actions and words in a certain recent situation were repeated back to me in a totally distorted version that implied I was behaving in a mentally disturbed manner.
I am being portrayed to younger members of the family as a whacko who is not to be listened to or respected.
Character assasination, aggression, verbal /emotional abuse, is all being used against me, to try to make me break and submit to their authority and attend a SEMINAR.

Very sad to see someone so conned, and so willing to be conned, because they are needy and searching for that elusive something that is lacking in their life.

They think they have found the best thing since sliced bread and they think they have to drag all the rest of the family in to it.
The rest of us in the extended family can see clearly that it is just a money making scheme that gets people conned and pressures them to drag everyone they can, into the Seminars so they can be the next person pressured to sign up and pay exorbitant amounts of money to learn useless pseudo Quantum science jargon and a mish mash of rubbish ideaology.
We are all very concerned about the mental state of the eldest family member enmeshed in this group as they are becoming more aggressive and manipulatively bullying trying to get me to go to a SEMINAR.
It is a rapid and uncharacteristic change in their personality and behaviour,they seem to be under some sort of pressure from the "coaches" in the group, to get me to attend.
Maybe it is because I speak openly of my dissaproval of the groups "teaching" and "Training" which is contradictory when studied properly and in full, by an inquiring and informed person who understands what Cognitive Psychothrerapy is, and that they are using these techniques on people without their knowledge..
They use Waldo Emerson's writings CIRCLES (1841)for some of their teachings yet Emerson is renown for writings where he stated that "No man can learn anything from another man or from human traditions".
This means that they are charging high prices for SEMINARS where if their philosophical theories are to be trusted, NO ONE IS GOING TO LEARN ANYTHING ! Emerson said so!
That means they are gaining money by false pretenses if they truly believe in Emersons writings? LOL!
There are still some funny things in life to laugh about.
A merry heart is a good medicine!
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Re: What defines a "cult"??

Postby KeepMeSane » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:21 pm

May I copy/paste this worthwhile reading from this website http://www.refocus.org/bidermans-chart-of-coercion.html

Biderman's Chart of Coercion
"Most people who brainwash...use methods similar to those of prison guards who recognize that physical control is never easily accomplished without the cooperation of the prisoner. The most effective way to gain that cooperation is through subversive manipulation of the mind and feelings of the victim, who then becomes a psychological, as well as a physical, prisoner." from an Amnesty International publication, "Report on Torture", which depicts the brainwashing of prisoners of war.

Isolation

Deprives individual of social support, effectively rendering him unable to resist
Makes individual dependent upon interrogator
Develops an intense concern with self.
Once a person is away from longstanding emotional support and thus reality checks, it is fairly easy to set a stage for brainwashing. Spiritually abusive groups work to isolate individuals from friends and family, whether directly, by requiring the individuals to forsake friends and family for the sake of the "Kingdom" (group membership), or indirectly, by preaching the necessity to demonstrate one's love for God by "hating" one's father, mother, family, friends.

Abusive groups are not outward-looking, but inward-looking, insisting that members find all comfort and support and a replacement family within the group. Cut off from friends, relatives, previous relationships, abusive groups surround the recruits and hammer rigid ideologies into their consciousnesses, saturating their senses with specific doctrines and requirements of the group.

Isolated from everyone but those within the group, recruits become dependent upon group members and leaders and find it difficult if not impossible to offer resistance to group teachings. They become self-interested and hyper-vigilant, very fearful should they incur the disapproval of the group, which now offers the only support available to them which has group approval.

Warning signs
The seed of extremism exists wherever a group demands all the free time of a member, insisting he be in church every time the doors are open and calling him to account if he isn't, is critical or disapproving of involvements with friends and family outside the group, encourages secrecy by asking that members not share what they have seen or heard in meetings or about church affairs with outsiders, is openly, publicly, and repeatedly critical of other churches or groups (especially if the group claims to be the only one which speaks for God), is critical when members attend conferences, workshops or services at other churches, checks up on members in any way, i.e., to determine that the reason they gave for missing a meeting was valid, or makes attendance at all church functions mandatory for participating in church ministry or enjoying other benefits of church fellowship.

Once a member stops interacting openly with others, the group's influence is all that matters. He is bombarded with group values and information and there is no one outside the group with whom to share thoughts or who will offer reinforcement or affirmation if the member disagrees with or doubts the values of the group. The process of isolation and the self-doubt it creates allow the group and its leaders to gain power over the members. Leaders may criticize major and minor flaws of members, sometimes publicly, or remind them of present or past sins. They may call members names, insult them or ignore them, or practice a combination of ignoring members at some times and receiving them warmly at others, thus maintaining a position of power (i.e., the leaders call the shots.)

The sense of humiliation makes members feel they deserve the poor treatment they are receiving and may cause them to allow themselves to be subjected to any and all indignities out of gratefulness that one as unworthy as they feel is allowed to participate in the group at all. When leaders treat the member well occasionally, they accept any and all crumbs gratefully. Eventually, awareness of how dependent they are on the group and gratitude for the smallest attention contributes to an increasing sense of shame and degradation on the part of the members, who begin to abuse themselves with "litanies of self-blame," i.e., "No matter what they do to me, I deserve it, as sinful and wretched as I am. I deserve no better. I have no rights but to go to hell. I should be grateful for everything I receive, even punishment."

Monopolization of Perception
Fixes attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection
Eliminates stimuli competing with those controlled by captor
Frustrates all actions not consistent with compliance
Abusive groups insist on compliance with trivial demands related to all facets of life: food, clothing, money, household arrangements, children, conversation. They monitor members' appearances, criticize language and childcare practices. They insist on precise schedules and routines, which may change and be contradictory from day to day or moment to moment, depending on the whims of group leaders.

At first, new members may think these expectations are unreasonable and may dispute them, but later, either because they want to be at peace or because they are afraid, or because everyone else is complying, they attempt to comply. After all, what real difference does it make if a member is not allowed to wear a certain color, or to wear his hair in a certain way, to eat certain foods, or say certain words, to go certain places, watch certain things, or associate with certain individuals. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter? In fact, in the long run, the member begins to reason, it is probably good to learn these disciplines, and after all, as they have frequently been reminded, they are to submit to spiritual authority as unto the Lord.. Soon it becomes apparent that the demands will be unending, and increasing time and energy are focused on avoiding group disapproval by doing something "wrong." There is a feeling of walking on eggs. Everything becomes important in terms of how the group or its leaders will respond, and members' desires, feelings and ideas become insignificant. Eventually, members may no longer even know what they want, feel or think. The group has so monopolized all of the members' perceptions with trivial demands that members lose their perspective as to the enormity of the situation they are in.

The leaders may also persuade the members that they have the inside track with God and therefore know how everything should be done. When their behavior results in disastrous consequences, as it often does, the members are blamed. Sometimes the leaders may have moments, especially after abusive episodes, when they appear to humble themselves and confess their faults, and the contrast of these moments of vulnerability with their usual pose of being all-powerful endears them to members and gives hope for some open communication.

Threats sometimes accompany all of these methods. Members are told they will be under God's judgment, under a curse, punished, chastised, chastened if they leave the group or disobey group leaders. Sometimes the leaders, themselves, punish the members, and so members can never be sure when leaders will make good on the threats which they say are God's idea. The members begin to focus on what they can do to meet any and all group demands and how to preserve peace in the short run. Abusive groups may remove children from their parents, control all the money in the group, arrange marriages, destroy personal items of members or hide personal items.

Warning signs:
Preoccupation with trivial demands of daily life, demanding strict compliance with standards of appearance, dress codes, what foods are or are not to be eaten and when, schedules, threats of God's wrath if group rules are not obeyed, a feeling of being monitored, watched constantly by those in the group or by leaders. In other words, what the church wants, believes and thinks its members should do becomes everything, and you feel preoccupied with making sure you are meeting the standards. It no longer matters whether you agree that the standards are correct, only that you follow them and thus keep the peace and in the good graces of leaders.

Induced Debility and Exhaustion

People subjected to this type of spiritual abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet group standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid ministry demands and requirements that members attend unreasonable numbers of meetings and events makes the exhaustion and ability to resist group pressure even worse.

Warning Signs:
Feelings of being overwhelmed by demands, close to tears, guilty if one says no to a request or goes against a church standards. Being intimidated or pressured into volunteering for church duties and subjected to scorn or ridicule when one does not "volunteer." Being rebuked or reproved when family or work responsibilities intrude on church responsibilities.

Occasional Indulgences
Provides motivation for compliance
Leaders of abusive groups often sense when members are making plans to leave and may suddenly offer some kind of indulgence, perhaps just love or affection, attention where there was none before, a note or a gesture of concern. Hope that the situation in the church will change or self doubt ("Maybe I'm just imagining it's this bad,") then replace fear or despair and the members decide to stay a while longer. Other groups practice sporadic demonstrations of compassion or affection right in the middle of desperate conflict or abusive episodes. This keeps members off guard and doubting their own perceptions of what is happening.

Some of the brainwashing techniques described are extreme, some groups may use them in a disciplined, regular manner while others use them more sporadically. But even mild, occasional use of these techniques is effective in gaining power.

Warning Signs:
Be concerned if you have had an ongoing desire to leave a church or group you believe may be abusive, but find yourself repeatedly drawn back in just at the moment you are ready to leave, by a call, a comment or moment of compassion. These moments, infrequent as they may be, are enough to keep hope in change alive and thus you sacrifice years and years to an abusive group.

Devaluing the Individual

Creates fear of freedom and dependence upon captors
Creates feelings of helplessness
Develops lack of faith in individual capabilities
Abusive leaders are frequently uncannily able to pick out traits church members are proud of and to use those very traits against the members. Those with natural gifts in the areas of music may be told they are proud or puffed up or "anxious to be up front" if they want to use their talents and denied that opportunity. Those with discernment are called judgmental or critical, the merciful are lacking in holiness or good judgment, the peacemakers are reminded the Lord came to bring a sword, not peace. Sometimes efforts are made to convince members that they really are not gifted teachers or musically talented or prophetically inclined as they believed they were. When members begin to doubt the one or two special gifts they possess which they have always been sure were God-given, they begin to doubt everything else they have ever believed about themselves, to feel dependent upon church leaders and afraid to leave the group. ("If I've been wrong about even *that*, how can I ever trust myself to make right decisions ever again?").

Warning Signs:
Unwillingness to allow members to use their gifts. Establishing rigid boot camp-like requirements for the sake of proving commitment to the group before gifts may be exercised. Repeatedly criticizing natural giftedness by reminding members they must die to their natural gifts, that Paul, after all, said, "When I'm weak, I'm strong," and that they should expect God to use them in areas other than their areas of giftedness. Emphasizing helps or service to the group as a prerequisite to church ministry. This might take the form of requiring that anyone wanting to serve in any way first have the responsibility of cleaning toilets or cleaning the church for a specified time, that anyone wanting to sing in the worship band must first sing to the children in Sunday School, or that before exercising any gifts at all, members must demonstrate loyalty to the group by faithful attendance at all functions and such things as tithing. No consideration is given to the length of time a new member has been a Christian or to his age or station in life or his unique talents or abilities. The rules apply to everyone alike. This has the effect of reducing everyone to some kind of lowest common denominator where no one's gifts or natural abilities are valued or appreciated, where the individual is not cherished for the unique blessing he or she is to the body of Christ, where what is most highly valued is service, obedience, submission to authority, and performance without regard to gifts or abilities or, for that matter, individual limitations.
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