Cults do exist. They are wretched abominations which rightly should be denounced. But if people are going to raise the “C” word publicly, they had best be prepared to defend such a charge before the world, and if found guilty of defaming a legitimate work of Christ, they must be prepared to face the consequences which are rightly due to those who divide brethren and slander the servants of the Lord.
(From Doug’s Blog, August 2005)
By Geoff Botkin
(From Doug’s Blog, August 2005)
By Geoff Botkin
Li Ying is serious about the Christian Faith. According to Voice of the Martyrs, she has been suffering in a Chinese prison for 2,339 days as of today’s date. She is serving a 15-year sentence for her role as editor of an underground-church magazine in China. In recent months, Li Ying’s mother has not been allowed to visit. Prison officials are increasing the pressure to get Li Ying to recant her faith and sign a document saying that she is part of an “evil cult,” meaning biblical Christianity. She refused to sign today. She will refuse to sign tomorrow.
American Christians should take some lessons from Li. She has learned a lot about serious, non-compromising spiritual warfare. She is willing to risk her life to publish the truth. She is not willing to allow the state to define the terms “evil” or “cult.”
Why? Li Ying knows the term “cult” is the perfect weapon of the anti-Christian state. With it, any government can enforce policies of arrest or genocide. With this one word, anti-Christian bureaucracies can eliminate Christian orthodoxy, the greatest enemy of the purpose-driven tyrant.
In America, many state leaders have purposefully pushed the federal government’s role beyond its Constitutional boundaries. In the name of the law, they have institutionalized lawlessness, rejecting God’s authority. This is why state hostility toward sane and principled Christianity is growing. Even non-believers can recognize this as dangerous. “Anyone who thinks that religion (meaning Christianity) is bad for society is out of his mind,” observes culture analyst Tom Wolfe.
The American state has largely lost all practical reference to its original moral foundations. Its growing bureaucracy, like the Chinese bureaucracy, now believes historic Christianity is bad for society. This bureaucracy is increasingly uncomfortable with principled, “applied” Christianity. Christian doctrines that strengthen the freedom of the traditional family are clashing stridently with the secular designs of today’s planned economy.
This great clash is noisy. It is not peaceful. Christians like Li Ying know that warfare involves conflict, and she stands her ground, even while suffering the torments of prison.
Li Ying could appease her tormentors and possibly be released to join a registered or approved Church which the government considers “good” for society. But she understands the dangers of a compliant church. How about the vast church-going American public?
There are millions of church-going Americans who do not represent the Faith of historic America or historic Christianity. Too many American churches now reflect the essence of a secular, state-dependent culture. Mainstream Christianity is desperately trying to conform itself to the heart and soul of a decadent and anti-Christian culture. It is succeeding. In the name of relevancy and salesmanship, a feel-good secularism is the new foundation of a church ready to appease the secular bureaucracy at all costs.
What does the secular bureaucracy want from the church? Co-existence on the state’s terms. Mega-compliance with all state requirements. Mega-churches can inspire this kind of compliance and do. So what happens when some Christian family fails to run with the herd? When any citizen fears the state, they fear noncompliance. They fear people who rock the boat. Wayward Christians could be turned in to the state, especially if that’s what compliant Christians “do.”
Or, they could simply be labeled with the “C” word.
Do American churchgoers know what happens when governments pretend to be on the side of Christianity, protecting society from dangerous religious extremists who attempt to apply rigorous forms of biblical morality? Orthodox Christianity is labeled “cultic” and is driven, by force, from society.
In order to destroy the church, anti-Christian governments can use a form of class warfare between compliant and non-compliant churchgoers. They need accusers who label serious Christians like Li Ying “cultic.” Once the “C” word is improperly used by the church, bureaucrats can take further liberties with the language and meaning.
American churchgoers need a strong, two-fisted warning: We must guard against the compromises of appeasement, and we must guard against the temptations to take up unwarranted reproaches against orthodox Christians who make us uncomfortable.
A professor at the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California has been researching the ways American Christians wrongfully accuse one another. “My working definition of a cult,” he reports, “is a group that you don’t like. And I say that somewhat facetiously, but at the same time, in fact, that is my working definition of a cult. It is a group that somebody doesn’t like. It is a derogatory term, and I have never seen it redeemed from the derogatory connotations that it picked up...in the 1930s.”
America has a problem. The “C” word has been unleashed by infantile Christians. For several decades it has been doing damage. It will continue to weaken the Faith each time it is recklessly bantered about in Christian circles. The government has taken notice of this childish indignation that Christians can manufacture against one another.
The professor’s definition of “cult” has been institutionalized by careless, proud, and disobedient Christians. This is not the proper definition of the word, and the professor knows it. His point is that Christians have abused the language, destroyed the word, and lowered the meaning to the most childish level of the playground insult. This is the only definition needed by the statist enemies of God’s people who can criminalize anything they don’t like.
Can the household of faith recover some semblance of maturity and order, or will Christians become easy prey to our enemies? Can the word “cult” be redeemed? Yes, it can. It is the duty of all Christians to assume responsibility for every word spoken or written. It is also our duty to be holy and precise. Language has been given to us as a gift of God for representing His interests accurately and righteously. Gentlemanly theological discourse between Christian men is a great privilege and a great necessity in every age. But it is not righteous or just when one Christian refuses to have gentlemanly discussion with another and simply attacks him on the internet...or initiates this theological conversation with the state: “Go arrest that other Christian. I don’t like him. He’s part of an evil cult.”
The “C” word is an important word in the English language. It is important to the science of theology. There is such a thing as treason, heresy, and cultic activity. These are evils that must be properly defined and resisted with truth. We must address these evils accurately and biblically. Any compromise in the meaning of these words compromises the great weapons that can identify and defeat evil.
Li Ying was fighting a righteous literary battle when she was accused of a great evil and silenced. Pray for Li Ying’s release. Pray for the freedom of her tongue and pen. And pray that bold, courageous, gentlemanly, accurate, restrained, and loving words would become the new standard for free discourse between Christians. We must redeem our language before we can redeem our culture.
Click here for a report on how last week’s CNN feature, “God’s Warriors,” attempts to “Talibanize” Christianity in America and equate anti-feminism within Christianity with the extremes of Islam.