|The Barnabas Ministry
Cults in Our Midst- The Hidden Menace in Our
Margaret Singer was a clinical psychologist who spent her career studying cults and counseling cult members. Cults in Our Midst is a thorough and eye-opening view into how cults work. Singer estimates that twenty million Americans have been involved with cults at one time or another (p. 5). Singer debunks common misconceptions about cults and shows how cults operate.
Sometimes people laugh when I tell them about the content of certain cultic groups or show films about the groups. For example, I tell them about assisting former members of a horse cult, an outer-space cult, a sports cult, a weight-lifting cult, a music camp cult, a diet cult, and a hairdressing cult.Singer discusses numerous cults, both the well-known and obscure, in illustrating and demonstrating the various traits of cults.
A cultic relationship is one in which a person intentionally induces others to become totally or nearly totally dependent upon him or her for almost all major life decisions, and inculates in these followers a belief that he or she has some special talent, gift or knowledge. (p. 7)Singer does the world a service by raising awareness about thought reform processes and the plethora of groups that exist, waiting to recruit unsuspecting people for the warped purposes of the cult leader:
People like to think that their opinions, values and ideas are inviolate and totally self-regulated. They may grudgingly admit that they're influenced slightly by advertising. Beyond that, they want to preserve the myth that other people are weak-minded and easily influenced while they are strong-minded. Even though we all know human minds are open to influence-- whether or not that is a comfortable thought-- most of us defensively and haughtily proclaim, "Only crazy, stupid, needy people join cults. No one could ever get me to commit suicide or give my wife over to a cult leader. No one could ever talk me into anything like that."
As I hear people say that, I silently ask, "You want to bet?" (p.16)Singer introduces six criteria for thought reform (p. 63):
Thought reform is a threat not only to Christianity and the church; it is a threat to the world and civilization itself. In these days where terrorism overshadows life in the civilized world, it is frightening to think that terrorist networks could utilize thought reform techniques and cultic relationships to recruit people to do their dirty work.
In discussing the idea of leaving a cult, Singer astutely identifies eight reasons why it is hard to leave a cult (pp. 266ff):
Singer discusses the way some powerful cults try to suppress discussion and negative information, even to the point of threatening and intimidating news media organizations with frivolous but costly lawsuits. This discussion is sobering for those who think the news media will expose all unhealthy situations! Some groups are not above harassing, intimidating and threatening individuals who seek to speak out about their experiences with the group. Even professionals like herself who promote cult awareness are harassed and threatened. Cults in Our Midst includes enough stories about these sort of things to hopefully make all readers take cults seriously. Some of these groups are extremely ambitious and everyone should be wary of them.
She also addresses the question of recovery from the cult, focusing on putting one's life and thinking back together after coming to grips with the cult experience. In summary, Cults in Our Midst is a worthy, helpful book that everybody ought to read. This is a topic about which nobody can afford to be ignorant.
Copyright © 2004 John Engler. All rights reserved.