|Bethany Deaton, who did not survive living in the cult Boze Herrington writes about in The Atlantic.|
As in the Catholic Church, the International House of Prayer case shows that those (the school's counselors and administrators) who could have stepped in to intervene, or who could have been more helpful to the victims once the cult was fully exposed for what it actually was, appear to have been less than diligent. The same is true for authority figures in the Catholic Church, who for years knew about the damage being done by cult leader Marcial Maciel (founder of the Legionaries of Christ), but at best did nothing to restrain him, and at worst actively protected him.
After all, if bishops enabled (and still sometimes enable) the sexual abuse of children on their watch, they'll enable cults.
I think it's important to note this about cults. They are not neutral things. They are not merely means of seeking a close group of like-minded friends and somehow worshiping with them. In my last piece on cults, I focused on the unrealistic element of hyper-control that most cult members are seeking in their lives, and this is bad enough, but what's really happening in cults goes far beyond this hyper-control and the insularity that comes with it.
Cults serve the ends of their founders, or of the people who run them. And those ends are always not only evil, but astonishingly so.
Cult leaders are abusers. They abuse people sexually, physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. They have a demonic god complex (they want to be like God, and this is a demonic urge), and the damage they do is incredible. In the Tyler Deaton case, (according to the article) that damage may have included ritual sexual abuse and murder. In the case of Marcial Maciel, the evil included even the sexual abuse of his own biological children, whom he sired on the sly. In the case of Jim Jones and Jonestown, it included murder and mass suicide.
If you're drawn to a cult, you may simply be seeking a close-knit group to share a life of intense devotion with, but the leader of the cult has other motives. He wants to abuse you.
I've also written about the cult-like aspects of things that one would suspect as harmless, such as Dramatic Groups that are led by charismatic Acting Instructors.
There are a ton of charlatans posing as acting coaches and directors at workshops and grad schools around the country, cult leader types who use mind games to mess with the actors under their care in order to bed their bodies and break their spirits.
And I'm convinced that there is a cult-like element that has been given free reign throughout the Church. It's something that normal people don't fall victim to. But the "devout" do. For the "devout" have a hunger that can be filled either by God or by scoundrels claiming to have the authority of God. This hunger is a desire for purpose, intense devotion, self-surrender - all of which are marvelous things that can indeed serve God and serve our neighbor. Or serve the appetites of cult leaders.
And we see this phenomenon all over the place, including in Catholic groups that are not cults. Even something as apparently innocuous as LifeTeen was (to a certain extent) at one time a cover for the sexual activities of its excommunicated and defrocked founder, activities that bishops (as usual) overlooked and enabled.
And so we need to be careful.
None of us (I hope) is tempted to start a cult. But many of us - being "devout" people -may be tempted to join cults, or organizations within the Church that have cult-like characteristics.
Therefore, some common sense and wariness are called for, especially in a world that has gone so crazy and in a Church whose leaders no longer offer guidance. Stewardship of Love is the hallmark of those mature in Christ. And it's Stewardship of Love that we must practice - lest we be victimized and victimized severely.
Rolling Stone also has a piece on the Tyler Deaton / International House of Prayer case, which I have not yet read, but which you can read here.