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Religious Groups’ Practices Worry Some on Campus


ReligionNewsBlog.com • Monday October 21, 2002

Members of Suspected Cults Say Activities Misunderstood
The Daily Californian, Oct. 21, 2002
http://www.dailycal.org/
By ANGEL BREWER

UC Berkeley sophomore Hanesther Kim says although she left a “high-pressure” religious group after a short time, others who spend more time with the group may have been “manipulated” by its ideas.

“My friend introduced me to Sophia Presbyterian Church last fall,” Kim says. “After a while, I just felt like the church wasn’t really for me. It got too serious. Their ideas attract many good people and pull them in so close to become manipulated.”

Some of her fellow attendees were planning to move in with their pastor, Kim says.

Kim says she did not have a hard time leaving the group because she was never as consumed with it as the others. Still, she says she believes others usually found it difficult to leave.

“This is what they believe in, and they think that leaving it would be the wrong thing,” Kim says.

While the Office of Student Life has not received complaints about the Sophia church, there are three other suspected active cults on campus, according to Student Group Advisor Hal Reynolds, who has worked for the campus’s cult awareness program for 18 years.

“I’m very cautious with the word ‘cult’, as its definition is hotly debated,” Reynolds says. “So while I am not qualifying these groups as cults, they are typically seen as those employing certain high-pressure tactics characteristic of cults.”

The office receives complaints every semester about the International Church of Christ, the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles and occasionally, Asian Baptist Student Koinonia, Reynolds says.

“Berkeley has a greater issue with cults than most other college campuses,” Reynolds says. “We have a faculty here that really challenges students’ beliefs, and the community in general embraces an experimental, alternative lifestyle. We usually see individual cases of students who have trouble leaving a group.”

The International Church of Christ is known for their practice of discipleship, which is employed to spiritually equip members to share their faith. The church only recognizes those who are baptized as members of Christ’s church.

Ron Gould, a UC Berkeley assistant football coach who was baptized by the International Church of Christ in August, says he was introduced to the group by a video coordinator for the football team.

“I grew up in the church but had never really found a church I could call my home,” Gould says. “One thing that struck me about this church is that they go straight to the Bible. They never ask you to take their word for it.”

Another group, The ASUC-sponsored Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles, is connected to the widely known church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, says the student group’s advisor Christine Froehlich.

Followers of Moon, often called “Moonies,” believe Moon is the second advent of Jesus Christ, according to a Web site about the group.

After years of rumored scandals and evidence of tax fraud, Moon informally disbanded the church and renamed his organization the Family Federation for World Peace.

In response to misconceptions about Moon, Froehlich, herself a member of the Family Federation for World Peace, says it is important for people to make the effort to research both sides of the story.

“Rev. Moon is a great religious leader,” Froehlich says. “We cannot understand a person of great heart and thought with a small mind.”

Although the Asian Baptist Student Koinonia, one of the largest Christian fellowships on campus, is singled out by many as being strict and exclusive, Reynolds says the group has been understanding and receptive to suggestions.

“I chose this fellowship because the people are very warm, and I feel like everyone is really serious about God,” says UC Berkeley senior Raymond Choi, president of the fellowship.

Choi says he is aware of the criticism some have of the group but says it is mostly because of rumors and a lack of communication among campus fellowships.

“Maybe people see how ABSK members hang out together all the time and think that’s like a cult,” Choi says. “We’re just tightknit. We foster those kinds of close relationships.”

Reynolds says there are resources in the Office of Student Life for students who have questions or would like to speak to a student advisor.

“All groups should be open to some questioning,” Reynolds says. “Be critical, and talk to friends and family if you are ever in doubt.”

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