Death of failed ‘Messiah’ Sun Myung Moon brings out cult defenders

Since the death of Sun Myung Moon, the cult leader whose convoluted theology included recruiting new members with “Divine Deception” — news reports have recounted the history of his controversial Unification Church.

The passing of the self-proclaimed ‘Messiah’ — who claimed that Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius, Buddha, Martin Luther supported his claim that he was fulfilling the mission Jesus allegedly failed — also brought out some folks who used the opportunity to talk nonsense about cults.

That includes Eileen Barker, known to cult experts as a cult apologist. A cult apologist is someone who defends cults by, among other things, minimizes their activities and influence.

At times cult defenders do provide some necessary balance to overly sensationalistic reports, but more often than not genuine problems associated with deceptive movements are simply pooh-poohed.

Such is the case with Barker’s opinion piece, Did the Moonies really brainwash millions? Time to dispel a myth. In essence the sentiment appears to be that since the Moonies (as they called themselves) were quite bad at recruiting, there really wasn’t much of a problem. Tell that to someone who lost his son or daughter to a cult.

Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, may not be a cult apologist per se, but his opinion as expressed in the Wall Street Journal item, How We Became Obsessed With Cults, is in line with their thinking.


One may wonder how much he has been influenced by his Baylor colleague J. Gordon Melton, a man so notorious for his defense of cults that he has been referred to as ‘the father of cult apologists.’

Here’s the other side of the coin:

Dear Colleagues: Integrity and Suspicion in NRM Research: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, professor of psychology at the University of Haifa, Israel, addresses the problem of collaboration, including a) financial arrangements between certain sociologists of religion and the ‘New Religious Movements‘ they studied, and/or b) the production of shoddy ‘research’ papers that might as well have been made-to-order Public Relations efforts for such movements.

Research resources on cult defenders

Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters

Speaking of Sun Myung Moon, see these Daily “Queen of the l-o-n-g headlines” Mail items:

Amish bishop raised alarm over ‘brain-washing’ before beard-cutting attacks: An Amish bishop whose chest-long beard was chopped off in an attack by members of a renegade Amish group — referred to by detractors and law enforcement officials as a cult — told a U.S. District Court jury that he had been concerned about cult-style “brain-washing” by the group.

He feared Samuel Mullet Sr.’s cult-like activities and had ordered his followers to sever their ties to the Mullet group.

The Plain Dealer says

Mullet and 15 of his followers are on trial in U.S. District Court, accused of waging a series of hair-cutting attacks last fall on nine religious enemies and estranged family members. […]

Other witnesses testified previously during the two-week trial that Samuel Mullet, 66, disciplined his flock by forcing men to sleep in chicken coops, and he engaged in sexual liaisons with young married women under the guise of marriage counseling and cleansing them of sin.

Mullet is the religious and social leader of 18 families in Bergholz, about 100 miles from Cleveland. He is charged with orchestrating — but not participating in — the beard-cutting and hair-clipping raids last year.

The case is the first in Ohio to apply a landmark 2009 federal law that expanded government powers to prosecute hate crimes. To obtain convictions, federal prosecutors must establish that the cutting of beard and head hair constitutes bodily harm, and that the attacks were religiously motivated.

Doctor banned for prescribing ‘gay cure’: Mark Christopher James Craddock, a doctor in Sydney, Australia, has been banned from practising as a GP for handing 18-year-old Craig Hoyle a prescription to “cure” his homosexuality. He prescribed the chemical castration drug Cyprostat during a 10-minute consultation in his home in February 2008

Craddock is a member of the Exclusive Brethren, an extremist sect of Christianity said to maintain cult-like control of its members.

Hoyle, now 23, was excommunicated from the group in 2009 and remains ostracized by his family.

Fairfax NZ News writes

Because he had been indoctrinated to obey the church’s orders, Hoyle said he took the pills for two weeks before realising the treatment was inappropriate.

“I was under the instruction of the church but I think at the time I felt something wasn’t quite right,” he said.

Hoyle, who said he had been given access to a year’s supply of Cyprostat, decided to instigate action against Craddock once he severed ties with the Exclusive Brethren.

Regarding the Exclusive Brethren practice of shunning former members, see The Brethren sent us to Hell

It’s not quite an end-of-the-world prediction, but ‘Coronation Street’ star Bill Roache reckons that the human race is moving on to a ‘higher vibration’ and that after 12 December the world will ‘change dramatically’.

That’s it for today — a brief version of RNB’s Religion News Briefs.

It’s a sunny and warm Friday here in Amsterdam, so we’re taking the rest of the day off, and we’ll meet again on Monday.

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Religion News Briefs is a collection of links and blurbs highlighting religion news, cult stories — and anything else we think you might like. May include a dash of opinion and perhaps a touch of humor. Comes with links to the original sources plus additional research resources.

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014