Cults pose danger to society

The Ugandan Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a breakaway group from the Roman Catholic Church, considered themselves as a Noah’s Ark of purity. To them the rest of the world was irredeemably corrupt. They watched their tongues lest they slipped and uttered something sinful. On March 17 2000, members of the group numbering between 780 and 1,000 had an elaborate feast that involved consuming chunks of beef and downing litres upon litres of Coca Cola.

The next thing the world knew, the zealots were dead in what is believed to have been a case of mass suicides. According to Wakipedia, the online encyclopedia, the group emphasized apocalypticism and alleged Marian apparitions. They might have waited for too long and not seeing any real signs of endtime, they decided to ascend to home, sweet of home on high, in the best way they knew: taking their own lives.

If you thought the Uganda tragedy was a case of Third World ignorance fed by poverty, wait till you hear what happened United States of America 1997. On March 26, 39 adherents of the Heaven’s Gate perished in a mass suicide in San Diego, California, one of the more glamourous States of the stinking rich and increasingly secular US.

Says Wakipedia: “ In the beliefs of the cult, this was not an act of self-extermination; they believed that they were merely “exiting their human vehicles” so that their souls could go on a journey aboard a spaceship they believed to be following comet Hale-Bopp.” Bizarrely enough, some male members of the cult even had themselves castrated in apparent readiness for a blissful genderless world that they believed they would inherit after the suicide!

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Doomsday cults are not necessarily the preserve of airheads who can easily be led up the garden path by firebreathing theatrical preachers. In Canada, a city mayor, a journalist, a civil servant and a sales executive were some of the people who decided to end their lives to escape from an “hypocritical and oppressive world”.

They were members of a cult known as the Order of the Solar Temble which was responsible for the deaths of approximately 74 people who died in cultic suicides between 1994 to 1997. The Quebec police discovered that some of the members had donated more than 1 million dollars (Over Sh 73 million) to the cult leader one Joseph Di Mambro.

The donations bit sounds familiar. In recent weeks cases of members of sometimes shadowy charismatic churches have come out to complain that they had been conned of money and property by their church leaders in the name of paying for a miracle. Having waited for the miracle to happen in vain, the followers of the churches decided to turn in the supposed miracle merchants.

Cases of money-for-miracles point to a society that is dangerously at the precipice of mass cultism.

First it begins with the money, mostly squeezed out of the sometimes stingy worshippers using scriptural scares like the tithing and why failing to do so would amount to stealing from God. Then the miracle-for-money that is gaining currency in most charismatic denominations aided by blatant twists on sections the scripture.

The “planting of the seed” is perhaps the most notorious method used by the preachers so far. Here, the miracle merchants appear to suggest that the size of the miracle is directly proportional to the amount donated to the church. A person who wants to be President for example will be required to “sow a bigger seed” than the fellow who wants a job as a clerk at some downtown office.

These emerging cultism however may not be worryingly on the suicide path. The leaders and their followers are too materialistic and belief too much in the heaven down here to want to end it all and go to the land yonder. The groups believe in amassing as much wealth as possible and living the good life. Some even see poverty as sin or a consequence of sin.

The leaders and the preachers are sustained by a symbiotic relationship each one of them getting something out of the other: The leader the money from the follower, the latter the hope of a miracle from the former. As long as the leader gets his daily upkeep and the follower keeps hoping and being buoyed by the occasional “miracle”, everything is hunkydory. The danger signs may be there but are not that serious. The charismatic just loves this life too much to want to get out of it.

The real danger lies in apocalyptic sects that keep popping up once in a long while. Currently, one is peddling a painfully naive tale about the end of the world finally set to happen on September 12. One would imagine September 11 would have been more creative date for Armageddon, seeing it will be the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade centre in New York on September 11 2001.

The 24-year-old cult named House of Yahweh, anticipates the end of this order of things by way of a nuclear fallout involving seven countries including, the US, China, Sudan, North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan and even Sudan.

In preparation for the end, members of the cult in Kinangop in Nyandarua district are not only selling their belongings, they are building mud bunkers which they believe will survive the nuclear fallout.

The sect which claims to have over 10,000 adherents in the country is led by one Yisral Hawkins who lives in America. The prophesies, beliefs and world view of the Yahweh group is just the right combination for the perfect doomsday sect. On September 12, the Yahweh’s children will not be going to school because they will be locked in the bunkers waiting for the nuclear disaster to happen which will reduce this civilisation to nothingness. Only them will survive to like in Noah’s Ark story to begin anew.

These people have already sold most of their property meaning they don’t anticipate normal life beyond Armageddon. The question is what direction will their lives take after that day if there will be no nuclear disaster? The most likely answer is that their lives will then onwards be one long daily disaster. Such desperation can drive people to extreme measures including mass suicides.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Sunday Times, Kenya
July 16, 2006
Kipkoech Komugur

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday July 17, 2006.
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