“Doomsday prophet’s” massage business closes; Is he a cult leader?

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Remember Dr. Craig Stasio, owner and proprietor of the Agape Massage Therapy and Chiropractic, in Clinton Township, Michigan?

Local TV station WJBK documented that parents are concerned about their sons and daughters, young adults who — after becoming involved in his massage business — refer to Stasio as “The Prophet,” give up on their education, and break off contact with friends and family members.

Followers, most of whom live in communal houses, reportedly claim that Stasio hears from God ‘without interference.’

According to one of his followers, the group — which consists of 28 members — has no name but is referred to simply as “the ministry.”

The ‘doomsday’ aspect of the cult has to do with Craig Stasio’s interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Revelation, and his focus on ‘the end of the world,’ which according to him will include a comet hitting New York.

After the station broadcast its story, Clinton Township Assistant Superintendent Barry Miller checked into the company’s licensing, and discovered that Agape wasn’t licensed to give massages.


It doesn’t even have a permit to display its signage.

Now a new, hand-written sign on the business’ front door says, “Due to political pressure, we have been forced to close temporarily.”

Having been contacted by customers who paid for massages in advance, WJBK’s reporter Rob Wolcheck notes that Craig Stasio’s “business plan” has included closing other businesses in the past — as well as at least two bankruptcy filings.

Stasio also had a sexual encounter with one of his employees.

‘John,’ the one employee was has been willing to talk with Wolcheck says he doesn’t consider Stasio’s group to be a cult.1 He told the reporter his parents support his relationship with Stasio and his beliefs, but that the church his parents attend does not.

Parents say their kids sound and act like they have been ‘programmed’ or ‘brainwashed.’

From the information provided thus, it seems clear that Stasio’s group is theologically a cult of Christianity — and that sociologically it has worrisome cult-like elements as well.

Dedicated believers? Or cult followers?

In a panel discussion, the TV station invited several people to discuss the issue: Is this just a group of people dedicated to their work and faith? Or is it something else?

The panel includes reporter

  • Ron Wolcheck, the reporter who broke the story
  • Jim Marshall, a friend of Craig Stasio who has been with the group for 6 months and who says Stasio’s group does a lot of good work. Marshall’s wife and three daughters are also involved in Stasio’s ‘ministry.’ One of the girls broke up with her boyfriend when he was not willing to also join the group
  • Former WJBK anchor Rich Fisher, whose daughter — a follower of Stasio — has been involved with Stasio’s group for 3 years
  • Dr. Gerald Shiener, psychiatrist
  • Charlie Langton, the station’s legal analyst

Craig Stasio was invited, but he did not want to come.

Information about cults

CultFAQ
How to find a trustworthy cult expert
Abusive Churches
What is a cult of Christianity?

Notes:

  1. “Nobody joins a cult,” says former Peoples Temple member Deborah Layton in ‘Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple.’ “You join a religious organization. You join a political movement. You join with people you really like.”

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014