Sects, cults, -ish and -arians

So if the article does not get your attention I hope the title does! I have an offspring who loves to tease me… dad of course we grew up in a cult, ‘I don’t think it is normal for the father to be casting out demons in the front room while we eat our dinner in the other room’. Still trying to work out who she means by ‘the father’. Please help me identify this strange character.

Sect… a sect is that which shares the beliefs of the wider community they are a part of, but they believe they are more faithful to that view. Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes all believe in the God of Israel but which the challenge was as to which of the approaches was the most faithful. Those Sadducees were just too liberal for the Pharisees, then within the Pharisees there were different schools – Hillel or Shammei, so of course not all Pharisees were in agreement. And the Essenes (assuming they are at Qumran) had had enough with that old Temple stuff, they were the true prophetic pioneers. Then comes the Nazarene followers… Sects have an ability to multiply!

Cult… deviant on core belief issues. Mormons – though when Mr Romney was a front runner it looked for a time that Mormonism might just be brought in under the ‘Christian’ label. A little fickle, methinks. JW’s, Seventh Day Adventism… the list goes on, but in the spirit of the member of my family, how far ‘off’ qualifies? Life in heaven in an eternal worship meeting? Penal substitutionary atonement? Any belief that holds to Christendom as the kingdom of God?

Secterian… now we are looking at an attitude toward others. I will separate myself from you because I judge you as in error. Thank God when I met all kinds of believers in churches that were ‘compromised’ in the 90s I soon realised that there were many rooms in ‘God’s house’ and I was no longer so sure that mine was not on the outskirts of it all! Now I meet all kinds of people who profess no faith I am on a different challenging path. All healthy for me. As I said to my professed atheist neighbour (and a softening one!) I with my faith might just be needing you more than you need me. A journey for him and for me.

Cultish… It is possible to part of main-stream and cultic. A cult is deviant belief-wise, but something cultic is deviant practice-wise and particularly with a focus on leadership structure and style. A common feature in a cultic scenario is the ‘hermes principle’ where there is no direct access to the leader (‘main gods’) but that there is a ‘Hermes’ character in place to interpret the god(s) and who has direct access to the divine counsel. [Paul and Barnabas encountered this, and many ‘apostolic’ movements embody this, hence many have a ‘Hermes’ figure system in place.]

I am still pretty much on the ‘sect’ trajectory… partly due to my understanding that it is only in the second half of life one becomes reflective. I am still ignoring all the blooded noses I have manifested to possess much ability to reflect. I am still running up the next hill proclaiming ‘this is the one’ only to find the answer to all things was not there… but the next mountain will definitely be the one. I don’t think though I am sectarian.

A cult… if it means to be deviant from the main core of our faith. No, No, No. Never possible! And cultic… I think I am innocent of that one or of giving my allegiance into something that is main stream but cultic.

So to all my offspring… no you did not grow up in a cult… and I am still focused on the front room activity (maybe – the jury is out) with a little more wisdom.

I am pretty stubborn but my defence is ‘I am where I am because of the journey I took and am far too young to harbour regrets’. That might render me not too smart, but am naively happy on the way.