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.

A New Way

Simon Jones joined the ‘open zoom’ this past Tuesday evening and sent me a reflection that he wrote a little while back entitled ‘A New Way’. I asked him to add something at the beginning to give a context. Evev if you skim that background drop down to read ‘A New Way’. You can follow Simon’s ongoing reflections here:

I really appreciated joining the open zoom on Tuesday. Peter really opened up for us thoughts to do with land, a new way ahead, and the old falling away. What struck me as he spoke and as I listened to other people’s reflections was how a new way has been opening up for some time, but that in the light of the last few years ‘shaking’ the new way and new ways we will need in order to find a way forward within society and communities, is being grasped by more people. We don’t know what the next few years will bring, but it seems that we are looking at a bigger change than we might have thought possible 3 or 4 years ago… potentially to the extent where established ways of life on macro or micro scales will be almost impossible to maintain. But even for those of us who may have sought to live a different way of life (perhaps semi counter-culturally from within or from the edges of society) for some years before the more recent ‘shaking’… the actual question of how new ways of life within society, new ways of living with people and as nations, and new ways of ‘expressing’ faith outside of pre-conceived concepts and constructs, remains just that – a question.

In other words, those who may have been living towards, praying for and prophesying a change – a falling of certain elements of unsustainable living and oppressive systems, macro and micro… don’t really know what to do when these things and these changes actually do happen, when certain things/trees do actually come down and when a new way, and many new ways begin to be called for. How do we live them? What are they? And what on earth could the role of little old me be when most people around will be so busy trying to hold up and hold onto the things which are falling away, that they want to keep there.

I know the choices I have made to live and struggle a semi-counter cultural existence with a family – mainly from within society than fully from its edges – and I know some of the things I want to be part of my own life, and some of those things that the land around and the earth in general is calling out for… but, do I really know the way ahead in this rapidly changing season? No, I definitely don’t – and what struck me on the zoom session is that none of us do really. But perhaps to live focussed on love, life, play and creativity in the midst of falling trees and collapsing walls, may be a better response than despair… and may, if we continue, begin to open up new ways that others can follow, or at least hook in with and forge their own new ways from there. So, I wrote this as a grappling with what is happening. I was struck in one of Martin’s posts where he said that Europe, despite its troubled history, may be entrusted with a calling to open up some new ways for the future.

I don’t think it should surprise us if it’s hard to see what the way forward is.

But together – listening to one another’s thoughts and different stories and perspectives, may in fact open further doors. I wonder if programmes like Ben Fogle’s ‘New lives in the Wild’ may be helpful for engaging and thinking outside of the boxes around us not necessarily to cause us to withdraw, but to help us to engage with the question, ‘what could life be like?’ in a way that is different to what we have seen, known and been told by the systems around that it should be like.


A new way is opening up,
But how do we find it?

A new way is opening up,
But how do we grasp it?

A new way is opening up,
But who will reveal it?

A new way is opening up,
But will we conceal it?

It is time for the nations to embrace reconciliation.
It is time for the peoples to embrace new creation.

Love opens the door ahead of us.

Love has caused much of the shaking.

Not because love is violent – no, love is gentle.

But the outpouring of gentleness reveals and repeals mankind’s law of violence.

How do we find a gentle way in relation to the land?
To love it, grow out of it and work with it, rather than simply work it or exploit it.

How do we find a gentle way in relation to economics?
To live independent of unjust economic systems – by faith and in trust.

How do we find a gentle way in relation to community?
When most of us fear it – for it has not always been an unconditional embrace of our
uniqueness and vulnerability.

Many want to hold onto the old ways.
But they won’t cut it.

But many of us who want the new ways, the new things, and the new season,
do not know how to walk it, talk it or live it.

But if we walk, talk, live, create, sing, dance, listen, pray and play…
If we do these things… these slower and more gentle things,
anyway… even if we do not yet know what the new way is…
What the new ways are…

Then in our being and resting and waiting and living, and praying and playing and occasional

A new way will open up.
Many new ways will open up.
And we will see, and others will see.
And people will know.
And many will think the thoughts of love – the new ways of love
that are being thought by the few…

And perhaps the many will, in time, embrace some, if not all, of the ways and thoughts of the ‘few’.

Gentleness will open a door and a new way will come.
The past will be left behind…

And a glorious, but gentle future will unfold.

We don’t know what the new looks like fully yet, but we will.

Love has come, love will come and love is coming to heal and renew.