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Friday, May 6, 2016

The Shepherd's Heart: What makes a cult?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I read recently that a religious group in Arkansas currently being investigated for child pornography is being characterized as a "cult" because they oppose homosexuality, oppose Roman Catholicism, and oppose the government.

Let me state here and now, for the record, that I believe bigamy is wrong; I believe sexual activity with minors is wrong; and I believe bigotry in any form is wrong. Further, let it be known that I am not defending the actions or practices of this group in Arkansas.

However, I would submit that if the criteria for being a cult includes opposing homosexuality, the Roman Catholic Church, and the government -- there are a good many cults practicing their faith all around this great nation of ours.

On any given day, along Main Street in any large or small town in our nation, you can find folks -- evangelicals and non-evangelicals, Christians and non-Christians -- who oppose the government. Especially in these trying times, with $700 billion bailouts of monstrous financial institutions, the mortgage crisis, the energy crisis, and a seeming lack of morals and integrity among our political leaders, it is easy to find many people who oppose a government that is supposed to represent the people who elect them. That's what a Republic is supposed to be about -- the people letting the officials they elect know when they are dissatisfied with the work they are doing.

Along those same streets you will find people of all faiths, colors, and economic backgrounds who oppose the practice of homosexuality. And just as it is the right of those who practice homosexuality to do so, it should be the right of those who oppose it to oppose it. Opposing something that others embrace does not make one a bad person. It simply makes that person different in their opinions.

Thirdly, I am sure that if you were to ask the people you meet along Main Street in Anytown, U.S.A., you would find that there are some who oppose the Roman Catholic Church. But you would also find many who oppose Protestantism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and so on. The fact is many people are opposed to any belief system that is different than their own. And in America, that doesn't make them wrong, it simply makes them different.

But do these things make them cultic? I believe not.

Americans live, I believe by the grace of almighty God, in a very diverse land. The melting pot, though prone to boiling over at times, is still the melting pot. We come from different backgrounds and we believe differently. The freedoms we enjoy are the same freedoms that allow us to choose how to worship, or to speak out against the government when we feel it is unfair or unjust, and or to choose how we will practice our sexuality.

Like most of you, I have my own beliefs. I share them with those who choose to listen. But that does not make me a cult leader. I do not force my beliefs on anyone. I do not say "you have to believe what I believe or else."

Call the group in Arkansas a cult because of their belief that puberty equals "age of consent" when it comes to sexual relations. Call them a cult for any of a dozen reasons you may find when the investigation is complete.

But don't call them a cult because of what they oppose. If we start there we'll open a huge can of worms that could possibly shut and bar the doors of practically every house of worship in America, be it Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or even Wiccan.

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BOB G. STEWART, Columnist
The Shepherd's Heart