The Iglesia ni Cristo is just one of the many religious organizations in the Philippines, and perhaps worldwide, accused for being a cult. The 101-year old group’s recent crisis seems to encourage critics to further their disparagement propaganda and accusations.
As outsiders, we don’t really know for sure the certainty of the allegations hurled against the INC, so we simply have to study the telltale signs of a cult and from there decide for ourselves whether or not the INC is indeed a cult.
The Marks of a Cult
1. Prohibit Critical Thinking
Cult groups often exhibit zero tolerance for critical inquiry. They dissuade people from raising questions saying it encourages dissent and division. Members are made to believe the full authority and indisputable integrity of leaders.
2. Isolate Members
Church leaders instill fear among members fear of the outside world, as well as discourage even prohibit members from reading newspapers, listening to the radio and socializing with non-members.
3. Enforce Special Indoctrination
Members are told how to speak, dress, act or think without profound reason or scriptural basis. Special doctrine or special knowledge supposedly received by the leaders from God, is repeatedly taught to members despite its lack of scriptural basis.
4. Impose Blind Loyalty
The leaders or a single charismatic leader is the sole source of knowledge and wisdom. They are always right. Other sources of learning are wicked, evil or not credible. Anything that puts the leaders or the group in a bad light is spiritually unhealthy.
5. Dishonor the Family Unit
Members are made to chose between God (and the Church) and their families. They are instructed to prioritize the needs of the Church before their own families, causing them to lead unbalanced lives.
6. Non-Disclosure of Finances
Cult leaders often live extravagantly, funded by the faithful offerings of the group’s members who believe must make the necessary financial sacrifices for the sake of God and the Church. However, there is no proper financial disclosure of budget, income and expense.
7. Tolerate Abuse
Special and often secretive rituals founded on socially deviant beliefs often subject members to various forms of abuse. Some feed young girls into sexual relations with a charismatic leader to earn salvation. Some induce monetary sacrifices among members to the point of self-depravation. Some restrict getting education from outside the organization. Some castigate dissenting members and categorize deserters as outright evil.
8. Polarize Members
Leaders put down other groups and build their own organization as the single and only organization ordained by God and its members the only ones deserving of salvation.
9. Members Rebel against Authority
Deviant beliefs lead cult members to dishonor authority, even inspire them to violate laws they deemed are in disagreement with what they believe. This is rooted in the belief that any teaching or law outside their organization is wicked, and as God’s chosen people, they are above the law (human laws).
10. Teach Exclusive Salvation
Salvation is solely through active and validated membership in the religious organization. Converts go through a series of indoctrination, rituals and sacrifices to become full pledge members. Anyone found in violation or disagreement with the Church and its leaders are punished (shunned and persecuted) or expelled. Gaining back membership is often impossible.
So there you have it, ten signs of a cult. Do you think the INC fits the bill as a religious cult? Why or why not? Share your insights with us by posting your comments below.
JUST A NOTE: THIS IS FOR FRIENDLY AND INSIGHTFUL DISCUSSION ONLY.