Cliche or reality?

Published in Spintech, September, 1999.

For years libertarians have talked of the "cult of the omnipotent state." Until recently, I had not given much detailed thought to this phrase. Oh sure, I had long believed that the beast of the beast described in Revelation 13:5-8 (1) would be a political figure. Also, I had long subscribed to the view of political essayist Joseph Sobran that the twentieth century superstate had become much like the Catholic church of the Middle Ages in its unquestioned dominance of our culture. (Lest any Catholics take offense, Mr. Sobran is a very vocal Catholic.)

Not long ago, I received two e-mails from Buff Scott of Phoenix, Arizona, who hosts a very fine web page and a mailing list entitled Reformation Rumblings. I haven't a clue as to Mr. Scott's political stance, if he even has one. However, the focus of his page is pure: peeling away the excess baggage which the culture -- including many professing Christian churches -- has heaped on to Christianity, and returning, to steal a phrase from C.S. Lewis, to mere Christianity. Mr. Scott does this extremely well.

The first e-mail dealt with the issue of what constitutes a cult. In Mr. Scott's words, cultism may be described as "allegiance and devotion to any human person, or to any human principle, or to any human standard as a means of eternal salvation..." He maintains that, "Any movement, sect, church, religious party, or denomination that falls into this category is either wholly or partly cultist." He then offers a list of 22 characteristics of a cult. To read the e-mails, please click here.

Upon reading this list, I kept thinking that the modern state has many of these characteristics. While the state does not promise eternal salvation, it wants our unquestioning loyalty. This is true of Soviet style regimes, as well as our current form of government in the United States (which took root around 1912, and not in 1992). It is very common for both conservative and liberal Christians to claim Jesus as being on their side in advancing their statist agendas, and to demand political conformity as evidence of salvation.

Totalitarian states inevitably write God out of the picture altogether, and persecute Christians. After all, if the state is capable of producing heaven on earth, why does anyone need God and His promise of heaven in the next life?

Herewith is Mr. Scott's listing of 22 cult characteristics (in blue italics), with my editorial interjections (in plain type).

1.) They practice separatism and devote much of their time to proselyte others.
Witness how bureaucrats keep a vise grip over our lives, while they sit in their ivory towers immune from so much of the uncertainty we face. Do you work in a regulated industry? (I do.) Do the bureaucrats regulating you ever come out and get their fingernails dirty doing your job? (The state commission which regulates me certainly does not.) Do bureaucrats constantly remind you that they constitute the tissue-thin line between you and anarchy? (The commission which regulates me sends me a monthly newsletter reminding me what a wonderful job they are doing. Meanwhile, in real life, the large majority of consumers of the services my industry provides continue to be ripped off to a frightening degree.)

2.) Their efforts to convert others are underhanded and manipulative.
As the election of 2000 heats up, prepare for newspapers, television, radio, and the internet to be gridlocked with candidates promising that, if you elect them, you will have something (e.g., free medical care, free college education, an end to poverty, crime, racism, drug use, etc.) that the Bible never promises. They will never tell you the price you will pay for all of this in time, money, and freedom. Someone far wiser than I once stated that a government which can give you everything you want first needs to take away everything you have.

3.) The group's leaders claim to be God's prophets or messiahs or apostles who receive "divine revelations."
Liberal Christians claim to have God on their side in advancing their socialist agendas. (See the Eighth and Tenth Commandments for the truth.) Conservative Christians claim to have God on their side in their totally futile efforts to use the state to eradicate drug use, pornography, gambling, alcoholism, etc. (See Colossians 2:20-23 for the truth.)

4.) They teach that all other churches and groups are lost unless they surrender what they have and join them.
God asks for a voluntary contribution of ten percent of your earnings, which is to be given cheerfully and without coercion. (II Corinthians 9:6) Caesar puts a gun at your head for half of everything you earn. The true meaning of "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21) has been totally corrupted. Much of the contemporary church has acquiesced in the belief that you should pay whatever taxes are imposed on you as a matter of Christian obedience, and that doing so constitutes some glorious civic duty. This is hogwash. No one has ever read the internal revenue code in its entirety, and you are guilty until proven innocent if you stand accused of violating it. Its true purpose is to keep you on your knees before Caesar. Also, ask yourself this when you pay taxes: are you conforming with the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), or are you just jumping through hoops to stay out of jail?

5.) Their leaders are dictatorial and demanding, either directly or subtly.
Please see remarks after paragraphs 1-4.

6.) They claim to have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
You either do things the state's way and in accordance with the state's timetables, or the state will fine you, jail you, or kill you. You will pay your taxes by April 15, enroll your children in the state's school by a certain date, and see to it that the barrel on your shotgun is not a millimeter too short. This is contrary to the spirit of II Peter 3:9 which describes God as "patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

7.) Members are expected to attend study sessions where they are firmly indoctrinated ("brainwashed") with the group's mundane creeds and human theories.
Witness the monolith of state education. Also, witness the widespread growth of "sensitivity training" for anyone who may act in a politically incorrect manner. Sensitivity training is also increasingly popular in large corporations, so many of which have forsaken their free market roots in favor of fealty to the state.

8.) They resent having their doctrines and creeds questioned.
If you go too far against the grain, not only will the media heap ridicule on you, you will also find yourself marginalized by those who purport to be your friends. If you keep things non-controversial, and go along with the Republican agenda (which is 198 proof Clintonism) you will be okay. If you get really serious about limited government, and get behind such policy prescriptions as withdrawing from the United Nations or actually eliminating a federal agency, do not expect to get very far. Heaven help the public official who presents hard evidence that the War on Drugs has been a counterproductive, monumental failure.

9.) They believe salvation and afterlife are found only in their camp.
Do you use someone's position on abortion as a litmus test to determine whether or not they are a Christian? Is their position on abortion more important to you than whether or not they have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour? Or, is your primary concern converting people to Christ and getting them to walk in His ways? If more people lived their daily lives with Christ as their first priority, we would see a lot less of the bad stuff that we say we do not want, including abortion. In the words of former Moral Majority insider Cal Thomas, the power of a changed life is far greater than the power of the state. Are we more more concerned with changing lives are changing laws?

10.) Those who desert the group are judged evil and apostates.
Witness the ridicule directed by the state education establishment toward those who home school their kids. The Oklahoma City bombing was blamed on gun owners, Christians, anti-tax activists, libertarians, militias, the new Republican majority, talk -- or should I say hate? -- radio, and just about anyone else who opposed the Clinton agenda. As I write this, I am watching a Fox News broadcast on the Waco holocaust. The popular response to Waco went something like: "Those people were so weird anyway for following a wacko like Koresh. They did not really have rights to keep and bear arms, due process, etc." That so many Christians echoed these sentiments is frightening. It opens the door that much more to potential for persecution of Christians in the United States.

11.) They dictate almost every facet of the members' lives -- sexual, social, domestic, political, and spiritual.
American society is just as regimented as many European societies which we deride as socialist. No matter what the problem, left- and right-wingers have a "solution" which involves tighter control over the citizenry. Christians are no different than secular folks.

12.) They deny God has other children scattered over the hills and valleys of sectarianism.
Please see the remarks after paragraph 9. In Cal Thomas' words, it is much easier to control people than to love people. It is much easier to demonize people and call them names than it is to exercise God's patience as described in II Peter 3:9.

13.) They believe God's elect are found only within the borders of their own enclosure.
Please see remarks after paragraphs 9 and 12.

14.) Honest dissidents are disciplined, avoided, excommunicated.
Do you believe we should reduce the size of government rather than merely "slowing its growth"? Do you believe that we should end the income tax and replace it with nothing? Do you believe in the separation of school and state? Do you believe that there is no constitutional basis whatsoever for the War on Drugs? Do you believe that the United States should withdraw from the U.N.? See how far you get in the American political mainstream.

15.) They insist on strict conformity to the group's doctrinal standards.
Just as religious cultists ignore the heavenly Rule Book, political cultists just as conveniently disregard their temporal rule book, the U.S. Constitution. The party line is far more important than adherence to the oath to support and defend the supreme law of the land. See paragraph 14.

16.) Their teachings contradict plain truth.
As Harry Browne so succinctly puts it, "government doesn't work." This is the plain, simple, obvious truth that is drowned out in a daily torrent of lies which emanate from governing bodies from Aurora, Colorado, (where this pages originates) to Washington, D.C., to Pyongyang, North Korea. These lies are echoed by the government's lackeys in the media. In Joseph Sobran's words, we do not have a watchdog media, we have a lapdog media. Is it any wonder the government and the old-line mainstream media are nervous about talk radio and the internet?

7.) Their source of authority is of human origin.
In the republic which our Founders gave us, the central government was strictly limited, its powers were few and defined, and Christians could go straight to their real King for guidance on how to live their lives.
In our contemporary democracy, authority shifts with the whims and passions of the majority. A wit once remarked that democracy is a system in which two wolves and a sheep take a majority vote on what's for supper. Your rights become little more than a football to be fought over by warring factions. Not only are our rights not imperiled, we have come to consider as normal such unconstitutional things as legislation by judges and presidential executive orders.
One other point: The sword wielded by the state is nowhere near as powerful as God's word. In the words of Hebrews 4:12-13, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double- edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

18.) They require a new convert to be rebaptized, although he was sincerely rebaptized previously.
This is the only one of Mr. Scott's cult characteristics which I had difficulty discerning in the modern state. However, a Social Security number might be considered a form of state anointing. (Revelation 13:18)

19.) They have devised their own translation of Scriptures, and prohibit any translation not approved by them.
Censorship is always a favorite refuge of scoundrels. The age of the Anti-Christ will no doubt feature widespread persecution of Christians, prohibition of Scripture reading, and substitution of false, deceptive teachings for those of the Bible.

20.) Members are expected to give large amounts of money and ample energy and time to the group's activities.
In I Samuel 8:4-20, God warns the children of Israel of the consequences of having a strong earthly king. See remarks after paragraph 4 for more on how far we have departed from any legitimate reading of "render unto Caesar." Not only would this king tax his subjects severely, he would also draft them into his army, and impress them into other forms of what we now euphemistically call "national service." Compulsory national service and a military draft are common characteristics of socialist regimes.

21.) They allege to be the only legitimate interpreters of Scripture.
Please see remarks after paragraphs 6 and 19.

22.) They wrest scripture to foster their belief system.
Please see remarks after paragraphs 3 and 19.

Mr. Scott concludes by saying that: "It isn't necessary that a group or movement be entirely religious, or even religious at all, to qualify as a cult. There are certain traits that help us establish whether a group is wholly cultist, partly cultist, or non-cultist. A bona fide cult may not possess all of them -- indeed, rarely do we find one that carries all the symptoms. But each has enough of them, particularly the principal ones, to qualify."

Mr. Scott makes cultism sound like a communicable disease. (Perhaps it is.) In any case, the modern superstate is quite cultish. What should the Christian response be to all of this? Check this location in early October. I will use Mr. Scott's description of "what separates a non-cult from a cult?" to discuss how Christians can seriously impact society for the better, while acting in accordance with Biblical teachings.

(1) "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against them and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast -- all whose names have not been written in the book of life..."

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