Cult horror: Tek sleep mark death!Monday, October 25, 2021
BY MICHAEL AIKEN
The horrendous news coming out of Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries has astounded some, frightened others, and pre-empted calls for stricter regulations of religious activities in our nation. But, are the reactions and calls really necessary?
Perhaps to answer that question we should ask some others: How could such a horrendous event take place in Jamaica, land we love at a church? Are there any other religious groups or cults like Pathways that could similarly implode?
A simple definition of a cult is any organisation, especially religious, spiritual, or faith-based, that tends to operate outside of traditional beliefs and behaviours which have come to be associated with their organisation, religion, or faith as the norm.
It may be important to note, before you turn up your nose disdainfully at the word cult, that our current Christian religion, which is now the premier Western religion, was in its early beginnings considered a cult. Even more so, it was considered a very disruptive cult. Acts 17:6 records a statement about early Christians: “...These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also...”
Elements of a cult
Incidentally, that description gives us a beginning glimpse into elements that indicate a possible cult. Some easy ways to spot a cult are as follows:
*Disruptive behaviours: A cult generally engages practices outside of what is traditionally observed in that particular religion or aspect of the faith;
*Authoritarian leadership: A cult leader is often a person who allows no dissent or questions regarding their leadership, their word, or their actions;
*Unaccountable leadership: That is, people who give account to no one — not even colleagues of similar or better training, experience or standing. Cult leaders tend to be the law, judge, and jury of their cult and lone rangers in their religious fraternity.
Now here's another important note and let it frighten you a bit. The previously identified characteristics of a cult can be found to varying degrees in some traditional church groups and non-religious organisations, yet they are accepted as normal. But leaders, congregants, and followers/employees should be careful. For, if those areas continue to grow, then the kind of outcome that we just saw in Montego Bay may not be far behind in your own place of faith and worship or your own organisation.
Learn from this tragedy
We must take this point and warning seriously. For this country is filled with too many citizens from all strata who are willing to kill, order killings, or approve of the killing of good citizens under the guise of gang, politics, business, and now religion.
Therefore, appoint, elect, or re-elect leaders wisely, please! Some leaders will lead their followers to physical, spiritual, or economic death.
Let the Pathways tragedy be the kind of 'ole' people warning that reminds us to, “Tek sleep mark death!”
Sound the alarm
Could the Pathways tragedy or any impending similar circumstances be avoided? I suggest the following strategies to ensure no repetition:
*Church, and any other organisation with cultic signs must begin to police itself. Without knowing every detail, I can safely say that there would have been enough evidence at Pathways to sound a trumpet, ring a bell, or wave a flag that something was awry.
*Ask yourself the question: What saved 142 other lives on that fateful night? The answer: Someone sounded the alarm.
An alarm should have been sounded long ago by congregants. The lives of two human beings would have been saved if that had been done.
Someone needs to sound an alarm about their organisation or church today.
Choose and follow wisely
We must review the way we choose our leaders in this country. For too long we have chosen, appointed, or elected political, organisational, and church leaders based on loudest voice, most charismatic personalities, or greatest finances. These are usually standout traits in identified cult leaders.
Want to avoid a Pathways-type tragedy? Besides the above traits, begin to look for values in your potential leaders — love, compassion, selflessness, fairness, honesty, forthrightnes, etc. Loud or charismatic speaking cannot be the primary criterion for leading a church, constituency, or nation. Following blindly is not recommended in the Bible. It encourages otherwise.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,” (1 John 4:1).
“Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if these teachings were true,” (Acts 17:11).
Here's another takeaway, specifically for a current up-and-coming leader. There seems to be evidence that the church and its leadership started well. What went wrong? I am reminded of the words of a professor from my early studies. She advised that we should “pay as much attention in the end as you did in the beginning” to any endeavour you pursue.
Sometimes we slack off in our management of self as we grow older. Sometimes its weariness or cynicism that sneaks in undetected. Sometimes its pride and arrogance that grows out of whack. Someone reading this needs to self-check immediately.
Perhaps it's time to realise that, as a nation we are not far from a social implosion of national proportions.
Rev Michael Aiken is associate pastor at Fellowship Tabernacle and Kingston director of Gideon Educational Center, Buff Bay, Portland. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org