Cults are a touchy subject at the best of times.
Many would say a lot of mainstream churches are cults, others think in terms of strange New Age stuff, or dancing around fires with chickens and candles. But we have all seen the documentaries of communities with brain washed devotees gathered around their smiling leader.
But really, what is the core thing about a cult? Its not the doctrines or beliefs, as strange as they can be. They only serve to build a reference point for the real problem - the leader.
Most cults are built around a person who has the most damaging trait humans can suffer from - narcissism.
They use religious beliefs as the main tool to draw the right type of person into their sphere of influence, to feed the constant need of admiration, reliance and worship etc. They can then control people by the right balance of feeding their deep needs of insecurity with a sense of uniqueness. You become special, with the unique privilege of sharing in a new revelation, an outpouring of incredible significance that only you and the group have. You become the chosen and bear the burden of sharing this revelation knowing it will bring persecution, but persecution is confirmation that you are speaking the truth, so you will rejoice that people are speaking against you, and you are suffering for righteousness sake.
This was what brought my attention to HIM (His Image Ministries), run by George Maitland.
He has a small influence fortunately, but I've seen a few friends now hooked into it and feel its time to expose him. Among them are Dawn and Breck Rubin who are now intrinsic in the inner circle.
Like I said, I don't really care about doctrines - we are all entitled to believe what we want. But this cult uses control through shaming, belittling, and exclusivism. I have seen people noticeably change over the last year as they have become more involved (like the Rubins). They start to lose the ability to discuss rationally, and begin to quote isolated scripture out of context as if we should know what it means and then talk down to you because you don't "correctly divide the word" (this is their favourite expression).
But what has disturbed me is behind the scenes, emotional and verbal abuse, telling women that they should let their husbands be sexually violent to them to display Gods patient love, belittling his family (and in front of others), regularly/repetitively reading out letters of those who leave the group to enforce the dangers of leaving. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Condescending, patronising, threatening - you name it. It is extremely unhealthy. I have spoken to people with first hand experience, and I have no reason to doubt their story.
So I know many of you will think I should mind my own business. But I'm willing to take the rap for being so open about this. There are thousands more like this - groups of people under the spell of a narcissistic leader, often in large churches and organisations, carefully controlling and manipulating people, people looking for strong leadership and direction, for a new revelation. They present a carefully constructed image of love, passion, wisdom, grace, truth, but are lost in the grips of narcissism and cannot even see what's going on.
Most people who end up hurt and disgusted with anything christian have been under the control of people like this, and I say that's enough. I'm taking a risk, I know, but ever since hearing about George Maitland, watching his FB/blog and website, and then talking in depth to people who know what goes on, it has only confirmed what I feared. I have been involved in similar things. I have seen the devastation. I recognise the signs. It makes me sick to see this happening, and I hope enough of us will have the courage to look deeply into things like this, to be brave enough to speak up, and even be brave enough to be wrong.
I will gladly apologise just as publicly if proved wrong - for anything I may say. But I will stand up for the abused and for the removal of abusers as I feel Jesus did. Its a complex enough journey as it is without becoming derailed by your local narcissist!
I will now run for cover!!