Episode 235 - What I Learned From My Time in a Cult: How to Build a Good Cult-ure

This podcast is about building healthy communities with ideas taken from observing my religious environment. The title is taken from what people tell you, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, namely a "cult". When you're a member of this church, some people tell you that to your face, that you belong to a cult or that you're brainwashed.

However building a “cult” culture isn't exclusive to the LDS faith because research into this topic has revealed some really disgusting situations going on in pretty much any group. So this is a podcast about “cultish” views and how to build healthy communities in general, but to bring it back to my faith. I have to say though that despite feeling free and enlightened through my religious upbringing, that sometimes watching others and especially through observation, sometimes I have to agree, some of us, live in a cult….

Deciding to do this podcast has weighed pretty heavy on my mind, because I wanted to be respectful of my faith and not join the shaming crowd but I think through personal observation, many people live their lives in cultish communities and raise their families more through manipulation vs.motivation, with "cultish" ideas.

This podcast is meant to follow the previous podcast on Episode 234 - Manipulation vs. Motivation, which was a podcast on styles of leadership and how we choose to influence others. So if you haven't listened to that show, I recommend that you please do so, to help this podcast makes more sense.

…So when we talk about a “cult” some people want to blame a church (such as mine) but looking at the characteristics that can make a cult, I think we can create “cult-like” thinking anywhere. To continue our discussion on manipulation, we are talking about communities and building healthy spaces to interact with others, you know how we “socialize.” We may want to build these healthy communities as well as maybe seizing back ones that have gone awry. These “gone awry" places that have become manipulative or like today’s topic, very "cultish"…

Communities can help shape our paradigms, how we see others and ourselves. Some of the effects of these communities can have long-lasting implications and affect us the rest of our lives. Remember from last time these communities can include anything from churches, to learning institutions, to activity centers and etc. So let’s drive into recognizing a cult:

1 - Opposing critical thinking - cultish thinkers want tell you what to think and what to do. Like in our manipulation characteristics - they have the idea of what thoughts and actions make the perfect members of that society. - many believe that cults brainwash their members, the idea of mind control. Are you trying to control another person's ideas or thoughts.

2 - Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving - this goes with shaming comments when you don’t have the same thoughts or ideas. Maybe when you start to have questions different than "cultish" thinkers and if you choose to leave their group, you lose their love and support. In a religious setting this may happen when people commit a sin or live differently than is expected. Maybe just even being honest about thinking different can get you ostracized.

3 - Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture - That the cultural and traditional rules are more important than the teaching of Jesus or the mission of the group.

4 - Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders - To think that you can’t question, try to receive your own confirmation of advice given from leaders. "Cultish" thinkers expect immediate obedience.

5 - Dishonoring the family unit - In some situations they put the calling, church, or organization above their family’s needs. The service there becomes more important than first serving at home.

6 - Crossing Biblical boundaries of behavior (versus sexual purity and personal ownership) - Hyper-focus into personal behavior with the expectation everyone not super focus in that behavior is wrong. The behavior is put before the core beliefs or mission of the organization, love forgiveness and grace are no where to be seen.

7 - Separation from the Church - Beliefs that go far beyond the extremes of the church or organization. Unhealthy, hard core behaviors that aren’t “temperate” or to the middle. Forcing people into service through manipulation, or to put religious lifestyle above the teachings of Christ.

Ideas taken from "The Seven Signs You're in a Cult" by Boze Herrington

To further illustrate my ideas of healthy cultures, I want to tell an experience from my upbringing that probably set the stage for my belief in “The Luminous Mind and illuminated Learning.” On previous podcasts, haven’t we been taught that to find your life’s mission, you look at the highs and lows of your life? Anyway, as a young teen, I had a serious boyfriend who was NOT of my faith, he was Baptist. He would often invite me to his church to which my parents would gladly allow. I think with both of them being somewhat converts to the Mormon faith, it allowed them to keep an open-mind about me going to another church. This open-mindedness is hard to come-by with some members in my faith, I now marvel that they were like this because they were steeped in the church culture which tends to believe looking at another’s religions view as “falling away” or “being led astray.” However, to return to the story, it was normal to go to church with this friend and then come home and have my dad ask me what I learned there. It was a enlightening experience that challenged my beliefs at a formative time. It was a long road but instead of being led “astray or falling away” this experience resolved my beliefs in my faith. I think too it gave me the confidence to see that I was smart enough (or that I have a spirit of discernment) to not be “affected” negatively through challenges of large amounts of anti-mormon literature and criticism of the faith. I have heard people say to never entertain this, the negative and in some ways, I think it is healthier to look for the positive in other religious teaching instead of the negatives they preach about yours. However, it is important to give validity to their arguments.

How to build heathy communities:

1 - Focus on the most important mission of the group.

2 - Strive to stay positive with reactions and stop shaming

3 - Look at questioning as an open-mind, celebrate that and listen to their insight even if you don’t understand it.

4 - Walk the walk, be a mentor for your faith, not a preacher.

5 - Love different people and thought, try to find common ground. Understand we are all coming from a different direction, moving toward each other…not everyone having to move in your direction.

6 - Speak up for others in toxic groups

When we build a “cult” instead of a healthy culture, we can set people up for failure. We can create people who finally come out of the group and swing too far to the other side into unhealthy places…places untemperate. We can also set people up for abuse because we have created “all or nothing” mindsets. We can also create huge resentments, scarring people for life and losing our channel to influence them, or losing a relationship with them forever. Keep an open hand, not a clench fist so people can come and go in your life without feeling smothered by toxic cultish thinking.

Story of the Tree of Life from the Book of Mormon

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