Cult Watcher and Deconstruction
Good Morning and Welcome to this week’s Gospel and Culture update, by Alan Vink
Cult Watcher and Deconstruction
Monday 31st October, 2022
Meet Anke Richter, She is a reporter and feature writer of 30 years’ experience in both English and German. As it transpires she is an activist as well. Her most recent book is titled, ‘Cult Trip – Inside the world of coercion and control’. Her research has focused on Centrepoint and Gloriavale and her findings are deeply disturbing.
Anke says, “People fall into cults because they are good people, mislead seekers; when they cut ties with family, put in all their money, draw in friends, and go on to do bad things, is it the cult’s fault, or theirs? What about their actions afterward? I have sympathy for those caught up in the trap at the time because anyone can fall victim to cultic beliefs, as the pandemic has shown.” But she has less sympathy for those who continue to deny and obfuscate years down the track, especially former Centrepoint members.
More recently Richter co-founded Fight Against Conspiracy Theories (Fact) during the pandemic, now a powerful force revealing mis- and disinformation.
POV. The stuff that has gone on at Centrepoint and Gloriavale is nothing short of evil and is not remotely Christian regardless of what their leaders may say. So in that respect it has little or no relevance to us. However, coercion, control and power dynamics are in fact issues that I believe we as Christian leaders need to think through very carefully. Some if not all of the church scandals over the last few years both in NZ, Australia and beyond have identified the misuse of power as a major problem. Sadly, my work can attest to the fact that it happens far to often in small and mid-size churches as well. It must not be so amongst us.
Dr Timothy Keller has written a superb piece (long read) on this subject. He does an historical overview and includes in his analysis the story of the greatly respected theologian Francis Schaeffer. It is a most interesting insight that I was certainly unaware of.
Keller goes on to identify five situations or life transitions in which a rethinking and reconstruction of faith is called for in order for spiritual maturation to take place.
- Children in Christian Homes
- Experiences of suffering and injustice
- Disillusionment with Christian leaders—and with themselves
- Never learning distinction between background, secondary, and primary beliefs
- Living in ‘bubbles’ and environmental faith.
POV. I think it is very important that Christians review and think deeply about what they believe and why they believe it. An unexamined faith is unlikely to serve us well for a lifetime. In fact it worries me that a good number of Christians do not ‘have a reason for the hope that is within them’ as the Apostle Peter urges. Questions are good! Doubts have there place! A little scepticism can be helpful. All this has been around a very long time as Keller’s article points out. My great hope is that people come out the other end with a greater love for God, a greater devotion to His word, a greater dedication to His people (the Church) and a greater passion for His mission. May your church and my church be a place where the seeker, the sceptic, the doubter, the deconstructer and the disbeliever are always welcome.
Alan Vink is currently the Executive Director for LeadershipWorx. Prior to this role he has been the Executive Director of Willow Creek Association NZ (WillowNZ), a Baptist pastor (23 years), Bible College teacher, and church consultant.