Since the death of Sun Myung Moon, the cult leader whose convoluted theology included recruiting new members with “Divine Deception” — news reports have recounted the history of his controversial Unification Church.
The passing of the self-proclaimed ‘Messiah’ — who claimed that Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius, Buddha, Martin Luther supported his claim that he was fulfilling the mission Jesus allegedly failed — also brought out some folks who used the opportunity to talk nonsense about cults.
That includes Eileen Barker, known to cult experts as a cult apologist. A cult apologist is someone who defends cults by, among other things, minimizes their activities and influence.
At times cult defenders do provide some necessary balance to overly sensationalistic reports, but more often than not genuine problems associated with deceptive movements are simply pooh-poohed.
Such is the case with Barker’s opinion piece, Did the Moonies really brainwash millions? Time to dispel a myth. In essence the sentiment appears to be that since the Moonies (as they called themselves) were quite bad at recruiting, there really wasn’t much of a problem. Tell that to someone who lost his son or daughter to a cult.
Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, may not be a cult apologist per se, but his opinion as expressed in the Wall Street Journal item, How We Became Obsessed With Cults, is in line with their thinking.
One may wonder how much he has been influenced by his Baylor colleague J. Gordon Melton, a man so notorious for his defense of cults that he has been referred to as ‘the father of cult apologists.’
Here’s the other side of the coin:
Dear Colleagues: Integrity and Suspicion in NRM Research: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, professor of psychology at the University of Haifa, Israel, addresses the problem of collaboration, including a) financial arrangements between certain sociologists of religion and the ‘New Religious Movements‘ they studied, and/or b) the production of shoddy ‘research’ papers that might as well have been made-to-order Public Relations efforts for such movements.
Research resources on cult defenders
Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters
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