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Since starting his anti-cult work in 1985, Rick Ross has become a well-known anti-cult consultant and intervention specialist. He founded ‘The Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements’, a “nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization devoted to public education and research.” In 2013 it was renamed as the ‘Cult Education Institute.’
Like most people involved in anticult work, Ross primarily deals with a group’s behavior rather than with its theology. (People involved in countercult work, on the other hand, address a group’s theology – as well as its behavior. On the difference between the anticult- and the countercult approach, see this information at our sister web site CultFAQ.org).
However, while Rick Ross has stated that no religious, political or personal agenda motivates the opening of a file on a given person or group he appears to focus much of his attention on
- what Christian apologists and countercult ministers would refer to as cults of Christianity (often referred to as “Bible-based cults” – group or organization whose central teachings and/or practices are claimed to be biblical, but which are in fact unbiblical), and
- Messianic Jewish groups and organizations – movements of Jewish people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior and as the promised Messiah
Indeed, Ross’ anticult crusade started with his opposition to a Messianic organization that had, he says, ‘infiltrated’ his grandmother’s nursing home:
Rick Ross never thought twice about cults until, he says, one infiltrated the staff of his grandmother’s nursing home and tried to indoctrinate her. Ross says he exposed the cult and the workers were fired … and a career was born.
That was back in 1982. Since then the Jersey-based consultant has made a career of researching, testifying and lecturing about cults, as well as performing interventions with victims.– Who you gonna call? Cultbusters!, The Morning Call, Oct. 7, 2005
Ross’ concern for his grandmother was understandable:
“I went over for lunch one day, and she was upset. I asked, ‘What happened, Bubie?’ and she said, ‘That meshugana is yelling at me how I’m going to burn in hell.'” Ross learned that the nursing home’s program coordinator was a fan of Jewish Voice Broadcast, a radio program that proselytizes Jews to accept Christ as the messiah. Other residents confirmed that they were getting mail from groups such as Jews for Jesus. Ross was outraged, and he organized the Jewish leaders in his temple to do something about it.
It piqued his interest in extremist organizations. Three years later, Ross dedicated himself full-time to the study of cult groups and deprogramming.– Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans, Phoenix New Times, Nov. 30, 1995
It should be noted that the term cult can be defined theologically and/or sociologically.
- Sociological definitions of the term ‘cult’ …
…include consideration of such factors as authoritarian leadership patterns, loyalty and commitment mechanisms, lifestyle characteristics, [and] conformity patterns (including the use of various sanctions in connection with those members who deviate). Source: Ronald Enroth, "What Is a Cult?" in A Guide to Cults and New Religions, e.d. Ronald Enroth (Downers Grove, Ill,: InterVarsity 1983), p14
- Theological definitions of the term ‘cult’ make note of the reasons why a particular group’s beliefs and/or practices are considered unorthodox – that is, in conflict with the body of essential teachings of the movement the group compares itself to.
Jewish countercult organizations, which are concerned with the defense of the Jewish faith against challenges from within and without, tend to talk about ‘cults and missionaries’ in one breath:
Jews for Judaism is the only international, full-time counter-missionary, counter-cult, educational, outreach and counseling organization dedicated to countering the multi-million-dollar efforts of deceptive missionary and cult groups that target the Jewish community for conversion.– Source: The Challenge of Missionaries and Cults, Jews for Judaism. Last accessed Jan. 17, 2006
and the Task Force on Missionaries & Cults:
The TFMC is recognized as the major national resource for information and guidance regarding missionary and cult activity, and is regularly consulted by Jewish organizations and communities throughout the country.– Source: Assistance to Jewish Federations & Community Councils Last accessed Jan. 17, 2006
Of particular concern to many Jews is the way some Christian organizations proselytize. Jews for Judaism answers the question, “Is “Jews for Jesus” a cult? “ by saying:
Most Hebrew/Christian groups, like Jews for Jesus, do not fit the specific definitions of cults. However, many of them use cult-like tactics in their recruitment.– Source: Jews for Judaism FAQ Last accessed Jan. 17, 2006
Thus it is not just the theology that is at issue (Judaism vs. Christianity), but also the way (behavior) of some of the groups in their attempts to evangelize the Jews.
The Task Force on Missionaries & Cults states:
Jews for Jesus is one of the so-called “Hebrew-Christian” or “Messianic-Jewish” groups which asserts that the acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah and God is consistent with Judaism. It is not. Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform Jews are in agreement over this boundary line. Members of Jews for Jesus observe certain established rituals, such as lighting Sabbath candles, wearing yarmulkes, and celebrating Jewish holidays, but in their practice, each of these sacred acts is given a new, Christological meaning that distorts its original Jewish significance. This is for the purpose of making Jews feel comfortable in another religion.
Although this group is not part of the Jewish religion, talleisim (prayer shawls), yarmulkes (skull caps), Torahs(the Hebrew Bible in hand-written scroll form), Shabbat, mishpochah, chaverim, simcha (Hebrew terms), are all freely-used, calculated to assure prospective converts that they are not renouncing Judaism by accepting the beliefs of Jews for Jesus. According to Jewish law and tradition, such an acceptance is indeed a renunciation of Judaism.
– Source: Fact Sheet: Jews for Jesus (see under ‘Documents’) Last accessed Jan 17, 2006
Thus, given his newly found purpose in life, it is not surprising that Rick Ross wrote an 11-page paper titled “The Missionary Threat.” It is an attempt to warn a Jewish audience against what he terms the ‘threat’ from Christian missionaries, including Messianic Jews.
To one extend or another people from all belief systems are involved in such efforts at ‘boundary maintenance.’ However, as David Clark – a noted, professional Thought Reform Consultant – points out in his response to “The Missionary Threat” Ross’ approach left much to be desired.
Using inflamatory language, the paper is a grossly unbalanced and poorly reasoned tract filled with misinformation and logical fallacies. It reveals a rabid anger and a disturbing tendency to confuse – deliberately or due to ignorance – legitimate Christian ministries with what Ross considers to be destructive ‘cults.’
When one reads “THE MISSIONARY THREAT” one may be deeply troubled by the adversarial, inflammatory and polarizing language chosen by the author. It denigrates Christian missionary organizations without proper distinctions being made between destructive mind control organizations and mainstream evangelical ministries. This definitive categorical problem is similar to that of understanding the distinction between deprogramming and that of exit counseling. Serious lines have been crossed. The ethical assistance of those who are truly deceived and abused in destructive groups on one hand does not justify inflammatory bigotry on the other. Mixed messages challenge the credibility of what one is advancing. What is the ultimate agenda behind this kind of rhetoric?– Source: David Clark responds to Rick Ross and The Missionary Threat booklet