DAVID CLARK RESPONDS TO RICK ROSS AND “THE MISSIONARY THREAT” BOOKLET
Rick Ross has claimed to be a deprogrammer for quite a number of years. He has built his professional career and reputation on the cult mind control family intervention model. Mr. Ross has also decided to concentrate on Bible based or Christian oriented groups as a major area of focus in his public relations campaign, although his own orientation and background is Jewish, having worked for and served Jewish agencies in his previous professional commitments.
In the spring of 1995 we in the counter-cult community were informed that Rick Ross would only do voluntary cult mind control family interventions. What one must keep in mind are the definitive and categorical distinctions when one defines terms such as exit counseling and deprogramming.
The exit counseling community has clarified over the years, and the consensus was well established for quite some time, that exit counseling is a voluntary process, and usually a family intervention procedure, based on the respectful sharing of information about cult mind control on a solicited family contractual basis. Deprogramming on the other hand works out of a different intervention model, which has been well publicized for more than two decades. It is unfortunate that deceptive cult propaganda, sensationalism in the media, as well as academic cult apologists have seriously muddied the water underlying the serious concerns of families in crisis over the loss of a loved one caught in a destructive cult who might contemplate deprogramming as an avenue of last resort.
Rick Ross, on the other hand, has crossed over one of the most essential lines: that of religious or spiritual orientation. 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? My orientation as an orthodox Christian requires that I point out the distinction between biblical Christianity and unorthodox cultic practices of deception unethical control and abusive manipulation. I believe Rick Ross provides a tremendous public service when he exposes dishonest practices of destructive groups whether they be cultic or otherwise but his gaining access to troubled families with Bible or Christian difficulties without their awareness of his anti-Christian diatribing is a bit unsettling. One could understand why Rick might want to alert the Jewish community about unethical and deceptive organizations, whatever flag they might fly under, but open and honest Jewish and Christian differences have existed since the inception of first century Christianity.
The opening paragraphs of Rick’s booklet identify his targets: “Missionaries,” evangelical Christians and born again fundamentalists. Notice it does not open with the clearly recognized destructive and abusive cult categories or groups. Yet as the booklet develops its presentation, it makes clear references to cultic warning signs and deprogramming the victims. He uses one of my cases to make his point, representing it as a deprogramming, although he was fully aware through contact with me that it was a voluntary exit counseling and after years of lengthy discussions between us regarding the distinctions between exit counseling and deprogramming. This kind of misrepresentation and confusing mixed messages only feeds cultic propagandists who will be only too eager to take advantage of the opportunity when they get their hands on it, I can assure you. Legitimate and ethical missionary activity can only be harmed by this kind of lumping together with illegitimate activity in the name of Christianity.
Legitimate Christian missionary activity has been widely respected and has improved the overall condition of mankind through the centuries. The Judeo-Christian contributions to human history have made this a culturally improved planet to live on when one considers the condition of the world without its contributions. Rick refers to “Christian missionaries” as “…casting drift nets across the world like today’s tuna fishermen, trying to catch everything in the waters that they work.” Reducing genuine caring missionary activity to crass commercial business tactics is demeaning and degrading to say the least. Taking one’s eternal relationship with the living God and subjecting it to an opportunistic analogy is offensive to say the least.
Under the category of Campus Assault, Mr. Ross referring to “larger missionary groups” says “The volunteers march out each day to assault campuses across the country,..”. This kind of adversarial and alienating language does not promote meaningful dialogue or productive communication between those of different religious orientation, since definitive distinctions between destructive unethical groups that use Christian names and legitimate Christian missionary groups are not extensively specified by name by Rick Ross. The legitimate Christian missionary organizations are vulnerable to the broad brush approach painted by this kind of language. The Missionary Threat booklet also states “that more than 450 missionary organizations specifically target Jews in the United States, Canada, and Israel, according to Mark Powers, national director for Jews for Judaism. These groups are like packs of wolves, predators stalking only one prey – – the Jewish community.” It is one thing to say 450 missionary organizations specifically target Jews, it is quite another to claim these alleged predators are stalking only one prey – – the Jewish Community. This appears to be a blatantly gross exaggeration and I wonder what documented support that there could be for such a claim. Then we are provided under the heading “Baptist for Buddha”, the astounding claim “These activities only encourage religious intolerance and confrontation, and destroy any potential for meaningful interreligious dialogue with “born-again” Christians.” Wow! What an Orwellian double-think and double speak! Aren’t we being whacked in the head with a rhetorical boomerang?
Mr. Ross states that “Not all evangelical Christian groups are destructive, but many have deep and serious problems that have drawn concern even of members of their own community.” After making major slams against Christian missionary activity we are informed that not all Christian groups are destructive. Which is it? Orthodox Christianity by its very nature is missionary oriented as nearly 2000 years of Christian history clearly attest, although Mr.Ross points out correctly that members of the Christian Community have concerns about destructive groups who call themselves Christian. What orthodox Christian organization supports anti-Christian missionary activity? That’s like a Jewish organization declaring Moses was not a Jew. This boils down to contradicting the very nature of what you are by religious orientation. This kind of double talk is convoluted and confusing. In this same section we are informed that those who are born Jewish and become Christians are now pseudo- Jews posing as experts about Judaism and its traditions implying that this is some kind of impossibility, how ludicrous. Does my becoming a Christian mean I am no longer of English descent? Have I become a pseudo-Englishman? How absurd! What kind of intellectual and genetic dishonesty is being promoted here? One could understand why the Jewish community would want to maintain the identity of its community and religious expressions but redefining Semitic blood lines into false categories is not rational.
Under the heading “Deprogramming the Victims” Rick identifies radical religious groups as the deprogramming issue. It is interesting to note that after he attempts a major broadside at Christian evangelism we encounter this bait and switch sleight of hand by singling out radical religious groups. That raises an important point. Are all radical religious groups subjects for deprogramming? What is the essential difference between mind control and truly extreme religious convictions? I never knew that Robert J.Lifton in chapter 22 of his book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism defined all radical religious groups as brainwashing organizations. The cult apologists will have a heyday with that one.
I am the Christian professional who Mr. Ross refers to in the Ellen Kamentsky case. As stated above, I made it very clear to him that the case was a voluntary exit counseling — not a deprogramming. Such usage of terms causes confusion and becomes problematic. Rick claims that radical religious leaders and their apologists have denounced deprogramming for one simple reason: it works. Even though this is one of the primary reasons, it is too simplistic and inaccurate to reduce it to only one reason. Black and white thinking is the very thing mind control cults have been cited for.
The remainder of this section focuses on Jewish concerns and interests which he and they have the right to address, being responsible for whatever way they choose to handle them. Although I have great sympathy for families who struggle with grave concerns about destructive mind control groups, I do not think we should mix and match true religious differences under the heading of radical religious groups without full and proper distinctions being clearly defined. Religious proselytizing is not exclusive to Christian missionaries but is as old as mankind. Destructive cult mind control is specific to deceptive, unethical, high demand, and high control organizations. Honest zealotry in ethical missionary activity is not the same thing, and should not be misleadingly labeled as such. The Missionary Threat booklet weaves in and out of these kinds of terms and requires careful deliberation just to identify implications that seem very intentional. Mr. Ross mentions several books that are available in understanding the missionary threat and its psychology and methodology, including Hawking God by Ellen Kamensky. I do not dispute the harmful and abusive experiences Ellen claimed to have had and I believed it was my God-given obligation to assist a truly needy family who sought my professional assistance. I would do it again if there is true justification for it. As a conscientious Christian professional I have grave concerns that Christian missionary activity is now being labeled a threat in the same sense as destructive cult activity, which it is not, and it should not be identified as such. It’s very clear that Rick Ross claims otherwise.
I always maintained my orthodox Christian identity with Ellen and she sought comfort from me, recognizing that I was truly Christian or she would not have opened up to me in the first place. Although I recognized her plight, I would never deny the fundamentals of my faith in the context of any exit counseling. It is a shame and a disgrace that the organization is now a major grievance and stumbling block in her life toward reaching out in the name of Christianity and ultimately this is between her and God.
The final paragraph and ending of the Missionary Threat Booklet captures the flavor and impact that Rick really wants to make. In conclusion Mr. Ross refocuses his opening agenda
“Some may become captured within the driftnets of fundamentalist and evangelical missionaries. Others may be stalked by predatory sharks proselytizing as `messianic Jews,’ or `Hebrew Christians’.
I will not burden you further with the redundant and painfully obvious two by four Rick insists on using. I would like to close with his professional designation at the bottom of the page. “Rick Ross is an Exit Counselor/ Deprogrammer based in Phoenix, Arizona.’ After several years at least, the Exit Counseling community has made it consensually and consistently clear that voluntary exit counseling and deprogramming are, by their essential nature, two different disciplines. The one is not the other. Mr. Ross refers to exit counseling, then labels it a deprogramming, which the cults and their apologists will take advantage of for their purposes and agendas and will only complicate the troubled waters Rick refers to in his booklet. My final concern is similar to Rick’s after reading “The Missionary Threat” that “…there are many Jews swimming in troubled waters.”
– David Clark Responds To Rick Ross And “The Missionary Threat” Booklet. © Copyright 1995, David Clark. This document was first published in 1995. It is reproduced at ApologeticsIndex.org by the kind permission of David Clark. Hyperlinks in this item were added by Apologetics Index.
To-date, Rick Ross still has a strong focus on cults of Christianity, as well as groups or individuals he considers to be ‘evangelicals’ or ‘fundamentalists’ — while still exhibiting a near complete lack of understanding of the theological issues.
We do not consider him to be an informed source regarding such groups or individuals, and recommend those in need of a cult expert to carefully investigate other options.