An Apologetics Index research resource
Association for World Academics for Religious Education. Executive director: cult apologist James Lewis.
At the same time that Lewis intervened in Kent's publication process in early March, 1993, he and various academics associated with his organization, the Association for World Academics for Religious Education (AWARE) were engaged in producing a publication to help The Family cultivate a positive public image. In January, 1993, Family representatives had contacted Lewis (as the Executive Director of AWARE) and another unnamed academic "seeking advice on how to combat the negative publicity and other attacks they felt certain would result from the group's bold new public stature" in the United States (Lewis and Melton, 1994b, vi). Already in other countries around the world, The Family had been trying to distance itself from its controversial sexual practices such as "flirty fishing" (religious prostitution), sexual sharing among members, and sexual abuse of children (Ward, 1995). The resultant collection of essays published by Lewis and J. Gordon Melton, entitled Sex, Slander, and Salvation, became a volume that The Family touted as proof of its legitimacy and the group has distributed copies to media in an attempt to gain favorable press. At least one academic, however, who reviewed the book saw it otherwise.
When Scholars Know Sin, by Stephen Kent and Theresa Krebs
AWARE, led by James R. Lewis, has become a contractor for operations that can no longer claim any semblance or resemblance to research. One symptomatic product of the post-Waco NRM consensus is the Lewis volume titled From The Ashes: Making Sense of Waco (1994a). It seems like a typical apologetic pamphlet, a collection of 47 statements, authored by 46 individuals and 3 groups. Of the 46 individuals, 34 are holders of a PhD degree, and 19 are recognized NRM scholars. One cannot claim that this collection of opinion-pieces is unrepresentative of the NRM research network; quite the contrary. Most of the top scholars are here. The most significant fact is the participation by so many recognized scholars in this propaganda effort. In addition to From The Ashes we now have Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective (Lewis and Melton 1994a), and Sex, Slander, and Salvation: Investigating the Children of God / The Family (Lewis and Melton 1994b). The last two are clearly made-to-order PR efforts (with a few scholarly papers which got in by honest mistakes on the part of both authors and editors). The Family and Church Universal and Triumphant were interested in academic character witnesses, and many NRM scholars were happy to oblige. Balch and Langdon (1996) provide an inside view of how AWARE operates by offering a report on the fieldwork, if such a term can be used, which led to the AWARE 1994 volume on CUT (Lewis and Melton 1994a). What is described is a travesty of research. It is much worse than anybody could imagine, a real sellout by recognized NRM scholars. Among the contributors to the Family volume we find Susan J. Palmer, James T. Richardson, David G. Bromley, Charlotte Hardman, Massimo Introvigne, Stuart A. Wright, and John A. Saliba. The whole NRM research network is involved, the names we have known over the past thirty years, individuals with well-deserved reputations lend their support to this propaganda effort. There must be some very good reasons (or explanations, at least) for this behavior. The PR documents produced for groups such as Church Universal and Triumphant or The Family are but extreme examples of the literature of apologetics which has dominated NRM research for many years.
Another aspect of these cases is that the reporting of financial arrangements is less than truthful. The fact that CUT financed the whole research expedition to Wyoming is not directly reported. We learn that CUT provided only room and board, while AWARE covered all other costs (Lewis, 1994). The fact that The Family volume was financed by the group itself is never reported anywhere, although it is clear to the reader that the whole project was initiated by Family leaders (Lewis 1994c). The Family volume has been recognized for what it is: a propaganda effort, pure and simple, paid for by the group (Balch 1996).
Source: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Collaborationism and Research Integrity, Part 1, Chapter 1 of Misunderstanding Cults (University of Toronto Press, 2001), p. 48,49
The Farce Revealed : Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective A critical look at the AWARE study, ''Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective,'' which was edited by cult apologists James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton
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