Apologetics Index
News about religious cults, sects, and alternative religions
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Religion News Report

February 22, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 328) - 2/4

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues

» Continued from Part 1

=== International Churches of Christ
11. Cults' grip often invisible, but breaking it is possible

=== Buddhism
12. Tibetan Karmapa Lama Starts Cautious Trip in India
13. Chinese Anti-Buddhist Campaign Targets Tibetan Children

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
14. Infant Has 'Bloodless' Surgery

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
15. Pagans at peace

» Part 3

=== Hate Groups
16. U.S. anti-Semite asked to speak at health show
17. Health show stands by anti-Semite
18. 'Hate' e-mails to be outlawed
19. Aryan letter revealed as hoax

=== Other News
20. Church wins libel case against councillor (Peniel Pentecostal Church)
21. Missing Teen Found in Ohio
22. Faith-Based Welfare Puzzles Televangelist
23. Religious Groups Wary of Bush Plan
24. Return Of Campus Cultism
25. French Court Puts Cult Chief on Trial

» Part 4

=== Alternative Healing / Medicine
26. Colorado Children's Deaths Rekindle Debate on Religion
27. Death and Denial at Herbalife

=== Death Penalty & Other Human Rights Violations
28. Human rights head pushes to end death penalty

=== Noted
29. Poof! You're a Skeptic: The Amazing Randi's Vanishing Humbug
30. Public Favorable to Creationism

=== The Mufti Around The Corner
31. Mufti again denies Wall's Jewish link

=== International Churches of Christ

11. Cults' grip often invisible, but breaking it is possible
The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Feb. 18, 2001
http://www.accessatlanta.com/Off-site Link

I arrived in Valdosta early one Monday morning in May 1998, having driven down from my home in Peachtree City.

As I parked my car at the apartment complex, I was filled was a strange sense of foreboding, mixed with anger. I was on a mission, to save a young girl, a relative of mine, from a cult.

It was not an obviously evil cult, not a satanic cult, or one we all had heard about -- the Moonies or the Manson family or the Jonestown group that committed mass suicide.

No, this cult was actually appealing in an insidious and destructive way, particularly to the young and unsuspecting. This was one of the fastest-growing cults in the world: the International Church of Christ.

A cult is defined not so much by its beliefs or doctrine as by its tactics in recruiting and holding members. So, even quasireligious organizations can and do operate as cults. Despite all of its lofty rhetoric and its paying lip service to the teachings of Jesus, the ICC was a cult.

I should make something perfectly clear: The International Church of Christ is not related to or a part of the mainline Protestant group of churches known as the Church of Christ.

The ICC is a splinter group, founded by self-proclaimed prophet Kip McKean. To summarize its doctrine: The ICC believes that McKean is the only true prophet of Jesus Christ, that only ICC members will go to heaven, and that all nonmembers, including Mother Teresa, the pope, the Rev. Billy Graham and the rest of us, are going straight to hell.

Like most cults, the ICC operates as a giant pyramid, with McKean at the top, middle managers in the center and new recruits at the bottom -- the worker bees who hustle money and new recruits.

Assume for a moment that your child has joined the ICC. How would you know?
At first, the signs are subtle and innocuous. You may hear from your child that he or she is attending nondenominational Bible readings, a volleyball game with a really neat bunch of kids or some other similar event. These first meetings bear no hint of what is to come and may not even have anything to do with religion. But they are designed to entice an unsuspecting college student into a new sphere of friends.

Once the new recruit is firmly in the cult, things turn more serious. A ''discipler'' is assigned to each convert. Ostensibly, the discipler's job is to counsel the new member on following the Christian path. In reality, the discipler ensures that the new member conforms to doctrine, attends services and actively recruits more new members. My relative was subjected to this technique as well as others employed by the ICC hierarchy through the discipler.

This ''discipling'' quickly becomes an intrusion into the life of the recruit, to the point where the discipler is hearing ''confessions,'' including details of sexual behavior and family matters. This information is often used to intimidate the member into adhering to doctrine, or against members who want to leave the cult.

As a parent or relative of an ICC recruit, you might notice that the student may be missing classes during the week or is absent from campus during weekends. In my relative's case, she would miss class every Thursday morning because they were taking her from Valdosta to Tallahassee every Wednesday night for services.

On the weekend, she would go to Tallahassee again for ''overnighters,'' which allowed them to place her in a controlled environment where they could brainwash her without interference or ''outside'' influences, such as family or teachers.

Finally, I did a Web search on the International Church of Christ and found the Web site for an organization called REVEAL, which gave me all the information I needed to fight back against the ICC.

That afternoon, when we were alone, she related to me the emotional and psychological abuse to which had been subjected by the cult members. I was furious, then steeled myself, determined to get her out of the cult. Her plea for help was all it took motivate me. Within minutes, I had enlisted the help of the manager of the apartment complex, arranged for a new apartment in the same complex and informed the roommate that she was moving out.

I contacted some former ICC members through the REVEAL Web site, and they came up to Valdosta to help. They lectured at the student centers about the dangers of the ICC and gave me much-needed background about how the cult operated.

It took me five weeks to get her out of the ICC and back on her own feet. I moved her into her new apartment, stayed with her constantly, went with her to classes and almost became her bodyguard. I told her professors what had happened.

My story has a happy ending; this dear girl has overcome her experience, is now working for Delta Air Lines and is engaged to be married. Others are not so lucky. Don't wait until your college student falls victim to the ICC. Go to the REVEAL (http://www.reveal.orgOff-site Link) Web site, get the information and discuss it with your child today.

Theologically, the International Churches of Christ is a cult of Christianity. It does not represent historical, biblical Christianity in any way. Sociologically it has countless cultic elements as well.

=== Buddhism

12. Tibetan Karmapa Lama Starts Cautious Trip in India
Reuters, Feb. 21, 2001
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link

A Tibetan boy lama recently granted refugee status by India arrived in Delhi on Wednesday at the start of a cautious Buddhist pilgrimage shrouded in security amid concerns the government may curb his movements.

The Karmapa lama, the only senior lama to be recognized by both Beijing and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, waved to a horde of reporters and photographers in a suburban hotel after meeting a group of lawmakers behind closed doors.

The 15-year-old lama clad in dark maroon robes smiled and folded his hands in traditional greeting but said nothing.

Lawmakers who met the monk said he affirmed that his agenda was spiritual, religious and cultural, but appeared to be facing restrictions on traveling to Sikkim, a northeast Indian state which is home to the main monastery of the sect he heads.

New Delhi is widely believed to be under pressure from Beijing to restrict the activities of the lama.

P.T. Gyamtso, an upper house lawmaker from Sikkim, told Reuters that there was an impression that the Indian government was bowing to Beijing's demands on restricting the lama.

''On the one hand you (government) are giving him refugee status. On the other hand you are not allowing him to go to Sikkim,'' he said.

Thinlay Topgay, a spokesman for the lama's pilgrimage, told Reuters that there was no restriction imposed on the lama's visit to Sikkim by New Delhi, but added that it was not on the agenda anyway.

13. Chinese Anti-Buddhist Campaign Targets Tibetan Children
AFP, Feb. 21, 2001
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link

Chinese authorities have launched a campaign to shame and scare Tibetan children into abandoning open expressions of their Buddhist faith, a London-based monitoring group said Wednesday.

Children aged between seven and 13 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa are being told that Tibetan Buddhist practices equal ''backward behavior,'' the Tibet Information Network (TIN) said.

In some schools, children have been given detention or forced to pay fines when they failed to observe a ban on wearing traditional Buddhist talismans, according to TIN.

In some schools talismans collected from pupils by the school authorities or teachers were cut to pieces or burned in front of the class, according to TIN.

Chinese authorities have been carrying out a ''patriotic education campaign'' since 1996 aimed at undermining Tibetans' loyalty to the Dalai Lama and promoting atheism, TIN said.

The group quoted an editorial in Tibet Daily on July 4 last year, which stated that young children should be educated in atheism ''in order to help rid them of the bad influence of religion.''

The Chinese Communist Party took over control of Tibet in 1950, brutally quelled dissent and tries to suppress loyalty towards the Dalai Lama, who is in exile in India.

=== Jehovah's Witnesses

14. Infant Has 'Bloodless' Surgery
AP, Feb. 22, 2001
http://www.lasvegassun.com/Off-site Link

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The 7-month-old son of Jehovah's Witnesses received part of his grandmother's liver in one of the first ''bloodless'' surgeries of its kind performed on an infant, doctors said.

The family's religion opposes blood transfusions, which are typical in pediatric liver operations.

Instead of using the usual two to three units of transfused blood during the infant's surgery, doctors used drugs to stimulate his production of red blood cells, and the blood from his incisions was recycled.

Similar techniques have been used for heart surgery for years on Jehovah's Witnesses, who say the Bible prohibits them from accepting transfusions of whole blood or blood products.

The ''bloodless'' operation performed Feb. 7 on Aiden Michael Rush's liver was so successful, it could become routine, doctors said Wednesday.

''We made special arrangements in this case because of this family's religious beliefs, but from now on, we'll do this on every child to reduce our use of blood products,'' said Dr. Yuri Genyk, a member of the team that performed the surgery at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Twenty adults are now being evaluated for the ''bloodless'' liver procedure at USC University Hospital, said Dr. Nicolas Jabbour, a member of that hospital's transplant team. The hospital has performed the operation on four adult Jehovah's Witnesses since 1999.

=== Paganism / Witchcraft

15. Pagans at peace
The News Tribune, Feb. 18, 2001
http://search.tribnet.com/Off-site Link

(...) Forming the circle around the elements of nature is a central ritual for a pagan group in Tacoma called the Earth Centered Spirituality Group.

The group is pagan because most of its members follow pre-Christian or pagan teachings. These include belief in the female expression of divinity called the Goddess. Some in the group also say they are witches. They direct healing energy through spells and other forms of magic, but do not believe in Satan.

The Earth Centered Spirituality Group is part of the growing movement of paganism in Pierce County and in many other parts of the country. In 2 1/2 years, three pagan groups have formed in the county, with more than 300 participants.

Members say they are drawn to the groups' reverence for the Earth, the worship of the Goddess and God, and an approach to spirituality that stresses personal responsibility and empowerment.

A Tacoma pastor and a psychologist in Seattle say paganism is growing because it offers people a spiritual connection to God and one another.

Jenifer Graesch, 30, visited the Earth Centered Spirituality Group last month after making a New Year's resolution to deepen her spirituality. Like many pagans, she decided to become involved in a spiritual group after studying on her own - in her case for 10 years.

''I always felt there was something out there. I just didn't believe it was the Christian God or any of those more modern religions,'' Graesch said. ''When I started reading about believing in the Goddess, I immediately felt it was right for me.''

Graesch said many in society don't consider paganism a legitimate belief system. ''I think we want more acceptance,'' she said. ''We want to be considered a real religion.''

To gain that acceptance, pagans and witches must overcome stereotypes that they are devil worshipers seeking to do evil and are anti-Christian. If people would open their minds and judge people by their actions and merits, Harris said, they would discover those stereotypes are false.

Paganism attracts people from a wide age range and appeals especially to women, Harris said. ''They're not told that they were created from the rib of a man. They're not told that their deity is lord over them. It's divinity that you can actually relate to - the fact that the divine lives within you.''

Paganism also stresses taking personal responsibility for one's actions, Harris said.

The group has grown rapidly since Harris started it in 1998. More than 100 people turned out for winter solstice celebration in December. Besides pagans, the membership includes some agnostics, Christians and some who do not belong to the Unitarian congregation. Paganism takes in a variety of teachings, including Wicca - a form of witchcraft that has been recognized as a religion by a federal appeals court. Not all pagans, however, are witches.

''Pagan is a word that encompasses anybody who follows an older earth-centered path,'' Harris said. That can include the teachings of aboriginal, American Indian and Celtic cultures.

A Presbyterian pastor in Tacoma said paganism is growing because it stresses connections to the Earth, the divine and one another.

''I think that's a connectional relationship that people are longing for,'' said the Rev. Paul Galbreath, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church. ''I think it offers an alternative to the materialistic world view which is predominant.''

Galbreath said Christian churches can learn from paganism's emphasis on the Earth.

''I do think that it offers an important corrective to people of Christian faith who have not taken seriously enough our relationship to the Earth,'' Galbreath said.

He also said Christians can learn from the Goddess language used within paganism, including Wicca.

''Our tradition has kind of left the feminine behind,'' he said. ''Maybe this will be an impetus for Christians reclaiming both the masculine and feminine within our own tradition.''

But Galbreath said he has mixed feelings about paganism's popularity. He hopes it isn't just another trend of individualistic spirituality. And he said paganism's worship of more than one God departs from Christianity. ''Christians hold a unified view of God, that God is one,'' Galbreath said.

Nancy Tosh, a California writer and a Wiccan, says modern-day paganism started in the 1950s as a revitalization of pre-Christian teachings. ''It tends to re-create the older paganism, but it's re-creating it in a new culture,'' Tosh said.

Tosh surveyed nearly 200 witches and pagans across the country for her doctoral dissertation in religious studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

By some estimates, there are at least 200,000 pagans in the United States. However, since many pagans don't identify themselves as such and aren't part of an organized group, the number probably is much higher. And that number is growing - with many pagans living on the West Coast, in the Northeast and in Florida, Tosh said.

Dana Corby, now in her early 50s, has been a pagan and witch for 31 years. Corby is a high priestess of her own coven, a group of seven witches.

In 1998, Corby started TERRA, the Tacoma Earth Religions Revival Association. She said attendance at its meetings for holidays has grown from six to as many as 145.

She said paganism offers less forbidding images of God than those taught by Christianity. ''We are not opposed to Christianity. We're simply apart from it,'' Corby said.

» Part 3