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16.6.04

The Anti-Cult

Rivka presents some good evidence that the fastest way to deprive a word of meaning is to use it as an insult. In this case, we see the word "cult" being applied to Unitarian Universalism. It's understandable that people with a strong commitment to a revealed-truth religion would have issues with UUism, but to call it a cult? There have been a thousand definitions of "cult" proposed (in response to this exact sort of sloppy derogatory use), but as I see it the word "cult" evokes elements like extreme dogmatism, subordination of the individual to the collective, and disengagement from the wider world (which is percieved as irredeemable by human action). In the links Rivka provides, UUs are criticized for their lack of these cultic features. UUs are too committed to the fallibility of the human intellect and value diversity, and are thus unwilling to acknowledge the eternal truth of Jesus. UUs place final authority in their own conscience, rather than accepting the authority of the writers, translators, and interpreters of the Bible. UUs are interested in progressive social causes and have adopted the moral views of the secular culture (such as acceptance of homosexuality).

But in a certain way I think the word "cult" in its more restrictive sense captures some of what some other Christians think about UUism. There's a sense that the anti-cultic manifestations of UUism are established through an underlying cultishness. It seems that the only way someone could resist faith in Jesus is that they're in the grip of some other ideology, some ideology deeper and more controlling than Christianity. UUs have been brainwashed into believing they can think freely, as it were. Jesus proclaimed freedom from hell, which is a powerfully liberating message -- provided that you believe in hell. Psychologically, UUs are already liberated. But if you believe that they remain spiritually bound, they seem doubly trapped -- headed for hell for their lack of faith, and unable to even see the need for salvation.

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