There is only one logical (or should I say, illogical) reason I can draw from this foolishness. The man wants his fifteen minutes of fame. Well, he’s certainly gotten it!
The media continues to refer to this man as Pastor Terry Jones. Fine. But the question that came to my mind when I first heard this story about a minister in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, Saturday, September 11, was, “What Christian church is he part of?” It didn’t take long to find out.
This whole story smacks of another minister by the name of Jones – Jim Jones – thirty-three years ago with the ghastly deaths of 914 church members from San Francisco’s, The Peoples Temple, who drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Who can ever forget the gruesome pictures of the bloated bodies of men, women and children in the Jonestown compound in Guyana? On the cover of the next issue of Time magazine following this unnecessary tragedy, the headline said it all: Cult of Death!
Here’s the point I wish to make in all of this. Whether it’s Jim Jones, Charles Manson, David Koresh, or Terry Jones, they have each exhibited the classic signs of being militantly “cultish.” It is a disservice to suggest that this man, Terry Jones, is godly, or that he in any way, shape, or form represents Christ and his church. I was reading the comments of one religion writer, David Gibson of Politics Daily (http://www.politicsdaily.com/), who suggested that Jones is typical of the conservative religious right. What? Gibson says, “Now these conservative Christians are front and center in politics and in some of the sharper clashes of the culture wars. A few congregations, like the Dove Center (Jones’s church) . . ., are considered fringe elements. But they follow in some of the same patterns as their mainstream brethren, only more so.” The pattern he offers is the belief in the doctrine of “End Times,” a core tenet of all biblical teaching - that Jesus is coming back one day at which time he will close the door on the history of man.
What are the earmarks of a cult? First, let’s define “cult.” According to the World English Dictionary, a cult is: “a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.” Another way of defining cult states that it is: “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”
The Dove World Outreach Center “demands obedience from church members and directives to cut off most contact with relatives.” This is a classic sign of a cult: Isolate the person from their family. Jones' daughter, Emma Jones, has accused her father of operating outside of the traditional church. “Emma Jones had broken with the church, calling it a ‘cult’ that ‘forced us with oppression to be obedient.’ They used mental violence. They'd say, 'If you're not obedient, God will punish you,' Emma Jones told The Gainesville Sun.”
What are the signs of a cult? Here are six taken from one web site on the topic. There are more according to some authorities, but these six sum up the problem well enough. 1) Every cult has a single powerful human leader. 2) The cult leader’s word, or the teachings of the cult, becomes absolute truth, overshadowing the Word of God. 3) Each cult uses force to coerce its members into submission. 4) Each cult leader will teach a Jesus that is not found in the Scriptures. 5) A cult will teach a gospel of “good works” in place of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, 6) Cults often urge their converts to leave their families.
Some basic instruction from the Bible would resolve this issue if Jones was simply willing to accept the teachings of the real Jesus. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And then Jesus gives this instruction regarding treatment of enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .” Jesus never once called for violence against other religions, its people, their beliefs or practices, or even for the destruction of their religious icons and idols.
To hate comes easily. To love requires a commitment – a commitment to the One who loved us first! Only then can we love as Jesus loves.
More on this next week.