The word “cult” is a very emotive one, and trying to define it is not as easy as it may seem and can be a tedious task, similar to when Associate Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, opined in the obscenity case of Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), that “hard-core pornography” was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it.” Most people (at least from the outside looking in) can recognize the aberrant nature of cults, but would be hard pressed to give a practical working definition of one.
Adding to the difficulty is the fact that cults do not fit easily into any particular mold. Although most people probably think of a cult as being religious in nature, cults can also be psychotherapeutic (Scientology), political (Neo-Nazis), or commercial (Amway). Cults can be defined along ideological grounds (their beliefs), or along sociological grounds (their dynamics). Some groups may have what are considered mainstream beliefs, but exhibit a very high degree of cult-like behavior. Conversely, other groups may have very unorthodox beliefs, but relatively normal group dynamics. The most dangerous of the cults are those that are deemed abnormal both sociologically and ideologically.
A good definition of the word “cult” is one that was articulated at an International Cultic Studies Association Conference on Cultism in 1985:
Cult: A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.), designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community. (West & Langone, 1986, pp. 119-120)
That being said, there are certain characteristics of behavior that have been identified in groups commonly referred to as cults. Additionally, in those groups which are of a religious nature and claim to be Christian, it is a relatively easy matter to discern any teachings which deviate dramatically or diametrically from orthodox Christian belief.
It is the opinion of this website that Immanuel Apostolic Assembly in Wisconsin Dells, WI, meets the definition of “cult” in both their behavior (Cult Dynamics) and their beliefs. The facts will be set before you, the reader, and it will be up to you to decide whether the word fits, or whether we are just hurling epithets at a group we personally oppose.
For those who have endured the spiritual, psychological, financial, familial, and even physical abuse of a cult – whether you are still trapped inside or you have tunneled under the wall of lies and deception that were built around you to effect your own escape – there is help. There is hope. There is healing. There are multiple resources available to help you. We will try to post a number of them for you.
Finally, feel free to contact us with any comments. We would love to hear from you.