Sunglasses and Salesmen
– an ex Pastor's story of sophistry and the soft cult.
New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) in my opinion has all the hallmarks of a cult. In the beginning its attraction was its façade of ‘realness’ and it’s so called healthy, earthy ‘radicalism’. Yet radical or reformative it is not; contrived it is; fiercely patriarchal and culturally South African i.e. it’s main men are ex-military service, white and generally the churches have strong militaristic views. Of course, South Africa is a wonderful land - my point is that NCMI is culturalized and plagiarized. There is little original to be found in it and perhaps most dangerously it is not the kind of church to express weakness, trouble or disagreement.
I was first lured to NCMI by attending one of it’s placard waving main branches - a large ‘mega – rebel’ local church in Adelaide. The church exhibited many mega traits: a large central city venue, strong male, militaristic preachers, performance style meetings yet with a slightly alternative feel. It’s difference was in it’s ordinariness or it’s sweaty casual character and it’s extreme prayer meetings that resembled a mosh pit of frenzy and sweat. I have to admit it was alluring. Little did I realize I would start my preaching career here and later be ‘thrust out’ into the church planting world with absolute naivety and little else.
No matter the church, when so - called truth is evidentially bereft of truthfulness, and obviously manufactured; when proofs are shunned, when argument and history are so vehemently and surreptitiously avoided, when power is abused and comforts sought above all, superficiality and self deception are birthed with little effort. Culture and club replace piety and exploration.
I really lost count of how many people came to the church, stayed for a while and left. I think that’s quite normal with NCMI and the lack of care that surrounded the entry and exit truly grieved me – especially if people had been there for some time. It’s as though people are commodities bought and sold on the stock market. ‘Care’ is reserved for those that stay as long as it doesn’t involve too much questioning of the system. But after a long period of ‘staying’ – going will cost you everything you have, especially friendship.
When we consider the centrality of friendship in our lives; when we share the same opinions and adventures; when we share our children’s growth and development; when we share that most intimate of life’s realities namely time, how painful then is the experience of being ostracized, how deleterious the experience of social circumcision and its resultant depression, anxiety and loneliness. Needless to say the categorizing of ex-church goers and especially ex-pastors is an art form in these churches. They are especially good at it.
Welcome to the soft cult. I term it this way because we rarely think of the popular Pentecostal ‘happy’, big churches as cults. After all they appear modern, contemporary, all encompassing and mainstream. Even Prime Ministers have visited them. When it comes to ‘cult’ we think Waco, Jim Jones and Harold Camping. But a closer visit reveals the similarities rather than the differences. Personality driven, emotionally manipulative, socially inclusive, closed minded, prejudicial, competitive, medieval and most dangerously, packaged in charm, cool and ideological reformation these churches can prove to be very harmful.
I gave almost a quarter of a century of my life to 'its vision and values' and have not one communicant/'fast' friend left to speak of - further I have a decimated former family and finances (pun of 'f's totally intended). The leaders are generally all uneducated, and know of little else except the manuals and ‘NCMI speak’ (this is similar to all cults - ie the leaders manuals in reality are more important than the 'bible' despite pretense(s) otherwise).
Patriarchal-ism and subservience of women is practiced and 'transfer growth' is endorsed as 'success'. Crass marketing and the most charismatic leaders are the most successful (of course) - and egregious wealth is achieved (and sought) by all 'successful' leaders. Smaller churches are absorbed,tax systems cheated and above all members are driven to exhaustion to prove their godliness and 'potential leadership'. I ask - how are uneducated men, unskilled in the real world (except the rather ironic and common experience of sales), able to own expensive motor vehicles, house(s) and travel more than a foreign minister (of course stopping on the way back from 'missions' for many needful 'rests'/holidays in luxurious locations)? And all this at the expense of lower socio-economic persons who are manipulated to give away a tenth of their income - all of which is based on the loose and legalistic writings of an Israeli 'prophet' from a land and time when the earth was deemed to be flat?
I can testify that psychiatry, psychology, medicine, comparative mythology and of equal importance - genuine, real love from a close 'non-religious' family have been indispensable and absolutely necessary for me to return to some semblance of coping with the world around me. I am still on the mend after six years in ‘recovery’ but I’m getting there. After 'serving' and being zealous enough to actually do what was preached (told) - I am now poorer than twenty years ago and live alone. Sound familiar?
It’s my contention that there are a large number of silent sufferers out there and it’s my hope that over time, more and more will find their voice.
If this sounds familiar to you and you need genuine confidential help contact Cult Information and Family Support www.cifs.org.au
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (NSW)
This page is about groups, organisations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form.
But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful.
Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing.
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