"Nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they think is going to hurt them. You join a Religious organization, you join a political movement, and you join with people you really like." This was a quote from the new movie Jonestown - The life and death of Peoples Temple.
Each time I have revisited this topic over the past 30 years, I have been touched in a different and deeper way. Initially, I was most touched by the loss of so many people, especially the children. Later on, I was amazed at Jim Jones, and how he could be so deceived and diluted, and to believe the things that he did.
This week, I heard the quote above, and was struck with something completely different. I have been thinking about the people again, but this time, about how they were deceived. They didn't start out wanting to be deceived or to join a cult. They joined a religious organization. It was a political movement to break free from government control and the American religious system. They were attracted to and surrounded by caring, loving people. Their leader seemed to make so much sense, and provided clear leadership and purpose - at first. But in the end, it all led to death.
There is a song by Jim Cole which says, "Complacency's a poison, taken one drop at a time. It fools our minds to thinking that everything's just fine..." - for so long, we were involved in the American religious community, and I can see from that experience how easy it is to yield undue control to the "authority" of the leadership. When religious leadership steps out of the servant role and into the controlling role, they have placed themselves between the believer and God, sometimes even acting AS God. This can be a dangerous place of control and undue influence.
Christ came as the ONE mediator between God and man. Any time a person steps into that mediator role, whether clergy or layman, it is to usurp God's place and authority.
The one good thing that has come out of our past is that we have been awakened to an awareness of this type of control and abuse that some may attempt to use to control and bewitch believers. This type of control serves its own purposes and agendas, rather than God's, and it attempts to conform others to its own image, rather than assisting them in developing into the fullness of the measure and stature of Christ.