Here’s the news, as reported by MSNBC: Fourteen years ago, a member of the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, NH, allegedly rapes his 15-yr-old babysitter and gets her pregnant. Then, the pastor at the time, Rev. Charles Phelps makes her read a forced written statement of apology about being immoral and recommends/helps her family move to Colorado.
The alleged rapist is being brought to justice after Concord police found the woman on a Facebook page titled Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult Survivors.
But, is the church, or other IFB churches like the one where Rev. Phelps works now, a cult?
The current Reverend at Trinity Baptist (who started working under Rev. Phelps a year after the incident) says in the Concord Monitor, “We have heartfelt regret for the victim, that she ever stood in front of our congregation, as well as absolute regret and . . . disgust that the perpetrator remained so long in our congregation.”
That doesn’t sound cult-y.
Not to excuse what he may or may not have done, but Phelps writes a letter to his congregation here that doesn’t make him sound like a cult leader either.
And in case you want to lump all this under a category called “Baptist,” here Wikipedia has a list of over 50 Baptist Associations, Denominations, regions, etc.
“A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.”
That’s a bit vague and one can see how one denomination of Christianity might accuse another of being a cult. I am sure if there was mass-media in the 1500s, they would have labeled Martin Luther a cult leader. So I think it’s best to then pair it with a sociological/psychological definition like this one from Psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton, M.D. in The Harvard Mental Health Letter (1981). It’s old, but the abstract wraps it up nicely. Italics are mine.
“Cults represent one aspect of a worldwide epidemic of ideological totalism, or fundamentalism. They tend to be associated with a charismatic leader, thought reform, and exploitation of members. Among the methods of thought reform commonly used by cults are milieu control, mystical manipulation, the demand for purity, a cult of confession, sacred science, loading the language, doctrine over person, and dispensing of existence. The current historical context of dislocation from organizing symbolic structures, decaying belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death, and a “protean style” of continuous psychological experimentation with the self is conducive to the growth of cults. The use of coercion, as in certain forms of “deprogramming,” to deal with the restrictions of individual liberty associated with cults is inconsistent with the civil rights tradition.”
So, what do you think, was the alleged victim of rape also an alleged victim of a cult? Are some or all IFB churches cults as some claim?