Sep 30, 2019

CultNEWS101 Articles: 9/27/2019

Event, Cults, Podcast, LDS, Russia, Religious Freedom, Amish, Mennonite, Rumspringa, Sexual Abuse 

Topics discussed include: assessing a family's unique situation; understanding why people join and leave groups; considering the nature of psychological manipulation and abuse; being accurate, objective, and up-to-date; looking at ethical issues; learning how to assess your situation; formulating a helping strategy; learning how to communicate more effectively with your loved one; learning new ways of coping.  
September 27, 2019, 7 pm – 9 pm.
New York, NY

"Every day there are stories about how interactions between people have become increasingly tribal — prompting individuals to trash facts, science, and objective reality in the service of a cause or a set of beliefs.

It's almost as if society has been taken over by cults.

In this week's WhoWhatWhy podcast, we talk to Dr. Janja Lalich, professor emeritus of sociology at Cal State University, Chico, and one of the nation's leading authorities on cults.

Lalich talks about the recent and dramatic increase in cults. What are the characteristics that define all cults? What are the uses of paranoia? What is the appeal of the charismatic and highly narcissistic leader who demands total loyalty while promising some kind of salvation, framed in an us-vs.-them message?

She details how citizens are most susceptible to large-scale cults when a nation is in turmoil and ideology becomes sharply defined — as it has been historically by Hitler and Mao, as well as by the religious cult leader Jim Jones.

Successful cults, Lalich tells us, create an entire belief system, which is why they are so difficult to escape from: to leave means renouncing everything one has developed faith in.

She explains that when individuals try to leave cults they need the support and intervention of family and friends who are understanding, non-judgmental, and provide an emotional safe haven.

On the other end of the spectrum, for large populations or even whole nations that have been taken over by cults, the job of deprogramming millions of people usually requires a significant outside force — something that can be more dangerous and destabilizing than the cult itself.

Unfortunately, the law provides very little protection against the power of cults, most of which grow by word of mouth in a kind of ideological pyramid scheme. Based on her personal experience with cults, and years of academic research, Lalich provides a new framework for looking at the current political landscape."

"before 4 p.m. on Easter Sunday in 2018, in his first General Conference as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson made a historic announcement: The Utah-based faith would build a temple in a "major city" in Russia.

And, though it was after midnight in this distant land (and most Russians were fast asleep), some Latter-day Saints here began furiously messaging one another.

"I got texts from my [former] missionary companion," recalls Kristina Nikogosyan, who works for the church in Moscow. "I was crying for three hours."

It is a "huge blessing for Russia," she says, "that God sees us."

Sergei Antamanov, the church's spokesman in Russia, didn't hear the news until he was eating breakfast the next morning, and his Facebook page was exploding with the unexpected development.

Both Antamanov and Nikogosyan know the religious reality. The nation's 23,000 Latter-day Saints are the smallest of Davids compared to the Russian Orthodox Goliath, whose influence and infrastructure dominate the physical and spiritual landscape.

It is the predominant religion of the people. Its multicolored domes weave in and out of the skylines among the citadels and the statuaries, the Soviet-era apartments and the gleaming new malls. Its cathedrals are almost as ubiquitous as the standard-brand Latter-day Saint steeples in Utah County.

In this vast country, those rounded roofs of Orthodoxy make a statement beyond architecture and aesthetics: This, they silently trumpet, is our land and our identity.

Will an intruding Latter-day Saint temple — representing a faith not just from the West but from America — actually be permitted to puncture that picture?

Maintaining the visual message

In 2016, the Russian government passed a strict law against proselytizing by so-called minority faiths. It prohibited talking about religion on the streets, in homes and in any public places.

The purpose was to forestall — or at least hinder — these denominations from growing or from luring away believers from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Another tactic being tapped to limit these faiths is to block them from building their own churches.

"Local officials continued to prevent minority religious organizations from obtaining land," reads the 2018 U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom in Russia, "and denied them construction permits for houses of worship."

The report cited "a senior member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights and Development of Civil Society," who said "there was a new tendency among regional authorities to restrict the construction or restoration of houses of prayer and churches on residential lands."

In two separate cases in March, the State Department said, "authorities demolished residences on private land that were being used as churches, one in Novorossiysk and one in Abinsk."

Muslims, too, find their need for new sacred spaces to be blocked by the government.

"As elsewhere in the world, the number of Muslims is growing in Russia today," says Azamat Abdusalomov, deputy head of the international department of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia. "There is a large influx of external and internal migration, [which presents] a need to increase the number of mosques in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and other cities."

Moscow has more than a million Muslims and only four mosques.

'This issue requires attention and needs to be resolved," Abdusalomov writes in an email. "The authorities do not want to resolve this issue and throw off this issue on Russian nationalism and other reasons, but, in fact, these issues could be resolved."'

Lancaster Online: What do Amish, Mennonite, rumspringa mean? A guide to terms used in Lancaster County's Plain community
" ... The Amish use several terms that come from Pennsylvania Dutch and haven't quite made it to mainstream media.

To better understand our Amish neighbors, LNP worked to collect and define words that might be unfamiliar to those outside the Amish community.
Here are some frequently-used Amish-related words and their definitions:

Plain Sect Community

Characterized by living separately from the world, these Christian groups include the Amish and various Mennonite and Brethren groups. Most are of the Anabaptist movement, which traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation.Amish
The Amish make up a group of traditionalist Christians that originated from Swiss German Anabaptism. The Amish are best known for their plain dress and aversion to technology. While all Amish people share common beliefs, practices vary from congregation to congregation. Within Lancaster County, there are 229 Amish districts — each with different rules and regulations. 


While often mistaken for the Amish, more conservative sects of the Mennonite faith differ quite a bit from the Amish. Most use electricity and drive cars and tractors. However, other sects of the Mennonite faith have assimilated into mainstream culture.

If you're not a part of the Plain Sect community, you're what the Amish call English.


While the Amish Mafia does not exist, Amish gangs do. LNP sat down with Charles Jantzi, psychology professor at Messiah College and researcher of Amish youth, who explains what an Amish gang is and how it impacts Amish teens. A gang is like a youth group. 


In popular culture, rumspringa has been represented as an opportunity for Amish youth to go wild. This isn't exactly correct. Rumspringa is a period during which an Amish teen has more freedom. Around the age of 16, Amish teens join gangs, which greatly determine how rebellious their rumspringa experience will be. Fancy gangs might allow more of an "English" experience, while plain gangs will be more conservative. Most Amish teens stick to the boundaries of their gangs during rumspringa. 

Washington Post: I was the first woman to publicly accuse gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. But I was also abused in my own church.
"Rachael Denhollander was the first gymnast to come forward against sports physician and convicted sex offender Larry Nassar. This is her story of experiencing abuse in church when she was 7 years old.I still remember it like it was yesterday.The church was small, just a few hundred people, and everyone knew everyone. My mom played flute and sang on occasion. I earned a reputation early on for loving children, and I frequently cuddled babies for tired moms after the service or played with their toddlers in the nursery during business meetings. Our family was part of a tightknit, small group Bible study that was a highlight of every week, and my parents had been close friends with many of the people there long before I had been born. I'd been born alongside their children, and we had grown up together. The church, which was Baptist in theology but independent from any denomination, was part of our family, and we were part of it.But something changed when I was 7. I stopped heading straight from Sunday school to the church mailbox — a small set of cubbies, each with a family's name inscribed — to check for notes and newsletters. I didn't walk the hallways anymore, using my finger to trace the lines between the giant bricks covered in thick cream paint. And I wandered the bright green lawn with the other kids a lot less.

I spent a lot more time hiding in the girls bathroom, shaking and wishing someone would ask what was wrong but knowing I wouldn't know what to say if they did.
I had been abused and was still being preyed upon by a college student at the church. He'd managed to do it while sitting me on his lap during a church Bible study. No one knew except me, and I wasn't sure what I knew, except that I felt terrified and physically ill. I wasn't about to describe what made me feel that way, either. So I hung out in the washroom, the one place he couldn't find me.

Then one week, he didn't come back. I figured he'd finished college and moved. But somehow, even after he was gone, things didn't go back to normal. The Bible study we were part of eventually ended. The adults I loved and trusted suddenly seemed icy and distant. Some of our closest friends left to start a new church. The ones who remained weren't close to us any longer. More than a year later, we left, too. The reasons were vague and unclear. I was devastated at the loss and frustrated that I couldn't understand or just be told what had happened."

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