Oct 21, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/21/2020

QAnon, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), NXIVM, Faith Healing

There was a time not long ago when the letter held no special meaning for Jacob, a 24-year-old in Croatia. The 17th letter of the alphabet, usually followed by "u" in English words. What else was there to know? He certainly never expected it to end the tight knit relationship he shared with his mother.

But Jacob, who grew up in the United States, told The Washington Post that he has cut all contact with his mother now that she's become an ardent believer of the QAnon conspiracy theories.

Though they long held different political beliefs, they had "a really, really strong relationship," he said. "We were inseparable." He had no reason to think anything had changed. But during the holidays in 2019, "our relationship just completely tanked."

QAnon can be traced back to a series of 2017 posts on 4chan, the online message board known for its mixture of trolls and alt-right followers. The poster was someone named "Q," who claimed to be a government insider with Q security clearance, the highest level in the Department of Energy. QAnon's origin matters less than what it's become, an umbrella term for a loose set of conspiracy theories ranging from the false claim that vaccines cause illness and are a method of controlling the masses to the bogus assertion that many pop stars and Democratic leaders are pedophiles."

"The headquarters of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God does not resemble your typical megachurch. Its eighteen stories dwarf the big-boxes of the Texas and Missouri exurbs. Behind pillared walls of imported granite and marble, a 10,000-seat sanctuary features neither crosses nor organs, but a menorah motif running from entrance to pulpit. Men in shawls and skullcaps that look a lot like Jewish tallits and yalmukahs conduct ceremonies next to Hebrew-inscribed Tablets of Stone and a gilded Ark of the Covenant. The building is meant to be a supersized reproduction of the biblical Temple of Solomon, but by way of Caesar's Palace.

This is São Paulo, not Vegas or Jerusalem, and the men onstage are Pentecostal pastors, not rabbis. To be more precise, they are Neo-Pentecostal pastors, practicing a syncretic stew of the prosperity gospel, millenarianism, miracle healing, demon invocation, and exorcism, while boasting a level of Judeophilia weird even by the generous standards of Christian Zionism. Once a spiritual outlier, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) stands at the forefront of Brazil's rapid transformation into a Catholic-minority country. Its seven million members constitute Brazil's second-largest Protestant denomination, after the Assemblies of God coalition.

In the UCKG, the Holy Spirit does more than purge demons. It sets believers up for the acquisition of great wealth. The living proof is 74-year-old Edir Macedo, a former street preacher and lottery worker who over the course of four decades has built the UCKG into a billion-dollar church-media juggernaut. This past autumn, he used the levers of this power to help elect Brazil's first Evangelical president. With the ascension of the far-right ex-Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, Macedo cemented his status as a pivotal figure in the future of post-Catholic Brazil."

"It was the kind of story Hollywood might dream up — but not only was it real, it had some ties to the industry. Starz has set Sunday for the premiere of Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, a four-part documentary series that takes a first-person look at the sex cult that was broken open in April 2018. It premieres at 9 p.m. this Sunday, October 16. Watch the trailer above and see the key art below.

Hailing from the filmmaking team of Cecilia Peck and Inbal B. Lessner (Brave Miss World), Seduced follows the harrowing journey of India Oxenberg, the daughter of former Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg and a descendant of European royalty — who was seduced into the modern-day sex-slave cult NXIVM. More than 17,000 people, including India, enrolled in its "Executive Success Programs," a front for the cult and a hunting ground for its leader, master predator Keith Raniere — who was convicted on seven counts in July 2019. Women in DOS, a secret master-slave society within NXIVM, were sex-trafficked and branded with a cauterizing iron. Both about a mother trying to save her daughter and recovery from trauma, the series follows India's seduction, indoctrination, enslavement, escape and role as "co-conspirator" in assisting the U.S. government with bringing down Raniere and his criminal enterprise."

"They come to Redding from all over the world for instruction in faith healing and raising the dead. They often approach strangers in local parking lots, businesses and hospitals offering prayers.

Now, state and church officials are asking the student body of more than 1,600 people at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Shasta County to lock down at their homes and apartments after 137 students and staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The cases represent 10 percent of Shasta County's total infections so far.

Bethel Church and local health officials say the Redding megachurch is taking steps to limit the outbreak from spreading. But health officials worry the dozens of new cases could set off a wave of infections in this conservative community where a group of activists has angrily pushed back against COVID-19 restrictions and the local health officer has received threats for enforcing state mask mandates and business closures.

In a statement on its website last week, Bethel Church said it had asked students to arrive early before classes started in early September to quarantine for 14 days, and students were required to have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to attending school.

But that didn't stop an outbreak from spreading."

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