Monday, August 25, 2014

Where Cults Come From

Yesterday I was standing on the steps of the church greeting people as they arrived at church. A white van pulled into the parking lot and eventually stopped in the driving lane - positioned for a quick getaway, I think. A middle aged man got out of the driver's door and walked toward me.

"He's going to ask for money," I thought. Then I noticed the single page of paper in his hand. Maybe it is an invitation to an event. Maybe it is a documentation of his need for help. What could it be? He thrust it at me and growled, "Read this! You'll find it interesting!" Then he stalked back to his van and left.

I found it interesting, but not like he was suggesting. His paper is two full sides, single spaced with 64 points about the requirements of a church that is incorporated as a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. The gist of the introductory paragraph is that an incorporated church is not a real "NEW TESTAMENT Church." (His capitalization.) He states that "they have joined into a covenant with the federal and state governments that supersedes the NEW COVENANT with Jesus Christ." (His capitalization.)

So, this is how cults get started.

This guy has a chip on his shoulder. I gather that he sees himself as one of the last true followers of God and his message is a prophetic condemnation of the vast majority of churches because they are incorporated as 501(c)3 tax exempt organizations.

Some of his points are true - churches are obligated to file tax info on their employees. But since Jesus himself paid taxes (Matt. 17:24-27), and since Romans 13 says believers are obeying God when they obey the government and pay taxes, I'd say his point has no point.

Some of his points are built on false assumptions such as being "nontaxable" (sic) is "a God given right basis (sic) on the Bible and the First Amendment of the US Constitution." Actually, Jesus said, "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." (Matt. 22:21) There is no suggestion in the Bible that churches should be tax free.

Many of his points are alarmist warnings that tax exempt status opens the door to government control that will lead to the ordination of women, same sex marriage, and building safety regulations. (Actually, it is our insurance company that wants us to take care of building safety.) I cannot say that there is no potential for government attempts to interfere with church practices in the future - but that is certainly not the case now.

But this is how cults get started. One guy with a grudge who is sure the existing churches are in league with the Devil. They are all false, but he is true and passionate (if maybe not all that accurate). He will work to distribute his prophetic message and will gather followers. They will huddle together as the last true church - the restored church - the remnant. They will preach mostly about their pet doctrines - and in this case will not pay taxes until they find themselves being "persecuted" by the IRS.

2Tim. 2:22-26 ¶ So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

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