But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. - 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
As the media pundits delved into the
suicide of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult, they themselves seemed to be
mired in the same questions that lured these intelligent people to mass
suicide. They and the public are fascinated with everything about a group that
believed in UFO's and are unable to answer the question:
The members of the Heaven's Gate cult who committed suicide were not the troubled teens taken in by a charismatic cult leader. They were middle-aged men and women with enough education and sophistication to run a successful Internet computer business. So, how can "nice, honest and decent" people believe they were aliens briefly leasing human bodies, and that they would soon join the mother ship trailing behind the Hale-Bopp comet? They believed so fervently that they were willing to take their own lives to escape a planet they thought would soon be recycled by aliens.
`I don't think they were crazy,'' said James Richardson, a sociologist at the University of Nevada in Reno. ``I don't think they were brainwashed. I think they were convinced of a set of beliefs that we can't wrap our minds around.''
Experts point to the things that draw people to a cult in the first place: a sense of alienation, a need for belonging, a search for meaning, people in transition, perhaps between jobs or marriages, or a time of personal crisis, the loss of loved one or, a medical problem, all of which can lead us all to ask questions that are hard to answer.
For the Spirit filled Christian, he knows the
They Have Rejected the Only Source of Truth
With objective truth replaced with relativism in our
public schools and society at large it comes of little surprise that a group of
people could come to believe that a spaceship was coming to take them to a
higher plane of conscienceness. When one rejects God's Word, he becomes an open
vessel for any kind of false teaching.
The present generation has become the inheritors of the belief that there will never be a unified field of knowledge encompassing the physical universe and the spiritual. They have been encouraged to take a leap of faith while believing the new creed that the only faculty for making judgments they have is their inner senses. Rejecting the revelation of God, the intelligent man has no standard, no basis in truth, from which to make intelligent moral and religious discriminations.
"We are now seeing the generation of 'baby busters' growing up with no hope, no goals, no moral convictions, no sexual identity, no feelings of patriotism, no identification with society, and no peace or even a capacity for happiness. It is one of the most pathetic groups of people that has ever come up in the history of the world. These are the people who are going to become our future leaders. They are angry. They are angry at their parents for not providing them with a safe, loving, stable home. They are angry at government for not providing them with a good education or safe streets to play in. They respond by taking their anger into the streets with indiscriminate crime. Their only coping mechanism seems to be suicide. On average, they have no religious faith to speak of, and they have no realistic concept of God. They are syncretistic about spiritual matters - they will take a little of this and a little of that. If they like the Christian view of heaven, they'll take that, and if they like the Hindu concept of Karma, they'll take that. Then they'll throw in a little spiritism, astrology, and nature worship and believe they know about God." [Pat Robertson, The Turning Tide]
The Heaven's Gate suicides, as with the recent Solar Temple cult and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, are a public study in the power of suggestion among humans in groups, say some experts. These incidents illustrate the lengths to which people will go to sacrifice in the service of an idea they feel is religious or spiritual. "It is a lesson again to all of us in how strongly the power of what we believe can be enforced by those around us," says Allen Stone, an expert on law and psychiatry at Harvard University, who studied the Branch Davidians. "It shows how our ability to separate truth from the beliefs of the group are often fragile."
- These 39 men and women of the Heaven's Gate cult preached cosmic enlightenment and claimed they had the answers to such weighty metaphysical questions as who put humans on earth and why.
- They also claimed to be the two "witnesses" mentioned in the Book of Revelations who would eventually ascend to heaven in a cloud - interpreted by the group to be a UFO.
- A woman - known in the cult as Sister Francis Michael - posted a two-part diatribe in which the author claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus. The author claimed to have come to Earth some 2,000 years ago "as the expected 'Messiah,' or Jesus." For its current mission, the being returned to Earth and entered into a human body some 24 years ago. The author also said that before the being and its students depart via a "Next Level" mother ship, they will assist "my Father and His other Next Level helpers" in their war against misinformation perpetuated mainly by the "so-called Christians and Jews," and that the human kingdom was never meant to be anything but a stepping stone - "a realized hell that must be evacuated."
On April 8, 1966, Time devoted its cover
story to the question "Is God dead?" By casting doubt on God's existence and
preeminence, society was cut loose from scriptural moorings and historic
restraints. Thereafter, "each man did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges
17:6). As we all know, vacuums do not exist in human thought. When one dominant
idea begins to fade, another will rush to take its place. Thus, when the
theologians surgically removed the belief in God from the minds of the
vulnerable, a wide range of New Age propaganda quickly tumbled into that void.
As faith in Jesus Christ subsided, astrology, psychic readings, crystal
influence, pantheistic theologies, Eastern mysticism, Satan worship and all the
nonsense taught by Shirley MacLaine gained influence.
Some reporters are stumbling around part of the truth, but they don't understand the significance of what they've found. Ronald Enroth, a sociologist at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., said, ``In a certain sense, our culture has predisposed some individuals in the direction of these more extreme things.'' To the unregenerate world, it's nothing more than bizarre teachings drawn from Eastern and Western religions, New Age philosophies, UFO rumors and Star Trek wistfulness and have ignored them as "fringe groups." But, folks, they're not "fringe." For years we've heard statments by members of similar groups about reincarnation, UFOs, comets and religion. What they've stumbled onto is a New Age mix of reincarnation, spiritual evolution and a false Gospel where Jesus was "the Captain" and God was "the Chief of Chiefs." It's not new either! The ancient Gnostics believed they could escape from earth and be saved by certain mysterious knowledge that only they had.
- Throughout history, signs in the sky have been interpreted as omens. The Branch Davidians believed that a guitar-shaped nebula was a sign that David Koresh, their leader, was the true Messiah.
- A young member of the Unification Church told his family that he was compelled to become a Moonie, as members of the sect are often called, after having a dream about the moon.
- Since the 1950s, an increasing number of people have come to believe that UFOs are real and that aliens are in regular contact with humans, even conducting experiments on them, or helping to guide them into more enlightened states of being, says Richard Lucas, editor of Nova Religio, a journal in Deland, Fla., on alternative religious movements.
- The Salvation Church, whose members include doctors, engineers and teachers, is typical of the kind of religious groups that are springing up towards the end of the century. After God failed to appear on television, members of God's Salvation Church was told by their leader, Chen Heng-Ming, "Because we did not see God's message on television tonight, my predictions of March 31 can be considered nonsense." The group dressed all in white had also built what they called a spaceship out of radial tires and plywood, and stocked a shrine with fruit, cola and crackers for God's arrival. Chen claims he fathered Jesus 2,000 years ago and now talks to God through a ring on his finger. "Teacher Chen," had said that God would appear on television channel 18 worldwide at 12:01 a.m. CST, and in person via flying saucer on March 31, 1998.
"It's very much something drawn from a generation fed by 'Star Trek'
and 'Star Wars,' " says David Reed, professor of pastoral theology at the
University of Toronto. "The people in these cults have had their world view
altered. They have reconstructed a spiritual world that draws from popular
Most Americans don't realize how many people there are out there who believe ardently in such visions. The material world is a place of corruption, and it is perfectly rationale to try and leave the body or escape the 'prison of the soul,' as they would call it, to leave the earthly family for the heavenly family.
As this country continues down the slippery slope of rejection of the Truth, these kinds of tragedies will only increase. It's not surprising to many of us when these mass suicides occur. If you talk to junior high and high school age kids today you find that most of them don't expect to be alive at age 30. They don't see a future. Even Gallup polls have shown that.
Rich or poor, young or old, people are seeking an anchor in a storm-tossed society that threatens to overwhelm them. They feel inadequate and yearn to be a part of something bigger than themselves. So, where do they turn? The Church has largely been absent or unavailable to people, so turn to alternative beliefs, drugs, promiscuity and suicide.
"Things are going to reach fever pitch for what we refer to as apocalyptic (cults)," said one Baptist minister. "They are all very convinced that the end of the age has to come by the year 2000." And they will follow their charismatic leader even to their death. These leaders, "are able to persuade their followers that they represent God . . . and that their followers can trust everything they say to them."
Heaven's Gate seems to be close cousins of the Solar Temple cult, which embraced a stew of beliefs borrowed from New Age philosophy, the Western occult tradition, gnosticism and other apocalyptic religions. Solar Temple members, also professing a desire to flee the world of matter for the world of the spirit, have taken their own lives in three mass suicides recently, in Switzerland, France and Canada.
- On March 22, 1997, in St. Casimir, Quebec, five members of the Order of the Solar Temple died in a fiery mass suicide. Cult devotees believed suicide transports them to a new life on a planet called Sirius.
- On Dec. 23, 1995, 16 members of the Order of the Solar Temple were found dead in a burned house outside Grenoble, in the French Alps. Most of the bodies were arranged in a star shape on the floor.
- On Oct. 5, 1994, Swiss authorities found the bodies of 48 people linked to the cult in a farmhouse and three chalets, all consumed by fire.
- On April 19, 1993, Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and 80 followers -- including 18 children -- died by fire or gunfire, six hours after the FBI started filling their cult compound near Waco, Texas, with tear gas.
- On Dec. 13, 1990, in Tijuana, Mexico, 12 people died in a religious ritual, apparently after drinking a poisoned sacrament.
- On Nov. 18, 1978, in Jonestown, Guyana, more than 900 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones died after he ordered them to drink cyanide-laced grape punch.
What Can We Do?
Ultimately we know that another
charismatic leader will rise to power and will sweep millions into his
We must hold on to the Truth. We must diligently tell others and we need to pray for the wisdom, strength and power to continue to fight the good fight. We should also do all that we can to strengthen the essential truths of our faith, within ourselves, and any to whom we are called to serve by leading.
We are called to overcome evil with good. We cast out darkness with the light. Allow the Lord to search your heart for any way you might be deceived. Let us now judge ourselves, lest we be judged. If we will humble ourselves now, He will lift us up at the proper time.
Many Americans, and people throughout the world, are experiencing spiritual enslavement and oppression. These people are crying out for answers and the Church must address them. We must always remember that we are not warring with flesh and blood, but we are actually fighting the forces that deceive and bind them. Regardless of how deceived someone may be, they are the very ones our Savior gave His life to save. For decades the Church has compromised its beliefs to appease the offenders. This tack will only make the ultimate cost of the inevitable changes much greater. The longer we compromise with them the more costly their ultimate removal will be. The Church must delay no longer and be willing to fight the forces of spiritual slavery and oppression.
The unity of the Church is one of the most important issues with the Lord. This was one of His own most pressing prayers on the night before He laid down His life for the church. However, He also prayed that night for us to be "sanctified in truth" (see John 17:17). He gave His life to set us free from the yokes of the evil one. The unity He prayed for was based on truth, not just political expediency, or compromises fashioned in order to keep the peace at any cost. Peace at the cost of truth, or the liberty of the Spirit, is a yoke of bondage that will only lead to even greater division.
"We have to stop sugarcoating reality and help people take charge of their lives," said the Rev. J. Langston Boyd, pastor of Shorter African Methodist Episcopal Church. "We need to say to people that God still cares, and people need to rid themselves of the insatiable desire to control everything." Preachers should preach "the unadulterated truth" of the Bible, said the Rev. Leon Emerson, pastor of Now Faith Church.
To simply "preserve our way of life," or "traditions" by ignoring the challenges will eventually lead to our downfall. This was a primary reason why the Pharisees, who loved the word of God, and esteemed both the traditions and a hope in the coming Messiah more than anyone else, rejected and opposed Him when He came. They were worshiping their traditions more than God, so when He came without having the same regard for those traditions that they did, they could not receive Him. There is a huge portion of the church which is held in bondage to the same religious spirit that manifested itself in the Pharisees.