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8/09/2013 10:16 am  #1

Food for thought - articles and papers

Whelp, there it is: 15 Signs of False Humility

The leader of a Texas sect once wrote a letter to me in which he said that he wished he could open a vein for me in order to save my soul. That sounded quite nice, though I already follow Jesus—a point I had (fruitlessly) made in several private Facebook messages back and forth with this man.

He then went on to call me a wicked wolf, a dog, a false prophet, a seared-conscience liar, and a “territorial bear robbed of her whelp while the flames of hell animate your heart.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds unflattering.

He wrote all of this because I had published a post questioning his group’s beliefs and practices after the leaders let a baby die instead of seeking medical intervention. They then tried to raise the child from the dead for fifteen hours before calling 9-1-1.

Let me say that again, in case you missed it: the leaders of this group let a baby die.

They let her die.

Details, details, said the leader, in effect. Oops, we made a mistake. Could have happened to anyone. Who are you to judge? And by the way, you’re a sinner, so we don’t have to listen to you anyway.

He then went on to speak about his group’s exceeding devotion to God and how much they had sacrificed for the kingdom. Indeed, he said, they were at risk of being martyred because of their great piety to reach out to dangerous people. And the whole 14-page letter was chock full of Bible verses and written in 17th century thee-and-thou English. I believe this is because the group perceives that they live in a corrupt age and so they have decided to revert to ancient English in order to remain pure. Because everyone was much holier in the 1600s.

I sat on the letter for a year, more amused than offended. But after mulling it over, I think there’s gold hidden in all that flint. And I no longer feel amused, because I think God feels angry when proud people hide behind religious words in order to appear humble. A lot of cult leaders and spiritually abusive people delight in false humility.

In Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul describes false teachers who delight in self-imposed worship, false humility, and the harsh treatment of the body. Their regulations appear wise, he says, but in fact they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. False humility is the worldly counterfeit of genuine modesty and grace. Such empty philosophy is just rules taught by men, no matter how many thee’s and thou’s you throw in.

So how can we tell the difference between false humility and true humility? Let me offer some suggestions.

Fifteen Signs of False Humility:

1.  Uses Religious Terms to Justify Cruel or Questionable Behavior. But a humble person refuses to use spiritual-sounding words as a smokescreen for sin.

2.  Preoccupied with Self. But a humble person is as actively interested in others as in himself.

3.  Listens to Others Only in Order to Speak into their Life. But a humble person listens to others with loving interest and with an expectation to learn and grow.

4.  Admits Small Sins but Ignores Major Sins (Image Control). But a humble person admits sin and also receives an honest rebuke no matter how lowly the source.

5.  Inability to Laugh at One’s Self When Others Do the Joking. But a humble person sees the humor in his own paradox of sin and sanctification. He can laugh at his own expense, because he knows that his worth is based not on impressing people but rather in the reality of being loved by God.

6.  Publicizes Her Own Sacrifices to Impress Others. But a humble person avoids broadcasting her sacrificial labor.

7.  Uses Himself as the Standard for Other’s Performance. But a humble person looks at the life of Jesus as the example, and points people to him.

8.  Affects a Humble Tone of Voice While Saying Proud Things. But a humble person doesn’t need to affect his tone of voice to sound mealy-mouthed in order to convince others that he is humble.

9.  Believes that Eschewing Money or Fame is the Same Thing as Being Humble. But a humble person understands that pride comes from the heart, not from possessions.

10. Professes Love for God and Neighbor but Acts in a Cruel Manner. But a humble person is consistent between what she says and what she does.

11. Delights in Debate rather than in Dialogue. But a humble person sees conversation as a two-way street with much to learn, not as a battle to win or lose.

12. Is Easily Offended. But a humble person is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

13. Believes that Asceticism Leads to Holiness. But a humble person recognizes that sin comes from the heart, not from pleasure.

14. Loves to Impose His Opinion on Others as Truth. But a humble person acts charitably to all, thinks the best of others, and avoids presenting his opinion on a disputable matter as ultimate Truth.

15. Enjoys Judging Other People. But a humble person hands judgment over to God and instead busies herself with loving her neighbor and serving God.

And here’s a bonus sixteenth sign: people who exhibit false humility spend a lot of time telling you how humble they are.

Spiritually abusive people understand that God values humility. They also realize that few people follow an obviously proud person. So they cloak their cruel behavior with religious-sounding language and get offended when other people question their motives.

As Jesus said, leave them. They are false teachers.

Maketh them feel like territorial bears, robbed of their whelps.



8/09/2013 12:05 pm  #2

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Liberty For Captives is starting a new series about "Frankenstein Faith". Looks very promising!


8/12/2013 2:03 pm  #3

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Being "religious" means acting in such a way as to bring more holiness, more godliness into the world. It means recognizing that every human being is created in the image of the divine and as such is deserving of dignity, respect and all the god-given human talents we can gather to bring healing into the world.
When "religious" behavior is ignoring what God has given to world through human creativity and our ability to heal those who are sick, it is exactly the opposite of what religious behavior should be about.

When Faith Kills

Faith is a good thing. It can bring comfort to those who suffer the grief and sadness of profound loss, and inspiration to those seeking spiritual guidance and support during times of doubt and personal struggle. Faith can give hope and strength to the weary while they battle challenging diseases or the loss of a job during economic downturns. And sometimes, sadly, as was evident this week once again in Philadelphia with the sad and twisted faith faith of Herbert and Catherine Schaible, faith can kill those we love.

I am a rabbi, a deeply religious individual who has spent my life working in the world of faith and prayer. Yet when I read the story of the Schaible parents and how their misguided faith in divine intervention to cure their two innocent children of pneumonia resulted not in their healing and health but in their tragic deaths instead, I could only be deeply saddened by the inevitable results of "faith" misguided, "faith" turned from a blessing to a curse, "faith" twisted from the spiritual tool of strength and inspiration it was meant to be into an instrument of pain, sorrow and death.

I can't help but think of the powerful statement in the Book of Deuteronomy where God is quoted as telling Moses, "See I set before you this day good and evil, blessing and curse, life and death, therefore choose life." In Jewish theology this is a sacred mission given to all human beings by God in our sacred literature to choose life over death, good over evil, blessings over curses, knowing that life being the messy, complicated affair that it is for us all, everyone's life contains both blessings and curses. Sometimes the greatest challenge of all when life is difficult, when we face illness or struggles, is simply figuring out which choices will lead us to blessings and which will lead to curses.

My tradition teaches that faith is a blessing, but that we human beings are co-partners with God in completing the act of creation, and part of that partnership means that we use the God-given talents, creativity, ingenuity and intelligence to create cures for diseases. Faith to me means believing that God intended us to create penicillin and antibiotics, cures for diseases and medicine to ease our pain and suffering and in fact that this is exactly how God actually works miracles in the world.

We are to see God working through the creativity and brilliance of the human mind and spirit, and recognize in our own hands, God's hands, in our own eyes, God's eyes, in our own minds, the creative genius that is God working miracles in our everyday lives. When a child has pneumonia and we have the blessing of penicillin that can heal that child of his illness and literally bring him back to life from the brink of death, that is the miracle of God working in the world through the agency of the human mind and heart.

I think of the story we all know of Moses going up to top of Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights to receive the Ten Commandments written (according to the Torah) "with the finger of God." When Moses comes down the mountain and sees the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf he smashes the tablets in a dramatic gesture that demonstrates the power and demand of God to have "no other God's before me." As the story in the Torah goes, Moses then ascends Mount Sinai once again only this time it is Moses himself who inscribes the commandments in stone and it is that version which the Children of Israel bring to the world, carry through their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and become the foundation of right and wrong for Western Ethics ever since. I share this story to point out that even in the most sacred ancient text of the Jewish people, accepted by Christianity as the "Old Testament" as well, it is the word of God as mediated through the heart and mind of the human being (in this case Moses) that becomes the source of our ethics and values ever since. That is how God works in the world -- through us and our hearts, and our passions and our wisdom and our searching for the truths that elevate humanity.

Jewish tradition teaches that God left the world incomplete and it is our job as human beings to imitate God by bringing godliness into the world through the use of our own creativity and god-given abilities. Merely praying to God to intervene is an abdication of our co-partnership. Judaism believes that the highest "mitzvah" (religious obligation) is the saving of life. In fact, our tradition insists that not using our talents and abilities to intervene in a health crisis when our intervention could save a life is one of the highest sins we can commit.

As a religious leader I often have people come to me asserting "I'm not very religious, rabbi," by which they inevitably mean they don't "religiously" practice rituals, attend services weekly, or necessarily believe in a supernatural God who intervenes in the world and responds to prayer. To me, being "religious" means acting in such a way as to bring more holiness, more godliness into the world. It means recognizing that every human being is created in the image of the divine and as such is deserving of dignity, respect and all the god-given human talents we can gather to bring healing into the world. What the Schaible's claim as "religious" behavior in ignoring what God has given to world through human creativity and our ability to heal those who are sick, is to me exactly the opposite of what religious behavior should truly be all about.
Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D.


8/13/2013 2:55 am  #4

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers


Roger E. Olson, Ph.D. Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics. Baylor University, George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

In the past two to three years Dr. Olson has encountered a number of evangelical Christians whose lives have been negatively impacted by churches who most people consider evangelical but fit the profile of a 'T.A.C.O.' Many of these fly under the radar and are not widely recognized as that. Many conservative evangelicals admire them for their dedication, intensity and outreach.

There is a fine line between a high-demand, intense religious group and a T.A.C.O. It’s easy for the former to slide into the latter. There’s a continuum, from increasing unaccountable authority by church leaders, to out-and-out cultishness. Church authority that is afraid of honest, constructive dissent and uses coercion to silence it is already on the way toward being a T.A.C.O.

His advice is to RUN from such churches and expose them as aberrational and abusive – even if their doctrines are perfectly orthodox by evangelical standards.

T.A.C.O.s Anyone?

For 17 years I taught a course on America’s Cults and New Religions on the college level (and occasionally on the seminary level, too). I promoted the elective course to the student population as “Unsafe Sects.” For years I’ve thought about writing a book with that title.

Have you ever wondered why you just don’t hear that much about “cults” in the secular or Christian media anymore? One reason is because “cult watchers” can be successfully sued for calling a specific group a cult. Another is because secular sociologists of religion (and some religious ones) have virtually abandoned the word because its use risks violence against religious groups that are non-traditional. In the popular mind “cult” evokes a fanatical religious group stockpiling weapons and abusing children, etc. So the word has virtually fallen out of use except for those few groups that are notoriously and universally known to be engaging in illegal activities (and most of them are underground).

One thing I discovered when teaching the course (and talking about “cults and new religions”) in numerous churches) was a term coined by some sociologist of religion: “T.A.C.O.”–”Totalistic, Aberrational, Christian Organization.” I don’t recall who coined the term (if I ever knew). It was used in print by sociologists to describe a category of churches and sects.

I think it’s time to resurrect it.

Just in the past two to three years I’ve encountered a number of evangelical Christians whose lives have been very negatively impacted by churches (and sometimes networks of churches) who most people consider “evangelical” but fit the profile of a T.A.C.O. Somehow, many of these are able to fly under the radar, so to speak, and not be widely recognized as that. Many conservative evangelicals admire them for their dedication, intensity and outreach.

There is, I judge, a fine line between a high-demand, intense religious group and a T.A.C.O. It’s easy for the former to slide into the latter and some groups are what I would call “TACO-ish” (rather than absolutely “a” T.A.C.O.”).

Here’s an example from my own life experience. Some years ago my wife and I were members of a Baptist church that most people would consider mainstream evangelical. But dysfunction set in–beginning with the governing board. Because of my status as a church professional and researcher and teacher of cults and new religions (including T.A.C.O.s) I could see where that dysfunction was leading–toward totalizing control of the church by a small coterie of men whose motives I has reason to question. The board brought to the congregation seemingly innocent changes to the church’s by-laws that I saw could and probably would lead to some abusive behaviors. I stood up in church business meetings and pointed out where the process was leading and why the proposals were not appropriate. With very little effort I was able to sway the congregation to defeat the proposals. Then the governing board called me to meet with them. They asked me to stop speaking in church business meetings. I asked if I said anything unethical, abusive, heretical or manipulative. They said no, but…I was too strong an influence. They wanted to have their way and they knew without my voice they could. Needless to say, my wife and I left that church. Soon after that the governing board manipulated the dismissal of the entire pastoral staff–including a single mom (Christian education director) and man with four children who had just moved his family a long distance to join the church’s staff as youth pastor. Their only reason was that they wanted the new pastor (not yet chosen) to have a “clean slate” meaning to be able to bring in his own people. During a particularly tense church business meeting (which my wife and I attended just before finally leaving the church) the governing board lined up before the congregation and threatened to resign en masse unless the congregation did their bidding–gave them the power to fire the whole church staff. The denomination’s executive minister was present and spoke. He told the congregation he could not in good conscience recommend anyone to become pastor of the church if they did this. Out of fear of offending their friends on the governing board and of having no leadership, the congregation voted to give the governing board the power to fire the entire pastoral staff.

This was one personal brush with what I would consider semi-TACO-ish behavior in a “mainstream” evangelical congregation. It is not, I have come to believe, uncommon. My advice to people who experience this in their own congregations is “Run!” This kind of behavior, I believe, is not only unhealthy but also abusive.

Recently I have read about and heard sad stories from former members of churches that most people in their communities (and sometimes far and wide) consider “evangelical.” In some cases the pastors are well-known authors and greatly admired for their intense dedication to, for example, “discipling” people. In ever case I’m referring to here, there is something I would consider “cultish” or at least “TACO-ish” about the church.

What I think we need is an agency LIKE the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability to monitor and warn people away from “evangelical” churches and sects (including “networks” of congregations) that behave in aberrational, abusive ways. Being considered evangelical should not just be a matter of doctrine; a church with impeccable evangelical orthodoxy on paper might nevertheless be aberrational and abusive.

So here are my suggestions for behaviors that should cause people to RUN from a congregation EVEN IF it is perfectly orthodox doctrinally and even though its reputation is evangelical:

1) Condoning (including covering up) sexual abuse or sexual immorality of leaders within itself.

2) Silencing honest and constructive dissent.

3) Treating leaders as above normal ethical standards, above questioning.

4) Implying that “true Christianity” belongs to it alone or churches in its network.

5) Using intense methods of “discipleship training” that involve abuse of persons–including, but not limited to, teaching them they must absolutely lose their own individuality and sense of personal identity in order to become part of an “army” (or whatever) of Christ and using methods of sensory deprivation, brainwashing and/or abject obedience to human authority.

6) Teaching (often by strong implication) that without the church, especially without the leaders, members lose their spiritual connection to God. (This happens in many, often subtle, ways. For example a church may claim that its “vision” of the kingdom of God is unique and to depart from it is to depart from God’s kingdom, etc.)

7) Simply closing itself off from all outside criticism or accountability by implying to its members that the “whole world” outside the church is evil.

8) Falling into magical, superstitious beliefs and practices such as “spiritual warfare” with an emphasis on destroying all of a certain kind of object because objects “shaped like that” are often inhabited by demons. (A few years ago some churches were teaching people that if they were having marital problems it was probably because they had owl-shaped objects in their homes. I was told by members of a church that having books about world religions or cults in my library would corrupt my spiritual life. A church held bonfires to burn records and books considered unholy. Etc., etc., etc.)

9) The pastor literally owning the church lock, stock and barrel.

I don’t think what I’m talking about can be properly understood without some examples. So here are some:

A church in a small town in Louisiana (that I visited twice with a friend who was a student at a local college) was owned by the pastor. The pastor was very rich and uneducated. (He owned his own construction company.) He just decided to start his own church; there was no church board or business meetings. He handled all the money and paid the staff out of his own pocket, etc. The worship service began and, when well underway, the pastor and his wife entered to great applause. The pastor had an armed body guard near at all times. The pastor preached a gospel of prosperity–give to the church and its “ministries” and God will bless you financially and in other ways. Offerings were by people coming forward to put money in the offering plate on the “altar” with the pastor standing nearby. During one sermon the pastor began breaking and smashing small pieces of furniture–a vase, a picture, etc.–stomping on them and screaming God only knows what. Many congregants applauded.

A church in the Rocky Mountains owns a “discipleship boot camp” that uses sensory deprivation and extreme physical hardship to “train” members to obey Christ and care nothing about comfort. The emphasis is that “true discipleship” is like war–a true disciple of Christ like a true soldier must obey without question and care nothing about his or her own safety or security or well-being.

A church in Oklahoma condoned sexual harassment and sexual abuse among staff members.

A church in Texas specializes in exorcisms (every Sunday evening) with every member sooner or later being exorcised of numerous demons–often with vomiting, writhing on the floor, screaming and pulling hair.

A church in California teaches that its pastor has a direct connection to God and God says that the end of the world is coming soon with the U.S. government (rarely mentioned that explicitly) waging war on Christians so that church members must stockpile weapons and food and “get off the grid” by using wood burning heat and having their own sources of electricity (and, if possible, underground bunkers).

Often such churches call themselves “evangelical” and somehow manage to convince evangelicals they are mainstream evangelical.

The examples I’ve given are extreme, but there’s a continuum–from increasing unaccountable authority by church leaders to out-and-out cultishness. Church authority that is afraid of honest, constructive dissent and uses coercion to silence it is already on the way toward being a T.A.C.O.

My advice is to RUN from such churches. And, if possible expose them as aberrational and abusive–even if their doctrines are perfectly orthodox by evangelical standards.


     Thread Starter

8/13/2013 10:10 am  #5

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

our group matched 8 out of


8/13/2013 11:12 am  #6

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

I see 9 out of 9.


8/13/2013 2:41 pm  #7

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

so you are saying they are condoning or covering up sexual abuse? sexual immorality? If you have proof, please private message me!


8/15/2013 3:43 pm  #8

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

I agree with Kjdean, I think there might be 6 or 7 at most. Stockpiling weapons? Condoning or covering up sexual immorality or abuse? I haven't heard of anything. If you know of either of these please message me too.


8/17/2013 7:14 pm  #9

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

No, you guys are right. I didn't read it thoroughly. I skipped right past #1. My bad.

On the other hand, how would we know? 

The writer is referencing recent events of discovering sexual misconduct and abuse being covered up, as well as historic church issues of previous eras. This group is a bit too new to have any long-term issues come out of the shadows. 
But they are teaching women and children rank obedience and submission to the group's men. Conditioned unquestioning obedience and abuse go hand-in-hand.
I wonder how much background-checking they do? They all live together. They have a cadre of single men, most are complete strangers they met at church camps and meetings. They give dramatic admissions of lives of drugs, violence, and wickedness before joining CofW. Who's watching them?


8/17/2013 7:27 pm  #10

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Ernst Troeltsch's church-sect typology, upon which the modern concept of cults, sects, and new religious movements is based.
"NRM" is New Religious Movement. An alternative to the word "cult" accepted by academicians.

Last edited by Hythlodaeus (8/17/2013 7:31 pm)


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