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Posts Tagged ‘Jonestown deaths’

tumblr_n9z91ls6xO1r7gbhio1_500When I saw this graphic — posted on an Internet atheism community — the first thing I did was look up the definition of cult. Here’s part of what Dictionary.com says:

1. A system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2. An instance of veneration of a person, ideal, or thing.
3. A group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
4. A religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.

Does Christianity fit all that? I’m sure some folks would shout YES! Let me beg to differ. As far as I’m concerned “religion” is a set of behavioral rules designed to fit people into little slots and let others pass judgement on them. I would not be a follower of Jesus Christ if that’s what Christianity is about.

It’s hardly a surprise to write that serious Christians venerate Jesus Christ, whom they consider to be the Son of God. Nor is it a shock to write that serious Christians are a group bound together by veneration of Christ.

But by those definitions, “Beliebers” (fans of pop star Justin Bieber) could be labelled a “cult”, complete with all the onerous attributes that most of us associate with that term.

So what happens when anyone leaves any group? Most of the time, it would be questioned, dissected and judged. Indeed, if it weren’t, then the members of the group clearly don’t care about the person leaving.

Serious believers understand that following Jesus Christ means:

  • Having a lighthouse to guide us through life’s nastiest emotional, financial and physical storms.
  • Knowing that we are loved — loved so much that God offers all humanity the gift of His Son, whose sacrificial death makes up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.
  • Having the assurance we will spend all of eternity in the intimate presence of our Creator.
  • When someone leaves all that, should we shrug and walk away? That’s not respectful; that’s telling them they don’t matter to us or to Jesus Christ. And that would be very wrong.

Does that mean we would stage “interventions” or prevent them from leaving like the inmates of Jonestown, the horrific cult that Jim Jones established in South America in the 1970s? That cult ended in 1978 when, on Jones’ orders, more than 900 people drank cyanide-laced punch.

I think even the angriest opponents of Christianity would admit that’s not what following Jesus Christ is all about.

What wise Christians do when someone decides to leave is to remain friends with them, pray for them and welcome spiritual conversations.

Not all Christians are that wise, of course. But I think it’s safe to write that Christianity has nothing to do with any credible definition of “cult”. It has to do with Jesus’s explanation for why he came to this earth: “I came to give life—life that is full and good.”

Do you want this life? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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