Teen cults can claim many victims each year.
Every year thousands of teens across the country become ensnared in the dangerous and misunderstood world of cults. These hazardous entities prey on the uncertainty and alienation that many teens feel and use those feelings to attract unsuspecting teens into their cult traps. The best defense of cults and gangs is parent education.
No teen actually joins a cult, they join a religious movement or a political organization that reaches out to the feelings of angst or isolation that many troubled teen’s experience. Over time, this group gradually reveals its true cultish nature, and before teens know it, they are trapped in a web they can’t untangle.
With the strong rise in teen internet usage, cults have many ways to contact children and brainwash them.
Cults have long been represented in the mass media. The supporters of Reverend Jim Jones People’s Temple may be some of the most famous cult members, making global headlines when they died in the hundreds after drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Almost 300 of the dead Jones supporters were teens and young children. Heavens Gate is another well known cult, which believed ritual suicide would ensure their journey behind the Hale-Bopp comet with Jesus. Heavens Gate lived in a strict communal environment, funding their cult endeavors through web site development. Some male members of the cult even castrated themselves before all 36 committed suicide, wearing matching sweat suits and Nike tennis shoes.
It is clear that despite the ridiculous and bizarre nature of many cults, parents can’t ignore the power and resourcefulness of these groups. Cult ideas may seem too loony to take seriously, but they can have real power when used against troubled teenagers, the exact type of teens that we need to work on keeping safe.
Cult influence should not be taken lightly, especially when living with a troubled teen. Parents may not think of cults as a problem because they don’t hear about them a lot, but that’s the key to cult success. The livelihood of teen cults relies on staying out of the public eye and in the shadows. The Heaven’s Gate and People’s Temple cults didn’t truly gain public notice until after their suicides, and by then it was too late to save their followers.
The danger of teen cults is real, but parents can help ensure their teenagers’ safety by staying informed and communicating with their children. Knowledge and communication is always the first line of defense when helping a troubled teen.
Protecting your teen
Even though the threat of cult membership largely remains a hidden danger, there are some important preemptive measures parent’s can take to protect their teenagers from falling prey to cult rhetoric.
To prevent teenage cult membership, keep communication open and healthy between you and your child. Stay involved with their life, but not so involved you push them away. Keep in touch with how your teens are feeling and what they are doing as they go through their difficult teenage transition period.
Cults offer simple answers and immediate happiness as a temptation for membership, so help guide troubled teens through the complexities of being a young transitioning adult, and help them cope with the stress of teen life so they don’t turn to cults for help.
Teens are often looking for a community or place to belong, so help your troubled teen find group activities and places for friendship. Encourage them to join sports teams or any organization that is trustworthy and safe that they can join and help feel community involvement.
Refrain from pressuring teens too much for success. Often, our culture becomes much too involved with the idea of success and succeeding in school, and this unnecessary pressure can be destructive to a teenager’s psyche. Cults can serve as any easy way to get away form this stress, and can appear as nice alternative to deal with the pressure-filled, success obsessed world that parents sometimes push upon their children.
Parents must offer both love and support to their teens, while flexing proper parental authority. Teens must be reassured their parents love them, because if they feel lonely they will turn to cults for the love and friendship that troubled teens need. However, parents still must exert authority, because cults can offer guidance and structure that helps teens feel comfortable and secure. Basically, a strong parental presence that his both nurturing and secure will help teens avoid cult temptations.
There are many warnings signs signaling cult activity in your troubled teen’s life. These signs include a dramatic change in grades and study habits, change in personality, change in physical appearance, sudden increases in talk about God or Spirituality, as well as changes in social interactions. Teachers and school counselors who see your child on a daily basis can provide a good resource t if you are worried about possible ten cult issues.
Cults that target teens
There are a myriad of different cults threatening teenage livelihoods today. Below is a list of some of the most dangerous and well known cults, but this is by no means meant to be exhaustive, it is simply a sample of some popular groups to watch out for and educate teens about. Providing a source of knowledge and information on teen and parent issues is the best way to help curb the dangers of teen cults.
The Twelve Tribes
The Twelve Tribes is group of religious organizations founded in the 1970s by Elbert Eugene Spriggs. While living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Spriggs created a teenage ministry called the Light Brigade, which operated a coffee shop. Spriggs transitioned the group and its teen members into a communal living situation and into its own religious splinter group after his Church postponed a sermon because of the Super Bowl.
Armed with his new community and belief system, Spriggs opened a chain of restaurants called Yellow Deli to raise money for his cult. The group continued to grow and spread around the country with their restaurants, while gathering significant criticism. The Twelve Tribes attempt to live in the primitive way of the early Church, following the path of Jesus, and believe they must get rid of all their possessions and individuality to call Jesus their true lord. Twelve Tribe members live communally and share all income and possessions.
Twelve Tribes was accused of child abuse and child labor violations in their various businesses. The group has also been accused of racist and anti-Semitic nature in their rhetoric and some of the loudest speakers against the group are former members, who warn of many dangers within the authoritarian organization.
Children of God/The Family International
The Children of God, now known as Family International, is a global cult masking as a religious movement. The organization started in 1968 in Huntington Beach, California, as a splinter of the Jesus movement of the 60s. The group’s influence spawned the first organized anti cult organization, known as [FREECOG (http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/FREECOG)]
The Family International uses its unassuming name and religious overtones to mask its bizarre cult nature. In its early stages, Family International used sex to win followers and show God’s love. This type of religious prostitution was called flirty fishing, and the cult used this perverted evangelism to win over many disillusioned converts.
The Family International is far from family oriented, in the common sense of the word family at least. The cult uses sexuality is its main theme and has distributed photographs, videos, and writing that promote and show adult and child sexual interaction within the group. Family International has since reconciled these problems, but for over 20 years, they clearly abused children in their ranks. Now, the Family International demotes individuals who report abuse to law enforcement agencies or pursue legal action against an abuser to a lower status in the group, and sometimes makes them leave the cult all together.
The group was founded by David Berg, who teaches a theology based on Christian fundamentalism. Berg is regarded in the group as a profit who passed on the direct words of God before his death. The group follows the Law of Love, which permits any actions that are motivated by sacrificial, unselfish love and are not intentionally hurtful. However, cult members believe homosexuality in males is a sin, but female bisexuality is perfectly fine. Adult members of The Family International are encouraged to have sex with other adult members, regardless of their marital status. Family International also encourages members to imagine they are having sex with Jesus during masturbation and intercourse, and male members are supposed to envision themselves as women, so as not have homosexual relationships with Jesus.
The Unification Church (Moonies)
The Unification Church was created by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1954, based on Moon’s belief that Jesus spoke to him in 1935, instructing Moon to establish God’s kingdom on earth and finish what Jesus was unable to complete. Moon was arrested for preaching his beliefs in Korea but was freed from prison in 1950 by American troops. Moon’s religious system grew in popularity after his release and he sent out numerous missionaries to Japan and America, eventually moving to the United Sates in 1971.
Moon asserts he is the messiah of the Second Coming and that his wife is the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. The couple labels themselves as the True Parents.
The Unification Church is dangerous because of its financial and political power. Over 300 financial institutions and businesses provide a front for the group, ranging from clothing stores, to publishers and jewelers. Moon has also been invited to the white house and has spoken in front of Congress.
Despite his claim to be the messiah, Moon has spent time in American prisons for tax evasion. Moon also presides over mass weddings, one of which married 30,000 couples in Korea.
Moon’s book, Divine Principles, is considered to be inspired the by the word of God and is considered to be scripture among members of the cult. Moon uses his extensive and legitimate business system, as well as various philanthropic endeavors to mask his cultist tendencies.
If you fear your child is involved in cult or gang activities, get help immediately. If you have exhausted your local resources, such as therapy and out-patient treatment, contact us for information on residential therapy. It may be your best option for removing your teen from this environment.