Cult apologist

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The term cult apologist is used by some critics and opponents of cults to describe religious scholars, social scientists, and other persons who write about cults and new religious movements and whose writings are considered by these critics and opponents as uncritical or not sufficiently critical. The term is sometimes used in a pejorative sense. The words apologist derive from the Greek apologia (Greek: Ἀπολογία), meaning the defense of a position against an attack (and not from the English word apology, which is exclusively understood as a defensive plea for forgiveness for an action that is open to blame). Early uses of the term include, Plato's Apology (the defense speech of Socrates from his trial) and the early Christian Apologists, defending their faith.

In view of the persistent and negative use of the term cult apologist by various evangelical countercult apologists, it appears that the neologism cult apologetics has both fallen into disuse and also metamorphosed into a word of opprobrium.


[edit] Other uses

Other uses of the term 'apologetics' includes the field of Christian study that defends biblical truth against anything that opposes it. <ref>New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, Apologetics, Charles F. Aiken, Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter, 2003</ref>

The expression cult apologist may derive from a related neologism that was coined by the evangelical Christian countercult movement writer Walter Martin. In 1955, Martin had published a Christian handbook The Rise of the Cults. In Martin's discussion about developing theological resources and responses to cults he remarked:

We have proposed, therefore, that an inter-denominational Bureau of Information be formed … This Bureau of Information has recently been realized with the inauguration of a special division of Zondervan Publishing Company entitled The Division of Cult Apologetics." <ref>Martin, The Rise of the Cults, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1955, p. 106</ref>

Martin used the neologism Cult Apologetics in a positive and self-referential way to identify ministries that evangelize those involved in cults. He used the term again in his next book The Christian and the Cults (Zondervan 1956, p. 6). Martin's relationship with Zondervan continued until 1966, which is when the Division of Cult Apologetics ceased as a publishing operation. Martin ruefully alludes to the break-down of this relationship with the publisher in his fictional book Screwtape Writes Again (Vision House 1975, pp. 79-80).

The positive use of the term cult apologetics by evangelicals recurs in the book by Robert and Gretchen Passantino, Answers to the Cultist at Your Door (Harvest House, 1981, p. 13) and also by Alan Gomes in his contributory chapter in the first posthumous edition of Martin's The Kingdom of the Cults (1997 ed., p. 333).

See also Apologetics.

[edit] Other definitions

Christian countercult Anton Hein's "Apologetics Index" website defines a 'cult apologist' as:

"someone who consistently or primarily defends the teachings and/or actions of one or more movements considered to be cults - as defined sociologically and/or theologically." <ref>Apologetics Index, apologists, Anton Hein, website, 2006</ref>

Tilman Hausherr, a critic of Scientology and other groups he considers to be cults, wrote:

"In general, cult apologists are people who are not cult members, but who support cults and defend their unethical activities." <ref>Cult Apologist FAQ, Tilman Hausherr, August 18, 2002</ref>

[edit] Allegations against cult apologists

Allegations against cult apologists, include:

  • biased studies (Kent & Krebs)
  • accepting statements from cults at face value while generally mistrusting statements from former cult members (Zablocki, Beit-Hallahmi)
  • methodoligical problems (Zablocki)
  • in some cases accepting funds or benefits from cults (Kent + Krebs, Beit-Hallahmi)

[edit] Example of cult apologism

In May 1995, after the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, American scholars James R. Lewis and Gordon Melton flew to Japan to hold a pair of press conferences in which they announced that the chief suspect in the murders, religious group Aum Shinrikyo, could not have produced the sarin that the attacks had been committed with. They had determined this, Lewis said, from photos and documents provided by the group.<ref>Apologetics Index, Aum Shinrikyo, Aum Supreme Truth; Aum Shinri Kyo; Aleph, 2005</ref> However, the Japanese police had already discovered at Aum's main compound back in March a sophisticated chemical weapons laboratory that was capable of producing thousands of kilograms a year of the poison.<ref>CDC website, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Aum Shinrikyo: Once and Future Threat?, Kyle B. Olson, Research Planning, Inc., Arlington, Virginia</ref> Later investigation showed that Aum not only created the sarin used in the subway attacks, but had committed previous chemical and biological weapons attacks, including a previous attack with sarin that had killed seven and injured 144.<ref>CW Terrorism Tutorial, A Brief Hisotry of Chemical Warfare, Historical Cases of CW Terrorism, Aum Shinrikyo, 2004</ref> Lewis openly disclosed that "AUM [...] arranged to provide all expenses [for the trip] ahead of time", but claimed that this was "so that financial considerations would not be attached to our final report".<ref>Holy, Japan's Waco: AUM Shinrikyo and the Eclipse of Freedom in the Land of the Rising Sun, James R. Lewis, 1998</ref>. Critics see this as an example of cult apologism by these scholars. [citation needed]

[edit] Viewpoints

The neutrality of this section is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.

[edit] Scholars referred to as cult apologists

Stephen A. Kent and Theresa Krebs, published a critical article When Scholar Know Sin in which they characterize James R. Lewis, Gordon Melton and Anson Shupe as cult apologists.<ref>Stephen A. Kent and Theresa Krebs: When Scholars Know Sin, Skeptic Magazine (Vol. 6, No. 3, 1998). Avaliable online</ref>

Scholars who have been referred as of cult apologists by Anton Hein's Apologetics Research: Resources on religious movements, cults, sects, world religions and related issues website, include: <ref>Apologetics Index website</ref>

Rick Ross' website, The Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements makes the same characterizations<ref>Apologists</ref> of:

[edit] Groups accused of cult apologism

Protagonists in the Christian countercult such as Anton Hein ( <ref>Apologetics Index, Cult Apologists What you should know about cult defenders, Anton Hein, 2006</ref>), anti-cult activists such as Rick Ross <ref>Cult Apologists?, Rick Ross, Database, Expert's Comments, The Rick Ross Institute, 2006</ref>, Scientology critic Tilman Hausherr<ref>Apologists FAQ, The cult apologist FAQ: exposing the cult's willing defenders, Tilman Hausherr, August 18, 2002.</ref>, and professor of psychology and author of several books and articles on cults Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi<ref> Dear Colleagues: Integrity and Suspicion in NRM Research, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Apologetics Index, 2006</ref>, accuse certain groups to be cult apologists, including:

[edit] Counterpoints

Scholars accused of being cult apologists, in turn, reply to the criticism levelled at them by stating that they consider themselves champions of religious freedom and tolerance. Douglas E. Cowan writes:

Some of us--myself, Eileen Barker, Massimo [Introvigne], Jeff Hadden, Irving Hexham, Anson Shupe, David G. Bromley, Gordon Melton--are listed on [Anton] Hein's site as dedicated "cult apologists" of varying degrees of prominence. While his characterization of the understanding, motives, and expertise of these "cult apologists" is by-and-large inaccurate and insulting, it serves the agenda of the Countercult by placing these characterizations in the public library of the Internet. "Cult apologists," by the way, are those "claiming to champion religious freedom and religious tolerance." <ref>From Parchment to Pixels: The Christian Countercult on the Internet, Douglas E. Cowan, Center for Studies on New Religions, 2001, Conference, London</ref>.

Gordon Melton also dismisses these criticisms by stating:

In labelling the alternative religions as 'cults', anti-cultists assumed that in some measure the alternative religions were essentially all alike, an assumption that has proved completely false. The only characteristic they share is a negative evaluation; they each present an alternative to traditional Christianity. The assumption of similarity has been used to attack the 'cults', by attributing to all of them the faults and excesses of any one of them. This practice, among with the highly polemic motivation underlying most anti-cult literature, makes such materials the least useful in understanding the nature of life in alternative religions, though of immense usefulness in understanding the climate in which NRMs have had to operate.<ref>Melton, Godon J., Modern Alternative Religions in the West. pp.610, Penguin (1997), ISBN 0-14-013599-5</ref>

In an interview on new religions with Speak Magazine in the summer of 2000, his interviewer, John Lardas, wrote that:

[Gordon Melton] is a staunch advocate of First Amendment rights and has defended the right of new religions to express themselves, filed legal briefs on their behalf, and taken much heat from his critics who see him as an apologist of nonconformity.

[edit] Other viewpoints

In a paper presented to the 2002 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Conference , Douglas Cowan presents the political, ethical, economic and personal impact of such distinction and the range of opinion about what "cult apologist" means in the context of three basic domains as follows: <ref>Douglas E. Cowan: Cult Apology: A Modest (Typological) Proposal, 2002, [2] </ref>

  1. The Evangelical Christian countercult: [I]n the context of the evangelical countercult, it seems that one does not actually have to "defend cults" to be labeled a "cult apologist." Rather, in the manner of "the one who is not for us is against us," as a second indicator simply critiquing the critics is sufficient.
  2. The secular anti-cult: While the evangelical Christian countercult has very little use for the brainwashing or thought control hypothesis, the secular anticult movement's deployment of "cult apologist" is almost exclusively concerned with maintaining either the viability of that hypothesis or the validity of ex-member testimony as part of its anecdotal mainstay.
  3. The secular scholarship: I take it as a simple axiom that we, as a scholarly community, are probably not going to come to consensus on most of these issues. We are not going to agree in our assessments of new and controversial religious movements, and in our own personal scholarly scales, the balance of freedom of religion vs. the potential danger posed by groups or "types of groups" is going to weigh differently.

[edit] References

[edit] Citations

<references />

[edit] Other sources

  • Amitrani, Alberto and Di Marzio, Rafaella: Blind, or Just Don't Want to See? Brainwashing, Mystification, and Suspicion
  • Benjamin Beith-Hallahmi: O Truant Muse': Collaborationism and Research Integrity, in Zablocki and Robbins (ed.): Misunderstanding Cults, 2001, ISBN 0-8020-8188-6
  • Stephen A. Kent and Theresa Krebs: When Scholars Know Sin, Skeptic Magazine (Vol. 6, No. 3, 1998). [3]
  • Janja Lalich: Pitafalls in the Sociological Study of Cults, in Zablocki and Robbins (ed.): Misunderstanding Cults, 2001 ISBN 0-8020-8188-6
  • Susan J. Palmer: Caught up in the Cult Wars: Confessions of a Canadian Researcher, in Zablocki and Robbins (ed.): Misunderstanding Cults, 2001
  • Thomas Robbins: Balance and Fairness in the Study of Alternative Religions, in Zablocki and Robbins (ed.): Misunderstanding Cults, 2001 ISBN 0-8020-8188-6
  • Benjamin Zablocki: Methodical Fallacies in Anthony's Critique of Exit Cost Analysis, [8]

[edit] External links

[edit] See also

Cult apologist

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