09 February 2011

Signs of a Toxic Movement

The following was posted several weeks ago over at The Watchman's Bagpipes. When I first read this list, my jaw literally dropped. I was stunned because every item on this list describes my experience in a particular self-professed "Christian" organization. It reaffirmed my belief that this movement is essentially a cult in Christian clothing. Please consider the following Signs of a Toxic Movement:

  1. The leader is always right and always in control.
  2. The leader never accepts blame for anything.
  3. Perfectionism. "The fear of making a mistake, the fear of sinning, keeps the victim of perfectionism from experiencing the grace of God and traps that person in a toxic religious system."
  4. "Don't confuse me with reality, my mind is made up!" Refusal to admit the truth. "Pride often keeps people from being willing to admit they have been deceived."
  5. Does not permit personal growth. Members talk alike, dress alike, have same mannerisms. Decisions are made for them.
  6. "Service with a smile." No matter what is going on in personal life, appearance is everything. Everyone must see you as being happy. No emotions allowed except that of happiness.
  7. Us versus Them. One must build the belief that the group vision is on the edge of spiritual evolution and that all others are not as spiritual. "Holiness is what we have but others do not."
These signs are adapted from an article in Discernment Ministry International's Truth Matters newsletter, August 2003.
If any of these characterize a group with which you are involved, perhaps it's time to prayerfully consider their true motives. Tread with caution, stand on Truth. And if you do go up against a group such as this, taking them to task for their distortion of the Word of God, remember to ready yourself with God's armor. If you wield His weapons, then you have no need to fear any man, or any man-made group.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
And for those of you who have, in the strength of God, stood up against a group or a person who was perverting His Truth, do not be disheartened by persecution. It will come and it will come in droves, but you have no need to be popular here on Earth. Your call, dear Christian sister or brother, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to contend for that Gospel when it is under attack.
I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)
May God grant us courage to contend rather than cower.


  1. It is interesting to note that those who wish to remain will try to convince the ones who leave to come back, saying, 'It's not the same without you.' Beware those who tell you how wonderful you are.

    What many of us struggle with is knowing when to stand firm and be the voice of truth and when to shake the dust from our sandals and walk away.

  2. Thank you for this post. I had been attending a church for a few months and "red flags" started going off in my mind. I tried to suppress those thinking I was being hyper-critical, but I couldn't reconcile some issues. After much prayer, debate and advice, I decided to leave due to the overwhelming evidence that it was "cultish". This post came at a good time. Thanks again.

  3. You're welcome, Anonymous. Praise God that He opened your eyes and protected you from a potentially spiritually dangerous situation!


Please keep it pithy (in other words, if your comment is long enough to be its own blog post, don't bother), pertinent (please don't go off-topic), and respectful (to the author, to the other readers, and to the subject of the post). If you can't do that, your comment will not be posted.

If you haven't already, please read the Comment Policy in its entirety.