Mike Garde, The Director of Dialogue Ireland will be participating in an interdisciplinary Seminar on Cultism at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan on Tuesday November 11, 2014.


building andews

Time: 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM.


Generally around October/November I visit the area of Northern Indiana close to Notre Dame and relate to Mennonites. A few weeks ago the Seventh Day Adventists had a major mission programme here in Ireland and I met their principal speaker Mark Finley.


From that brief encounter the idea emerged in talking to some of the SDA leaders here in Ireland of visiting their University in Michigan, called Andrews University to discuss Cultism. The person who has agreed to organise this event is Duane McBride who is descended from good Ulster stock and connected to the United Irishmen of 1798.

Title: Chair, Behavioral Sciences; Director, Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Research Professor of Sociology.




Division of Social Sciences
Department of Communication

Also whereas previously groups could only emerge in cities where numbers could be sufficient to sustain an organisation like say Scientology, the emergence of the internet is both a tool in the hands of cultist groups, but also as in the case of Anonymous leading to the overthrow of Scientology. However, even in the most remote area one can be open to these influences.
Also information can be passed onto people looking for facts about a particular group. Also our blogs act as a means of recovery, and sharing about a group.


People also have a tendency to confuse cult involvement as an expression of a psychiatric disorder whereas they might be absolutely mentally fine but suffer from undue influence.

So I do not look at cults but the phenomenon of cultism.
Here the emphasis is not on divergent beliefs but how any group can come under undue influence.
We see the work of Lifton and Singer as being very significant.



Also Theology. One though should stress the need to study Religion as the Theological discipline has no real insight into the understanding of groups like the Moonies, Hare Krishna. It is instructive that in Europe for over two centuries there has been the study of Religions Geschichte:

So it will be an inter disciplinary study involving Sociology, Psychology, Theology/Religion and Communications.
Historically cults were seen as an extreme form of a sect. Usually a sect was seen as a break away movement from a dominant group and as a danger. Earlier Evangelicals like Walter Martin defined any group as being in conflict with Biblical Orthodoxy as a Cult. They had to then define Religions like  Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as being defective in that they did not adhere to Biblical Christianity.

It is of course appropriate to continue to have a theological view of cults but you will note that most seminaries have discarded such a study from their curriculum. I try to develop this understanding of an interdisciplinary approach in the second Chapter of my thesis. Read below:



So we talk about thought reform rather than deprogramming or exit counselling.

Division of Social Sciences
Department of Communication


We also need to distinguish between the Freedom of Religion Debate and the use that Cultists make of this area to actually defend the enslavement of their numbers.
This Scientology front is a good example:


2 Responses

  1. I had forgotten to mention that in my thesis their is a brief SDA interlude. Debra in Australia considered converting to the SDA but see what happened:
    P81 History of the MMM
    Chapter Three:
    The History of The MMM

    Thus the disputatious spirit that forms a thread throughout this story leads the MMM and its foundress out of Catholic communion. Interestingly, while Debra claimed that the Catholic Church had protestantised the Mass, she was entertaining thoughts of joining the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). She had asked her members to take down all the statues in Mary’s Mount. These theological deviations were a step too far for Maggs:
    The taking down of all statues and holy pictures was part of her Protestant thinking at this stage. She herself was ready to become Protestant, and jumped the gun too far and soon for the rest of us. We were not ready to do this. Some of us left over this.

    Debra seemingly wanted to take the MMM out of the reach of the Catholic Church. She brought lecturers and films in for several weeks. The secret meetings with the SDA went on behind the backs of most of the members. This was highly controversial, and eventually backfired on Debra. The removal of statues and pictures was requested because the SDA would have regarded their use as idolatry. Some of the members were very unhappy about this doctrinal turn and began querying her position. Debra heard of this and rang Maggs from New Zealand. He told her, “We are Catholics! We should have statues and holy pictures. It is part of our Catholic practice.” On her return Debra “blamed the whole fiasco on Gordon her husband and Michelle Stewart. Debra had misjudged the feeling of the majority. But it showed how she was really thinking.”


  2. An SDA friend sent me this link. It kind of proves the point I was making about the Theological position exemplified by Walter Martin. His accusation that the SDA was a cult had a beneficial result in their self analysis:



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