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In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program
Youth learn about and discuss some basic information about cults.
Answer any questions you could not answer from the last workshop.
Invite the youth to sit in a circle. Light the chalice with these words:
We light this chalice in celebration of Unitarian Universalism and the sustaining faiths of all people of the world. May the flame represent the fire of our commitment to understand all faithful people and build bridges that connect us as one human family.
Invite participants to check in by saying their names and sharing briefly a memory of a time when they were happy to be taken care of—when they were sick, perhaps, or exhausted, or sad, and someone took care of them.
Share with the youth that today they will explore the idea of cults. Cults are a tricky subject because people have many different ideas of what a cult is. Ask participants what they understand a cult to be and/or what they have heard about cults. Note aloud the interesting and varied ideas. Ask what questions they have about cults, and write their questions on newsprint. Answer the ones you can. Tell the group that during this workshop, many of their other questions will be answered. After the workshop, you will seek the answers to any remaining questions, which you will share at their next meeting.
Go over with the group the information in Leader Resource 2, Cults Background. Start by asking what the youth think of as notable differences between religions and cults. If they have made a poster, and they need prompting, refer to the poster.
Ask participants, "Have you ever wished for things to be simpler—to just be able to float along without having to make constant decisions?" Refer to the memories they shared of times when they felt happy to be taken care of.
If their answer is no, they do not ever want things simpler, ask:
Suggest that if the youth know the safe feeling of being cared for, or if they can understand the wish for some relief from their responsibilities, they can understand the appeal of cults. The promise of a cult is simplicity—everything is decided, all is provided.
Post a blank sheet of newsprint and say, in these words or your own:
The term "cult" is used in so many ways and to mean so many different things, the Religious Tolerance website offers the conclusion that "the term is essentially meaningless." We need to clarify how we are using the word in today's workshop.
Read a comment from Leo Pfeffer:
If you believe in it, it is a religion, or perhaps "the" religion; and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect; but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult.
Ask the youth for their reactions to this statement.
Say, in these words or your own:
While amusing, there's truth in Pfeffer's comment. [Write "Cult" at the top of the newsprint.] Here are some common uses of the word "cult."
[Write "Not Christian" on the newsprint.] Among conservative Christians, any religious group that does not teach strict Christian doctrine is considered a cult.
[Write "Pop fad" on the newsprint.] "Cult" is used casually to describe a phenomenon supported with outspoken exuberance, for example, "the Facebook cult."
[Write "Personhood stealers" on the newsprint.] The most common use of the word, though, is to describe a group that seems to take over people, to make them slavishly devoted to the group and its leader and to lose the power to think for themselves.
So, how should we define "cults" for this discussion?
Distribute Handout 1, What Makes It a Cult? and give participants time to look it over. Ask for their initial thoughts. Engage the youth in discussion with questions such as these:
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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.
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