Are we a cult?

Cult:

  • a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object : the cult of St. Olaf.
  • a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister : a network of Satan-worshiping cults.
  • a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing : a cult of personality surrounding the leaders.
Now the question… are we, the Holy, Catholic, and Apostlic Church a cult?
This question got posed to me in my contemporary cults class at CUNE. The general consensus of the class, after some debate was, “Yes, we are a cult.. and that’s okay.”
I started thinking more about this on Friday as I gave a presentation in my Teaching the Catechism with Luther class. I’ve been researching the early church catechumenate, specifically focusing on the mystagogical preachers, Ambrose of Milan, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. I’m also studying Augustine, since he was a catechumen under Ambrose. As I was describing the early church rituals surrounding the catechumenate, specifically focusing on the Lenten discipline, the Easter Vigil, and the subsequent Mystagogy (preaching on the mysteries), I brought up the secrecy and the mystery that surrounded the church. This was not discouraged, but was encouraged by the Fathers. They didn’t want people to know, prior to Baptism, what took place with the Sacrament. They were encouraged to keep the creed amongst the baptized and not let it “get out.” A fourth-year said, “This sounds awfully cult-like,” to which I responded, “Yup… and I think that’s okay.” I also said, “think about it… we make exclusive claims about salvation, are a relatively small group (the invisible church), we have an exclusive object of our faith (Jesus Christ), and we do things that are considered strange (pouring water on a baby’s head and drinking small sips of wine and eating small pieces of bread).”
Yup… I think we are a cult… and that’s okay.
What do you think?
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One Response

  1. Well of course it’s a cult when you define a cult like that. If I defined being gay as something like “having an odd appreciation of musical books” then you would be gay. Of course I’m referring to your hymnal collection. The answer is always “depends on your definition.”

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