Yesterday, one of my blog posts—published eight months ago—got nearly 13,000 views.
About 20% of that came from this post on Reddit, which showed a list of crazy rules at some church called the Word of Faith Fellowship.
For some reason, it seems to have driven a lot of traffic to one blog post titled “Word of Faith and a Cult Checklist.” It was not about that church in particular. I was involved in a movement called the Word of Faith back in the 1980’s and 90’s. Today, it is more likely to be called the Prosperity Gospel. I have written a lot on my blog about the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel. My sister once thought it was a cult, and I wanted to know myself. I found a cult checklist in an article called “Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups” from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). I edited it a little for clarification on some points.
The idea for the post was to go through the checklist and answer according to my experiences with the Word of Faith movement. I cannot comment on the Word of Faith Fellowship, because I have no experience with that particular church. But their “do and don’t” list above sounds very cult-like. Just saying.
Nonetheless, it seems people who are interested in cults or the Word of Faith Fellowship are finding their way to that post. If you are wondering if you or someone you know belongs to a cult, here is the checklist.
Number 1: The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
Number 2: Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
Number 3: Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
Number 4: The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
Number 5: The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
Number 6: The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
Number 7: The leader is not accountable to any authorities.
Number 8: The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before they joined the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
Number 9: The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Number 10: Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and to radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before they joined the group.
Number 11: The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
Number 12: The group is preoccupied with making money.
Number 13: Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Number 14: Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
Number 15: The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
If you want to see my answers and conclusions about the Word of Faith movement, here’s the link. https://davidandersontheauthor.com/2021/08/18/word-of-faith-and-a-cult-checklist/
I also recommend another post I mentioned, “My Sister Thought I Was in a Cult (And I’m Not Sure She Was Wrong).”
Finally, you can find more resources on recognizing and freeing yourself from cults from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).