Minneapolis/St Paul Church of Christ examined
Minnesota Daily, November 15 1993.
By Allie Shah
When John Krahn pulled out of a Bible study group he had been heavily involved in, he wasn’t sure his soul would survive. “You are programmed to think if anyone leaves that group, you are walking into total darkness,” said the chemistry doctoral candidate.
His downfall in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ began when he started questioning its leaders’ interpretations of the Bible. After Krahn’s close friends revealed his doubts, leaders “marked” him in a special meeting. According to Krahn, all members were told if they talked to him they would go straight to hell.
Krahn left the group soon after the marking, ending a nine-month relationship that began when a Church of Christ campus minister approached him in the tunnels between Smith Hall and Walter Library.
Free Minds, an affiliate of the national Cult Awareness Network, classifies the Church of Christ as a cult.
- [Webmaster’s Note: WARNING! The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was bankrupted and bought up by Scientology since this article was written. We strongly recommend you do not contact them for assistance.]
The campus is a popular spot for cult recruiters because students are particularly vulnerable, said Lynell Agustin, an ex-cult member who now works for Free Minds. “Most students are searching for something to believe in,” Agustin explained. “Maybe they broke away from their parents’ church, but they still want something spiritually.”
Students are also targeted because they are often in transition. People who have just ended relationships or have recently moved to the area are more susceptible to cults, Agustin said. “They recruit very intelligent people and people who are motivated to do good for others,” she said.
The difference between a cult and a non-destructive group lies in the deception cults use to lure members, said Arnold Markowitz, director of the New York-based Cult Hot Line. Non-destructive groups are open about their expectations. “They’ll tell you right down the line what’s expected of you to be a part of their organization,” Agustin said. Cults hide behind appealing ideals and rely on tactics like “love bombing” — making new members feel overly welcome — to pull people in. Any group or organization that engages in these “mind control” tactics is classified as a cult, Agustin said.
In addition to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ, Agustin identifies several University campus groups as having cultist tendencies, including Collegiate Association for Research of Principles (CARP), Eckankar and the Church of Scientology. The Church of Christ and CARP are by far the most prevalent groups on campus, said Krahn, who headed a student organization known as Cult Information Service. The group provided help for those seeking a way out of cults.
But members of these so-called cults deny using controversial tactics. “There is definitely not anything we do that is mind control,” said Church of Christ member Scott Feyereisen, a mechanical engineering senior. “There’s nothing we’re trying to hide or push on someone. Before anyone makes a commitment, they know what we’re all about.”
Said CARP’s campus minister, Jim Bard: “Any education about the religion is called mind control.” He denounced allegations that the group doesn’t tell new members details about their religious obligations until they have been successfully recruited. “CARP is very up-front,” Bard said, although he said some recruiters have waited a period of time before introducing the teachings of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a key figure in the faith. “It’s not malicious deceit. There’s too much hysteria surrounding Rev. Moon,” he explained. Moon has been accused of preaching the separation of families and of collecting funds from followers for his personal fortune.
But defining ‘mind control’ is difficult because it rarely leaves visible scars. “It’s very subtle and it’s all done without any visible physical harm to the individual,” Agustin said.
Krahn added: “They don’t explicitly tell you you can’t do something, but they equate it with something bad, so you feel you don’t have a choice. It’s indirect, but it’s very powerful.”