A controversial fundamentalist Christian missionary organization called “Jews for Jesus” (JFJ) is in the red, reports Christianity Today.

The annual budget for the group, reported at $15 million, included a 10% deficit of $3 million.

14 workers were given “pink slips” and laid off, which represents a staff reduction of more than 5%.

The group claimed that this was due to a particular costly program that apparently bombed.

However, it may instead reflect a larger trend regarding this type of missionary work generally.

Despite its name, JFJ depends upon the support of the evangelical Christian community for its funding. This largely consists of Baptists, Pentecostals and independent bible churches.

But it seems like that interest is waning and JFJ may be past its prime.

The organization was the brainchild of Martin Rosen, an ordained Baptist minister who once worked for the American Board of Missions to the Jews.

Rosen wanted his own operation, so in the early 70s he came up with a catchy name that is now trademarked, which initially drew substantial attention.

But that was thirty years ago and Rosen has since retired.

Hundreds of workers have come and gone at JFJ and some allege that the organization was abusive and authoritarian.

Rosen’s successor at JFJ admits, “A number …left dissatisfied or hurt…We made plenty of mistakes along the way…we allowed sinful attitudes like pride to infect our lives and our behaviors. He adds, Our founder…has acknowledged that.”

But apologies aside, it may be that the core concepts, which once generated interest in the organization decades ago, are no longer that attractive.

A growing number of evangelicals seem to feel that more thoughtful and less provocative proselytizing is preferable.

It also remains an open question just how effective JFJ ever really was.

Despite the millions spent annually on its crusade, it appears that very few Jews actually converted to fundamentalist Christianity as a direct result of JFJ efforts.

As churches tighten their budgets due to difficult economic conditions and scrutinize how best to allocate resources, JFJ may continue to shrink.

After thirty years of what can be seen as essentially “hit and run evangelism” and an exodus of “hurt” staff, JFJ apparently is running out of gas.

A Japanese reporter said Shoko Asahara’s conduct was impulsive and that the Aum cult leader seemed to disregard “the consequences of his actions,” reports The Japan Times.

But this should come as no great revelation.

Destructive cult leaders most often appear to fit the profile of a sociopath, devoid of conscience. And mental health experts have also frequently found such leaders are “psychopaths.”

The “brainwashing” of Aum members was also described.

This process included sleep deprivation and apparent trance induction through “acetic training.” At times hallucinogenic drugs were used.

According to the reporter, “If [Aum members] felt their actions were wrong, they would automatically shake off such misgivings, thinking: ‘This is training to rid me of doubt. The order cannot be wrong, because only Asahara sees the whole picture.’ ”

The net result was essentially total obedience achieved through an organized process of specific training to suppress critical thinking.

Moreover, after giving up their former lives and property, most Aum members had little to go back to if they seriously considered the possibility of leaving.

Many destructive cults around the world use virtually the same process of isolation, intensive training and indoctrination to make their members submissive and easy to manipulate.

Despite the fact that many Aum devotees were highly educated and from good families, they were still vulnerable to such techniques of coercive persuasion.

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, apparently is busy helping a “cult” recruit new members.

One such recruit writes, “I have joined a cult, a secret society where there are special books to memorize, pins and key chains given out and, coming soon, the secret handshake and obligatory chant.”

The name of this not so “secret society” is “Weight Watchers,” reports News Journal.

But rather than losing their minds, it seems adherents just lose weight.

The author of the article lost 52 pounds.

Does this sound like a healthy “cult”?

The writer notes that her new “cult” is not punitive. She claimed, “I had a cookie and a piece of chocolate, and my brethren in the cult didn’t knock down my door and make me give it all back.”

It seems everything is not black and white, good or evil in this group.

The Weight Watcher devotee says, “I have learned it’s OK to eat different things, even, heaven forbid, snack things, just as long as you don’t use a pitchfork to shovel it in.”

Not only does this cult lack its own compound, it seems to put pounds off altogether.

The corporate shell called “Clonaid” seems as hollow as its post Christmas claims about creating the first human clone.

Everyone tied to the company apparently is connected to the “Raelians,” an alleged “cult” led by Claude Vorilhon who calls himself “Rael.”

Under oath in a deposition the “vice-president” of Clonaid appeared to be little more than a dutiful “cult” dupe, willing to take the heat for his leader.

When asked, “There is no Clonaid, correct? He bluntly replied, “Correct,” reports the Boston Globe.

Clonaid first popped up in West Virginia during 1997, through an apparent scam, which included a rich couple trying to bring back their dead son. It seems they were bilked out of a considerable sum.

The company was once registered in the Bahamas as “Valiant Venture Ltd.,” but was really more of a mail drop, until the Bahamian government shut it down.

Clonaid looks like another scheme contrived by “cult” leader Vorilhon for money and attention.

Claude Vorilhon came to Canada from France, where he left behind a deeply troubled personal history and estranged family.

Despite Vorihon’s grandiose claims about himself and his “cult” following, he offers no meaningful proof regarding anything he boasts about.

But the alleged “cult leader” appears clever enough to insulate himself from accountability through a myriad of contrived layers composed of loyal cult followers or “independent contractor[s]” between himself and the “clone” business.

As Vorilhon says, ”I have all the advantage without the inconvenience. It’s really a win-win situation.”

Clonaid hopes to grab $200,000 a crack for its “clones” and has an ”Insuraclone” program for $200 annually, whatever that is. It also wants to sell “donated eggs” for $5,000 apiece and is looking into the “pet cloning” business too.

This all sounds like another con for cash put together by “cult leader” Vorilhon.

Madonna is out plugging her new CD and increasingly strange beliefs, reported within USA Today.

The 44-year-old mother of two who started her pop career in the 80s belongs to a controversial group the “Kabbalah Center,” which has also been called a “cult.”

Why is it that celebrities like Madonna seem to think their talent to entertain, is somehow accompanied with a gift for religious discernment? Maybe it’s just the byproduct of spiritual sycophants?

USA Today reports about “Madonna’s epiphany,” but her claimed insight looks more like a blind spot.

The singer says, “We live in a society that seems to value only physical things, only ephemeral things…We’re obsessed.”

Yet it’s she that seems “obsessed” with bizarre beliefs that include the metaphysical properties and supernatural powers of bottled “Kabbalah water.”

Madonna, once known for her strident cynicism, apparently buys it.

In her interview the star claimed, “Every person on the planet is living in a kind of bubble, trapped into programmed thinking.”

But isn’t it Madonna herself that increasingly seems to inhabit just such a “bubble,” “trapped” within “cult”-like “programmed thinking”?

Perhaps the pop diva should consider bursting that “bubble” before preaching to others.

After all, wasn’t it Madonna that once sang “papa don’t preach”?

Why doesn’t the star practice what she sings?

Madonna claims that her “songs are about letting go of illusions.” And insists, “I was guided by selfish desire…but I’ve woken up.”

Berg, a former insurance salesman, who founded the so-called “Kaballah Center,” apparently sounded that “wake up call.” His teachings have been derided by reputable Kaballah scholars around the world and called the “pop-minded bastardization of a sacred text.”

This latest “vogue” or makeover by Madonna appears to be a “pose” of spiritual maturity. And “illusions” and “selfish desire” appear to animate, what increasingly looks like Madonna’s mid-life crisis.

She claims, “Studying has given me clarity.”

However, it doesn’t appear that the diva has studied the deeply troubled history of the Kaballah Center.

Doesn’t she care about the many former members of the group that have alleged serious abuse? Or is apathy the byproduct of her newfound spirituality?

Wouldn’t someone sincere have sympathy for those abused, instead of selfishly refusing to look outside their “bubble”?

Madonna rambled to USA Today, “I’m a speck, an atom. Everything physical is an illusion, but it’s there to guide us or test us or deter us. Our job is to navigate through this world while understanding the only thing that matters is the state of our soul…Any success I have is a manifestation of God. It’s my ego that wants to claim ownership. It’s hubris, arrogance and greed.”

This rambling stream of consciousness itself sounds a bit like “hubris” and “arrogance.”

Madonna seems caught up in a kind of spiritual narcissism. And like so many seemingly rudderless stars attempting to “navigate through this world,” beached on the rocks of another celebrity strewn “cult.”

Her odyssey comes across as both self-indulgent and self-important.

Perhaps a good dose of her once famous cynicism is in order. Then maybe this middle-aged “Material Girl” can grow up and move on with her life outside the “bubble” that apparently blown around her.

A destructive cult is most often defined by its dependence upon a living leader that controls and defines its purpose. His or her personality is the pivotal element and focus of the group.

Leading cult expert and author Margaret Singer said within her book Cults in Our Midst, “In most cases, there is one person, typically the founder at the top…decision making centers in him or her.”

However, the “one person” that defined Aum of Japan is now gone and isolated from his followers.

As a direct result Aum devotees appear to be “flailing” in a “vacuum,” reports The Japan Times.

Shoko Asahara, imprisoned pending final sentencing for his poison gas attack upon Tokyo’s subways, cannot direct his followers who are “starving for direct messages.” And “die-hard members are wondering whether there is any point in preserving the group.”

This current dilemma amongst Aum devotees reflects that rather than creating a “new religion,” Asahara actually brought forth a cult dependent and based upon his personality. And it is apparently not a viable religious belief system that can sustain itself independently without him.

Robert Jay Lifton, author of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism wrote a paper titled Cult Formation. He noted that despite a destructive cult’s claims it is really “a charismatic leader” that defines such a group. That person “increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power.”

One Japanese devotee put it this way, “Everything tied to Aum, including its religious goals, doctrines, training programs and organizational structures, is based on Asahara’s presence as leader.”

An old analogy comes to mind.

A destructive cult without its leader can be seen much like “a chicken with its head cut off.”

“Flailing,” but ultimately collapsing in a heap without its head.

Asahara won’t be coming back. It appears almost certain that the cult leader will be sentenced to death and hang for his crimes–ending his life “flailing” himself.

Free labor and even child labor, is the way some cults sustain themselves.

Groups simply open up businesses and then put devoted followers to work for little if any meaningful compensation, beyond room and board.

A controversial group in New Zealand is now being sued for apparently for doing just that.

One former member of the “Gloriavale Community” is suing the group for $80,000 in lost wages, reports Reuters/One News.

It also seems that in this case “blood” is not “thicker than water.” The plaintiff is the grandson of the group’s leader; a man once jailed on sex charges named Hopeful Christian.

But kids who grow up in “cults” don’t decide to join and that includes the children of leaders.

Mark Christian, the grandson in question, claims he was denied an education and forced to live a life he didn’t want.

Members of the small New Zealand sect were not even paid minimum wage.

A cult member linked to a child’s death from neglect and abuse was sentenced to a lesser prison term than the cult leader she once feared and obeyed, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Deirdre Hart Wilson 39, was sentenced to seven years, while her former leader Winifred Wright received the maximum 11-year sentence allowed under a plea agreement.

The prosecutor said, “Mr. Wright was a bad man, but he was not the devil and he didn’t have supernatural powers. Deirdre Wilson was no more brainwashed than Patty Hearst, John Walker Lindh and the Charles Manson women.”

However, the judge clearly disagreed and stated for the record that Wright was “the dominant malevolent force.”

Dick Anthony, professional cult apologist, claimed he had advised the prosecution.

Hopefully, the taxpayers were not billed too much for Anthony’s advice, which apparently did little to help the prosecution at sentencing.

The judge previously granted Wilson time to be “deprogrammed,” another tacit acknowledgement that he saw her as a victim of cult “brainwashing.”

In her final comments before sentencing the “deprogrammed” cult member said, “I’ve been living as a psychological amputee. I was terrorized into hating my parents, trusting no one…and not respecting the rules of society.”

But as other criminal cult members have learned the hard way, the undue influence of a cult leader might mitigate sentencing, but it will not eliminate punishment.

Deirdre Wilson will have years to consider “the dominant malevolent force” that ultimately put her in prison.

Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi just opened a $4 million dollar so-called “peace palace” in Kentucky, paid for by a multi-millionaire devotee.

Americans seem ready to buy whatever Maharishi is selling.

The old guru wants to build another one in Atlanta, reports the Atlanta Journal.

What do these “peace palaces” accomplish?

Well, according to Maharishi and his publicity machine they supposedly can affect almost any ill in the world.


By the practice of the guru’s so-called “Transcendental Meditation” (TM) of course, or so says Maharishi and his disciples.

Gaggles of the guru’s faithful gather in such “peace palaces” to meditate and thus they say, change the world.

But don’t expect such claims to be verified through any credible peer-reviewed scientific study.

Maharishi needs more rich folks willing to step up to the plate and pay for future palaces. And he has a history of finding such well-off gullible types globally.

The guru teaches that TM can enable its practitioners to become “yogic flyers,” they then fly for world peace.

Well, at least they think they’re flying after a good dose of meditation to “quiet the mind.”

Is it possible that President Bush is now repaying Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s enduring support of his family, through plum political appointments?

Moon certainly has a history of generosity when it comes to the Bush family.

The controversial self-proclaimed “messiah,” who leads the Unification Church and controls a global financial empire worth billions, has given millions to former President Bush Sr. in honorariums for speeches.

Recently George W. Bush nominated Josette Shiner for the post of Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador. If confirmed she will influence US trade policy throughout Asia and Africa, reports Reuters.

Shiner is currently serving as the associate U.S. trade representative for policy and communications.

Her bio posted by the USTR includes a fifteen-year stint (1982-1997) at the Moon-controlled Washington Times. Shiner’s last position there was managing editor.

But what her official USTR biography doesn’t mention is that Shiner became a member of Moon’s Unification Church in 1975.

The Unification Church has often been called a “cult” and accused of “mind control.” Moon’s followers, historically called “Moonies,” accept him as a “messiah.”

Rev. Moon has very substantial business interests in Asia, which includes North Korea, South Korea and China.

Given Shiner’s background, will her role at Trade pose the potential for possible conflicts of interest?

The future ambassador certainly has a history of staunchly supporting Moon.

Shiner once said, “The Washington Times has been successful not in spite of Rev. Moon, but because of Rev. Moon. It is a fantastic success story.”

Moon reportedly has dumped $1.7 billion dollars into the newspaper, which has never made a profit. Some say its purpose is largely to garner him political influence within Washington.

Has that investment now begun to reap political dividends?

Shiner seemed to recognize Moon’s agenda when she said, “The Washington Times has become the sole source of media power in the world’s most powerful city defending those values which will lead the world out of darkness, panic and fear…I am deeply motivated to help fight this noble battle.”

But the former managing editor of the Times baled on that “battle” in 1997.

Shiner quit the Times to become the president of Empower America, associated with Jack Kemp. And that job helped her résumé as she subsequently moved higher up the Washington food chain

But according to Shiner she not only left Moon’s newspaper in 1997; she left his church too.

In an interview run in the Washington Post Shiner claimed she had become an Episcopalian.

The supposed ex-“Moonie” would not elaborate about her claimed change of heart, other than to say there was no “conversion” necessary. She was “just…received” at the Episcopal Church due to her early Catholic background.

The recently announced Shiner appointment is not the first time this President Bush has called upon someone with a Moon portfolio to fill an important government position.

Longtime Moon follower and political operative David Caprara was tapped by Bush in December to become the new director of AmeriCorps. at VISTA.

Like Shiner, Caprara previously made a professional pit stop at a Kemp connected organization.

Josette Shiner also recently changed her marital status. She divorced husband Whitney Shiner, a union that was once blessed by Rev. Moon.

Mr. Shiner, like his ex-wife, claims to have left the Unification Church. He is an associate professor at George Mason University in Washington.

So what is going on here?

Many “Moonies” did leave the organization in the late 90s after embarrassing details concerning the church’s First Family were made public by Rev. Moon’s former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong.

Hong’s tell-all book titled In the Shadow of the Moons, was published in 1998.

Was Josette Shiner just another disillusioned follower that left Moon orbit to embrace the traditional Christian messiah?

Or, has she simply moved undercover to the dark side of Moon, still helping her former boss and long-time mentor advance his political and global agenda?

Shiner once devotedly stated, “There is one man, one couple, in the world which has taken on the power of the anti-values media. That is Reverend and Mrs. Moon.”

Does she still believe that?

Perhaps this is all not that difficult to understand?

Shiner may have simply dumped her “messiah,” once she sensed he was no longer useful and had become instead a career liability.

The one-time Unification Church VIP, certainly has found favor from a far more powerful leader and lucrative source for future opportunities.

However, so far the soon-to-be “Ambassador Shiner,” hasn’t really explained her change of faith or “conversion” in any meaningful detail.

Interestingly, an old ruse observed as a “matter of faith” by many “Moonies” is called “heavenly deception.” Specifically, this is the practice of deliberate deceit to support a “heavenly” cause as defined by Rev. Moon.

Is Ms. Shiner presently engaged in some form of “heavenly deception” for the sake of her long-time “messiah”? The soon-to-be ambassador’s convenient conversion to mainline Christianity does seem a bit timely.

Most of Josette Shiner’s adult and professional life has been largely focused upon serving Rev. Moon. Where do her loyalties lie now?