Joan Holmes, President of “The Hunger Project” (THP), a nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City, was appointed last month to the “UN Millennium Project Hunger Task Force.”

Ms. Holmes and THP have an interesting historical background that includes connections to a purported “cult-like” group that allegedly “brainwashes” participants.

And recently THP has sought to purge that history from the Internet, perhaps in an effort to prepare the way for Holmes UN appointment.

A 1970s pop guru named Werner Erhard (once known as “Jack” Rosenberg) hatched The Hunger Project as a spin-off of Erhard Seminars Training (EST), which is now known as Landmark Education.

THP was actually launched at an EST board meeting.

Professor and scholar David Hoekema writing for the Christian Century Magazine in 1979 said THP was little more than “empty talk” essentially based upon Erhard’s much criticized teachings

Holmes who now claims UN status was once a devoted Erhard follower that eventually joined his EST staff.

“EST training altered everything for me,” Holmes gushed in 1975.

Erhard historically explained THP this way. “The Hunger Project is not about solutions. It’s not about fixing up the problem…[it’s] about creating a context…then we will know how to make the world work.”

Holmes appeared to echo her mentor’s mantra later saying, “The Hunger Project is about locating in the fabric of self the end of hunger and starvation…It is our sense that when that is done to any appreciable degree, that we can have an end of hunger.”

Werner Erhard left THP’s Board in 1990. However, the former encyclopedia and used car salesman who possessed no college degree left behind a legacy of “principles and abstractions” and perhaps most notably a “Source Document” for the organization.

Erhard’s ardent disciple Holmes soldiered on and arguably became part of the seminar guru’s legacy. And she is now able to further his philosophy through the UN.

Interestingly, the same task force that seated Holmes is co-chaired by her friend Professor M.S. Swaminathan, who is also “chairman emeritus of The Hunger Project’s Global Board of Directors.”

How convenient, could this mean that the professor was the impetus behind Ms. Holmes selection?

In a letter from the UN Task Force quoted by THP at its website Holmes is lauded for her “outstanding expertise and contribution to the field.”

But what substance is there behind this effusive praise?

According to its website THP’s goals are to identify “the conditions that give rise to the persistence of hunger.”

And the organization has “strategies to…transform these conditions,” which supposedly “restore and unleash the human spirit.”

But doesn’t this still sound like what Hoekema once called “empty talk”?

THP doesn’t mention the most obvious means of stopping hunger, which is providing food to the hungry.

The organization took in more than $6 million dollars during 2002 and reported spending “76.1%” on “programs,” “16.8%” on “administration” and “7.1%” on “fund-raising.”

“Where’s the beef?” Or for that matter any other item listed from a recognizable food group?

THP says, “The bottom line is simple – we invest in and empower people.”

But isn’t the “bottom line” on hunger feeding people? And wouldn’t an investment in some food actually help to “empower” the world’s starving population?

Again, THP sounds like a faddish flashback to 1970s EST inspired group thinking.

Searching through the organization’s website you won’t find a peer reviewed published scientific study cited offering proof of THP’s theories, theses or paradigm, just more lofty rhetoric.

But unless the UN counts rhetoric and vintage 1970s pop philosophy as a cure for world hunger, they may come up short based upon any contribution offered by Ms. Holmes and THP.

However, conversely THP certainly sees the contribution that the UN has made by conferring status and a title upon its president.

It “represents an important new opportunity for The Hunger Project to play a greater leadership role in the international development community,” boasts its website.

THP already has announced that the UN “Task Force visited one of [its] epicenters in Malawi last year, and has included Hunger Project field program leaders from India, Bangladesh and Uganda in their regional consultations.”

No doubt THP will also find the imprimatur of the UN handy for fund-raising.

Werner Erhard the grand creator behind THP is now reportedly comfortably retired and spending his time languishing luxuriously and well fed with his longtime girlfriend “Hanukkah” on the beaches of the Cayman Islands.

Don’t worry about Werner going hungry.

Now known as Werner Spits, Erhard has joined an eating club called Chaîne des Rotisseurs, which holds formal themed dinners several times a year. One eleven-course feast (roasted squab, peaches in chartreuse jelly) re-created the last dinner on the Titanic.

And old gurus need not fade away, they can live on through their devoted disciples, just ask Joan Holmes and the UN.

Note: CultNews phoned THP headquarters in Manhattan for comment. But its PR person had “nothing to say” and hung up.

NXIVM (pronounced Nexium, like “the purple pill“) lost again in court this week in its legal effort to remove critical reports about its programs from the Ross Institute (RI) database.

The group alleges “copyright” violations and sought an injunction to delete from the Internet the critical analyses written by noted mental health professionals Dr. Paul Martin and John Hochman, MD.

NXIVM sells “Executive Success Programs” concocted by Keith Raniere its self-proclaimed “Vanguard.”

NXIVM, which has been called a “cult,” claims that the doctor’s reports violate its copyright because they quoted the group’s manual.

However, a district court in Albany rejected Raniere’s request for a preliminary injunction so his lawyers appealed.

This week The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City handed down their decision (NXIVM Corp v. The Ross Institute — Docket No. 03-7952).

“We agree with the district court that the website’s use of quotation from the manual to support their critical analyses of the seminars…[was used] for the purpose of ‘criticism, comment scholarship, or research,'” wrote the court.

The Second Circuit also noted that NXIVM’s claim that the doctors had unlawfully copied “the heart of their ‘services” within the reports was meaningless, because “such services…are not copyrightable expression.”

The appellate court decision also agreed with the lower court that “in order to do the research and analysis necessary to support their critical commentary, it was reasonably necessary for defendants to quote liberally from NXIVM’s manual.”

This decision further defines copyright law and goes some distance in precluding spurious copyright claims made by “cults” as a means of silencing their critics.

The court said that use of a group’s material “might well harm, or even destroy, the market for the original,” but that this “is of no concern to us so long as the harm stems from the force of the criticism offered.”

Regarding NXIVM’s trademark claim, the court stated that it is “without merit.”

The Second Circuit also offered this withering assessment of NXIVM’s lawsuit; “Plaintiffs are not likely to succeed.”

Judge Dennis Jacobs summed up the situation succinctly, “Ross and his co-defendants quoted from NXIVM’s manual to show that it is the pretentious nonsense of a cult…Certainly, no critic should need an author’s permission to make such criticism…”

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit entirely is currently pending before an Albany Federal Judge.

After reading so many articles about the alleged “anti-Semitic” content within Mel Gibson’s “Passion” I decided to go see the film and judge it for myself.

My interest to date regarding the controversial movie has been the cultural phenomenon it has created and the fringe schismatic so-called “Traditional Catholic” group Gibson comes from.

After Easter the theater was almost empty.

Sitting through “Passion” isn’t easy; it’s a bit slow and the action is somewhat redundant. Unlike previous religious movies such as The Ten Commandments or The Robe this is “a film so narrowly focused as to be inaccessible for all but the devout,” as a LA Times critic wrote.

And “the devout” seems to be essentially evangelical Christians largely from Baptist, Pentecostal and non-denominational fundamentalist churches, who have defended Gibson’s movie.

But back to the issue of anti-Semitism.

There is no getting around the way Jews are portrayed in this movie, and it’s not pretty. Negative stereotypes abound and as the old adage says, “if it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck, it just might be a duck.”

Gibson’s movie looks and sounds anti-Semitic based on key scenes and dialog, but somehow the director and his boosters want everyone to believe it’s not.

However, as many have observed outside the religious fervor the film has generated, you cannot escape the artistic license Gibson took regarding both his screenplay and direction. The dialog and scenes portray Jewish leaders in an evil conspiracy out to get Jesus and the Jewish mob thirsty for his blood.

Meanwhile Pontius Pilate and his spouse are given more than enough wiggle room to get off the hook.

Mrs. Pilate even tearfully brings Mary towels as an apparent act of contrition, even though according to Mel’s script she tried to save Jesus’ life.

Of course none of this dialog exists in the New Testament, which removes the basis for the frequently offered apology that somehow Mel’s just following scripture.

And given Gibson’s background of being raised by an anti-Semitic father amidst Jewish conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial, it seems reasonable to suspect that environment influenced him.

Mel Gibson has never directly and explicitly repudiated his father’s teachings, no matter how repugnant.

The director’s supporters want us to think he is just a loyal son, but watching the movie you can’t help but think that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“Passion” certainly earns every bit of its R rating through its constant and brutal bloodshed. Mary even has a scene mopping up her son’s blood. James Caviezel who plays Jesus spends most of his time being beaten, bleeding, falling down and writhing in agony.

All the while the Jews are overwhelmingly either happily watching Jesus suffer, pelting him with rocks or egging the Romans on. There is an occasional benevolent Hebrew, but this device only serves to punctuate the ongoing polemic.

The constant focus on Mary is interesting. That emphasis in Catholicism has often upset Protestants, especially evangelicals. But this time they seem willing to suffer through Gibson’s fascination with the mother of Jesus as long as it serves their agenda.

According to a recent poll one third of the Americans who have seen “Passion” believe the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus reported Religion News Service.

“Generally, there is a correlation between seeing the movie, and expressing an intention to see it, with holding the view that Jews were responsible for Christ’s death,” pollsters said. And that “people who are drawn to this movie may be predisposed to this opinion more than others.”

This comes as no surprise to many Jews who have often been troubled by evangelical Christian sentiments. It is this religious community that spends millions of dollars annually funding groups like “Jews for Jesus” that target Jews for conversion.

Not surprisingly “Jews for Jesus,” which was founded by a Baptist minister, strongly endorsed “Passion” reported Agape Press.

More moderate “mainline” Protestants and Roman Catholics don’t agree with such missionary efforts and instead prefer building bridges to the Jewish community through mutual acceptance and ecumenical dialog.

This is probably why Mel Gibson sought out evangelicals in his marketing strategy, sensing correctly that they would not object to his portrayal of Jews.

“Passion” seems to resonate with those who harbor certain sentiments about Jews and thus it’s not a shock that the film has done well in Muslim countries reported Salon.

Mel’s message about Jews has made angry Arabs happy that believe in Jewish conspiracies.

Note: Rick Ross is a former member of the National Committee for Interreligious Affairs of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, a large denomination of Judaism.

Mel Gibson has certainly pulled off a phenomenon with his film “The Passion of The Christ.”

From a purely business standpoint the actor’s investment of about $30 million dollars has more than paid off and it should add at least $100 million to his personal fortune. A synergistically driven merchandising campaign of souvenirs, books and CDs will perhaps net Mel a few million more.

“Passion” now ranks eighth on the top ten list of domestic blockbusters with more than a $350 million gross. It took in $17 million just on Easter weekend reported Coming

But besides its now established status as a box office bonanza, the controversial film released to coincide with Lent and Easter, has become both a media and cultural event.

Gibson made this all possible, first by his fame and name recognition and second through the scrutiny his project received as a work that allegedly contains an “anti-Semitic” message.

However, the savvy star hired a Manhattan PR firm for spin control and got out in front of his critics by mounting something of a crusade amongst evangelical Christians.

It was ultimately those religious connections and not Hollywood that put his film over.

This community of conservative Protestants, despite their historic animus towards Catholics, embraced Mel Gibson like one of their own.

They heaped effusive praise on their “Braveheart” seemingly seeing his movie as somehow a part of God’s plan for redemption.

The actor himself appears to agree. “The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film,” he has said. And Many of those connected to the project appear to think their work fulfilled some divine purpose.

But buying a ticket to Mel’s “Passion” only allows admission to the theater; the film’s director seems to think his Protestant supporters are going to Hell.

In an interview with the Herald Sun in Australia when asked specifically if Protestants are denied eternal salvation the star said, “There is no salvation for those outside the Church.”

He then elaborated, “Put it this way. My wife is a…Episcopalian…She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff…she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair” reported MSNBC.

And what that “chair” pronounces, for this Oscar winning director, means what God says as defined by the so-called “Traditional Catholic movement,” which Gibson was raised within and still steadfastly supports.

“The Passion is nothing short of a party political broadcast for this movement,” reported The Scotsman.

Roman Catholics are not immune from Mel’s stern judgement.

“I go to an all-pre-Vatican II Latin Mass,” he told USA Today. “There was a lot of talk, particularly in the Sixties, of ‘wow, we’ve got to change with the times’. But the Creator instituted something very specific, and we can’t just go change it.”

Despite the kind words the Pope had for Gibson’s movie the director/producer may not think that His Holiness is Catholic enough to get into heaven either.

In fact, the only people that may be doing “something very specific” enough to get into heaven are the small flock of less than 100 believers that attend a church Mel built in Malibu. Though some 50,000 or so “Traditional Catholics” might have a shot too.

Is the whole phenomenon of “Passion” then simply an exercise in mutually cynical exploitation?

Gibson selling his movement’s message, not to mention tickets and evangelical Christians using his film as a vehicle to fire up the faithful and make some sort of social statement?

If the director were driven only by faith would he have pursued such a savvy marketing strategy, manipulating both the Jewish and Protestant communities conversely to promote his project?

And what about the fervent Protestant pastors that bought blocks of tickets, what were they thinking? Was it really just Jesus that motivated them or a self-serving media blitz?

It looks like they saw Gibson’s film as a means of demonstrating their clout, in something that can be seen as a social statement measured by ticket sales.


According to the New Testament Jesus once said that many would come in his name, but he would not know them.

He also said that it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

This may mean that Mel might have been better off in the hereafter, if he hadn’t made so much money off his Jesus movie.

Postscript: A year ago I wrote, “It seems destined for a very small audience. It certainly won’t be another ‘Braveheart.'” What a difference a year makes, given a slick marketing strategy and the resulting religious fervor at the box office, but don’t expect another Oscar Mel.

The Artist once again known as Prince is making something of a comeback. The singing sensation of the 1980s is in the midst of a 38-city tour bouncing off the buzz created by his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a recent performance at the Grammys.

But fans will find that Prince has changed, and it’s not only his music.

Joining a growing group of middle-aged stars seeking more “spirituality,” the 45-year-old former funk phenomenon has found religion.

However, unlike his contemporary Madonna who hooked up with a rather trendy rabbi/guru that sells “Kaballah water,” this 1980s pop icon has chosen Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Despite his past reputation as an innovator and trendsetter Prince has picked something old.

For more than a hundred years Jehovah’s Witnesses has thrived through its dark prophecies about an ever-imminent “final judgement.” The controversial religion is also known for its rejection of “worldly” things, from blood transfusions to birthdays.

Four years ago the funkster converted reportedly to satisfy his mother’s dying wish, but since then Prince has gone so far as to add religious lyrics to his theme song “Purple Rain.”

The new line in the song goes, “Say you can’t make up your mind? I think you better close it and open up the Bible.”

Close your mind?

Isn’t that like being “brainwashed“?

Prince may have even recast his old battles with record companies into something religious.

“I can tell you who made the System,” he told Newsweek cryptically (April 12, 2004). The “System,” according to Prince apparently includes the music recording business that he says once “enslaved” him.

But the word “System” has a darker connotation than slavery amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses. It encompasses everything “worldly” outside of the organization, which includes all world governments, businesses and any other religious organizations.

And “who made the System” and essentially controls it today?

According to the Witnesses its creator and guiding light is Satan.

This is why Witnesses shun such things as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, military service and political parties, because it’s all part of the “System” and therefore linked to “Satan.”

The “System” by definition also would certainly embrace such worldly things as the Grammys and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So why did Prince perform at these gatherings and become the willing “slave” of “worldly” Columbia Records?

Apparently there may be some other rulebook for famous Witnesses, who might easily make hefty gifts to “Jehovah’s Kingdom.”

This seemed to be the case for the “Gloved One” Michael Jackson during the 1980s, who was raised a Witness, but left the group after his hit album Thriller.

Following in the footsteps of the former “King of Pop,” Prince now proselytizes door- to-door.

Though when this five foot two androgynous performer promotes Jehovah’s Witnesses in Minneapolis he wears his trademark mascara and is “dressed in a tailor-made suit…stack heels” and driven to doorsteps in a “limo…surrounded by four bodyguards” says the London Mirror.

Well, Prince may still be “revolutionary” amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Tom Cruise was out fund-raising this month yet again for his favorite cause, which seems to be almost anything linked to Scientology or as Time Magazine once named the group the “Cult of Greed.”

The former “Top Gun” and “Last Samurai” was shilling this month for a group he co-founded called the “New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project.”

The so-called “detoxification” promoted by the project is really just the latest incarnation of a Scientology-related religious ritual commonly known amongst the faithful as the “purification rundown.”

The “rundown” is a process that includes sweating out toxins in a sauna and consuming large doses of niacin.

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard came up with this idea.

Cruise raked in $1.2 million for his pet project through Hollywood connections, cronies and “friends” said the Hollywood Reporter.

And one of Tom’s special “friends” is New York City Council member Margarita Lopez.

Lopez actually chaired a hearing about “the recoveries being achieved through detoxification.”

She says, “Detoxification has helped over 200 men and women regain their health.” The councilwoman is beginning to sound more like a Hubbard groupie than an elected official concerned about her constituents.

Lopez apparently has chosen to ignore feedback from the deputy chief medical officer for the NY Fire Department who called the same detoxification “risky” and concluded, “there’s no proven evidence it works.”

A toxicology expert quoted by the NY Times stating flatly that the program is an “unproven, scientifically bereft notion.”

After all L. Ron Hubbard was a Sci-fi writer and purported “cult leader,” not a doctor or scientist.

But it appears that some elected officials find movie stars intoxicating and perhaps potentially useful for their own fund-raisers.

Maybe that’s why Lopez has jumped on the Cruise “detox” bandwagon, along with US Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Maloney, as previously reported by CutlNews.

Cruise crowed, “Knowing that…heroes from New York’s bravest…are back on the job — that brings me immeasurable joy and pride.”

But the price tag to bring Tom more of that “joy and pride,” for anyone other than the NY firemen he often uses like promotional props, is around $5,000 a head.

The Hunger Project (THP), describes itself as “a strategic organization and global movement committed to the sustainable end of world hunger.” But it seems the group has added some interesting new strategies to its list of commitments lately.

THP has apparently decided to pursue a strategy of intimidation and threats to purge critical and/or historical information about it from the Internet.

What it seems THP doesn’t want the public to readily know is that it was initially launched by a controversial seminar guru named Werner Erhard (once known as John Paul “Jack” Rosenberg) through his organization called “est” (Erhard Seminars Training).

See “The Hunger Project: A Historical Background.”

Much of THP’s touted “framework of thinking,” worldview, working vocabulary and philosophy appears to come from the mind of the much-criticized Erhard and his “est” mindset. Not to mention the fact that staffers at THP historically often came from est, including current THP President Joan Holmes.

It seems that staffers at THP headquarters in Manhattan examined Google results and they didn’t like what they found.

Certain reports on the Internet traced the historical roots of THP, analyzed its “estian” connections and/or influence and shared a less than laudatory view of THP with fellow netizens.

Since the departure of Werner Erhard from THP’s board in 1990 and his subsequent sale of est to brother Harry Rosenberg and a group of employees in 1991, it seems that Erhard’s intellectual progeny want to disassociate from their controversial creator.

In fact, Est changed its name to Landmark Education, though it still features essentially the same so-called “technology” or seminar curriculum established by its founder, which includes the introductory course known as the Forum.

And THP, which is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization in the U.S., has evolved from its early beginnings to a burgeoning nonprofit organization that claims “40,000 volunteers” working “in partnership with 120 staff in 22 countries.”

But don’t expect any acknowledgement about Werner Erhard or est’s historic contribution to appear at THP’s website. Nothing whatsoever is there about this.

Now back to that Internet campaign.

Hunger Project attacks former volunteer

THP started sounding off early last year. Their first target was former THP volunteer Carol Giambalvo who had written a critique of the group in 1987 titled “The Hunger Project Inside Out” and posted it on her website.

“It has come to my attention that you are continuing to publish a web page about The Hunger Project based on your experience as a volunteer more than 20 years ago…remove the web page…and eliminate any other references to The Hunger Project in your professional materials,” THP Vice President John Coonrod wrote Giambalvo in a letter dated February 5, 2003.

But she didn’t do it.

“[THP] says the article is outdated and the usual rap about them not being affiliated with Landmark or Werner Erhard. Funny, I have had some inquiries lately where the person who is involved with Landmark is also involved with THP,” Giambalvo later commented.

She then posted Coonrod’s letter at the end of her report to offer readers an alternative viewpoint.

However, giving THP the last word didn’t satisfy the organization.

In April Giambalvo was shocked when AOL pulled the plug on her entire website.

“AOL determined that a complaint from THP was more important than their customers and they actually cut me off from service without notice yesterday,” she said on April 3, 2003.

Eventually AOL allowed Giambalvo’s site to return online, but only after she agreed to purge the offending THP report. AOL purportedly said she’d be “permanently shut out” if she did not delete the disputed material.

“Wonderful freedom of speech we have here in America…but not America On Line,” she lamented.

Giambalvo placed a note on her home page explaining that the material was gone. Someone subsequently posted her report at a newsgroup on Google.

THP’s “strategic” effort had paid off by squelching the report somewhat.

Attacking Christian Century articles

But there were two pesky previously published articles about THP that had appeared in Christian Century magazine during the 1970s that now drew the group’s ire and attention. Both were posted on the database at the Ross Institute (RI).

The offending articles were titled, “The Hunger Project and Est: Close Ties” and “The Hunger Project: You Can’t Eat Words.” The author was respected educator Dr. David Hoekema.

Hoekema had harsh words for THP. He described their program as “empty talk” and opined “If we want to work toward a solution to the problems of world hunger, we would do better to invest our time and money in relief programs [and] organizations engaged not just in talk, but in carefully chosen action.”

The first apparent shot in THP’s “strategic” effort to purge these articles from the Internet came in the Fall of 2003.

RI was contacted by the Executive Editor of Christian Century, who requested that “all Christian Century material” be removed, which only included the two Hoekema articles.

In October both articles were converted to news summaries within “fair use” standards.

Then came the next shot.

Carol Giambalvo’s pen pal John Coonrod surfaced. “I am writing to request your retraction of two articles published on your website,” he wrote in late October.

Coonrod tacitly acknowledged that “one of [THP’s] founders was Werner Erhard, the creator of the est training&But that Mr. Erhard severed any association with the Hunger Project back in 1990.” He concluded, “I request that you remove [the articles] from your site.”

But they were not removed; though a response was sent requesting that Mr. Coonrod be very specific about what allegedly “erroneous statements” were contained within the news summaries that quoted Hoekema and if any retraction had ever been run by the Christian Century.

After this exchange there was another, but Coonrod did not provide specifics and no published retraction was ever cited.

In November the THP VP wrote again offering details with much more clarity. He disagreed with “three central assertions” made historically by Hoekema. “(a) that [THP] does not take direct action to end hunger, (b) that [THP} is a scheme for divesting funds into private hands, and (c) that [THP] uses its resources to promote the agendas of private organizations.”

Mr. Coonrod then went on to attack specific statements that were once made by David Hoekema. But it should be understood that the scholar simply raised issues and asked serious questions, which offered a historical snapshot (1979) of THP’s early beginnings and the controversy that surrounded it.

“I repeat my request that you remove these articles and all references to our organization from your website,” Coonrod concluded. Echoing the demands he had previously made to Carol Giambalvo.

But the articles were not removed.

Threats of “litigation”

Now comes the attorneys.

“We are writing on behalf of our client The Hunger Project regarding the defamatory statements made in your…articles. Unless the articles are immediately removed from your website, we have been authorized by our client to take any steps necessary to protect its rights, including litigation,” wrote an attorney from a Manhattan firm.

The four page legal letter went on to rehash the grievances of THP and concluded, “Please notify us promptly with written assurances of the steps you are taking to comply with these demands on or before April 15, 2004” or “[we will] take any steps necessary to protect [THP’s] rights including commencing litigation.”

The net result is that the two news summaries were replaced with rewritten reports.

One is “The Hunger Project: A Historical Background,” which includes David Hoekema’s observations and opinions expressed in 1979. It also contains additional facts from other noted publications. This information was largely derived from Carol Giambalvo’s previously mentioned 1987 report. And also included is an updated section subtitled “The Hunger Project Today.”

The second news summary was replaced with this report titled “The Hunger Project attempts to purge criticism and history from the Internet.” And any pertinent quotations by David Hoekema contained in the news summary it replaced, were transferred to “The Hunger Project: A Historical Background” and duly noted.

Interestingly, such “strategic” efforts to suppress and/or purge information on the Internet have historically been undertaken by the Church of Scientology, which has often been called a “cult.”

However, The Hunger Project is not a “cult,” but rather “a strategic organization and global movement committed to the sustainable end of world hunger.”

About this time every year the so-called “Jews for Jesus” (JFJ), an evangelical Christian missionary organization that targets Jews for conversion, sends out its traveling road show called “Christ in the Passover,” as reported by the Clovis News Journal.

These programs that are typically staged within evangelical and fundamentalist churches, seek to superimpose Christian beliefs over the historic understanding of the Jewish Passover observance, as reported by the Pittsburgh Daily Courier.

The fact that this holiday, its symbols and their established meaning predate Jesus and Christianity doesn’t seem to concern JFJ or its supporters.

The missionary group’s version of “Passover” is at best misleading, but also can be seen as an expression of ethnocentric religious arrogance and it wilfully disregards both the history and the intrinsic significance of the Jewish holiday.

As anyone acquainted with the Book of Exodus or the movie classic the “Ten Commandments” knows Passover is not about Jesus or Christianity, it is a holiday specifically observed to commemorate the deliverance of Jews from bondage in ancient Egypt.

But the purpose of Passover to JFJ appears to be a fund raising gimmick. And the organization, which has had its share of money problems lately, is all the more anxious to pump up this annual program that has become a proven moneymaker.

JFJ sends out its traveling teams to put on these shows and at the end of each performance comes the pitch, or as it is most often described the call for “an offering.”

This also affords an opportunity for the controversial group to collect names for its mailing list.

JFJ is the brainchild of Pastor Martin Rosen, an ordained Baptist minister who not so long ago retired from his long-running position as head of the missionary organization.

But Pastor Martin has recently hit the road again, in an apparent effort to rally the faithful to the somewhat fading ministry.

Pastor Martin likes to be called “Moishe,” which makes him seem Jewish. And Jewish surnames suffuse the list of front line JFJ staff, which again gives the group an appearance of “Jewishness.”

However, all of JFJ’s funding comes from fundamentalist and evangelical Christians.

It is presumptuous and a demonstration of hubris to say the least, for a missionary organization founded by a Baptist minister to define the meaning of a Jewish holiday and its symbols.

JFJ has also ardently aligned itself with other evangelical Christians by strongly supporting Mel Gibson’s much-criticized movie “The Passion” reported Agape Press.

Financial support of groups like JFJ and overwhelming enthusiasm for the Gibson film, despite allegations of “anti-Semitic” content, raises the question of whether meaningful ecumenical dialog is possible between the organized Jewish community and fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.

Certainly such dialog exists between more moderate or “Mainline” Protestants and Jewish denominations. And there have been historic ecumenical breakthroughs in recent years between Jews and the Roman Catholic Church.

But what meaningful interreligious communication exists between evangelical Christians and the organized Jewish community?

These Christians frequently say they “love” Jews and Israel.

But judged by their behavior rather than words, evangelical and fundamentalist Christian support for Jews and Israel seems specious.

If these Christians truly “love” Jews why would they continue to support insulting and confrontational groups such as JFJ?

Doesn’t this generally demonstrate disregard and/or insensitivity to the concerns of the Jewish community?

In fairness it should be noted that some evanelical leaders have spoken out critically against groups like JFJ, notably evangelist Billy Graham.

Jesus once offered the analogy that you could know a tree by its fruit.

And apparently the rather telling “fruit” growing on quite a few fundamentalist and evangelical Christian trees is their support for groups like “Jews for Jesus.”

University Bible Fellowship (UBF), a controversial group that has been called a “cult,” has been thrown out of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

Kyle Fisk Executive Administrator and official spokesperson for the NAE told CultNews today that the NAE, which includes 30 million members, has tossed UBF out of the 60-year old organization.

Fisk said that the NAE remains in open dialog with UBF, but it is doubtful that UBF would be readmitted as an NAE member.

The NAE has not yet released an official announcement, its spokesperson said.

Given UBF’s troubled and much publicized history of abuse allegations and “cult-like” behavior, it seems fair to ask how the group was admitted in 1995 to the NAE on any level in the first place?

UBF was founded by (Samuel) Chang Woo Lee in the small town of Kwangju, South Korea during 1960-61. Lee died in 2002, but the organization he once ruled over much like a tyrant, grew to include centers around the world.

Chicago is now the location of UBF headquarters.

UBF has historically targeted college students in ongoing recruitment efforts, but was banned at some campuses.

The group is known for its rigid system of “shepherding,” a highly authoritarian pyramid structure of accountability and discipleship training.

Over the years UBF had its critics.

Evangelical sociologist Ronald Enroth devoted an entire chapter to the group in his book “Churches That Abuse” (Zondervan, 1992).

In Germany a cult commissioner for the Protestant Church in the Rhineland described UBF as “cult-like” and labeled them “soul catchers” in a book.

Wellspring Retreat, a licensed mental health facility that offers rehabilitation for former cult members, has acknowledged treating former members of UBF.

In 2001 a newspaper at John Hopkins University specifically warned students about UBF, which it described as a “cult-like evangelist group.”

UBF apparently used NAE membership to strengthen its credibility.

NAE membership was displayed by UBF on the Internet.

However, the NAE imprimatur is no longer visible at a UBF website, subsequent to its historic expulsion from the organization.

A petition drive was initiated some time ago specifically calling upon the NAE to drop UBF from its rolls.

Former members of UBF have publicly recounted how difficult life was for them within the group, controlled by their “shepherds” through manipulative and coercive tactics and allegedly abused.

UBF will no longer be able to use the name of the NAE for credibility, nor as a tool to further its agenda.

Note: UBF’s NAE membership was terminated, but then later reinstated, despite its long history of serious problems, bad press and complaints. 

CultNews recently exposed a misleading brochure produced by “NXIVM” (pronounced nexium, like the acid relief medication), a group that has been called a “cult.”

NXIVM is the brainchild of Keith Raniere, but its titular head is his devoted disciple Nancy Salzman.

The NXIVM brochure stated, “Nancy Salzman (highlighted in this year’s O magazine), one of the world’s top trainers in the field of human potential.”

Readers might conclude that Salzman was “highlighted” in O Oprah Magazine for her touted training expertise.

However, O magazine’s spokesperson set the record straight regarding the carefully crafted blurb within NXIVM’s promotional literature.

The O Oprah Magazine Spokesperson clarified, “Nancy Salzman appeared in a June 2003 O, The Oprah Magazine ‘real woman’ fashion story. The story simply listed Ms. Salzman’s title and occupation along with her style preferences. It did not elaborate on her business any further.”

Oprah Winfrey is well known for her interest in self-improvement, but neither the talk-show host nor her magazine in any way endorsed or specifically promoted NXIVM, Salzman’s claimed expertise or Executive Success Programs.

As reported by CultNews an apparent effort to mislead was far worse regarding the Forbes article titled “Cult of Personality“.

Nancy Salzman quoted herself gushing about her mentor within the brochure, but apparently tried to pass it off as a positive review about Raniere from Forbes. The quote is attributed within the NXIVM literature as simply, “As mentioned in Forbes magazine.”

This would be like a motion picture studio taking out an ad to promote a film that says, “New York Times: ‘sensational’ ‘genius.'”

But placed in proper context the quotes actually read, “The movie’s producer called the film ‘sensational’ and said the director’s work was ‘genius.'”

Raniere and Salzman seem to have a penchant for grandiose self-promotion.

Salzman according to her brochure bio has logged “over 20 years of intensive study and practice in the fields of healthcare, human potential, and human empowerment.”

However, Nancy is simply a nurse that has attended many mass marathon training seminars similar to those offered by NXIVM and she has studied various communication and persuasion techniques.

Salzman is not a licensed mental health professional.

Raniere’s brochure bio reads “scientist, mathematician, philosopher and entrepreneur” with the “highest IQ” recorded in 1989.

But despite such titles Raniere like Salzman has no degree in psychology, is not a licensed mental health professional and in fact does not posses a post-graduate diploma.

Medical Doctor and psychiatrist Carlos Rueda is a licensed mental health professional and he has treated three former NXIVM students.

Rueda told the Albany Times-Union, “NXIVM leaders weren’t prepared or certified to deal with the potential psychological problems that can surface during the training.”

It has been reported that one breakdown linked to NXIVM ended at a hospital, while another lead to a tragic suicide.

No doubt amongst NXIVM’s devoted disciples and within its rather insular world of classes and programs Raniere (known as “Vanguard”) and Salzman (known as “Prefect”) are legendary.

But in the real world the controversial duo appears to have garnered attention as little more than “cult” leaders, with perhaps some fashion sense.

Note: Forbes was contacted for comment, but has not responded officially.