The Mungiki sect or “cult” has a horrific history of murder and mayhem in Kenya. Last week alone 32 people were murdered by cult members, only the latest victims of the cult’s reign of terror, reports Sunday Nation.

However, the international media rarely devotes its resources for meaningful in-depth coverage of the brutal cult killings in Africa.


When 39 members of a relatively obscure American cult known as “Heaven’s Gate” committed suicide in 1997 it made headlines and generated seemingly endless journalistic analysis.

And in 1994 when 53 members of the then obscure Solar Temple were found dead in Switzerland, that too became the focus of rapt international press concern.

The Mungiki movement may include more than 2 million members and seems intent upon destablizing a government.

Just after 2000 hundreds of bodies were recovered in Uganda, the direct result of brutal cult slayings and suicide connected to “The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments.” But again this didn’t generate the same international news coverage that much less historically significant cults did outside of Africa .


In 1978 when 900 Americans died in an isolated cult compound in Guyana called “Jonestown” there was no shortage of journalists willing to cover that story. More than that number probably died in Uganda, but we will never know due to a lack of forensic assistance and it seems international interest.

Apparently African cult tragedies somehow don’t rate the same attention from the international media and community.

It appears that many news outlets think cult members must be white, American, European or at least from an industrialized nation such as Japan (i.e. Aum), to be worthy serious concern and meaningful in-depth reporting.

Start up your own cult?” Instead of Jim Jones, think Dow Jones,” reports

Yes, for those who say, “How could anyone be stupid enough to join a cult”? Maybe you should look into the mirror. How many products do you consume with cult-like devotion?

Do you prefer familiar brands that have developed a “cult following,” such as Nike, Starbucks, Jello, McDonalds, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, or Krispy Kreme donuts? Maybe you are part of the phenomenon of cooperate cult branding?

This is the focus of Geoff Williams analysis in his article “Develop your own cult following.”

What Williams offers is not only a “how to,” but a “how come?” inside look at the brand-driven consumer market, which is fueled by clever techniques of persuasion and influence through advertising.

What’s the difference between being “brainwashed” by Corporate America as opposed to “cults”? Well, there are some obvious distinctions. But clearly virtually everyone is vulnerable to persuasion, or companies wouldn’t waste their money promoting “cult followings” for their products.

And what about those destructive cult leaders?

According to leading cult expert and clinical psychologist Margaret Singer, “They’re all basically, really, the same, con men.”

Singer warns, “These sharpsters, when they’re very good at what they do, can get people to believe anything, You might think you’d never get taken in, but don’t bet on it.”

So the next time you are laughing at the Raelians or some other seemingly preposterous “cult” that accepts the bizarre claims of an apparent “con man,” think about the “sharpsters” who have taken you in. Starbucks anyone?

“Cult leader” Dwight “Malachi” York is locked up without bail in Georgia on a 208-count indictment for sexually abusing children. He now faces the possibility of life in prison, probably housed in protective custody, where most convicted child molesters end up.

But York’s devoted followers still believe in him.

The man once proclaimed as the “Imperial Grand Potentate” has more recently received bad press, so his loyal disciples have created their own newspaper that they hope will influence public opinion and the potential jury pool.

A Nuwaubian newspaper called “The Macon Messenger” is now being passed out where York will eventually stand trial, reports the Macon Telegraph.

The “tabloid” of course claims that the “cult leader” has been framed and villifies the sheriff, who is supposedly to blame for York’s misfortune. Proof of the old adage, “If you don’t like the message, kill the messenger.”

This is also an old cult strategy. That is, attack others and try to shift the focus from your group and/or leader to someone or something else. Jim Jones and David Koresh both used such tactics, creating scapegoats and elaborate conspiracy theories, rather than face the consequences of their own actions.

The Nuwaubians even made the ridiculous claim that the McMartin School child sexual abuse case in California somehow paralleled York’s indictment. Nothing could be further from the truth. The McMartin case relied upon “recovered memories,” which were later discredited, while York’s charges are corroborated by mulitple witnesses who can’t forget what he did to them.

It has been said that some Nuwaubians knew that York molested children and did nothing. Now their denial appears to have reached new proportions.

Often cult members, who are deeply invested in a group through years of involvement, emotional commitment and/or personal sacrifices, will do or deny almost anything to protect their sense of equity.

Fundamentalist Christian and televangelist Jerry Falwell is being compared to cult leaders on an Internet website and he is mad about it, reports Associated Press.

The Virginia preacher is so incensed he has taken the site’s owner and creator to court.

The website puts Falwell on a list of “false prophets” with Jim Jones and David Koresh.

It seems doubtful though that the lawsuit will succeed and it apparently has drawn more attention to the website.

Interestingly, Jerry Falwell remains friendly with a man many have called a “cult leader.” The founder of the Unification Church Rev. Sun Myung Moon, has given the Baptist minister subtantial checks and Falwell has seemingly reciprocated by appearing repeatedly at Moon functions.

It seems ironic that Rev. Falwell is so upset about being lumped together with cult leaders, when he is so tight with one. That friendship seems particularly ironic, since Moon claims to be the “messiah” supposedly sent by “God” to finish the job Jesus failed to complete.

You would think that this would upset any good Baptist? But apparently not Jerry Falwell, or at least not it seems if the so-called “messiah” has money and is generous.

Tampa parents say their children are “caught in the clutches of a cult.” But rather than a group recruiting on a college campus, this “cult” was allegedly gaining members through a long-term substitute teacher at a high school, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

That high school teacher was Christine Bowen, who was subsequently fired. It seems Bowen recruited her students to attend a “bible study” led by her husband Tom Bowen, a pharmaceutical salesman.

One family said the Bowens have “stolen” their daughter.

The Bowens deny all the allegations. But historically, at least two churches have asked the couple to leave their congregations.

Some families now call the small household group the “Bowenites.”

“This is a destructive religious cult,” said father and psychologist Gerald Mussenden. “They basically encouraged kids to sever ties with their parents…[and]…friends.”

Concerned families brought in veteran cult exit-counselor Dave Clark.

Clark has worked in the cult field for more than twenty years and is perhaps best known for his intervention regarding a member of the “Bible Speaks.” He helped an heiress to a department store fortune break away from the group. That woman later won a lawsuit that claimed she was essentially “brainwashed,” which bankrupted the church.

The Bible Speaks is now known as “Greater Grace World Outreach” of Baltimore, Maryland and still led by its founder Carl Stevens.

It is not unusual for destructive cults to begin very modestly, with only a handful of people and/or as a family operation. Carl Stevens began as a milkman with a supposed “gift” for bible study. Simply because a group is small, does not preclude the possibility that it is a “cult” or potentially unsafe.

And the manipulation of the bible to justify isolation, control and commitment to a particular group and/or leader is not new. Infamous cult leaders David Koresh and Jim Jones both deftly twisted scriptures out of context to achieve their ends.

Mary Alice Chrnalogar another veteran cult watcher wrote a book on this very subject titled “Twisted Scriptures” published by Zondervan Press. Within her book Chrnalogar examines in depth how destructive groups can manipulate the bible.

A tight knit group like the so-called “Bowenites” can be potentially more controlling than a larger group, due to the ever-present focus of a leader working personally with only a few individuals.

Hopefully, the concerned families in Florida will somehow work things out with their children, though one has already filed a restraining order, which would preclude contact.

Jonestown remains an object lesson about the destructive potential of cults. Cult leader Jim Jones led his followers to an isolated camp in Guyana, later murdered a United States congressman and then commanded his people to commit suicide.

In 1978 almost 1,000 people were killed, including more than 200 children.

With the possible exception of the Ugandan group known as the “Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments,” Jonestown is the largest cult suicide in recorded history. The Ugandan group’s death toll may have exceeded Jonestown, but due to forensic problems will never be precisely known.

Now it seems some religious scholars want to soften the image of the tyrannical Jones, who led his followers to tragedy. This is reported within the Sacramento Bee in an article entitled “What was the lure?…religious scholars are re-examining the hold Jim Jones had on his followers.”

One scholar says, “It’s time to take a critical look to see what this religious movement was all about.”

“Religious movement” or “new religious movement” (NRM) is politically correct language for the more common term applied to destructive groups like the Peoples Temple, which is “cult.”

But an academic quoted within the article said, “That’s a term we use to describe religious groups we don’t like…It’s so loaded with negative connotations. If we label something a cult, then we don’t make any effort to understand it.”

However, understanding what Jones was all about is really rather simple. By most accounts he was a psychopath, who exercised harsh dictatorial control over his flock.

Perhaps the single most defining characteristic of a cult is a charismatic personality like Jones who becomes the group’s defining element and a locus for absolute power. Tellingly, the so-called “Peoples Temple,” ultimately became known as “Jonestown.”

One survivor explained Jim Jones this way, “I never liked the look in his eyes. He preached fear. God isn’t about fear. God is about love.”

But an academic quoted within the Sacramento Bee preferred to see Jones as a preacher of “social justice and racial equality [who] promised…[life] would get better.”

Maybe so, but Jones like many other cult leaders lied. Instead of providing a better more enlightened life, he led his followers to murder and suicide.

Sadly, some religious scholars today have become little more than “cult apologists.” And rather than listening closely to the first-hand accounts of former members, they frequently prefer to dismiss them as disgruntled “apostates.”

It seems that some academics would like to somehow alter the image of Jonestown. But history has etched this event so clearly it unlikely that the efforts of any revisionists, no matter how “scholarly,” can change its real significance.

One survivor told the Sacramento Bee, “I think it’s important for people to know what happened there.” And certainly what is “important” is the lesson learned about dangers posed by destructive cults, and not some supposed understanding of a “new religious movement’s” theology.

Many experts have noted that not only has the number of groups called “cults” has grown substantially in the past twenty years, they have also gained considerable momentum and influence within the United States.

A featured presentation about destructive cults at the 2002 annual convention for the American Psychological Association (APA) drew this comment from its President Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo, “When some organizations that promote religious or self-growth agendas become rich enough to wield power to suppress media exposés, influence legal judgments or publicly defame psychology, how can they be challenged?”

Zimbardo observations were published within the APA’s Monitor.

Groups that have often been called “cults” such as Scientology and Rev. Moon’s Unification Church have in fact become “rich enough” to “wield the power” Zimbardo talks about. Within the United States and internationally these two “cults” alone control billions of dollars.

Scientology and the Unification Church have acquired political power that reaches all the way to the White House. This was demonstrated by Scientology’s unprecedented access during the Clinton Administration and the special relationship Rev. Moon has with the Bush Family.

It remains to be seen how Moon’s influence may impact the so-called “Faith Based Initiative” proposed by President George W. Bush, which would fund religious programs with government money.

Rev. Moon’s influence on Capital Hill cannot be denied. He has become part of its establishment, largely through control of the Washington Times. And Moon also courts religious and political leaders through banquets, celebrations and conferences, which are well attended.

Groups like Scientology and the Unification Church also have funded efforts to “suppress media” and “influence legal judgements.”

Scientology has arguably turned litigation into something of a religious rite.

Time Magazine published the cover story, “Scientology: The Cult of Greed,” and was promptly sued for $400 million dollars. Even though Scientology lost, the litigation cost Time millions of dollars and took years to resolve. This produced a substantial chilling effect within the media, which served to suppress stories about the controversial church in the United States.

Likewise, Scientology has made a point of going after its critics personally. This has included defamation, libel and personal injury. The net result is that many that might expose the group don’t—due it seems largely to fear.

The Unification Church has frequently funded efforts to “influence legal judgements.” Notably an ongoing campaign through academic surrogates to discredit research about cults.

Some years ago the APA itself became involved through the filing of a “friend of the court brief.” That brief effectively would have helped the Unification Church in its defense regarding a personal injury lawsuit filed by a former member. However, the brief was later withdrawn.

Dr. Dick Anthony was the psychologist largely responsible for that effort. Anthony continues to work for groups called “cults” and is paid $3,500 per day for his efforts. One of his employers is Scientology, which also recommends him, through a front organization called the “reformed Cult Awareness Network.”

Defenders of “cults” such as Anthony are anxious to disprove the “theory of mind control.”

However, Zimbardo has acknowledged the existence of mind control. He stated, “Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes.”

But how does this ultimately affect the general public?

In a survey done in 1980 by Zimbardo of more than 1,000 high school students in the San Francisco Bay area 54% reported a cult had attempted to recruit them and 40% said they had experienced multiple attempts.

Certainly on college campuses groups like the “International Church of Christ” (ICC), which has often been called a “cult,” are very active. The ICC has been banned by many colleges and universities, due largely to its aggressive recruitment practices.

And cults are not restricted exclusively to large metropolitan areas or schools. They are increasingly active in small towns and rural areas. In some situations groups called “cults” eventually exercise considerable influence within the small communities they inhabit.

A recent example is the “Fellowship of Friends,” which has been called a “cult.” The group led by Robert Burton has a troubled history in Yuba County, a rural area in California. Likewise the group known as the “Twelve Tribes” has moved into small towns in upstate New York.

The parallels between cults and terrorist groups cannot be ignored.

A charismatic and totalitarian leader who supposedly speaks for God dominates many terrorist groups, not unlike destructive cults.

What is the difference ultimately then, between suicide at Jonestown and the suicide bombers of al-Qaeda?

Each group had devoted followers willing to die for its cause. Jim Jones called this an act of “revolutionary suicide,” Osama bin-Laden said it was “Jihad.” But in the end the mindset is the same.

In the end the only practical difference between bin Laden and Jim Jones is the level of destruction wrought by their madness. The group dynamics that produce the tragedy are essentially the same.

Zimbardo concluded, “Understanding the dynamics and pervasiveness of situational power is essential to learning how to resist it and to weaken the dominance of the many agents of mind control who ply their trade daily on all of us behind many faces and fronts.”

It seems that “mind control” has become a modern mental health hazard. However, this illness unlike others, can potentially affect more than the personal lives of individuals.

This was first made clear through a horrific gas attack upon Tokyo’s subways by the cult Aum in 1995.

Today that realization is even more painful whenever we see the changed Manhattan skyline.

Arthur Sandrock 62 is in jail charged with sexual assault. He victimized two girls beginning at the ages of 8 and 10, reports the Great Falls Tribune.

The victims say they were “brainwashed.”

Sandrock claimed to be the “High Lord of Yawe” and “Fourth Son of God.” He told the girls sex was the way they could “satisfy God through him” and avoid hell.

The cult leader was supposedly waiting for “an invisible ship from the vortex,” which “would carry him to …God.”

But now the “High Lord” is waiting for his day in court and says he was just crazy. One examining psychiatrist initially agreed, but others say Sandrock is faking, or intentionally exaggerating his symptoms.

The controversy surrounding Sandrock does seem a bit silly though. It shouldn’t be difficult to discern that destructive cult leaders are often crazy. Of course mental health professionals would prefer we use more concise terms like “paranoid schizophrenic” and/or “psychotic.”

Charles Manson and Jim Jones are just two obvious examples.

David Koresh like Sandrock claimed he was a “High Lord” and also used that status to extract sexual favors from his victims. Marshall Applewhite, a former mental patient who led his followers to suicide in San Diego, was waiting for a spaceship too. In this context, there is nothing new or even particularly unique about the jailed Montana cult leader.

The sad thing about cults is that group members often become so deeply dependent upon their leaders that they will follow them without question. And this can easily become a formula for disaster when the leader is insane.

It is now one year since the most heinous attack ever launched against America took place. More than 3,000 died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But what have we learned in the past year about the dynamics of groups like al-Qaeda?

It seems like we are still struggling to understand why well educated men from mostly affluent Arab families would throw away their lives to serve the agenda of one madman.

Osama bin Laden, not unlike Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh and Shoko Asahara had a self-obsessed dream, which became a nightmare for others. He too believed that horrific murders would somehow fulfill his prophetic view of the world. And as David Koresh twisted the bible, Shoko Asahara maligned Buddhism, Jones and Manson manipulated racial tensions and politics, bin Laden came up with his own bizarre, destructive world view and version of Islam.

Rather than looking at the Arab-Israeli conflict, United States foreign policy or the living conditions within the Arab world to explain the motivation for bin Laden’s brand of terrorism, perhaps we should examine more closely the history of destructive cults and the psychopaths who frequently lead them, to better understand September 11th.

R.G. Stair who was arrested and held regarding charges of sexual misconduct and bad faith is now free on bail. A $400,000. surety bond was posted.

Stair is now under GPS monitoring, to track his movements and restricted to his Overcomer Ministry compound in South Carolina.

Stair has recently said on his short wave radio show, that he will never leave the compound again. He also ominously insists that he is “The Last Day Prophet of God.”

More criminal charges against Stair may soon emerge regarding a child’s body found burried at his “farm.”

Stair is sounding more and more like other “End Times” prophets, such as cult leaders David Koresh and Jim Jones. They shared similar delusions and when faced with the prospect of criminal prosecution, decided upon personally fulfilling their dark prophecies by ending the history of their groups in tragedy.