Get your false Messiahs here…

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There was this guy who said he was the Son of God and the Messiah of his people. God appeared to him in a vision that enveloped him and changed him completely. Afterwards he discovered he had a knowledge of scripture that he previously hadn’t possessed and a invigorated sense of mission: God had appointed him to redeem his people. He changed his name and began to teach his people with power and a knowledge that all of them testified they had never experienced before. He brought them close to God and showed them how the world was coming to an end and how God would soon establish his Kingdom on Earth. He prophesied too, however, that he himself would die at the hands of the authorities, but that his followers should have no fear, because God would not forsake them: they would be part of the coming Kingdom.

And so it came to pass. At the age of 33, the Messiah died at the hands of the state.

And the name of this guy? Jesus, maybe? Well, it could be, but it wasn’t. Saul/Paul perhaps? Again, possibly… but no.

This guy’s name was David Koresh (real name Vernon Howell), leader of a Christian sect called the Branch Davidians. You may remember him from such massacres as the 1993 seige at Waco, where his church was based. He made all the claims above, just like Jesus and, to a lesser extent, Paul before him. None of his followers, it’s true, claimed to see him after his death, but some of those who survived the seige believe still that he will be resurrected and will return to lead them personally into the Kingdom of God.

I was watching a programme about him recently, a Storyville documentary originally broadcast in the States last year, which showed how easily we create our Messiahs and Saviours. The recipe, it turns out, is easy:

Take one charismatic individual who thinks he’s speaking for God;

Mix in an obsession with scripture;

Add some absurd self-promotion, and

Bake for a few years in the over-heated adulation of some desperate sycophants.

So – Jesus, Paul, Koresh. What’s the difference?

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*Actually, the quote in the picture up top is not Jesus at all; its Koresh, from an interview with the FBI (see first link above.) John 14.6 says ‘No-one comes to the Father except by me,’ which is much the same.

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10 thoughts on “Get your false Messiahs here…

  1. One thing that always baffled me was Marshall Applewhite. The guy even looked insane in every way, but still was able to lead people to their death. How does this happen? Chance? Bad genes? Pure stupidity? The gullible human brain, raised in deception from its first breath, will believe anything if stuck in a group.

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      • A bit of a non-sequitur, SpreadEagle. An awareness of the six stages (which you fail to elucidate) don’t invalidate Jim’s questions. Significantly, Christianity in both its original form and contemporary mainstream versions qualifies as a cult; the six stages apply to its adherents. The fact that the faith has a worldwide membership shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it still possesses all the characteristics of a cult.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Neil. There seems to be some misunderstanding here. Please kindly allow me to clarify. Regardless of how much or little I have revealed about those steps/stages/characteristics, my previous comment does not serve to discourage Jim’s from asking such questions at all, but to shed some light that those who have studied or are familiar with those disciplines would be asking better questions and/or looking at the issues in better ways, and would not frame them in the form of “Chance? Bad genes? Pure stupidity? The gullible human brain, raised in deception from its first breath, will believe anything if stuck in a group”. Moreover, the findings from sociological/anthropological studies of cult phenomenon, like those from the Stanford Prison experiment and Milgram experiment, have amply shown that people in those situations are/were far from just summarily the agents, victims, vectors or expressions of chance, bad genes, stupidity, gullibility, or believing anything if stuck in a group. There are always concrete, intricate and dynamic processes and interactions going on. We run the risk of dehumanizing them as well as oversimplifying and/or stereotyping if we do not understand and/or fail to investigate those phenomena holistically and relatively free of preconceptions and prejudices, even, or especially, in the face of such ghastly events, outcomes and aftermaths.

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    • Hi Jim,

      I find it admirable that you asked those questions, and that you care about those issues that have repeatedly afflicted people, sometimes in very tragic and/or dastardly fashions and outcomes. Hence, I thought that I should clarify further to avoid any misunderstanding. Here is the comment that I left for Neil as follows:

      Thank you, Neil. There seems to be some misunderstanding here. Please kindly allow me to clarify. Regardless of how much or little I have revealed about those steps/stages/characteristics, my previous comment does not serve to discourage Jim’s from asking such questions at all, but to shed some light that those who have studied or are familiar with those disciplines would be asking better questions and/or looking at the issues in better ways, and would not frame them in the form of “Chance? Bad genes? Pure stupidity? The gullible human brain, raised in deception from its first breath, will believe anything if stuck in a group”. Moreover, the findings from sociological/anthropological studies of cult phenomenon, like those from the Stanford Prison experiment and Milgram experiment, have amply shown that people in those situations are/were far from just summarily the agents, victims, vectors or expressions of chance, bad genes, stupidity, gullibility, or believing anything if stuck in a group. There are always concrete, intricate and dynamic processes and interactions going on. We run the risk of dehumanizing them as well as oversimplifying and/or stereotyping if we do not understand and/or fail to investigate those phenomena holistically and relatively free of preconceptions and prejudices, even, or especially, in the face of such ghastly events, outcomes and aftermaths.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely. I am familiar with those studies. I remember reading a letter from one of the “subjects” that administered shocks in the milgram experiment. It changed his life for the better. He was struck profoundly aware of human nature. I also (I think you know this) made a very broad encompassing statement here, and short of writing a book to Neil in the comment section, because of the history Neil and I have in communicating here, the comment was solely for his understanding, and as others (like yourself) join in…all the better! Thanks. Excellent addition as usual

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What describes the monotheists best? Self hypnosis, delusional-magical believing, schizo, fooled… How can the mind of someone who believes be described? How do the believers take the dream-world of souls, and turn it into the final resting place of their eternal resurrection? People are easy to scam if the scam fits the desires of the gullible. Humans are really good at deception, we live by it. GROG

    Liked by 1 person

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