The following is accepted as a way of identifying a Christian organisation as a controlling Cult. Read through the following and decide how many apply to the JA.
Not all the following signs need to be present for a group to be considered TACO; the more signs that are present, and the more fully they are present, the more likely it is that the group in question is a TACO.
1. Members are gathered into small tightly knit groups under a “Shepherd” or designated “Spiritual Leader.” (Creates cloning effect.)
2. The group is part of a larger congress or movement, which has strong central leadership, normally with one very predominate man or woman at its head. (Often with a guise of plurality of leadership.)
3. Books, tapes, publishers, and the like, are normally limited to only a few very central people, primarily the key Leader. (In other words, only centralised Leaders, or the predominate Leader are allowed to write or circulate “approved” material within the group). While some other lesser members may attempt to write, their material is not likely to receive wide distribution or acceptance without clear-cut approval from the centralised leadership.
4. There tends to be an intense or high level of control of shepherds over sheep. The shepherds’ advice and/or approval is thought necessary, or very strongly urged in a number of normally personal areas, such as dating, marriage, housing, jobs, education, career, relocating to another city, etc. (This level of control is often strengthened by the practice of communal style living. By having several group members living in one household, the shepherds gain leverage in the home environment, and are able to influence such personal areas as eating, sleeping, reading, hygiene, purchasing of personal or “luxury” items, etc.).
5. Mundane activities tend to be determined and directed by the leaders rather than by doctrine.
6. Shepherds, or designates, tend to see the “sheep” several times a week.
7. There is a great deal of pressure upon the individual to live up to or to conform to group criteria, which is above and beyond what can be clearly seen as Biblical criteria.
8. To question a shepherd’s teaching or conduct is considered as questioning God, particularly if the shepherd had defended himself against questioning on that point of teaching or conduct. To continue to question or challenge will likely result in “marking,” “shunning,” or “excommunication.”
9. Submission/obedience to authority is a heavily emphasized doctrine.
10. Guilt by association is generally accepted, that is, if someone is known to have contact with a dissenter or “marked” person or backslider, that individual is then considered to have been contaminated or “poisoned”.
11. There is no accountability of the group to the wider body of Christ. The group vigorously avoids any effects to have their doctrine or methods, or even specific instances, examined objectively by outside Christian leaders or theologians. Financial and business records are not made available for public scrutiny.
12. The group is often an independent church or “fellowship” which has broken off from mainline denomination or otherwise generally accepted Christian association.
13. There tends to be a monotonous repetition of certain doctrinal themes or the group’s “positions,” which is observed in the group’s teachings, tapes, and literature. Systematic theology is rarely, if ever, taught, and expositional type teaching is rarely, if ever, heard. Expositional is the act of expounding, setting forth, or explaining, rather than expecting the individual to accept the teachings without any critique or critical thinking.
14. There is an emphasis, either implicitly or explicitly stated, that this particular group is “special.” “We are God’s assemblies.” “We are the true expression of the church.” “We are not the only group, but we are very special group in God’s eyes.” “Eventually, all Christians will do what we are doing, or else we will be persecuted by other Christians.”
15. Unity with the “church” is heavily stressed, usually to the point where is becomes the chief doctrine of the group. Unity is considered to be more important than “doctrine,” yet the group cites its own pet doctrines as the reason why they had to leave their parent organisation, or why they cannot work more closely with other Christians, or why their members should remain with them rather than join another group.
16. There tends to be an alienation from, or antagonism towards, other sources of information, such as families, churches, authorities, etc., especially if these other sources challenge or question the pet doctrine of the group.
17. Human authority is stressed as the earthly expression of God’s authority. Every person should therefore submit to his or her shepherds, who are in submission to the leader of the group, often called an “Apostle,” “Bishop,” etc. This leader is said to be ‘in submission to Christ’, who is ‘in submission to the Father’.
18. The defensive mentality of the group is so pronounced as to actually be institutionalized. Elaborate mechanisms and doctrines are in place to tell the members how to cope with criticism of the group. This defensiveness has far more to do with defending the group or its leaders, than it does with defending a Biblical Faith.