Decades ago, two Catholic nuns in casual clothes joined the gathering of people to spy on a religious leader who claimed to be directed by God by virtue of sacred prayers. Upon returning to their superior, they reported that if not for their strong faith, they could have succumbed to the hypnotic call of the speaker to donate all their material belongings and serve voluntarily the group. Today, that group has about 1 million followers, and its leaders control not just the material and spiritual lives of followers, but also the political and cultural aspects of their community. Though its leaders deny it, everyone else call their society a “religious cult”.
On January 19, 2012, Pope John Paul II in his remarks to workers and leaders of the Catholic charities and members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum warned on cults that obscure God’s plan. He said, “When a person doesn't follow what God intends, he can become "the victim of cultural temptations that end up enslaving him."
The Pontiff continued that some of those ideologies include the cults of nation, race or social class "that showed themselves to be nothing but idolatry," and "unbridled capitalism with its cult of profit, which has led to crisis, inequality and poverty." He further explained, “There's a new form of atheism, he said, that sees people as independent and autonomous with happiness lying solely in realizing one's own self.”
We, therefore, should be wary on people promising better life, wealthier status or spiritual salvation that either deny or defy God. There are those “spiritual leaders or teachers” who twist God’s Word to fit their personal agenda. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
For those who are weak in their faith, the promise of cults of nation, of race, of social class, of profit or of self can easily persuade. We must, therefore, seek God for direction. “The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."” (Luke 17:5)
How do we strengthen our faith? “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) Cults are founded on deception, imagination and false promise, faith, on the other hand, is the vocation of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.