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  • Writer's pictureEric Navas

Columbus UBF– Cult alert group warns of mind control methods

The News-Messenger (Fremont, Ohio)

Thurs, Nov 22, 1990

Columbus, Ohio – John Wick was in his early 20s when his religious background attracted the interest of a Bible-based group.

He was flattered by the attention and honored when leaders asked him to shepherd his own flock.  Now he believes he was deceived into joining a cult.

“They gave me the impression that the background that I had fit right into where they were trying to go,” Wick said of the group he met on the Ohio State University campus. “A very clever way of recruiting somebody is to make them feel like they can become a valuable part of the organization.”

The organization, in the case, was the University Bible Fellowship, an international Bible study group with branches in Argentina, France, Guatemala, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Canada, West Germany and Switzerland. The Cult Awareness Network, a Chicago-based organization set up to alert the public to the effects  of mind control, says the University Bible Fellowship is a cult.

While the word itself conjures images of dazed humans engaged in ritualistic killings or mass suicides, researchers agree that most cults are non-violent. Experts say their dangers lies mainly in mind control techniques used to emotionally paralyze cult members.

“Most of them are squeaky clean,” said Dr. Saul Levine, author of a book on cults and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “There’s no drugs, no sex, and no violence for the most part.”

But, Levine explained, “It’s a tragedy because a lot of talented, wonderful young people just fall by the wayside. They come out of the other world, and the world has lost their particular talent.”

Wick was 22 at the time he joined the University Bible Fellowship. Within three months, he was a group leader. But his rise was temporary. During his 4 and a half years with the group, Wick said, his self-esteem was shattered.

“They don’t differentiate between pride and self-esteem,” he said. “Any positive feelings a person has about himself, they label as pride.”

Wick, now of Newark, said he began to isolate himself from his family and friends. He said the group convinced him that all his needs could be met only by other group members.

Wick said the group exerted further control by making him feel guilty about past relationships with women.

“Sometimes when I dated in college, it was nothing more than going to church on Sunday morning and then taking her to the dining hall for lunch in the afternoon and a walk in the park that evening.

“But the fact that I had dated a lot of different girls, I was made to feel like a womanizer or almost like a male prostitute, somebody who’s really bad in a sense.”

Wick became disillusioned when he discovered discrepancies between the group’s teachings and actual practices. He said his father , a retired Christian missionary, was instrumental in helping see the group did not share his religious philosophy after all.

Jerry King, a leader of the Columbus chapter of the University Bible Fellowship, denies the group is a cult. But he admits members must relinquish themselves to the group.

“The basic idea…is that the answer to what students need and are looking for, whether they know it or not, lies in the fact that they are created beings made by God,” King said. “They are not just free-wheeling and independent. We were made by someone, and therefore, my life is not just mine to do what I want.”

Cynthia Kisser of the Cult Awareness Network said cults often use deceptive and fraudulent techniques to enlist members. Her organization defines a destructive cult as a closed system or group that deceptively recruits members and retains them through manipulative mind control.

Kisser said her organization has identified 2,500 cults across the country.

Religious cults have been blamed for the slayings of five family members in Ohio and the suicide-massacre of hundreds of people in Jonestown, Guyana.

The mental influence of cult leader Donald Lundgren was so profound that he persuaded followers in April 1989 to participate in the ritual slayings of members Dennis and Cheryl Avery and their three daughters in a Kirtland, Ohio, barn.

During Lundgren’s trial earlier this year, he testified that God had commanded him, through interpretation of Scriptures, to murder the Averys. Lundgren said he killed the family because Dennis Avery wanted to lead cult members to “false gods.”

“The most consistent problem is the fact that all these groups teach dependency,” said Dr. Paul Martin, a psychologist who runs a recovery center for ex-cultists in southern Ohio.

“They cut you off from the outside world and they cut you off from who you are as a person,” said Martin, a former cult member. “They tell you, why waste time with people on the outside who don’t have anything to offer you.”

While young adults are attractive targets of cult movements, the trend is moving toward those more financially stable, such as the elderly, business people and housewives, Kisser said.

Martin agreed.

“There is now quite a market for cults. There is a cult for everybody,” he said

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