DESTRUCTIVE RELIGIOUS GROUPS
Some groups on university campuses throughout the country profess a religious focus, but have potentially dangerous practices and influence. These groups and individuals will often target new students because they have not yet become fully acclimated to the environment or established healthy friendships and associations. These groups promote their agendas on campus although they are not recognized by either Howard University or the Office of the Dean of the Chapel. Some of these groups can be identified as cults. They are generally dishonest about their true identity and their agenda. They aggressively recruit and, in some unfortunate cases, harass students, particularly newcomers to campus.
Characteristics of destructive religious groups
- Wants members to follow a leader who claims divinity or a special relationship to God
- Desires members to be faithful to a leader who is sole judge of members’ actions or faith
- Encourages members to separate from family and friends, especially if they do not share the beliefs of the group
- Encourages members to manipulate relationships with their families and friends
- Encourages members to withdraw from relationships with families and friends
- Asks potential members to confess all past sins to the members of the group
- Seeks to have total control over members’ lives and wants influence in every decision members make
- Wants members to keep things secret
- Wants members to develop unhealthy emotional dependence on the group or leader
- Prohibits critical analysis or independent thinking
- Desires to destroy your ego
- Desires to diminish your sense of yourself
- Exploits a member’s or all members’ finances
- Wants members to be part of an exclusive group
- Wants members to isolate themselves
Who is vulnerable?
- Everyone, including you.
- You, if you believe you are too intelligent or strong willed to be recruited
- You, if you are feeling lonely
- You, if you are feeling overwhelmed by decisions or responsibilities
- You, if you find yourself wishing for someone else to organize your life or your priorities.
When am I most vulnerable?
- The first year away from home
- A change in lifestyle or homeland
- Loneliness: without or away from friends or family
- A year “off” or after graduation
- A job change or loss
- A sudden illness, or death or accident
- The friendliest person you have ever met
- A person excessively interested in what you like to do
- A person willing to flatter in order to influence
- Someone who seeks to supply ready-made answers to complex questions
- Harmful effects
- May include some or all of the following over a period of time:
- Loss of free will and control over your choices
Signs of Trouble
- Development of dependency
- Loss of spontaneity or sense of humor
- Inability to form intimate friendships outside the group
If you believe that you are being recruited or harassed by a group you think might be a cult or if you’re concerned about a friend-contact the Office of the Dean of the Chapel. The Office of the Dean of the Chapel is here to help you have a healthy, positive experience of your own spiritual journey while you are here at Howard University.
Contact the Office of the Dean of the Chapel for spiritual support and guidance. We look forward to being part of your spiritual journey.