The world's most pervasive cult

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It is to be found everywhere around the world.

It crosses all boundaries of: race and ethnicity; social class; gender; wealth or poverty; political parties and viewpoints; national and geographic locations and borders.

Practitioners, leaders and demi-gods of this cult are actively prominent around the world.

This most pervasive cult is also the most invasive and the most destructive cult.

Deception, including self-deception, is one of the most active elements of this cult.
Everyone comes into contact with this cult, almost from the moment of birth onwards.

Once in the grip of this cult, the vast majority of people are unable to escape it, or its destructive effects.

More than any other, this cult involves control and manipulation, and utilises pride, greed and lust as its allies and associates.

It is the cult behind every other cult; behind every political group; behind every group of human beings with leaders seeking to be in control.

It is the Cult of POWER.

Its creed is: ‘Me first – above all!’

Its mission statement is: ‘Power is Mine – I’ll keep it at all costs!’

Its vision statement is: ‘I’ll be in Control – I’ll do it My way!’

Its favourite anthem is: ‘I got my way!’

Its most popular victory song is (well-known pop-song): ‘I did it My Way!’

The means of achieving its vision, implementing its mission, and expressing its creed is to ‘Tell Stories -Play Games.’

In 1964, Canadian-American psychiatrist, Eric Berne, founder of the Transactional Analysis (TA) movement in psychotherapy, published his popular: Games People Play (subtitled: The Psychology of Human Relationships). This is not the place to critique TA or even Berne’s book – which for some years, was one of the most popular non-fiction bestsellers. While Berne, and his followers, went into great specific detailed and technical analyses of human interactions and the games people play, usually to get a ‘pay-off’ (a benefit, getting their own way, getting what they want), there is a great amount truth and reality in what Berne presented in Games People Play.

The media described the popularity of the book, and commented on the games that people play revealed by Berne:

‘Original, disturbing, and delightful, a prime conversation piece... Many of these games are real-life horrors, played in dead earnest in public places, the parlor, bedroom, consulting room.’ (The Chicago Tribune)

‘A fascinating book... These are not necessarily ‘fun’ games. In fact, most of them are hair-raisingly neurotic rituals in which tensions are discharged and satisfactions are gained, usually at the expense of others.’ (Newsweek)

In the all pervasive Cult of POWER, games are played by those in leadership, positions of authority and trust, to get their own advantage; increase their power; strengthen their control; improve their status and ensure their dominance.

Most of us have heard or read of national and would-be world dictators. Megalomaniac manipulators who destroyed the lives of millions – both literally (physically) and psychologically – have existed throughout the ages. In relatively recent memory there have been numerous dictators such as: Adolf Hitler (1889-1945); Benito Mussolini (1883-1945); Joseph Stalin (1878-1953); Mao Zedong (1893-1976); Idi Amin (1920s-2003); Saloth Sar – better known as ‘Pol Pot’ (1925-1998); Robert Mugabe (1924-…) [and sadly, many, many others – check out:;;].

Some of their destructive control and manipulation of others has become obvious to the world through the media, and other forms of exposure – usually after enormous damage has already been caused to individuals, families, and even whole communities. Dictators, and dictatorial manipulative regimes, loathe such exposure and seek to control information input and output in order to keep others in ignorance. This enables them to deceive more effectively and maintain control, as well as their position of power.

Lies, deception, propaganda, half-truths, innuendo, double-speak, jargon, politically-correct terminology, are all part of the ‘tools-of-trade’ for manipulative controllers.

While such national and would-be world dictators, and their destructive ‘games’, become obvious and are readily decried by all (other than their ‘hangers-on’ – close associates – and other dictators or potential dictators), the reality is that such destructive and manipulative games, using the same ‘tools-of-trade’ in varying degrees, are to be found much closer to home.

In fact such controlling games are very often played out in homes and families. The manipulation and control can be worse in religious homes, where religion is used to justify such manipulation and control in the name of God, Scripture and more.

At the next level we see it in local church congregations and societies. Further up it infects whole denominations and larger group structures.

The sad truth is that ‘politics’ and power games are rampant in most religious, including Christian, groups. From local parish council leaders, deacons, elders, and others to pastors, priests, bishops, and those further ‘up the ranks’ - there are people who, once in power, then seek to use that power to manipulate and control programmes and people, and do their utmost to remain in power and control. Everything from ‘new leadership paradigms’ to ‘Apostolic succession’ is utilised to endorse and further the power games of those who want to be in control.

Like any elite group in politics and elsewhere, the religious elite will use censorship, denial, cover-ups, lies, deception, propaganda, half-truths, innuendo, double-speak, jargon, religious-politically-correct terminology, and more – often as subtly as possible, while seeking to maintain a loveable religious front of acceptability – in order to manipulate and control. They will play their destructive games with confidence and skill. They often claim Biblical authority, God’s calling, or some other religious perceived principle to justify their attitudes and behaviour. The religious elite and powerful often equate or present their will as God’s will; they often claim to know best; they, as individuals, often give lip-service to team work – as long as ‘I’ (the individuals) can direct and control the team and its direction. Sadly, Church politics and power games can be as vicious and destructive as those elsewhere.

Truth and true Biblical principles are often casualties (along with the wounded people) when religious leaders play their games for dominance and personal advantage and satisfaction.

When a church member, secretary or elder tells new pastor: ‘This is my church – I’ve been an elder/secretary here for 25 years years…’ or ‘I want you to know that our family is one of the oldest and most generous families in this congregation…’ they are letting the new pastor know ‘who’s running the show’ – they are playing their power game quite openly. Most, however, are more subtle, and wait until a new pastor has settled before they begin their games to control and manipulate – to work at getting their way, maintaining their comfort zone and their authority.

On the other hand, many young pastors run into trouble because they have been taught that they are church leaders under a ‘new paradigm’ – they are CEO’s. They are in charge. They ‘run the show.’ Some expect CEO salaries; CEO work conditions; CEO office working hours. Some have been taught, and believe, that new ‘executive’ leadership styles in church will guarantee growth and success. They have been led to believe that all they have to do is find the right programme formula and numbers will increase; or that they have to become ‘power personalities’ and use ‘power dressing’ and other ‘power techniques’ to gain and maintain control – and they will be successful pastors and priests.

Apart from the massive invasion of secular power leadership models that have invaded many churches and denominations, other trends relating to power games have come to the fore in recent years.

Traditionally Pentecostal, and the later Charismatic, church leaders were interested in the power of God’s Holy Spirit – not in personal power, status and control. The majority generally tended to reject titles or dress that set them apart from the people they served. That has changed. A few decades ago a trend developed where suddenly Pentecostal pastors began giving themselves (unrecognised) doctorates; then came titles such as: ‘Bishop’ and even ‘Archbishop’ – even adding fancy robes. Then came a further addition – the claimed rediscovery/reclaiming of ‘Biblical’ titles and roles – with certain people claiming to be (Capital ‘A’) Apostles. The sad reality of these developments indicates a growth of ‘power games’ – ways of gaining status, prestige, and power over others. Such leaders often seek to justify their claims, lifestyle and status with the warning and injunction, ‘Don’t touch the Lord’s Anointed!’

Forgotten are the abusive developments of the ‘shepherding/submission’ movement that caused so much damage a decade or so ago, all because some men set themselves up above others.

Forgotten and lost are reformation concepts of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ – of the ‘servant leadership’ modelled by Jesus Christ – and the proclamation of servanthood of the original Apostles, such as Peter and Paul.

Such ‘convenient’ forgetfulness constantly leads to the danger of corruption.

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902), better known simply as, Lord Acton, was an historian and moralist. His passion for history led him to recognise the destructive dangers of abusive and manipulative power vested in the few – and the also dangers of unchecked popular power amongst the masses. As a moralist he wrote and spoke out against the abusive uses of power and authority, and promoted liberty and democratic values. As a Roman Catholic he was often in conflict with his church’s hierarchy – over the Inquisition, the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre, and over the promulgation of the doctrine (dogma) of the Infallibility of the Pope by Pope Pius IX at the First Vatican Council conducted during 1869-1870. Lord Acton strongly opposed the notion and promotion of the Pope’s infallibility – and he was far from alone. The Council was controversial – many Bishops left before the voting took place. Lord Acton’s lobbying and opposition came to nothing. The Pope was declared as ‘Infallible’ – and had his controlling powers confirmed.

Later Lord Acton took Anglican Bishop Mandell Creighton to task, for not being critical enough of the Papacy, in a book about the papacy that Creighton had published. The two men developed a relatively cordial relationship, however, and in April 1887 Lord Acton wrote to Bishop Creighton. In his letter he declared: ‘I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. (our italics)

He is also recorded as stating: ‘And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

(For further information on Lord Acton check:,_1st_Baron_Acton

Lord Acton’s comments were made in the context of Church leadership powers – his comments STILL apply today – regardless of the denomination, Church group-size-society-structure.

We believe the answer to the destructive effects of power and authority in Christian circles can be appropriately dealt with if we take our relationship with Jesus seriously, seek to be Christlike, and follow the principles and precepts of Scripture.

Consider the number of times where true original Apostles described themselves as ‘servants’ (diakonos) or ‘slaves’ (doulos). The latter term is rarely translated as ‘slave’ in modern Bible translations, often substituting ‘servant’ instead. The concept of ‘slave’ was even more significant than ‘servant’ when Peter or Paul used it. A slave had no personal rights – a slave was totally owned by another – a slave totally ‘belonged’ to another person. With this in mind, both Peter and Paul described themselves as a ‘slave’ of Jesus Christ. He was in complete control of their lives. They were as ‘nothing’ – denying themselves any rights of their own.

RO 1:1 Paul, a slave (doulos) of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God
JAS 1:1 James, a slave (doulos) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ
2PE 1:1 Simon Peter, a slave (doulos) and apostle of Jesus Christ
JUDE 1:1 Jude, a slave (doulos) of Jesus Christ and a brother of James
REV 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his slave (doulos) John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

When two of Jesus’ disciples sought positions of power and authority it caused some outrage amongst the other disciples, but Jesus answered: ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (read Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45)

We need more Christians today, and especially Christian leaders, who are willing to accept the position and role as a slave of Jesus Christ and servant of others, and who will endeavour to truly follow Paul’s injunction to ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’ (read the whole of Philippians 2:1-16a)

What James proclaimed in relation to those who ‘teach’, in reality applies to all in Christian leadership: JAS 3:1 ‘Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.’

We also need to take seriously the instructions of Peter to church leaders: 1PE 5:1-4 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

We who follow Jesus Christ need to be like Him; we need to take seriously the direction of guidance found in the Bible (in context); we need to be alert to, and avoid, the dangerous seduction of power and authority, which so easily corrupt and destroy. Be committed to Christ and His Church, avoid the Cult of POWER!

(For those who want to learn some more regarding ‘Games People Play’, check out:

(First published in TAKE A CLOSER LOOK, Vol. 29 No. 3; May-July 2008)