Were the first Christians a high-control cult?

by Freedom77 8 Replies latest jw friends

  • Freedom77

    After I left the Borganization, age 21 going on 22, I stopped praying and was totally uninterested in any religion, and for about 10 years I was at best agnostic. Then, omitting a long story, I realized I missed spirituality in my life and eventually felt gently but definitely led to a mainstream protestant church, which suited me fine at first.

    But I discovered that church is just not the place for a single man, especially a single gay man: despite what anybody may say about being welcoming to all kinds of people, the kinds of people who go to church (all churches) are overwhelmingly straight couples with kids, their grandmas and grandpas, and little old blue-haired widows. Very nice people for the most part, and totally undogmatic or pushy as the JW's are, but I have nothing in common with them outside of Sunday service.

    Yes I tried going to Sunday school classes, Bible studies, church suppers, etc. - but no dice. It's nobody's fault, but with all the JW conditioning about remaining aloof from "worldly associations" having warped my adolescent years and consequently my adult personality, I'm just not a good socializer either in a nightclub or in a church, nor can I relate to conversations about childcare or sports teams or let-me-tell-you-about-my-grandchildren.

    And please, don't bother telling me about ooh-there's-this-cool-gay-friendly-church here or there or wherever. Maybe so, but I'm stuck in a small town 90 miles from civilization, and frankly I just don't care about churchgoing anymore, gay, straight, or whatever. Omitting more long stories and details, some trivial (work schedules) and some devastating (sudden, unexpected deaths in my family), for the past decade I've been just "on-hold" about religion in general, which both JW and non-JW has simply not worked out for me as advertised, not at all. Which is a greater let-down than I can tell you.

    What that means for me about the existence of God is something that presses on the borders of my mind but I'm not willing to go there yet. And that's my business, not anyone else's. So please, no Bible verses, testimonies about what-Jesus-did-for-me, or hard-boiled polemics about there-is-no-freakin-God. I am fully capable of making up my own mind on the issue when and if I get ready to do so.

    The teachings of Jesus are worth study, but I do wonder sometimes if I've been operating on a flawed conception of the origins of Christianity as we know it: hence my question, which anybody is welcome to answer, theist, atheist, or in between: Do you think the first Christians were as high-control and fanatical as the modern Jaydubs are?

    Of course in the first century there were no printing plants or magazines or corporations or field service or crazy-ass doctrines like "the generation of 1914" that the FDS has contrived and re-contrived for a hundred-plus years now. BUT - all those differences aside, were the first Christians just the meek, mild, sweet little innocents thrown to the lions as so often portrayed in movies and religious books - or were they actually more like the modern JW's, self-righteous, fanatical, and willing to drink the kool-aid anytime, anywhere?

    There are some lovely, lofty thoughts in the Bible, but it's like diamonds scattered in a pile of antique cultural manure, seems like. Maybe it's just me, but at this late date, it's difficult to read the God-loves-us-and-hates-everyone-else parts of the New Testament without thinking, this is just like something the Borg would say. What do you think, folks?

  • MadGiant

    Most Christians know very little about their church history. They have no idea about the wide variety of beliefs of the early Christian. (I don't know if you could call them "christians"). Most people have no idea about the history and development of the multitude of biblical canons or the forging of orthodox Christian theology.

    The church was a hoax since the beginning.

    Think about it, Jesus was not important historically, as he was not mentioned by any contemporary historians, Jewish, Roman, Greek, or otherwise. I think that if the guy ever existed, (yeah, right), he was a Rabbi who was crucified by Rome (at most). The supernatural deeds recorded in the bible are merely legend.

    Ebionites were very Jewish Christians.
    They believed in 1 god, but, they believed Jesus was completely human and not divine. They also believe Paul was an arch heretic. http://ebionite.org/ – Claim to be modern Ebionites.

    Marcionites were Gentiles who claimed Jewish practice was harmful for a relationship with god.
    They were followers or Marcion, a real person in the 2nd century. They believed in two gods, one Jewish and one Christian. They believed Jesus was completely divine and not human. They believed Paul was the one true apostle of Christ. (Here you have a huge contradiction. One claimed Paul was an apostle and the other group claimed, Paul is an SOB).

    Now here is another problem. Marcion (a real person considered a heretic by Proto-Orthodox Christianity) created the 1st Christian NT Canon around 144 CE. It contained a version of the gospel of Luke and 10 of the 13 letters of Paul, namely Romans, 1st & 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians, and Philemon.

    What should we do? Should we discard those gospels?


    Very spiritual and many widely varying subsets.
    Believed Jesus was a spirit and did not suffer, but only appeared to suffer.
    They believed in salvation through mysterious knowledge.
    This world is full of ignorance and suffering; salvation comes not by making it better but by escaping it.

    The described "congregations/churches", where the ones closet to the "event", and they can't even get their shit strait. Do some research.


  • kneehighmiah

    Originally they were not a high control cult. In fact they were trying to seperatefrom the high control Jewish religious leaders. There was no ecclesiastical structure, therefore no real way to project authority or control. Eventually as the religion grew, leaders with strong personalities began to assert their authority and promote their doctrines. There were creeds or statements of beliefs. Debates arose over the nature of Jesus. Soon church leaders were demanding adherence to particular doctrines for salvation. There were councils where beliefs were hotly contested. Those who didn't agree were denounced as heretics. Eventually the Catholic Church began to rule with an iron fist wielding the power of excommunication and death sentences. Basically the transformation from harmless sect to high control authoritarian group mirrors that of jehovahs witnesses. JWs started as harmless independent groups of bible students. Then Rutherford came along and developed an ecclesiastical authority structure. Disfellowshipping which is the same as excommunication was born and the JW religion became a high control group.

  • Quendi

    I found your post to be very thoughtful, Freedom77. There are gay-friendly churches out there but your geographic location has not put you in close proximity to any of them. I am a member of the Metropolitan Community Church, which was founded by gay people for gay people. The congregation welcomes everyone, and we have a number of straight couples who attend services with their children. So there are such churches out there and the MCC denomination is not the only one. I'm sorry you haven't been able to find such a community near you.

    As for the history of early Christianity, I am doing my own study and investigation. It is intriguing to look into how the first congregations functioned and I am beginning to understand that they were quite different from what we have today. Of course life two thousand years ago was completely different and what I am learning is that the high control that the WTS has imposed was nothing like what was done in the first century. That has been true ever since Rutherford became the de facto leader of the cult and his successors have followed suit with the imposing of even tighter restrictions and crazier theology. I have found contentment in pursuing my own spiritual path and I want to encourage you to continue your journey.


  • cofty

    If the things the gospels claim about Jesus are true - which is highly unlikely - he was a dangerous cult leader.

    The fact that the early church would write such things about him approvingly, strongly suggests it was a dangerous cult.

  • Freedom77

    Thanks for the responses, guys.

    MadGiant: When I was coming into the church, I did do extensive reading in early church history, incl. Eusebius, as well as the writings of the early church fathers, incl. the Apostolic Consitutions, and worldly historians. You are right that there were many sects that sprang up in the first century, with interpretations that were all over the place, mixed up with a lot of already existing pagan thought or batshit crazy stuff that Russell and Rutherford would be proud of. Marcion, for one, had a great insight about the vengeful, tribal God of the Hebrews being a very different character from the loving, universal God that Jesus taught; but Marcion had his weird ideas too that make no sense today. I also read what worldy and Christian scholars in recent times have had to say about the first century church; but since they have (I assume) never been JW's, nobody examines the question of whether they were a JW-style high control cult, or at least I've not come across any.

    kneehighmiah: Your theory is intriguing and seems plausible on the surface, I wonder if anyone has written on this specific issue.

    cofty: More explanation needed. Dangerous - how? why?

    Quendi: Appreciate your kind thoughts. I'm well aware of MCC but never lived where there was a functioning, flourishing congregation. I also was at one point in the mid-1990s directly involved with trying to set up a local LGBT support fellowship for the church I belonged to in a fair-sized city - but then my circumstances changed radically, I had to start working nights, and lost touch with them. Also at another time the local gay-friendly United Church of Christ tried to sponsor an LGBT spirituality group - no leader was provided, just the offer of a room and a time to meet - but only five of us showed up, 2 guys and 3 gals - silly me, I wanted to talk about prayer and scripture but the other four wanted to talk about partying, so I was made to feel a complete nerd and the group only met a handful of times before disintegrating. Occasionally too I've had gay or lesbian friends who were spiritually active in one "new age" group or another, but their path was just not the path for me. So to sum up, my circumstances have never been very good in the way of religious fellowship, and I'm past wanting all that now, but I hope your path is an easier one than mine was.

  • cofty

    More explanation needed. Dangerous - how? why?

    Jesus preached an apocalyptic message similar to all cults before and since.

    When it came to breaking up families he made the Watchtower look like amateurs.

    He called men like Peter to abandon his wife, children and business in order to follow him around Galilee preaching Jesus' imminent parouisa.

    Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

    Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. - Matt 19

    He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

    Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

    Luke 9

  • Freedom77

    I see your point.

  • Antioch

    That was a great post Cofty. I have resented my father for years because he destroyed our family and our family's future over the bilge of false promises. I spend every day thinking about and working on trying to salvage what he trashed. My family and it's name.

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