Apologetics Index
What You Should Know About CESNUR

What You Should Know About CESNUR

CESNUR, Government Committees, and the Anticult Movement

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CESNUR, Government Committees, and the Anticult Movement

CESNUR tries to position itself as something of an independent advisory panel to (primarily) European governments - many of which, over the past few years, have set up committees to investigate issues concerning cults and sects.  (1) 

It considers many of these committees to be ill-informed. What seems to particularly rile CESNUR is that certain governments allegedly pay more attention to the findings of their own commissions, all or not aided by various anticult- and countercult organizations, than to information disseminated by organizations like itself. Conversely, CESNUR cautiously praises those committees whose reports in some way reflect all or some of its views regarding apostates and/or anticult organizations.

CESNUR refers to "Type I" and "Type II" reports. According to them, the former inflate rather than deflate "moral panics."

In the 1970s the new concept of "moral panic" was developed (see Jenkins 1998) in order to explain how some social problems become overconstructed and generate exaggerate fears. Moral panics are defined as socially constructed social problems characterized by a reaction, both in media representation and in political forums, out of proportion to the actual threat, often based on folk statistics that, although not confirmed by scholarly studies, are repeated from media to media and may inspire political measures.

Type II reports, CESNUR states, "do not apply the model inspiring Type I reports, and pay more attention to academic findings." Naturally, the scholars at CESNUR consider this an improvement. However, even these reports do not meet with their blanket approval:

One area where reports of Type II are still very much uncertain is mind control ... . They seem to believe that a real problem exist and that something should be done. It seems that the radical extent of criticism of the brainwashing theories by most (English-speaking) mainline scholars has not yet been appreciated even by Type II reports. Behind these labels, however, there is often in Type II reports a legitimate concern for consumer protection.

In a moment, we will take a look at CESNUR's views on brainwashing.

But first, note that in its publications, CESNUR tends to paint a picture of "scholars" or "academics" vs. the "anticult movement." Thus the organization appears to imply that the anticult- and countercult movements do not include scholars, or that if they do, those scholars should not be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, anticult- and countercult professionals note with some alarm CESNUR's involvement in such events as the "Supplementary Meeting of Freedom of Religion", called by the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in March, 1999, or the June, 1999, seminar on "Law Enforcement and Religious Violence," co-organized by CESNUR and by the Critical Incident Response Group of the FBI.  (1) 

They believe government committees and NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) alike may not be fully aware, if at all, of CESNUR's controversial nature. Apologetics Index therefore encourages anticult and countercult movements to ensure that CESNUR's lobbying efforts do not go unchallenged or remain unanswered.

Distinctions between Anticult and Countercult Movements

Like most anti-anticult activists, CESNUR representatives often ignore the distinctions between the anticult- and countercult movements.

Anticult organizations and invididuals generally fight cults for reasons other than theological ones.

Countercult organizations and invididuals usually oppose cults for religious, doctrinal reasons. Most operate from an orthodox, Christian perspective. Their intend is to educate Christians and non-Christians on the dangers of heretical movements, to help Christians counter the theological claims of such groups, and to provide cult-members with information that may help them leave those movements.

Since they operate from different perspectives, anticult and countercult professionals do not always agree on what constitutes a cult. The former evaluate movements using sociological criteria, while the latter do so using theological standards.

Not surprisingly, this usually leads to different conclusions. For example, some anti-cultists see Mormonism as just another form of Christianity, while Christians consider it an heretical cult of Christianity.

Often, though, concerns overlap. For instance, a movement like the International Churches of Christ is considered cultic by those who evaluate it sociologially, as well as by those who consider theology only.

Note that Christian countercultists are more apt to also look at a movement's sociological aspects, whereas non-Christian anticultists are - understandably - not nearly as willing to include theological considerations.  (2) 

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