Monday, June 2, 2003

The Cult Around the Corner by Nancy O'Meara and Stan Koehler

Foundation for Religious Freedom International, 1928575102, $7.95

"Calm not panic." These are the first words of advice authors O'Meara and Koehler offer to anyone concerned about a relative or loved one who has strayed from the relative security of an acceptable faith into something perceived as dubious. Granted, it would not be surprising for one to fly off the handle upon learning his/her child has decided to leave the Baptist/Methodist/Catholic Church for (insert a splinter cult or community here). Uncharted territory is often met with suspicions, and as both authors emphasize in The Cult Around the Corner, the obvious reaction is to become defensive. It is not always the right reaction, as it can lead to alienation.

Research and rationalism are the keys to maintaining good relationships with those fallen away. Counsel with a trusted minister or mediator provides a firm foundation for communication with loved ones. To the authors' credit, no one faith or organization is endorsed or maligned, and belief in God is neither encouraged nor discouraged. Readers are not chastised for being judgmental or critical of other faiths; while the right to hold one's beliefs is recognized, O'Meara and Koehler also stress the need to recognize the rights and beliefs of your loved ones, even if they do not align with yours.

The Cult Around the Corner is a short book, but straight to the point with excerpts of actual case studies handled by the Foundation for Religious Freedom. Its purpose is not to list cults or cultish faiths as a guide for the vigilant, but to help repair the relationships broken by divisive opinions. In this time of uncertainly about particular faiths as they relate to the war, it is an important book to read.

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