I am writing a suspense thriller that involves a cult group which crosses the lines from your typical religious sect into a political regime. To write this novel I’ve spent a greater part of the last three years studying cult groups throughout the United States, some old and thankfully no longer operating and others that are sadly still in existence today.
Most are benign (for the most part), although I’m sure the family members of those trapped within these movements would feel otherwise; but other groups are very dangerous.
The most dangerous cults are religious based organizations who share one common focus: the End Times. These are typically led by one man who proclaims to have been given a secret revelation by God which then becomes the foundation for his movement.
Let me give you some examples:
COBU (Church of Bible Understanding): Started in 1971 by Stewart Traill. Traill professes that he is the reincarnated spirit of Elijah and that he knows the date of Christ’s return. Claimed to have angelic visitations.
Heaven’s Gate: A destructive doomsday cult centering on the book of Revelations and a warped theory of UFO’s. It ended with the a mass suicide.
Restoration of the Ten Commandments: Religious cult focused on the Ten Commandments. Ended in mass killings by the leadership, estimated to be somewhere between 800-1000 deaths.
Branch Davidians: Led by David Koresh, who was obsessed with Apocalypticism and believed he had the inside track on Christ’s return. This movement ended in death of 89 members in Waco, Texas.
People’s Temple / Jonestown: Led by Jim Jones, obsessed with End-Times which he predicted would be a Nuclear Apocalypse. Resulted in 918 suicide mass killings.
The Efraim Society: Leader Heinrich VanGeene proclaims he is the reincarnated spirit of Elijah. Claims to have been visited by angels.
Branhamism: Leader William Branham claims to be the spirit of Elijah reincarnated. Claims to have angelic visitations.
These are just a few groups. There are sadly hundreds more. If you’ll notice, oddly enough, many of the leaders listed above proclaim to have had visits from angels and to be the reincarnated spirit of Elijah.
There’s one more group I’d like to add to the list:
IHOP (International House of Prayer): Leader Mike Bickle claims to have been visited by an angel named Dominus, claims to have gone to heaven two-times, claims to have had numerous angelic visitations as well as demonic visits; has based his entire movement on preparation for the End-Times in which he believes his followers are an elite, chosen group of people who will usher in the second coming of Christ. Leader Lou Engle claims that God has given him the spirit of Elijah to go forth and turn America back to God.
Now, I ask you, how is IHOP any different from the rest of the cults I listed above?