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A cult is a religion without political power

Opining on Mitt Romney’s “Faith in America” speech, Crunchy Con Rod Dreher quotes Tom Wolfe: “A cult is a religion without political power.”
In the Adventist context, I like this quote because it flips the usual meanings of “cult.” In fact, most religions in their early stages are cultish, a point often lost on hurting ex-Adventists and the fundy wing of evangelicalism. As churches grow in institutional power, they lose something of their purity, an historical fact that Adventists in the 1860s worried about a lot as they debated whether to even name their movement.
After all, to define is to control — but also, to be controlled.
Today, as Adventism grows beyond its “cult” past, there looms a danger that we may merely become cultural — with no greater mission than fitting in.
This worry often lies behind community fights — from QoD, to the Ford crisis, to Cliff’s attacks on natural selection. Despite the aggression, fear lies behind the “if you don’t believe it, than why be it” questions.
But beyond the left and the right I wonder if there is a common danger. Namely, a disengaged Adventism, a comfortable cult/ure without Power — in politics or religion.

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