As I go through life, I find myself having increasing difficulty distinguishing organized religions from cults. I know what Ben Franklin would say: “cult” is always used in the third person, as in “their cult.” I also have a difficult time of late distinguishing cults from religions. Isn’t climate change activism a religion now? How about hating President Trump? Socialism has always been a cult. Cults install One Great Truth as a substitute for critical thought and the ongoing process of self-education and accumulated wisdom. They also can drive people mad.
Take, for example, this story….
Jaddeus Dempsey, the associate pastor at Impact City Church in Pataskala, Ohio, asked the kids attending his after-school youth program to spit in his face, slap him in the face, and finally to cut him on the back with a kitchen knife. He explained that the exercise was part of a larger lesson on “how much Jesus loved them.”
If Jesus really loved them, He wouldn’t allow them to get trapped in a room with this wacko.
The whole horrible episode was partially captured on video, as you can see above. Some of Dempsey’s Disciples shout and laugh as they line up to spit at the pastor and slap him. Some of them seem genuinely enthusiastic about abusing him. (Hitler Youth may have been trained this way.) The video ends after the first cut with the kitchen knife; who knows what happened after that.
The church spokesperson “explained” that Dempsey was just trying to present the exercise as a lesson of the crucifixion ahead of the Easter holiday.
Oh! Then that’s all right then!
Dempsey appeared in a video on the church’s Facebook page, saying with a knife sticking out of his back—I’m joking!—
“It was just not appropriate and it was in bad judgment. I am so sorry for misrepresenting the community, the church, the parents, and the students — anybody that I hurt. This was not my intention. My intention was to just show them how much Jesus loves them and that I love them as a student leader for almost four years now. Tonight was an anomaly and it is not normally what happens. Again, I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.”
Got it! You’re an irresponsible moron, and unfit to be left alone with children! Now check yourself into a mental ward, that’s a good pastor…
The church’s lead Pastor Justin Ross elaborated on the intended lesson. “Jaddeus got up in front of the students and he says, ‘I’m going to ask you to do something that might seem a little crazy, but if there’s anyone here that would like to spit in my face, you can do so without any repercussions,” Ross said.
“He had the opportunity to share a message about Easter,” Ross added, “and he chose to use an illustration to explain a very important topic about the crucifixion, but the illustration went too far.”
In another statement, Ross told WBNS-TV,
“We exist to create an environment that is safe and predictable for students to come, connect with their friends and grow closer to God. Today we failed at creating that safe, predictable environment. We want to do better.”
Well that’s a relief. It would be pretty hard to do worse.
Another disturbing aspect of the episode was that none of the adults, including Ross, who were in the room witnessing Dempsey’s deranged lesson—that was child abuse, you know— had the integrity, courage or independence to stop it.
Cults are like that.
The mother of one of the male children who handled the knife told a TV station that her son won’t be returning to the church, and that she reported the incident to the sheriff’s office. Good. That’s one responsible parent. Unfortunately, I assume most will echo the sentiment of Kelsey Collier, who told the BBC,
“Jaddeus and people in that church were always there for us.They’re the most understanding, least judgmental people you will ever meet.”
Well they certainly have the least judgment of anyone you are likely to meet…
“I don’t think someone should be judged just based on one mistake, that one mistake doesn’t define who he is.”
Sorry, Kelsey, but someone in a better youth group needs to introduce you to the concept of signature significance.
Normal, trustworthy, rational and responsible people don’t tell kids to slap them and cut them with knives—ever. That’s not a mistake, that’s fanaticism, and it absolutely defines what the pastor is, at least in a professional context.
Dangerous, and nuts.