Asian Christian cults

It is interesting that Asia seems to be a breeding ground for new Christian cults. I came across this story about an apocalyptic Christian cult called Shinchonji that originated in South Korea but has spread to the US and other countries.

Shinchonji was founded in 1984 and now claims to have attracted about 200,000 adherents in its home country of South Korea, along with thousands of followers in at least two dozen other countries.

One of the first criticisms of Shinchonji you’ll hear is that it breaks up families. This is a secretive and manipulative religious group, critics say, and it is ultimately responsible for tearing apart hundreds, perhaps thousands, of families in South Korea.

The groups uses different names and somewhat secretive and deceptive methods in its recruiting.

“Shinchonji members infiltrate other churches and try to lure people to their Bible study classes. And when new students sign up, they are not told right away that the class is part of Shinchonji,” Byun says.

In December last year, leaders from the Church of England sent out warnings to parishes in London, telling them to beware of a non-profit group called Parachristo. The group is understood to be a front for Shinchonji.

But [Rick Ross, head of the Cult Education Institute in Trenton, New Jersey] says there are other reasons why people might suspect that Shinchonji is a destructive cult, including its use of deception.

“I would say that infiltrating existing churches with the ulterior motive or hidden agenda to recruit people by sitting in the back in the pews and then inviting them to a Bible study to siphon them into an alternative group is very deceptive,” Ross says.

He adds that these tactics are “commonly practiced by many groups that have been called cults.”

The group’s leader Lee Man-hee is now 84 years old and many of his followers think he is immortal.

Meanwhile, there is another Christian cult called the Church of Almighty God that has emerged in China that claims that Jesus was reincarnated as a woman in China. It is also explicitly anti-Communist. It is “accused of isolating members from friends and families and pressuring them to donate money in exchange for salvation.”

They had attempted to recruit the 35-year-old victim in the restaurant in the town of Zhaoyuan in May 2014. When she refused to give her phone number, the group believed that she was “possessed by an evil spirit”, the court statement from the conviction said.

The group then beat the woman with chairs and metal mop handles. She died at the scene from her injuries.

These groups remind of the Unification Church (also known as the ‘Moonie’ church) that was started by another Korean and has long been a powerful force in conservative US politics, owning the Washington Times newspaper and using it to promote its message. It seems to have become normalized in the US and shaken off its cult label.


  1. se habla espol says

    pressuring [members] to donate money in exchange for salvation

    In what respects might this be different from any other christianity?

  2. flex says

    Have you read much about the Taiping Rebellion?

    That was started by Christian cult leader in China in the 1850’s. Well, they called themselves Christian. I suspect a lot of other Christians would deny that the leader, who claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ, was really Christian.

    However, I wouldn’t read too much into the development of millenarian cults in Asia based on bastardizations of Christian religion. Christianity is probably as foreign as Buddhism is in the Western world, and we all know that great wisdom is never found at home. Great wisdom always comes from far, far away. So while in the states we get a variety of cults, including quite a few Christian-based ones, we also get a lot of cults based on a miss-understanding of Buddhist or Taoist ideas.

    Most of them never grow greater than a few people. But it is fascinating how millenarianism is such a common idea. It’s almost if human beings are predisposed to believe that society will change in their favor if only they believe hard enough.

  3. busterggi says

    The nice thing is that no matter how much they disagree, even to the point of killing one another, all Christians are TRUE Christians.

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