by The Right Reverend Gary Robert Buchanan
It has been brought to our attention that a new organization, the Watchman Fellowship, Inc., appearing on the worldwide web, is publishing an "index" via its online magazine, The Watchman Expositor, entitled "Watchman Fellowship's 1998-99 Index of Cults and Religions."
A great many well-established and quite respectable religions are on this list: Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Church of the Second Advent, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Church(es) of Christ, Unitarian-Universalist Churches, Christian Science, Shintoism, Taoism, the Baha'i Faith, Native American religions, Seventh-Day Adventism, Sikhism, Jainism, and various others, including a vast number of smaller religious and philosophical groups too numerous and diverse to list here.
In short, any religion, affiliated organization, educational institution, fraternal organization, publisher, or the like, holding views contradictory to the theology of the Watchman Fellowship is in their list of cults. Perusal of their online "Watchman Fellowship Profile" reveals their beliefs are based upon a literal interpretation of biblical scripture, fundamentalist concepts, and an apparent ignorance of "historic" Christianity, which they claim as their authority.
My response: At the present time in America, the single greatest threat to our constitutional democracy and the inherent rights of the individual, especially the right to follow and practice a particular religious system, is the rise of religious fundamentalism, intolerance and right-wing political extremism.
The problem with self-appointed guardians of our morality in America is that their publications and views fuel the various hate groups currently perpetrating acts of violence around the country. Whether it is the sponsored terrorists of Islam in their continuing jihads against our nation, whom they view as the "Great Satan," the bombing of black churches, abortion clinics or government buildings by Christian zealots, or the perpetration of hate crimes by xenophobes and homophobes who cite biblical passages as the literal "Word of God" and justification for such actions, all have in common one final, expected result: destruction of our democratic republic and the constitutionally mandated principles of separation of church and state, which allow for diverse and pluralistic religious expression and the hoped-for social, cultural and spiritual evolution of our people, as envisioned by our inspired founders, many of whom would clearly be designated "cultists" by the Watchman Fellowship.
Such a listing, of what for the most part are governmentally-recognized, tax-exempt and constitutionally-protected religious organizations, is at best anti-American, and quite possibly a polarizing call-to-arms for hate-mongers in our society. The damage and harm done to targeted religious groups and to dedicated individuals because of this kind of discrimination is incalculable and is in direct opposition to the spiritual principles embodied in our "Proclamation of Human Spiritual Rights."
This is the sort of thing that turns intelligent and sensitive people away from religion, rhetoric that should give clergymen all over our nation genuine cause for concern. Is this not the same scenario we saw in Europe before and during World War II: right-wing minority groups, forming political parties supposedly representative of Christian fundamentalism, attacking minorities, the intelligentsia, academia, the socialists, the freemasons, other religions... even the liberal Catholics... with a view towards controlling government, installing political and military leaders, defining the "true" state religion... all of which was based upon a false impression of the "good old days"? Do we really believe it could not happen again?
As a Christian, and as an American, I do not believe the Watchman's Index reflects favorably upon Jesus, his spiritual message and the church, or our Founding Fathers, their vision and the nation. Technically, the Watchman's List is a roster of "cults and religions." Therefore, any religion may appear on the list simply as a "religion," and not necessarily as a "cult." However, note should be made of the religions that do not appear, that is, those agreeing with the "Watchman Fellowship Doctrine," a credo also made available on their Web site.
If you find this religious bigotry troubling, then please let the Watchman Fellowship know how you think and feel; because, if you are not a member of that organization and/or in conformity with their creed, then you, your family, loved ones and associates may possibly be on their list.
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