APART from all my other activities, I write a weekly column for Euro Weekly News, an English language newspaper published in Spain.
In today’s edition, I was astounded to find a full page report about the activities of a cult called Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (trying saying that after a few whiskies). It’s headed by a South Korean Christian nutjob in his eighties called Lee Man-Hee, above.
I’d never heard of Lee Man-Hee (or Man-Hee Lee) depending on which reports one reads. Anyway, whatever his name is, he claims that one can truly know God only by following and listening to the teachings of Shincheonji.
Until I saw what was a paid-for advertorial on page 30 – though it wasn’t labelled as such – I’d never heard of the daft old geezer until this headline leaped out at me.
A spokesperson for the church was quoted as saying:
Having 100,000 graduates all over the world at once is the most unprecedented event in the world. Furthermore, there are about 200,000 who are at their studies currently, and with this trend the number of Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, will exceed one million members in three years.
So, what do we know about the this cult, apart from the fact that it has the dosh to take out full-page newspaper ads not-so-cleverly disguised as news?
First, Shincheonji followers are taught to believe that Lee, the founder, is the second coming or the returned Jesus Christ.
Second, according to GotQuestions,org:
The word cult is controversial and can be difficult to define. By the most common use of the term, however, it would be fair to consider Shincheonji a very large, very successful cult. The group is headed by a single, charismatic leader, Lee Man-Hee, who claims to have a special ability to interpret the Bible.
When challenged about his authority, Lee can be evasive, but he frequently implies that he is immortal and that salvation requires faith in him, rather than in Jesus Christ. In fact, Lee’s Shincheonji church teaches that the Bible is primarily composed of metaphors, and he alone has the spiritual gift for correctly interpreting them.
Cults typically practice indoctrination rather than education. Shincheonji offers free Bible classes, which of course are slanted toward their theology. However, those involved in SJC are also taught that counter-evidence or other forms of discussion are tests of their faith. This causes them to ignore facts, reasons, and evidence that contradict Lee Man-Hee’s teaching. In some cases, Shincheonji disciples are discouraged from reading the news or using the internet, as these media can contain potentially damning challenges to their faith.
Third, we know that the Church of England, back in 2016, warned people about the cult. This from the Telegraph:
Hundreds of British churches, including some of the UK’s largest congregations, have been warned against possible infiltration by a group accused of being a “cult” promoting “control and deception”.
The Church of England has issued a formal alert to almost 500 parishes in London about the activities of the group known as Parachristo.
The organisation, a registered charity, runs Bible study courses at an anonymous industrial unit under a Botox clinic and a personal training company in London Docklands.
But it is understood to be linked to a controversial South Korean group known as Shinchonji (SCJ) – or the “New Heaven and New Earth” church (NHNE) – whose founder Man-Hee Lee is referred to as God’s “advocate”.
If one follows the link given to EWN readers, you will be taken to something called the Zion Christian Mission Centre. There you will find similar advertorials in other publications, and this message:
Last year alone, 20,000 students graduated and up until now, 85,000 students have graduated. As a single religious organization, the Zion Christian Mission Center has been turning out in greatest number of graduates in the world. In addition, it has approximately 300 center overseas, including 15 countries such as the U.S.A., China, Japan, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Austria, Italy, Australia, South Africa, India and the Philippines.
Hundreds of pastors, who have acknowledge the truth that Shincheonji teaches, have renounced their ordainment.
The EWN report quoted a Brazilian missionary as saying that he hadn’t realised he’d been preaching “false truths” until his eyes were opened by the Zion Christian Mission Centre.
Huh? And there was me thinking preaching false truths was something every preacher on the planet does to earn his keep.