Gender roles in New Religions

One key issue in the study of NRM was gender role.  Historically, most religions were established by male founders with female followers that participated in worship services.  These gender roles have been long upheld, but the emerging NRMs have succeeded in
breaking this tradition.  (Pike p. 215)

The traditional perspective of gender role in religion has been male domination over females.  This view is found excessively in established religions as well as newly emerging faiths.  “Women have accounted for the majority of participants in American religious
groups…NRM are not consistent in their perceptions or treatment of women, but
in this they are no different from mainstream religions.”  (D&A p. 5)

There are two approaches to the study of gender in NRMs.  The first was a “negative evaluation of NRMs as abusive to women” and the second approach “suggests that relations in new religions are complex and rarely reducible to the simplistic image of male gurus and passive female followers. “  (Pike p.212)  Examples of each approach can be found in the course materials.

In a religion based on a “master-disciple relationship” the male often takes the fatherly role, especially over the female disciples.  Abuse is frequent when women followers must obey without question.  Many high profile religions emerged in the 1960’s and 1970’s following the traditional pattern of a divine male figure.  These charismatic males were
able to create their own religions that became labeled as cults.  (Pike p.216)

Controlling charismatic male leaders have caused a negative view on emerging religions.  In 1950, James Jones, an unadorned pastor became the charismatic leader of Sommerset Southside Church.  His service there was short as his zealousness was too much for the congregation.  After several false starts, Jones founded the People’s Temple in 1956.  His charismatic appeal won him favor in the eyes of many established churches and he eventually became an ordained minister.  Jones visions of the future and preaching style enabled him to convince his congregation to move to Guyana after a magazine released horrifying reports of abuse and financial misdealing.  Jones was able to brainwash
his congregation into a mass suicide in 1978.  Information gathered after the suicide shed light on the cult Jones had actually created.  (Smith p.108-109)

David Koresh was another example of a male charismatic leader that was assertive in having control over his female followers.  The Branch Davidians were an established group and Vernon Howell, later known as David Koresh, became the leader.  Koresh believed under his guidance as a loving father figure, the congregation he referred to as his
family would establish heaven on Earth.  Under this charismatic mans leadership, the women, their daughters and even the men were forced to submit to Koresh as sexual objects.    In 1993 Koresh’s congregation perished during a siege by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  (Pike p.216, D&A p.262-263)

While men were typically the founders of alternative religions, there are groups that emerged under the leadership of women.  Studies found when
females establish a group and function as leaders, the women disciples are seen
as spiritually superior.  Neo-pagans base their religion on a “woman-centered theology” established by female spiritualist, Starhawk.  Also elevating female leadership is the New Age movement.  Both Neo-pagan and New Agers attempted to balance gender equality and avoid “absolute devotion to charismatic leaders.”  (Pike p. 216-217)  Sexual freedom
is important to these groups and sexuality is viewed as an expression of one’s self, separate from their religious identity.  (Pike p. 221)

Christian Science, Spiritualism and the Shakers were established by female mediums and all three groups have male and female leadership roles.  The lack of a single, male charismatic leader appears to enable these groups to avoid the abuse that often develops in male established religions.  (Pike p. 215)  Other religions based on extraterrestrial and
androgynous races, attempt to view their divine as genderless, removing the
importance of a deity having a gender.

The key issue of gender within NRMs is sensitive.  The abuse of
women by charismatic male leaders is a fact in NRMs.  On the other hand, there are established NRMs and ones that are still emerging that give equality to and even celebrate the females within their group.  In either case, gender will always remain a key issue in religious movements.

Vampires and Cults

careful, I bite

My first day of school went well.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have classes all day with a short break for lunch.  Mondays and Wednesdays classes are from 10 AM to 1:30 PM and Fridays I have NO classes.  Sweet!

Two of my classes really stick out are New Religious Movements and Terror in Literature. 

The NRM class is very interesting and a graded project is to create our own religious movement….or cult.  I’m leaning towards the alien approach. 😉  I’ve had this professor for two other religion classes and enjoyed her style of teaching.  This is the first time she has offered a NRM class and I’m looking forward to learning more about religious groups formed from the 20th century on.

The Terror in Literature class covers fiction from H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King with the month of October dedicated to vampires.  This is a 300 level class and there is so much reading and interpreting of novels that it might scare some students off.  Good thing I don’t scare easy!

Maybe I can combine my classes and study vampire cults!

Sleeping with a garlic necklace,


Interesting Mix

  Checking out my schedule for fall at York College of PA, I am amazed at the choices I have in my education.  Being an English major I just love anything that requires reading and writing.  Most students hate the reading and writing required during college.  To me, the English language is fascinating.  It has rules concerning how words are formed and used, yet contradicts itself over and over.

   You remember the i before e except after c rule right?  Also, how words become plural and really don’t follow any set rule.  House become houses, yet mouse become mice.  Many words are spelled the same but have different meanings or sound the same but are spelled different.  English is just a confusing mess and I believe considered the hardest language to learn.  I feel fortunate to know and understand English.

   My upcoming classes are Spanish I, Literature of Terror, Cults: New Religious Movements, Writing in Professional Cultures, Art in Sculpture and finally, Square Dancing.  Spanish is a repeat of the summer class I took and passed with a C.  I don’t feel prepared for Spanish II so I chose to repeat Spanish I.  Square Dancing is a gym credit and will wrap up the required 2 credits I need for physical education.  I hope square dancing is as much fun as recreational shooting.

   My meaty classes are Literature, Religion and Writing.  Scary books are my favorite so I determined Literature of Terror should be an awesome class.  I am very interested in religion and just couldn’t pass up the new class Professor Christa Shusko was offering.  A class about new religious movements and with the year 2012 approaching, the timing couldn’t be better!  Finally, my writing class covers writing on the internet, web design etc.

  I am pumped up and can’t wait for classes to start.  My thoughts and energy is being wasted on stressful things like court, divorce and future ex-husbands.  I’d much rather read and think about scary stories and religion!  Keep an eye out for my articles in The Spartan!

Ready to hit the books,


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