Rankin Chapel at Howard

Oh dear. The Office of the Dean of the Chapel at Howard is warning students about cults on campus:

“With any group, there is a cycle of increase and decreased activity,” said Rev. Kanika Magee, associate dean of Andrew Rankin Chapel. “Unfortunately, our campus is experiencing an increased cycle right now, so we have to make our students aware of what is going on.”

Students are invited to Bible study group. Then, once they accept the group’s invitation and attend the group’s meetings—which convene at Starbucks and Potbelly—they can become deeply involved in the organization. They are ostracized from their friends and family and, in some cases, have to withdraw from the university because of their heavy involvement. Jamie Daniels*, an audio production major, can attest to this firsthand.

“I had a friend who became involved with a group on campus. So involved that his parents had to pull him from the university,” she said.

Daniels’s friend first came to her about the group after he was approached by a Caucasian male member of the International Church of Christ and asked if he wanted to join them in fellowship.

“He had been so excited about this group,” she said. “They approached him in a friendly way, and I supported him at first, because he wanted to get closer to God.”

After a while, her friend’s actions began to change and he became distant, according to Daniels. “He is one of my best friends, so to see him go from being really enthusiastic and outgoing to withdrawn and unresponsive really bothered myself and his family,” she said.

The Chapel put out a statement explaining how students can determine whether they’ve been approached by a cult. (No  word, though, on whether Potbelly sandwiches are, in and of themselves, a warning sign.)

If it is Not a Recognized HU Student Organization, It May be a Cult – All recognized organizations on our campus have been reviewed by the Office of the Dean of the Chapel, Office of Student Activities, and the student-led Religious Fellowship Council to be sure their purpose and practices are not potentially harmful to students. If an organization isnot recognized, this review has not occurred and their practices may be harmful.

I called Rev. Magee, who she says she can’t give a specific number of students who have been caught up in cults. But, she says, “college campuses are often targeted with cults—-I would say that across the U.S. and in this area you would find a number of them.” She adds that the office was prompted to post the message out of “the concern for the safety of our students.”

And as for the student response? It’s been “very positive,” Magee says. “Students have definitely demonstrated that they are keeping an eye out.”

Photo by mkuhnert via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License