Golden Time Episode 03 and Cult Mentality in the Church

So, that was an unexpected turn.

Episode three of Golden Time has our protagonists, Banri Tada and Koko Kaga, along with 2D-kun and a slate of other freshman, getting tricked into spending a weekend with a student cult group very reminiscent of Scientologists (and perhaps more native Japanese groups?).  Banri again demonstrates what a nice guy he is as he helps the unwitting fish escape, while we also find out more about both him and Kaga.

Koko Kaga
Art by 甘月

It’s easy to have a laugh at the religious group in the series and at those it pokes fun at, but I immediately felt a little discomfort at the scenario.  The cultish tactics perhaps hit a little too close to home.  Because while Christians separate themselves from cults that may use Christianity in some way, some of their methods to bring non-Christians to church, through rhetoric, events, and borderline trickery, can be somewhat similar.

When talking evangelism, Christians often think about Paul’s words about witnessing:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

– Paul (I Corinthian 9:19-23)

We also reflect on how Paul addresses the Greek by speaking their language when it comes to religion.

On the surface level, this seems to connect to the idea that we should be shifty while witnessing.  Maybe we could bend our words a bit, taking wording that’s possibly offensive out of the gospel message.  Maybe we can invite friends to an event that they don’t know is evangelism or at least church-focused.  Maybe we should partake in these deceptive tactics and half-truths.  After all, they aren’t as blatantly untruthful as, say, what the Golden Time cult does.

But other than the obvious (by doing so we don’t practice what we preach and we run the risk of taking the power and truth out of the Gospel message), we also perhaps lose sight of why Paul does what he does.  He does what he does out of love, both for God and for people.  They aren’t just numbers to him – Paul loves the unsaved desperately.  And by becoming “all things to all people,” he is empathizing with them.  He tries to know what it’s like to be in their shoes, both out of love and out of faith that God’s message of salvation is universal and that it can apply to anyone anywhere.

And after all, as the saying goes, you attract more flies (sorry for the comparison) with honey than with vinegar.  And the Bible describes its words as being sweet as honey.  So, an appeal to Christians – be honest and forthright, avoiding deception, even as you empathize with others and get to know them and love them.  They may reject your message…but at least there won’t be a midnight escape out of your church and into the woods.

19 thoughts on “Golden Time Episode 03 and Cult Mentality in the Church

  1. Amen! Those seeker-driven churches act like cults a lot, including my former church. I could go on for days about this, but it wouldn’t have much to do with anime 😉

    1. We have to remember that the gospel message isn’t going to be palatable for most; disguising it under marketing not only diminishes the message, but it takes it won’t make it any more convincing.

  2. Great post, God be praised for it! This reminds me of Paul’s words in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 2. He didn’t try to resort to clever arguments. He let the Holy Spirit do its job.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, as always! And yes, the Holy Spirit…how often we forget the Spirit’s role in evangelism and in our lives in general.

      1. You are welcome! =) By “we,” who do you mean, though? The Church? Most people in it? Some people? Sorry, that sort of generalizing and, in my experience, often negative use of “we” is just a pet peeve of mine. “We [the Church] do this, we do that,” and I’ve rarely seen positive uses of this, which feels discouraging. God bless!

        Other than that, though, is there anyone or anything you would like thoughts or prayers for? I like to make sure people are doing well.

        1. By “we,” I was referring, probably, to Christians in general.

          Thanks for the kind words! Prayer is always appreciated for the ministry we do through this blog.

  3. I’m a not religious person myself and having said that the scheme Golden Time pulled over in the manga did made me remember some events that happened a few months ago. I don’t like going to churches, I guess you could call me prejudiced in a way, after participating in some when I was young it disgusted me how people were so quick to judge over things so quickly without a second thought. Talking behind others, etc. just got a big no from me.

    I do enjoy the company of them as long as they are not being obnoxious or too self-righteous. One of my dear friends, she’s like a third mother to me. I’m happy to have met her and exchange lots of our experiences disregarding our age.

    Anyway, going back to cults and stuff. Well, I’ve had my troubles fending off hardcore people from Jehova Witnesses… my last struggle lasted around 2-3 hours and I was stuck in a line. I guess I could have drawn the line but in a way I was disgusted on how manipulative their scheme was.

    Another one I heard from a friend. Apparently one of his relatives is in a cult. That cult told them: “the next day there we will a big earthquake in P. and everyone will die”. Those relatives came to visit others and started giving their farewell.

    Like I said, I don’t have any problems befriending religious people. I respect their choices and I’ve never found myself questioning them.

    Extra note:

    Ohhh that link with Hato and Madarame. One of my favorite pairings, Hato is just the best >:3

    1. Thanks for sharing. Certainly, people of all religious backgrounds might be willing to talk your head off, though cultic ones often seem more fanatical. That wouldn’t be a problem, per se, if they were speaking the truth. Of course, predictions of earthquakes that don’t come true demonstrate the lack of truth behind their words.

      I’m sorry that you had a poor religious experience as a child. I was teaching a class at my church, yesterday, and a young woman mentioned something similar – she was part of a church growing up that was known as that community’s “gossiping church.” It turned her away from religion. She didn’t think she would be able to find a church body that reached out to each other and others in love. Thankfully, she did find one in my church, which was a very encouraging sign to me.

      Take care!

  4. Even putting aside outright trickery, you touch upon an issue that interests/bothers me: how much honey should there actually be to a religious message? Isn’t spiritual truth the sweetest honey? And if so, isn’t tacking on more superficial spices to “sweeten the deal” not only ridiculous, but indirectly blasphemous?

    For many years now, there’s been a group in Poland offering free conversation sessions with native speakers of English. Not everyone immediately realizes those are all “conversations about God”. As far as I know, the people running that aren’t an evil sect, they just found another way to “spread the good word”. But is God something shameful to be smuggled in by the back door like that? I would hope not. If questioned, people involved in initiatives like that tend to claim they are not tricking anyone into believing, merely creating the opportunity for others to listen – it is difficult to make some people interested in the spiritual without some kind of incentive. But then I ask, why should a good Christian falter at any “difficult” task, whatever it may be, when he has God, the greatest ally, constantly by his side?

    I have much more respect for those who can keep their good deeds and recruitment entirely separate. And indeed, parts of the Christian community which keep to that rule have been of great assistance to me throughout the last few years.

    You might consider me biased in this matter, though, since while Christianity has always accepted “preaching” + “living testimony” as the main methods of spreading its faith (also to those not initially interested), Buddhism limits itself almost entirely to the “living testimony” part – a Buddhist does not consider himself wiser than any other man, and thus it would be silly for us to give spiritual advice to anyone but those who seek it from their own volition. So tricking people into the faith would make no sense whatsoever.

    1. I definitely agree that Christians must avoid trickery. But there’s certainly a difference between tricking people and opening paths through opportunistic methods. That line is certainly subtle, though.

      A lot of Christians will offer services in foreign countries in exchange for their students’/subjects’ willingness to hear Christian teaching. For those attending, it’s a good exchange – they get what they need and listen to a message that most are willing to stand in order to get what they want. For the teachers, they get what they want as well – the opportunity to tell the good news and the possibility that a few might open their hearts to it. There’s no coercion here, and that’s a good thing. It’s a win-win, and a way that many choose to minister.

      Of course, Christians must find a way to get their message across somehow. Unlike Buddhism, Christianity is unabashed in stating that it is the ONLY way (unless you mix modern spirituality in to create some syncrenistic religion). As such, those who love others feel a deep need to share their truth.

      1. I think the main problem a lot of Christians face in witnessing is simply fear. Whether it be physical or social persecution (your persecution may vary depending on your country), the fear of persecution is certainly real, as is the promise (Jesus never said life would be easy for us). What is interesting, though, is that Christians in foreign countries–where physical persecution and even death are possible–tend to be the more bold in witnesses. American Christians, who mainly have the chance of facing social persecution, are a lot more timid, and I don’t say that from a holier than thou seat of judgment–I’m just as guilty of not witnessing as many other American Christians.

        Now, I remember reading something that stated why this may be the case (in short, it costs more for people to follow Christ in these countries, I believe; they have to give up everything, and thus sever all ties to this world, if they choose to follow Christ), but it is still interesting to think that there are people less afraid of being murdered compared to those who are afraid of being called names or possibly losing a friendship. Maybe that fear of social persecution is what leads to all of the “tricky” schemes that churches employ to tell people about Christ without making it obvious that they’re telling people about Christ.

        1. Sorry for the late reply! Yes, you bring up a very significant point. I see that fear of rejection in my church and in my own life. Perhaps it has to do with faith – Christians in persecuted lands must rely on faith, for what else do they have? In America, we can rely on almost everything else – our families and friends, our possessions, our selves, etc. – and we perhaps have less faith in God and His word. Why put down our lives and carry the cross when the alternative is so much more comfortable? It’s a big problem for suburban America.

      2. Yeah, we lean towards the idea that truth is absolute, and doesn’t need special help to prevail (even if individuals on their path to the truth might often seek and benefit from help.) I can respect Christians putting effort into spreading their vision of truth, but the obvious issue is that there are several religions with that “one truth” attitude, and I don’t need to point out where that stalemate leads to in the modern world :/.

        1. True, this “stalemate” has often led (and is often leading) to violence, war, and atrocities. If Islam is a religion of peace, for instance, and Christianity focuses on grace, why is there so much violence occurring? Unfortunately, too often we fight for something outside of that which we preach.

  5. This is the episode that changed my interest in Golden Time. I was pretty lukewarm towards it after episode 2, but this episode fixed that. I’m now waiting for episode 4. Once I get the blog you and I have talked about up and running, you’ll see what I mean (or, alternatively, if you don’t mind giving a few of my reviews a read through, then I can send them to you… I’m new at this whole thing).

    Anyway, I like the fact that we got more information on our protagonists in this episode, and I also like the fact that the “overnight trip” scenario didn’t play out like I expected it to play out (read: an excuse for fanservice and whatnot).

    1. It was definitely an interesting episode and certainly seems to be taking this series toward a place a little different from the expected.

      And yes, I’d be glad to take a look at what you’ve written up! 🙂

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