Allegations ignite controversy toward Bible study group

The Observer/Broward Community College/February 10, 1992
By William Wachsberger

Brian Saide, a South Campus student, was raised in an orthodox Jewish home and attended a Yeshiva school where he studied the Talmud. According to Saide, he is a spiritual man but not religious.

"I do have a faith," Saide said. "I believe that something is out there; something else had to create all this. With all the garbage out there, there's got to be something that created the good too."

Following an incident when a friend of Saide's deceived him into investing $3,000 which he never received even his initial investment from, Saide indicated that he became very depressed. "I felt cold and alone. I was looking for someone to console me," Saide said. "Whoever would have written me the first ticket to tell me how they would have taken care of me…how to be one of them…to trust in us…trust in God …we are your friends, I would have eaten it up."

Saide, like many young adults, considers himself to be curious and open-minded about most things, including religion. During a class he was attending in October 1990, a female acquaintance noticed him reading from the Bible and invited him to a retreat with Bible Talk, an organization sponsored by the Miami/Fort Lauderdale Church of Christ which meets to discuss interpretations of the Bible.

Knowing that only the New Testament would be discussed (the Jewish faith follows the Old Testameny, while gentile religions believe in the New Testament), Saide said he would try to remain objective while listening to group members. He decided to accompany the group on a weekend retreat which he thought would be a simple trip to discuss the Bible. However, Saide acknowledged during a recent interview with The Observer, the Bible Talk retreat evolved into "weeks of confusion and uncertainty."

Prior to Siade's interview with The Observer, Kim Cunningham, a Central Campus student, filed a formal, written complaint with Student Life Director Penny McIsaac concerning a Bible study meeting sponsored by Bible Talk.

According to Cunningham's complaint, she attended a Bible study session on Central Campus during Term I this year. Following the session, two female members were quite persistent in holding an independent Bible session with her. "…one girl quoted from the Bible, asking me questions to help me prove to myself that I was not a disciple and therefore, not going to heaven. The other girl took notes so I could refer to them later."

Cunningham continued by explaining she asked questions and tried to defend her religion (Catholicism), but was told by the Bible Talk members that she was not saved.

"I have nothing against the people as individuals, but as a group, I was extremely intimidated. I don't appreciate the way they made me feel about my religious choices…I do not feel that the individuals should be punished for their beliefs, but…the "club" needs to reconsider their approach. Their preaching and lashing need not take place in an educational setting."

In his interview with The Observer, Saide mentioned how he was interested in Bible Talk. He met with them, began making "friends" and conversed often with them. He began making "friends."

"…I started thinking that these people have a point. Everyone is equal, everyone seems to be the same. Everyone seems so happy and alike and in love with each other. I said to myself, 'Hey! This is what I need.' That was the start of my involvement.

"They wanted me to confess my sins and then baptize me the following Sunday. As soon as I was baptized, everything changed. I then had to come to Bible studies. They wanted me to get other people to come; to pass out flyers; to talk to people. Then they pushed me to proselytize. I was raised as a Jew not to proselytize. I had a problem with that," Saide said.

When asked if the baptism meant he was now converted to Christianity, Saide replied, "I guess in their teachings, yes, but I know I didn't become Christian. In fact, as soon as I left the group, I was quick to wash it off,…to inform people at school to stay away from them."

Eventually, Saide discovered that Bible Talk was actually an official student organization called Campus Advance.

According to Scot Martin, advisor of Campus Advance, and an employee of the graphics/printing department at the Fort Lauderdale Center, the group has always been known as Campus Advance, a club that wishes to "advance the knowledge of the Bible."

When The Observer asked Martin why the group's recruiters and members said they belonged to Bible Talk, he answered, "That's exactly what they (Campus Advance) are doing - talking about the Bible."

Saide noted that in November 1990, members of Campus Advance openly said they were affiliated with the Boston Church of Christ, an organization that, according to the Los Angeles Times, (Aug. 4, 1990) ""has often been criticized for using authoritarian methods on its converts."

According to an authority on the Boston Church of Christ, the Rev. Robert Thornburg, dean of March Chapel at Boston University, the group is "a destructive religious organization."

According to Martin, "Campus Advance is just a group of students trying to advance the Bible. There is no affiliation (with the Boston Church of Christ) at all."

After Saide's allegation, The Obsrever then contacted J.P. Tynes, one of the ministers from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale Church of Christ in Davie, which is attended by some members of Campus Advance including Martin, to inquire whether this church is affiliated with the Boston Church of Christ.

"It terms of official organization or anything like that, no. This church is an independently run organization. I know people at Boston (Church of Christ), but in terms of them running or guiding this church, no," Tynes said.

Tynes explained to become a member of their church, "we have a number of things that before someone becomes a member of the church and is baptized, we want to be sure they study for several reasons.

"For one thing, we want people to understand fully what they're doing and why they're doing it…that they're making a decision like as adult about what they're doing and that they know what we believe as a church, and we don't want anybody being baptized with false pretense."

After Saide left the organization, he constantly received phone calls from members. Once he said he would file harassment charges against them if they called again; that was the last he heard from them.

Cunningham concurred that the number of calls she received from Bible Study members became harassment and when her mother answered one call and threatened to file a formal charge against the group, the calls stopped.

James McIntyre, a Central Campus student, told The Observer that he experienced a situation similar to Cunningham's complaint, with Central Campus student Harry Stamile, president of Campus Advance at Central.

According to McIntyre, after the session, Stamile gave him a set of notes taken by an unidentified individual to read and study that evening. McIntyre received phone calls from Stamile who expressed his concern that McIntyre "doubted the word" he preached. McIntyre too felt intimidated by the experience.

According to McIsaac, Student Life has received a few verbal complaints. "I told those who complained that we (Student Life) need written statements to pursue an investigation. So far, we've only received Kim Cunningham's."

Currently, no investigation of Campus Advance is planned because, according to McIsaac, "One written complaint is not enough to pursue an inquiry."

If any student feels that they are being approached in any way that feel is atypical of a Student Life organization, or would like information regarding any club on campus, he/she should contact Student Life at 475-6755 (Central); 973-2325 (North); or 963-8869 (South).

Recruitment: Radical groups seek, lure college students

In 1978, after investigators, critics and politician questioned the morals of Jim Jones and his People Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, Jones instructed his 900 plus members to commit suicide. This one incident has caused Americans to label the term "Cult" as a disparging group devoted to unwarranted, unethical practices.

According to Webster's Dictionary, a cult can be formal religious worship or a system of religious beliefs and rituals.

However, this word can mean different things to different people. According to the book Cults and Consequences, the word "cult" is used to designate a minority religious group, especially those whose practices are unusual to most people. Recently, the word "cult" has been used to recognize those groups having unique characteristics that are not shared with other religious communities.

According to the aforementioned book, the author's definition of cult is "…a group of people who follow a living leader, usually a dominant, paternal male figure, or occasionally a pair…of leaders. It is a group whose leader makes absolute claims about his character, abilities, and/or knowledge."

The leader may claim that he is divine (i.e. God incarnate or the messiah), an agent of God or even a possessor of absolute truth and total wisdom.

According to Cults on Campus: Continuing Challenge, there are at least four different types of cults: religious, therapeutic, political and economic.

Religious cults are the most well-known of the groups. Usually, members are taught to define the world in terms of an imminent Armageddon. Only the group members will be saved while non-believers will perish.

Therapeutic cults are similar to religious cults. The difference between them is that members worship a leader who has reached a certain point of psychological perfection. The goal of this kind of group's leader is to be cured and free of life's hang-ups.

In political cults, the leader has the perfect political doctrine. Extremist groups and terrorists are often described as cult-like in their methods and in the effect they have on members.

Finally, there are economic cults. The appeal in these groups is simply material success.

A common question is how prevalent and influential are cults on American college campuses. Cults have been a serious problem on college campuses for many years. At either community colleges or state universities, cult recruiters continue to operate on campus in student lounges, dormitories, libraries and other places where students congregate.

These groups attempt to establish themselves as clubs or as a student activity. At BCC, like other colleges, many organizations ask new members to join their cause. A majority of these clubs are constructive and well-meaning, whether they are political, religious, educational or social in nature. There are also many groups who would like to share their "ideas" with you.

Those groups who desire to spread their ideas around campus may take an unusual personal interest in you. They may even demand a lot of your personal time and commitment to become accepted.

Groups may appear immensely attractive because members have utilized discreet psychological manipulation, thus causing the prospective member to begin missing classes and possibly even drop out of school. These groups are known for convincing members to relinquish previously held values and to disassociate themselves from family and friends.

In the opinion of Dr. Sandy Andron, vice president of Cult Awareness Network (CAN), cults exist for two things: members and money. They "need the former for the latter."

"When they look for members, they're not looking for the dregs of society; they're not looking for kids with psychological problems. They're looking for the biggest and the best; they're looking for the role models - that's what is going to attract the people," Andron said.

Most of the time, those who get caught up in these organizations are in the age bracket of 16-26. According to Andron, these young adults are developing their own sense of identity.

However, once one has joined a cult, walking away is not so simple.

"We lose the most productive people in society because they become internal with the organization," Andron siad.

He added that the more a member accepts what is told to him, the more he will listen, and the more he will stay.

He added that the more a member accepts what is told to him, the more he will listen, and the more he will stay.

Students on any BCC campus who feel that an organization's recruiter is not on the up-and-up should contact Penny McIsaac, director of Student Life, at 475-6753.

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