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Westmont Cult Expert To Appear on A&E Sunday

TV special explores motivations behind doomsday groups with help from Westmont professor and cult expert.

Westmont College professor and cult expert Ron Enroth will be part of an A&E television program that airs at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Mind Control profiles two doomsday Bible groups, Meade Ministries and The House of Yahweh, said Westmont spokesman Scott Craig.

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The program features hidden-camera footage capturing methods used to indoctrinate members, Craig said. A&E is on Cox Cable channel 56 in the Santa Barbara area.

Enroth said he does not know how much of his two-hour interview will be used, but that he was asked to expound upon people’s motives for joining such groups.

“There are lots of folks out there who need focus in their lives,” Enroth said. “These groups are meeting basic needs to belong, to be part of a family.”

Unlike those of the more mainstream religions, he said, the leaders of what have come to be known as “new religious movements” — the term “cult” has become increasingly controversial — tend to be accountable to no one.

“They are ecclesiastical loners,” he said.

Enroth, 69, has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including NBC Nightly News and Oprah as an expert cult consultant. He is a member of El Montecito Presbyterian Church.

His career launched in the 1970s when he co-authored The Jesus People, a book about a California group founded in 1968 called "The Children of God" — now often referred to as the "sex cult."

That group’s leader, David Berg, made headlines for his religious edicts calling for the female members to have sex in order to gain converts.

Enroth is traveling the East Coast now to study two movements from the 19th century that he believes bear striking resemblance to more recent groups, such as the Children of God and the ill-fated Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

One of the groups, called the Shakers, could be considered an opposite to The Children on God in how they swore by celibacy. Enroth said there are just a handful of Shakers left, living in Maine.

The other group, called the Oneida Community, was founded in upstate New York in 1843, and called for people to be promiscuous while eschewing marriage. Although the group’s religious movement fell apart, its legacy remains in the company that it formed: The Oneida Silverware Co.

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