As a former member of the People of Praise and one who has academic interest in the group, I try to maintain open dialogues with current members and I periodically read the various blogs that current members keep. I find these blogs to offer a rich phenomenological view into the workings and ideology of the group. (see PoP blogs). I recently came across a young female members blog that expresses specific teachings and ideologies within the group. Her post is below:
"I've been thinking about our Father's plan for all of creation and where the People of Praise fits into it. (I'm going to presuppose some knowledge of the People of Praise here - for more information http://www.peopleofpraise.org/.)We've always been different. Committing yourself to spend two hours of every Sunday afternoon with a group of people who are not necessarily of your denomination, using an evening every week to build friendships with a few people you might not otherwise have been drawn to, submitting your prayer life, your finances and all your major decisions to someone who is not related to you and may not even have been chosen by you - these are not things it occurs to your average American to do as a matter of course.But the Father wants us to be even more than that. We want to build real, physical cities that strangers walk into and know that they are in a different place. Our Father asks more and more and more of us for the People of Praise. He asks for our businesses, our work, our studies, our free time spent in homes that are ever closer together and more intertwined, our sleep, our eating habits, our creativity, our thinking, our 24/7, the clothes we wear, the people we love, and whether we like to keep the butter on the counter or in the fridge. He wants us all in. And every day, we see more and more clearly what the People of Praise always was as we become ever more what the Father has in mind for us; as the People of Praise becomes ever more itself.This is only a small piece of the whole universe as it comes to a point. The day will come when all things are either of the united new creation, or of that which has chosen not to be the new creation. There will be no more fence-sitting; no more neutral ground. Everything will become clear. It is more clear now than it has ever been. The light of the Lord grows ever brighter." (emphasis added by me)
Now, to anyone outside of the PoP, especially those with psychology backgrounds, this post is sure to raise a brow at the least. To anyone that has any semblance of knowledge concerning cultism or cultic characteristics and environments, this post is surely setting off alarms and red flags. There are two themes that come out of her writing, (1) the will of God and the PoP are equated and (2) this calls for the full submission of every aspect of the members life. At this point it is important to note that the PoP is largely led by lay leadership. Meaning that "heads" and "coordinators" and other leaders within the community are not required, or even expected to have any training in theology or pastoral care and most of them do not. What follows from this lack of training is a group and a leadership that teaches, and is given, far more authority than they deserve. Thus the potential for abuse, manipulation and coercion are greatly increased. One of the most potently dangerous mixes found in human nature is ignorance and authority.