Mar 14, 2011

Example in Cultic Thinking

The following email exchange between Milton T. Burton of Tyler, Texas, and myself, is a good example of cultic thinking, and of the "Hardshell" (aka "Primitive Baptist") spirit.

I am glad that I have only had a couple Hardshells respond to me with the kind of insidious and hypocritical talk as is evident from the emails I have received from Hardshell Burton. The "spirit" manifested by this Hardshell brother is nasty and characteristic of those in relgious cults. I will give the email exchanges and then offer some concluding remarks. I am more thankful that I have received many emails over the past few years from Hardshells who have left Hardshellism, including two gifted young preachers, and who have testified to the cult status of the Hardshells.

Mr. Garrett:

It’s really very simple: blacks don’t like to be called “niggers,” and as a consequence decent people don’t do it. We Primitive Baptists don’t like to be called “Hardshells.” Now that you know this, perhaps?...

Milton T. Burton,
Tyler, Texas

Dear Milton:

Wrong. Some PB's don't like to be called "Hardshell," but some like it. My dad, who is a leading Hardshell elder, likes it. He even published a paper for years called "The Hardshell Baptist." Also, Elder Tolley, who published "The Christian Baptist" for years, also liked it and defended it. Also, in my writings on the PB's, on the section dealing with the various names of the PBs, I cite other PBs who defend the name. I suggest to you, that "if the shoe fits, wear it."

Sincerely yours,


By and large they do not like it. You use it continually as invective, and it is out of place in the sort of scholarly things you write.

You also have a bee in your bonnet on the subject of the PB Church. I don’t know why such a small a group of people is worthy of so much attention.


Dear Milton:

I am glad I got you to change your own "invective" against me, for you now say "by and large" rather than affirming that all do not like it.

I use the term "Hardshell" because I do not like calling them "Primitive" Baptists. They are not "primitive" at all. Their calling themselves such is a deceitful falsehood. "Hardshell" fits them better. The size of a cult does not dictate whether they should be disclosed. You should know this.


My statement contained NO invective. Look up the definition of the word.

As for their status as a “cult,” one man’s cult is another man’s philosophy. By which I mean that your attempt to define the PB Church as a cult (in the modern sense that the word is used) highly unconvincing.

Dear Milton:

You are obviously a member of the Hardshell cult. I don't expect cult members to admit that they are cultists. Their brainwashing forbids them from seeing themselves as such. I define what a "cult" is in my book on the Hardshells. You seem to think that there is not clear cut criteria for defining a cult. But, there are ways to determine whether a religious group is a cult or not. The Hardshells fit the criteria for determining cult status.

You did use invectives towards me. An "invective" involves "denunciatory or abusive expression." If you look at your emails to me, you will see that you denounce me and my work of opposing Hardshells. Claiming that I "have a bee in my bonnet" is "denunciatory," is it not? Do you not say that I am wasting my time? Was this a compliment or a denunciation? Did you not imply that I was not behaving as "decent" people? You have the typical Hardshell mentality! You are stubborn and obstinate, or "hardshell"!

I pray God will deliver you from this cult!


October Wrote: “ But, there are ways to determine whether a religious group is a cult or not.”

Yep, and I bet you have all this secret, inside knowledge denied us lesser mortals---the news behind the news, in other words. Paranoids always do.

What you also have is a world of resentment toward Primitive Baptists and very bad manners. What you don’t seem to have is any sense of Christian charity.

There are any number of ways to define “cult”---anthropological, structural, sociological, etc. By the broadest definitions, ALL religions qualify as cults. But I suspect that what you are trying to do is conflate the PB Church with such outfits as the Moonies. I also suspect that your use of the word “Hardshell” is intended to be as offensive as possible. Well, as we say here in Texas. “Go ahead on. It don’t bother me none.”

And you really ought to do a Google search on me before you pronounce me “brainwashed.” I’m really a rather well educated and accomplished fellow. And VERY independent minded.

Dear Milton:

When I said "But, there are ways to determine whether a religious group is a cult or not,” you said:

"Yep, and I bet you have all this secret, inside knowledge denied us lesser mortals---the news behind the news, in other words. Paranoids always do."

Was this "yep" an agreement or not? I would say it was except for the remainder of the sentence where you imply that it is impossible to determine if a religious group is a cult or not. You imply that it is only paranoid people who call a religious group a cult. It seems you have no way to know whether a religious group is a cult or not.

You wrote:

"What you also have is a world of resentment toward Primitive Baptists and very bad manners. What you don’t seem to have is any sense of Christian charity."

That is ironic and hypocritical. You have lots of resentment towards me and you have shown bad manners yourself. You also have shown no "sense of Christian charity" towards me.

Your opinion about my motive for writing against Hardshellism is worthless, without substance. You make charges and assertions without the least bit of proof.

I got my undergraduate degree in sociology and understand more than you think about the various kinds of "cults."

About my use of the label "Hardshell," I have already answered that and feel no need to continue discussing this with you. If you want to read my chapter in the book on how I define a "cult" and how I prove the Hardshells to "fit" the criteria, and then respond, I will respond. But, I will not reply to your unsupported claims. You say my use of "Hardshell" doesn't bother you, but clearly it does!

You wrote:

"And you really ought to do a Google search on me before you pronounce me “brainwashed.” I’m really a rather well educated and accomplished fellow. And VERY independent minded."

Well, that is shocking coming from such a "well educated and accomplished fellow" as you announce yourself to be! It is shocking because you imply that such a person, who is a history teacher, and who writes novels, cannot possibly be brainwashed or in a cult! You don't seem to be very "independent minded" to me, but very biased.

Now, in closing, let me say that I don't care to continue this exchange with you unless you want to cite something specific I have said about Hardshells and their cult status and take a professional stance against it. Answering your ad hominem attacks against me personally is not worth my time.



My point was that cultishness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

In your previous post you indicated that you think I am a brainwashed cultist. That means that nothing I ever say will, in your opinion, be worthy of consideration as a reasonable viewpoint. This is a handy stance for you to take. Not only does it give you (in your own estimation) the intellectual high ground, but it frees you from the necessity of judging my opinions on their merits. As for my diagnosis of your motives being “worthless,” I would say the same of your determination that I am brainwashed.

Yes, I was rude... In return for your rudeness in continually using the term “Hardshell,” which you know is resented by a large number of Primitive Baptists. The correct name, the name recognized in encyclopedias and denominational guides, is ”Primitive Baptist,” and it is the term you should use.

Dear Milton:

Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. God defines beauty, as do the philosophers. He defines what is ugly. According to you, there is no standard for judging what is beautiful or ugly. It is not a thing dealing with objective reality but all subjective. A typical cultic view of things, I might add.

It is not true that because one is a cultist that they are totally set aside and not listened to. Where did you get that idea?

I have judged the Hardshell church as a cult based on the facts. Your view is that there is no solid criteria for determining cult status. You think that is the intellectual and reasonable view?

I am glad you admit that you were "rude" to me. But, you justify it, saying you were just answering in kind. But, are we supposed to render evil for evil?

You keep asserting how I use the term "Hardshell" in a derogatory way, but you do not prove your assertions! What is your proof?

You are wrong to say that all scholarly works on the Hardshells refer to them by "Primitive Baptists." In my book ("The Hardshell Baptist Cult" - seek link on my baptist gadfly blog) I give several sources to prove otherwise. They have been known by many names, and if you knew anything at all about their history you would not aver otherwise.

You seem to ignore facts and reply to only what you want to reply to. You also are filled with prejudicial statements, and as a "learned" man, you should know what prejudice is.

I told you why I will not call "Primitive Baptists" such. They are not primitive! Their claim to be such has been shown to be false by many Baptist historians! These recognized historians have called their claim to be primitive as an example of their arrogance. Are you familiar with the debates over this issue historically? Apparently not! Have you looked at the "invectives" that the Hardshells have hurled against "missionary" Baptists for the past 180 years? Apparently not! If you knew their history, you would see that they are a cult! When you get more informed on the Hardshells, we might be able to have a learned discussion on it. I am not the only Baptist who has called the Hardshells a cult.



And now you’re an expert on aesthetics too? My, my, but you do get around for a little jackleg preacher. And where do we find God’s definition of beauty as it relates to metered verse? To painting or sculpture? Aren’t you just an expert for all seasons?

As long as there is a substantial number of PBs who consider the term “Hardshell” derogatory (and you know there are plenty that do), your use of the term is meant to be exactly that---derogatory. And you know it. Which makes you a jerk.

But it makes me no difference what you call us. But I promise you this: within the next two weeks I will get the whole story on you.

Dear Milton:

Now we see your true colors!

I shake the dust of my feet off against such as you. End of discussion.


This sums up your life rather well:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

It is interesting that this Hardshell brother attempted to warn me about my lack of "charity" and "good manners," about being "rude," about using "invectives," about "resentment," about "decency," etc., when his emails were full of examples of nicety, good manners, politeness, and brotherly communication and affection!

This brother even asked me: "Would I be safe to guess that you are a right winger politically?" Like that has anything to do with the issue of calling "Primitive Baptists" Hardshells! He accuses me of "stereotyping"?