I am reading John A. Hostetler’s book, Amish Society. (No one can ever claim I do not have an eccentric collection of books!) It is a basic history of the Amish. For some reason the whole Amish life-style has always intrigued me.
There is a very interesting section on separatism. He gives a number of indicators collected by Sociologists of what defines a religious group as a dissenting movement or a movement with a separatist ideology.
- 1. A separatist movement must establish an ideology different from that of the parent group in order to break off relations with it.
- 2. The articulation of differences in belief by an enthusiastic leader claiming divine authority.
- 3. A sense of urgency is vocalized by an authoritarian person who imposes negative sanction on opposing persons or groups.
- 4. The goal of the group must be specific rather than general.
- 5. The group must establish cultural separatism by invoking symbolic, material, and ideological differences from those of the parental group.
I wonder how far we could push these indicators in relation to modern religious movements?