The role of charisma in the evolution of new religious groups



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This study develops a comprehensive theory of the evolution of new religious groups by focusing upon the role of charismatic leadership in such groups. The deviance-amplification model is proposed to account for three types of evolution: towards greater accommodation, maintenance of an organizational form, and towards greater dissent/protest. Struggle between the charismatic leader and societal control agents for control of the group is the dynamic which determines the new religious group's evolutionary course. Two Jesus People groups, the Children of God (aka Family of Love) and the Christian World Liberation Front (aka Berkeley Christian Coalition) are studied. The hypothesis, that routinization of the leader's charisma is positively related to institutionalization of the group, was supported. Whether or not the leader has a monopoly on authority was also found to be crucial in determining how followers respond to the charismatic claims and demands of their leader.