If It Quacks Like a Duck...
Today I happened across an article on cults featuring the observations of a former “moonie”. But as I read along, I was struck with the similarities not only between the typical mind-control cults and many mainstream churches, but also between the mind-control cults and the modern male supremacist movement. Here are some quotes and my comments.
Not all groups which might be called “cults” because they appear to incorporate strange beliefs and practices are necessarily destructive. A destructive cult distinguishes itself from a normal social or religious group by subjecting its members to persuasion or other damaging influences to keep them in the group.By this definition even the Roman Catholic Church would qualify (and whose omission from many protestant books on cults has been very curious). I’ve known many of them who wanted to leave the RCC but were afraid for their souls, the indoctrination was so strong. There is nothing quite like the flames of hell to keep people in line. We could likewise include superstitions as having cult-like control over people. In fact, I’m having trouble coming up with any religious group that wouldn’t qualify in some way.
But of course, even non-theistic groups can qualify as cults too. Peer pressure is everywhere, and finds its ultimate expression in the “shame-based” societies. Even businesses can qualify if the pressure is high enough, and we all know how political whistle-blowers are viewed by the groups they expose. Contrast all of that with the New Testament law of love. Love does not force itself on its beloved nor hold them in an iron grip. It does not hate if the beloved leaves, nor attempt to punish them for doing so. It may plead and appeal, but never shame or coerce.
Now let’s look at some of the points listed by the former “moonie”, and see if we can spot similarities with what is going on in Christendom today.
The Moonies wanted to keep me from pursuing some disturbing questions about the validity of the “time parallels” used in the “History of Restoration” lecture. I had discovered some glaring inconsistencies. It was dangerous for someone in my position in the organization to ask questions that couldn’t be answered. [p.25]Many Christians can testify to the price of asking questions these days, especially of their celebrities and scholars. This is the “touch not God’s anointed” phenomenon.
They indoctrinate members to show only the best sides of the organization. Members are taught to suppress any negative feelings they have about the group and always show a continually smiling, “happy” face. [p.41]Does this not describe the Patriarchy movement? They always trot out poster children like the Duggar family, the details of whose lives are well-hidden behind the smiley faces and very sympathetic documentaries.
Another key aspect of thought control involves training members to block out any information which is critical of the group. [p.62]This is exactly what I mentioned in my previous two posts about KJVO.
If information transmitted to a cult member is perceived as an attack on either the leader, the doctrine, or the group, a hostile wall goes up. Members are trained to disbelieve any criticism. Critical words have been explained away in advance as “the lies about us that Satan puts in peoples’ minds”... Paradoxically, criticism of the group confirms that the cult’s view of the world is correct. The information presented does not register properly. [p.62]
Anyone who finds himself in a cult confession session should remember this warning: Anything you say can and will be used against you. This device can even extend to blackmail if you leave the cult. [p.63]Ask all the women who have been abused by “pastors” about this one. Or those who have exposed other illegal activities in the mega churches. Or those who point out the hypocrisy and lies of popular teachers and authors.
Destructive organizations also control information by having many levels of “truth.” Cult ideologies have “outsider” doctrines and “insider” doctrines. The outsider material is relatively bland stuff for the general public or fresh converts. The inner doctrines are unveiled only gradually as a person gets in deeper. [p.66]This is true of Freemasonry, Calvinism, New Age / Contemplative Prayer, many mainstream religions, businesses, and governments. It happens gradually by design, to slowly break down resistance, and by the time anyone reaches a position of power they are firmly in the grip of the group’s ideology. And if any in the aforementioned groups comments here, I can almost guarantee that the reaction will prove the point.
Since mind control depends on creating a new identity within the individual, cult doctrine always requires that a person distrust his own self. The doctrine becomes the “master program” for all thoughts, feelings, and actions. Since it is the TRUTH, perfect and absolute, any flaw in it is viewed as only a reflection of the believer’s own imperfection. He is taught that he must follow the prescribed formula even if he doesn’t really understand it. At the same time he is told that he should try to work harder and have more faith so he will come to understand the truth more clearly. [p.79]This sounds exactly like the lines patriarchy uses on Christian women: If you question male authority you have a Jezebel spirit. You can’t trust your own thoughts because you are an Eve. You naturally want to rebel and take over, so you must be completely obedient. God will punish you if you resist. Men have to discipline you to keep you in line, and it’s your own fault because you don’t submit enough. This is for your own good, after all. Don’t listen to those feminists, they’ll poison your mind.
The doctrine allows no outside group to be recognized as valid (good, godly, real) because that would threaten the cult’s monopoly on truth. There is also no room for interpretation or deviation. If the doctrine doesn’t provide an answer directly, then the member must ask a leader. If the leader doesn’t have an answer, he can always brush off the question as unimportant or irrelevant. [p.79]
Some groups cultivate a psychic paranoia, telling members that spirit beings are constantly observing them, even taking possession of them whenever they feel or think in non-cult ways. [p.79]
This feeling of elitism and destiny, however, carries a heavy burden of responsibility. Members are told that if they do not fully perform their duties they are failing all of mankind. [p.80]This is the flipside of the lines used on women: men who don’t rule over their wives are shirking their duties before God. Pastors who don’t rule over their congregations are feminizing the church. Denominational leaders who don’t rule over their domains are bowing to culture.
Happiness through Good Performance - One of the most attractive qualities of cult life is the sense of community that it fosters. The love seems to be unconditional and unlimited at first, and new members are swept away by a honeymoon of praise and attention. But after a few months, as the person becomes more enmeshed, the flattery and attention are turned away toward newer recruits. The cult member learns that love is not unconditional but depends on good performance. [p.80]Again, many Christians in many denominations can testify to these things.
Indeed, when cult members go through hardship (fundraising in freezing cold or broiling heat) or persecution (being arrested for violations of law or harassed by outsiders), they do feel a depth of camaraderie and shared martyrdom that is exceptional. But because the only real allegiance is to the leader, a closer look shows that such ties are actually shallow and sometimes just private fantasy. [p.82]
Problems are always the fault of the member, and are due to his weak faith, his lack of understanding, “bad ancestors,” evil spirits, and so forth. He perpetually feels guilty for not meeting standards... In every destructive cult I have encountered, fear is a major motivator. [p.82]
any groups teach that the apocalypse is just around the corner. Some say they are preventing the apocalypse; others merely believe that they will survive it... To a cult member, the future is a time when you will be rewarded because the great change has finally come. [p.83]Global Warming, anyone? Aids? Swine flu? Population bomb? Age of Aquarius? Gaia worship? Bigger government?
Leaders were not “in it for the money” but... were, in my opinion, addicted to personal power. Many destructive Bible cults have leaders who are not conspicuous consumers and who appear to hold God and the Bible above them in authority; yet, interpretation of the Bible and God’s will is used to manipulate and control people. [p.99]Truer words were never spoken-- about Christian leaders from house-church to mega-church.
Deception includes outright lying, leaving out important information, or distorting information...[p.100]Lying seems to be the career choice of not only politicians but Christian leaders today. I and many of my friends have had numerous comments deleted, altered, or otherwise expunged from the public eye, for nothing more than exposing the lies of leaders. With a straight face they can brazenly falsify just about anything while preparing next Sunday’s sermon, or rail against the lies of another leader while continuing to lie themselves. In some cases it seems to have reached a state of being either pathological or diabolical.
One of the most obvious signs of a person in a mind control group is a lack of independent decision making abilities. Even though cult members try to convince outsiders that they are autonomous, once you probe beyond the surface it becomes obvious that they cannot make important decisions without first asking permission from superiors. [p.102-103]Again, this is patriarchy. A woman in that cult cannot decide anything outside of her husband’s (or fathers, or pastor’s) permission. Some women who have escaped find themselves unable to make their own decisions and have to be taught. Likewise, many churches have ex-members who are so used to a “covering” that they have to learn that God loves them and does not micromanage them.
Mystical manipulation can take on a special quality.... because the leaders become mediators for God. The God-centered principles can be forcibly and claimed exclusively, so that the cult and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation. [p.202]Patriarchy again. If the man is “prophet, priest, and king” as they claim, they make him the mediator for God to his wife and children.
Keep in mind that the article I’m citing is focused on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church (moonies), and did not have any agenda to discuss other groups. It just laid out the facts for the reader to decide. So the fact that so much of it applies to many groups considered mainstream, and the so-called “Christian” patriarchy movement in particular, should send chills down the spine of any believer. Read through the whole article and ask yourself why patriarchy should not be labeled a cult.