Opinions on faith and life

If It Quacks Like a Duck...

2010-07-11

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]

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]

This is exactly what I mentioned in my previous two posts about KJVO.
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]

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 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.
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]

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]

Again, many Christians in many denominations can testify to these things.
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.

17 Comments

Lin

"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."

Years ago I read an excellent book about this called Corporate Cults. It fascinated me because of my work as a trainer. It was right on.

The reason for the rise in all of this in America is because people have stopped thinking for themselves. I can remember having gut instincts about something but dismissing them because the certain leaders’ disagreed. That comes from youth but it should NOT come from seasoned adults.

Paula Fether

Good point, Lin. Our whole world has adopted the mentality that most people are children who cannot be trusted to think for themselves. I think this is also what’s behind the push to take the individualism out of Christianity, the reason such guilt trips are laid on anyone who questions "church" or uses the word "covering". We are children of God, but not of each other.

Lin

"Good point, Lin. Our whole world has adopted the mentality that most people are children who cannot be trusted to think for themselves. "

It goes further than that. It has to do with acquiring authority or position. I cannot tell you how many times I saw the people with the least competence promoted to positions with direct reports. And it was for one reason: The person was considered a ’team player’...or in other words, a sychophant. Free thinking is not encouraged no matter how much they insist it is. It is a cycle of surrounding yourself with yes people. Then the whole situation becomes incestuous and thinking patterns the same. Those who are individuals or free thinkers never adapt and are usually considered trouble makers. The only way is to leave. I am constantly amazed at how many think they can change it and stay and are miserable. They are wasting their talents. But where to go? It is like this everywhere. Personally, I believe it is part of the aging of America. We are adopting many European models because we are no longer enterpreneurial as we were.

I noticed this in the 18 years I was doing org development. I saw the changes. The more companies said they were focused on teams the more authoritarian they became. Even the cool companies in the tech world started evolving into authoritarian mudholes when success was assured. Once the worship of the visionary leader wore off, there was shock that he was really an authoritarian, too.

My colleagues and I had a saying for this: Beatings will continue until morale improves. Because it always ended up there.

Business, Government, churches...they are all following this model.

Paula Fether

I think it’s time to hit the Reset button... Undo! Undo!

Kathleen

Paula, this is what I lived in the FIC/homeschool church I attended. There were so many layers of these issues on top of each other. Cognitive dissonance was something I dealt with on a weekly basis with the sermons. I felt totally alone. The patriarchy and "affinity" of homeschooling, or once you get to the sub-layers -- the teaching on owning your own business as a biblical guideline (which means command to them) -- became an issue I’d bring up, but they’d have no definitive biblical response. They were always "at war" with the culture, and if a person had any hint of that culture in them, it showed lack of faith (though leaders could participate in the things they deemed materialistic and the downfall of society, but others shouldn’t). Seriously. We heard sermons and dealt with all the mentioned examples in that church environment.

And I’m a woman. So, therefore, I had to go through my husband for anything involving church function. I twice heard a sermon where men who didn’t have enough "faith" to lead their families somehow were tossed a pejorative -- Buckminster. It was used as a byword and the vitriol that came out of the leaders’ mouth was very uncomfortable. It was the same way a patriarch would say the word, "feminist", with a hissing feel. Buckminster was a real person at the turn of the last century; I used to know who he was, but forgot. I think he was for women’s rights during sufferage. In another sermon men who didn’t start their own family business were referred to as weak and lacking in faith. These things became the unspoken and taboo things to question the leaders about. There’s much more, but I’m trying to temper my recollection in a spirit of love and prayer for God’s people.

I weep for God’s people, and my heart breaks.

Paula Fether

Kathleen, if only all who are oppressed as you were could be free today! I grieve too, and use my little blog to try and reason with people about the great evils being perpetrated in the name of Jesus. Even if all we were to do is ask people whether they think true love can force the beloved to do anything, it would be a start. This is such a basic principle, and Jesus not only taught it but demonstrated it as we see in Phil. 2:5-11. But when people get into what they perceive as positions or offices, they forget the basics of the faith and begin, ever so "benevolently", to lord over their equals. This is why I take egalitarianism to what I see as its consistent application: not only between men and women, but also between any believer and any other believer, such that there is no clergy/laity divide. "Church" as tradition has known it is fostering these divisions, and many house churches have merely taken "church" to lower levels.

Greg Anderson

Kathleen,

I spent many years in various sects of Christianity, all of them claiming to have THE truth of Jesus. It took me awhile, but I finally realized that they are all based on FEAR in order to maintain control over a following. I realized also that the men who lead these groups are not wicked and evil men, they put their trousers on one leg at a time, just like me. Many of them are sincere and admirable men. They too are afraid of not pleasing God if they don’t follow an airtight-iron-clad lock-stock & barrel belief system based on what they believe Scripture teaches.

When I finally got free, it was like breathing clean air for the first time ever, or drinking from an unspoiled woodland spring. It also hit me that so long as I acknowledge the LORD and do mercy and compassion to those around me, I am doing all that God expects of me.

Paula Fether

On the specific issue of patriarchy, here’s a quote on communism that really does apply:

Look what they did with the Soviet Union. Never mind all the atrocities that that cult can rightfully claim as their own, the left insists that it had nothing to do with the "ideals of communism," but the fault of individuals in charge of it (and man, you never saw such a steady sucession of "inept" individuals).
This is the argument used by "complementarians": that it’s never the teachings but only bad individuals who perpetrate abuse. Funny how so many abusers cite only comp teachings as their justification.

Don

It is true that a believing husband is "prophet, priest and king" but it is ALSO true that a believing wife is "prophet, priest and queen". Sometimes what the non-egals teach is not so much wrong in itself, but only a partial or half truth. Watch out for such things.

territippins

Yeah, they just aren’t doing it right! ;)

Lin

Oh, and lets not forget the fellow travellors. They propped up the system for years and years by their head in the sand response to the atrocities and lack of freedoms. They weren’t card carrying communists but sympathetic to the doctrine.

Same with comps. People will claim they do not believe patriarchy but this other thing, complimentarian, is not so bad. But it is the exact same foundational teaching! It all leads to the same place.

Paula Fether

Good observation and comparison. Same with the Nazis too, where average citizens just went along to get along. It’s also the point I tried to make at "the blog that shall not be named", where there has been deafening silence on many issues, not only from the blog owner but the bulk of the usual commenters. Also the same on the abortion issue in this country; we protest here and there and try to introduce legislation when we should be rioting in the streets. And because we have been silent on so many things, we have the government we are now stuck with, ramming "hope and change" down our throats. All these groups get away with things because the majority won’t speak up.

Provender

Leaders of these groups criticize other groups as inferior. Sometimes the lambasting of surrounding groups can be severe. Members know, then, that they don’t dare deviate from the group’s rules or the same scorn dumped on other groups will apply to them as individuals. The sermons or messages serve two functions: To cement the group in an elitist unity (we are so much better than others; we are the chosen, special ones) and to prevent independent thought or rebellion from members. Took a long time for me to see the mechanism at work in our little, cultlike church.

Paula Fether

Welcome, Provender! :-)

Good points too.

Lin

All these points go back to one thing: Group Think.

As followers of Christ, Conformity is not the same thing as Unity in the Spirit but so many leaders are simply teaching conformity as unity.

Paula Fether

"Conformity vs. unity" reminds me of the statue in Daniel’s vision, spec. the "iron mixed with clay"-- a weak alliance. This is what conformity is, and it breaks apart easily.

Paula Fether

Sorry, this comment was in the spam queue for some reason and I just saw it today.

I agree with your statement, but in the context of patriarchy they mean it as the man’s exclusive domain over his wife and family. That is, they are changing it from the Bible’s definition as applying to every believer.