Mind control in the church
Groupthink and the importance of thinking for yourself
Writer: Angelo Lopez | 28 October 2008 | www.twelvetribes-ex.com/Groupthink%20and%20the%20importance%20of%20thinking%20for%20yourself.htm
It’s always difficult for an individual to go against a group of people. We all want to get along and be liked by people, so we often keep quiet about opinions when we’re with a group of friends or family members who may not agree. I learned the hard way that keeping quiet about one’s opinions and allowing other people to think for me does long term harm to myself. I’ve been very interested in learning about the dynamics of groupthink, the tendency of a group to limit independent thinking and questioning in the quest for consensus and group cohesiveness. The dangers of groupthink are numerous, from Nazi Germany in the 1930’s, China during the Cultural Revolution or in the McCarthy era in America in the 1950’s. While it is good to find a community where one can find love and acceptance, it’s also important to be able to speak for oneself and to be able to think independently.
Wikipedia gives this definition of groupthink:
"Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas.
Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance.."
During my life, I’ve encountered many situations where I’ve been reluctant to express my feelings because of worries of being different from a group. It could be with a group of friends, with family members, with co-workers. Over time, though, I’ve learned to express my own opinions with close friends and family because I feel safe to disagree with them and I’m willing to listen to their disagreements with me. The situations where I haven’t felt safe to voice my own opinion are in a church or political group where the members are very loud and insistent about being right. Churches are often vulnerable to groupthink and one of the most extreme examples of this are in cults. I looked in Internet sites for signs of cults and found these signs that cult’s exhibit. Among these signs are these:
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
- Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
- The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, visit family members and friends outside the group, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah, apostle, prophet or an avatar; the group/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
- The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
- Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
- Members are encouraged or required to live and /or socialize only with other group members.
- Emotional leverage/Love Bombing – Instant friendship, extreme helpfulness, generosity and acceptance… Group recruiters "lovingly" will not take "no" for an answer- invitations impossible to refuse without feeling guilty and/or ungrateful. "Love," "generosity", "encouragement" are used to lower defenses and create an ever increasing sense of obligation, debt and guilt.
- Exploit Personal Crisis – They use an existing crisis as a means of getting you to participate. They exploit vulnerability arising from: Broken relationships; death in the family; Loss of job; Move to new location; Loneliness/depression; Guilt/shame; Stress/fear
- Crisis Creation – They employ tactics designed to create or deepen confusion, fear, guilt or doubt. i.e. "You aren’t serving God the way He intended." Questions areas of faith never before examined or explored and attack other faiths specifically.
- Motive questioning – When sound evidence against the group is presented, members are taught to question the motivation of the presenter. The verifiable (sound documentation) is ignored because of doubts over the unverifiable (presenter’s motives). See Opposer Warnings (#2 above).
- Information Control – Group controls what convert may read or hear. They discourage (forbid) contact with ex-members or anything critical of the group. Ex-members become feared and avoidance of them becomes a "survival issue."
- Coercion – Disobedience, including even minor disagreement with group doctrine, may result in expulsion and shunning.
To be fair, I can say that I’ve never been in a church that would be considered a cult. But I’ve seen people within a former church use similar tactics as cults to get members to conform. I’ve seen a group of people isolate an individual to make them more vulnerable to pressure to conform to their views. I’ve witnessed individuals get ostracized and have their reputations brought low when they’ve left the group and tried to talk about the experiences. After witnessing these things, I grew afraid of expressing any difference of opinion and it cast a pall on others as well. I guess that’s one of the disadvantages when any group of like-minded people get together: the group runs the danger of becoming insular as they try to be with people they feel comfortable with and weed out people they differ from.