Watching the mental melt down of David C Pack, Rod Meredith, Bob Thiel, James Malm, Eric King, Ron Weinland and Gerald Flurry these past few several years has been a fascinating AND frightening experience. The Church of God has produced an endless supply of absolute idiots over the decades who have self-appointed themselves as prophets and apostles. Every single one of them have been abject failures. Why then do Church of God members continue to following these men giving them blinding loyalty? What kind of mind is the typical Church of God member like?
Psychology Today has some interesting information on these types of men and the people who join up with them:
One of the biggest tools in Armstrongism that has been used by single splinter group leader since Herbert Armstrong came on the scene is the practice discrediting individualism and critical thinking.Having studied at length the life, teachings, and behaviors of Jim Jones (Jonestown Guyana), David Koresh (Branch Davidians), Stewart Traill (The Church of Bible Understanding), Charles Manson, Shoko Asahara (Aum Shinrikyo), Joseph Di Mambro (The Order of the Solar Temple aka Ordre du Temple Solaire), Marshall Heff Applewhit (Heaven’s Gate), Bhagwan Rajneesh (Rajneesh Movement), and Warren Jeffs (polygamist leader), what stands out about these individuals is that they were or are all pathologically narcissistic. They all have or had an over-abundant belief that they were special, that they and they alone had the answers to problems, and that they had to be revered. They demanded perfect loyalty from followers, they overvalued themselves and devalued those around them, they were intolerant of criticism, and above all they did not like being questioned or challenged. And yet, in spite of these less than charming traits, they had no trouble attracting those who were willing to overlook these features. Dangerous Cult Leaders
When a person is individualistic that person is independent and self-reliant. Independent and self-reliant people are usually critical thinkers. With Armstrongism's endless debasement of higher education in "worldly" universities it tried to force members into looking down on critical thinking. Armstrongism successfully stopped all critical thinking by producing thousands of booklets, articles, magazines, correspondence courses and films that did all the thinking that a person felt they needed to do. The answers were spelled out in black and white using step-by-step "proofs" cherry picked out of the bible by church leaders. They defended that one-way reasoning by using this single quote, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible!" With these men all claiming superior understanding and direct revelation from their individual god's, how would any person ever dare to question them?
Fear is the other tool that Armstrongite leaders love to use against members. When a person uses critical thinking they are going against the chosen apostle/prophet of God. When you do that you are in danger of losing your salvation. Losing ones salvation was and always has been a serious threat used against members. To think critically, criticize, and question a leader or his words was anathema and equal to questioning God.
By having the answer to everything in regards to every aspect of a members life, Church of God members have stopped thinking. It was much easier to have answers spelled out for them in booklets, to have ministers tell them what color car to buy and what kind of job to have. Its very comforting being surrounded by like minded people. It is safe.
Some of the tactics used by leaders in the Church of God are:What do all groups (cult and non-cult) offer a potential recruit? Answer: friendship, identity, respect and security. They also offer a world-view: a way of discerning right from wrong; good from bad. These are powerful incentives for all people whatever their background. We are social animals. But they offer more: a structured life-style and the ability to acquire new skills. Through their (very different) ideologies they also offer moral explanations into how the world works. They provide clear answers to difficult and big questions: what it all means; the secret of happiness; life after death; the difference between right and wrong, who is with us and who against us; the saved and the damned. Why Do People Join Cults?
Every reader here that uses critical thinking can tell all kinds of stories about how every single one of these traits have been used against them by the church.
- First, they demand that they sever all ties with people (family, friends) and organisations (schools, churches). This naturally makes them more dependent on the cult itself and helps create the person's new identity. They start again, wipe the slate clean. This rule is also found in extreme in Christian Monastic orders.
- Second, the members are required to show immediate and unquestioning obedience to rules and regulations which maybe arbitrary, petty or pointless. The idea is to ensure allegiance and obedience. This strategy is used to "break-in" all army recruits. It is the very staff of boot camps.
- Third, group members often have to do long hours of tedious work. It maybe drilling, begging for money, cooking, followed by compulsory reading, chanting or mediating. Recruits usually become physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. Sleep deprivation is a good start. It's all part of the induction process.
- Fourth, all groups need money to exist. Some are very much into money both as an end and as a means. This may, therefore, quickly involve recruits getting involved in illegal, or semi-legal activities. Groups that are state supported or those with a long history of operation may, however, be different. Members need to understand how, when and why money is required and to set about getting it quickly.
- Fifth, groups make exit costs very high. Leaving is associated with failure, persecution and isolation. It is more than just a waste of time and effort. They make you feel as if nothing will ever be the same as you will be an outcast. It is made to sound a very unattractive, indeed impossible, option. Why Do People Join Cults
In another article on bad religion, the following is said:Extreme groups offer simple, clear messages in an increasingly complex world. Old certainties are crumbling; ethics even science is portrayed as having only relative truths. The world is corrupt, evil, unfair and very complex. So a group or leader who offers a "sensible, sane" explanation for the complex world, a secure group and personal salvation is very attractive. They come in many forms: politicians of the extreme left or right; religious leaders; romantic revolutionaries; persuasive writers; power-hungry individuals, brilliant orators; movie-star saviours. Why Do People Join Cults
The people that sit in these Church of God's watch all of this going down day in and day out. They have become numb to it all, Its safer to be numb, blind and deaf than to jump off the cliff and let ones wings soar to freedom. Its safer to be slave than free. The leeks and onions still have their appeal....early warning signs of 'bad religion'" are:
- The organization is willing to place itself above the law. With the exceptions noted earlier, this is probably the most important characteristic.
- The leadership dictates (rather than suggests) important personal (as opposed to spiritual) details of followers' lives, such as whom to marry, what to study in college, etc.
- The leader sets forth ethical guidelines members must follow but from which the leader is exempt.
- The group is preparing to fight a literal, physical Armageddon against other human beings.
- The leader regularly makes public assertions that he or she knows is false and/or the group has a policy of routinely deceiving outsiders. Safe Sects? Early Warning Signs of Dangerous Faith Groups