Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eight Marks of a Mind Control Cult - Part Four

So far in this series we have discussed three of the eight identifying marks of a mind control cult or high control group. These are milieu control, mystical manipulation and demand for purity. Full discussions on these three markers can be found in the previous three posts. However, I will very briefly touch on these three marks for the sake of continuity.

First, milieu control is the control of the environment of the recruits or members. This is done by physically removing the recruit or member from society, or by greatly limiting the association of recruits and members with those outside the group. This technique limits the exposure of members and recruits to former members or persons critical of the group.

Secondly, mystical manipulation is when the leadership of the group makes events and experiences appear to have divine or angelic involvement. Further, they can manipulate the environment by either raising or lowering the temperature of the meeting room, the use of music, numerous “cold reading” (see any article on mentalism) techniques, and creating a heightened sense of expectation in the audience.

Thirdly, the demand for purity is the technique in which the organization oversimplifies and polarizing moral issues into black and white distinctions with little room for conscience. Everything from the outside world must be filtered through the leadership’s paradigm. Cult leadership is from the top down, and any attempt at free thinking or reform is quashed in a quick and severe manner.

Before I go further, I must forewarn you that there will be discussion of sexual sin. I have tried my best to not be graphic and to use generalities. It is important that this be addressed in order for you to understand just how intrusive cult leadership is in the lives of its members.

Cult of Confession

In this context, sin is defined by the leadership, and “major” sin is usually grounds for expulsion from the group. In the context of the JWs (Jehovah’s Witnesses), major sins are (not limited to) smoking, certain sexual acts between a married heterosexual couple, willing acceptance of a blood transfusion, drug use, and voicing opinions counter to current Watchtower teaching. Any member that witnesses another member involved in major sin is required to report the incident to the local group’s leadership, or else be considered a participant in said sin. This “informant” mentality goes as far as within the family circle. In other words, parents are required to turn in their children who have committed major sins, and vice versa. In fact, I am aware of a case in which a teenage JW turned in her parents to the Elders of her congregation after she walked in on them during a moment of intimacy in which a prohibited sexual technique was being performed. This particular JW was highly commended for her actions. Later she voluntarily left her home after her parents were expelled from the group, and filed for emancipation. The last I heard about her, she was a missionary for the JWs in Central America. This sort of “confession” technique is also used in the Scientology cult in order to assist the member to reach “clear”. This is a state in which there are no negative engrams in the member.

The purpose of this sort of “confession” is two-fold. First, a sort of “oneness” is attained within the group in that very intimate details of various sins are shared with other members. It actually destroys legitimate boundaries between the group and the family by removing the father from his God ordained position as head of the family and replacing him with the group’s leadership. Further this sort of “confession” actually assists the leadership in identifying weaker members of the group and whipping them along, keeping them in step with the group’s leadership.

One experience I have had with this sort of “confession” was at a church I attended. They hosted the “Cleansing Seminar” led by Timothy Davis. One of the techniques in this seminar was a public confession of sin. When I found out that this technique was part of the seminar red flags went up in my mind. My wife and I did not attend this session nor did we attend any further sessions in this seminar. Sadly, the leadership of the church did not respect our conscience driven decision to no longer attend this seminar, nor did they heed my advice that this seminar was in clear violation of Scripture. It is not surprising that the church’s leadership ignored Scripture, since this church is driven by experience and mysticism rather than by scripture. This sort of “confession” is not what the New Testament writers had in mind when they instructed the church to confess sins to one another. This confession was to be done in private in order to promote accountability in an area of weakness.

Lastly, high control groups and cults consider mental infractions as sin. In George Orwell’s book 1984, these infractions are called “thoughtcrime”. JWs do go so far as to say that even harboring ideas or doctrines that are contrary to current Watchtower teaching is an expulsion offense. I have heard reports that even facial expressions that can be construed as negative towards a Watchtower doctrine are expulsion offenses. Once again there is a parallel to Orwell’s 1984 in that, in the fictional Oceania there was an offense called “facecrime.”

Now, I want to be clear that I am not speaking against biblical confession of sin. This is done in private, and is done not to whip persons who have fallen into sin (James 5:16). Rather it is done in order to restore fallen brothers and sisters back into full fellowship with the Triune God. Further when biblical church discipline exists, and when there is a member that is unrepentant of his sin, as described in Matthew 18:15-20, the member is excommunicated from the church NOT for his sin, but for his lack of repentance. I believe that if the church actually practiced biblical church discipline, then many of the issues that have beset the church would be dramatically reduced.

In review, the cult of confession is a technique in which members confess their sins to the leadership or entire group in order to attain “oneness” with the rest of the members. The leadership also uses these sin confessions to whip the weaker members along as the organization moves in its doctrinal stance. Further, these sins include mental infractions, especially doubts about the divine guidance from the leadership to the rank and file members.

In conclusion, I want to point out that I am not attempting to be sensational by naming names. Rather, I am attempting to point out the problems that can arise when a church utilizes techniques that are not biblical. My prayer is that persons who recognize these markers in the group they belong to will be able to make decisions regarding their future free of the cult or group’s mind control techniques. Secondly, I pray that any leaders who may read these articles would repent of their use of these techniques and then seek God.

Next time we will address the cult’s “Sacred Science.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

8 Marks of a Mind Control Cult – Part 3

I do want to address one issue regarding this series. While I have focused on cults, these identifying marks can be applied to many abusive sects and movements within Christianity. Many of these abusive groups within Christianity can be identified by a strict authoritarian leadership concept. Basically, the leadership is very resistant to any correction that comes from members that they consider to be on a spiritual level that is lower than their self-perceived level of spirituality. Further, if the Bible is used in the correction, the leader will respond with the movement’s tradition, as if that movement has the authority to rewrite Holy Spirit inspired Scripture! One of the many identifying marks of a Christian is that one does not think to highly of himself (Rom. 12:3). I am writing this series is to shed light on these sorts of abusive leaders in the hopes that those under these sorts of leaders will be made aware of the techniques these sorts of leaders utilize to keep people under their abusiveness. In addition, I pray that any church leaders, who recognize the use of any or all of these mind control techniques, would recognize the error of their ways and repent before God and men of manipulating people in order to gain power of them.

Quickly reviewing the ground we have previously covered it is important to remember that mind control is not brain washing. Mind control is a willing giving over of one’s thought processes to a recruiter or group. The first step many of these sorts of groups will use is milieu control. Groups accomplish this by controlling the environment that the recruit is in either by physical removal or by limiting the information about the organization that the recruit receives. The second mark is mystical manipulation. The leaders do this by making events and experiences appear to be spiritual in origin. This can be done by making it appear as if God or angels are always in involved in the workings of the group, and that nay bad things that happen to those who leave or are expelled from the group are the result of God’s judgment on those people.

The third mark of a mind control cult is Demand for Purity. By employing this technique, high control groups and cults depict all issues as black and white with little room for the members’ conscience to decide issues of importance. Certain high control Christian groups will label drinking, smoking, or going to movies as sins, even though there is no Scriptural basis for these views. Good and bad member behavior is depicted and modeled in the organization’s literature. The Watchtower is full of photographs in which the model JW family is often depicted at meetings or out in the house-to-house witnessing work. People and other organizations are good or bad depending on their relationship with the organization. For example, when the Internal Revenue Service of the United States government began to go after Jimmy Swaggart Ministries for tax revenue on products sold be the ministry, the legal department of The Watchtower Society filed an amicus brief on behalf of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. The Watchtower did this not because they were friendly to Swaggart, but because it was feared that this ruling would have a negative impact on the organization’s finances. Interestingly, when Jimmy Swaggart was caught in his sexual immorality, The Watchtower was very quick to point out his hypocrisy, and to use Swaggart’s fall to paint all of Christendom as hypocritical.

Secondly, guilt and shame are used to control members even after they have left the organization. This is one of the hardest things for people who have never been involved in a cult to understand. The organization oversimplifies and polarizes human morality, and because of this members and those who leave have difficulties in dealing with life’s many shades of grey. Because of this many who leave cults or high control groups tend to “go wild.” They immerse themselves in the acts that were strictly prohibited by the group. They do this because all evil is prohibited by the group. In my case, I began to smoke, drink and go to nightclubs in order to meet women for one night stands. However, the guilt that I felt was multiplied many times over because I had the threat of dying at Armageddon (the final battle in which Jehovah God destroys all non-JWs forever) hanging over my head during that time.

This application of guilt and shame are also true of political cults. If one does not hold 100% to the party line, these extremist groups will label you as not a “phony patriot”, a “false revolutionary”, a “sell out” or “uncle Tom”. We must be careful to not label people in order to heap guilt and shame upon people who do not agree with our pet doctrines, politics, or even sports teams (e.g., if you voice any criticisms of the Lakers you are labeled a “Laker hater”).

Lastly, everything that the recruits or members of the group take in must be filtered through the literature or paradigm of the group. The Watchtower does this by quoting from certain non-JW scholars in their literature, but discourages the rank-and-file from verifying these quotations themselves. These groups also discourage taking in information from outside the group. For example, my father has a bookshelf that spans thirty feet and has seven shelves on it full of Watchtower literature. The only non-Watchtower books my father had in his library was a dictionary, a set of Encyclopedia Americana from 1976, and self-help legal books for his business. Everything he took in with the exception of the local newspaper, the evening news, and local radio (in order to keep up with current events to be relevant while speaking to persons at their doorstep) was first processed through the Watchtower paradigm.

Further, high-control Christian organizations tend to limit the leadership possibilities of those that are more open minded to other points of view. They may also actively discourage other members from seeking the counsel of these persons because they go outside the group’s approved list of authorities. They fear that these persons may not give out the “pure vision” if they are in a position of influence, even if that person goes to great pains to avoid being divisive.

The Demand for Purity that cults and high control groups make on members is another manner in which they control the environment in which the members live. It creates guilt and shame in the minds of members that do not agree 100% with the group. Lastly, this Demand for Purity, keeps the members dependent on information that has first passed through the organization leadership’s paradigm. Ultimately, the Demand for Purity stifles free thought and reflection as only the organization has the pure mission from God. It is my prayer that if you are seeing this and the previous two identifiers as being evident in the group you are in, that you would seek avenues to leave the group. These groups will never reform as reformers are viewed as “defectors” or “apostates” and will be expelled from the organization.

Next time – Cult of Confession

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eight Marks of a Mind Control Cult - Part Two

In the first part of this series, we looked at what mind control is and is not. Mind control is not brainwashing. The human mind cannot be deprogrammed, reprogrammed or programmed against the will of the recipient. The recipient must be a willing part of the conversion process. Mind control is a process in which the recruiter employs a number of techniques that allows the recruit to willingly give over control of his/her thought process to the recruiter or organization.

We also explored the first of the eight markings of a mind control cult, milieu control. This can entail physical separation of the recruit from family and friends in a remote commune or compound, or by controlling what the recruit hears, sees or thinks about the organization. For a fictional account of mind control, I would suggest the book 1984 by George Orwell. For a full treatise on the subject of mind control please see Robert J. Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. To see the full treatment on how mind control is applied to cults, please see Steven Hassan’s book Combating Cult Mind Control.

There are two reasons why I believe this discussion on the marks of a mind control cult are important. First, it gives apologists an insight into how cults recruit, and subsequently how to be more effective in counter-cult ministry. Secondly, it’s a warning to any how think they are “too intelligent” to be recruited into a cult. As I will demonstrate in a future post, no one is “too smart” to be recruited into a cult.

In this post, I will look at the second identifying mark of a mind control cult: Mystical Manipulation. This mark can be seen in cults and high control groups within mainstream religions. This to me is the most unethical of all the techniques employed by cults and high control organizations because it is deceptive at its core. It leads the recruit and membership into the thought that God is truly in control of the particular organization.

Mystical Manipulation

The recruit is manipulated into viewing God as ever present in the workings of the organization. The organization constantly emphasizes incidents in which “angels” are working for the organization or the members. God is always doing great and miraculous things fro the organization. This type of manipulation gives the organization a “mystique” in the eyes of the recruit.

For example, my parents had a tape recording of a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Governing Body talk in which he told of one of the forced marches the Nazis employed on Russian prisoners during World War 2. As the Nazis marched them, in the dead of winter, the prisoners could only take what they could carry. If any of the marchers fell to the ground, the SS guards would shoot them.

This march included two JWs. One was already weak from starvation and sickness, and the other was younger and stronger. The younger one carried the older for a good portion of the march, but was soon exhausted. He then propped the older one against a tree, and trudged on dreading the expected gunshot. He never heard one. He walked back to the tree, and found his friend with bread in his hand. The young man asked him why hadn’t he been shot, and where he got the bread from. The older man said that he got the bread from a man. The younger man looked for the man, but never found him. He and his friend both ate the bread which miraculously strengthened them for the remainder of the march.

The JW relating this story paused in his address and asked the audience, who they though the man was. He then stated that it was an angel of Jehovah to which the audience erupted in ecstatic applause. He then went on to state that no other religion has the “protection of Jehovah” and how sad it must be for those outside “the truth” to be separated from protection like this. To which the audience responded with another round of ecstatic applause. I can’t tell you how many times my parents played that tape to people they were attempting to recruit to demonstrate that the JWs were the only organization with God’s special favor.

On the other hand, members who leave or are expelled from the organization are said to be under God’s punishment whenever bad things happen to them. I heard a number of these stories when I was growing up as a JW. For example, one elder in the congregation my family attended voluntarily left the JWs. This elder was involved in construction and real estate, and some months later he was forced to file bankruptcy and his wife divorced him. I remember my JW grandmother commenting that this was Jehovah’s punishment on him for leaving “the truth”.

During my research I discovered that this mystical manipulation was common, especially in high-control religions. For instance, there is an element within the Greek Orthodox Church that is high control. I read of an incident in which a Greek Orthodox Bishop died of a heart attack after refusing the assistance of the leader of a high control group within the Church.

Another part of this manipulation is getting the recruit to buy into the higher purpose of the group as soon as possible. This can be done a number of ways, but the most effective way is getting the recruit to limit his/her exposure to the world outside the organization as much as possible. This keeps the recruit’s exposure to the vision or goal of the leadership in the forefront of the recruit’s mind, and the exclusion of everything else.

Lastly, everyone in the organization is exploiting each other in order to further the goals of the organization. Experiences are engineered in order to appear spontaneous. For example, the temperature of a meeting room, the music, the lighting, the heightened sense of expectancy, etc. are all manipulated in order to make an experience appear divine. Music is the most effect tool of a person exercising control of a group. Music affects people in a very deep emotional fashion that does not occur with other forms of manipulation. This is why many “faith healers” have their audience repeat choruses over and over.

Worse still, this sort of repetition can actually put the participants into an altered state of consciousness. When this sort of experience happens in a Christian church the participants and leaders are actually violating Luke 10:27. Worship in the Christian context entails the whole person. Since this practice alters a participant’s consciousness, worship is not taking place in the mind (not that this is important since most churches that use this sort of manipulation have a low view of the life of the mind to begin with).

In my view, mystical manipulation is the most dangerous and unethical of all the mind control techniques employed by cults and high control groups because it causes engineered events and experiences to appear spiritual in the minds of the recruit and membership. It is also dangerous because many charismatic and Pentecostal churches employ these techniques in order to affect the congregation in ways that appear mystical. People must be aware of this sort of manipulation especially in a religious context as those who employ this technique are generally after two things, money or sex.

Next time: The Demand for Purity.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Eight Marks of a Mind Control Cult - Part One

Most people, when they find out that I was a Jehovah’s Witness (further noted as JW), ask how I got in that group. In my case, I was adopted by a Jehovah’s Witness family at the age of six months. My earliest memories were of the Kingdom Hall, field service (what JWs call their calling on the homes of people), assemblies and conventions. However, my experience is different from most people who are or were involved in a cult or high-control religious group. Since I was not recruited into the cult, I didn’t have to readjust my thinking like the people that come in. To borrow a scene from popular culture, I was plugged into The Matrix at birth. It was all I knew existed, and like Neo, I decided to take the red pill, and I saw just “how deep the rabbit hole” went.

The purpose for this series is to instruct and warn Christians of the dangers of cult recruitment. It is important to note that the danger in cult recruitment is that anyone can be recruited into a cult.
The main sources of information in this series are Robert J. Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, and Steven Hassan’s Combatting Cult Mind Control. Lifton’s work was based on researching the effects of mind control on American POWs by the Communist Chinese. In his book (further fleshed out by Steven Hassan, a former member of the Unification Church, i.e., a Moonie), Lifton lays out eight identifying marks of a mind control cult.

This brings us to the next logical question, “What is a cult?” This is where the waters get a bit muddied. One man’s cult is another man’s religion. However, for the purpose of this series, we will focus on two types of cults: the religious and non-religious. The late Walter Martin, the original “Bible Answer Man,” defined a religious cult as “the adherence to doctrines which are pointedly contradictory to orthodox Christianity and which yet claim the distinction of either tracing their origin to orthodox sources or of being in essential harmony with those sources” (Walter R. Martin, The Rise of the Cults, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1955, pp. 11-12).West and Langone define a cult as, “…a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community” (West, L.J. & Langone, M.D. [1985]. Cultism: A conference for scholars and policy makers. Summary of proceedings of the Wingspread conference on cultism, September 9-11. Weston, MA: American Family Foundation).

It has been estimated that there are 5,000 cults (militia groups, extremist groups, “New Age” groups, etc.) in the United States. The Y2K fraud rekindled interest and memberships in these groups. Interestingly, this is something that can be traced back through history. Anytime there is major upheaval in society, these groups pop up to prey upon people’s fears and anxieties. It has also been estimated that an average of 180,000 people join these groups per year. Not all the groups are religious in nature. There are large group-awareness trainings, psychotherapy and “New Age” groups. Interestingly, Amway has been described as a cult. However, I would hesitate to label the company as a cult, rather that label should go on some of the “business building” groups that are associated with Amway. There are also political cults such as the followers of Lyndon LaRouche, certain elements of the border security movement, and the Mexica movement.

Before we go further in describing what mind control is, it is important to define what mind control is not. Mind control is not “brainwashing”. There is no existing science that can “deprogram”, “program” or “reprogram” the human mind like one would do to a computer (Hollywood movies not withstanding). The primary element the recruit brings is a willingness to participate in the conversion. The recruit may not be aware of the persuasive elements in the process, but he/she is willingly allowing the process to continue. It is important to point out that all cults use the same basic persuasion techniques, in addition to unethical strategies. Some cults may employ multiple techniques at the same time in order to speed up the conversion process. However the techniques are the same, physical isolation, ego reinforcement, sleep deprivation, etc.

Milieu Control

The first mark of a mind control cult is milieu control. “Milieu” is a French word that means “surroundings or environment”. One of the first things a cult will do is to get the recruit isolated from their friends and family. Some cults will do this by a literal physical separation of the recruit from non-cult members by whisking them off to a remote compound or commune where the recruit can receive the “pure message” of the group. In the case of JWs (Jehovah’s Witnesses) the recruit is warned very earlier in the recruitment process that people who are against his/her studying with JWs are really persecutors under the influence of Satan. The recruiting JW will suggest that the recruit begin to cut-off association with people that are not JWs.

Another from of milieu control is warning the recruit to avoid any information that might cause critical thinking (i.e., the normal process of gathering information and decision making). If the recruit allows the cult to control this milieu, then he/she has allowed the cult to get into his/her mind in order to control the recruit’s internal dialogue mechanism. This control may also be accomplished through the reading of the cult’s literature (to the exclusion of all other material). After all, the recruit may be asked, who better to interpret issues of importance in one’s life than “the Elders”, “the Faithful and Discreet Slave” “the Prophets”, etc.? Essentially, the recruit is being taught that all thinking must be done by the leadership because they are the only ones that have a direct “hotline” to God.

Along this line of control, is the warning to the recruit and to members to avoid any material written or produced by former members. These persons may be called “apostates”, “rankers”, “dogs”, or a number of pejoratives to numerous to list here in order to get recruits or members to avoid their material. I can remember the first time I picked up the book Crisis of Conscience written by the late Raymond Franz (Mr. Franz was a member of the ruling group of JWs called the Governing Body) my hands were shaking and my stomach was in knots, but my search for truth was not going to be stopped by what I felt. In that book, Mr. Franz gave a detailed account of the most secret inner workings of the Watchtower Society (the legal entity of the JW religion). As an aside, giving JWs who come to your door a religious tract is probably one of the least effective things you can do as a Christian, as that tract will almost always end up in a trash can, but I digress. It was in this book, written by a person JWs view as an apostate, that I began to see the arbitrary and intrusive manner in which the leadership of the Watchtower Society dictated their opinions into the lives of the rank-and file.

Further, the “mother organization” almost always keeps track of the rank-and-file members of the group. This information helps the leadership to ensure that members are not falling too far behind or moving too far in front of the cult’s leadership. In the case of JWs, each congregation has extensive files on the members that show how much time they spend going from door-to-door, how much literature they gave out, their meeting attendance, and even more disturbing any matters concerning any wrong committed by them. This information is used in a number of unethical ways that will be discussed later in this series.

Lastly, I have often been asked what a person interested in counter-cult ministry should read in order to better understand how a cult works. I recommend 1984 by George Orwell, and Crisis of Conscience by the late Raymond Franz. I read 1984 as a sophomore in high school, and I was struck by the similarities between the world of Oceania that Orwell had created, and the JW world in which I was raised. I believe that God, in His providence, used this book to prepare my mind for the eventual turmoil that would result because of my exit from the JWs. 1984 also helped to calm my fears when it came to reading material authored by “apostates” of the JWs.
I hope that this introduction and first point of mind control is helpful to you, and above all that you will use this information to help people who have been blinded by these cults to see the reality of their involvement in these cults.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Identifying Idols In Our Hearts

Apologetics is the defense of the faith from false doctrine (Jude 3, ESV). Sometimes false doctrine enters the life of a believer in the form of idolatry. Idolatry, what do you mean? We live in the 21st century, in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the history of the world. We don’t worship at idols. That much is true, however, there are idols of the heart, and part of good apologetics is dealing with issues within the church. You see these heart idols sometimes come in to the church because they were so engrained in our lives prior to God saving us. In other cases these may have crept into our lives due to our daily interaction with the world in which we live.
What is an idol? Tim Keller, in his book Counterfeit Gods, defines an idol as any good thing that becomes the ultimate thing. This is not to be confused with making a bad thing the ultimate thing. That is sin! However, when eating (a good thing) becomes the ultimate thing, you have gluttony. When drinking an alcoholic beverage (a good thing) becomes the ultimate thing, you have drunkenness. When making money (a good thing) becomes the ultimate thing, you have greed. However, these are not the “idol under the idol” so to speak.
There are four underlying idols in the lives of people: Comfort, Control, Respect and Love. All of the things are essentially good. As I mentioned above an idol is a good thing that is made an ultimate thing. Comfort brings lack of stress and freedom. Control brings self-discipline and standards. Respect brings success and influence. Love brings affirmation, love and relationships. However, these four good things when they are made ultimate things, i.e., idols bring negatives into the lives of people and their circle of influence.
Comfort while bringing lack of stress and freedom also brings reduced productivity. Because stress and demand are the greatest nightmares a person with this idol can face they often do just enough to get by. They do not like deadlines or commitment. These are the people that avoid doing more than the minimum. Because of this desire to avoid stress and demand they often hurt others by their desire to be free of stress and demand. The biggest internal issue with Comfort is that this idol creates boredom in the lives of those that have this idol. There is no desire to make change because change causes stress they often suffer from boredom.
Control gives one self-discipline and standards. The problem is that life is full of uncertainty, and this creates worry in the lives of those with Control as an idol. Because of the need to control everything in their lives, people with Control often make others around them feel condemned. This is due to the fact that they believe others will not do things as well as they can do them. As an example, I was once given the opportunity to lead a follow-up ministry at a church I used to attend. After reading as many books as I could find on the subject, and finding out what other churches in that particular movement were doing, I was able to come up with a plan. I planned a meeting to kick-off the program. The turn-out was bigger than I expected. However just as I was getting into the nuts and bolts of what I wanted to do the pastor of the church walked by the room I was holding the meeting in. He got excited over the turnout, and took over the meeting and implemented his plan. I sat in the back of the room feeling condemned and angry (more on this in the next paragraph) because of the work I had done.
Respect gives one respect and influence. However because we crave respect so badly we often become burdened and we take on personal responsibility over projects to the point of obsessive ownership, like with the follow-up ministry I mentioned above. Because of the desire for respect humiliation is our greatest nightmare. The problem emotion that Respect person feel the strongest is anger. Anger over the any perceived disrespect they feel they have received. Now while Respect persons often chose not to react to slights, they will keep track of that slight. People with the Respect idol make others feel used, because we want to avoid humiliation so bad we will use others in order to get the respect we crave.
Love is the most interesting of the idols. How can love be an idol? A person with the Love idol desperately seeks out affirmation, love, and relationships. Now while we have established that these are good things, they become ultimate things when a person fears rejection the most. Women with the Love idol are often sexually promiscuous, not because they want sex but they want to avoid rejection. Sadly, there are too many men that can smell out women like this and will happily use them for their sexual needs. This fear of rejection makes persons with the Love idol cowards. They will give into anyone who places conditions on their love. Also because of their fear of rejection, they make others feel smothered. They will do whatever it takes to get others to affirm them and their love.
While this summary is not the complete treatment on this subject, I believe it is a start. I recommend that you plunge into Keller’s book and determine for yourself what your heart idol is in your life. I believe it is important to identify our idols as we progress in our sanctification. It is my hope and prayer that we do that, and in doing so improve our ability to demonstrate the Gospel’s impact in our lives.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Death of a Conscientious Objector

I found out yesterday that Ray Franz passed away. Who is Ray Franz, and why should anyone care about his life and death? Well simply, Ray Franz was a member of the ruling body (called the Governing Body) of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Mr. Franz held that position between 1971 and 1980. Mr. Franz was also the nephew of the Jehovah's Witnesses most highly regarded "scholar" and former President of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, Fred Franz. However, this is not what makes Ray Franz important. What makes Ray Franz important is that he is the highest ranking member of the Jehovah's Witnesses to ever chronicle his experiences on the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.

In April of 1980, Mr. Franz resigned his position as a member of the Governing Body due to conflicts between what the Bible said and what The Watchtower officially taught. He later detailed these conflicts in his books Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom. It was his first book, Crisis of Conscience, that increased the velocity of my exit from the Jehovah's Witnesses. I recommend this book highly to anyone that is currently a Jehovah's Witness and to anyone that has an interest in counter-cult ministry focused on Jehovah's Witnesses.

His second book, In Search of Christian Freedom, is really geared towards Jehovah's Witnesses. In it Franz speaks of the search for the freedom that the New Testament speaks about rather then the legalistic dogmas of the Watchtower. Both of Franz's books can be ordered has either bound books or PDF files at the Commentary Press website.

Of Franz's two books, Crisis of Conscience, had the most impact on me. I found this book in 1986, and bought it. This was a huge issue for me, as I was still living with my JW (Jehovah's Witness) parents. If they found this book, they would have to turn me in to the local body of Elders, and a Judicial Committee would be formed in order to determine whether or not I was an apostate Jehovah's Witness. However, they never did. This was a small miracle, since my mother had the uncanny ability to find any Playboy or Penthouse magazine I stashed in my room.
It was in the pages of Crisis of Conscience that I learned of the many double standards the Watchtower leadership applied to JWs in different parts of the world. It was in this book, that I learned that personal integrity was more important than corporate cooperation.

Mr. Franz wrote about his "crisis of conscience" and his subsequent resignation from the Governing Body. However, that resignation was not enough for the hard-line members of that body. They went after Ray Franz with a vengeance, and began looking for ways to disfellowship Franz and his wife. Why? Because they were potentially dangerous and could begin to influence others to leave the Watchtower. This belief was prevalent in spite of Franz's admitted desire to live a quiet life as a rank-and-file JW. Eventually the Governing Body's wish was granted due to trumped up charges against Franz based on a tightening of the rules regarding JW interaction with those that voluntarily left the JWs.

Franz's second book, In Search of Christian Freedom, did not have that much of an impact on me. This was due to the fact that I already had confessed Christ as my savior, and had begun to learn about the Christian freedom that he wrote about. However, it was interesting to read about his journey towards Christian freedom.

Ray Franz, is a name that has no popular association with people. However, he and his two books had an impact on hundreds of thousands of people that have read them and exited from the Jehovah's Witnesses, I among them. I believe that these books will continue to have an impact on JWs that are in search of truth and freedom.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Purpose of Apologetics

Over the past few months I have made a number of changes in my life. This blog is one of them. I have discovered that one of my strengths (based on Strength Finders 2.0) is Input. Incidentally, I highly recommend this book, and the accompanying test, but that is for another post. However, I have had a regular place to let out all this information. While I preached twice to the church I used to attend, and assisted in a Foundations of Faith class, I was never really given the opportunity to “bloom where I was planted.” I do not wish to speculate on why that was the case. Now is the time to make an impact for the kingdom of God. In addition to Strength Finders, I also want to credit a series of interviews with various apologists on Apologetics 315. These interviews caused me to realize that if I wanted to be in ministry, then I better get in ministry. So here we go.
Apologetics is a two pronged discipline. First and foremost, apologetics is evangelical, or outward. In other words, apologetics helps the Christian to answer objections from religious and non-religious persons (1 Peter 3:15). Apologetics helps break-up the fallow ground in the unbeliever. Imagine a plot of ground that you wish to transform into a garden. This plot has been trampled under foot for years, and the ground is very hard. Seeds and new shoots will have a hard time penetrating this ground to take root. Under the surface, there are large stones that will also prevent the seedlings from taking root and producing the fruits and vegetables at harvest time. Apologetics is like the shovel and hoe that break the hard surface, and loosen the large stones. If we keep in mind the Paul’s words to the Corinthians, we will understand that we are just a part of the process, but God is ultimately responsible for the transformation of a person from unbeliever to believer (1 Cor. 3:6, ESV). This evangelical apologetics very few Christians take issue with. However there is a second area that is much more controversial.
The second area of apologetics is internal, and focuses on keeping the church free from false doctrines and bad ideas. Today, this element of apologetics is very controversial. Regardless of its controversial nature, it is a necessary part of Christianity. The church is very much like a ship. This ship sails in a world that is full of ideas. Some of these ideas are good, and some are bad. The bad ideas and doctrines are like barnacles. Barnacles are shellfish that attach themselves to the hull of a ship. One or two will not damage the ship, but if enough barnacles attach to the hull, the ship will sink from the sheer weight of the barnacles. That is why ships will go into dry dock, and some poor soul will have to scrape these dead or dying creatures off the hull. Christianity is very much like that ship. It has had attach to its hull false doctrines and bad ideas that would sink it. Christ, in His omniscience, knew this would happen, and He gifted men and women with the ability to identify these doctrines and ideas. Christ also empowered them to fight against these ideas and the teachers that have risen up in the church that promote these doctrines and ideas.
The Scriptural mandate for this internal form of apologetics can be found in Jude 3. Here Jude wanted to write about the good stuff of Christianity. Jude called it “our common salvation.” However, the Holy Spirit stepped in and changed his thoughts, and now we have a mandate to “contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, ESV). This is where I wish to focus the remainder of this blog post.
First, Jude told us to “contend”. The Greek word literally means to fight or wrestle. We need to fight for “the faith,” that is the system of religious truth. I realize that many Christians object to calling Christianity a religion. However, religion is defined as something that tells you what to believe and how to act. Christianity definitely qualifies as a religion on these two criteria. Lastly, this system of religious truth was “once and for delivered to the saints.” Meaning that this is the only truth we receive from God (sorry Muslims, Mormons and others that rely on a second “revelation” from god). It is this verse that gives the Christian the Biblical mandate to question the theology of any person that cannot demonstrate a pedigree for his doctrine that goes back to the apostles.
Sadly, there are many within Christianity, who for the sake of getting along, have swept this verse under the rug. They do not want to be “mean” or to “hurt” other Christians’ feelings. Yet Jude makes it clear that those who teach doctrine other than the “faith once and for all time delivered to the saints” are “ungodly people” (Jude 4, ESV). I recall a conversation with a person from a church I used to attend. When I said that that a certain TV preacher was a false teacher, the person responded that this could not be the case, because that preacher was “nice”. I pointed out that this was to be expected, because “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14, ESV). Of course, this Christian accused me of causing division, and warned me to “touch not God’s anointed.”
This sort of apologetics is very much akin to a doctor who must deliver bad news to a patient. The patient may be “hurt” by the news, or may feel the doctor is being “mean”. However, this temporary pain is eclipsed by the overarching good the doctor will bring into the patient’s life with medicine and treatment which will cure the disease and give the patient a second lease on life.
I have spent some time on this element of apologetics, because this is an area that will be addressed in future posts. In these future posts I may touch an area of false teaching that you may have inadvertently embraced. Please understand that I am not out to “hurt” your feelings or to be “mean”. Rather I am like that doctor that has seen something unhealthy that needs to be addressed. I pray that you will take my comments in that light, and hold your theology up to God with an open hand.