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.”