Many people think that brainwashing happens only in totalitarian countries
or in special situations such as the North Korean POW camps in the 1950’s. They
would be shocked to learn that a number of brainwashing tactics are being used by groups
in the United States today in the process of gaining and indoctrinating
members. These cults often persuade a person to accept ideas and behavior
totally foreign to him, in fact, unacceptable to him before coming under the cult’s
The approach to a prospective member is important. Cult members
offer him love and attention. Then they try to draw him into their
indoctrination program. According to psychologist Robert Jay Lifton, who
studied mind-control techniques, most indoctrination programs utilize the
Control of the environment. The
cult tries to disorient the recruit by separating him from his old environment and
providing a new, carefully controlled one. For instance, the cult may
invite him to a retreat where there is no telephone, radio, or newspapers. He is
discouraged from contacting friends or family. With less than normal
sleep, no privacy, a strange diet of low-protein food, a highly emotional
atmosphere, and constant group pressure to conform, the recruit soon finds
himself entering into the activities. The singing, prayer, meditation,
dancing, and chanting tend to change his state of mind and make him more open
to new ideas.
Mystical manipulation. The
teaching which prospective members receive usually includes some of the following
ideas. God has chosen the group for a special purpose in the world. Each
member has a responsibility in the achievement of that goal. The leader presents
a simple solution to the world’s problems. When recruits try to ask questions,
group members silence them with the warning to think more positively.
Need for purity. Cult members
zero in on the recruit’s former life. They impress him with the sinfulness of
certain actions, playing upon his feelings of guilt. Bearing down hard on the
point in his life about which he is worried and anxious, eventually they cause more
stress than he can bear. His patterns of behavior and belief weaken under
this attack. Now he is ready for confession. Through this means, the
recruit makes a definite break with aspects of his past life.
Indoctrination. The cult
develops around itself an aura of sacred science. Its doctrines are absolute
and must be followed without question. Members hear that these ideas are more
important than anything else. Further, the cult has its own special vocabulary,
which serves to set it apart.
Salvation. The group
is told that only cult members will be saved; all others are lost. Again
this increases the distance between the cult and society. This belief
presents a psychological barrier to anyone considering leaving the group. By
the time a person has gone through these phases and accepted all these ideas, he
usually no longer thinks for himself. He is in the control of the cult.
Examples of some or all of these features have been seen in such
cults as The People’s Temple (Guyana), the Unification Church (Moonies), the
Church of Scientology, and the Branch Davidians (Waco, Texas). Mass deaths
occurred in Guyana (1978) and Waco (1993).
Transcribed from "Streams of Civilization, Volume Two: Cultures in
Conflict Since the Reformation", by Garry J. Moes, page 361. Copyright 1995
by Christian Liberty Press.
Does this sound to you
like a description of the Church of Christ? The Church of Christ teaches
that only its members will be saved; all others are lost.