There’s One “Born Again” Every Minute…
When one considers the way religions have denigrated the Feminine, repressed women and tried to regulate female sexuality and control reproduction, it’s doubly outrageous but hardly surprising that they would try to appropriate the idea of being born for their own ends.
After personally knowing many poor people who were involved in cultish Christian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, various Brethren groups and more recently, the Evangelicals, I’ve lots of experience of how these groups coerce their members to toe the line.
So I started reading psychological theories of coercive persuasion. I came upon the ideas of Carole Wade. Her 2005 work made a lot of sense when trying to understand how cultish organisations function. See below.
According to Carole Wade (Psychology 101, Wade, C. et al., 2005) there are a number of key steps in establishing coercive persuasion:
- People are put in physically or emotionally distressing situations;
- Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
- They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
- They get a new identity based on the group;
- They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled.
After reading the steps through a few times, I realised the pattern could be found in several areas of life. In particular it seemed to describe our human process of birth and development of personal identity within the family.
Being born is a stressful experience, probably the most stressful event in folk’s lives. I can remember mine and it’s not a lot of fun. Baptism as practiced by John the Baptist and Jesus in the Bible and Christians all over the place is but a crude physical attempt to remind the participant of their time in the womb and subsequent birth.
In the second stage we are fixated on single goals like crawling, walking and learning to talk.
In the third stage we experience love of a mother or family.
We learn our name in the fourth stage.
The fifth stage represents the family sanctions we face if we break the rules. Also the control of access to information reminds us that parents control the flow of information to their children.
The above is almost the exact same process as we find in a variety of cultish religions, the military, the Mafia, Freemasonry and many other social groups. I’m sure readers can think of more. Sports teams with their rituals and shirts are an obvious example.
Most folk become ‘born again’ in a Christian sense after what most of us would describe as a breakdown. A mental breakdown (also known as a nervous breakdown) is an acute, time-limited phase of a specific disorder that manifests primarily with features of depression or anxiety.
This is the distressing and emotional situation in stage 1. In the military, recruits are humiliated, shaved, shouted at and physically broken. In Freemasonry and Cosa Nosta the neophyte is put through a terrifying ritual involving their own death which serves the same purpose.
Stage 2 for Christians is that the idea of Jesus is the answer to everything. In the military and Mafia it is total obedience to authority and a belief in violence solving all problems. The love and comradeship offered to those who successfully join these groups, be it cult, army or lodge, is often more supportive and warm than lonely folk from poor families have ever experienced. So it is all the more overwhelming.
Stage 3 recreates the feeling of being in a family. Indeed, all these groups say quite clearly in their own way that they are a family.
New names (stage 4) are given in various ways. There’s the mumbo jumbo of Freemasonry, the military have ranks, Cosa Nostra use nicknames and we all know about Christian names.
Finally we come to the sanctions applied to those who do not follow the rules or orthodoxies of these kinds of groups. The Mafiosi takes a vow of omerta, in other words, silence. Everybody knows what the ultimate Cosa Nostra sanction is on errant members. The military are known for the firing squad or in lesser cases the Glasshouse or prison. Think Corporal Bradley Manning. Freemasons are told their tongues will be cut out and their innards slung over the shoulder should they reveal the secrets of the Craft. Remember Roberto Calvi – God’s Banker? Cults and religious groups use this form of social pressure very cleverly. So those members who have never experienced love, companionship or true intimacy are terrified of losing the warmth they feel from the group when things are going well.
But if a member doesn’t bring in any new faces, he or she will usually find important people becoming cooler towards them. In the crazy world of Evangelical Christianity, if a person has a problem it must be because they have not let Jesus into their life. Therefore the problem has to be with the person as Jesus is a divine being and so must be in every way perfect. This is how it is easy to apply psychological pressure to a person lacking in confidence and insecure due to being anxious at not making the grade within the group.
Readers will no doubt see the similarities with direct sales organisations. Years ago, I worked for some of these companies and the atmosphere was very similar to political groups and religious movements.
It’s the same business model after all.
P.S. In English the phrase, “There’s one born every minute…” refers to the many foolish people who are all to ready to fall for a scam or buy something that sounds too good to be true. I’m sure readers will know of words and phrases in other languages that mean similar.