Mantayosays (over at the False Prophet Ronald Weinland blog):
Douglas Becker, Mr A[valokiteshvara] and others have referred to psychological concepts and models to help explain and understand the steadfastness of their addiction to the PKG and to Weinland. I agree with them, and there are other psychological models and insights that are relevant as well. Even so, I would like to add the following for consideration. I have seen this principle in operation many times over the years although I have seen no formal models based on the observations. It is not offered as a “one size fits all” analysis, obviously.
Many people in difficult situations continue to put up with their torment “simply” because they are even more afraid of what will happen to them if they make a move to change the status quo. A job you dislike with a boss who is a bastard is better than unemployment, living with a violent, abusive spouse is better than being homeless and leaving the children with a violent partner, being in a loveless relationship is better than being alone or joining the ranks of the divorced. Holding onto a belief in Millennial Happiness is better than living in a real world of real problems. I am even persuaded that there would be more suicides if people were not fearful that they might find themselves in an even worse situation as a result of their suicide. Holding on to what you once thought was the true religious faith even though you now entertain reasonable doubts is better than being wrong, and burning in hell if you make the wrong decision. A form of suicide, if you will, in the minds of believers.
Sometimes these fears are realistic and safeguard us: it is better to live consumed by hatred of someone who wronged you than to take revenge, kill the offender and spend the rest of one’s life in jail.
BUT, many battered wives, many abused employees, many former religious believers eventually come to the point where they accept that – quite literally – no matter what happens in the future, it is not going to be worse than this. And that realisation is what sets them free. Free to begin working on learning a new way to live, with no guarantee of where the new path will lead.
To fear what will become of one in the future is a primal response to threat, real or imagined, and the loss of the certainty, the crumbling of the foundations which held up the edifice of one’s whole worldview can be an extremely upsetting and fear-inducing experience.
There are many websites, blogs and forums where these ex-believers work through their changes and are supported by others who have trod the path ahead of them – and survived. I want to emphasise that, by ex-believers I do not assume there will be a loss of religious faith. Some may go that way, others find a different set of beliefs but retain their faith in god.
I would exhort any COG PKG members who recognize the above dynamics in their own lives to take courage, take heart, and take responsibility. Leave Ron, he has no authority whatsoever. That much is certain. Is proven beyond reasonable, and even beyond unreasonable, doubt.
Ron has you believing that you are drinking living waters of truth. You are not. It is as Mike (DDTFA) describes it, it is poisoned Flavor Aid. So come and join the Non-Ron version of life again. It isn’t as bad as you have been persuaded, it isn’t as bad as you may remember, and it certainly isn’t as bad as where you live at present.
This is an important observation about fear and it has been addressed in the last chapter of Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, “Former Cult Members and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” which has this to say:
Sociologist Laurie Wermuth notes: “PTSD takes its toll on health by overreacting the body’s alarm system; stress chemicals flood the bloodstream, triggering changes in tissues and organs. Over time, too much of this stress reaction causes increased wear and tear on the body and in particular contributes to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries.” A variety of adverse physiological and psychological effects may ensue….
Members of violent and extremely abusive cults are likely to be exposed to similar events. Yet even in groups or relationships lacking in overt violence, the constant stress, anxiety, and theats inherent to a cultic environment can have a lasting and traumatic effect on devotees. Counsellors would do well to explore the possibility of PTSD when working with clients who are current or former cult members. Sometimes the client will not make the connection to their cult involvement, so the savvy therapist may have to do some sensitive an careful probing.
The carrot-and-stick manipulation central to cultic social systems carries with it a toll of chronic anxiety and, at times, utter fear. It may be difficult for some mental health (and other) professionals to understand that the threat of spiritual annihilation or group condemnations can be so fierce a psychological danger as to engender physical pain.
The authors go on to quote the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder fact sheet:
- Many people have long-lasting problems following exposure to trauma. Up to eight percent of individuals will have PTSD at some time in their lives.
Many adults who have grown up in the WCG have told me that they have recurring nightmares of suffering the Great Tribulation and being thrown into The Lake of Fire, decades after their childhood. There has been a tremendous impact of those children on their blankets hearing sermons about jack-booted Germans taking over their country, being sold into slavery, tortured, tormented, visions of mushroom shaped nuclear blasts, having their own homes, schools, parents and friends being ripped away, living in poverty and want, living out of garbage cans, sleeping under bridges in a bombed out smoking community being subject to radioactive fallout. It is not beyond imagination that those at 3, 4 and 5 years old, subjected to such virtual horrors are especially vulnerable and the horrors never go away. Meanwhile, those responsible for this trauma have not the slightest idea of the insidious nature of the collateral damage they do — for a life time in the lives of their victims.
I was a participant in the situation where a member was stalking another member in United, all the while the regional pastor was promoting the situation as a revenge against the victim who had offended his sensibilities. I heard the terror and trauma of someone who could never know when the stalker would show up in the parking lot to spy — being vulnerable to this outright outrageous behavior — all the while the Council of Elders would not give one shred of relief, nor obey Scripture to put the man out of the fellowship. I even went to Robert Dick, then, not only the Chairman of the UCG, but also the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, who told me to go to the regional pastor who was responsible for the situation in a “that’s not my department” stance, the ultimate in frustration (yes, go to the fox guarding the chicken house, and don’t bother me!). A restraining order in civil court was the only relief.
I am reminded of Richard Pinelli, at one time, a young man who was a director in the Canadian work giving a sermon in Spokane: He told the story of a farmer on the prairie who had a grass fire headed for his property and called Pinelli. The fire burned his neighbors’ fields, but burned around the farmer’s property line, leaving his farm completely untouched. That year, the harvest yielded a substantial return, since the price of the product was pushed up considerably by demand on a limited supply.
At first, I was inspired by the story of God’s Intervention, but as time went on, something bothered me about that story. I realized that what Richard Pinelli did was commit an act of self-aggrandizement to establish the ministry as a priesthood between the members and God: The real message — don’t talk to God, call us ministers so we can talk to God, because we have the pull, and you don’t.
Saturday, September 9, 2001, Richard Pinelli came to Tacoma to give the sermon. The sermon was about God “tipping over the barrel”. By that he meant that God would be patient with us, but at some time, there would come a time that God would have enough with us, and “tip over our barrel”. The person being stalked and I talked and agreed that he was actually threatening us for trying to stop the stalker! That if we didn’t fall in line with the ministers and cover the whole thing up, God would tip over our barrel and punish us. It was a maddening cringe-worthy sermon.
I personally remember the next two days extremely well: Sunday, a fine technologist from IBM spent the day working with me setting up LINUX on our IBM OS/390 Mainframe. We worked past midnight, so the next morning we were a little late getting into the County-City Building. There were long lines of people. I had to go through security and have my stuff x-rayed, even though I had a security card which should let me in. We didn’t know what had happened until we got upstairs to the Computer Center: People were in the conference room and break rooms watching 9/11 on television. I thought how ironic it was for Richard Pinelli to give a sermon on God “tipping over the barrel”, having a great opportunity to actually predict something that was supposedly fulfilling prophecy, but missing it by a country mile.
These are not the only accounts of Richard Pinelli installing fear amongst the members of the CoGs. He was also responsible for covering up the elder fondling a teenager in the UCG. But not to worry, since he was also behind the split between United and the Church of God, Worldwide Association, where he is now Pastor of the CoGWA .
Sometimes the fear inducing exercises by the ministry of the Armstrongists is subtle, but more often than not, it is PTSD inducing, creating near panic and long term devastating effects — all to keep the members in line.
This blog entry began with an example of fear in the PKG Weinland CoG. Even after Weinland’s 2012 Pentecost prophecy went bust, proving he is certifiably a false prophet, followed by his conviction as a felon for evading the Federal Income Tax, his followers are still… well… following him… mostly because of fear. It may be fear of suffering or the fear of losing out. The bottom line is fear.
Juror #215 from the Weinland Felony Trial had this to say:
That’s an interesting question and I’m glad that you asked it. As a juror, we had sworn to remain impartial when presented with religious views that were different than our own, and were asked during jury selection if we felt that dealing with a minister of an “alternative religion” would affect our impartiality. So, the different beliefs expressed by Mr Weinland and the PKG members did not affect our consideration of the evidence or the charges.
On a personal level, my own beliefs are more accepting of those with different views. I feel that no one religion has a monopoly on religious truth, rather that each person must make their own choices when searching for meaning in their life, and each religion has validity in its own way. However, the “culture shock” did make me feel sad for these PKG members that instead of spending their time celebrating life, they chose to follow a path that seemed to be concentrated solely on the end of life and waiting around for the end of the world to hurry up and happen. It just didn’t seem like a happy way to live, and I don’t know why someone would choose to do that to themselves.
My favorite line from the movie “Shawshank Redemption” is (paraphrased), “You can get busy living, or get busy dying.” It just seemed like the members we saw (except for Ron and his family) were so busy preparing to die, that they had forgotten how to live . I know that the Judgement Day is important to many people, but if you spend all of your time obsessing over it, you’re missing the boat on why God put you here in the first place. It’s like walking into a concert by your favorite musician or band, and then spending the whole time looking at your watch, wondering when it’s going to be over. Relax and enjoy life a little bit!
Maybe I’m way off base, but that was just my personal impression.
It is the fear that the ACoG church members to concentrate solely on the end of life and waiting around for the end of the world to hurry up and happen, rather than spending their time celebrating life. Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias have this to say:
Complex PTSD applies to people who have been subjected to totalitarian control over a prolonged period (months to years), for example, hostages, prisoners of war, concentration camp inhabitants, victims of domestic battering or prolonged sexual exploitation and abuse, and cult members. Symptoms include persistent negative feelings of anxiety and / or sadness, chronic suicidal preoccupation, self-injury, explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate), compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate), reliving or ruminating over experiences, a sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative, a sense of defilement or stigma, a sense of complete difference from others (specialness, utter aloneness, a sense that no other person can understand, or not feeling entirely human), and preoccupation with the perpetrator *(includes preoccupation with revenge or unrealistic attribution of total power to the perpetrator). Complex PTSD is sometimes called Disorder of Extreme Stress. “As adults, these individuals often are diagnosed with depressive disorders, personality disorders, or dissociative disorders. Treatment often takes much longer than with regular PTSD, may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and structured treatment program delivered by a trauma specialist….
Through cult recruitment and indoctrination, a person’s core beliefs are dramitically changed. In some groups, fear tactics and traumatic events (sometimes called “tests”) are deliberately used and even accepted by devotees as necessary for spiritual and psychological growth. Naturally, if a person was born or raised in a group, the cult-shaped belief system and behaviors may be all she ever knew.
The authors of Take Back Your Life conclude:
Perhaps most difficult of all is coming to terms with the idea that when abuse occurs, it is the perpetrator’s fault, and not the victim’s. Yes, cult members have some responsibility for the events and decisions that were made while they were seduced and entrapped in the group or relationship, and yes, some even became perpetrators themselves. In these cases, forgiveness–of others and self–plays and important role in healing.
Presuming, of course, that the perpetrators actually want to change their diabolical methods.
Nothing in Armstrongism is particularly benign.
PTSD is just another trauma from which to recover and we wish those on the path to recovery well and wait for others to begin the journey.