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Shock and the Awesome God: the Religious Right's Love Bombs

AlterNet commentary:

There is a false, but effective, fiction that one has to be born again to be a Christian. The Christian right refuses to acknowledge the worth of anyone's religious experience unless -- in the words of the tired and opaque cliché -- one has accepted "Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior."

The meltdown, often skillfully manipulated by preachers and teams of evangelists, is one of the most pernicious tools of the movement. Through conversion one surrenders to a higher authority. And the higher authority, rather than God, is the preacher who steps in to take over your life. Being born again, and the process it entails, is more often about submission and the surrender of moral responsibility than genuine belief.

I am a born-again Christian. I went to the altar at an old-fashioned tent meeting in a small, southern-Indiana fundamentalist church. If you've never been in a situation where your emotions have been folded, spindled and mutilated by someone highly-trained in the art of religious brainwashing, and then completely surrounded by a mob of zealots speaking in tongues and laying hands on you -- with the express purpose of not letting you move until you are properly "saved" -- then you can't really know the potency of such an experience.

I'm still a Christian, and very glad to be one, but I've outgrown my fundamentalist days. There were simply too many questions I raised that they couldn't properly answer with their rigid, simplistic beliefs.

However, this article (and the comments posted there, so be sure to click the link) makes it clear that these folks don't just fling the gospel around randomly and hope it sticks somewhere. Instead, they seek out those who are vulnerable to their tactics.

Back in the 70s, the brother of my best friend was serving on a submarine in the Navy. While he was on a tour of duty, his fiancee decided that she'd rather not wait for him to return to continue their relationship. But there was nothing he could do about it. Serving on a sub is stressful enough -- I can't even imagine being shut in a can for months on end with hardly a glimpse of sunlight or a breath of fresh air -- but having the emotional gut-kick of ending a relationship to which he was spiritually-committed was the last straw.

When his enlistment ended, he did not know what to do with himself. But while he was wandering aimlessly in a town far from his home, he encountered a group of cultists who are like vultures in their search for fresh meat for the group. I won't name the group they were with, but if the name V. P. Wierwille rings any bells, that was the one.

These people took my friend in and provided for all of his needs, both physical and emotional. In fact, they deliberately set out to make him dependent on them for everything. And it worked like a charm. To make a long story short, he became an apostle of this cult, and after he'd given them all his money and two years of his life, they literally dropped him off at a restaurant at the side of the road and told him that he "lacked the faith" to continue to give back to the group as they had given to him. His brother had to drive hundreds of miles to rescue him, but he was a shattered man for years afterward. Fortunately, now he's recovered.

I will not smear all religions with the tar of groups such as this, but it's a sad thing when the fastest-growing branch of Christianity are groups such as D. James Kennedy's and the other radical religionists who seem to see the Great Commission as an excuse to exploit the vulnerable. All you have to do is watch any of the televangelists in action to see their coin-operated beliefs in action.

All you have to do is put a little "seed faith" into their ministry -- and by that, they mean money, of course -- and God will give you health, wealth and happiness. If you are not healthy, wealthy and happy, that can't be God's fault, so it must be your's. It's a very pernicious belief system, but one that reaps great rewards in terms of both cash flow and butts in the seats.

Of course most people outgrow this shallow religion eventually. Some just treat it like some spiritual fad and move along without any damage. But others, like my friend, are deeply scarred. I just wish that many more mature believers, such as myself, cared as much about the needy to bring them into churches which didn't see these folks as a mere human resource.

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Comments (14)


It's silliness like this that won't take you far.

You: "Religious Right = Cult !!!!"


Paul Hamilton:

Horse: A cult is as a cult does. When a religious group promises something unbiblical such as the one that I mentioned in my commentary or most televangelists do, they are a cult. Another good way to separate them from mainstream faiths is their obsession with the leader of the group. Folks like Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker or V. P. Weirwille all draw people by the power of their own persona rather than with the message of the gospel. The terrible thing about that is when these people die or are disgraced, the misplaced faith of their followers is shattered. Pope John Paul II was a powerful figure in the Catholic church, but the church did not splinter with his passing as is so often the case with churches whose existence is centered on the leader.


Anyone who thinks the born-agains have any sort of monopoly in this hasn't been paying attention.

Try attending some serious "peace rallies," for example. The level of brainwashing there can be pretty startling - especially if you don't notice it happening.

The "harangue someone who asks questions" bit, the "sic a couple of cute members of the opposite sex on the doubters to distract them tactic, and, of course, the "keep them hungry and drugged up" thing... all of these are tried and true strategies to sway someone from mild agreement or disbelief into fairly mindless and aggressive cult-like behavior.

When you get a crowd of people following along in such a matter, you can literally say "black is white" and they'll not only agree with you, but suggest that people who think there's a difference is evil.

That's how you get someone who will, in all honesty, tell you "we aren't protesting against our troops," five minutes after the same speaker was speaking (with much venom) about all of the atrocities our soldiers were already committing in Iraq, indcluding imagined rapes and near-genocides (this was, literally, six hours after the ground war started).

When called on this, the speaker just said, "that's not important right now - we're here to speak for peace!"

Hell, these sorts of tactics are used to get people to sell crap through multilevel marketing groups. What gave you the weird idea it was just a god-botherer's issue?


Oh, yeah... and if you think Christian-based religious brainwashing is only a born-again thing, look up some recent history of cults - like Jim Jones and his little Kool-Aid drinker's society.

Or good ol' Charlie Manson.

Same tactics, taken to extremes.

Paul Hamilton:

>>What gave you the weird idea it was just a god-botherer's issue?

Because in my own experience, politics might get some people excited but it takes religion to really make someone irrational. Have you ever seen an abortion clinic bomber who didn't use religion as justification for his deed? Or how about the "religious" groups that cheer people like him on? Google "Paul Hill" and you'll see all sorts of examples.

>>look up some recent history of cults - like Jim Jones and his little Kool-Aid drinker's society.

Jim Jones told his followers that he was God's son on earth. David Koresh convinced his followers that he had the only true message from God and convinced them that burning themselves alive was what God wanted for them. Manson made some references to Jesus, but his is probably the best example of a pure personality cult -- but they didn't commit mass murder either.

And of course one glimpse at the headlines shows that Christianity isn't the only religion which is abused by fanatics...

Paul Hamilton:

Duh! Substitute "mass suicide" for "mass murder" in the reply above about Manson's minions.


Please, you should stop throwing up obvious fake strawmen for yourself to knock down.

You are implying the religious right is a cult. But what you are actually doing is throwing up examples that are not the religious right. You then proceed to knock them down as if you were taking down the religious right.

What you really accomplish is giving a logical person the giggles and make yourself look irrational.

Why do you do this? Are you next going to declare we should take unconstitutional action against the religous right because they are a "cult"? Just because you may not like them doesn't make them a cult. You're going to have to show actual evidence where Baptists, practicing Catholics or Mormons are cultists.


Because in my own experience, politics might get some people excited but it takes religion to really make someone irrational.

Then you really, really don't have much experience.

Or you've created a very narrow definition of "religion."

You also kind of glazed over that whole "left wing religious nuts" versus "right wing religious nuts" point I made.

There are people out there who have moved Gaia-worship into at least the same level of nuttiness as the Christian crazies, as well as hundreds of other crazy-making organizations that don't even mention any sort of actual religion, but use the brainstorming techniques that any good cult does.

As I mentioned, the "Peace Movement' uses exactly the same tactics, and only incidentally use references to Christianity (to help soften up religious people). You can also see people doing the same sort of indoctrination in online sites (follow some threads at Democratic Underground some time with a skeptical eye - lots of positive reinforcement for the folks who go along, massive dumping on people who step out of line, and lots of newspeak and reality denial for when cracks start to show in one of the Official Positions).

And yes, the Global Warming zealots are often caught doing the same damned thing.

Paul Hamilton:

Please cite me any example of peace groups or environmentalists who have killed themselves en masse for the cause.


There's a difference between fundamentalists and ("fundamentalist"- your use of the word) pentacostals.

Fundamentalists know that on Pentacost Day, those speaking in tongues could be UNDERSTOOD. The apostles spoke in their own dialect which was supernaturally translated into the foreigners' ear. THAT was the miracle.

Pentacostals aren't really fundamentalists because they ignore the Biblical meaning of "tongues" (ie. languages) and babble a bunch of nonsense. What kind of miracle is baby talk?

Perversly, they make this ignorance of the Bible a keystone of their fellowship. Attractive to people who like the IDEA of God, but are too lazy or ignorant to read what God wants them to know.

It is written: God is not the author of confusion.

Paul Hamilton:

Exactly right, Bryan. Tongues is a gift which is badly abused these days. Are you familiar with Rod Parsley, the televangelist? It's almost comical how he has people come up front and yell in tongues as if that's supposed to either impress or enlighten anyone.


"Please cite me any example of peace groups or environmentalists who have killed themselves en masse for the cause."

They don't kill themselves, that might take zeal or true belief. However, they are ok with harming, killing, or stealing from others in pursut of their beliefs.

....and to save time with the obvious counter reply....

spiking trees, siezing property, commiting arson, blowing up labs, invading people's homes to assault them, breaking windows, throwing blood, slashing tires, assaulting counter protestors, ...

You just don't see many normals from the right doing those type of things in the pursuit of their beliefs. (outside of the anti-abortion extremists, and they comfort themselves with they are "saving" lives too, just like the peacists)


BryanD, on the day of Pentecost, the disciplines spoke in a languages that was understood by various ethic groups. But, your statement that this is 'speaking in tongues' completely ignores Pauls explanation in I Corinthians 14. Here speaking in tongues is described as speaking in a language that is unknown to man, only known in the spirit. There is a difference between the two types of speaking in tongues.


Please cite me any example of peace groups or environmentalists who have killed themselves en masse for the cause.

They haven't had to yet. You see, the suicide/death cults usually only get that way because they got backed into a corner somehow - either the authorities get involved and threaten to shut the place down, or the founder of the cult loses what's left of his sanity and causes the final disaster.

Of course, the environmental folks who are pushing for everyone to go "back to nature" are indicentally pushing for the near-future death of over 90% of the human race (we can't sustain our population levels with hunter-gatherer technology or even simple farming). When you mention that, they just wave their hands and say, "that's not important."

Not important?

The point is that most cults don't mind when large groups of other people will die or be injured by the results of their actions, as long as the philosophy behind their actions is followed. "Peace Now" doesn't mean "we want people to stop dying," it means "we want people to stop dying on our terms - we don't care about what else happens, even if it's worse."

Look, for example, at the Chomskyites. When confronted by their idol's attitude about what happened in Cambodia, they either don't care about the Cambodians at all, or pretend the Killing Fields didn't happen. This is a death toll more than 30 times the total deaths in Iraq, 2003-2007, over the same number of years...

Hell, the entire 1960/70s peace movement was nearly a death cult in actual results - they wanted, effectively, to shut down the US military, especially our nuclear deterrent - versus an enemy that clearly showed how willing it was to wipe the US completely off the map with nuclear fire. Post-Cold War interviews with Soviet generals revealed just how close we came to getting erased from history because of that.


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