Monday, November 26, 2007

Sacred Science (Lifton 101)

The group's doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.

Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or all humanity, is likewise above criticism. Many such leaders have patterns of avoiding accountability and demonstrating aggression towards critics. Leaders and their religious followers often have the appearance of accountability to a presbytery and an internal church government, but often the systems have been designed to avoid all accountability. Presbyters are often friends, associates or subordinates of the group leader(s).

The article “Authoritarianism in the Church” by Steve Martin that appears on the Battered Sheep website explains some of these aspects of the “sacred science.” (This article also appears in the Founders Journal 15 (Winter 1994). Martin states this specifically:

First, the sin of authoritarianism exists when pastors and other office holders speak with binding authority where God Himself has not spoken in His written Word.

Second, the sin of authoritarianism exists when pastors and other office holders usurp the Lordship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the lives of God's people by deciding the will of God for them where Scripture is silent.
The excellent article examines the development of authoritarianism and offers resources to help Christians through the process of repentance and healing. Through the sins of idolatry, prayerlessness, unbelief, lack of love for the sheep and pride, shepherds fall into the trap of authoritarian patterns of behavior. Congregations also promote the development of the sin of authoritarianism through their own tendency towards idol-worship, unbelief and the fear of man (both of fellow congregants and the church leadership.

Adapted from and expanded upon from the original source, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brain Washing in China by Robert Jay Lifton. In chapter 22 entitled "Ideological Totalism," Lifton details the major defining techniques that hallmark surreptitious manipulation, formulated from his experience working with prisoners who survived a Chinese brainwashing program while serving in the Korean War.

APRIL 2008 Update!..

Steven Martin's book, "The Heresy of Mind Control," also describes the Sacred Science. Please visit his site and consider purchasing the e-book that is made available without cost but asks readers to pay an amount conmensurate with a 160 page work. (Steven is brother of Dr. Paul Martin of the Wellspring Center, the only inpatient recovery facility for those who have survived spiritual abuse, cults and manipulative relationships.) Here is his excellent summary of Lifton's Thought Reform Dynamic of the "Sacred Science":

Thou Shalt Not Question (Pg 69)

The totalist environment maintains an aura of sacredness around its teachings and practices. Therefore, any doubts or questions about the system are prohibited. The prohibitions may be either clearly evident or subtly implied. The totalists look upon anyone who criticizes or disagrees with what’s happening or proposes alternative ideas as evil, irreverent, and even unscientific. Thus, they exalt the ideas of a human leader to the level of God. If an individual goes along with the teachings and practices, being caught up in the aura of sacredness can give a sense of comfort and security. This leads to a posture and unquestioning faith.
But such a position of unquestioning faith is not easy to sustain, especially if the member’s experiences and reality come more and more in conflict with what he is being told to believe. On the other hand, the “sacred science” can gain such a strong hold over the person mentally that if he begins to feel attracted to contradictory ideas or alternative ideas, he may feel guilt and fear. Consequently, his quest for truth and reality is hindered.
(This actually contradicts the character of the genuinely scientific approach.)

-Summary & paraphrase of Dr. Lifton on The “Sacred Science”