Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Term "Biblical" Becomes a Thought Stopping Cliche?

Patriarchy and the Family Integrated Church crowd often use connotation and neologism to communicate a concept without all the negative connotation, but they get their ideas across.
How do they do that? 
This is a response that I posted elsewhere online in response to a comment of the use of the term "non-normative" as a term that is understood to be "sin." Likewise, in a positive sense, the word "Biblical" is also used to connotate anything that is unquestionably good. Here is the response that I gave, basically as a demonstration of how Cialdini's "weapons of influence" can be used against us in religious or worship settings and how neologism and connotation play into this subtle form of manipulation.

Connotation and neologism are techniques of thought reform. Satan has been doing it since the Garden of Eden (”Ye shall not SURELY die…”). Call it beguiling, call it manipulation, call it spiritual abuse, call it propaganda, call it newspeak, call it patriospeak or patriobabble. What is it? Maybe it’s worse than original sin? And unsuspecting people eat it right up, especially in the age of postmodern advertising and kitsch. It’s a religious version of a shopping network, selling ideas (and grenades) by capitalizing on image.

It’s subtle. The litigious can say that they have not claimed that when they said A that they meant B, while everyone (outside of their influence of title and position) knows that A and B are the same things and are used in the same way.

The amazing thing about the process is that it causes cognitive dissonance. Because the very nature of what they say about A and B is the same and yet contradiction, the critical thinking process in your brain pauses because of the incongruences. This puts a person in a highly suggestible state. It can be dangerous if you are not very determined to stand by your doubts, because the very confusion that is created by the statements makes one easier to manipulate.

Now, put this in the context of a sermon, where you are constrained from questioning and naturally want to conform to the group. Social proof makes it tremendously hard to resist, all while trying to figure things out. It pulls your proverbial legs out from under you. Now have an authority figure call you up in front of the congregation for some reason. Say it is for an object lesson or demonstration of a point the authority is trying to make. Humans like to respond to authority, as a general rule. There you have both authority as a pressure compounded with social pressure. Ah, and the authority figure taken advantage of the pressures in that situation, he has also gained your compliance. He's got your behavior. Per Hassan, he's got a major foothold into both the thought and feeling aspects of your self through compliance with the desired behavior. But your behavioral compliance also serves to solidify the subtle shift that he's caused in both your thoughts and feelings.

And what if you really like your authority? We tend to comply when we like the person that has petitioned our compliance. What if he has done the same type of thing for us in the past? (He’s served as a participant in sermons that I’ve preached…) That’s reciprocity at work. Throw that into the mix when they are trying to sell you a contradictory idea. The pressure is tremendous.

Okay, throw “non-normative” out there for people under these circumstances, with all these pressures at work. Hear “non-normative” a couple of times, and cognitive dissonance demands attention and seeks the path of least resistance to alleviate the psychological stress that the discontinuity produces. It will do so by just accepting the term without criticism or thought about how it is used. You now understand that non-normative means sin.
These neologisms (Or as Doug Phillip reportedly states “He who defines, wins”) actually stop your critical thought. They present only one thinkable alternative then, and use emotion to blackmail their followers into accepting their alternative. This is very akin to bounded choice, when you believe you have reasonable choices, but those alternatives are presented in a way that really offers no viable choice. Every time a person hears that term, their critical thinking just stops. This is what Lifton termed “Loading the Language.” If you want to sell an ideology, you have to have a slogan and buzz terms. They are powerful weapons against the unsuspecting.


Jen said...
Wow, Cindy, now I understand why that term "non-normative" affected me in the way that it did. You have put into words so much of what I have lived. I always wondered how Doug could persuade me to believe something I knew simply couldn't be true. Great article!
November 20, 2007 7:09 AM

Cindy said...
Thanks for commenting, Jen.Sometimes this stuff hits so close to home that it's difficult for me to even articulate. By God's grace, this came together pretty well, quite unexpectedly.It's also hard to think about logically, because there is so much emotion woven into all of it. Just the idea that someone has, under conditions that we find ourselves in every Sunday at least, diverted us away from our focus is terribly threatening. Hence the opinion of the experts in the field, that not one human being is invunerable to manipulation and deception.The remedy is really quite simple: self-awareness, confidence and knowledge about manipulation techniques. (Even then, we are human and vulnerable, JUST NOT AS MUCH!)I believe that it this kind of manipulation on behalf of many religious groups and not this information about manipulation to be an example of vain deceit and worldy wisdom.
November 20, 2007 12:14 PM

molleth said...
THIS. IS. SO. TRUE.(Speaking as one who was very much frozen in the realm of critical thought).
November 20, 2007 12:52 PM

Corrie said...
Cindy,I love this post because it really hits the nail on the head. "And unsuspecting people eat it right up, especially in the age of postmodern advertising and kitsch. It’s a religious version of a shopping network, selling ideas (and grenades) by capitalizing on image."This is a great way of putting it.
November 23, 2007 7:27 PM

Cindy said...
If you liked this post, look at this new one. "Same stuff, different dress," as a friend of mine says.
"Biblical" Modifiers and Discernment
November 23, 2007 7:36 PM