Monday, November 26, 2007

Doctrine Over Person (Lifton 101)

Member's personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.  

The end ideology of the group must be maintained by any means, even at the personal expense or the personal suffering of the group members. Love for the system or ideology supersedes that of the people, places or lesser causes. This promotes hatred and intolerance of all opposing critics or ideologies (sadly, often including those within the group).

Phillip Zimbardo discusses this effect of domination and control in his book “The Lucifer Effect.” Through examples of controlled experiments and through real-life examples, Zimbardo discusses our tendency to conform to the demands of our environment and how difficult it can be to resist those tendencies and influences.

Unfortunately, Christians are not immune to the tendency. In zealous pursuit of communicating the Gospel, many leaders have made their systems of communication and the means of achieving evangelism more important than evangelism and loving Christian behavior. This plays on the human tendency of consistency and can easily present virulent distractions to the zealous Christian in their efforts to more effectively convey the Gospel. This seems especially true of large and growing Christian ministries.

~~~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.

Steven Martin's book, "The Heresy of Mind Control," also describes Doctrine Over Person. 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 "Doctrine Over Person":.
Fitting the Rigid Mold (Pg. 109)Doctrine Over Person consists of fitting everything under the leader’s dominating control into a pre-concieved mold. This involves:
  • Human experience and the interpretation of those experiences.
  • Human feelings and the interpretation of those feelings.
  • Disregarding one’s feelings or sensitivities.
  • No appreciation of someone’s talents, individuality or creativity; the only
    goal is to fit everyone and their personalities into the dominating vies and
    influence of the one in control, opposing diversity and individual differences.
  • The rigidity of the doctrinal mold resists adaptation even when adaptation may prove to be best.
  • The rewriting of history to fit the system of the doctrinal mold.

Stating it another way, the controller reinterprets the personal feelings and experiences of the group members to fit his own dominating views and influence. He disregards and remolds past events, individual differences and capabilities to fit his own preconceived mold. In essence, the controller rejects everything that does not fit into his preconceived mold or framework.

-Summary / paraphrase of Dr. Lifton on Doctrine Over Person


TulipGirl said...
It is eerie reading this. . . Thankfully the cult-like system I left behind wasn't the core part of my faith (just something I thought was "Biblical" practice and the "best" way to do things.) This is reminding me of so much. . . reminds me why I still speak up, even when my heart is breaking and it seems cult-like practices are spreading and being "mainstreamed" and I feel like it isn't worth it.
November 28, 2007 3:32 AM