Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sol Visits a Kingdom Hall

I have been having a long time on-and-off email discussion with my cousin from California.  He was raised a Jehovah's Witness.

During my "dark night of the soul" last April, Cousin Bill (name changed) showed up again, interestingly enough.  It reminded me of how missionaries talk about how they are out in the jungles of Papua New Guinea (or wherever) and after months or years of work with the natives, the Witnesses show up and start muddying the waters with the new believers.  Think about the similarities between "did God really say you would die if you ate the fruit?" and "does the Bible really teach Jesus is God?"

So there I was, going through a heavy spiritual attack, going through counseling, deliverance ministry, and healing prayer (some of the most spiritually amazing things I have personally witnessed) and here shows up Cousin Bill again.

So I began to engage with him as I was also reaffirming my own faith.  I'll admit, I had become a bit passive in my faith practice.  I had gotten too interested in politics, work, and life and when a spiritual attack revealed itself, I had my guard down.  But this attack, with the help of friends both near and far, sharpened my faith, challenged me to reinvestigate the evidence, and discover God anew.  This then led to my acceptance of a mission to move almost a thousand miles and join a new church plant project and that is what I have been working toward and preparing for for the last seven months.

But through all of it, Bill was still there.  Pretty quickly, I got the feeling (we'll call it the Holy Spirit) that nothing I was saying was having any impact and that I shouldn't be doing it.  Sure enough, the longer it went, the more testy it got.  I tried to have an open mind, tried to approach the material with fresh eyes as I had not seen it in a few years.  But the same tired misinterpretations and mind control techniques pop up over and over again.

So as a last ditch effort, I tried something new.  Rather than focusing on the theology, I focused on experience and the 'mind control cult' angle.  What was revealed to me at this point was just how deep the rabbit hole goes.  I was positively amazed when after he listened to a sermon I sent him, it was as if he didn't even hear half of it, the half which recounted a couple miraculous events that happened at my church.  Just so you understand the context, JWs don't believe miracles happen today, they're cessationists in that regard.  So when I report miracles, either that have happened to me or people I know (I personally know all the pastors at my current church) it just doesn't compute.  Either I'm wrong and deluded or the thought is stopped altogether.  This revealed to me just how deep the mind control goes.

Now I can only explain how it works in my head but I assume it works similarly in most people's without this subconscious thought control training.  When I come across a divergent piece of information, I can reject it outright as not comporting with my mental framework, but that doesn't mean it doesn't stick.  I might think to myself "how can I address this objection to such and such a framework that I hold?"  Or actually more often than you might think, I think "you know, that's a really good point, I wonder if it holds up to scrutiny" and so I will spend some time looking up the topic and/or thinking about it to see if it changes my life or if I end up rejecting it.  These are the traits of a critical mind.

With Bill however, (the odd Witness who considers himself a student of everything and flirts with the rules about what information he can investigate) when he encountered things like miracles, it was like instant amnesia.  I could ask point blank about what he would skip and it's like it never happened.  It just didn't register.

One of these traits is tied to a well known logical fallacy.  The ad hominem fallacy is one in which one may direct an attack at a person rather than the argument, but I think a more apt description here is sort of a reverse argument from authority.  In an argument from authority, the source is considered true just because of who the source is.  Here I say the source is considered always to be false, just because of what the source used to be.  As part of the Milieu Control aspect of mind control, a subject is directed to ignore anything that comes from an ex-member of the group.  With JWs, this bears out in the term "apostate."  JWs will not read anything they know to be apostate material, written by an apostate, a former JW.  They will not listen to them speak.  Apostates are to be shunned.  Ex-members are to be shunned even if they are your own family member.

So when I talk to Bill and I know about all the workings of the organization, everything I say is automatically a lie or a deception by those wicked apostates who are only out there to make Jehovah's Organization look bad.  Bill quite literally cannot address a single one of the arguments because they come from apostates.  He won't (can't) look at a website written by an apostate.  He refuses to admit any information I got from apostates is true, no matter the obviousness of it.  It's from apostates, therefore it is not worth addressing.  It's like a phobia.  In fact, it's very much like a phobia.

As the owner of a critical mind on the other hand, I can tell you it works quite differently.  If anything, I consider material from apostates far more important than stuff from your garden variety atheist.  The atheist doesn't have much experience in what he's talking about.  The apostate has been on the inside, they know how it works, and they probably know how to hit harder because they know the soft spots.  These people must be taken seriously because they can do the most damage.  If it weren't for the mind control, JWs would address these like I do because they really are doing the most damage to their organization and it is precisely because they are being ignored that this damage is happening.  Rather than engage and oppose the opponent, they ignore, which as anybody knows, most often results in defeat.  These days, the numbers show that JWs are having their butts handed to them and I'd say it's mostly because the apostates have been recruited by God to do the job.  The sea change in the culture is helping too.

So if I've learned one thing throughout this experience, it's that it's not about doctrine.  It's not about theology.  It's not about beliefs.  It's not even about the Bible.  It's about mind control.  Every other thing is built around a system of control.  Naturally, to Bill, this is a totally bogus assertion.  Of course there is no mind control.  We have no person we're following.  There's no fear or oppression at our meetings.  Do you really think if it were that easy to spot it would still be working after all these years?  Do you think they're going to tell you what they're doing?  Do you think they're going to teach you to spot similar things in other organizations?  Of course not.  They're going to give you a bogus description of what a cult is and refute it.  That's called a Strawman Fallacy.

So rather than engage with Bill on theological issues, I decided I'd engage on only one, the one he's totally unprepared for.  Now you might ask "why would he go for that?"  Good point.  And if he were a garden variety Witness, you'd be right.  But he's not.  Remember, he's one of those intellectual types and he has an urgent burning need for me to hear his point of view.  I mean it's amazing the drive of this need.  After I broke off our continuing conversations, he started pestering me on Facebook, sniping any post or status he could worm around to addressing one of his doctrines.  So after doing my best to quash it and failing, I finally said that what I'd really like to talk about is how the Watchtower is (or isn't) a mind control cult.

Now here's where the great thing happened, he made me a deal.  He claims he'll talk about it if I go to a meeting so I can see that all this mind control stuff isn't actually going on.  The thing is, I've already seen videos of meetings.  I know what goes on there.  But in a sense, he has a point.  I haven't been to a JW meeting (though I've been to a Mormon church service, a hyper charismatic church service, and thousands of Seventh-Day Adventist church services).  And if you follow me on Twitter (@wiredforstereo) you know I like #newthings.  So I really couldn't turn it down, even if a deal wasn't involved.  I can't say the timing is good, but I think it's important to do this because then I can address the real issue, the mind control.

So what I'm asking here is for suggestions, possible questions to ask, things to look for, thoughts or insights.  I'd like to live blog it like I could at my church but I get the feeling that tapping away on a laptop during the meeting would be fiercely looked down upon so I don't want to do that. It's much easier to get away with that sort of thing when there's a thousand people in the room with you and there's a couple other people in the room taking notes on a computer too, but a Kingdom Hall is not like that at all.  First there are a lot fewer people and they're paying close attention to what's going on.  They've got third grade level pre-set questions to answer.  And any of you who have gone through third grade and also looked at the Watchtower materials know what I'm talking about.  Now why is a group of adults paying such close attention and answering such obvious closed-ended questions?  Need I say it, mind control.

I hope to be able to bring you some more information on this here in the future.  As I've mentioned to Bill, there are so many of these that the material has been well developed and it isn't even from apostates.  Many of them aren't even religious, there are business cults too.  But they all have the same family of controls and methods.

Pray for me if that's the sort of thing you're called to.  I want to do all this with gentleness and respect and I'm not always the best at it.  And finally I think I may have found the chink in the armor.

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