Seven Days to the Seventh Seal: Possible Psychological Effects
The Great Tribulation is not going to begin on April 17th. Not in the real world. Will it happen in Weinland’s followers’ minds instead?
“Many, especially those who had been intensely involved with their religion, experience what has been called the “shattered faith syndrome” (Yao, 1987). Having lost faith in what was once a primary source of meaning and guidance, the former believer feels lost and overwhelmed. While not all groups go so far as to prohibit contact with those who leave, the former member is unlikely to be well regarded by the faithful. Estrangement from the community of believers – the focus of social life within many such groups- can compound the former member’s isolation and despair.”
Worldwide’s practice of “disfellowshipping” and/or “marking” meets the criteria of “prohibiting contact with those who leave”.
“Authoritarian groups encourage the distrust of one’s own judgment. Many former members despair in being unable to recapture the certainty that came with unquestioning acceptance of the group’s teachings. Fundamentalist doctrines emphasize human imperfection, maintaining that there is no possibility for doing good without the assistance of divine grace which alone renders an individual acceptable to God. Belief that pride in oneself is sinful is often internalized as a persistently negative self image.”
Unquestioning acceptance of Weinland’s teachings has been demonstrated, in spades, by publicly-posting followers of the CoG-PKG. Any of Weinland’s sermons will demonstrate just how authoritarian the church is, and how its members are constantly proselytized how they are “as nothing without (Armstrong’s) God”.
“Conditioned distrust of the world outside the community of believers coupled with the experience of disillusionment with teachings that once seemed infallible can present serious obstacles to joining any group or making lasting commitments.”
A potential psychological effect for Weinland’s followers, after the Great Tribulation fails to materialize on April 17th? Possibly, as they quite clearly adhere to the same distinctions practiced in the Worldwide Church of God. Namely, the very sharp divide between “the brethren” and “the world”.
“Religious conflicts should always be approached from a carefully neutral position. There is a fine line between bias against religion as inherently pathological and naivete about the potential of some religious systems for undermining a healthy sense of self. Even though the former member may claim to have rejected her or his former beliefs, it is important for the wouldbe helper to remain neutral. Emphasizing negative aspects of a once strongly held way of being in the world may trigger a defense of something with which the ex-believer is still unconsciously identified. Criticism of past beliefs may be misconstrued as criticism of the individual for having believed them. There is often a lingering sense of shame in having once accepted as truth something that now seems untenable.”
Important information, for loved ones of those currently attending/baptized in the CoG-PKG.
“The tenets of a restrictive religious group typically serve as the primary source of meaning and self definition for its members. In departing from them, the former believer loses what was probably the central organizing principle of her or his life. As with any loss, there is an associated grief process which, however, often goes unrecognized. Acknowledging the losses as well as the gains that occurred in leaving the group can go a long way towards helping him or her move through the necessary grief process. The depression the ex-member feels can be normalized as a natural and understandable response to a very real loss.”
This makes a lot of sense. I wish I had run across this information twelve years ago when I exited.
“Ex-believers often feel doubly misunderstood and isolated. Family and friends who remain in the group, even when they are not outright rejecting, are not likely to have much tolerance for the views of someone who has repudiated their beliefs. People who do not share the same background may have difficulty understand[ing] the intense and long lasting effects of having been a member of a restrictive religion. Often the connection between current life difficulties and past religious experience is not apparent even to the former member.”
Multitudes of ex-members of the Worldwide Church of God, and its associated splinters, have expressed sentiments to this effect, on the many message boards and forums that exist on the Internet for ex-Church of God members. Particularly with respect to family members.
“Along with the shattering of idealized images about the group and its leaders, the disillusioned believer also experiences the loss of something that was represented as the only hope of salvation. Self esteem based upon association with the group and its “sure truths,” is seriously impacted when one no longer belongs to the group.”
I feel very strongly that this will be the case, with members who exit Weinland’s organization, after April 17th; those who remain in, even after this disillusionment (as so many of us did after 1993), may still harbour the same feelings, only internalizing them, as they outwardly rationalize the reasons for Weinland’s “prophecies” not coming true.
“The black and white thinking expressed in such conflicting pairs of opposites as God vs. devil, group of believers vs. world, sin vs. righteousness, etc. results in repression of anything that might possibly be construed as unacceptable. Constant self monitoring and rigid self control, along with confession of every sin in prayer are regarded by fundamentalists as the only means of avoiding divine condemnation. In the literalism characteristic of fundamentalist thought, an “evil” thought or feeling is considered to be just as sinful as an evil act. Impulses and feelings of any kind may be regarded as demonic in origin.”
These problems are applicable to any individual exiting any of the Church of God groups extant today.
“Strongly held beliefs greatly complicate family dynamics when not all family members share those beliefs. Unlike former members of “cults” whose families likely opposed their group involvement, individuals who leave church based groups often leave family members behind, and may need support in coping with the anger, pain, and grief of being misunderstood and judged by family and friends.”
This is a common refrain, amongst ex-WCG members, and ex-Church of God splinter members. It might not be so common amongst Weinland’s group, with the exception of those with family members still in, or recently exited from, the United Church of God (the splinter from which Weinland drew most of his members, back when he established the CoG-PKG in 1996).
“Family interactions sometimes become dominated by the well meant attempts of the “faithful” to persuade their “lost loved one” to return to “the Truth.” Conversely, the former believer’s desire to win family and friends over to his or her condemnation of the group is often as strong as the desire of those who still belong to bring her or him back into the fold.”
This is very true, for many involved in the Worldwide Church of God or any of its splinters, at present. I feel very strongly, based on Weinland’s instructions to his members in the March 1 sermon, that members will be proselytizing in this exact manner to their loved ones using increased pressure tactics after March 18th. This is when Weinland’s followers believe “Satan will not be able to influence” the minds of the non-believers against them, particularly non-believers who are loved ones of Weinland’s followers, who may have once been members or are current members of a Church of God group.
“Psychological issues of former members of restrictive religious are unique in the degree to which they involve past religious belief and experience. It is important to remember that what may seem to be eccentric ideas and practices are likely to have been very important in shaping the former believer’s life. In addition to the usual goals of psychotherapy, former members may need assistance in exploring lingering religious conflicts, as well as support in seeking sources of meaning and guidance more congruent with current beliefs and lifestyle.”
This has proven to be very true for the Worldwide Church of God, and will likely prove very true, for members of the Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God after April 17th when the Great Tribulation fails to materialize.