A Few Words on Thought Reform
Some thoughts on early indicators that the church is trying to “prepare” its membership for April 17th to be “spiritual” or otherwise non-shocking when nothing happens, and to retain their hold on members’ minds, and more tellingly, on their “tithes”.
First of all, the criteria of “2nd Generation Thought Reform“, as per Dr. Margaret Singer:
THOUGHT REFORM SYSTEM:
Coordinated programs of coercive influence and behavior control
2nd Generation Thought Reform Systems (attacks on central elements of self):
Enlist recruit’s cooperation, offer something they want (personal growth, salvation, etc.)
Obtain psychological dominace by making the target’s continuing relations contingent upon continuing membership
Use seduction by developing bonds and encouraging targets to believe the group can provide something
Develop dependency by direct social pressure to influence a decision that the group has special power or knowledge or can solve a problem; the people in the group are made to seem interested in what is best for the target — then they “up the commitment level”
Shift the target’s social and emotional attachments to individuals who have already accepted high commitment and are conforming to the behavior
Decreasing the target’s outside relationships
Increase the CHANGES in the target’s:
personal friends/social life
THIS INCREASES THE THREAT TO THE PERSON IF THEY WANT TO LEAVE
THREATS ARE TO THE INDIVIDUAL’S:
Stability of identity
The community standards become the ONLY standards available for self-evaluation
The above is a globalized definition of thought-reform, in other words, this is how they get you in the door of the closed high-demand religious group. Any closed high-demand religious group, not just the CoG-PKG.
The thought reform to which I refer is a little more insidious, and has to do with the internal shifting of dogma and doctrine within the group itself. This has always been the case, even with Worldwide Church of God, and “1975 in Prophecy“, a tract written by Herbert Armstrong in 1956, which predicted the same apocalyptic doom-n-gloom durm und strang as Weinland is pushing now, in 2008.
An example of the thought-reform that was carried out in the Worldwide Church of God in 1975 is characterized by these comments, left on the Shadows of WCG discussion board, with regards to “1975 in Prophecy”:
“My father joined in ‘76. Neither one of us ever heard of “1975 in Prophecy” while we were in. I never heard of “1975 in Prophecy” until a year and a half ago. The thought-reform of the membership, as little as a year after the alleged “year in prophecy” came and went without incident, was absolutely complete.”
“I was born in 72 and never heard of 1975 in Prophecy till AFTER college. On the Painful Truth web site! And I had been raised hearing “the church never set dates” and wondered why that was such a fun thing for the ministers to say. I was always thinking “Big deal, so what? OK, we know we never set dates. Why is anyone even talking about it? My husband (same age as I am, within months) also never heard of it. “
“I never heard about it until I joined this forum in August ‘07. I was born in 1970 and left in 1989!”
“I was born in 76 and never heard of the 1975 thing either. My mother’s whole family had been in WCG since the 50’s, my dad joined in like 71 – but never, never did I ever hear anything about dates.”
This is the same type of thought-reform I believe the Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God, is beginning to engage in, with regards to the “prophecies” of “god’s end-time prophet”, Ronald Weinland. This is so they can retain the membership after April 17th, when nothing happens, and the ministers can continue to collect tithes and other “offerings” from the members, so they may live the lavish lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.
Note in the opening paragraph of the letter the phrase: “God has now revealed.” Coupled with the reiteration of the weekly sermons that Weinland is god’s end-time prophet and revelation by god is all-important, this is milieu control. Thus, if something changes, it is “god’s new/changed revelation” and as such must not be questioned.
You will also note that, in the body of the letter, contrary to the prior statement that the thunders will sound loudly before the seventh seal is opened (as per page 115 of the book 2008: God’s Final Witness), the letter says: “The seventh seal is opened and the seven thunders intensify.”
The church is trying to subtly shift the member’s perception away from the fact that they said “before” the seventh seal is opened, the thunders would sound (which they haven’t), to the thunders sounding in conjunction with, or in addition to, the seventh seal being opened.
Further in the body of the letter, we have, in reference to the “beginning” of the great tribulation, “It is not known how long this will take to be completed.” Weinland is on the record in radio interviews (particularly the Edge interview), and in sermons such as “45 Days to the 7th Seal” as saying there will be devastation, and implying that it will occur sometime around April. This is consistent with the timeline the church gives in the letter, to wit:
Feb. 2: The beginning of the 1335 days. Note that this is the only date the church provides.
Count backwards until you reach 1290 days (no date is given): This is the opening of the seventh seal.
Count backwards until you reach 1260 days (no date is given): This is the beginning of the great tribulation.
This is consistent with the timeline presented in the “45 Days” sermon. These are the “dates” the church is holding fast to. However, continuing on with the letter, we have the phrase: “It is not known how long this will take to be completed. It may take 6 to 12 months.“ (Emphasis mine.)
This is consistent with the church trying to plant the seed of doubt in the member’s mind, so that when April 17th comes and goes uneventfully, the church will say both that A) We never set dates and B) We never said anything was going to happen. This is what Armstrong did in 1975.
“Just like what we believed that just last week here. Oh last week? 18th. [someone laughs] Yeah. The seventh seal was opened. Some, some write in the emails and say, Oh, nothing happened! [Weinland makes mocking voice and there is laughter] You know? Well you know? Did I say anything was going to happen on the 18th? [Yes he did. On page 23 of 2008: God’s Final Witness, Ronald Weinland said “…and the world will be shocked and in horror on the day that the seventh seal is opened.”] It’s a spiritual thing. I thought I made that abundantly clear. But God made it quite clear through what he was giving…….”
Therefore, if members question how “abundantly clear” Weinland made himself, they are questioning god’s end-time prophet. This shifts the blame to the victim, in that the ambiguous message is not to blame, the receiver of the message is the one who misunderstood. This is clear and absolute milieu control.
Observers will also note, family members have indicated that church members were told they would not be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles this year (presumably because the great tribulation would be in full swing).
However, in this same sermon, Weinland made reference to The Day of Atonement, a Fall Feast that occurs right before the Feast of Tabernacles. Weinland does not say at any point in the sermon that the church will be keeping Atonement, but he does briefly explain its significance and what is involved in keeping the day (a twenty-four hour complete fast; nothing by mouth from sunset to sunset). Why is he doing this, if the Fall Feasts have been cancelled?
The implications are clear. Many are saying, “Oh well, just wait until April 17th, and Weinland will be proven wrong!” I am saying that it doesn’t matter in the minds of the members. They are already being groomed (subconsciously) not to expect anything to happen, regardless of the fact that Weinland has set firm dates in their minds (but never in print).
Do not be surprised if the Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God keeps going full-strength, even after the April 17th “1260th day” passes.
They are already planting seeds of the idea in their members’ minds that nothing is going to happen.