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Archive for May 2008

Compare and Contrast: Cornerstone Church vs. PKG

Surprisingly enough, there is actually a large British-Israel movement amongst the evangelicals that has absolutely nothing to do with Armstrongism or Sabbatarianism. I am referring here of course to John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church (yes the wacko you see on TV sandwiched in between The Late Late Show and the informercials; he’s usually hawking a piece of matzoh in a ziploc baggie or, even worse, a “green prosperity handkerchief” for which people are supposed to send in their very last penny).

Rolling Stone recently sent a journalist undercover to observe the indoctrination process for Hagee’s megachurch. Appropriately titled, the article is “Jesus Made Me Puke”. Of particular note is the hard-living, atheist journalist’s acknowledgement that he too, was worn down, at least partially, by the thought-reform techniques utilized during the “Encounter Weekend”.

All quotes are excerpted from the Rolling Stone article linked to above.

“When most Americans think of the Christian right, they think of scenes from television — great halls full of perfectly groomed people in pale suits and light-colored dresses, smiling and happy and full of the Holy Spirit, robotically singing hymns at the behest of some squeaky-clean pastor with a baritone voice and impossible hair. We don’t get to see the utterly batshit world they live in, when the cameras are turned off and their pastors are not afraid of saying the really dumb stuff, for fear of it turning up on CNN.”

—————-

“The fundamentalist formula is much less a journey from folly to wisdom than it is from weakness to strength. They don’t want a near-complete personality that needs fine-tuning — they want a human jellyfish, raw clay they can transform into a vigorous instrument of God.”

——————-

“He was taking broken people and giving them a road map to a new set of parents, a new family — your basic cultist bait-and-switch formula for cutting old emotional ties and redirecting that psychic energy toward the desired new destination.”

——————————

“One thing about this world: Once a preacher says it, it’s true. No one is going to look up anything the preacher says, cross-check his facts, raise an eyebrow at something that might sound a little off.”

——————–

“So long as you’re telling them what they want to hear, there’s no danger; your crowd will angrily dismiss any alternative explanations anyway as demonic subversion.”

———————–

“For a brief, fleeting moment I could see how under different circumstances it would be easy enough to bury your “sinful” self far under the skin of your outer Christian and to just travel through life this way. So long as you go through all the motions, no one will care who you really are underneath. And besides, so long as you are going through all the motions, never breaking the facade, who are you really? It was an incomplete thought, but it was a scary one; it was the very first time I worried that the experience of entering this world might prove to be anything more than an unusually tiring assignment.”

——————————-

“By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your religion” about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you’ve made a journey like this — once you’ve gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place, you’ve left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things.”

———————–

“All that matters is being full of the Lord and empty of demons. And since everything that is not of God is demonic, asking these people to be objective about anything else is just absurd. There is no “anything else.” All alternative points of view are nonstarters. There is this “our thing,” a sort of Cosa Nostra of the soul, and then there are the fires of Hell. And that’s all.”

Of course there are no “fires of hell” in Armstrongism. But there is “the second death”, attainable only by “rejecting the truth”. The techniques and the sound-bites may be very different, between the Cornerstone Church and the CoG-PKG; the results, however, are eerily similar: Clockwork Christians.

Individual human beings reduced to automatons, spouting all the right doctrines and paying all the right tithes…..and keeping the witlesses and their Levitical priesthood of elders very well-heeled indeed.

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Written by weinlandwatch

May 30, 2008 at 2:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The “Mystery” of God? It’s All About the Critics! RW May 24, 2008 Sermon

Forty days and forty nights and still no tribulation. Things must be getting tense in PKG-land by now. Weinland’s May 24 sermon certainly seems to indicate that the wheels are, indeed, starting to come off.

Baptisms are down! Only six last week:

It’s still the aliens out here (has Weinland been reading “When Prophecy Fails”?):

The goal-post has been moved again (end of July). Also the first trumpet is extended:

Contrast with “if by Pentecost”: Note that Weinland does slip “by the end of July” in there. Hedging his bets, even on March 22? You betcha! The rest of the “if by Pentecost” quote has now been obscured by doublethink:

Johnny and Wayne are going to be busy (which might just be Weinland’s only prophecy that comes true):

And last but not least, the critics don’t have ears:

Here are the parts of Chapter 5 that Weinland did not read, nor comment on, during the sermon:

“The first four trumpet blasts will announce four powerfully destructive events that will bring about the total collapse of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia,New Zealand, and some countries of Western Europe. The direct effect of all four events is first and foremost upon the United States.” [pp. 116, 2008: God’s Final Witness]

This first powerful event of the Seventh Seal will result in wide-spread destruction over the United States and beyond her border into Canada. The destruction in Canada will be less, but she will experience repercussions from what will happen in the U.S.; because she is a neighbor, as well as a prophetic brother.” [pp. 117 – 118, 2008: God’s Final Witness]

Mike has a more thorough breakdown (scroll down to the end of the post for a list of timestamps and other quotes) over at Don’t Drink the Flavor-Aid. Over on As Bereans Did there are excerpts here and here. (Also please read “Contributing Writer”‘s harrowing tale of being a child of the church.)

For all this hedging, hemming, hawing, mocking of critics, fear-mongering the sheeple, predicting that Armageddon will be like Independence Day (really Weinland there are so many better films you could have picked — Plan 9 From Outer Space, for instance), rereading from Chapter 5 of the book, and leaving out the important parts, here is my question:

What does any of this have to do with “the mystery of God”?

Written by weinlandwatch

May 27, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Weinland

TIMELINE ONE: CoG-PKG: Party Like It’s 1984

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Quote from Ronald Weinland’s May 24, 2008 sermon “The Mystery of God Part 6”, courtesy As Bereans Did:

About a year or two ago he was looking on the net “…and was dumbfounded at the hatred, and the depth of hatred, people had for Mr. Armstrong, and I thought; ‘he died in 1986’ and people out there were still so filled with hatred… it blew my mind, that after being dead that long, that it’s still out there, so pervasive, page after page on the internet….”

So CoG-PKG wants its members to party like it’s 1984. Let us examine a key principle from Orwell’s novel of the same name, that of doublethink. I have excerpted the relevant parts of the Wikipedia article below.

According to the novel, doublethink is:

“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them….To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

Another quotation from the novel, when Winston starts thinking about doublethink while exercising:

“His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy; to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved using doublethink.”

Doublethink is a form of trained, willful intellectual blindness to contradictions in a belief system. Doublethink differs from ordinary hypocrisy in that the “doublethinking” person deliberately had to forget the contradiction between his two opposing beliefs — and then deliberately forget that he had forgotten the contradiction. He then had to forget the forgetting of the forgetting, and so on; this intentional forgetting, once begun, continues indefinitely. In the novel’s notes, Orwell describes it as “controlled insanity”.

Read 1984 online. Buy new or used from Amazon.

Written by weinlandwatch

May 26, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Weinland

When Prophecy Failed — In 1954.

From the Pinter & Martin website:

Synopsis:

In 1954 Leon Festinger, a brilliant young experimental social psychologist in the process of inventing a new theory of human behavior – the theory of cognitive dissonance – and two of his colleagues, Henry Riecken and Stanley Schachter, infiltrated a cult who believed the end of the world was only months away. How would these people feel when their prophecy remained unfulfilled? Would they admit the error of their prediction, or would they, as Festinger predicted, readjust their reality to make sense of the new circumstances?

“Not only is When Prophecy Fails of great historical importance as the first test of a powerful theory, but it is also a surprisingly touching account of what happens to ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances.”

From the  Wikipedia entry on the book. Note the timeline of events for the evening that prophecy was to be “fulfilled”.

Sequence of Events

Festinger and his colleagues infiltrated Mrs. Keech’s group and reported the following sequence of events:

  • Prior to December 20. The group shuns publicity. Interviews are given only grudgingly. Access to Mrs. Keech’s house is only provided to those who can convince the group that they are true believers. The group evolves a belief system—provided by the automatic writing from the planet Clarion—to explain the details of the cataclysm, the reason for its occurrence, and the manner in which the group would be saved from the disaster.
  • December 20. The group expects a visitor from outer space to call upon them at midnight and to escort them to a waiting spacecraft. As instructed, the group goes to great lengths to remove all metallic items from their persons. As midnight approaches, zippers, bra straps, and other objects are discarded. The group waits.
  • 12:05 A.M., December 21. No visitor. Someone in the group notices that another clock in the room shows 11:55. The group agrees that it is not yet midnight.
  • 12:10 A.M. The second clock strikes midnight. Still no visitor. The group sits in stunned silence. The cataclysm itself is no more than seven hours away.
  • 4:00 A.M. The group has been sitting in stunned silence. A few attempts at finding explanations have failed. Mrs. Keech begins to cry.
  • 4:45 A.M. Another message by automatic writing is sent to Mrs. Keech. It states, in effect, that the God of Earth has decided to spare the planet from destruction. The cataclysm has been called off: “The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction.”
  • Afternoon, December 21. Newspapers are called; interviews are sought. In a reversal of its previous distaste for publicity, the group begins an urgent campaign to spread its message to as broad an audience as possible.

Festinger stated that five conditions must be met, if someone is to become more fervent in a belief even after its disconfirmation:

  • A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.
  • The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
  • The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
  • Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
  • The first two of these conditions specify the circumstances that will make the belief resistant to change. The third and fourth conditions together, on the other hand, point to factors that would exert powerful pressure on a believer to discard his belief. It is, of course, possible that an individual, even though deeply convinced of a belief, may discard it in the face of unequivocal disconfirmation. We must therefore, state a fifth condition specifying the circumstances under which the belief will be discarded and those under which it will be maintained with new fervor.
  • The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

“When Prophecy Fails” is being rereleased by Pinter & Martin in August. Buy the original book used from Amazon.

Written by weinlandwatch

May 26, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

And Now For Something Completely Different

 

 

 

 

 

 (Pictures courtesy NASA.)

Welcome to the real world. Where humankind is exploring another planet. Where the humpback whale population of the North Pacific has increased. Where spring flowers are in full bloom.

A question to any remaining members of the Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God:

Does this really look like the world Weinland has been predicting?

Written by weinlandwatch

May 26, 2008 at 3:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Robert J. Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform

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Dr. Robert J. Lifton’s Criteria for Thought Reform

“Any ideology — that is, any set of emotionally-charged convictions about men and his relationship to the natural or supernatural world — may be carried by its adherents in a totalistic direction. But this is most likely to occur with those ideologies which are most sweeping in their content and most ambitious or messianic in their claim, whether a religious or political organization. And where totalism exists, a religion, or a political movement becomes little more than an exclusive cult.

“Here you will find a set of criteria, eight psychological themes against which any environment may be judged. In combination, they create an atmosphere which may temporarily energize or exhilarate, but which at the same time pose the gravest of human threats.

[All emphasis is mine.]

MILIEU CONTROL

  • The most basic feature is the control of human communication within an environment
  • If the control is extremely intense, it becomes internalized control — an attempt to manage an individual’s inner communication
  • Control over all a person sees, hears, reads, writes (information control) creates conflicts in respect to individual autonomy
  • Groups express this in several ways: Group process, isolation from other people, psychological pressure, geographical distance or unavailable transportation, sometimes physical pressure
  • Often a sequence of events, such as seminars, lectures, group encounters, which become increasingly intense and increasingly isolated, making it extremely difficult– both physically and psychologically–for one to leave
  • Sets up a sense of antagonism with the outside world; it’s “us against them”
  • Closely connected to the process of individual change (of personality)

MYSTICAL MANIPULATION (Planned spontaneity)

  • Extensive personal manipulation
  • Seeks to promote specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that it appears to have arisen spontaneously from within the environment, while it actually has been orchestrated
  • Totalist leaders claim to be agents chosen by God, history, or some supernatural force, to carry out the mystical imperative
  • The “principles” (God-centered or otherwise) can be put forcibly and claimed exclusively, so that the cult and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation (or enlightenment)
  • The individual then develops the psychology of the pawn, and participates actively in the manipulation of others
  • The leader who becomes the center of the mystical manipulation (or the person in whose name it is done) can be sometimes more real than an abstract god and therefore attractive to cult members
  • Legitimizes the deception used to recruit new members and/or raise funds, and the deception used on the “outside world”

THE DEMAND FOR PURITY

  • The world becomes sharply divided into the pure and the impure, the absolutely good (the group/ideology) and the absolutely evil (everything outside the group)
  • One must continually change or conform to the group “norm”
  • Tendencies towards guilt and shame are used as emotional levers for the group’s controlling and manipulative influences
  • Once a person has experienced the totalist polarization of good/evil (black/white thinking), he has great difficulty in regaining a more balanced inner sensitivity to the complexities of human morality
  • The radical separation of pure/impure is both within the environment (the group) and the individual
  • Ties in with the process of confession — one must confess when one is not conforming

CONFESSION
[This is practiced on an individual basis in Church of God groups, through an hour or more of daily prayer.]

  • Cultic confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself
  • Sessions in which one confesses to one’s sin are accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism, generally transpiring within small groups with an active and dynamic thrust toward personal change
  • Is an act of symbolic self-surrender
  • Makes it virtually impossible to attain a reasonable balance between worth and humility
  • A person confessing to various sins of pre-cultic existence can both believe in those sins and be covering over other ideas and feelings that s/he is either unaware of or reluctant to discuss
  • Often a person will confess to lesser sins while holding on to other secrets (often criticisms/questions/doubts about the group/leaders that may cause them not to advance to a leadership position)
  • “The more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you”

SACRED SCIENCE

  • The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic doctrine or ideology, holding it as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence
  • Questioning or criticizing those basic assumptions is prohibited
  • A reverence is demanded for the ideology/doctrine, the originators of the ideology/doctrine, the present bearers of the ideology/doctrine
  • Offers considerable security to young people because it greatly simplifies the world and answers a contemporary need to combine a sacred set of dogmatic principles with a claim to a science embodying the truth about human behavior and human psychology

LOADING THE LANGUAGE

  • The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliche (thought-stoppers)
  • Repetitiously centered on all-encompassing jargon
  • “The language of non-thought”
  • Words are given new meanings — the outside world does not use the words or phrases in the same way — it becomes a “group” word or phrase

DOCTRINE OVER PERSON

  • Every issue in one’s life can be reduced to a single set of principles that have an inner coherence to the point that one can claim the experience of truth and feel it
  • The pattern of doctrine over person occurs when there is a conflict between what one feels oneself experiencing and what the doctrine or ideology says one should experience
  • If one questions the beliefs of the group or the leaders of the group, one is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to even question — it is always “turned around” on them and the questioner/criticizer is questioned rather than the questions answered directly
  • The underlying assumption is that doctrine/ideology is ultimately more valid, true and real than any aspect of actual human character or human experience and one must subject one’s experience to that “truth”
  • The experience of contradiction can be immediately associated with guilt
  • One is made to feel that doubts are reflections of one’s own evil
  • When doubt arises, conflicts become intense

[One would assume this is where the cognitive dissonance kicks in.]

DISPENSING OF EXISTENCE

  • Since the group has an absolute or totalist vision of truth, those who are not in the group are bound up in evil, are not enlightened, are not saved, and do not have the right to exist
  • “Being verses nothingness”
  • Impediments to legitimate being must be pushed away or destroyed
  • One outside the group may always receive their right of existence by joining the group
  • Fear manipulation — if one leaves this group, one leaves God or loses their transformation, for something bad will happen to them
  • The group is the “elite”, outsiders are “of the world”, “evil”, “unenlightened”, etc.

More information on Lifton here. More info on the book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” here. Purchase Lifton’s book new or used here. Read an excerpt from Lifton’s book here.

Written by weinlandwatch

May 25, 2008 at 1:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Look Ma! It’s Those Aliens Out Here!

Just caught this, courtesy of Don’t Drink the Flavor-Aid with regards to yesterday’s sermon:

“He [Weinland] made much of the Vatican astronomer Jose Funes who stated in an interview that belief in aliens is not incompatible with Catholicism as evidence that the pope is being influenced.”

(The above audio clip is approximately five minutes in length and may take a few seconds to load. Has to be heard in its entirety. Armageddon will be just like Independence Day? Ooooo-KAY then…..)

All of this BEM speculation is based on a Newsweek blog article based on a quote Funes gave to an internal RCC publication. Apparently Funes was repeating similar sentiments that had already been expressed in 2005.

Update: A source informs me that this extraterrestrial speculation actually goes quite a bit further back than 2005: As per this 1940 RCC tract, paragraphs 572 – 574, the idea was actually first aired in Roman Catholic Church circles in 1940. So much for it being “a sign of the end times” Weinland. (My source tells me: “The book is volume 2 of Radio Replies by Fathers Leslie Rumble and Charles Carty.  It has the imprimatur of Archbishop John Gregory Murray. Paragraphs 572 through 574 are pretty much in line with the statements of the Vatican astronomer.)

That just speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Of course, let’s let Weinland defend himself on the matter:

37:25 – 37:40 RW April 12 Sermon “God’s Love is Coming”: “And the one he’s [Satan] going to start influencing in a very powerful way. Starting on April the 17th when the Pope is in Washington DC because that’s when it begins. And that’s when he begins to be influenced highly.”

BZZZZZZZT! We’re sorry, you have once again scored a 0 out of 0 on the Prophecy and Witnessing Scale. Please enter another prophecy with a later date and try again. (Please note that prophecy in hindsight is automatically disqualified from the P&WS.)

Read the rest of Mike’s sermon summary here. As per “The Return of “w”, Weinland apparently is now saying the earthquakes in China and Burma are proof of the first trumpet. Contrast this with:

The first four trumpet blasts will announce four powerfully destructive events that will bring about the total collapse of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia,New Zealand, and some countries of Western Europe. The direct effect of all four events is first and foremost upon the United States.” [pp. 116, 2008: God’s Final Witness]

“This first powerful event of the Seventh Seal will result in wide-spread destruction over the United States and beyond her border into Canada. The destruction in Canada will be less, but she will experience repercussions from what will happen in the U.S.; because she is a neighbor, as well as a prophetic brother.” [pp. 117 – 118, 2008: God’s Final Witness]

Shadows of WCG has a more in-depth assessment of the quakes and their aftershocks. Also see here.

Written by weinlandwatch

May 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Weinland