Saturday, April 30, 2016

U Mad Mo Bro? A Look At Cult Mind Control Techniques.

I came across a link to this talk by mormon "apostle" Jeffrey R. Holland. As a member of the "Quorum of the Twelve" Mr. Holland is considered to be a prophetic apostle on par with the twelve apostles of Christ. Listen to what he says at around the 2:10 mark:

If you didn't catch that here it is transcribed:
"Don’t you dare bail. I am so furious with people who leave this church. I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am. What on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered, as if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint”?! Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that."
Notice the less than subtle suggestions embedded here in his talk. If you leave it is because you are a pouting child that doesn't get everything they want. If you leave it is because you are caught up in the "me first" mentality of this age. Even his "occupy that" comment tries to link people who leave mormonism with the Occupy Wall Street spoiled brats. His screed against those without firm convictions is pretty hilarious coming from an "apostle" of an aberrant religion that changes "revelations" from God like I change shirts.

One thing every cult or cult-like movement needs is a barrier to people leaving. Usually, and this is the case with mormonism, the threat is that by leaving the cult you become cut off from God spiritually and are separated from your friends and family terrestrially. In mormonism this is a multi-part threat. You are "cut off from the blessings of the temple", you are cast out of the "true church" which lands you in a worse afterlife than Adolph Hitler. Worst of all for many people, you are torn from friends and family that stay in mormonism. Another part of the control mechanism is to reject any possibility that people are leaving for legitimate reasons. It is always that they have been offended by someone or have some dark, hidden sin in their life or that they are just faithless. You can never allow any hint that someone left because they discovered that mormonism is a false cult.

I wanted to share this because it is typical of cult mind control techniques. For believers we need to see and recognize the signs of a cult. When you witness to a member of a cult the conversation is very different and often more difficult but as someone who has escaped a controlling cult like the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", I have a burden to help those still trapped and bewitched by false prophets like Jeffrey Holland, a man who profanes the name of Christ every day and heaps judgement on his head by leading others astray.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Irony Of Income Inequality Rhetoric

If you pay any attention to the political scene, one theme comes up over and over again from the political left, namely the specter of the "income inequality" boogeyman. Never mind that there has always been and will always be income inequality and also never mind worrying over whether or not income inequality is actually bad or if the government should "do something" about it. This is the cause that is central to both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns and will be repeated over and over again in the general election regardless of who gets the nomination. It is the entire sum of the Democrat economic agenda, "curing" income inequality (and of course letting deviants use women's bathrooms because nothing matters more than the whims of a tiny percentage of mentally ill people). What makes this entire argument so dumb is not that it is a meaningless platitude but that it actually harms the poor and traps them in the cycle of poverty.

The alleged method of solving income inequality is for the government to take money away from those who have too much money, to be determined by a government panel, and give it to someone else who doesn't have enough money. Now it doesn't really matter how hard a person worked or how long they saved to become rich. Nor does it matter if the poor person has done nothing to change their circumstances. Whether you earned and deserve the wealth you have is irrelevant, all that matters is that person has too much money and that person has too little. The promise is to take all that money controlled by a tiny minority and spread it around. Except that is not what is really going to happen. Here is why...

So we are going to take all of this wealth out of the control of a tiny percentage of private citizens and turn it over to a tiny percentage of government bureaucrats. The end result is the same, a tiny fraction of the population controls most of the wealth. This is supposed to be better because of course because while rich people are evil and eat puppies, government bureaucrats are all pure as the driven snow and there isn't a hint of corruption to be found in the boundaries of the District of Columbia. What hasn't changed is the reality that a small percent of the population controls most of the wealth, just the people who control and the means by which they obtained it.

Let me clue you in to a little secret. All of this talk about income inequality has nothing to do with leveling the playing field or other such nonsense. It is all about concentrating even more money and therefore power into the hands of the self-anointed cultural elite, oddly enough the very same people who are clamoring the loudest about income inequality. Here is how it works. The government takes $100 from an evil rich person. The government keeps $22 of that money to pay bureaucrats to sullenly push paper around and be rude to taxpayers. The government gives $75 of that money back to the rich person in the form of some sort of complex tax haven or other scheme that the lobbyists have arranged. That leaves $3 to go to the "poor" in the form of "free" health care, food stamps, welfare payments and Obama phones. The poor stay poor. The rich stay rich. The government gets bigger. Everyone wins except the poor people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of all this whole charade. 

I know that few people bother to think about this issue. All they hear is "That is unfair! I will make it more fairererer!!!" I still feel the need to rant about it. 2016 is going to be equal parts ugly and fascinating so expect the rants to keep coming.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Importance Of Precision

We live in a day of imprecision, an age of ambiguity and sloppiness. From the way we dress to how we communicate, everything we do is marked by a lack of precision and even worse an utter lack of concern. A large percentage of our population is utterly unable to express even a simple thought coherently and many people don't know the difference and don't care about simple things like their, there and they're. Conversations are littered with "like" and "um" because many people don't know what they want to say and even if they do they don't know how to say it. Like so many other ills of our general culture the church suffers from this same lack of precision. The difference is that while lack of precision and indifference to accuracy might make for a frustrating experience ordering a meal at a restaurant, it can mean the difference between a true expression of the Gospel or a incorrect and damning expression of the Gospel.

I have been watching some of the presentations from the recent Together For The Gospel conference and I can't say I am all that excited by the couple I have been watching. It seems a little forced even though the topic is such am important one, a topic (the necessity for and basis of the Protestant Reformation) that is central to so much of what T4G and other groups focus on. I was able to watch one speaker via live-stream, John Piper, and his was the best talk so far. He also said something, sort of an aside that I don't think was part of his prepared comments but when he said it early in the talk I got perked up pretty quickly and I have been waiting for the videos to come out so I can share it. Here is the video:

"The Bondage of the Will, the Sovereignty of Grace, and the Glory of God" — John Piper (T4G 2016) from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Watch from about the five minute mark to around the 5:30 mark. Really you should watch the whole thing but for purposes of this post watch those 30 seconds because what Piper says is a clarion call that the whole church needs to understand and to heed. I want to highlight a couple of things he says, parsing them down for emphasis.

Every word counts.

Oh yes. This is an age of the disposable. Nothing has value. We toss words out without a thought and with no concern for how they are received. Many of us don't care much for what we say because we assume (rightly) that no one is paying much attention because they are focused on their phone.

My policy has always been simple: Say what you mean and mean what you say. The words we use and how we use them matter and again this is true nowhere more so than in the church. Some might say "Just love Jesus and love people and it will all work out!" but we see in the New Testament, especially in Galatians, how quickly people seeking another Gospel and attempt to add to or take away from the saving truth of Jesus Christ.

I love precision.

Me too! People who are alleged theologians or elders who are sloppy in their study are a huge liability for the church thanks to our subcontracting system of ministry and teaching. I am not talking about locking yourself away in your study to wrangle out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but Christians should know what they believe and those who teach doubly so and those called to lead as elders triply so. The source material of the Bible is absolutely the most critical information and revelation one will ever encounter, if you are sloppy in handling it what does that say about your concern for the oracles of God?

The abandonment of precision and definition is the gateway to liberalism.

Yes and again I say YES. It seems to me that a lot of people read through the Bible and just sort of skim it until they find something that they like, or worse yet thanks to our myriad methods of directly searching for what you want they just skip reading the Bible as a whole and use it to pick and choose. Errors like universalism, rejecting substituionary atonement, women elders which often leads to embracing homosexual behavior, adopting a modified evolutionary worldview, etc.

Let me reiterate and restate what Piper said. Imprecision in handling the Word of God is the gateway, and not only the gateway but I would say the expressway, to liberalism which to put it simply and succinctly has meant grievous error in every manifestation past and present. 

It takes a long time to be precise, it is hard work.

Exactly, and if there is anything people hate today it is taking their time and working hard. Our world is a world of emojis and memes and twitter and abbreviations because spelling stuff out is so,,, you know? We like our religion in convenient, easy to hear and promptly ignore, sound-bytes. No one wants to read hard books or study the deep questions of the faith or wrestle with the tough parts of Scripture, especially when the Scriptures seem inconvenient to daily life. There is an old saying, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

We are talking about the eternal destiny of the souls of billions of people. We have been given a comprehensive and sufficient Word from God. At the very least we should take the time to know what we are talking about and drink deeply from the well God has provided.

Give Piper's talk a listen. As usual he doesn't fail to deliver. Especially ponder what he says about precision in handling the Word of God, a task for every Christian, because it is the very voice of God preserved for us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Something You Don't See Everyday

The Amish around here typically have a building they call the shed, sort of a utility building (although some are huge and rather fancy) that serves for storage and once a year or so as the place that family holds church. One Amish family near us built a new shed and therefore had an extra so they were having it moved to their kid's place. I filmed this video from another Amish place on the route, it was a pretty weird sight to see...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Singing Men (Or Not)

Albert Mohler, posting from Together for the Gospel, makes a point I have long believed.

A lot of people assume men won't sing in church but I think the reality is that men will sing "songs of conviction and gospel" rather than sappy, effeminate songs. The same is true with sermons and other forms of teaching. Give a man some lame morality lesson wrapped up in religious jargon and little wonder he falls asleep. Give a born-again brother the unadulterated meat of the Gospel and if he is a believer he will be riveted. The problem is not a lack of interest, the problem is a lack of content, of conviction, of the power of the Gospel, the magnificence of the Kingdom and the glory of Jesus Christ our King and Savior. Give us that and watch us grow!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Book Review: Imbeciles

When you hear about a government using forced sterilization to eliminate "undesirable" traits in the population, your first thought would probably be that I am talking about Nazi Germany. You would be correct in that the Nazis were well know for their grotesque fascination with racial purity achieved by whatever means necessary, whether that means forced sterilizations or the outright murder of entire populations of people who had the misfortune of being born with a disability or being of a hated racial group like the Jews. What you might not realize is that when Adolf Hitler was still a young lad, eugenics was a hot topic in the land of the free and the home of the brave, even to the point of having the Supreme Court of these United States give an 8-1 decision that blessed the practice of forcibly sterilizing those deemed to be polluting the American population pool with their undesirable traits. In fact later on during the Nazi war trials after World War II, the Nazis pointed to America as leading the charge in eugenics well before the Nazis took power.

That Supreme Court decision and the simple young woman caught up in this legal precedent form the basis for a new book from Adam Cohen, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Adam Cohen details the parallel lives of Ms. Buck, her family, the legal and scientific authorities who created the foundation of forced sterilization and the nation herself during this time. As Cohen relates, Ms. Buck was considered the perfect individual to be used as a test case for Virginia's forced sterilization law. In a case reliant upon pretty sketchy science, dubious "evidence" and an utter lack of reasonable representation for Ms. Buck, the champions of eugenics found their ideal case to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, where it received a warm welcome and most especially from liberal legal icon Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. While Cohen seems disheartened by a so-called "progressive" championing forced sterilization, Justice Holmes is in good company with other progressives like Planned Parenthood founder and heroine to Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Margaret Sanger seeing many people as less than human impediments to progress, especially blacks.

Imbeciles is a deeply researched work. I can only imagine how many boxes and boxes of irrelevant documentation he had to dig through to get the information he sought. He also is a pretty decent story teller, avoiding for the most part the tendency of historical works to drift into a dry recitation of names, dates and events. Most of all, Imbeciles is a chilling reminder of the power of an unrestrained government to wreak havoc on the lives of people it is supposed to be serving. The American courts have long been responsible for dehumanizing decisions that have decreed certain types of people (blacks, the "feebleminded", unborn children) as subhuman and worthy of being controlled, repressed or outright killed. We divest ourselves of our liberty at our peril as has been demonstrated over and over again. I do wish Cohen had dealt more with the topic of forced sterilizations in America post Buck v. Bell and that he had expanded on the chilling rise of a new form of eugenics in "designer babies" and the abortion of less than desirable babies. Buck v Bell is still the law of the land even if individual states no longer practice forced sterilizations.

Cohen stumbles in a couple of places. First he tends to do a lot of hypothesizing about what someone was thinking or feeling to help fill in his case. Certainly one can infer from other evidence what is likely to be thought in a particular case by a certain person, but that doesn't pass the sniff test for a painstakingly researched historical work. I also found that he tended to repeat himself, almost verbatim, in places making me wonder if I had not already read a page before. Finally he spends far too much time trying to prove that Ms. Buck was not "feebleminded". To me, her alleged lower intelligence or mental retardation is irrelevant to whether the United States government and the various state governments should be in the business of forcing people to be sterilized. In one telling passage Cohen recounts that Ms. Buck was sent home from a family she was staying with for using one of their dishes as a chamber pot. That seems to be a behavior that a person of normal intelligence wouldn't do. Overall though this is a worthwhile read and one that should inform your decision making well beyond questions of eugenics.