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View Diary: My Heartbreaking Denver GOTV Story (220 comments)

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  •  Your stance is misinformed. (10+ / 0-)

    Groups like the 'church' in this story tend to focus on strong, smart people. They make better targets for conversion because once they're converted, they stand strong in their beliefs. They can't comprehend that they were the target of an aggressive, planned program of coercion designed to turn them into an submissive, unquestioning member. That's because the process was done slowly, step by step by people they trusted. In my experience, nobody in a cult gets questioned about being in a cult and says, "Yeah, you're right. They totally got me!"

    With groups like this, the strategy is to befriend the mark. The #1 thing stressed to group recruiters is that the recruit MUST like them. Otherwise, the program they're running doesn't work effectively.

    Next, the recruit is introduced to more members of the group at a function. This could be a church event or a gathering at a member's place. The newbies are showered with attention and made to feel comfortable.

    At that point or soon afterward, they're asked to make a commitment to learn more about the church. This commitment is almost always public, made in front of as many people as possible. It's a reciprocation request. These members opened their homes and their hearts for you. The least you could do is commit to learning more about giving back to the group!

    Then, they're isolated. They're told not to speak with non-believers about the group as they may not understand and that the recruit would only be hurting the cause. They're asked to spend more and more time studying about the group, attending small group sessions and classes. What this does is close off any critical feedback they might get. All they see and hear are group members acting a certain way and they start to model their behavior to fit the environment.

    Then, they're scared. I've heard this process called sanctification or gaining salvation through fear and trembling. The recruit has to be convinced that their pre-group life was bad/evil and that they were the cause of that evil. Usually, a small group of established members or a single discipler will ask the recruit to confess past sins. That information will be used against them to break them down. They have to be made scared of losing their salvation and convinced that complete obedience to the group is the only way to save themselves after all the damage they've done. You'll find that obedience and surrender are terms often used in hard-right evangelical circles.

    Once that happens to someone like 'Jill', they can be really damaged emotionally. It's no surprise to me that she was in tough shape.

    What abusive groups want is two things:
    1. More members as social proof.
    2. More members to tithe (donate 10% of their income to the group).

    This process hits all the classic influence markers that Robert Cialdini talked about in his book 'INFLUENCE': Liking, social proof, commitment and consistency, authority (via the pastor or group leaders), scarcity (commit now or burn in hell) and reciprocation.

    Frankly, groups like this count on people to have no time for their members. They're happy to step right in and fill the vacuum! They'd love it if you shunned them and further isolated them.

    StonyB is right. We ARE supposed to be the good guys. That means that we have to keep the lines of communication open here. We have to listen like MikeBoyScout did and be empathetic.

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