Group’s Mind Control Failed to Work
The Minnesota Daily, April 25, 1991.
By Chris Formanek
Don’t be fooled by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Church of Christ (MSPCC)! I was a member until only four months ago, and I know it is not some innocuous little church recruiting on campus (“Ex-church members picket outside service,” April 17).
The evangelist discredits accusations against MSPCC, saying “It’s only a few disgruntled ex-members with an ax to grind.” I remember hearing that line a lot. The sad fact is that there’s a long list of almost 150 ex-MSPCC members who think it’s a cult! Nationwide, scores of leaders of the highest echelon (evangelists, elders and zone leaders) have left this group. Members who haven’t left claim they’re not under mind-control — but they don’t know what it is or how to determine whether they are. Let me describe the level of control exercised by the church first during recruitment and then during membership.
The church’s own literature documents how members are to control the flow of information to visitors. They are told not to tell visitors about the dating rules, mandatory meeting attendance or members’ mandatory submission to the opinions of a human “discipler” — until the “right time,” of course.
Recruiters invite you to non-denominational Bible studies. The deception is that it is not “just some Christians getting together to study the Bible,” since all visitors are viewed as unsaved until proven otherwise by their twisted, works-based theology. If there are no visitors, there is no Bible talk. As this church’s own literature will testify, the purpose of their Bible studies is to convince you to submit to their authority, get re-baptized — and start recruiting or burn in hell.
After someone is recruited, the control intensifies. Part of the control in any destructive cult involves discrediting anybody who leaves, so that the image of flawless doctrine can be maintained. As a result, members feel that no one leaves their group for a legitimate reason. One leader recently said, “We believe those who have left here have left the church, have left the Lord.” A top leader demonstrated the church’s elitist view by saying, “This is the movement of God! There’s no other group, no other church that can touch this.”
In order to retain members, the system uses information control requiring members not to read literature critical of their doctrine or practices. The group conveniently defines criticalness, independence, doubt, fear, anxiety, hesitation and worry as sins, allowing leaders to use double-bind techniques. For example, when I successfully refuted some of their doctrine they accused me of the sin of criticalness and shamed me saying I had a hard heart. I was faced with the apparent dilemma of ignoring the truth and staying in the one true church or staying with truth and fearing that I would leave God (the MSPCC). I chose truth and they forbade members ever to talk to me again!
All members eventually become clones, as was thoroughly studied by the sociologist F. Yeakley. This study was commissioned by leaders of the movement, and was intended to discredit all cult accusations. The results, however, subsequently stifled by leaders, were that “members are controlled in such a way that their personalities are changed to conform to the group norm … (turning them into) frustrated, inferior copies of other people.”
Once you get married (within the church only, of course) and put in the leadership, the level of control is even deeper. I have a photocopy of an “Accountability Sheet” used among upper leadership of a sister church and submitted weekly. It reads in part: “Did you every day this week: … Go to bed with your spouse? Yes? No? Missed!”
Recently, six non-involved parents, along with some ex-members, quietly entered the balcony during an MSPCC service. They were concerned about involved loved ones. This “church” called the police and threw them out! Which legitimate (Christian?) organization does not allow passive observation of services?
I talk to parents concerned about their loved ones recruited by this church. I hear horror stories of teenagers losing 20 pounds, looking like zombies, running on little sleep and high-sugar diets.
Invariably, parents say, “I look in their eyes and there is no life. All I see now is the shell of what my son/daughter used to be.” And Satan sits back laughing as he plays this group like a fiddle.
Chris Formanek is a pre-biology undergraduate in CLA.