13 red flags of a dominionist church.

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I’ve written about Christian dominionism before, especially as it relates to our current political situation here in America, but what exactly is it, and how can you tell if your church has gone dominionist or has dominionist tendencies?

What is dominionism?

First, we need to define dominionism.  What exactly is it anyway?  Basically, it’s a postmillennialist theology that was started by Rousas Rushdoony in the 1960s, with the publication of his tome, Institutes of Biblical Law.  It has its roots in Calvinism, and is in fact Calvinism on steroids.   It’s a form of theonomy, or theological totalitarianism, that teaches that God has mandated humans to prepare the world for Christ’s return by “christianizing” the “7 mountains” of society: government, family, media, education, religion, entertainment/arts, and business.   They seek to do this by installing only Christians (specifically, dominionist evangelicals) into the top echelons of each of these seven “mountains”  who will then work on changing them.   One of the tasks of the people mandated to transform the “government” mountain is replacing the Constitution with Old Testament biblical (Mosaic) law.   In fact, they’re busy doing this right now, which is why there are so many dominionist Christians in the Trump administration.  Dominionists (and many “normal” evangelicals also)  believe that Trump has been “anointed” by God as a “wrecking ball” to help bring about God’s kindgom on earth.   Many people have compared dominionism to ISIS and the Taliban, two extremist factions of Islam that also don’t recognize the separation of religion and government and have made laws based on the Q’uran (sharia law) the law of the land in some Middle Eastern countries.

Dominionism isn’t a denomination.  It’s an authoritarian theology that has infiltrated a variety of Christian denominations in America, mostly evangelical, fundamentalist, or pentecostal (you’re pretty safe from it if you’re in a mainline or liberal Protestant or Catholic church — for now).  Dominionism has flown under the radar for years and has gone under several different names:  New Apostolic Reformation (NAR),  Manifest Sons of God, the Latter Rain movement (an early incarnation from the 1970s), Kingdom Now,  Kingdom Theology, Joel’s Army, and other names.    It’s actually a fascist and nationalist political agenda wrapped up in Christian piety.  As a post-millennialist doctrine, it has a different eschatology from “normal” evangelicalism, which is traditionally pre-millennialist and therefore teaches that the Tribulation and Rapture will occur before Christ returns.   “Normal” evangelicals (and mainline Christians who believe in the Second Coming) adhere to the biblical teaching that we have no way to know when Christ will return, and there is no way to “prepare” for it, since God’s kingdom is not of this world.

Dominionism is heretical for many reasons but mostly because it says Jesus can’t return until the planet is “Christianized.”   For Americans, this means a installing a theocracy based on Old Testament laws.   If that sounds a lot like radical Islam to you, that’s because it is.  Their agenda is eventual world domination (dominion) and a One World Religion.  This is unbiblical.  We were never called to force certain religious beliefs on others, only to spread the Gospel.  To force a religion on society by way of its laws negates the concept of free will.  It also corrupts both the religion and the government.   This is why the Founding Fathers were clear about the separation of church and state.

The Bible also never says that only Man can change the world for Christ.  In fact, we cannot facilitate Christ’s return ourselves because we can’t even know when He is returning (Mark 13:32).

God’s kingdom, according to John 18:36, is not of this world.   But dominionists believe it very much is and to be pleasing to God, the world must be changed to Jesus’ liking.   Dominionism is also extremely authoritarian and very cult-like.    Many survivors of spiritual or religious abuse came from churches that embraced tenets of dominionism and reconstructionism.

Here’s an excellent (and scary) description of dominionism from a political research website:

Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight 

Dominionism has been working its dark magic within American evangelical churches,  and even some charismatic Catholic churches.  Now that it’s infiltrated our political system, it threatens the integrity of our Constitution and our freedom.  Many of the current GOP in high level positions, and some members of Trump’s staff are actively trying to install dominionist doctrine into our laws.   Here are 13 red flags to look for.

1.  The church uses military imagery or language.  This is a very visible and immediately obvious red flag of a dominionist church.  Such symbolism indicates a church that has no respect for the separation of church and state — and even believes it is mandated to change the law of the land to its liking.  Ads and educational materials include military imagery such as shields, swords, guns,  images of soldiers at war, sometimes combining the cross with nationalistic symbols like American flags.   They use terms like spiritual warfare, warrior for Christ, soldier for Christ, prayer warrior, POTUS Shield, Joel’s Army, etc.   God himself is portrayed not as a loving Father, but as constantly angry, full of wrath and vengeance, intolerant, and punishing for the smallest infractions.    Extreme nationalism is prominent too.  America is believed to be God’s chosen nation (the “new Israel”) mandated to convert (by force, if necessary) the world.

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2.  The church tells you how you should vote.   In America, this nearly always means voting for the “pro-life” candidate, regardless of how immoral that candidate may be in other ways.   Abortion and to a lesser extent, homosexuality, are the two pet “culture wars” issues given outsized importance by these churches.    This red flag alone though does not indicate a dominionist church, since many conservative and fundamentalist/evangelical churches frown on abortion and homosexuality.  But taken in context with other red flags, it’s still something to be on the lookout for.    Be wary of any church that tells you to vote Republican, says Trump is “God’s anointed,” or rails on about abortion and homosexuality constantly but doesn’t seem to care  very much about other moral issues such as greed, pride, pedophilia, poverty, racism, human rights abuses, adultery, dishonesty, or cruelty.

3.  The church encourages you to leave your non-believing loved ones.   Dominionist churches operate very much like cults because in fact they are cults.  Cults such as Scientology very often coerce their adherents into disconnecting with non-believing friends or family members, who are demonized.  Enemies of Scientology are called “Suppressive Persons” or SPs for short (here’s more about my own short foray into Scientology, in case anyone is interested).    In dominionist churches, anyone who isn’t a believer — even other kinds of Christians — are said to be doing Satan’s work.   In fact, some dominionists believe that non-dominionists are naturally evil because they come from Cain’s bloodline (they believe that the “right kind” of Christians are from Abel’s bloodline) so they are predestined for Hell no matter what (I told you this was Calvinism on steroids!)

So if your church leader tells you a relationship you have is sinful or accuses your friend or family member of being of the devil because they believe differently or have a lifestyle the church disapproves of, and they tell you you must cut off that person to avoid God’s wrath,  run away as fast as you can.  Dangerous people and organizations both attempt to isolate their prey from the people they love in order to control them.   It’s a form of divide and conquer.

4.  The church says we can and should seek signs and wonders.  Many evangelical churches emphasize “signs and wonders” (spontaneous healing, “glory clouds,” speaking in tongues, deliverance, exorcism, laying on hands, etc.) as a physical manifestation of the holy spirit.  Pentecostal and charismatic evangelical worship services focus on attempting to bring about these supernatural phenomena and as a result, it’s hard to not get drawn in by all the intense and uncontrolled emotion.  Dominionism goes a step further, saying humans are mandated by God to “manifest” signs and wonders, since God is in each of us.   This is very similar to New Age teaching.  In fact, many dominionist churches, such as the Bethel megachurch in California, are a strange hybrid of Christian fundamentalism and New age religion (Bethel is also known for an odd and disturbing practice known as “grave sucking.” ).    Dreams are also given great importance, and even quasi-occult practices such as astral projection are practiced: there are dominionist preachers and authors who claim they have traveled to heaven (and hell).   Signs and wonders (miracles) may be real for all I know, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to be conjuring them for their own sake or as “proof” God exists.   I think it could even be dangerous (not all supernatural occurrences come from God), so if you belong to a church that says you must take part in such occult activities or that something’s wrong if you can’t speak in tongues, conjure a “glory cloud,” or heal people spontaneously, find another church.

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Attendees at Bethel Church catching manifested gold dust from a “glory cloud.”

 

5.  The church says certain people are “anointed,” or chosen by God — and says you must obey those people.   In this regard, dominionism has been compared to the Roman Catholic Church, which believes in intercessors between us and God, such as popes, priests and bishops.   In dominionist churches, certain people are “anointed” (often self-proclaimed) as prophets or apostles, and they have dominion over everyone else.    To disobey or resist such an “anointed” person is considered a sin.   Since these churches consider Trump to be “anointed by God” (regardless of his continued immorality and lack of repentance for his sins),  to disagree with Trump means you disagree with God himself and have a “jezebel spirit.”

If your heart tells you something is wrong, I think it would be immoral not to disobey.  We were given a conscience which is a gift of God, and helps us manifest the holy spirit in the world (the same way our minds do — it is godly to use our critical thinking skills!)  While good works may or may not be necessary for salvation, they certainly are a “good fruit” proving we are using the conscience and thinking ability we were given and acting in a Christlike manner (even if we are not Christians).  Who can argue with that? It sure wasn’t Satan who gave us brains and a conscience!

If you know your leader is doing something immoral,  I think it’s the godly thing to call it out or at least refuse to take part in it.   What if your pastor asks you to perform a sexual act on them or cheat on your spouse?  Is to refuse to do so immoral? I certainly hope not!  I think there are always circumstances in which disobedience is not only the correct thing to do, it’s the only moral thing to do.

6.  The church puts great importance on blind obedience.   This ties closely with #5.   Dominionist churches put an inordinate amount of emphasis on unquestioning submission to authority, often quoting Romans 13, which says that every man in a position of power was put there by God, and therefore we are not to question God’s will.   Using this logic, even Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini were placed in power by God.   You could also ask a dominionist why Barack Obama was so vilified by the religious right, since according to their doctrine, he must have been put there by God as well.   Not only is blind obedience valued over critical thinking (which is a sin), to insist on “rights,” including civil rights, is considered to be satanic.

Here’s a thought experiment.  Dominionists might want to ask themselves if undergoing an abortion in China is the godly thing to do, since Chinese law mandates a couple must not have more than one child — and therefore to refuse an abortion is to disobey the law.    Likewise, would the American Revolution have ever happened — or any revolution in all of history ever happened — had disobedience or resistance to authority not come into play?

On a side note, I’ll add that dominionist child rearing methods are extremely authoritarian and oppressive, even cruel.   The goal of such draconian and harsh parenting is to “break the child’s will,” as you would “break” a horse — but really what happens is the child grows up to be a broken person unable to think for themselves, afraid to experience genuine emotion — and all too often becomes an abuser themselves.

7. The church preaches the “prosperity gospel.”  While not all prosperity gospel churches are dominionist, all dominionist churches preach the prosperity gospel.   Dominionism is really a sort of hyper-Calvinism, which states that God blesses those who please him with financial and material rewards (“name it and claim it”).   So if you are poor or struggling,  then you deserve your poverty.   You’re displeasing to God in some way, or your faith isn’t strong enough and God is trying to “awaken” you to the error of your ways.   It would therefore be wrong to offer such a person help because that’s interfering with God’s will.  The prosperity gospel also puts a great deal of emphasis on tithing, which I describe in #8.

8.  The church puts great importance on tithing and “donations.”   Even if you are poor and can’t feed your family, you are told you must tithe a large portion of your income to the church.  Failing to tithe the right amount is considered sinful.   This is another red flag of a cult, because cults always find ways to extract large amounts of money from you, often promising you nebulous things such as greater prosperity, happiness or peace of mind in return.    Failing to attain those goals means you have failed — or are displeasing to God.   The church is like a gambling casino: the house always wins.   It is always right, you are always wrong.  If you belong to a church whose leader is extremely wealthy and flaunts that wealth, and the poor are blamed for their own financial condition,  run.

9.  Women are treated as second class citizens.  Women are held in very low regard in dominionist churches, though not all churches that order women to be “helpmeets” and submit to the authority of their husbands, fathers, and other male relatives are necessarily dominionist.  They could just be ultraconservative.   But again, this is something you will see in dominionist churches.   Of course, abortion is forbidden in most conservative churches, but if birth control is also frowned on (outside the Catholic Church), and women are told their only value is to have as many children as God gives them, or if having many babies is referred to as “building an army for Christ,”  that should be a howling red flag.   The Quiverfull movement, which the Duggar family is a part of, is a fairly recent manifestation of dominionist theology at work.    The Taliban in Islam has very similar views of women and their proper roles in society.  In such a misogynistic environment, abuse is rampant.

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Scene from the Hulu TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

10.   Abuse is concealed, denied, or excused.   Women and children are extremely vulnerable to abuse because of their second class status.   Since the man is regarded to be biblically mandated to have headship over his wife and children — and because questioning authority is frowned upon and even condemned as sinful — reporting abuse or defending yourself or your children against it can be dangerous.   Many women who tell their preachers about the abuse are shamed and coldly ordered to go back home and try to be better wives, or to “make the best of it.”  Sometimes they are even accused of bringing it on themselves, and told they can stop the abuse by being more pleasing or obedient to their husbands.    Because a woman may be saddled with many children, or have been cut off from her family and friends (see #3), she may have nowhere to turn to get any help or relief, which takes us to #11.

11. Disdain for psychiatry, psychology and the mental health profession.   This attitude toward the mental health professions is very similar to that of Scientology, which also takes a very dark view of them.   In many dominionist churches, the only acceptable kind of therapy is that given by a Christian (dominionist) practitioner, who is rarely trained in psychology and counseling, and will often give advice that is not based on the client’s best interests but rather on obeying the religious doctrine.  For example, they might tell a gay person their sexuality is an abomination to God, and they need to undergo “conversion” therapy, or they might tell a wife she must obey her husband and try to “make the best of things” even if she and her children are in danger.  A secular therapist would encourage the gay person to accept themselves as they are, and urge the woman to leave her abusive husband and connect with people who can help her.

12.  The church demonizes the vulnerable.   I’ve already discussed the way dominionist doctrine demonizes the poor, blaming them for their lack of prosperity.  But it also demonizes the disabled, the sick, and other vulnerable groups of people.  Because dominionist doctrine holds that God blesses his elect with perfect health and wealth, a godly person would never become poor, sick or disabled.  Misfortune is only visited on those who don’t believe or who are morally offensive to God.   To suffer misfortune then, means you are doing something wrong.  The fault is always your own.  This is an extremely narcissistic, even sociopathic, worldview — and nothing at all like Christ, who loved the “least of these” the most.    Dominionists apparently have never read the Sermon on the Mount.

13.  The people are just…weird.   When people join cults, if they stay any length of time, eventually the indoctrination and mind control tactics begin to take a toll on their personalities and even their appearance.   Many people have noticed, for example, the “Scientology stare” so common in Scientology adherents like Tom Cruise.  This is a creepy blank stare, often combined with a fake smile that fails to reach the eyes.   I’ve never spent time in a dominionist church, but my fascination with it has led me to watch Youtube videos of dominionist preachers and public speakers, and almost all of them have that weird, robotic, predatory, almost psychopathic stare.  Watch videos of Paula White (Trump’s “spiritual advisor”) if you want to see a real world example of what I mean.

If you’re still not sure whether the church you attend has dominionist leanings, there’s an easy way to tell if it’s a good church or a bad one:  ask yourself if it bears good or rotten fruit (Matthew 7:17-18).   If the church is doing good works and helping others (without coercing them to convert),  its leaders seem humble and kind, and the congregants seem happy and contented without repressing their real desires and emotions, then it’s probably a healthy church environment.  If the leader seems distant (or “above” his congregation), the congregants seem fakely perky and happy (or miserable and afraid), and the overall feel of the church is one of fear, negativity, and anger,  it may not be a dominionist church, but it definitely could be a toxic one.

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The deconversion of a Trump troll.

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You may remember a few weeks ago I asked readers to let me know if they knew of anyone who had finally turned on Trump.   I wanted to write a blog post describing the journey of such a person.

I got no responses to my question, and personally, I don’t know anyone who supported Trump who has changed their mind.   I gave up finding such a person.

But they do exist!   Granted, they’re rare as snow in Mississippi, but they are out there.  Yesterday I came upon an article written for Forward (an online magazine focusing on issues related to Judaism and Jews) by a New Yorker named David Weissman.

He colorfully describes his days as a hardcore Trump supporter and Internet troll.  Everything you might expect, he did it or said it.  He was all-in on bullying liberals and  Democrats (and RINOs — “Republicans in Name Only”).   He mainlined on Fox News.   He went to Trump rallies and owned a MAGA hat.   He willingly soaked in Trump’s hateful rhetoric and dismissed anyone who was offended by it as “snowflakes.”

It took one woman to change his views.    One day the comic actress Sarah Silverman responded to one of his inflammatory comments on Twitter.  He describes the way she engaged him in conversation and debate without putting down his beliefs or attacking him.  She remained patient and doggedly kept replying to his tweets in a civil and engaging way, explaining why she felt the way she did about things like healthcare, immigration, racism, and many other topics — and why she believed Trump was wrong for America and the world.

I have also tried to engage Trump supporters with the truth, but eventually I give up, because most Trumpists I meet online waste my time with straw man arguments, what-aboutism, straight-up gaslighting, and even personal attacks.   If they realize they’re losing the argument, they always fall back on their old standby, “it’s fake news.”  Or, “well, Hillary would have been worse.”  I began to block them  because it was just easier than the frustrating and seemingly futile experience of trying to get them to think outside their comfort zone or handle the resulting cognitive dissonance.  Patience is not one of my greatest virtues.   Maybe if it were, I might be able to eventually get through to a few of them.  Maybe.

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Mr. Weissman seems like a man who might have been receptive to a different viewpoint anyway.   One of the things that worries and saddens me is that many Trump supporters seem to show signs of sociopathy themselves — or are attracted to a “strongman” type of leader who tells them exactly what to think because they don’t want to or don’t know how to think for themselves.   Trumpism has been compared to a cult, and it really is one.   Its followers respond to Trump as they do to a cult leader, and like Jim Jones’ followers, they willingly, even eagerly, drink his poison Koolaid even though it might eventually harm or even kill them (Trump is doing nothing for the average working class white person and is fact is doing a lot of damage to his own supporters).

As with all cults, it’s almost impossible for someone on the outside to deprogram a believer; it really is a form of mind control.    Trump supporters are literally in thrall to their golden calf.  Reality and facts get trampled under the hooves.

Maybe Mr. Weissman was less brainwashed than most other Trump supporters, or had just enough insight or self-awareness for reason and facts to begin to sink in.   Maybe it’s because Ms. Silverman, a fellow Jew, was perceived as sympathetic.   But it doesn’t matter why Weissman could be redeemed from Trumpism, while so many others seem impermeable to the truth and facts.  What matters is that it’s possible.

It didn’t happen overnight.  His deconversion happened over a period of several weeks or months (he doesn’t give an exact timeframe of how long it took), mostly by continuing his online conversation with Ms. Silverman.   He decided to read the links to articles she gave him instead of attacking them as “fake news.”  By reading and educating himself about the facts, he began to question what he’d believed (or wanted to believe) about Trump.   He became willing to deal with the cognitive dissonance all the new information was causing him.  (Cognitive dissonance is extremely uncomfortable for most people, who will do almost anything to avoid experiencing it).  Weissman describes how welcoming the “liberals” were, and the way they did not judge him.   Some of his Trumpist buddies began to bully him and call him a traitor. They were incensed that he and Ms. Silverman — a liberal — appeared to be friends.  Weissman began to see his fellow Trump supporters in a new light –  as ignorant people embracing a narcissistic bully (or even being bullies themselves) and willfully shutting out the truth.

Here is his story (which also gives tips on how to engage with Trump supporters):

I Used to Be a Trump Troll 

The Golden Rule in different religions.

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Almost all world religions preach some form of the Golden Rule.   We should all strive to be good to each other and treat others as we want to be treated ourselves, and most religions recognize that.  We need to stop hating each other over our differences, and instead come together over our similarities.  To insist that wanting to find common ground with people of other faiths is something evil or diabolical is a huge lie that many of us are told.

Only a very few religions do not believe in or practice the Golden Rule.  Satanism generally doesn’t, but Anton LaVey’s version of Satanism (which is really just libertarianism dressed up with some “black magic” and its own “bible” — LaVey Satanists are actually atheists) does ask its followers to at least not hurt others or destroy the environment while you’re busy being a selfish SOB.  Most Pagan religions, including Wicca, follow some form of the Golden Rule too.  Many atheists also practice the Golden Rule as a matter of personal choice.  I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that a person can’t have morals or a conscience unless they believe in God or some higher intelligence.  Some of the most moral, caring, and compassionate people I can think of are atheists and agnostics.

There have been many violent and hateful religions as long as mankind has been on earth, but today the two most obvious examples that come to my mind are the twisted extremist perversions of Islam and Christianity known respectively as radical Islam and Christian Dominionism, both which seem to regard the Golden Rule as sinful or wrong and prefer to use the rhetoric of fear, terror, war and battle to achieve domination.  I have heard there’s an extremist branch of Hinduism that is like this too.  There may be others.  There are certainly many cults as well with nefarious goals and anti-social doctrine.

The sick cult of Trumpism.

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I must have a stomach made of iron, because last night I actually was able to watch the Trump Rally in Pensacola, FL without vomiting.   I have never seen one of these things before in its entirety, and it was eye opening and sickening.   I’m not going to bother posting the video of it here.  If you really want to watch it, it’s on Youtube.

Trump holds his hate-rallies to garner necessary narcissistic supply and the adulation and worship he craves, but this one had a secondary purpose — to drum up support for Bible thumping pedophile and sexual abuser Roy Moore.  I believe Moore is every bit as much of a narcissistic sociopath as Trump, and birds of a feather do tend to stick together.  Between Steve Bannon, Roy Moore, and Trump himself, these morally bankrupt despots are ready to take over the GOP and remake America into their hateful, racist, homophobic, sexist, and nationalistic image and call it “good.”

Trump’s speech, as always, was full of generalizations, baldfaced lies, self-congratulatory nonsense, empty slogans, demonizations of the liberal press, and smearing of people he dislikes or that threaten him, all while puffing out his chest and clapping for himself.  As usual, he said nothing the least bit inspiring, wise, compassionate, or intelligent.  His audience soaked it all in.

I have never seen another president demonize the opposing political party the way he does.    He called the Democrats “evil, bad people” who are actively trying to obstruct what he is doing (like, maybe they are trying to save America from becoming Nazi Germany 2.0 or Mussolini’s Italy?). He even accused liberals of trying to set up an authoritarian regime that would suppress free speech and freedom of religion (yes, really).     This is the way you talk about ISIS or maybe North Korea, not your fellow Americans.   It’s the kind of rhetoric banana republic dictatorships use to divide and conquer, while disguising their corruption and moral bankruptcy by making themselves blameless.   It’s a tactic utterly alien to any working democracy.

It’s not much of a stretch to go from “they are evil, bad people” to “they aren’t human,” and “they should be killed.”   Despotic leaders throughout history have justified genocide and torture by dehumanizing their opposition.   I fully expect that if something isn’t done to stop him soon, liberal journalists, protesters, and others who disagree with Trump and his cult will be jailed.  Our First Amendment is hanging in the balance.

Trump’s speech was also a great example of how malignant narcissists use projection and blame-shifting to manipulate.   To anyone familiar with NPD, it’s easy to see that whenever Trump smears others, he is really talking about himself.   He attributes those negative qualities to others that actually belong to him.   It’s almost funny once you realize what he’s doing, and once you see it, you can’t unsee it.   He’s really smearing himself, although most likely he’s not consciously aware he is.

waltermartin

Even more disturbing than Trump’s hate-filled, despotic speech, was the spectacle of the supporters attending.   They really remind me of a cult, and in fact they are one.    Cult leaders can convince their followers that the most heinous or amoral acts are somehow A-OK if they benefit the cult’s or leader’s goals.   Charles Manson was great at this sort of manipulation.    L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, was also well-versed in it.   The Children of God “Christian” cult was a less famous example.  Cult leaders throughout history have been able to brainwash and control their followers.  They can convince their flock to believe anything, no matter how insane or wrong, using mind control and manipulation techniques.

Cult leaders can also convince their followers to commit evil or amoral acts, often against what the cult leader believes is their opposition.  L. Ron Hubbard did this by calling people critical of Scientology “Suppressive Persons (SPs) or “low tone”  and followers who were in contact with them “Potential Trouble Sources.”  Hubbard required his followers to do the same, which included  cutting ties with concerned family members who dared to criticize Scientology or their family member’s involvement in it, or shun other Scientologists who were “ethics” problems.    Trump (and his sycophants) do the same thing by calling liberals, Democrats, and leftist and even centrist media “evil” and “enemies of America,” when in reality it’s Trump and his lackeys and enablers who are the ones destroying America.

The rally started off fairly quiet, but like obsessed sports fans, once Trump got going and the attendants got sucked into his unhinged, hysterical monologue,  the audience got louder and their demeanor more fevered.  They cheered him on and chanted “MAGA! MAGA! MAGA!,” “DRAIN THE SWAMP!” and “Lock them up!”  They waved American flags and MAGA signs.  They seemed like more like fans at a rock concert than a political rally.

At the same time I was watching the live-stream video, there was a box to the side for comments.   Almost all those watching were Trump (and Roy Moore) supporters.  The comments were interesting and very reminiscent of those of young adolescents with a crush on some teen idol, obsessed sports fans, or cult members.   There was no depth or evidence of critical thinking or knowledge of politics in these comments — most were either repetitions of what Trump just said, strings of emoji hearts or clapping hands, or mindless phrases like “MAGA!” usually punctuated with American flags and hearts.  There were also comments like, “ROCK STAR!,”  “Trump rocks!,” “DESTROY THE LIBTARDS!,” and “DRAIN THE SWAMP!”   Strangest of all (but completely expected) were religiously tinged comments like “God’s Avenger!,” “KING CYRUS!” (many Evangelicals believe Trump is King Cyrus from the Bible) , “God’s right hand man!” and “THANK YOU JESUS FOR TRUMP!”   I even saw one that said “Trump = Emperor God King!” These comments were often punctuated with strings of emoji crosses or praying hands.  Most disgusting of all were comments that celebrated Trump’s spiritual or even physical beauty:   “His hair is made of Spun Gold!” and “Trump’s heart is so pure!” and “Trump always tells the truth!”

Yuck.

After watching the rally, I’m more convinced than ever Trumpism is not a political movement, but a cult.

 

Truth or Dare?

Elizabeth Mika writes probing, fascinating, and, well, creepy posts about Trump’s malignant narcissism and the ways our narcissism as a nation inevitably led to an election of someone like him.   She also writes about the psychology of his most ardent followers, who seem eerily reminiscent of cult members.   This is a phenomenon she accurately dubs “Trumpism.”    When under the thrall of a cult leader, many people seem to forget their own morals and not have minds of their own.   They will continue to deny truth and support their leader even when there is irrefutable proof of the leader’s immorality and even criminality held up to their noses.

In fact, I believe Trumpism is a cult, and Trump qualifies as a cult leader.

cult_definition In Ms. Mika’s most recent post, she writes about this disturbing trend and the true intentions of the criminal mob who hijacked the White House in November.

Truth or Dare?

Would you want to know ahead of time if your future president suffered from a dangerous, incurable character defect — not mental illness — that was typical for all tyrants in the history of human race?

What if that defect, with its predictable manifestations and consequences, was described to you early on, so you could perhaps help prevent the tyrant’s rise to power? Or, if too late for that, at least understood what to expect and pursue appropriate action as his reign took hold?

Would you want to know?

This knowledge is easily available, though for some reason we prefer not to find it, and that’s as our government, country, and the entire world come under threat from just such a characterologically defective leader and his circle of similarly impaired enablers.

Yet we don’t want to see it, and we loathe talking about it, even though, as Lee Siegal reminds us, avoiding questions about Trump’s mental unhealth is “a betrayal of the public trust, a denial of human nature, and an insult to posterity.”*

In a September 2016 post, The Red Herring of the Candidates’ (Physical) Health, I wrote:

If / when Trump is elected and proceeds to dismantle our democracy (yes, we know this is a very real possibility, thanks to correct diagnosis, as chaos and destruction are assured by his character defect; but he also said so, should there be any doubts), will we perhaps revisit and rethink the Goldwater Rule? If we have that chance, of course, and courage and a desire to do so.

The dismantling of our democracy is in full swing now and proceeds according to schedule.

Make no mistake: What we are witnessing is not some incompetent bumbling of political novices, but purposeful and vengeful destruction of our government, country, and possibly — if the pathocratic Trump/Bannon cabal is allowed to remain in power unopposed— the world.

*****

Read the rest of this post here

I highly recommend Ms. Mika’s blog on Medium.  This is where hers and other’s articles on Trump, Trumpism, and the normalization of sociopathy/narcissism in general can be found.

The Religious Right cares about control, not morality.

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Christian Right leaders (in both politics and the churches) — many who embrace the horrific theology of Dominionism/Reconstructionism — pretend to care an awful lot about morality.    They rant on endlessly about abortion and homosexuality.  They want to roll back laws that protect women’s health and reproductive rights.   Today, Trump passed a bill that bans transgender people from military service.

But do they really care about morality?

I don’t think so.  Their hero (who is supposedly going to make America a “Christian nation”) is a philanderer, adulterer, tax cheater, con-man, possible traitor, narcissist, bully, and only worships himself and money.   He holds himself above the law and doesn’t even think he needs God’s forgiveness.

Trump talks an awful lot about God — such as his tweet today that said (the caps are his own), “IN AMERICA WE DON’T WORSHIP GOVERNMENT. WE WORSHIP GOD.”   Yet I doubt the man has ever darkened a church door, said a heartfelt prayer, or ever really read the Bible.   Trump doesn’t give a hoot about God, only about power and control.   He’s a man without a conscience or a moral compass, but he  sure does seem awfully concerned with everyone else’s morals.

To the powerful leaders of the Christian Right (including many church leaders), morality means only one thing, or maybe two things (and they are closely related):  gender roles and sexual behavior.

They care nothing about being kind to others, helping those in need, welcoming strangers, turning the other cheek, loving their enemies, telling the truth, calling out wrongdoing, being ethical in business dealings, paying their fair share, and loving their neighbors as themselves.   In fact, when you hear them talk, they hardly ever mention the Gospels and Jesus’ message of love.

Instead, the cherry pick the most punitive passages from the Old Testament (and ignore those like the one illustrating this post) to justify their greed, hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism, denial of facts, and lust for power and control.   Certain passages have come in handy for instilling fear and terror which are used to dominate.   They talk about hell an awful lot, and seem pretty sure they’re not going there but YOU are if you disagree with them.     Dominionist church leaders even tell their followers that they will burn in hell if they didn’t vote for Trump or don’t support his policies.   It’s a toxic stew of religious abuse, fear, and hate — and unfortunately, it works.     It operates in the same manner as a cult — because it is a cult.

They use the talking points of abortion and homosexuality to instill fear (of going to hell), and control.   To a lesser extent they focus on other things that offend them — strangely, almost all are related to gender roles and the patriarchal belief that women are biblically mandated to be submissive to men (even when the man is an abuser):  women’s reproductive health (including birth control), adultery, divorce, private sexual behavior, and sex roles in the family.    Oh, and there’s a few other things they condemn:  Muslims, atheists, and liberals.

They justify their patriarchy and narrow minded views by quoting selectively from the Bible, but ignore the words of Jesus, who rarely if ever mentioned sex roles or homosexuality, never sent away a stranger, and never once said women were required to submit to men or tolerate abuse.  I don’t know for certain what Jesus’ actual views about sexual behavior were (since he never really went there), but I do know that there were things that were far more important to him, such as being kind to your neighbor, not being greedy and selfish, welcoming strangers, and caring for the needy and sick.

Jesus was gentle and kind.  He never turned his back on the “least among us.”  He was even loving toward sinners, as he was toward the adulteress who approached him.   But he only had harsh words for the powerful Pharisees, who were the equivalent of today’s legalistic right-wing Christian leaders and politicians.

America has a long history of the separation of church and state, and for good reason.   The Founding Fathers weren’t stupid.  They knew that when you try to mix the two, you wind up corrupting both.  That is what’s happening now.   There’s nothing un-Christian about keeping church and state separated.   In fact, it’s what’s kept Christianity from turning into a cult of power and hate.

Things that until very recently were considered sinful or at best, secular — greed, selfishness, seeking wealth and political power, corruption, hatred, bigotry, and taking from the poor — have now all been embraced by the Christian Right, using the heretical doctrine of dominionism to justify their actions.   Incredibly, they have Christianized the diabolical.  It makes you wonder who their real “god” really is.

They go on about the “sanctity of life” but seem to care only about fetuses and embryos.   But they are anything but pro-life.  Anyone who wants to take Medicaid away from pregnant women, make women’s health (including pregnancy) a pre-existing condition,  support the death penalty,  build more weapons, support torture, start wars, remove laws that keep the mentally ill from buying guns, gut education funding, destroy the environment,  remove laws that make our workplaces safe,  and kick millions of people off healthcare are definitely not pro-life.

I find it hard to believe far right Christian leaders even have much empathy for the unborn.  They seem incapable of empathy, so it makes absolutely  no sense that they would care so deeply about unborn babies but at the same time be so callous about the health and lives of born babies, children, women, refugees, and humanity in general.   Especially when you consider that Medicaid covers nearly half of all deliveries.  If you toss all those pregnant women off Medicaid, what will happen?  A hell of a lot more abortions, that’s what.   So how are they pro-life?  They aren’t.

The truth is, they don’t care about people, born or not.   The abortion issue (and other gender-related issues such as homosexuality) is a talking point they’ve latched onto in order to control people, especially women.    It’s also how they’ve managed to marry together religion with politics.  Far right politics has hijacked the churches and corrupted Christianity.    Their “morality” is all about control, and they will do the most immoral things imaginable to get it, as we see with this presidency.

I’m fed up with right wing politics’ bastardization and corruption of Christianity to suit their own agendas.  Over time, they have twisted Christianity into something dark and diabolical.    These heretics have held Jesus hostage for almost 40 years and it’s time to take him back.

I apologize about how harsh this may sound, but I’ve been feeling pretty strong about it lately, and sometimes the truth hurts.

Insanity is our new normal: the rise of the Christian Taliban.

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Scene from Hulu’s version of The Handmaid’s Tale

 

Something I’ve been saying a lot lately is that there is no such thing as a conspiracy theory anymore.   That’s because America has gone insane and all the crazy tin-foil hat theories we might have scoffed at ten or twenty or even just five years ago are actually happening right now.

One of them is the rise of the “Christian Taliban” a/k/a Christian Reconstructionism and Christian Dominionism.

The following excellent and well-researched article defines in great detail what this dangerous and ungodly cult believes and what it plans to do here in America — and it’s succeeding.  It’s a long article but definitely worth reading to the end.

Dominionism Rising:  A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight

The takeover of the Republican party by Christian Dominionists and Reconstructionists is very scary and very real.  They believe that certain Christians (the “elect”) are ordained by God to take “dominion” over America; this belief is based on the Genesis story where God told Adam and Eve to “take dominion” over the earth and “subdue it.”  To them, “subduing the earth” means exploiting it unsustainably (because God will clean up the mess).  They think that those who believe that subduing the earth means sustainable stewardship are showing a lack of faith in God’s ability to replenish what humans take from it (their attitude is analogous to the arrogance of teenagers who trash the house after a party and expect their parents to clean it up as opposed to responsibly cleaning up their own mess).

Their goal is complete control and a replacement of our Constitution with Old Testament Biblical law, complete with harsh capital punishments for countless offenses and sins. Women would return to being chattel and having no rights. Gay people and non-believers and many others who don’t conform to the forced regime could be stoned to death (as they did in the Old Testament) or otherwise eliminated.   The teaching of science (especially evolution) would be banned and public education would be eliminated.   Birth control would most likely be outlawed and abortion could carry a death penalty.   Higher education would be discouraged, especially for women.  Critical thinking of any kind would not be allowed.  In a fascist, totalitarian theocracy, you can control your subjects much better if they are unable to think for themselves.     

This is no exaggeration. There are a number of Dominionists/Reconstructionists high up in the Republican party right now.   Ted Cruz is one of the most famous.   So is Mike Pence.   And that’s just for starters.    Their brand of Christianity is the American version of Sharia Law. The sort of oppressive, authoritarian society described in the 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale could actually become reality here.  

sharialaw

These people have great wealth and influence and know how to infiltrate politics at every level and get politicians to do their bidding.   It’s very possible they could succeed.   They believe that Trump, though not particularly religious himself (most of these Dominionist types are well aware of his sinful lifestyle and lack of repentance) has nevertheless been appointed by God as a sort of “wrecking ball” with the intention of destroying our democratic institutions and democracy itself as we know it, to make way for the totalitarian theocracy they believe God wants installed in America before he will allow Jesus to return.  These people compare Trump’s rise to power to King Cyrus of Persia in the Old Testament.   These Puritan-like Calvinists believe that it is their moral duty to take from the poor, disabled and other vulnerable people and give to the already wealthy because they are God’s chosen people (according to their Calvinist beliefs, their wealth and power means that God favors them).   They also believe that slavery is “benevolent” — the leader of the Dominionist movement, R. J. Rushdoony, actually said that “some people are born to be slaves.”

This ugly and hateful theology is NOT real Christianity and is in fact alien to anything taught by Christ and is the polar opposite of His message of love and compassion for the “least among us” in the Sermon on the Mount.   Their dreamed of theocracy is all about control and power by a wealthy few and the subjugation, suffering, oppression, and death of the masses.   In their Orwellian way of twisting the meaning of words to their own benefit, “religious freedom” to them means not the freedom to worship as you choose, but the freedom to oppress and punish others who worship differently than you do.  

These sick, blackhearted people are religious terrorists who will destroy this country and our freedom if they are not stopped in their tracks. They are a much more real danger to us than ISIS or Muslim jihadists, who are unlikely to be any real immediate threat to us.  Yet these same homegrown terrorists are the ones instilling hatred and fear against Muslim terrorists, who operate the very same way in the name of Islam (and of course most Muslims are not like that, just as most Christians are actually good and decent people).  

Wake up, people! This could happen here. We can’t be complacent and assume it won’t just because it sounds insane. It is insane, but insanity is the new normal.  We can’t ever accept it as normal. 

Why Scientology auditing is not at all like traditional psychotherapy (Part 1)

scientology_auditing

This is an actual question an auditor asks you during the introductory (“communications”) course that is really an early indoctrination procedure.

This is my second post about Scientology.  It will be in two parts.

My first post about Scientology was about my own experience (thankfully, short lived) in the cult, but this one will focus less on my own personal experience and more on how Scientology (and the related Dianetics) “auditing” works and why it isn’t at all like (and is far inferior to) traditional psychotherapy (that is, when you have a good, empathetic therapist).

But before I get into the differences, I feel it’s necessary to give you some background about Dianetics and Scientology auditing and the religion that arose from it.

Mainstream mental health: an imperfect science.

emotional_baggage

Psychotherapy isn’t perfect, and of course, there are many bad therapists.   Even when you have a therapist who you are comfortable with and who knows what they’re doing, it can take years to be “cured.”    It isn’t an exact science, or really, much of a science at all (it’s more of an art form) so there aren’t any easy answers or sure-fire “formulas.”   Human beings are complicated, and a modality that may work well on one person may actually do nothing for another, or even make them worse.   And of course, there are many terrible therapists, who are either completely incompetent, are only in it for the money,  lack enough empathy to be effective, are unconsciously attempting to work out their own issues (which is what attracted them to the profession in the first place), and even (if they are sociopathic or narcissistic, and many are) exploit or emotionally abuse their clients.

People can also become “addicted” to their therapists. They can become overly dependent on them and never leave therapy because they feel like they can’t cope on their own.   And it’s true, some therapists do become unhealthily attached to their clients, and discourage them from ever leaving.   A good therapist who doesn’t have unresolved attachment issues will discourage a client from becoming overly dependent on them (while still projecting warmth and empathy), with the end goal being for the client to be able to leave and  function better and feel happier, using new sets of emotional tools to do so.

But psychotherapists (both psychiatrists, who are medical doctors who can prescribe drugs, and psychologists and  clinical social workers, who cannot) are bound by the law. In a best case scenario, they must abide by the law and a certain code of ethics, or be barred from practicing their professions or even face civil or criminal charges.

All these disadvantages aside, traditional psychotherapy is a positive and life-changing experience for most people who undergo it and stick with it, and it has existed for over a century.  There are many different modalities suited for different psychological disorders or problems.   There are both short term and long-term methods.   Some, like CBT or DBT, aren’t cures but are really training methods that teach a person mindfulness skills so they can function better and are less symptomatic.  Others, like Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis, schema therapy, attachment therapy, psychodrama, EFT, hypnotherapy, and other “talk therapy” methods are long-term modalities that actually attempt to get to the root of the client’s problems or release trauma.  Many therapists mix several different modalities, and some include mindfulness tools like meditation, visualization, and relaxation techniques into their sessions.  Talk therapy can take many months or even years to have results.   In a best case scenario, the client will be cured of whatever is ailing them.  Even if they aren’t cured, a lot of the charge that was feeding their disorder is removed. Some disorders, especially those that have a physical component or are due to faulty neurological “wiring” respond better to drugs than to talk therapy, and continued management by a psychiatrist may be necessary, even though improvement in symptoms is almost immediate.

Scientology’s beginnings. 

dianetics

The book that started it all.

Scientology has always been very hostile to both psychiatry and psychology.  L. Ron Hubbard, a second rate science fiction author, had always been fascinated with the human mind and how it worked.  He published his bestselling  book about his discoveries, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” in 1950.  Dianetics is a bastardization of traditional psychoanalysis, but really isn’t much like it at all.   Hubbard was a sociopathic narcissist who had no degree in psychology and in fact lied about many of his accomplishments.

Dianetics uses elements of Freudian psychoanalysis, but is based on the belief that almost all people have “engrams” (unless they are “natural clears,” which are very rare).  Engrams are cellular imprints of moments of trauma that always contain some sort of physical pain and the “unconsciousness” that accompanies a painful or traumatic event.    The part of the mind that contains the “engrams” is called the reactive mind, and the goal of Dianetics “auditing” is to remove all the engrams through “reliving” the memories associated with them, so the person eventually attains a state called “Clear,” which means they have no reactive mind anymore and can act in rational and healthy ways not based on unconscious painful memories or trauma.

psychiatrykills

A Scientology anti-psychiatry demonstration.

In the early years of Dianetics, Hubbard attempted to get it recognized as a valid form of psychotherapy, but his book and methods were rejected by the mental health community. Hubbard, being a malignant narcissist who was devastated by this massive narcissistic injury, turned against the entire mental health field.  He vilified it and preached  to his followers that psychiatry and psychology were the worst evils to befall mankind and that Dianetics was the only valid way to become a happy and functioning person.

 

A new religion is born.

scientology_church

Hubbard began to market his book through the same pulp science fiction magazines  that published his stories, and his Dianetics book proved popular.  Many people claimed to be helped through Dianetics auditing, but this wasn’t enough for Hubbard.    He was quoted as saying, “the quickest way to become rich is to start your own religion,” and so he did.   Not only could he become the messiah of his own church based on his “miracle cure,” he also no longer had to pay taxes.    He trained many new auditors and started the Church of Scientology in December, 1953.    He added the levels of O.T. (Operating Thetan) states that go beyond the state of Clear.  An OT supposedly had complete control over matter, energy, space, and time, and at the highest level, could perform Herculean actions without even needing a body to do it.

To his religion Hubbard added a “space opera” cosmology, which sounds suspiciously like a plot in one of his stories.   The level of OT III is the level at which the “top secret” cosmology is finally revealed (of course, now due to the Internet, anyone can find out about it for free).   Supposedly, an evil galactic ruler called Xenu, who lived 75 million years ago, thought his planets were overpopulated and had most of the population frozen and dumped into volcanoes in Hawaii (which didn’t exist 75 million years ago), and programmed their spirits (thetans) with the “R6” implant, which is the reason why traditional religion and mental illness (and all other evils of mankind) came into being.    These disembodied spirits were then released and attached themselves to living people as “body thetans” (BT’s).  BT’s are analogous to possession by minor demons.   A person at the OT levels spends much time “auditing out” the BT’s to achieve more perfect spiritual enlightenment.  Scientology’s insane doctrine was illustrated in a famous episode of South Park in 2005.      It’s so unbelievable that the show had to show disclaimers at the bottom of the screen that said, “This is what Scientologists actually believe.”

xenu

From “Trapped in the Closet,” South Park episode.

Hubbard believed if this “top secret” material were revealed to someone at a lower level of “processing,” that they would die of pneumonia or go insane.  His real fear was probably that people might laugh his church out of existence.  Of course, most Scientologists (at least before the Internet) don’t even know about this secret doctrine because so few of them have achieved the state of OT III.   Many (who haven’t been completely brainwashed into believing anything they are told) leave when they find out.   Others are offended that figures like Jesus or the Buddha are considered “implants” who never even existed, especially since when they first joined Scientology, they were promised that their own religion was not incompatible with Scientology.  At OT III, they find out they must renounce their former religious beliefs, if they still had any.  It’s the ultimate bait and switch, something Scientology is well known for.

“You don’t get rich writing science fiction.  If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” — L. Ron Hubbard

Scientology also co-opted the Christian cross (although the eight pointed version Scientology uses is actually based on the Rosicrucian cross) and sometimes requires its clergy (professional auditors and high ranking church officials) to wear clerical collars in public to seem more authentic.

During the late 1950s through the 1970s, when people were becoming interested in alternative therapies and “new age” religions, the Church of Scientology exploded in popularity, until the late 1970s when the IRS and the FBI descended on Hubbard and his church due to tax fraud and other shady and unethical activities conducted at Scientology’s headquarters and at its paramilitary offshoot, The Sea Org.  While Scientology remains popular, especially among celebrities and the very wealthy, the costs of Scientology training and Dianetics auditing are far too expensive for the average person to afford, so the only people who can move up the “Bridge” and attain the rarified Clear or O.T. (Operating Thetan) states, are the very wealthy or those unfortunates who “work off” the expense as residents of the Sea Org (and rarely achieve those states anyway).

Dianetics and Scientology auditing vs. traditional psychotherapy. 

Moving away from the religious aspects of Scientology and back to its original purpose as a form of “therapy” (and most people who undertake Dianetics or Scientology auditing are only using it as a form of therapy anyway, having no idea of what they’re really getting into), please read Part 2:

https://luckyottershaven.com/2017/01/15/why-scientology-auditing-is-not-at-all-like-traditional-psychotherapy-part-2/

My love affair with Scientology.

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Credit: South Park: What Scientologists Believe – Business Insider

In the late seventies, I flirted with $cientology (the $ sign isn’t accidental). This happened when I came across one of its books (one of the only ones not written by its founder L. Ron Hubbard, who was not only a malignant narcissist of the highest order, but also a very bad writer), an easy to read and humorous “self help” book called “How to Choose your People,” by a writer named Ruth Minshull. The book was discontinued in the early 1980s, most likely because it wasn’t written by Hubbard and was therefore not acceptable “scripture.” Hubbard, a monstrously narcissistic and sociopathic cult leader, couldn’t stand having to share the spotlight with anyone else.

“How to Choose Your People” was entertaining and well written, and I found its idea of something called “The Tone Scale” intriguing and it seemed to make sense. (In fact, I think it’s one of the very few tenets of Scientology that has any validity). I liked the idea that emotions ran on a sort of continuum, with one logically leading to the next. Every human being can be placed somewhere on this “tone scale.” Although most people move around on the scale according to their mood, everyone can be placed at a “home” tone, where they will be most of the time. The “tones” ranged from Apathy (the lowest you could go–this would be where severely depressed and suicidal people are) to Enthusiasm (very happy and contented people). Each tone was assigned an arbitrary number, although no one ever explained what those numbers meant. *

There were two “emotions” around the middle of the scale, called Covert Hostility (1.1) and No Sympathy (1.2, making it slightly “better”). Although not at the bottom of the scale, while I was involved in Scientology (and the related Dianetics, the mental “technology” that is similar in some ways to psychoanalysis and serves as a tool to brainwash its members), Covert Hostility and No Sympathy were considered by most Scientologists to be the two worst places to be on the Tone Scale. No one wanted to be labeled a “1.1.” Because if you were, it meant you were a Suppressive Person–that is, a sociopathic person who could harm the Church and its members. If you were pegged a “1.1” or a “1.2” you could be excommunicated or punished by a cruel form of shunning (which I was subjected to at one point).

The traits of someone with a “tone” of Covert Hostility or No Sympathy are exactly the same of those of the malignant narcissist. Here is a picture of the tone scale as it appeared on the cover of Minshull’s 1976 book. (There is an expanded tone scale too, which has additional levels, but for our purposes this one is sufficient).

minshull1

Click image for larger view.

The love bombing phase. 

So I finished Minshull’s book and was intrigued enough to go to the local Scientology Center (on New York’s upper west side–I was living in Queens, NY at the time) and find out more. They gave me a “personality test,” that was supposed to identify what my issues and weak points were. There were 200 questions on the test, but when I was done, someone sat down with me and went over my results and convinced me I needed Dianetics auditing or classes in Scientology (much cheaper than Dianetics auditing) to overcome these weak points. The recruiter was very convincing and friendly, and assured me I would only be set back $15 to sign up for the HAS course (Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist aka “Communication Course”), which was really training in something called Training Routines (TR’s) which were actually brainwashing techniques, only they don’t tell you that when you sign up.

At first the TR’s were very seductive–they were fun and actually seemed to work. They did seem to help me be able to “confront” people better. The TR’s involved things like sitting in a chair staring at someone as long as you could without reacting, laughing, or looking away. After this, the ante was upped to something called “bullbaiting,” where the person could try to get you to react and “lose your Confront” by insulting you, trying to make you laugh, or calling you names. There were higher levels of TR’s that involved walking across the room, touching things, asking if birds could fly, and reading passages from “Alice in Wonderland.”

All these things were supposed to help you communicate with others better and raise your “tone,” but in actuality, these were all brainwashing techniques that would eventually result in giving you the infamous blank stare that many Scientologists seem to have while under the cult’s thrall.

The ante is upped. 

cartman_emeter

After I “passed” the Communications Course (by getting a “floating needle” on a lie-detector type of device called the E-Meter), I was convinced without too much difficulty to sign up for the next course, the HQS course (Hubbard Qualified Scientologist). That one set me back $250. (The prices are probably much higher today). By this time of course, I’d been sufficiently indoctrinated that $250 for further “processing” and “training” didn’t seem that bad. It didn’t take much to convince me to hand over the money. The prices of the courses (or “auditing,” if you take that route, become higher the further up the “bridge” you go. At higher levels, they run thousands of dollars. Most people don’t have that sort of money, but can “pay off” the expense by allowing themselves to become slaves to the Church — usually by working on site, or at higher levels, by joining the Sea Org, Scientology’s paramilitary organization in Clearwater, Florida. It’s at Sea Org that you hear all the horrible stories of abuse, starvation, imprisonment, the destruction of families, the separation of children from parents, and even the deaths of a few Scientologists who failed to toe the line or became, in Scientology parlance, SPs or “Suppressive Persons,” just because they still had a mind of their own or balked at the abuse meted out on them.

Back to my own story. In order to help pay for the HQS course (because in those days $250 was a lot of money, especially for a 19 year old) it was suggested I work at the Scientology Center (actually a Mission, which does not offer higher level training and auditing) part time, answering phones and opening and distributing mail. The position (called a “post”) paid nothing, but I got “credits” to help pay for the course. Of course, by now I was spending most of my free time at the Center, because right after “work” it was time for the classes, which ran about 4 hours a night (5 days a week).

Students were closely monitored and every class ended with a session on the E-Meter. If you were caught yawning or daydreaming you were told you had a “misunderstood word” and had to go back and re-read Hubbard’s unreadable material to try to find the word you did not understand. You were not allowed to move on until you found the word and “passed” on the E-Meter. I began to realize I wasn’t having much fun anymore, but if you criticized Scientology or its “teaching technology” in any way, you would be sent to Ethics.

e_meter
Scientology E-Meter

Scientology’s real agenda begins to emerge. 

No one wanted to be sent to Ethics. If you were sent to Ethics, it meant there was a problem and you were considered a “Potential Trouble Source” (PTS) and disciplinary action would be taken. I was sent to Ethics about three or four times, all for very minor transgressions such as minor criticism–or catching a cold (more about that later). The punishments ranged from having to re-read material to find “misunderstood words” (and be “passed” being connected to an E-Meter), to cutting off friends and family members who could be potential “Suppressive Persons” or enemies of Scientology (you would be required to write them a letter telling them you were cutting them off), to shunning, to excommunication.

One time I came to the Center with a bad cold. I was immediately sent to Ethics because according to Scientology’s deluded doctrine, if you became ill, it meant there was a “SP” in your life who was hostile to your involvement in Scientology and by default, you became a PTS (potential trouble source). Sniffling and sneezing, I sat down and held the two metal cans of the E-meter. I was asked a bunch of questions about anyone in my life who was hostile to Scientology. You couldn’t lie, because that would be picked up by the meter. At the time, I was dating a guy who thought Scientology was stupid, and I told them that. I was ordered to “disconnect” from him, or be excommunicated. I had to write the boy (who I was still in love with) a letter telling him I was disconnecting from him because he was hindering my progress up the “bridge.” I cried while writing to him, but it did get mailed and I did disconnect.

Later, I almost had to write a “disconnect” letter to my own father, who I had once dumbly admitted had been making fun of Scientology. I was able to get out of that one by insisting he really wasn’t opposed to my involvement and just liked to make jokes about lots of things. But I did know other people there who were ordered to disconnect from family members, sometimes their entire families. I have heard of some Scientologists even being forced to disconnect from their own children. Looking back, I recognize this as the cult-equivalent of what a narcissist does when they attempt to isolate you from friends and family members. It’s a way to weaken you by cutting you off from your support systems so they more completely own you.

Shunning is another disciplinary measure, and I was once subjected to it (I cried while “auditing” a student, which I’ll describe in more detail later). I was told although I would still be required to fulfill my job duties and attend classes, no one would be allowed to speak to me and I was allowed to speak to no one (unless it was directly related to my job or something I was learning). It was horrible. This torment on for several days, until I was “passed” up a level and allowed to be spoken to again. But before that could happen, I had to go up to every high level member and employee, make amends to them and “re-introduce” myself. I also was required to do some tasks to “make up” for whatever “sin” I’d committed. Some involved things like cleaning bathrooms or washing dishes. But others could get pretty weird. I’ll describe the task I was required to fulfill in order to be re-accepted into the group.

Scientology’s vendetta against mainstream mental health and the part I played in it. 

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L. Ron Hubbard: pulp science fiction author turned self-proclaimed messiah.

It’s well-known that Scientology has always been very hostile to mainstream psychology and psychiatry. L. Ron Hubbard thought of psychiatry as the worst evil to befall mankind. My theory about this is based on his malignant narcissism. When he first developed Dianetics (the “auditing technology” that resembles psychoanalysis in some ways) back in the early 1950s, Hubbard had attempted to get it recognized in the psychiatric community as a valid form of psychotherapy. Of course, Hubbard had no psychology degree (and in fact, had lied about much of his background). The psychiatric community refused to promote his ideas or his book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.” Hubbard, enraged by their rejection of his “brilliant technology,” turned against the psychiatric and psychological communities (and marketed his book, at first, through ads in pulp science fiction magazines, where he was already known as one of their contributors).   Eventually, he decided to turn his ideas into a new religion and named it Scientology.  Now, he could make more money than he ever could as a mere author, and never have to pay a dime in taxes.

That’s the background that will explain the task I was assigned to do to get back in good graces with the Church. I was given a list of names of psychiatrists and psychologists and told to go to the library and look up each one in the phone book and get their phone numbers. Okay, that was easy enough. I headed back to the Center with the phone numbers filled out, hopeful that this would fulfill my duty.

But no, they weren’t done with me yet. I was told to go home with the list of names and phone numbers, and call each of the doctors and ask them what they thought about Scientology! As someone who hates phones and alway felt awkward speaking on them, I felt like I was in some kind of nightmare. I also had to LIE to them and tell them I was a research student doing a study for a university program.

But I did do it. A few of the doctors refused to call me back, or I only got to speak to their secretaries, who couldn’t give me an answer, but most of them I got to actually speak to, and as would be expected, most of the responses were negative toward Scientology. Apparently, my research was sufficient. Finally, I was then allowed to “make amends” to all the higher level staff members and the shunning was lifted.

Ironically (or maybe not so ironically), a year later, I entered college as a Psychology major.

Disillusionment and return to reality.

Toward the end of the HQS course, you are told to recruit other people into Scientology. I had to go outside, no matter what the weather, and try to talk people into coming up to the Center to take its personality test. The more advanced TR’s taught in this class became increasingly bizarre. These sessions could go on for hours, and as part of the training, I was also required to “audit” other students and conduct TR’s on them. If they proved difficult or uncooperative, I was the one who was blamed and was not allowed to stop “running the TR’s” until my student had passed on the E-Meter. If it went on all night, then so it did. You were not allowed breaks to eat or rest, and neither was your student.

This is what led to my “shunning” punishment. What happened was I was so exhausted from lack of sleep and hunger that I burst into tears in the middle of running a session, and was immediately sent to Ethics and that’s how I got shunned. I was stunned by their total lack of empathy. You were never allowed to show any emotions other than fake happiness (“Enthusiasm” on the tone scale); showing any “low toned” emotions like fear, grief, frustration, pain, or anger was “bringing ‘case’ on post” and you would be sent to Ethics or punished for doing it.

I thought about leaving, but didn’t dare–because they threatened you with something called “Fair Game.” No one ever explained exactly what that was, but in Hubbard’s indecipherable scripture, “fair game” appeared to imply the Church reserved the right to stalk you, torment or even kill you if you “blew” (left). I’d also paid so much money into it by this point and spent so much time with them that I was hesitant to toss in the towel.

Shortly before I was to graduate from HQS (which I never did finish), I was sent to talk to a recruiter about my next “step up the bridge.” I was told I should sign up for “Life Repair,” which cost $6K. I told the recruiter I did not have that kind of money. The recruiter turned to the hard sell at that point. He told me to get a bank loan or ask my parents for the money. Neither was possible. There was no way I could pay back the bank, as my other (paying) job was part time and paid only $2.75 an hour (minimum wage at that time), and my parents were not the type to hand over large sums of money, even for something legitimate.

Finally, after two hours of unsuccessfully trying to get me to sign up for this $6,000 auditing package, the recruiter gave up and was quite hostile to me after that. He not only told me that I must not really be interested in moving up the Bridge, but that I was probably a Suppressive Person and an enemy of Scientology because I would not put myself in huge debt to continue to be brainwashed.

It was at this point I left the Church. I just didn’t care anymore. I had gradually come to realize that the “emotional tone” of the organization was somewhere around Covert Hostility and No Sympathy–which was quite interesting since those were the tones that were the most hated and feared and were the realm of the dreaded Suppressive Person. In other words, Scientology was a psychopathic, narcissistic cult, founded by a psychopathic malignant narcissist (1.1 on his own Tone Scale) whose ravings (and fabrications as a “war hero” among other things) are legendary. What they were really doing was projecting their own emotional tone (malignant narcissism) onto those who disagreed with them.

I also realized how I had been gradually seduced into this sociopathic organization through misrepresentation, manipulation, threats and lies. The personality test and the inexpensive and fun HAS course that promised to help me feel happier and more confident was merely the “love bombing” phase before the abuse that would come later and increase over time. I did NOT want to become one of the upper-level Scientologists, with their blank, weird stares, creepy smiles and total lack of empathy. Just look at Tom Cruise today: does he even seem human anymore? Hell, I’d rather be a Suppressive Person any day.

I didn’t get nearly as far up the “Bridge” as many other people, and therefore did not experience some of the trauma and torture inflicted on members who are more deeply enmeshed with this cult. Eventually they WILL take over your entire life. For anyone interested in finding out more about the evil mindgames this cult plays, its psychopathic paranoia about both government agencies like the IRS and its hatred and fear of traditional psychotherapy and psychiatry, and the horrific (and sometimes fatal) punishments inflicted on many of its members and their families, I highly recommend either of these two websites that call out Scientology for what it really is.

The Ex-Scientologist Message Board: http://www.forum.exscn.net
Operation Clambake: The Inner Secrets of Scientology: http://www.xenu.net/

This is also pretty interesting, and what they actually believe is NOT a joke.
South Park: What Scientologists Believe (Business Insider):
http://www.businessinsider.com/south-park-what-scientologists-believe-2015-3

*****

* I just read that the numbers assigned to the emotions on the Tone Scale come from E-meter readings. In fact, Hubbard did not invent the E-meter. It was invented by a Freudian psychoanalyst named Volney Mathison, who used it on his psychotherapy patients.  It was called the Electropsychometry meter.  Hubbard bought the rights to the E-meter, and adapted it for use in Dianetics and Scientology auditing. The readings on the E-meter determine a person’s emotional tone.

Here is a picture of Volney’s E-meter, before it was co-opted by L. Ron Hubbard:

volney_emeter

Guest Post # 10: Narcissistic Abuse in 12-Step Programs

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Artwork by Danny Jock

Ceetee, who wrote this post, writes an interesting blog about the darker side of 12-step programs, called Quicksand: The Darker Side of 12-Step Programs. Be sure to click on the link and pay a visit.

Ceetee writes about a little-known problem in 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous– some members of these programs adopt a cult-like mentality and “take your inventory” for you, even though one of their slogans is “don’t take my inventory.” I have known people, including family members, who treat AA and other 12-step programs like a religion. You must follow their Commandments (the 12 steps) to the letter, and if you disagree with old-timers’ “assessments” of what your problem is, they tell you you are resisting or are on a “dry drunk.” Not all members are like this, but many of them are, and they can be cause psychological trauma to those who are new in these programs. Others have also written about the religious cult-like atmosphere often present in the meeting rooms.

Don’t get me wrong. AA and other 12-step programs have helped a great many people, and are one of the most effective (and cheapest) ways a person can get clean or sober. They have saved many lives. They also have a spiritual aspect, which adds another dimension that goes deeper than just “curing addiction.” They also tell you that once you’re addicted, you’re always addicted and should refrain from using or drinking, one day at a time. This is excellent advice and works for many people. But the dangers of these programs is that many people with addictive disorders who join them are narcissists, and use their “knowledge” or “experience” to make themselves feel superior to others. They think they know you better than you know yourself and don’t hesitate to lord it over you as if you’re nothing. You are told to “shut up and listen” because they are the “old timers” and have a right to tell you what you’re doing wrong. Since 12 step programs are run by the members themselves, there are really no safeguards against narcissistic abuse within these programs. One must proceed with caution.

Another problem with 12-step programs is that for some people, they seem to become another addiction.    I suppose that’s fine as far as if goes (going to meetings beats drinking or drugging), but too often , recovery stops there, and the member never attempts to address the roots of the problems which caused them to abuse alcohol or drugs in the first place.  From what I can tell, disorders such as NPD and BPD seem to run rampant in these programs, and people with these disorders often do become addicted to substances, in their attempt to fill the emptiness they feel inside.  Getting clean or sober is great, but it’s only treating one symptom of a deeper problem, and their disordered, grandiose, gaslighting, entitled behavior remains the same or even becomes worse.

Here, Ceetee writes of her own experience with certain narcissistic individuals in a 12-step program she joined, whose toxic “help” she had to recover from. It almost destroyed her life, but she has quite a story to tell.

NARCISSISTIC ABUSE IN 12-STEP PROGRAMS

zombie-steps-fix

Nearly twenty-two years ago, I made a mistake that destroyed my life and my family. In the middle of an ongoing battle with my mother that I had no idea how to resolve, I took the approach that perhaps total strangers could be objective and would have a solution. It began with pen-pals; I’ll call the first pen-pal “Marie.” Marie offered hope for a better life; but she said what I must do is “work the Twelve Steps.” And without any drug or alcohol problems, that’s how I became involved in 12-Step programs. It didn’t even occur to me until much later that after I was immersed in ‘the programs,’ the actual problem was never addressed again.

Throughout the years, I knew many good people who participated in programs. However, I also met those who took the slogan “If you want what we’ve got–and are willing to go to any lengths to get it” to mean targeting and destroying others. And while there is plenty of information around the web describing all sorts of crimes members commit, this particular subject is rarely addressed: “rewriting your life history” to include false memories of childhood sexual abuse. I feel it is necessary to address it, as I’ve known many individuals who have had similar experiences–no memories of abuse until they were ‘worked on’ by old-timers in the Programs.

I was ‘worked on’ by three different members–each in a different location. Each had something they wanted from me, and this scam was the most destructive tactic they took to achieve it. They tried to cause me to doubt my own mind and memories; but more destructive, took the approach to other people ‘See how crazy she is–she does not even know what happened in her own life!’

I dismissed many “red flags,” because I didn’t understand what they were about. One example was (as the older generation would have called it) being “too familiar”–a total stranger would act like he/she was your dearest best friend, your confidante. Second, total strangers pushing the attitude that they know more about you and about your life than you yourself know. Third, the attitude that they and only they know ‘the truth’–everyone else and everything else is ‘wrong.’

Each began with a different approach. Individual #1 took the approach that he was an expert on everything related to drugs. Individual #2 basically rewrote the English language to suit her agenda–which is a common thing in 12-Step programs. Individual #3 claimed virtually everything about me were signs and symptoms of repressed trauma. None of these individuals were professionals in any capacity. All I could figure was they ‘read a book’ or ‘saw something on the Internet,’ as much was aligned with what memory experts said decades ago: the ability to create false memories, and to plant seeds of doubt, are almost limitless. Between the three of them, they attempted to get me to believe virtually everybody in my childhood had ‘sexually abused’ me. Individual #1–the first I actually met in person–demanded I give him all my family photographs; he tossed them in a wastebasket, set fire to them, and smugly remarked “You’ve gotta mark ’em all as Perpetrators.”

target_cult
Artwork: Chloe Cushman for The Guardian

Another red flag that bears noting: while Marie and most others focused on their programs, the present, and looking toward the future, these three were much different. Their entire focus was on “The Past” and “Abuse.” And yet another red flag: looking for any ‘crack in the armor’ that they could exploit as ‘proof’ that their assessments were correct.

Hopefully it won’t sound too ludicrous taking it all out of context, but some examples:
One, upon learning I’d had a minor medical problem as a small child that required prescription medication, assessed: “Your parents lied to you! They were drugging you so they could Abuse you!”
Noticing I’d run outside to see what the commotion was when police cars arrived at a neighbor’s house: “What is it from Your Past that caused you to Fear the police?” Individual pressed me to search my early childhood to see if I’d known any police officers that may have sexually abused me.

Upon learning I’d never gotten along with my mother, another individual dismissed the fact that it was nothing more than personality conflicts, and claimed I was an incest survivor and had post-traumatic stress disorder because of it. This individual said anything you dislike is sexual abuse, and must be called ‘rape.’

In one instance, I had a minor cold; when this did not require a visit to a doctor, this individual asked, “What is it from Your Past that’s caused you to Fear doctors?” This individual pressed me to think about the doctors I knew in my childhood, and asked if either of my parents were in the profession.

Vertigo attacks from an inner-ear infection; migraines from hypoglycemia; and my habit of watching where I’m going when barefoot so I don’t step on sharp objects were pounced on as proof that I had ‘traumas in the past that I just don’t remember.’ Also, a person does not have personal preferences, likes or dislikes, or objections to anything–they’re all proof of sexual abuse.
Similar to the tactics used when the so-called recovered memory movement was in full swing, I was pressured to consider every thought and dream as a ‘memory,’ any ache or pain to be a ‘body memory,’ etc.

The only incident that actually did occur was blown way out of proportion: when I was four years old, a neighbor of indeterminate adult age exposed himself, and then told me a ‘scare story’ so I wouldn’t tell my parents or brothers what he’d done. The incident was confusing, but it was not ‘traumatic.’ However, one of these members claimed it was a matter of “delayed stress,” that I “only had a cap on it,” and at some point without warning my mind would blow apart. Note I was told this asinine nonsense more than forty years after the incident.

The reason I was vulnerable to this nonsense: I’d never heard of this crap before. For years I knew something was fishy, but didn’t know what to make of it. My first breakthrough came when I met a 12-Step member who was pointing at nearly everyone she’d ever known and accusing them of sexually abusing her. I knew for a fact some of the people she was accusing hadn’t even been in her life when she was growing up.

The second breakthrough: I did some research, and found the ‘drug’ I was told my parents had given me wasn’t even available in the United States when I was a young child. In addition, while the member went by my description of the medication (size, shape, color), the two drugs bore no resemblance to each other.

Fortunately, these breakthroughs occurred before individual #3 intruded into my life against my objections, tried to “convince” me that I was “insane” because of my “past,” and destroyed my reputation and my life because I didn’t fall for it.

This is a widespread problem in 12-Step programs. I’ve known many people who had similar experiences–both male and female in all age groups. And while this is only the tip of the iceberg of what I went through, I’m hoping that exposing this issue can help others avoid these problems. First, if someone you don’t even know gets too familiar, too close, too intrusive, take whatever steps necessary to get that person away from you, your life, your family. Second, if you’re pressured to believe things happened that you don’t remember, keep in mind that this ‘information’ is not coming from within you, yourself, but that it is being placed there by outside sources.

Further Reading:

Narcissists Who Use 12-Step Programs to Further Their Agenda