It is a popular misconception that only ignorant or weak-minded people can be brainwashed. On the contrary, most authoritarian and abusive leaders are very charismatic, charming individuals whose brainwashing techniques are cloaked in Bible verses and spiritual sounding reasons. They even represent orthodox doctrine and do seemingly good works. The Bible has a term for this – “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” The wolf is not obvious – he looks harmless, after all, he looks like a sheep!
If you read this blog, but haven’t actually attended the Honor Academy, you might think I’m either exaggerating (because it can’t really be that bad) or that the interns who fall for this rhetoric are just stupid. But trust me, when you are in the program, unless you are looking for them, these things are not obvious. Everything is wrapped in Scripture and delivered with such winsome charm and wit that it all seems so right and Godly.
From the book, The Heresy of Mind Control:
Suppose you move to a different area and are keeping your eyes open for a good group to belong to. You visit one such group where the people are very friendly, loving, and give you individual attention. The group has a variety of programs: a rehabilitation program for drug addicts, services, and nursing homes for the elderly, help for the poor, and free clinics. The leader inspires the disillusioned, the disenchanted, and those who have been rejected elsewhere. He is well-known and respected in the area, and the mayor gave him a position as director of the City Housing Authority. Would you join this group?
Suppose you spend four years in college and nearly two years in graduate school to prepare for a career in Christian music. Then the ministers of your home church tell you that you are not needed in their music program. Shortly afterward, you find a new group that welcomes you with open arms. They really care for people. The leader of this group has fascinating Bible studies. You and everyone else are able to sit and listen to him for several hours at a time. Would you stay in this group?
If you answered “yes” to the first situation, you joined the church led by Jim Jones who led over 900 of his followers into a mass suicide murder. If you liked the second group, you became a follower of David Koresh who led over 80 of his followers to die in a blaze of fire.