Friday, April 3, 2009

Post-cult After Effects: Independent Thinking Difficulties

In the beginning, I will point out again that not all the ex-members of cults and abusive churches experience all the post-cult after effects. It is normal to experience only some of them. If you did not notice that you experienced some post-cult after effects, do not try to find them out in your experience. You may never experience them.

As I wrote in one of the previous posts, I experienced independent thinking difficulties only in religious matters. In this post, I would like to share my experience in dealing with this problem.

Of course, it is good to read Christian literature and listen to sermons in order to learn sound Christian teachings. However, there is one problem. There is still a possibility to take others' words uncritically and think something like: "In the past, I believed in this and that because the pastor of the abusive church told us so. Now, I believe in so and so teachings because my new pastor tells so." In principle, there is not much change. Actually, this new pastor also can be equally abusive and may also distort the Bible.

There is a good biblical principle in Acts 17:10-11 (New King James Version):
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

These Bereans questioned the teaching of Apostle Paul himself, and Luke, his co-worker and the author of Acts, praised them for that!

Westminster Larger Catechism, question 160, says:
Question 160: What is required of those that hear the Word preached?

Answer: It is required of those that hear the Word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine: What they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

Again, those who listen sermons are encouraged not just take what they here, but to examine what they hear by the Scripture. Neither the Bible nor Westminster Larger Catechism, highly respected among evangelicals say that Christians should take uncritically everything they hear in sermons. Rather, Christians are encouraged to use the Bible to check what they hear.

Then, how can we know what does the Bible say? By reading the Bible itself and studying it, using hermeneutics in order to interpret it. Personal Bible study is indispensable for Christians, including those who left abusive churches.

There is another problem. It is easy to take uncritically the words of a person who is considered to be a kind of authority or a person who you like. These two points are mentioned among Chialdini's six principles of influence applied to cults by Margaret Singer in Cults in Our Midst, chapter 7:
4. Authority. We have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority figures.
5. Liking. We obey people we like.

4. Authority. If you tend to respect authority, and your cult leader claims superior knowledge, power, and special missions in life, you accept him as an authority.
5. Liking. If you are the object of love bombing and other tactics that surround you, make you feel wanted and loved, and make you like the people in the group, you feel you ought to obey these people.

Actually, I like to consider and compare two or more views of the same matter. I realize that when there are two people who disagree with one another, it is easy to uncritically take the opinion of a person who you like more - just because you like this person and do not like the opponent. However, I prefer to use my logic ability to consider their arguments in order to make my own conclusion who is right. Sometimes, I agree with one of them. Sometimes, I agree with something that one of them says and something what the other says. Sometimes, I have my own opinion that does not match the opinion of neither of them. Of course, my opinion is not the most correct. I do make mistakes. However, I do like to make my own conclusions rather than to uncritically take others' opinions.

Studying the Bible, I prefer to do two things:
1. Apply the hermeneutics principles in order to understand what the verse or paragraph means.
2. Read different Bible commentaries that give different interpretations of this portion and then make my own conclusion which interpretation is better.

Actually, when I study Christian theology, I also like to read what different authors say and consider what teaching is more correct.

I found that this practice not only helped me to know the Bible and Christian theology better, but also helped me to develop my ability to think independently in religious matters and release my mind from the cult indoctrination.

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