Often when Christian’s talk with those of a different belief system or worldview, they have the idea that by simply presenting the facts and evidence for the Christian worldview, the person will “see” the truth, and embrace it. It is of course, very important to be ready and able to present the facts and evidence that underpin Christianity, but there are other important considerations that we may not be aware of. Sometimes the different definitions of terms may hinder communication. That sounds odd, but if we say to a Mormon, for example, that Jesus is God, they would agree with us – but their understanding of Jesus’ godhood is that he earned the position through faith plus works. Since he was once a man like us, in Mormon dogma, we can become gods like him! A Hindu would likewise agree that Jesus is God, but in their view there are many gods, so adding Jesus to the mix is not a big problem.
Another major obstacle is their emotional attachment to the group they are in. Many religious groups and organizations portray themselves as the ultimate “mother” to their devotees. Since Christians are not taught to devote themselves to their church in this highly emotional way, they often cannot understand the brick wall they run into when presenting the truth about the cult or false religion. The “mom doctrine” places a powerful hold on the mind of the person. A doctrine is simply “a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group” 1 The “mom” doctrine is used quite effectively to prevent followers from even hearing anything that may cause them to question their beliefs or leaders. Physically they are not deaf, but in a spiritual sense, they are. They simply cannot comprehend what you are saying to them, no matter how persuasively you present your case. I recently spoke at the Witnesses Now for Jesus Convention and as I finished, I was led to point out that very often we think we are debating ideas, but are seen as attacking “mom!” I looked out into the audience and asked my friend Keith Walker from Evidence Ministries if his mother was still living and he replied that she was. I further inquired as to whether he trusted his mother and he affirmed that he did. I then proposed the idea to him that though he thinks his mom is a wonderful person, in reality his mother runs all of the prostitution in her local area. This elicited a smile and he assured everyone that would never happen. I went a bit further and posited that she was also the drug kingpin in her area, which brought out laughter. I asked him if he would believe me if I could produce and show him hard evidence that my accusation was true. Would he look at it? He said he might look, but he would never believe it. The last step was to tell him that his mother wasn’t really his mother at all; that he had been kidnapped from the hospital on the day he was born and the woman he thinks is his mother is a complete fraud. What would it take to persuade him? We are talking about “mom” after all, and for most of us that represents perhaps the deepest emotional attachment of our lives. Oh, and none of hypothetical accusations about Keith’s mom are true.
Many groups use this attachment as a tool. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society writes:
“When we consider the tender care of our heavenly Father as manifested through his loving, motherly organization, how can out hearts but be refreshed and warmed with overflowing appreciation? When we taste the rich and sumptuous food he provides and observe the careful attention to detail with which our mother has served it, how can we speak anything but praise for worthy parents? And when we truly see the great motherly organization of God …” 2
Notice that they not only present the cult organization as “mom,” but puts “her” – the group’s leaders and their teachings – on a par with God himself, who is the “father.”
The Watchtower is certainly not the only group which does this. The Roman Catholic Church in The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses this as well:
¶181 “…The Church is the mother of all believers. “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Latin text copyright 1994 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano; 3
The power of this idea on the minds and hearts of those who are affiliated with such groups is sometimes difficult to grasp. To many, doing the work of evangelism or apologetics should be as simple as giving people the facts, and explaining the Scriptures but NO, it is “Mom” we are talking about – the church or belief system that they had been led to believe was protecting and nurturing them. Keith said he would at least look at any evidence I had, but in reality, most devotees of “Mother organizations” refuse to even look! In our experience, it is those who have some inkling that all is not kosher with “Mom” that will refuse most adamantly, call you a name and walk away in a huff.
I have often taught this concept, but the realization of the power of invoking “mom” gripped me more profoundly this past week while I was at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, UT. The Parliament is a “Global Interfaith Movement” whose mission is:
The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.4
This Parliament’s central theme is that the earth is mother. This idea was brought out in nearly every main session and the majority of breakout sessions and events. Wiccans, Pagans, and American Indian religions played a major role in reconnecting the attendees with the “feminine divine.” Most of the Wiccans and Pagans I was able to engage had grown up in evangelical churches, but claimed they didn’t feel as though their churches provided real answers to the bigger questions of life. The Wiccan and Pagan sessions vigorously made the case that the original understanding of deity was matriarchal through the goddess. The earth is our “mother” who protected, provided and cared for us, but we rebelled and replaced the original worship of the goddess with cruel patriarchy. We have horribly abused “mom,” who is now sick, and we must all work together to help her heal, and return her to her rightful place in our worship and devotion. For the crowd of nearly 10,000, imbibing on the siren’s song about mom becomes downright intoxicating! The message raises up humans to a lofty height, giving them the power and the choice to either harm or heal their deity. It is a visual living example of Romans chapter 1, wherein Paul portrays the sad descent of mankind into futility and darkness, because they suppressed the truth that they all knew to be true.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:21-25 NIV
The “Mom doctrine” of the Parliament is indeed an ancient belief, predating most of the other “Moms” of false religion, and it is growing ever more popular as Christianity seems to be losing the influence it had on the world of men. Paganism is the mother of all “Mom doctrines,” and Christians would do well to understand it and teach our people, and perhaps especially our youth, how to withstand its seduction.
In light of the deep emotional attachment that people have for their religious organizations, how can they be persuaded? The Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 really speaks to this issue. We are to present the gospel of salvation by the sheer grace of God, and present it with humility, knowing that we ourselves were as lost and as blind as they are now. God is the one who draws and persuades them.
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
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- http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/doctrine ↩
- Watchtower, May 1, 1957, p 284, Emphasis added ↩
- United State Catholic Conference, Washington, DC); p48 ↩
- http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/mission ↩