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“Avoid Independent Thinking”1The WATCHTOWER, January 15, 1983, p22 is a section heading in the 1983 Watchtower magazine article, “Exposing the Devil’s Subtle Design’s.” The WATCHTOWER is one of the bi-weekly publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society a.k.a. Jehovah’s Witnesses. The admonition to avoid independent thinking is not limited to the WTBTS alone, of course. Most cults and authoritarian groups discourage or punish independent thinking, meaning – do not dare to think for yourself – agree

with your leaders without question. It is meant to keep the people in line, by controlling their access to any contrary information. Someone may give the follower information that disagrees with or exposes their group, but their mind is “blocked” from receiving it.

In 1961, Robert Jay Lifton’s book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China was published. In it Lifton developed “Eight Criteria for Thought Reform” and #1 in Lifton’s list is “Milieu Control” which “involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual.”

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) has long held and taught that the leadership (the Governing Body in Brooklyn New York) is singularly endowed with the knowledge of and authority to explain God’s will and words to humanity. As it happens, the WTBTS was having a bit of a problem when they commanded their people to “Avoid Independent Thinking” in 1983. They had revealed – prophesied – that God’s designated year for Armageddon to take place was 1975, but Armageddon rather inconveniently refused to show up when Jehovah had told them it would. Additionally, 1975 was only the latest failure concerning the timing of Armageddon in a long line of such false prophecies. 1975 was the 6th time they had falsely prophesied the year of Armageddon. Every time these prophecies were claimed to have come straight from God and were not at all to be seen as mere “speculation” by mere human beings at “headquarters.” How could God get it so wrong? Many Jehovah’s Witnesses had sold their homes, skipped college educations, held off marriage and kids based on God’s direction from the WTBTS. To say people were “disappointed” is an understatement, and many left the group when the “prophecy” failed. Others stayed but began studying the Bible individually and in groups, apart from the WTS literature to explain exactly what everything meant. This was allowed for a time, but then it was recognized in Brooklyn that when JWs actually studied the Bible by itself, they came to some rather radical conclusions. Mainly, many JWs reverted back to the supposed evil doctrines of “Christendom.”  And more JWs left the group. Studying Scripture had freed these people from the heavy indoctrination of the Governing Body (JW leaders) of the organization. How to stem the tide? Simple, first attack the very notion of anyone trying to understand the Bible for themselves without the “help” of the Organization, and label those who disagreed with that dictum as egotistical “apostates.”

Apostates often appeal to the ego, claiming that we have been deprived of our freedoms, including the freedom to interpret the Bible for ourselves…In reality, these defilers offer nothing more than a return to the nauseating teachings of “Babylon the Great.” …True, such smooth talkers may look outwardly clean in a physical and moral way. But inside they are spiritually unclean, having given in to prideful independent thinking.2The Watchtower – November 1, 1987, p 19

In 1983, they had reminded their followers that to question the dictates of “God’s organization” is to follow Satan’s invitation to “decide for yourself what is good or bad.” They warn:

To this day, it has been Satan’s subtle design to infect God’s people with this type of thinking. How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization,”3The WATCHTOWER, January 15, 1983, p22

Another example of an authoritarian cult is one which for several years masqueraded as a Christian weight loss program. Led by Gwen Shamblin, Weigh Down Workshop infiltrated over 30,000 churches across 60 denominations. She also founded the “one true church,” Remnant Fellowship. Her group was ironically made up largely of members from the churches who had so blindly promoted her workshops to their people and invited her in. She directed people in her workshops to critically evaluate their pastors and churches and to leave these churches if they did not agree with Gwen’s “enlightened” interpretation of Scripture. However, no one was to think independently and question Gwen, but to believe and obey everything she said as from the Lord. As Gwen so humbly puts it:

The people who have less trouble with the deceitful lies that keep you overeating are the people who watched Weigh Down’s Orientation Video and decided for themselves from the start that I was a leader from God, so they submitted themselves freely to the teachings on the tapes and followed EVERYTHING. They did not arrogantly pick and choose some of the teachings, but ALL of them, because they knew they were from the Lord …”4Weigh Down Worship archived e-mail #29

Back to Lipton. Point #8 of Robert Lifton’s “Eight Criteria for Thought Reform” is “Dispensing of existence” which means the “group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not.”5Point 8 is Dispensing of existence – The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious, and must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also Therefore, the cost to an individual cult member of “thinking independently” is to be disfellowshipped, canceled, ostracized, cut off from family, friends, perhaps employment and left to wander and navigate life alone, supposedly separated from the only dispensers of God’s truth. Alone and lost that is, unless they meet up with the One Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One Who is the giver of life, and the only One whose judgment matters for all eternity. No human being has the power to dispense with anyone’s worth or existence. In addition to giving eternal life when calling on His Name (Romans 10:9-13), He also included the mind as part of the life of faith:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”(Matthew 22:13)

We have a new politically based cancel culture phenomena happening in America. Until rather recently, one of the greatest strengths of the experiment called the United States of America was the freedom of speech and independent thought. Most Americans, including and perhaps especially the very liberal ACLU, held as their guiding principle that even though they might disagree with your opinion, they would fight to the death to defend your right to say it. This extended to the very public judicial battle over whether a White Supremacist Neo-Nazi group in 1977 was allowed to march through Skokie, IL, home of many Jews. Before the courts ruled on the case, the City of Chicago granted a permit to march through Marquette Park.6https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Party_of_America_v._Village_of_Skokie It was not an entirely celebrated decision, since Neo-Nazi belief is almost universally repulsive to Americans. The big question of the day was this: How far do our vaunted freedoms truly extend? Short of doing actual violence or harm to others, do people in America have the right to freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of speech – even if the thought, expression or speech is objectionable and repellent to our very spirit? The answer at that time and until very recently was yes. Today, however, our culture seems determined to completely squelch any speech or expression that the powers that be deems offensive – to THEM, TODAY. The rules concerning allowed speech or expression can change very radically very quickly. Americans must now slavishly keep in step with these ever-changing rules or risk being cancelled, with our existence “dispensed.” So Americans today must avoid independent thinking if they wish perhaps to keep their job, “so-called” friends, or their good standing on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. The Watchtower Society changes their doctrinal truth the way most people change their underwear, and this daily strident barrage of new cultural rules concerning what can and cannot be said reminds us exactly of that. As we have often said about the Watchtower Society, it would be easier for their adherents to stay “in the truth” if the truth would just stand still!

These new “rules” of acceptable speech not only inform political and social media policies but is a new religion with its own set of doctrines. If anyone dares to  engage in independent thinking and states or tweets an unapproved idea, the cancel button is hit.

A very recent public example involves the actress in The Mandalorian, Gina Carano, who publicly dared to express a cultural heresy. The result?  She was dropped by the talent agency which was representing her. She lost her job on The Mandalorian and is now a pariah in Hollywood, cast into outer darkness. To his credit, at least one writer from New York Magazine characterized this treatment of Carano as unfair and tyrannical in nature. In, “New York Magazine Writer Compares ‘Mandalorian’ Actress Gina Carano’s Treatment To Hollywood’s Blacklisting in the 1950s” Bruce Haring, who seems to be more of classic liberal, writes:

New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait says Hollywood’s treatment of conservative actress Gina Carano is reminiscent of the Hollywood blacklist in the 1950s.

Chait’s Friday essay for the Intelligencer  argued there was no “principled distinction” between Carano’s recent termination from future episodes of The Mandalorian and her representation and the Hollywood blacklist against communists.

What was in Carano’s post which drew such frenzied ire? She compared the hate-inspired “cancel culture” to the Nazis’ successfully turning average Germans into Jew hating fanatics – not for any criminal act, but just for being Jewish. Commented Carano:

Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…. even by children

Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews

Ironically, the actions of the ruling cultural priest class demonstrated that her comparison was right on. They designated Carano as an “enemy” to hate, pointed their “congregation” in that direction, and the dispensing of her existence began in earnest. “Cancel her! Destroy her life!” That’ll teach you, Carano, to accuse these “culture cancel” ideologues of being dangerous! By all evidence, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism are in full swing in America, the home of the free.

Truly, what is going on around us today is far more than political warfare. It is really a spiritual battle for which Christians need to be prepared. The Apostle Paul urges Christians to stand strong in their faith:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.(Ephesian 6:10-18)Ω

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End Notes

1, 3 The WATCHTOWER, January 15, 1983, p22
2 The Watchtower – November 1, 1987, p 19
4 Weigh Down Worship archived e-mail #29
5 Point 8 is Dispensing of existence – The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious, and must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also
6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Party_of_America_v._Village_of_Skokie