I was arguing with a friend of mine (part of an evangelical church here in Wellington called Arise) and I brought up the topic of a flatmate of mine at the time who also goes to that church. She was almost never at home, and outside work and study these guys managed to take up the vast majority of her free time with meetings, conferences, "fellowship with believers" and the like. After going on a church camp, she came back absolutely buzzing about what God's plan for her life, and surprise surprise, it involved the church. Her plan was to drop out of uni (I believe you yanks call it college), forget the wasted debt she'd accumulated and become an intern at Arise.
That, for me looking in from outside, is way too much control. They clearly took her in when she was (very) down, told her she was a worthless sinner but Jesus had a way out for her. They took a leaf out of the Sun Mormon and showed almost deceptive kindness towards her and now they've taken up her entire life (if you were interested, she moved out a couple of weeks ago to join a church flat).
So I told this friend of mine about how the church has too much control of her life. His response?
She chooses to attend all these meetings. She chose to move out.
This isn't an isolated incident here either. A local student magazine posted an article criticising the church and there were two common themes of the respondents who defended their beloved cult: 1) the article's biased; 2) people choose to get involved. One argument went that they are encouraged to tithe, but never forced, with the knowledge that God will bless those who give generously.
What I'm observing of this church, and I suspect other churches do this too, is a systematic programme of control which they then cover up as choice. The person chooses to give! They choose to go to church three times a week! They choose to attend every meeting and conference we run!
The first analogy I thought of was a magician when they say: "Pick any card [as long as it's this one]". Choice, yes, but misdirected. Today, however, I thought of a more sinister analogy. This one.
If you can't be bothered clicking the link, I'm talking about the tobacco industry.
It may sound ridiculous, but take a look at the summary on the second page (it's all you'll need to read) and you can see the similarities between the church and tobacco companies.
They don't use nicotine, but they do really well in the art of attitude polarisation. Turn up to church, sing with believers, talk with believers, hear some guy prattle on for three hours about how great God is, and the idea has been cemented further into their head.
Another thing I want to add is that both interest groups have a strong hold on the legislature. There aren't many politicians who want to piss off the church because doing so would piss off 80% of Americans. Even in a country like New Zealand or Australia, the church is still strong enough to keep a significant part of the population onside even in the face of potentially ungodlike laws. For example, there aren't many places where a government could place a tax on churches.
A church and a tobacco company. One uses subtle, underhand techniques to hook its consumers and keep them throwing away money even when they get to the point where they don't want to. If their consumer wants to quit, they enhance their product to make it damned hard to do so. They do this while rallying behind the banner of choice: that their consumer can quit any time they want and they won't stop them. They use their immense cultural and financial power to slow the effects of laws that limit the damage of their product.
The other sells cigarettes.
If there's enough demand for it, I wouldn't mind writing an article for the main site on this topic.
At any rate, it's an interesting thought.
Edited by Inqui, 16 July 2012 - 12:10 AM.