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Manipulation And Psychological Abuse


Mongo
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BTW – you must read how this story ends….

 

In the fall of 1976, a Baptist youth group in my village introduced me to the basics of Christianity. After the first night, I was convinced that the process of reading the bible and praying that god change us to be better people was a good way to live. Two weeks later I was invited to hear Peter Youngren, a young and energetic evangelist at a Pentecostal church in the nearby city.

 

This was the very first time I had ever been to a whoopin’ and hollerin’ church service and even though it seemed a little strange, I figured it couldn’t be bad since my 2 cousins and sister seemed to endorse it.

 

The night progressed as pretty much all Pentecostal services go, singing followed by announcements, then singing, preaching and an altar call.

 

Since Youngren was a special speaker, it is quite likely that there were people giving testimony about how God changed their lives and they are so much happier about it.

 

At the time, I was only 17 so I had no idea how these folks were working on my emotions and creating guilt. Youngren presented his message and quite frankly was and still is a skilled speaker. He employs the “Gaaawwwwd” and “”Jesus-ah” and “Lord-ah” kind of histronics common to bible belt preachers like Swaggart and Ernest Angley. So by the time Youngren had finished speaking I was cooked and ready to be devoured.

 

At that point I experienced something I’d never done before. At the end of the sermon, Youngren asked everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes and search their souls while he spoke. Most of you likely know this as the “altar call”.

 

During that altar call, Youngren asked us to be honest with ourselves and whether we knew we were saved. Although I had just recently embraced Christianity through the weekly Baptist bible study I was not absolutely certain I was saved so I felt an urgent need to “get right with god”. As Youngren spoke, he asked all those wanting to receive god in their hearts to raise their hands. As you can guess, I did. However, as I lowered my hand, it knocked against the grape juice holder with a crack to be heard for several pews away and most certainly by my 2 cousins and sister. This private communication between me and the evangelist was now semi-public.

 

Once Youngren had convinced enough people to put their hands, he asked us all to stand up. The organist began playing the altar call standard, “Just As I Am” and congregation started cooing the tune and raising their hands. I did not expect what happened next either. Youngren then began to plead with those who raised their hands to come forward and make a “public declaration” of their faith in Christ. I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to do this. I was not familiar with the church, I was new to Christianity and yet, I wanted God to come into my life and make me a new person. I wanted His love to fill every part of me and how would that happen if I were to deny him like the Apostle Peter?

 

After a moment of hesitancy, I made my way up the aisle and knelt at the altar. Someone came next to me and helped me pray the sinner’s prayer and talk to me a bit. After that I went back to my seat feeling OK but when I went back to my seat and saw that my 2 cousins and sister were accepting and encouraging, I felt great about going forward.

 

I was now committed to putting God first in my life and to learning as much as I could about him. That night I was on cloud nine and experienced a sense of peace and utter joy that only comes to us a few times in our lives.

 

Well… that is how I got saved but that is not the end of this story.

 

I’ll spare you the details on how I got unsaved but let’s fast forward about 20 years to my nephew’s graduation from college in 2006.

 

Life is strange sometimes and my nephew, being indoctrinated into Christianity by my sister, decided to go to a discipleship college run by none other than… yep… Peter Youngren.

 

By this time, Youngren has grown his ministry to include a huge honkin’ church with at least one other affiliate, a discipleship / missionary college, frequent world wide evangelism tours and a weekly half hour TV ministry.

 

As luck would have it, I moved to Ontario and live within an hours drive from Youngren’s church and so when my nephew graduated from college, he invited me and of course, I went… back into the Lion’s Den.

 

Most of the graduation was harmless formal activity as the college and their families honour the achievements of the students. A few students preached for 5 or 10 minutes each and a college staff had their say as well. Toward the end, Peter Youngren got up to speak and after the formalities of graduation, he began to talk about something like the importance of a personal relationship to Christ.

 

At the end of that I was mildly surprised at what happened next. Although it was a graduation and in my opinion, an inappropriate juncture, Youngren decided that he would ask everyone to close their eyes and bow their heads so he can ask them if they needed Jesus to come into their lives. As luck would have it, perhaps my own sub-consious intent, I was sitting close to the front where I would have a good view of Youngren and he of me. I was about 20 feet away from him and as he cooed away about taking a moment to be honest with god, he happened to notice that I didn’t have my head bowed or my eyes closed. Now Youngren is slick and so he mentioned that we all needed to close our eyes to conserve the privacy of each one’s moment alone with God and he repeatedly asks nicely while he moves from one side of the altar to the other.

 

Now I’m sitting there afraid that he is going to say something directly to me and perhaps accuse me of having a bad spirit or who knows. This is my nephew’s graduation. I went there to honour him not create a scene but what can I do if Youngren pushes the point?!! So I’m sitting there quietly looking at him or at the altar/stage and the lights and then he moves back to my side of the altar. At this point I decide I have to stare him down. It’s now an official pissing match and I’m not givin’ in. I look at Youngren and he looks straight at me, were about 10 feet apart and asks for the 6th or 7th time that we all close our eyes to respect the privacy of everyone in the sanctuary. I look at him and give my head a slight shake as if to say, “No way man, move on”. At that point, he gives in and finishes his call to Christ and the graduation moves back into the ceremony that it should be. Ahhhhh…

 

I walked into the Lion’s Den and stared him down. Wahooooo!

 

Well that’s the end of my story of emotional manipulation that was used to get me into Christianity.

 

I am convinced I was manipulated during the 10 years that I was part of Fundamentalist Christianity but I find it very difficult to make a good argument to prove it.

 

This site gives an excellent overview of the tools and tactics used to manipulate people.

http://www.wealth4freedom.com/truth/brainwashing.htm

 

A lot of atheists, agnostics and such spend a lot of time looking at the technical side of Christianity such as refuting apologetics. I think when it comes the emotional side, we find ourselves less capable of making our case for being free of the religious abuse that most who comes to this site will readily acknowledge.

 

I think we need to educate ourselves about these manipulative tactics so that we can better balance our criticism of the vile practice of evangelism.

 

Let’s talk…

 

Eric

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I wouldn't doubt for a minute that you were manipulated.

 

Check these out:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manipulation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_influence

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selling_technique (this one in particular)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_control

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_abuse

 

Evangelical Christians have a product that they're trying to sell you. They're no different than any other salesmen, they're just peddling salvation instead of, say, encyclopedias. Take a look at the links above and see if you can identify any tactics that fundies might have used in your own life.

 

And if I may humbly offer an example of religious manipulation from my own life, as an example of such - FundieBoy, the notorious ex-boyfiend I've mentioned here a few times, made a number of attempts to maneuver me into his religion; and he was definitely manipulative about it. A few tactics he used were:

 

Prospecting: Choosing an emotionally vulnerable target.

When he met me, I was recently divorced. I had emerged from a truly barren, cold, loveless marriage and was hungry for emotional contact. I was also in a state of limbo regarding religion and spirituality: I wasn't sure what I believed, though I was on my way to paganism at the time. I was certainly happier than I had been for a long time, but I was definitely open to his second tactic...

 

The Hook: Love-bombing.

When we met, he went out of his way to shower me with affection, warmth, and praise. Some of it was couched in Christianese, some of it wasn't. The level and degree of attention received was far in excess of any affectionate attention I'd ever received from any other prospective lover, though in quality much of it wasn't different. It was a matter of quantity. I was ripe for it and fell for it hook, line, sinker, rod, reel, and copy of Angling Times.

 

Presentation Part A: Questions.

FundieBoy seemed far more interested in my spirituality and religious state than any other potential partner. He was trying to find my weaknesses and vulnerabilities here. He asked all kinds of probing questions, and half the time he didn't let me actually finish my answers before launching into...

 

Presentation Part B: Selling the sizzle.

At every opportunity, FundieBoy "sold" me Christianity - his brand in particular. He couldn't say enough about what wonderful things had happened to him because of it, how he'd changed as a person, what miracles he'd seen, and what the benefits would be. Tied into this - subtly at first, then gradually more obviously - was the implication that one of the benefits I'd earn by converting was him and his constant love-bombing. So he provided motivation for me to change.

 

Normally the next step would've been for him to Close the Sale - but I wasn't interested in what he was selling. Which is when the abusive manipulation began, like lectures on hell and unfavorable comparisons of me to the devout Christian women in his life. And then, of course, he finally came to a point where he couldn't handle the rejection of his product anymore, so he just dropped the act and stopped pretending that he wasn't a right royal lying asshole. The rest is history.

 

Specific details point to the tactics themselves. I can remember one time speaking with him about my depressive illness, which is something I'm honest about, certainly, but very private with certain aspects of it. So when I was talking about the various things I've tried to combat it, and he interrupted me with the statement, "How would you like to be cured of your depression?" it kind of threw me. I realized right away that he was using my illness as bait - i.e., as a "Jesus can heal you and if you convert you'll be cured" implication - using it as part of his prospecting. (He backed off after I commented that Jesus hadn't seen fit to heal me of it when I was Christian, so he probably wouldn't heal me now either.)

 

In the end it was all just really slimy, though it took me a bit to wake up to that. But I hear you about staring down the Lion in his den and I'm glad you did - because I did it too, with FundieBoy. And he didn't like it. And left the relationship vilifying me whole hog for not falling in line.

 

So good on ya for standing up to Youngren. Woo! :woohoo:

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Interesting stories! Evangelists just seem to have a natural talent for speech...I can remember being enthralled at some of those sermons, especially during a "revival". They really pour it on then! They always seem to find the tender spots in a person, always looking for vulnerabilities like a wolf on the hunt.

 

Great job, resisting the bait...

 

"Deep within the heart of every evangelist lies the wreck of a car salesman."(H.L. Mencken)

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....I am convinced I was manipulated during the 10 years that I was part of Fundamentalist Christianity but I find it very difficult to make a good argument to prove it.....

 

A lot of atheists, agnostics and such spend a lot of time looking at the technical side of Christianity such as refuting apologetics. I think when it comes the emotional side, we find ourselves less capable of making our case for being free of the religious abuse that most who comes to this site will readily acknowledge.

I think we need to educate ourselves about these manipulative tactics so that we can better balance our criticism of the vile practice of evangelism.

 

Let’s talk…

 

Eric

 

Really great observations, Eric. Nicetameetcha.

 

The emotional side is exactly why (IMHO) most folks who know the religion makes zero sense stay in it. The "guilt/confession/forgivesness/freedom" roller-coaster is part of the brainwashing. Keeps ya hooked.

 

The last time I sat through an alter call (it was thinly veiled as "words" at a memorial service) I just rolled my eyes and thought, "here we freakin' go again with the Jezus-is-the-answer sales pitch."

 

I loved the stare down w/ the sheister. Good going, dude. :thanks:

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Christianity does indeed emotionally manipulate people. I know I was manipulated as a child. The induced guilt trips, self hatred, telling me I was going to burn in hell even though I was an innocent child, telling me that I worthless, etc. No human being should ever be treated like that, much less a child. Anyone who treats people like that is deplorable.

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I wouldn't doubt for a minute that you were manipulated.

 

Normally the next step would've been for him to Close the Sale - but I wasn't interested in what he was selling. Which is when the abusive manipulation began, like lectures on hell and unfavorable comparisons of me to the devout Christian women in his life. And then, of course, he finally came to a point where he couldn't handle the rejection of his product anymore, so he just dropped the act and stopped pretending that he wasn't a right royal lying asshole. The rest is history.

 

And left the relationship vilifying me whole hog for not falling in line.

 

 

 

Great story; you did a great job reading this guy.

 

I have read that abusive men start out with extreme wooing and attention. Since you did not let that win you over, I find it interesting that he switched to a highly negative approach.

 

He really sank low with the healing part. Thanks for sharing.

 

Thanks for the resources too.

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