Scientology and the Problem of Peer and Group Pressure

May 5, 2015 at 2:53 PM 2 comments

hbo-scientology-documentary-going-clear-trailerI am fascinated by how peer pressure or group pressure can motivate people to do things they would not normally do. If you have not had a chance to watch HBO’s new documentary on the Church of Scientology called, “Going Clear.” I highly recommend it.

There are many “reveals” throughout the documentary as the writer/director focuses mainly on eight people who, for one reason or another, left Scientology after being seriously involved in it for at least 20 years. Several of them were very high-ranking members, reporting directly to David Miscavige, who is now in control of the organization that L. Ron Hubbard began.

While there is a good amount of “he said/she said” type of thing between the people who left and those who remain, for me, the most interesting (and tragic), part of the situation deals with the level and emphasis on peer pressure. I really do not think we give peer pressure enough credit for ruining lives. It is at work in society on a daily basis.

Consider the people who come together to riot, loot, and destroy in Ferguson, or Baltimore, or somewhere else because of their perception of events. These events, dealing with Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and now Freddie Gray, all lead these individuals to conclude that racism is so entrenched and alive in America, that the only way to solve the problem is through violence. Once a person gives into that belief, they easily find themselves involved in illegal activity, all in the name of “justice.” That is a type of group pressure that motivates people and actually brings them together for the same cause.

Consider ISIS and its campaign to root out and destroy any and all who stand against Allah and Islam. To the Muslims who think like this, they firmly believe they are doing a very worthwhile and honorable service for Allah. If they die during the process, so be it. They will have died due to their love and loyalty for Allah. This is also a type of peer or group pressure, where through excitement and emotional highs, people get caught up in the movement, which leads to action. That action can save or destroy and in either case, excuses are provided by people for why they did what they did.

At the heart of the matter is our emotion. Because we are fallen, we must work to see things through the mind of Jesus. Instead, we often see things through our own fallen natures and strive to provide ourselves with excuses to do things that we know to be wrong.

We read about people who have been kidnapped and held against their will. Eventually, over a period of time, the captive will begin to feel a sort of sympathy or even empathy for their captor(s). They see them day in and day out and eventually, want to extend the hand of friendship to them though they would deny that they are doing this. They would say they are just doing what they can to survive.

People in cults or sects that sit on the outer edge of societal norms will do whatever they can to remain part of that group of which they have attached themselves. They do this out of a strong sense of peer pressure or group pressure, in which they believe the cult or sect is good and everything outside that group or sect is bad. In order to maintain their mental equilibrium, they must maintain that belief.

In “Going Clear,” we hear the stories of eight people who eventually and finally got to the point where the flaws they saw in Scientology became so overwhelming that they had to leave. Had they stayed, they would have had a complete mental breakdown.

One of the individuals who reported directly to David Miscavige stated that Miscavige had to continue “believing” in the preposterous nature of Scientology (my paraphrase). He had to continue it. What else could he do? He couldn’t simply walk away from the organization, which was his bread and butter. He couldn’t stand there and admit to people that Scientology was an attempt to marry science fiction with religion, but none of it was true. Miscavige must continue doing what he does. He must keep up the charade for the 50,000 active members of Scientology.

It should be obvious that if Christians are not careful, we too can fall prey to the trappings of peer or group pressure. Recently, a group of people in a local church were put on a committee to go through all the resumes in hopes of finding a new minister of music. Eventually, one was found and those involved extolled the process as being good and unifying. They felt that the person they eventually called to the position (and he accepted), must be the person because they (the committee), were in full unity over it.

What strikes me odd though is that these folks appear to be completely unaware of the trappings of peer/group pressure and its effect on any group of people. Jurors often go through and there have been many verdicts handed down by a unanimous jury that were overturned later because of one fact or another. When that happens, it is not uncommon to hear a juror say something like, “Well, I had my doubts about agreeing to a guilty verdict at the time, but everyone else seemed so convinced.”

Is this what unity for the Christian means, that we all have to agree on everything? I don’t think so and it seems clear to me that what Jesus, Paul, and other writers meant is that even during those times when we disagree, we should agree to disagree and move on.

I’m not sure that a committee that is in complete agreement is necessarily a committee that is being directed by God. It could certainly be the case, but it is does not have to be the case. The situation involving the twelve spies is a perfect example of this (cf. Numbers 13). Out of the 12 spies, two agreed with each other. The other ten agreed with each other as well. If we go by numbers then, 10 spies agreed with one another and were the majority. The other two were in the minority even though they also agreed with one another.

The people of Israel were convinced that the 10 spies had it right and the two had it wrong. As Christians, we want His will to be accomplished. It may be though, that the unity we seek is not the unity He wants. Peer pressure can be a killer. It can grieve the Holy Spirit if we succumb to others because we think “Oh well, I’ll just go along.”

God doesn’t want people who just “go along.” He wants people who are not afraid to seek His will and do it regardless of what peer/group pressure may try to dictate.

As far as Scientology goes and the how peer pressure works in a very subversive way, we suggest more reading at Tony Ortega’s website about Scientology.

Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , .

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  • 1. Sherry  |  May 5, 2015 at 3:41 PM

    Reblogged this on The X Mass H8rs Blog and commented:
    FTA: The people were convinced that the 10 spies had it right and the two had it wrong. As Christians, we want His will accomplished. It may be though that the unity we seek is not the unity He wants. Peer pressure can be a killer. It can grieve the Holy Spirit if we succumb to others because we think “Oh well, I’ll just go along.”

    God doesn’t want people who just “go along.” He wants people who are not afraid to seek His will and do it.

    (my add: we need to exercise discernment! Not just go along with the crowd thinking its OK because it is tradition or that others are doing it or worry about what others would think of us if we quit doing it when God’s will is violated. Jesus did tell us to count the cost of following Him.)

    • 2. modres  |  May 5, 2015 at 4:49 PM

      Yes, agreed. We are UNIFIED! 🙂

      Seriously, it does require discernment today, which is severely lacking throughout Christendom.

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