What Type of Person Captures the Heart of the People?
People don’t follow someone who doesn’t in some way capture their heart. The effective demagogue promises to provide the desires of those he seeks to lead. The most corrupt and influential leaders never announce “I am a villain! I’ve come to con you and bend you to my will!”
Promises to Sell
Yet leaders that have eventually come to be feared and hated began with the same “magic beans,” “snake oil,” or “making your dreams come true” promises to sell. Enough people believed in their ability to solve problems, make things great again, to alleviate their worst fears. This is especially effective when the leader creates his follower’s worst fears. It is all the more reason for his followers to co-create with him a deeply dysfunctional trust in his unique ability to solve their problems. His promises can be extreme, illogical, and impossible. It doesn’t matter. When one pins their hopes on another so completely, he or she relinquishes reason. There is no talking a person out of their choice. Their mind is fixed. Their ego is involved now as well. Their ego says, “If I made the choice, it must be right!” Any evidence to the contrary is quickly and often violently dismissed. The follower tends to take on characteristics of their leader. No matter what the leader says that might have otherwise offended or repulsed the follower, the need to defend their choice is greater than their former convictions. They have become part of a co-dependent relationship with their beloved leader. They have become a trumpet of his heroism, as they see it. The glazed eyes, the blind allegiance, is now set. There is no going back without admitting that one was fooled, duped, misled, and possibly weak-minded to have been successfully reeled in by such an obvious con.
I do not judge. I do not sneer. I do not look down on the “dumb sheep.” How can I? I was one. I understand the psychology of desperation and how it can easily lead to an unholy alliance with a madman who claims to be either a religious or political savior of the people. Oh, the madmen don’t claim to be madmen at first. The frogs would never get boiled that way!
First Things First
First they entice you by complaining about the current administration or traditional religions. They place doubts with strategic stealth. They create deeper dissatisfaction with the current problematic situation while dropping seeds of promise that “they alone have the secrets to solutions.” They promise financial “blessings” for obedience while digging deeper into your pockets while your face is turned heavenward. I saw it. I heard it. I watched it happening all around and inside of me, from the time I was a six-month old baby.
My parents began attending a fringe Christian church after being scared to death by a charismatic doomsday prophet they heard when tuning into a religious radio program. The church had a magazine called “The Plain Truth,” which is a great way to disguise a pack of lies.
I was frightened by sermons describing in horrifying detail, the cost of disobeying God. There seemed to be an unlimited amount of ways within ways to incur his wrath. There were numerous ways in which to please this God, through strictest obedience, and yet it was never, ever good enough. The church had a booklet for every question. The booklet proclaimed (often in capital letters that seemed like written screaming) what was said to be “God’s way” of looking at each subject. The screaming was used as a show of authority, which I later in life realized was a display of quite the opposite. To be an authority on a subject, one need not scream at all. When you know something and are confident in that knowing, screaming is completely unnecessary.
A Booklet for Every Subject
The subjects of their written ranting ranged from “The Plain Truth” on every traditional Christian holiday (these were forbidden by the church as pagan, and thus, evil and hated by God) to whether or not women were allowed (by God’s standards) to wear makeup. Men had no fear of their toupees being taken away, however. It was the patriarchal rule of a misogynistic, egomaniacal racist who proclaimed himself to be the “Apostle of God” for “the end times.” All of the booklets were free. This was deemed to be a righteous mandate from God as well. The “truth,” he would preach, could not be bought or sold. Preachers who asked for money on the air (radio evangelists who came before “televangelists”) were described as ungodly, greedy con-artists. Ah, but here’s the rub: when you actually started attending the church, no less than three full tithes were required, on top of which were Holy Day offerings and tithe of the tithe. It is true that a “third tithe year” came only once in three years, and the second required tithe was to be saved (every year) for a grand annual church convention that was approached by many members as a fun family vacation (except that you had to sit through sermons every day – sometimes 2-3 hour long services with only a couple hours break for lunch – then right back to another 2-3 hour long afternoon service). Somehow, we thought that was “fun.” Of course, if we complained, God would be angry. The convention was built around the idea of the Old Testament “Feast of Tabernacles.”
Whip the People Into a Frenzy Then Close the Deal
Looking back, it was more like an intensive indoctrination seminar. No wonder many of the adults would get drunk every night after services. Come to think of it, there were many similarities to modern-day political rallies. When you bring thousands of people together, with a screaming madman as the focus, it is amazing how the frenzy of brain-washing spreads through the crowd.
We were constantly warned about “the end times.” We were consistently fed a main course of fear, with a heaping helping of exclusivity on the side. All races of people were welcome, but it was painfully clear that some were more welcomed than others. Some were given more prestigious jobs, while others were relegated to kitchen duties. White supremacy was in the subtext of every book or article.
Members were “the chosen ones.” We were made to feel special, more “in the know” than the rest of the “deceived world.” It’s quite a trick to tell people they have “nothing to lose,” so they might as well give something a try, and then proceed to rob them blind. The more desperate the followers, the less logical or reasonable they will be.
In my childhood church there was no “Sunday school.” There was no Sunday worship at all. Saturday was the day God ordained. Every other Sunday-keeping church had it “wrong,” along with just about everything else they taught. Most sermons were more about what was “wrong” with traditional Christianity than they were about what was “right” with the “Worldwide Church of God.” This has always been a great way to avoid taking the time to develop well thought-out workable plans, policies, or a nurturing, loving community that a church should be.
Separation of Church and State? Not So Much
In this way, the founding pastor was quite the slick politician. He knew how to play on people’s fears of “the others,” and how to build loyalty to a “safe haven” that would protect its members from the “deceived world.” What a trick it is to make someone feel safe while they are being locked in with the monsters. Fear. It surrounded me. I especially feared curious teachers or classmates at school who questioned my bizarre practices and beliefs. This is the psychology behind “divide and conquer” schemes. Someone who wants to dominate a church, an organization or a country, does not seek to bring people together. He seeks to create an “other” for them to fear, shun, fight against, look down on, or pity. He cares not for the good of the people he leads. He cares about power, wealth, all the things he usually preaches or speaks against. The red-faced man who is screaming about corruption is the first one who should be most stringently investigated. I know this from personal experience.
I was able to finally pry myself from the clutches of cult-like thinking at about age 33. The corrupt and abusive pastor had long-since died. The church softened its views on many of the original doctrines, became more mainstream. I realized that there was no “special revelation” to hold onto, and this released me from the mental prison I’d constructed for myself, the dogma and fear being jailer and warden. I realized I had choices as to what to believe. I realized that I could observe. Many things were not necessarily to be believed or disbelieved, but rather to be observed. There weren’t easy, elementary answers to everything. People could not be trusted as authorities simply because they screamed the loudest.
A Journey to Sanity
Since then, it has been a journey out of the mental quagmire of feeling never-good-enough, never-righteous-enough, and never simultaneously spinning all the plates in just the right way all the time, enough. I vowed to use my experience to help others. If there was a way that I could share what I had learned to save them some of the grief I’d gone through, with all my heart, I wanted to do it. I wrote a book, as many feel compelled to do when they feel that their message might help someone else. I didn’t want to go chapter by chapter through the disturbing details of my childhood church. I wanted to make it more interesting for the reader, I wanted to appeal to young adults who loved fantasy and romance.
Prophecy in History
At no time in history has this story been more relevant than now. I suppose that is because it is a never-ending component of human-nature to repeat history until we learn, until we glean every bit of wisdom we can, so that we do not need to live the horror of it ever again.
We are all vulnerable, to both fooling and being fooled. Insecurities create fear in the “fooler” who wishes to be seen as a great leader, savior or “Emperor of the World.” It is up to the fooled to open our eyes, think for ourselves and refuse to feed the insecurities of madmen.
Real Hope, Real Help
There is a way to avoid the pattern that has played itself out over and over throughout the ages. There is a way to step out of the madness, even when the wheels seem to be inextricably turning, moving us closer and closer to disaster. It requires clear thinking, feeling your own power, realizing that we are all humans, all with untapped powers that long to be tapped. The Universe is filled with solutions. It is time to let go of the fears that have been fabricated by those who desire to control you.
Trust what you see with your heart. Just by existing, you are affecting everything around you. Make a sacred pact with yourself to open your eyes. Observe. Breathe.
Co-Create Our World
How would you like your world to be? What would you allow in? What would you keep out? Not whom. What.
We will find strength together to end the power of the con that has so often ensnared us as a vulnerable humanity. We will find the spirit of love that tells us that we are a co-creative powerful humanity. It starts with just one mind, and trusting the limitless power of that one mind. Yours.