Recruitment 102

Are you truly committed to God? Are you living your life the way the Bible says to? How do you know? Upon what do you base your faith? If you were to die suddenly, where would you spend eternity? Do you know what the Bible says about the afterlife? Can you serve God and also be a combatant in the military? Are the miracles talked about in the Bible real or symbolic?
If you were asked the above questions in either a one on one or small group situation, would you have answers for them? Would you be able to reference specific Bible verses that substantiate your answers? If not, you too could be recruited into a "Bible-based" cult or sect. To illustrate how, let's look again at our example from part 1 of this article.
 
Pre-Cult Self
Recruitment/Indoctrination
After Conversion
     
Feelings
Feelings
Feelings
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|
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Thoughts & Beliefs
Thoughts & Beliefs
Thoughts & Beliefs
|
\
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Behavior
Behavior
Behavior
As I talked about in part 1, the illustration above is an example of how Festingers "cognitive dissonance theory" works in cult recruitment. Column 1 shows a person prior to cult involvement with their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and behavior pretty much in alignment. Column 2 depicts the initial conversion process. Here the recruits' behavior has been modified in that he is now attending group meetings, services, studies, etc. His or her thoughts feelings and beliefs are yet unchanged but that is only temporary.
If the cult in question is "Bible-based", it is at this stage that scripture and/or book study is introduced. I mention book study because some groups print their own material. Study guides and reference material designed to help the new recruit learn the Bible from the groups' viewpoint. Not all do this however. Many teach directly from the Bible with no printed study guides.
A recruiter well versed in scripture can quickly have a new recruit second-guessing their belief system. Talk of eternity, the afterlife, life and death, and serving God can be very powerful and with good reason. Some people simply avoid these subjects because of the powerful emotions they can stir. Others have thought about them some and come to beliefs they are comfortable with through their church or other religious assembly. A small percentage however can clearly articulate their beliefs on these matters much less point to chapters and verses in the Bible that validate their point of view. For many, these questions are intensely personal.
Let's look again at the questions I asked you a few minutes ago. Are you truly committed to God? Are you living your life the way the Bible says to? How do you know? Upon what do you base your faith? If you were to die suddenly, where would you spend eternity? Do you know what the Bible says about the afterlife? Can you serve God and also be a combatant in the military? Are the miracles talked about in the Bible real or symbolic?
 
Cognitive Dissonance
 
What if you die?
  Eternity??
How can you be sure??
Are you truly committed??
How about your family?
Heaven or hell?
 
Feelings
 
 
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Thoughts & Beliefs
 
 
\
 
 
Behavior
Once the behavior is modified and the new recruit is coming to meetings or studies, the above are just a small sample of the kinds of questions recruiters often pose to potential recruits. Once the newcomer begins doubting and questioning his or her current belief system, they have taken the bait. Their behavior is now in "cult mode", and their thoughts, beliefs, and emotions are up in the air. They are now experiencing the "dissonance" we talked about in part 1 of this study.
Allow me to digress for a minute and talk about motives. When use terms like "cult recruiters" and "taking the bait" it could easily sound like I am portraying these folks as bad people. Let me just say that nothing could be further from the truth. Cult recruiters are true believers. They firmly believe that they are helping you when they reach out to you. What they try to teach you is exactly what somebody a year or ten years ago has taught them. In short, I firmly believe that cult recruiters, are well intentioned and doing the best they have with the information available to them. My wife is a former cult recruiter and so am I. When we were true believers busily inviting our friends, relatives, and co-workers to group events, we both thought what we were doing was right.
Finally, it is not just study. Remember, during the recruitment phase the Bible is but one of the tools used to create the dissonance necessary to bring about conversion. While the studies work on your thoughts and beliefs, the social aspects of the group are working on your emotions. By this stage, the new recruit likely has several new friends in the group who call him often. In fact, the new recruit has probably never had the intense level of attention from so many people as he will have during the recruitment phase. This has been referred to as "love-bombing" and can have a powerful effect on emotions and judgment.