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Chapter 27 - Remaining Independent
There are those in the religion business who desire for reasons of vanity or greed to make captives of those who are searching. They may be charismatic, imposing, or have many credentials. However, the one who would grow in Christ needs to avoid them.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. - 2 Peter 2:3
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. - Galatians 6:13
See to it that no one carries you off as spoil or makes you yourselves captive by his so-called philosophy and intellectualism and vain deceit (idle fancies and plain nonsense), following human tradition (men's ideas of the material rather than the spiritual world), just crude notions following the rudimentary and elemental teachings of the universe and disregarding [the teachings of] Christ (the Messiah). - Colossians 2:8 - Amplified
When one considers how many Christians are held captive and are unable to grow into maturity, it is remarkable that any break free. The Christian out learning on his own will encounter may who would bring him into bondage again. Therefore vigilance is required.
There was a comedian once who speculated that he would like to be a cult leader, but was unable to find any books that could instruct him on how to get followers. Some conditions that make one more vulnerable to be taken in by religious manipulators are;
1. Unfamiliar with truth.
2. Emotionally needy.
3. More introverted.
4. Those feeling guilty about something.
5. People pleasers..
6. Those fearful of confrontation.
7. Potential Milgram “agents”
Since Milgram showed that 85% of people would adapt themselves to be agents of an authority figure, one would conclude that most people are vulnerable to some sort of religious manipulation.
A lesson might be drawn from the FBI investigation of anthrax after the 2001 attacks. They targeted one guy who was resilient and who counter-attacked the head of the Justice Department (who presented himself as a Christian) and accused him of bearing false witness. Their next target was not one so resilient who was driven to suicide.
To withstand enticement, manipulation or bullying, one needs to draw upon resources such as certainty of truth, identification of motives, and resolute faithfulness in Christ. We are not to place our faith in a human. It can be easy, socially acceptable, and even comfortable to go along with a crowd or fall into a role determined by others. But this is of the flesh and does not lead to Christian maturity.
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