What is Indoctrination?
Indoctrination could be described as the process of imparting, not teaching. It presents doctrine in an authoritative manner in which the disciple (student) being subjugated is impressed upon to never question or explore it’s fallibility, integrity or truth.
Let’s look at some definitions:
- to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments
- to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle
A sectarian or partisan teaching is one that has a bend of exclusivity to it; it serves to ‘set apart’ those who adhere to these opinions. This is a difficult concept to grasp, given that “doctrine” is a core aspect of Christianity. It is very much a part of the Christian faith, and is necessary in becoming a follower of Christ. “Doctrine” in itself is a ‘teaching’, which obviously requires instruction. It could consist of principles, precepts or instructions towards any given view – from political, moral, ethical, educational, spiritual and practical perspective of life.
Therefore in context of religion, one might suggest that the teaching of doctrine in any form of religious institution or belief system requires one to teach their doctrine as though it were ‘absolute fact’. A criticism of religion is that the practice of teaching ‘doctrines’ of our faith to our children amounts to “indoctrination”. It is a fact that the most easily ‘indoctrinated’ are those who are most vulnerable, weak or feebleminded. Our children are the most vulnerable of all, given their absolute trust in their parents.
If we as Christians believe that we hold truth, how then do we teach doctrine? How do we pass our faith to our children in a manner that is healthy?
Sound Doctrine vs. Indoctrination
There is a way in which to present ‘sound doctrine’ where it produces fruits of righteousness. In its unhealthy practice, doctrine merely becomes “indoctrination” – and serves to create factions and division. Here, it concerns itself more with strict adherence (obedience which represents agreement and by this, “salvation”) to the doctrinal teaching than a pure, tested, heart-sought decision to follow. In other words, “don’t ask – just do” (as opposed to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” [1 Thess. 5:21]).
To an unhealthy leader, doctrine becomes a means to self-exalt, divide and isolate. Their version of “sound doctrine” amounts to “It’s right because I said so” and protects the ground gained by his so-called ‘leaderships’ and influence.
In the Message, that’s exactly what William Branham’s words have become; the absolute. Its teachers use quotes as the basis for scriptural understanding rather than scripture to discern and test the accuracy of the quotes. Any discrepancy can be resolved by piecing together William Branham quotes arbitrarily until it ‘makes sense’ to them. I don’t blame the teachers entirely; they are often sincerely convinced that William Branham was the ‘Word Prophet’ for the day. When they don’t understand something that seems to defy scripture, they will tape and stitch together an explanation using quotes from multiple William Branham recorded sermons. Given the span of the course of his ministry from 1947 and 1965, there is a lot of material to draw from. William Branham contradicted himself often, which actually serves as a benefit to teachers who then can find quotes convenient to their personal view or immediate purpose.
Most message believers have NEVER examined or tested the words of William Branham to recognize the wild contradictions and issues, because in their minds, his words are not to be contested; they are truth. Believers are conditioned (or indoctrinated) to absolve from critical thinking and resign to unwavering agreement.
According to scripture, the teaching of the Gospel’s doctrine is to bring people into the purpose of Christ’s calling. It ought to provoke one to a life of service and a testimony of Christ-like fruits. Paul writes to Titus, regarding the gospel and it’s teaching:
“…so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
The ‘things’ which Paul is “insisting” on are his doctrines, or what he is teaching. In contrast, when Message indoctrination is practiced, it does not concern itself with empowering people to a life of ‘reaching out’, but rather to a life of ‘staying in’. Biblical “sound doctrine” is less about ‘right doctrine’ – in the sense of being picture perfect. “Sound Doctrine” produces a genuine Christian life – not a perfect life. Yet – for the indoctrinated – their whole focus amounts to “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about laws”.
Born into Religion
Indoctrination is effective. The following quote we came across through the course of our journey in the last couple years was really thought provoking and true:
“Born in a Protestant land, we are of that faith. If we had opened our eyes to the light under the shadows of St. Peter’s at Rome, we should have been devout Catholics; born in the Jewish quarter of Aleppo, we should have contemned Christ as an imposter; in Constantinople, we should have cried “Allah il Allah, God is great and Mahomet is his prophet!” Birth, place, and education give us our faith. Few believe in any religion because they have examined the evidences of its authenticity, and made up a formal judgment, upon weighing the testimony. Not one man in ten thousand knows anything about the proofs of his faith. We believe what we are taught; and those are most fanatical who know least of the evidences on which their creed is based. Facts and testimony are not, except in very rare instances, the ground-work of faith.
It is an imperative law of God’s Economy, unyielding and inflexible as Himself, that man shall accept without question the belief of those among whom he is born and reared; the faith so made a part of his nature resists all evidence to the contrary; and he will disbelieve even the evidence of his own senses, rather than yield up the religious belief which has grown up in him, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.”
– Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma
It is true, more often than not, we are likely to adopt the faith of our community, culture and family. Geography and culture are obvious, major factors. For those of us who were born into Message families, we are told that this is predestinated privilege. It holds hands with the teaching of Serpent Seed, and we rest in the knowledge that God is building his family by the extreme blessing of being born and raised in a family of ‘believers’. Therefore, the believers are much alike Israel, raised up to be God’s chosen and elected people.
The fact is, by this thinking, unless you are born into a Message family – chances are, you are not the Bride of Jesus Christ. Consequently, it is always baffling to believers when a child of a message family walks away from the faith. It is shameful to the parents as they berate themselves for failing to raise their children to believe. For people who remain in the church, it’s confusing to think that some family members seem to bear the ‘seed gene of God’, and others do not? The only explanation is predestination. Some distraught parents evoke the “apply the Token” teaching, hoping that they can save their household by mystically applying the blood in faith to their family.
Is this sound teaching? Is this God?
Have you noticed that the growth of the Message of the Hour is most not a result of conversion? In otherwords, the growth in most message churches is because of indoctrination of it’s own children.
The Power of Indoctrination
Very clearly, indoctrination impedes critical thinking. The applied nature of its teaching literally paralyzes the natural curiosity to ask “why“? Questioning is consistently portrayed as evident weakness, lack of faith and rebellion. “Immature” message believers are critiqued by their ability to adhere to the “A,B, C’s” of doctrine, which by William Branham’s teaching is the ability to follow the rules.
61-1210 PARADOX JEFFERSONVILLE IN SUNDAY_ 154
“If I can’t get them out of kindergarten, how am I going to teach them algebra? They haven’t got the decency and morally–morality about them, to even let their hair grow out, and wear dress like ladies, how you going to teach them spiritual things? See? Now he… Don’t know the first, don’t know abc’s. And try to teach them something high, give them a college education, when they don’t know abc’s? Let learn abc’s first, and then we’ll–we’ll go on to that.”
By this dynamic, believers are impressed upon to consider their obedience first, without a hint of questioning, to be a sign of spiritual strength. Ultimately, our obedience correlates to our very ‘safety’. It is both security and peace for believers souls to forfeit their mind. Hence, legalism becomes a primary issue – constantly measuring the church against the standard, with the promise that it will lead to greater spirituality and gifts.
Believers are taught to believe that every act of William Branham, and the pastors / parents, are entirely in their best interest. They innocently believe the leaders act purely for the cause of justice, peace and freedom on their behalf. They wage war against the foolish members of other churches and denominations who are consumed with destroying them. So believers interpret any form of rebuke and chastisement – against them or against the ‘sins of the world’ around them, to be justly deserved and pure. Believers wouldn’t fathom that these are actually the tentacles of indoctrination wrapping around them, and it bears little resemblance to scriptural truth. In fact – believers cannot begin to examine whether or not they are true.
I do not believe the leadership all understand that this is what they are teaching. Many of them are acting out of their own indoctrinated minds. Yet, they do recognize that any appearance of ‘doubt’ endangers their own security and peace. It’s much easier to have a congregation that does not question and entirely conforms to his sovereign leadership.
Do you realize many people actually get ‘kicked out’ or ‘excommunicated’ for questioning their pastors in the Message? It is not uncommon. In the course of the past year, many of those we have encountered had approached their pastor with GENUINE questions, due to the rumours of failed prophecies and errors. They were not trying to stir controversy or trouble; they just wanted to understand. They were shocked when their question were not met with answers, but instead, strong words of rebuke. In virtually every case, no answers were given. The expectation given was to stop asking, don’t listen to ‘the doubters’, and realign with the status quo immediately. After all, questions were dangerous.
This is evil. It should not build confidence that what you are believing is true; it ought to make you ask more questions.
Indoctrination Thrives by Isolation
Again, I do not think many ministers know what they are doing when they teach the Message. The assumption is, they are doing what is best for the flock. The leaders themselves know that mingling with the world and listening to ‘other ideas’ will result in questions. The logical solution is to minimize that possibility (because questions, ultimately, are bad). Hence, you will encounter the strong teaching towards isolation and separation.
Many leaders forbid or preach strongly against listening to or reading anything outside of Message material. Books about ‘life’ issues (such as message, parenting, relationships, etc) are widely considered ‘psychology’. Immersing the people in ‘tapes’ and reading message books and materials is strongly encouraged. Listening to what is considered ‘secular Christian’ music is frowned upon, and thus, many will only listen to music produced by message believers.
A visit to the Bible bookstore results in the Message Believer scanning the shelves and essentially looking down and disregarding the weak, watered-down gospel being offered by the poor, deceived denominational leaders. Listening to radio evangelists and ministries can be perplexing; because they may have to concede that it ‘sounded okay’. But ultimately, the inevitable consensus is that they’re just a Baptist preacher (or whatever denomination applies).
In the end, the concept of isolation is to strip the people from their own individuality. When indoctrination takes hold, the sheep are fearful that separation from the ‘herd’ is a frightening and dangerous place for a Message Believer to be. Conformity, sticking with the herd, and keeping any ‘different opinion’ to yourself is essential. There is a social acceptance to be found within the culture of the Message that becomes completely comfortable, and even ‘enjoyable’ once you learn to resign to the order of things. Conformity results in a distorted view of ‘peace’. Those who struggle to conform are met with unending inner condemnation, emotional turmoil, guilt and a feeling that they ‘must not be the Bride’ due to their struggles to be like everyone else.
“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do willl find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.” –– Timothy Keller
To remove the ability for someone to explore their faith, and examine the teachings in a critical way is essential for real faith. Otherwise, it become a blind and helpless devotion that is not grounded in faith – but rather in indoctrinated fear. As criticism against the message continues, this problem is increasingly evident. People WILL NOT answer questions or search to know whether or not the things they are hearing are true. We’ve heard people say that they believe because William Branham has “Thus Saith the Lord”. Have you ever researched how many people (who have very similar ministries to William Branham) used the phrase “Thus Saith the Lord” too?
We have realized that the average believer lives by this:
“It’s true, because I believe”. What they SHOULD be living by is “I believe, because it’s true”.
Do yourself the favour.
Put down your books, lay aside your Message theology – and ask:
- have you honestly, sincerely examined your faith?
- have you tried to answer any of the questions against the Message YOURSELF? Have you researched, not to prove William Branham, but to find the truth?
- Have you compared the gospel of Jesus Christ with the teaching of William Branham?
- Have you listened, honestly, to the words of other men of God who have devoted their lives to study, to learning and teaching the BIBLE ALONE?
- Do you just take whatever your pastor says as “Thus Saith the Lord”?
“Let the Children Come to Me”
“…but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
The Message has adopted the view of spiritual overseers, to rebuke and correct every manner of thought and behaviour through the lens of it’s own ‘message filter’. But to allow the children to “come” – to guide them, and TEACH them – rather than force them through tactics of indoctrination – is not the practice in message culture. It’s a difference that is both subtle, yet profound. In the Message, people are not given the liberty to ‘doubt’.
We hate over-generalization, and we KNOW there are those in the Message who have a much deeper grasp of this than others. But as a rule – the SYSTEM of teaching allows very little room for deviation from this method of teaching. Until you leave, this is something that will make absolutely no sense when holding yourself in this light. (However, we suspect, it would be easy for a believer to subscribe this to ‘other groups’ – like the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Pentecostals, etc)