Just about every human organization has them. It is their job to police the thoughts and ideas of organization members that might be threatening to the sacred Status Quo. The more authoritarian the organization, the larger and more pervasive their role.
In smaller organizations, the Thought Police (TP) may be self-appointed. In church groups, they are the heresy hunters – the righteous few who understand perfectly what ought to be taught and believed. They make it their job to point out to those in authority others who are out of line – those who seem a threat to perfect orthodoxy. As organizations grow larger, the role of the TP becomes ever more important. After all, the stability of the organization is based upon maintenance of the sacred Status Quo. Any deviation on the part of leadership brings its authority into question by the rank & file. If individuals within the ruling hierarchy begin to deviate from the norm in what they teach, they become the subjects of third party reporting. Many a ministerial career has been ended when the TP’s and the heresy hunters have swung into action. Once a minister is perceived to be a threat to the all-important Status Quo, he becomes a pariah among his peers.
One Way False Doctrine Becomes Entrenched
The need to preserve the Status Quo is a major reason why false or erroneous doctrine becomes entrenched. When it appears that leadership is about to impose upon membership significant doctrinal changes, many members grow nervous. If they bolt to other, more “orthodox” organizations, they take with them their precious tithe dollars. That has an immediate impact on the ability of the organization to maintain its salaries, programs, and functions. By controlling the status of church coffers, members unwittingly control doctrine. (If you think that one through, the opposite might also be true: if the membership wants doctrinal change, it could withhold financial support until it happens. Of course at this point, there are those righteous Rambos who would reply, “We wouldn’t change The Truth if we lost all of our members! Perhaps not – and perhaps what’s being preserved is not always The Truth.)
In the old WCG, some of us used to take note of the strident worthies who made it their business to protect Armstrongian orthodoxy. They often tended to reason in a circle: anything Mr. Armstrong taught was automatically correct because he was “God’s apostle.” He was “God’s apostle” because everything he taught was correct. Consequently, those of us who applied critical thinking to anything that he taught were instantly labeled “heretics,” “tools of the devil,” or at the very least “liberals” by the 70’s version of the TP.
This mentality is by no means dead. It lingers on like a virus, relentlessly searching out new victims.
The National Level
In earlier times, the communist-hating McCarthyites represented the TP at a national level. The late Senator Joseph McCarthy conducted a reign of terror as he sought to flush out communists and their “fellow travelers” from American life. McCarthy, though obviously an extremist zealot who did damage to a lot of lives, was also a well-meaning patriot and a conservative. The word “McCarthyism” is now part of the national language. It means “1. the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, esp. of pro-Communist activity, in many instances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence. 2. unfairness in investigative technique, 3. persistent search for and exposure of disloyalty, esp. in government office.”
McCarthyism actually paved the way for today’s pro-socialist climate. Because he was so over the top in his zeal to flush out communists, he functioned as a national “reverse psychology.” Now, anyone who attacks socialism or communism is accused of “McCarthyism” During the Clinton Scandals, Ken Starr was accused of “sexual McCarthyism.” In reaction to the original McCarthy, Academia, Hollywierd, the Press and Media, and many Democrats, have swung way over to the political Left – far more so than they might have in the natural course of events.
In churches, the TP represent the spiritual McCarthyites. The extreme zeal of the pro-Armstrongian thought police is causing others to move as far as possible in the opposite direction, thus throwing out the baby with the bath water.
The Tyranny of PC
Today in our nation socialism is in, conservatism is out and the national thought police enforce the doctrine of political correctness. In the hands of the TP, PC has become a tyranny that pervades American life. Socialism, which is the precursor to communism, is ideologically opposed to things like Christian morality, free market capitalism, and small government. Under socialism, the Gov’mint becomes God and God is relegated to the scrap heap of mythology and superstition. Only “unhip” people believe in God.
Among political liberals, the worship of government has become the new idolatry. Any thought, idea or public statement that is against the idea of Big Gov’mint is heresy. Pro-Bible statements are automatically viewed as anti-Gov’mint statements. The ultimate heresy is to advocate the sexual morality of conservative Christianity, which is based on the Bible. The traditional nuclear family is almost down and out these days. From womb to tomb the Gov’mint is now your family. Federal, state and local tax dollars represent the “triple tithing system” of secular Gov’mint.
For some, who live under both Gov’mint and Church triple tithing systems, disposable income may be as little as 20-30% of the total. In either case, if you don’t pay, the TP’s will get you. One of the characteristics of the TP at any level is the principle of “tithe checks.” This is a litmus test of loyalty.
The Toxicity of TP
Life in an ecclesiastical, or any other kind, of police state is both toxic and stressful – even to the point of becoming life threatening. Every political tyranny is a police state – whether it appears on the Left or the Right. Communism is as bad as Nazism, and vice versa. Problem is, those on the Left are unable to see with equal clarity the evil that is on the Left; same with the people on the Right. Today’s liberal Press and Media, for example, are unable to see left-wing evil with the same expository zeal that they view right wing evil.
The Armstrongian TP are unable to see with clarity the stress it imposes upon the Church by its well-intentioned zeal. It cannot see the connection between their approach and that of the Inquisition. Yet there is such a connection. The latter is the same mentality grown large, and with real power.
Within the neo-WCG, we now see in some pockets the subtle emergence of an Evangelical thought-police, akin theologically to the Hank Hanegraaf mentality. At this point, the Evangelical TP is still in its infancy. Many within the WCG still believe variations on the Armstrongian theme. Too much pressure to conform could cause them to bolt.
Yesterday’s Heresy Today’s Truth
In our crazy world, yesterday’s truth can be today’s error, and vice versa. It was once orthodox to say, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Now it’s “spank your child, go to jail.” Homosexuality used to be viewed as perversion. It came under the heading of abnormal psychology. Now it is normalized and celebrated. Pagan religions were once viewed as pagan, and therefore inferior. Today they are politically correct and Christianity is viewed with disdain. It is the only religion that it is politically correct to persecute.
The lot of the Thought Police is no longer easy. Heresy is a moving target. While the function of flushing out the bad guys will always be in demand, just who the bad guys are must be re-determined on a daily basis. Yesterday’s heretic is today’s hero in some circles. In others, the reverse is the case.
So long as some of us feel free to think for ourselves, and to think critically about critical issues, there will be those who oppose, attack and denigrate. Think about this: in the Judgment, who would you rather be, a Galileo who almost gave his life for scientific truth, or the pope who persecuted him for heresy?