A Story of Indoctrination
Oddly, Jenn’s story reminded me of my own experience at the Institute of Bible Studies that I attended in the summer of 1991. Up until a few days ago, though, I thought it had been a fun and enriching experience! It was only after reading Jenn’s posts that I realized a few things about these two weeks – the main of them being that I came out of these classes with hardly any clue about what I’d learned, while being absolutely positive that I had learned a lot. It is exactly what Jenn is referring to:
By Sunday morning people who attended all of the weeknight sessions and Saturday have sacrificed close to 20 hours of their time beyond what they would normally have given (commuting and in the sessions), 5 leisurely family dinners, sleeping in on Saturday, and they are probably watching normal household chores get back-logged. Their heavy “payment” would work to create in them a belief that what they were learning was of great value, so they would esteem it as such. Their lack of free time would hinder their ability to question what they were learning, so they had become accustomed to just accepting what was dished out.
I have to give the IBS some credit, of course. A lot of credit, actually. It was hosted by the Campus Crusade and took place in Moscow. It was absolutely free of charge to us, and included free hotel accommodations and free meals - very important in a 1991 Russia. It was very intense, though. Most of the audience were college students, so it was summer break for them, but I was already working, and had to take two weeks off to attend the full-time classes. For me, it was also the last two weeks of my single life. My husband had graduated that summer, and came to my town just as the classes ended. So I mainly concentrated on having fun and making new friends. We had a very good time. This is not to say that we skipped classes – we were new converts, with a tremendous interest in God, so we paid a lot of attention in class and took notes. I was very satisfied with the material presented to us.
Later on, I brought my notes to work and showed them to my Orthodox coworker. To my amazement, she pointed out logical discrepancies in the material that made perfect sense to me when I was sitting in class. I remember one example. My notes said: “Just like, after you’ve been born physically, you cannot be unborn, your born-again condition is also permanent”.
My coworker looked at me and said: “But you can die, physically, and spiritually”.
I just stared. She was right, you can die. Now why didn’t it occur to anyone in class? Why did two hundred people happily write this sentence down and not notice anything illogical about it?
Just like the classes in Jenn’s church, ours also included a mandatory session on spanking. Of course, none of us had kids, so we didn’t really care one way or another. The lecture was given by a woman, if I remember it right, a preacher’s wife and a mother of three. She spent a whole hour explaining to us the joys of physical punishment, how well it worked, and how displeased God was with parents who didn’t do it. Now don't get me wrong - I am not one hundred percent spanking-free. I've been known to smack a butt of a hyper kid every once in a while. It's when people view spanking as some sort of a scheduled family activity or a God-given duty, on par with praying and reading your Bible, that I disagree.
The lecturer followed up with an example from her own life. Apparently, one morning one of her sons woke up in a bad mood and nobody could figure out why. So she laid him across her knee, pulled his pants down, and gave him some attitude adjustment. She said it made him happy.
I, for one, was puzzled. I had been spanked as a child and couldn’t remember it working as well as our lecturer claimed it to. Neither could I understand why a bad mood was a crime punishable by spanking.
Finally, someone asked a question – something to the effect: “Isn’t this all wrong?”
The lecturer looked at the audience – everyone in their late teens or early twenties. She said:
“I want you to raise your hand if there is anything your parents did wrong that you do not want to repeat when you are a parent.”
Nine-tenth of the audience raised their hands.
“See – this goes to show you that you can learn from negative examples too!”
Looking back, all I can do is shake my head. In essence, she told us that by doing things to your own children that are bad and wrong, you teach your children not to do all these things. So, even if spanking is wrong, it is okay to spank – by doing so, you will teach your children not to do it. Interesting logic, huh? Maybe the parents should drink heavily, do drugs and have wild sex on the side while they’re at it? I mean, won’t it teach their children not to do all that?
But back then, her reply made perfect sense to us. Just like Jenn said, our lack of free time hindered our ability to question what we were learning.
At the end of our second week, we were all split into pairs, given “The Four Spiritual Laws” booklets, and sent out into the streets, to preach something we weren’t quite sure about ourselves. I do not recall catching any lost souls.
A few months later, my husband dragged me kicking and screaming into the Orthodox church, and we started learning new things. Fortunately, our priest went very slow on us and allowed plenty of questioning. But it is interesting that in all these years, I never doubted what I had learned in the IIS, until I read Jenn’s posts.