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Revelation 1: God with us — past, present and future

How do you brainwash someone? Edgar Schein was one of the first psychologists who studied brainwashing. He identified three stages, through which a person is kept unaware of the process and the converting activities are presented as friendly and lighthearted.

Unfreezing: A person’s current belief system is shaken so that they start to doubt themselves and seek different ways of understanding their world.

Changing: This changing phase is where new behaviors, beliefs, and values are taught to the targeted person. Schein identified the following processes that are used during brainwashing: 1. New identification — indoctrination sessions and personal relations; 2. Behavior modification techniques — reward and punishment; 3. Mystical manipulation — coincidental or inevitable events as spiritual signs; 4. Mind-altering techniques — hypnosis, repetition, monotony, and rhythm; and 5. Eliciting of confession — forcibly and continually extracted.

Refreezing — Refreezing includes fixing these replacement beliefs into the lifestyle of the individual, so they are seen as “normal rather than new.” Afterwards, the person engages in these “beliefs and patterns” without reflection when faced with life decisions. In the process of refreezing, the person is also kept away from any “disconfirming evidence or other persuasive forces” that might draw them back to their previous convictions. It is furthermore essential that there is a time frame during which the individual is not allowed to evaluate or examine any new ideas from any angle.

Finally, as Schein summarized, “After a long enough period of being banned from criticism and not receiving any external encouragement, they will come to accept the new beliefs as normal.”

This is probably what the Roman empire was trying to do to the apostle John when he was left on the island of Patmos. They wanted to keep him from sharing news about another king, for sure, but they also wanted to break him. Either he could be persuaded to acknowledge the lordship of Caesar and Rome, or he might be silenced permanently in time.

So what do you do when you, like John, have the props kicked out from under you? Do you give up and give in? Do you just roll over and die, as some battled hardened soldiers have done in isolated prisons around the world throughout history?

The best thing to do is to remember that Jesus is still there. That is just what John discovered on that lonely isle. Jesus, “The first and the Last,” “the Living One,” was right there beside him. Hence John would never truly be alone, even though separated from the people he loved. Therefore, as far as we are concerned, there is no one and nothing that can keep us away from our savior. Do not stray far from him in 2021 — pandemic or no pandemic.

(From the Pulpit is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of the Weirton Ministerial Association.)

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