Saturday, January 26, 2008

Love Bomb Misses the Mark

This post was inspired by vjack's article on Christian Culture.

I don't know how many atheists are intimately familiar with the evangelical and cultist tactic called a love bombing. I saw an article about it on Truthdig. The article discusses overt, sinister examples of the tactic where evangelical leaders consciously direct the group members to carry this out. I think sometimes it's just a little more subtle and love bombing is far more extensive than what we give it credit for. I'd like to broaden the applicability of love bombing here because I think it gives valuable insight into a whole set of Christian behavior.

I've always been aware of many Christian behaviors that are built into and thought of as the Christian lifestyle itself. The group members themselves often aren't even meant to be aware of the reasons for their own actions. And often, the group members are so well conditioned into this lifestyle that the group can carry out sophisticated coordinated efforts even with no leader at their center. It's automatic.*

I don't think there's a single atheist who hasn't heard Christian leaders calling on their churches to go out into their cities and treat everyone in a loving, caring manner. They always stress the homeless, prostitutes, and even those "inner city" people. People who are facing crises, the weak and vulnerable. Churches then encourage their members to put together friend-making activities such as progressive dinner parties for new recruits. And smaller groups are encouraged to voluntarily go off the deep end with things such as cuddle parties or "ice breaker games" such as this. Christians are obsessed with inventing or adopting superficial friend-making activities.

Yet within minutes of talking about love, they will extol as godly and courageous the decision to cut off anyone at all who endangers the group member in even the slightest way from falling away from the group. Speakers pour their hearts out about how grief stricken they were about having had to make that tough choice between god and a parent, son, brother, girlfriend, or longtime friend. Oftentimes because they joined a new church that "rekindled" their faith. Invariably, the ostracized individual is made to seem like the one who abandoned the group members, not the other way around. And when enough time has passed and the majority of the believer's circle of friends are made up by members of the group, prayers are offered for those old ostracized lost/black sheep to "come home."

I've scratched my head in wonder many, many times at how seemingly contradictory these teachings are. I've been incredibly hurt and insulted time after time when befriending a Christian and trying to treat them as a normal friend or girlfriend. At first, it's easy to accept their affection and try to brush off or ignore their attempts to recruit me to their church. Sometimes, I might even attend their church with them, especially if they are a sweet, pretty female. Or, I will make sure to shut up and just nod my head when their friends and families talk about the importance of being Christian.

But invariably, it's a worthless endeavor. After some sufficient amount of attempts to convert you to their religion, the Christians will switch to the second mode of behavior. They start to tear you down at every opportunity, leveraging everything that you value about that relationship to make you feel guilty and insufficient for not being Christian. Then, it's over. Usually in a fit of anger and many threats. Usually cutting off all communications completely. If this happens to be a girlfriend or someone else you've become emotionally attached to, you stand at getting pretty badly hurt.

So really, these Christian modes of behavior aren't contradictory. They have very selective contexts in which they apply. It makes sense. They coalesce into what amounts to be a love bomb tactic. Except that it's part of the very lifestyle choices that they make, not an overt recruitment strategy. And they're not even aware of what they're doing. It's quite pathetic, really. Their very lives are sabotaged, their relationships with others manipulated, all for recruitment purposes by their church. It's incredibly immoral, isn't it? And they don't even realize it. I just can't imagine how Christians can possibly be happy except by sheer ignorance.

*I would compare this to my combat training. A fundamental goal of Marine Corps tactics is to practice every maneuver so many times that each fire team, squad, and platoon can instinctively act in a highly coordinated manner even under the chaotic conditions of battle. When Christians speak of their religion being a lifestyle, it draws so many parallels for me that it's eerie. The Christian lifestyle is that training which allows the group to act in a coordinated manner even when no leadership is present.


vjack said...

Thanks for the link and the info. I had heard the phrase "love bombing" but had no idea what it was. Now I know.

Frizz said...

Very interesting blog. I, too, was unfamiliar with the term "love bombing."

One friendly suggestion: Change the color scheme. Reading white text on a black background makes one's eyes tire easily. Studies show that dark text on a light background is less tiring for readers and encourages them to keep reading. vjack's blog has a good color scheme.

Hope to see more good entries on your blog.

bbk said...

Wikipedia has a short entry on the origins of the term. The Moonies were first ones to coin it.

It will take some time before I figure out how to set up everything to be nice. I write software for a living and I spend 60+ hours a week doing that, so I'm very much disenchanted with the idea of configuring applications in my spare time. I wish I had someone else to do it for me.