Fabricating Allure

12742714_10154585399009676_8976127953171716366_nYoung people are impressionable, emotionally vulnerable, have an innate desire for community and fellowship, and often have internal questioning about purpose and existence. ARISE exploits these traits of young people to rather lucrative effect. They deliberately target youth because they know that is the best opportunity they will have to reach people, when their minds aren’t sufficiently developed to guard against deceptive teachings. To this end they recruit mainly through schools and universities.

ARISE Church has a particular message which they have crafted to be appealing to young people. It could best be described as positive self-help through Jesus. They focus on positive thinking and deliberately emphasize certain ideas meant to take advantage of one’s own perceived flaws, deficiencies, and failures. Some of these ideas are:

  • All humans including oneself have been deliberately made by God. You are special and unique because God made you that way.
  • There exists a God-given purpose inherent within everyone which is discoverable through a relationship with Jesus.
  • God doesn’t see your flaws but sees your potential.
  • Faith in Jesus will prosper you in every facet of ones life. This includes health, finances, employment, marriage, relationships, and personal goals.
  • If one has faith in Jesus, then one will triumph over any adversity, which will provide a demonstration to others of the “truth” of Jesus and the benefits being a Christian.

ARISE Church endeavours to provide an upbeat, vibrant atmosphere at it’s services. They want to be viewed as a place that is fun and exciting because this appeals more to young people. Everyone is happy and smiling; everyone is pleased to see you, and to an impartial observer this behaviour is uncanny as it feels like a superficial veneer put on for purely appearance purposes.

The ARISE church services follow a particular recipe that has been refined and employed to great effect by other churches (I’m talking about mega-Churches like Hillsong in Australia). Services are manufactured to give the illusion of a legitimate divine encounter. That’s the hook. What you are required to believe regarding the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity and various events in the Bible is only partially revealed this point. It’s all about a personal relationship with Jesus.

The service begins with a “praise and worship” session which is crafted to invoke feelings of euphoria and transcendence. This prepares the emotional ground and puts one in a receptive mood. Then there is the sermon where the congregation is given a rhetorical masterclass expounding the ideas and themes mentioned in the bullet points above. At the end of the service, the congregation is subjected to an emotional appeal to non-Christians to receive Christ as the greatest gift they will ever get. This combination has a powerful and profound effect on people, especially young people. They are helplessly tethered to their emotions and any cognitive barriers which are in place are effectively overcome. This leads to surrender of the self to allow Jesus into ones heart. This is the ultimate goal for ARISE Church: to get as many people to make a decision to follow Jesus.

For new converts, ones perception of Christianity is based on the initial emotional experience. This experience is what gives the belief in Christianity validation and reinforces the truth of its claims. After that, ARISE progressively introduce you to the Bible. You are told about sin being the reason Jesus died so that he could redeem mankind; about heaven, hell, prayer, miracles, and God’s will. Gradually you are introduced to weirder parts like baptism, Adam and Eve, talking snakes, talking donkeys, angels, demons, and Noah Ark.

ARISE Church runs a youth service on a Friday night called “Elevate” and they have tailored it so that it is more appealing to young people. The music is more upbeat and the atmosphere is cultivated so that it feels like a “party”. The design and format of the service is similar to the one as described above including at the end, an appeal being made to a captive audience of young people to give their hearts to Jesus.

ARISE Church makes no secret of their intentions to infiltrate schools and universities. John Cameron has explicitly stated his desire for ARISE Church to win entire high-schools and universities to Jesus Christ. Whatever that means in practice however is not stated.

I think the methods that ARISE Church uses are very dishonest and deceptive. They employ emotional manipulation as a way to accomplish the recruitment of new members. They deliberately exploit young peoples innocence and credulity, take advantage of their other cognitive traits already mentioned, with the goal to foist upon their impressionable minds a biblical worldview of sin and salvation by Jesus as well as give them a spiritual self-help toolkit that ultimately delivers false hope and false promises.

2 thoughts on “Fabricating Allure

  1. at the end of the day, people especially young people are not forced into joining Arise or putting their faith in Jesus, no manipulation, no intimidation no hocus focus, no magic etc. we live in a generation of lost people, lost in a way no one is guiding, at least there are people that genuinely care for the lost people, normal people that care. All I see is people’s lives changed, having direction, having sense of purpose, having integrity. young people behaving good, excelling in schools. Religion is not being thought here, just a personal relationship with God who created everything, whether one believe it or not.
    what would we rather choose, people to be thought to be tyrants, into drugs, into illegal stuff or teach people to be honest, have respect and have hope?
    if i may ask, have we done anything to help someone in need and what do we feel about helping and having other’s lives turn around for something good, meaningful and purposeful? what is our current relationship with God now?
    I believe all people is aiming to change the world whether good or bad, but as for me i would rather change to world for good, even in small steps by helping young people to have a sense of purpose and future and not to waste their lives into non sense vices, and involving into bad stuff.

    1. Hi Zans,

      Thanks for your comment. I have a few points that I would like to make.

      Your main premise seems to be that entering into “a personal relationship with God” saves a person from being “lost” and has an accompanying number of good consequences. It gives a person a sense of purpose/meaning in life, gives them direction, and it gives them integrity. My contention is that this premise is unreasonable and I will give an example to illustrate

      Suppose that I told you that I had begun channeling an alien spirit from the constellation Pleiades and that this channeling was akin to a “relationship” with that alien. Suppose I said that since beginning this channeling my life had suddenly attained significant meaning and purpose. The alien spirit had made me acutely aware of the environmental degradation occurring on our planet and now I felt that it was my mission to help prevent further pollution. This channeling had conferred on my life meaning, purpose, and direction in pursuit of a cause that had integrity in its own right.

      Now I put it to you that there is no essential difference between your premise and my counter example. They both imply that one is in communication with an entity that can’t be detected via our senses. Your entity is Yahweh, the god of the bible; mine is an alien spirit. The only manifestation of the entities’ existence is the subjective “knowing” within the respective person and both persons profess with utter conviction that the entity with which they are in contact actually exists.

      There are any number of beliefs-belief in the deity Yahwey, belief in an alien spirit, belief in karma-which can profoundly influence our thought patterns and cause us to change our behaviour. The problem is that the good consequences of a particular belief don’t mean that any particular belief is true. To see this, just recognise how the kinds of beliefs that we are discussing are mutually incompatible i.e. one can’t both believe in Yahwey and in an alien spirit (if one follows orthodox Christian doctrine). Therefore, some beliefs are wrong but it is still possible to reap good consequences for believing in them.

      So my question is, is it right to believe in something merely because of its good consequences? As someone who is committed to truth and avoiding delusion, my answer is no. I would rather believe in things that are true than in things that are false but yet give me meaning/purpose. That’s not to say that I and people like myself are immune to finding fulfillment, purpose, meaning, and joy in life; or that we’re callous, uncaring of others needs and only think of ourselves. We get great pleasure from understanding the “magic of reality” without recourse to invoking an invisible deity. We do much towards combating poverty and alleviating the suffering of humanity, not because we were told to by a higher power, but because we recognise that it’s the right thing to do. In other words, we do good for goods sake.

      So, who are we to believe?How are we to test to determine what is a right belief and wrong belief? Whatever the answer, we must rely on logic and reason, and not our fallible emotions.

      My second point of contention. You also seem to be saying that the way members of society will learn good morality and about the value of being honest, having respect and having hope is to be taught by Christians and churches like Arise how to have these positive attributes. This is to combat the dissemination of teachings which, if left unchecked, would cause society to descend to the depths of depravity and licentiousness and produce myriads of tyrants, drug addicts, and people with compulsive illegal behaviours.

      Firstly, this view completely misconstrues the causes of societal ills. Secondly, do you have no more respect for your fellow human beings than that. What you are implying is that without god, we couldn’t know right from wrong; that without the incentive of divine reward or the threat of divine punishment from a superintending deity we humans would plunge into chaos and disorder.

      As a counter to this second premise of yours, why is it that the countries with the least amount of people professing faith in a higher power (e.g. Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands) also rank the highest in terms societal health metrics: quality of life, happiness, human development. On the other hand, the countries with the highest rates of faith/belief rank the lowest on the same indexes. It’s fairly compelling that there is a negative correlation between the amount of faith/belief in a higher power and the health of that society.

      Last point of contention. You are wrong in saying that there is no manipulation occurring. The Arise church service is is deliberately designed to manipulate emotions. The music is elevating with some lyrics repeated multiple times, similar to chanting. This puts the engaged listener in to a semi-hypnotic brain state. That’s why some people report sensations of extreme love and bliss during the Arise worship service. The same effect can be produced in other religions and cults that practice hypnosis/meditation sessions. Once the music has finished, a person will be in a passive-receptive state. Next comes the sermon which is delivered with a heap of charm, charisma, clever rhetoric, and is replete with suggestion. This capitalizes on the passive-receptive state that the listener is now in and enables ideas to be more easily implanted and for thought-reform to take place.

      John Cameron uses lots of positive affirmation/suggestiveness (“You’re not a mistake, you’re not a left-over, you are special, you are unique, you were designed by god and put here on this planet for a reason”). He regularly gives directives to which the audience happily complies. “And if you believe it, then give a loud amen”. Along with saying words like “wow” continuously, this ensures that the audience is continuously agreeing with what he is saying, without reflection. He uses the effect of tone by alternating between loud and soft in 6-7min segments. At the end of each loud segment, there is a climax with a string of affirmations which can have a profound effect on the psyche of the individual.

      Every service culminates with an appeal to “give your life to Jesus”, a 5 min talk that is loaded psychologically i.e it is deliberately designed to exploit emotions (fear, uncertainty, desire for purpose/fulfillment). If you are in any way emotionally vulnerable then you are more likely to be susceptible to being influenced and to raise your hand. People who are going through a life transition (divorce/death of loved one) or come from a history of emotional pain will respond positively to these kind of techniques. The emotional influence/persuasion techniques that are employed in a typical ARISE Church service are very similar to those employed by cults for their recruitment purposes.

      You will find the following video helpful in more thoroughly explaining the cognitive aspects of belief in god.

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