A friend of a friend (who I have on Facebook despite the fact that I don't think very highly of him) shared yet another "This is Why Obama Sucks" image. I'm not Obama's biggest supporter or anything, but this guy's constantly one-sided, poorly-informed, uncorroborated political drivel pisses me off. For weeks I've been trying to work up the courage to comment something along the lines of, "Okay, you may have a valid point, here, but this particular information is unreliable and false because of X and Y and Z." I'd prefer to make sure I have a solid case before committing to anything, so I decided to do some research into his claims before I commented. So I clicked on the link underneath the shared picture, and it led me to this...weird video.
The video was all about how the government is about to collapse and chaos will break out. It stressed the point that, unless you're properly prepared for survival, your loved ones are ALL GOING TO DIE. A few things about the video and its claims jumped out at me.
- I lost track of how many times he pointed out that the people you care about WILL ALL DIE.
- He made a lot of claims without providing any evidence to support them--he was a world-renowned survival expert (using a pseudonym, of course), a leading economist (who is not named or referenced) can predict when this will all happen, claims of the early signs of this apocalypse around the country, etc.
- There were some oddly specific points made that he could have no way of knowing. For example, it will apparently take "three to four months" after the catastrophe for "order to be restored."
- At the end, he asked you to buy his survival plan so that he can ship you a book and a DVD that contains all the information he just alluded to. And reminded you that your family could die if you don't.
- He went through a detailed rationale of why he's charging for this information (because people wouldn't believe it was legitimate if it was free, or something). Then he explains that, because he's such a great guy and wants people to have the information (unless you're an "Obama-head," in which case he asked you to stop watching the video near the beginning), he's only charging like forty buck for it even though the information is worth almost two thousand dollars.
I don't put much stock in conspiracy theories, although I'm sure there are a few that might actually have something to them. But even as I watched this video that played shamelessly on my fears...even as I noticed all the dishonesty and exaggeration and blatant manipulation...I kind of considered buying the thing.
I don't think the government is going to collapse in a matter of weeks, but I do believe that there's plenty of stuff wrong with the way my country works--and that was enough for this guy's fear-mongering to get a foothold in my psyche. What if this guy was right? What if, two months from now, I had to fight for survival? What would I do if my parents didn't survive? How would I protect my myself? How would I protect my girlfriend?
And then another thought hit me--this must be what it's like to be taught by Mormon missionaries. Look at the similarities:
- Don't you want your family to be together forever? The unspoken flip side to this, of course, is, "if you don't join our church, you'll live out eternity in the afterlife without your family." Detailed descriptions of the Plan of Salvation might further his fears that, if this stuff is true, he's getting the short end of the stick by not signing on.
- Mormonism makes a lot of grand, unsupported claims. The missionaries teach about the First Vision and the visitations of the Angel Moroni. Perhaps if you're already too busy thinking about how bad it would be to live forever without your spouse and children, you're not properly capable of assessing the veracity of these claims. Get the fear in first, then slide some crazy stuff past 'em while they're still reeling and they won't even notice.
- There are some specific points that the missionaries will make that they have no way of knowing. They will testify to the fact that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God despite the fact that they haven't actually seen Joseph Smith interact with God and they weren't around for the writing or translation of the Golden Plates. Perhaps their faith, like that survivalist's conviction, will sell their product based purely on trust.
- Once joining the church, an investigator will be expected to pay ten percent of his income to the church. In Preach My Gospel, tithing isn't even mentioned until page 62. It doesn't come up until the third lesson. If you're investigating the church and you've invited the missionaries back for a third visit, it's safe to say you could be seriously considering baptism. The missionaries don't bring up the expected sacrifice of a tenth of your money first thing. Not many successful sales pitches begin with "Give me forty bucks if you want to survive the apocalypse!" because that sounds more like extortion.
- The missionaries can provide a detailed rationale for why tithing is important--the Lord promises us blessings, it shows our faith, it builds temples and meetinghouses and furthers the spreading of the gospel. Then they explain that, because the church is so honest and virtuous, the tithing money doesn't go toward the payment of any of the leaders (unless you're an apostle, in which case you get a "modest stipend.") Besides, ten percent of your money is a small price to pay for eternal salvation.
The investigator in question may not put much stock in organized religion, although he may have some kind of belief in God. But if he doesn't realize that the missionaries are shamelessly playing on his fears...if he doesn't notice the dishonesty and manipulation...he might consider getting baptized. And that's when the church claims another victim and rakes in a little more cash for its non-humanitarian coffers.
I didn't buy the survival guide. I guess I just don't like it when people try to manipulate me. Although I'm not sure if that characteristic led me to leave the church or if I acquired that trait because of my apostasy.