The following are some of my experiences with GroupThink.
I will be revising and adding as time goes by.
There are eight points that Janis lists for Groupthink.
Illusion of invulnerability
Irving Janis formulated these points and one example of GroupThink was Kennedy and the
failed Bay of Pigs and the faulty process that led up to it.
"For example, some researchers point to the Bay of Pigs Invasion as the archetype of
the groupthink phenomenon. They note that the decision to execute this disastrous military campaign was made with almost unanimous
agreement by President John F. Kennedy and his advisors. These advisors were, almost without exception, very similar in background
to the President: wealthy, white men from privileged families and possessing educations from Ivy League universities. General
David M. Shoup , Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time and not part of the privileged group, predicted failure and enormous
casualties for the invasion, and practically begged the President not to undertake it. Shoup's professional advice was ignored
by the group, and the group's decision to conduct the invasion went forward with disastrous results."
Though this example is not religious, there are many other examples of Groupthink that
can bee seen in religious groups.
I get a sense of satisfaction when I see a group that perceive themselves as invinsible,
being humbled, made useless or effectively corrected.
I always try to keep in mind that I have a judge that holds me accountable for my words
One particular church and the ministries it spawned believed in unleashing the Church,
and anyone that questioned this approach were perceived as rebellious or old school.
When its founder was discovered having an adulterous affair with a woman for eight years,
it kind of brought into question their practice of such loose accountability among the leaders they unleashed.
It also brought into question their belief that others should be accountable while the
leaders had free reign.
Come to find out this founder/pastor's nephew which started an inner city ministry,
was engaging in questionable behaviour as well.
It is now understandable how the nephew was given such license, when his superior was
in greater sin himself.
Also the moderator of the group Paul/New World Dawning and I were more recently at couldn't
have cared less at how nasty she was becoming in stating that being married and having children was superior and anyone that
didn't do it this way was 'pathetic', 'lonely' and 'oxymoronic'.
If this isn't someone that perceives themselves as invulnerable I don't know what is.
The fact of the matter is that if the anonymous ones in this group couldn't see her
sin, then all that we can do now is pray.
Still, Leaving or being banned from an egroup like this shouldn't really make one lose
1) Its a clique and there are better and more open places to express oneself.
2) Leaving groups on the Internet is not like leaving someone's church or house because
you can always move in next door and have a say, and many members of one group are simultaneously members of other groups.
However, freedom of speech has its limits. One does not have the freedom to preach about
Allah in an orthodox Christian church, they must create their own assembly for that.
One cannot go into someone elses house and say anything they want, even if it is the
truth, if the owner doesn't like it.
This is why Freedom of Speech is sometimes only possible in your own house or on neutral
I'm actually contending with a church's questionable ministry strategy, on the Internet.
They don't have control over the Internet. This is what I consider neutral ground.
Unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group
Usually this is the case when a Christian group no longer seems phased by scripture
that clearly calls their beliefs or actions into question.
In the recent egroup Paul and I were at, the moderator didn't seem to care about what
the scripture said where one's focus should be. (1 Corinthians 7), but seemed to have another extrabiblical standard which
determined that those who are married and have children are the only ones that are happy and fulfilled.
It's as if we were whispering into her deaf ear while someone or something was whispering
in their functioning one.
Now of course, if scripture clearly says there is a preferred manner of life then we
must at least agree.
I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one
has this gift, another has that. 8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It
is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9 But if they cannot control
themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion...
27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce.
Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry,
you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this
life, and I want to spare you this. (1 Corinthians 7)
Unless we want to believe that each side of an issue can be convinced that they know
the truth on a matter, we need to ask ourselves how confident we are of a particular position, if we are not totally confident,
then we are not confident at all and must allow for other possibilities, if not for ourselves, for others.
This view works on the non essentials.
On non essentials one often gets into trouble when they think that their choice should
be everyone elses choice because it works for them.
One that thinks that because they are married or single, that everyone should be like
them is either the apostle Paul or arrogant.
On the essentials i.e., who Christ is, how to be saved...We better be sure of what we
believe first and only then should we not give in to others on this.
I do not believe that others are actually convinced that there are other ways to heaven,
else I could not preach Christ at all because Christ says He is the only way. (Acts 4:12;John 14:6)
How then could God judge them, if they are convinced?
If they are presently convinced, there was once a time when they were not, but chose
to be deluded anyhow.
On the essentials we are not just discussing the flavor of donuts one prefers.
When approaching unbelievers we (Christians) should presume we are better than them
but definitely 'better off.'
Collective rationalization of group's decisions
Whether governmental, spiritual, political, religious etc., a group ought to consider
views outside their particular group.
This doesn't mean that they should become like Jerry Springer where every immoral and
stupid view gets equal time, but every group ought to have at least a few members that are there to present other possibilities
or able to bring up the possibility that they as a group have overlooked something.
If everyone in a group thinks the same on everything, then many of them are not thinking
and are unnecessary.
Some people assume because a group is on target regarding the essentials that they are
correct in everything else.
Though the Holy Spirit will guide us (Christians), into all truth, (John 14:26) our
egocentric or ethnocentric thinking can however block this guidance.
When birds of a feather groups and ministries are not encouraged to see outside their
group/box they in effect are wearing blinders that keep them from seeing what is coming from the right or left.
Acts Two, which recorded the partial fulfillment of Joel Two, says, 'These men are not
drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken
by the prophet Joel: 17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit
on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men
will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'
Notice the diversity here?
Do you think that old men were only to minister to old men, young men to young men....?
In a body filled with the Holy Spirit, the different members minister to each other,
and their similarities and also their differences help them minister to each other.
Not only do birds of a feather ministries and groups flock together, they also more
easily sin and miss the essentials more easily together.
These 8 points of Groupthink do not only apply to religious groups.
Here are the words I have heard concerning myself when I stood in opposition
to certain things.
Shared stereotypes of outgroup, particularly opponents
Lonely, pathetic, oxymoronic, divisive, contentious.
Labels are meant to solidify group opposition to someone with a diverging viewpoint.
The apostle Paul was more crude in his approach than someone like Apollos, but this
doggedness is probably what kept him in the fight.
I lived with a Christian couple for a while many years back. We began to discuss moving
into a house with another couple.
These folks were influenced by a movement called 'Gospel Outreach', of the eighties.
When the time came to act on this vision, one of the guys in the group mentioned that we needed a 'daddy' to run the house.
When I objected and stated that we are adults and don't need a human daddy, the group
started praying frantically with eyes closed as if Satan had just walked in the door.
Come to find out these folks have already been preconditioned by Gospel Outreach to
think that the only way Christians can live together is if they have a daddy.
Well, I moved out that night, but that didn't stop a rumor from being spread that I
was a racist because I didn't want a daddy. This guy (who happened to be black), said I could be the daddy if I wanted.
With that I responded that I didn't want to be a daddy either.
This group was Christian in the essentials but cliquish and cultish in the way they
There is plenty of information on the cults but very little on Cliques.
Self-censorship; members withhold criticisms
When the moderator of the egroup mentioned above said the things she did, you would
have expected someone in this group of over 800 members to publicly call into question her words, but no one did.
Two members brought up the possibility that being single and without children could
free up one for ministry. Still, they soon conformed again and never called into question the methods this moderator was using.
In groups there can actually be those that disagree wholeheartedly with the
moderator, leader or the pastor but their silence can be construed as agreement.
Illusion of unanimity
When folks are too afraid to disagree, then the only ones that will speak up are the
ones that agree.
Then the illusion of unanimity is created.
For the longest time I used to share my thoughts with a Christian guy that i respected
very much. He used to nod his head while I was talking, and I took that as meaning he agreed with what I was saying.
Come to find out he was nodding as an indication that he was hearing but not necessarily
agreeing with me.
The best way to reach people individually is to find some way to separate them from
the group in question.
Even if they are agreeing with the majority in the group, it may be because they are
hoping the group will think for them and are simply going with the flow, even if the flow is downward.
One should not believe what Orthodoxy or majority determines simply because it is defined
as Orthodox or the majority but because they believe it to be the truth.
Deindividuation refers to the phenomenon of relinquishing one's sense of identity. This
can happen as a result of becoming part of a group, such as an army or mob, but also as a result of meditation. It can have
quite destructive effects, sometimes making people more likely to commit a crime, like stealing (Diener, 1976) or even over-enforce
the law, such as police in riot situations. It is the motivational cause of most riot participants' actions for example, the
violent 1992 riots that took place in LA's south central district. Deindividuated individuals' self-awareness becomes absent
and they are oblivious to outside evaluation. This is when evaluation apprehension ceases to exist, ultimately breaking down
When individuals in a group perceive themselves as unanimous, they feel freed up to
do dastardly deeds.
The Riots in LA are an example.
Does this ring a bell...'Crucify Him, crucify him.' ...Truth is, God saw each one of
them individually when they cried this.
'Forgive them, for they know not what they do.'
Direct pressure on dissenters to conform
The Bible tells us: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing
and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than
you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so
in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts,
according to the grace given us." (Romans 12)
Self-appointed "Mind Guards" protect the group from negative information
These self-appointed 'Mind Guards' can range from moderation to banning or excommunication.
Though the Shepherding Movement may have begun with good intentions, its abuses were
more evident to me than their good points.
Terms like 'Covering' meant that no Christian activity could be blessed unless it was
sponsored by a shepherd and a church.
The degree in which they wanted submission was what I questioned.
I lived in a house that was run by a church that at least believed in the principles
of the Shepherding Movement.
All men were pressed to shave their beards, join the choir, get married and not get
involved in anything Christian that wasn't controlled by the church.
In fact one of the leaders of the house quoted, 'A false balance is an abomination to
the Lord' and this was supposed to mean that I should get married.
"The movement quickly gained a reputation for controlling and abusive behaviour, with
a great deal of emphasis placed upon the importance of obedience to one's own shepherd. In many cases, disobeying one's shepherd
was tantamount to disobeying God. A few of these criticisms were exaggerated, but many lives were damaged. One such testimony
can be found in the book "Damaged Disciples" by Ron and Vicki Burks."
When I went to the so called Shepherd at another house on this, the wife told him to
throw me out of their discipleship house. She said, I was poisoning the kids. The house is now inhabited by Youth With A Mission.
Each group I mentioned could have probably fulfilled all eight points though for economy's
sake I didn't mention every group under each point.
What are your experiences with Groupthink.
BJ Maxwell 05/25/2006