Tag Archives: health

‘Undue Influence’ As A Possible Legal Recourse Against Authoritarian Churches And Bullying Ministers

Steve Hassan, an expert on religious cults and high-control groups, explains “undue influence” in this short video — and pay close attention to the segment starting at about the 38-second mark.

“In my experience, anyone is vulnerable to undue influence…” Another quick explainer:

Next, Hassan explains the problem with undue influence.

“[W]e’re using the legal term undue influence, because that best describes what it’s really about. It’s the exploitation and manipulation of someone with power over someone else to make them dependent and obedient…”

Here’s another interesting point, also from the video immediately above, regarding undue influence and its ability to manipulate vulnerable people:

“So there’s no informed consent. When you think of a destructive mind control cult, always think, people may say, ‘I chose to join,’ but they didn’t in my professional opinion choose to join. They were lied to, they were manipulated, and they were indoctrinated, and once I have a chance to teach them what we know about social psychology, what we know about hypnosis for example, people wake up and they realize, ‘I didn’t choose.'”
In the next video (below), Santa Clara Law Professor Alan Scheflin and Hassan give back-to-back presentations.

Scheflin quotes Lunde and Wilson from a 1977 publication: “No reported case in Anglo-American law has accepted brainwashing as a defense to criminal liability.”

That is why “undue influence” has become a more viable option by which to make legal claims against high-control groups.

Read more and see more videos at FreedomOfMind.com.

Episcopalians outlive other Anglicans and Protestants as a whole

"The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" ...to a slightly longer life.

Life expectancy” is a strange statistic, but hey, if official number-crunchers use it, then it must be useful for something.

Here are some global life-expectancy comparisons, in years, grouped by religious affiliation, based on data from the ICON Group International.


Males: 70
Females: 75

Protestants as a whole

Males: 67
Females: 73


Males: 73
Females: 80

Roman Catholics

Males: 67
Females: 73

Memories make us human, memories good and bad and neutral

When someone tells you not to be influenced by The Past, agree with him and then ask him to tell you about a formative relationship in his childhood. After he answers, ask him why he allows himself to be influenced by The Past. Who can really function without memory? The mind has to constantly reference memories, even when its attention is focused in the present moment. It can do no other. It has to learn and make adjustments in behavior based on what it has learned. Without remembered names, humans don’t know anything — as Dana Gioia said in his poem “Words,” “To name is to know and remember.” Isn’t it true that when a man loses his memory, he loses himself? His self?



The good suffering in your life; or, the struggle to know one’s vocation

Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

I admit I don’t think our church does a great job of helping people find their specific, individual purposes in life, and as a vestry guy and occasional lay teacher, I’m as responsible for that as anyone else. But then maybe no help is better than bad help. No way around it: individual vocation is the central question in most lives. Saint Paul said some are called to be teachers, some evangelists, some prophets, and so on. Kierkegaard wrote about the need for that thing for which he could live and die. When he said “truth is subjectivity,” he was not articulating the past century’s fashionable relativism but rather recognizing that each person has his own subjective, personal, individual response to the objective Gospel and to God. In the life of the Church, roles are as diverse and varied as fingerprints, and anyone who tries to simplify or reduce the individual’s role to an objective platitude inhibits the Christian’s influence in the world.

The difficulty of addressing vocation is precisely that it is so personal. To share the core of the matter, I will quote someone who I think did an exceptional job explaining the nature of the struggle: Viktor Frankl, best known as the Holocaust and concentration camp survivor who became an internationally recognized psychotherapist. Here’s an excerpt from his book, Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Not every conflict is necessarily neurotic; some amount of conflict is normal and healthy. In a similar sense suffering is not always a pathological phenomenon; rather than being a symptom of neurosis, suffering may well be a human achievement, especially if the suffering grows out of existential frustration…. A man’s concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an existential distress but by no means a mental disease…. Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become…. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task…. One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Related articles

Researcher notes that some people love their neighbors more than themselves

Below is the beginning of an article about an area of psychological research called “self-compassion.” Christianity, generally speaking, could address about the basis for self-compassion: redemption, grace, and mercy from the Creator.

From the New York Times:

Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?

That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.

The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

This idea does seem at odds with the advice dispensed by many doctors and self-help books, which suggest that willpower and self-discipline are the keys to better health. But Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field, says self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards.

Read the entire article here.

Footnote digression: A brief word about coffee

Health.com via CNN.com:

A wealth of research suggests that coffee doesn’t just pick you up — it fights heart disease and some cancers, and it may even help you push through harder, longer workouts.

Moderate coffee-drinking in middle age has been associated with lower risks for dementia and Alzheimer’s. And a 2009 review of more than four decades of research found that for every additional cup of coffee you drink each day — high-octane or decaf — your risk of developing type 2 diabetes shrinks by 7 percent, possibly because chemicals in the beverage improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and increase metabolism.

From America’s Healthiest Pleasures: 10 ‘vices’ that are good for you.

Considering Tiger Woods’ Buddhism

The Times of London posted an interesting article about Tiger Woods at TimesOnline, which included a good quote about the golfer’s religious life:

Woods does not talk much about the fact that he meditates, something he learnt from Kultida, his mother, who is a Buddhist. “In the Buddhist religion you have to work for it yourself, internally, in order to achieve anything in life and set up the next life,” he said. “It is all about what you do, and you get out of life what you put into it. So you are going to have to work your butt off in every aspect of your life. That is one of the things that people see in what I do on the course.”

Two things are important to me in this quote. First, it expresses the value of meditation in training one’s mind to focus: “you have to work for it yourself, internally, in order to achieve anything in life.” Second, it expresses a view of salvation and afterlife: “[to] set up the next life.”

I have to admit on the second part, I like the Reformed Christian idea that says you cannot work hard enough to set up the next life, therefore accept grace through faith!

On the first part, however, I wonder if some people will confuse the views of salvation and the afterlife with the discipline of meditation. Or, if some will dislike Woods’ views of salvation and the afterlife so much, they’ll dismiss the discipline of meditation. That would be a bad idea. Some research suggests that meditation strengthens the brain.

An article in the June 2007 edition of Men’s Journal addressed meditation techniques in which a person would relax and focus on a repeated phrase. “When Harvard researcher Sara Lazar recently compared the brains of American meditators to a control group, she found that parts of the cortex responsible for attention were on average 5 percent thicker,” according to the article.

And that’s just a piece of the research that’s available on things related to the mind, the brain, focus, attention, and mental discipline. (The emerging field of neurofeedback directly relates to some of these issues; in some cases, neurofeedback helps participants create a meditative focus.)

“Parents and teachers tell kids 100 times a day to pay attention, said Philippe R. Goldin, a Stanford University researcher, last year in New York Times article about “mindfulness training” in schools. “But we never teach them how.”

Certainly non-Buddhists will want to proceed with caution, but there is some evidence that certain types of meditation and focused attention will be beneficial in ways that have nothing to do with views of salvation and the afterlife.

Meanwhile, I really like the following segment from this post by Pastor Jimmy Fuller of Harbour Lake Baptist Church in Goose Creek, S.C. (complimenting a Baptist — might be a first for this blog!):

Speaking of golf, I watched Tiger woods lose his first golf tournament of this season last weekend. I must say that I was disappointed that he didn’t win. Though Tiger and I would disagree theologically, he, a Buddhist and I, a Christian, I have to say that I admire many things about him. First of all I salute him on the basis of his character. He is a great role model for kids and adults alike when it comes to character. And his character came from a great relationship with his mother and father as he was growing up, particularly his father Earl Woods. Tiger said about his dad, “My dad has always taught me these words: care and share. That’s why we put on clinics. The only thing I can do is try to give back. … it works, it works.” Someone asked tiger about being a role model and he commented, “I think it’s an honor to be a role model to one person or maybe more than that. If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person’s life in a positive light, and that’s what I want to do. That’s what it’s all about.” And when it comes right down to it, all of us are role models to someone—our children, our family, or friends, our neighbors. We should never treat that as though it were a small matter. We influence them either positively or negatively, but influence them we will. And our influence on others will have a definite impact on the lives of those know and love. Remember, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7)I also admire Tiger for his work ethic. He didn’t get to be the number one ranked golfer in the world by being lazy and irresponsible. He worked at it. He spent (and still spends) long, disciplined hours on the practice range honing the skill and talent that God has given him. And why?—Simply to be the best. Tiger was quoted as saying, “That’s why I’ve busted my butt on the range for hours on end and made changes to get to this point where I’m able to compete at the highest level in major championships. That’s where you want to be.” There is no doubt that Tiger desires to be the best. We too should desire to be the best at what ever we do. It honors God, it honors our family, and it honors us individually. I am teaching my grandchildren to say and believe someone is going to be the best—it may as well be me!

I really liked that last line: “someone is going to be the best — it may as well be me!”

-Colin Foote Burch

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook