This post examines the propaganda of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Harvest Bible Chapel. This looks at thought reform and what came out in studies by Robert Lifton, and Margaret Singer in studying Korean prisoners of war. In the propaganda campaign of James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel this post looks at the top sayings or phrases of this totalitarian movement. James MacDonald would make a fine heir to Kim Jong Un in North Korea.
“Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”
“One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”
“Great ideology creates great times.”
North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8 ESV
***Made a couple of corrections below in regards to the Alex and Carli Lopez. The change was made on January 22, 2018***
Kim Jong Un
The national anthem of the Democratic People’s Republic of Harvest Bible Chapel
In the 1950’s the Cold War became hot on the Korean peninsula. As war waged one of the issues that developed was the capturing of American POWs by the North Koreans and the Chinese. During the Korean War it is estimated that 7,000 Americans were held as prisoners of war. When the armistice took effect in 1953 to some people’s shock some American troops claimed they wanted to stay. Something had apparently happened and it appeared. It was as if they were indoctrinated or brainwashed by the Chinese or North Koreans. Some of these POWs had spoken out against the United States and signed paperwork and committed themselves to either China or North Korea. Those 23 former American serviceman who refused to be repatriated took jobs in North Korea or some ended up in China in the passage of time.
The techniques used by the Chinese and North Koreans to brainwash American serviceman held captive captured the United States. Part of the story was turned into a Cold War classic – The Manchurian Candidate with Angela Lansbury. In the study of psychology and psychiatry the concept of brainwashing was studied by two well individuals, Robert Liften and Margaret Singer who contributed greatly to the field. Robert Lifton is an American psychiatrist known for studying thought reform. His studies of Korean prisoners or war and those held captive in China led to a groundbreaking work at the time called, “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.” Lifton had believed that after the POW is released from captivity that in time when they arrive home their thinking returns to normal. Margaret Singer is also known for her work in clinical psychology and coercive thought control. In the 1950’s when she worked at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. she interviewed American POWs held captive in Korea. and wrote and used the experiences to advance research.
Robert Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform
Robert Lifton who I mentioned above came up with a listing of criteria that enables or makes thought reform possible. This is the criteria needed to indoctrinate a person.
- Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.
- Mystical Manipulation. There is manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority or spiritual advancement or some special gift or talent that will then allow the leader to reinterpret events, scripture, and experiences as he or she wishes.
- Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.
- Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders.
- Sacred Science. The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism.
- Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.
- Doctrine over person. Member’s personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
- Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also. (Lifton, 1989)
Examining the Propaganda from the Democratic People’s Republic of Harvest Bible Chapel
It is this blogger’s belief that what Robert Lifton wrote about thought reform and indoctrination could apply to how James MacDonald ran Harvest Bible Chapel. As I have studied documents and information and had long discussions with people who were involved or who have family inside I have noticed key catch phrases. Others have shared their perspectives on this organization. This blog compiled a list of those phrases and what they mean in Harvest culture. The phrases below represent the indoctrination of individuals at Harvest Bible Chapel.
- “You are Loved!” This phrase in my mind stands out as the most sinister phrase of Harvest Bible Chapel. Nothing screams or bothers me more than in seeing how this saying is continually used. Its used at the end of sermons, church communication, emails, in Harvest Christian Academy, posters and more. Everywhere you turn this phrase just seems to be looming. If I am seeing it this much from California, then how much are people from Elgin or Rolling Meadows seeing it? So in Harvest understanding what does “You are Loved” mean? When you translate the phrase it means you are loved for how much money you give. The more you financially give the more value you hold to the system. “You are Loved” is about protecting the brand and plays on people’s emotions especially their desire to be loved and cared for.
- “Believe the best in everyone.” This phrase is quite sinister and has a deeply troubling aspect to it. In the Harvest indoctrination machine it is used to justify James MacDonald’s double standard. The rules do not apply to the totalitarian head of state. Like Kim Jong Un, the Dear Leader is exempt from all enforcement of the rules. Rules are meant for people in the pews. “Believe the best in everyone” is used to keep people quiet. Silencing the people is key in order to make the totalitarian system work.
- Matthew 7 the entire log in the eye parable. In the Harvest propaganda machine this means that you can’t challenge or criticize the XLT, James MacDonald, or the staff.
- “Protect the Flock” is about protecting the brand at all costs. This is used to justify bad decisions made at Harvest. It also justifies the excommunication of those for “creating trouble.” After all to enforce totalitarianism you publicly silence one before the organization and you silence all dissent. This is what drove the church discipline and excommunication of Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh. You “protect the flock” and go after one or two. Damn what Jesus taught about going after the one lost sheep.
- “No Church is Perfect” is also very deviant. That has been used to justify a church that has allegedly engaged in criminal activity. When you translate this what it means is that we can do anything nefarious because other places are doing it as well. Its about leveling the field in the end. They do it so we can also do the same thing. Many members of Harvest are taught and trained to say this to their critics. The members in saying this uphold the totalitarian regime of James MacDonald. If you want to see an example of this go to Alex Lopez’s Facebook page and see how he does it. Alex is the husband of Carli Lopez who serves as the Director of Student Services and Guidance at Harvest Christian Academy.
- “You are just bitter.” This saying is the rallying cry of the True Believers inside Harvest Bible Chapel. It is launched on its critics, former Harvest pastors, staff, members and those who are outside the organization. The True Believers have the faith and have held on thus demonstrating their faith. If you want to read more about the True Believer I would recommend Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer – Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.”
- “The Lord Loves a Cheerful Giver” is another insidious phrase of the totalitarian regime of James MacDonald. At Harvest Bible Chapel people clap and cheer when they give. They do so because they have been brainwashed to do so. Its a compulsion for many and they don’t know why they do it, expect Harvest has trained them to act this way. The inference from James MacDonald and the pulpit is that you need to give until it hurts. And that God doesn’t love you because you don’t love him enough with your tithes. The clapping and cheering when people give reminds me of how in Sovereign Grace people jumped out of their seats and just clapped for C.J. Mahaney as they were indoctrinated to do so.
- “Choose to sin, choose to suffer.” This is another insidious phrase of James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel. This shows the idolatry of Harvest Bible Chapel and how they function. If you make the wrong choice you will suffer. Its a sin to question Harvest, its a sin to challenge or think independently. If you sin you will suffer. This puts a warped and twisted spin on the problem of pain and suffering as in Harvest is adds a prosperity gospel component to it. If you give you will not suffer as you are not in sin. This is some really twisted manipulation from Harvest Bible Chapel.
These are some of the phrases people have talked with me about and a couple that were emerging as I worked with, studied and examined material from Harvest Bible Chapel. It is my claim that if you want to understand organizations like Harvest Bible Chapel you need to study history and totalitarian movements and regimes. Study the purges of Joseph Stalin inside the Soviet Union. Study how Nikita Khrushchev rebuked the personality cult of Joseph Stalin. Spend time looking at how Vladimir Lenin’s image was redefined to fit the state. If you study the tactics, techniques and procedures of totalitarian movements you will look at James MacDonald in a different light. And just as North Korea has been set up to transfer power from Kim Il Sung, to Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un, Harvest is set up similar. That is why Landon and Luke MacDonald are so key to the organization.
The Role Harvest Christian Academy Plays in Indoctrination
In any totalitarian regime there is one factor that matters most above all else. And that is the indoctrination of the young through education. Harvest Christian Academy fits this description well. The goal is that if you get them when they are young you can control and stunt them for life. By teaching people what to think and not how to think you can create people that fall into line and support the system. True Believers like Talbott Behnken are in positions of leadership because they can enforce the status quo. Institutions like Harvest Christian Academy have a purpose that is two fold. One is to indoctrinate the young and steer them to embrace the system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Harvest Bible Chapel. The second is to keep the parents and others in Harvest in line. This is what Dan Haskell learned when Luke MacDonald allegedly threatened him at Harvest Christian Academy. Harvest will use children as a weapon to control people in the system. Do you want to stay in good graces at Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin? If you have children in Harvest Christian Academy blindly submit to your elders under the guise of Hebrews 13:17. If you speak up or ask questions you run the risk of having the system use your children as a weapon. This is why there are a lot of people who are upset, worried and concerned about Harvest Bible Chapel but they stay silent because their kids are at Harvest Christian Academy. This blog believers this is why some of the elders are silent and go along. They have kids at Harvest and they have surrendered power to James MacDonald knowing that James will likely use their children in a power play. In the end what you really have at Harvest Bible Chapel is a totalitarian regime. If there was a way to have mass graves on the grounds at Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin, this blog believes that James MacDonald would do it. This is why I am referring to this entity as Democratic Peoples Republic of Harvest Bible Chapel.