Under Their Thumb: High Pressure Groups on Our Campus

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Union Newspaper/August 1998
By Christopher Peters

There are many recognized organizations on campus such as fraternities, sororities, intramural teams, and clubs, which are an essential extra curricular part of life of campus. Among these organizations and clubs there are numerous religious, political, and social groups. They can be well established, just forming, and may even come from off-campus. All these groups need active participation from students and, while its your choice to join, there are some religious groups that use aggressive high pressure recruiting tactics to change what you stand for.

These groups can be harmful if joined and may be similar to different varieties of religious cults. "A cult is a group or movement exhibiting great or excess devotion or dedication to a person, idea, or thing and employing unethical, manipulative or coercive techniques to persuade and control its members", according to American Family Foundation. If a person chooses to be a part of such a group they are expected to completely adhere to the group and surrender their individuality. Friends and family are usually excluded, and often poor grades, and forgetting career goals are results and some even dropping out of college. The consequences of choosing to get involved with a cult can be great, especially for new students who are not familiar with school life, where there are many decisions, anxieties, and pressures to endure.

According to Calvin Kwan, a former member of the high pressure and controversial Los Angeles Church of Christ, a person can identify these high pressure groups if they are informed as to how they recruit new individuals. Kwan was an experienced leader for the organization and explains, "The most common thing the group does is invite you to fun activities, such as parties, to play volleyball, and to go on retreats." He also states, "It is important for students to know that you will not be told that everyone going to the activities will be from the same church and that the purpose is to recruit you. It is deception." He concludes by saying that people you hardly know will want to spend enormous amount of time with you. This is called "love bombing".

Leanne Holmer, who was also one of the leaders of the Los Angeles Church of Christ, expresses that, the responses and the behavior the members exhibit can help identify high pressure groups. She says, "they may make it seem like a perfect group with all the answers to your problems." Holmer declares, "they make themselves seem like a innocuous group at first, and yet they soon completely take control of your life." Many new members are assigned to an older member with who they are expected to seek approval from on just about everything they'd do, including dating, getting married, changing jobs, visiting family and so on. The group is usually preoccupied with recruiting new members into their organization and the way they deceive a person, according to Holmer is, "to show you love with an ulterior motive. The ulterior motive is to get you to join and, once you're in, their concern for you disappears and you are expected to perform like everyone else."

The group may also encourage making group meetings and functions a main priority. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of their time at the expense of family, friends and school. "They misrepresent Christianity. It is not a true Christian group," admits Holmer.

For further information contact the Interfaith Center at + (562) 985-7629, and also the University Police at +1 (562) 985-4101. Ask for Sgt. Bonnie Myers at the University Police Station, and at the Interfaith Center ask for the Campus Ministers.

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