Monday, March 27, 2017


I recently heard of a Facebook complaint (I only heard of it because someone else told me; I don't do Facebook.) that a Christian school was just an indoctrination center where kids are taught Christian propaganda and brainwashed. Really? Is that so? How awful!

Indoctrination is defined as "the act of indoctrinating". Not helpful. Not helpful at all. At its core is clearly the word, "doctrine", and, therefore, at its core is the concept of teaching a doctrine, especially of a particular point of view. But, of course, we don't use it that way much anymore. No. "Indoctrination" is a bad word. Most people understand it to carry a more sinister meaning. You will find such synonyms as "brainwash" and "propaganda" connected to it. One source includes "the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically." And that gets more to the point, doesn't it? The idea is that it is doctrine without question. Brainwashing. See?

The idea of "indoctrination" produces some questions. Is it present as often as we say it is? Who is doing it? Is it bad?

When a preacher preaches the Word, they call it "indoctrination". He presents it from one perspective -- his own -- and doesn't actually ask for analysis. The congregation has little opportunity for feedback or correction. Indoctrination? Is it indoctrination if it is the truth? Jesus gave little room for disagreement or critique. "The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works." (John 14:10) That is, "Believe Me or not, but if not, you're disbelieving the Father." Indoctrination? And if it is the truth, is it bad? Is it wrong to present the truth without criticism?

Over against this is the question, often it seems, of a double standard. "Propaganda" is information of biased nature used to promote or publicize a particular cause or point of view and is linked to "indoctrination" ... both of which are words we use to get people to side with us on our biased position about which we do not want them to think. They're catchphrases, so to speak, intended to cause an emotional response without analysis of the question at hand. Like "homophobe", "bigot", and "hater", they cause you to feel before you ever think. So the people that typically throw out the words "propaganda" and "indoctrination" are using them as propaganda and indoctrination. Beyond this, if "indoctrination" is presenting a one-sided view without presenting opposing views in order to cause people to accept the one-sided view, is this not precisely the demand of science education everywhere when considering Evolution (with a capital "E")? "No, we will not present opposing views on this topic." Is that not by definition indoctrination? And how does it differ from the teaching that Christians offer about which they so sorely complain?

There are certain sins in this society that are not merely condoned, but embraced and celebrated. The woman that heroically kills her unborn child or the man that bravely decides he's a woman or the multitudes that wisely cohabitate before marriage are all considered good and admirable. There are certain sins in this society that are not tolerated. First appears to be intolerance, defined as failing to embrace as good the sins that society embraces as good. We will not tolerate that. Another is certainty. Certainty about anything Christian in particular is wrong, wrong, wrong. Of that we're certain. Another is teaching something as true. We call it "indoctrination". Teaching something true as if it is true without question is evil. Except, of course, if the thing you're teaching as if it is true without question is the position that "Teaching something true as if it is true without question is evil." We surely live in a world of convoluted, twisted, and double standards. And they say we're the problem.


David said...

Indoctrination has become this bad word, but most people indoctrinate their subordinates in some way all the times. When I was a child in public school I was indoctrinated to be a faithful American and gave my pledge of allegiance without knowing what I was doing or why. Companies indoctrinate their employees into their way of operating. We indoctrinate so that we don't have to always question what we need to do in every situation. It's not a bad thing, and is Biblically necessary. What do people think it means for the Jewish fathers to teach their children the Law all day every day, and to carry the Law with them always? That way they knew how to act in a situation without having to consult their parents or Scripture every time something came up. I think indoctrination has lost its meaning just like tolerance. They keep using that word, it doesn't mean what they think it means.

Stan said...

Exactly. Indoctrination is common and even potentially valuable. (Learning, for instance, to trust and obey God without considering all possible angles is a good thing.) The question, then, is not whether or not indoctrination is good, but what exactly is being indoctrinated.