Brainwash – to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure.
Have you ever been directly or indirectly accused of being brainwashed? I am convinced that this word is horrendously overused in today’s American English. It implies being dominated completely by another human being, and not being able to think for yourself; as well it often includes being labeled as a “dunce.” Being a Christian, I would say that I am fairly used to, especially in the post-modernist media establishment, being labeled as brainwashed. It is hilarious to me to see how many angles this label/accusation originates from. For example:
- Many nations from around the globe claim that Americans are brainwashed into believing their country is the greatest on earth.
- Those who believe in God are said to have been brainwashed into believing in Him when they were uneducated Christians.
- Christians are supposedly brainwashed by their church to believe that Christ is God, and that there is no other way to heaven but through Him.
- Fundamental Baptists are somehow accused of being brainwashed into adapting biblical standards concerning separation and godly living.
But what are all these accusations based on? Fact? The accusations are far from fact. They are all based on opinion and emotion. Brainwash is a very emotion-driven word, especially to the average person living in the United States. The immediate reaction to this word is supposed to be, “How horrible! ___________ is using mind control techniques to make people believe things.” And I agree, human mind control is wrong in every aspect; but to be specific, why label separated Baptists as brainwashed? Truth: it stirs the general public’s emotions by, at the very least, embellishing, if not outright lying to them about what is actually happening.
Let me illustrate by personal example and experience. I was raised in what most would consider a very “religious” home –to be exact, a fundamental Baptist home. I was constantly trained from the Bible. I was always taught to listen to what godly teachers and preachers said, and as long as it lined up with the Word of God, to direct my life in that path. Yes, I was highly influenced by people, starting with my parents, and so many others thereafter. Who is not influenced by teachers and mentors in their life? This is where the brainwashing accusation comes in.
However, the key difference is that I made a conscience decision to follow what I was taught. I could have rebelled, stopped going to church, threw away everything that I was taught, and lived the way I wanted. However, I didn’t choose to. Why would I? God has given me so much to be thankful for. I could not have planned my life to be as joyful as it has been. By God’s grace, I made my own choice to follow Christ with my life. Contrary to today’s common belief, I was never brainwashed into doing anything.
I think what these people are really trying to say is that they do not like what people are being taught. For most people who use the word, I think that they classify brainwashing as someone being taught anything that they themselves do not believe. Now it all makes sense!
Here are some not-so-uncommon comments that are said when using the term brainwash.
“Those children behave too well. They must be brainwashed!.” –No, that’s called obedience. That used to be common in America up until fifty or so years ago.
“____________ just takes the Bible so literally. He’s brainwashed.” –No, he has faith.
“The people from _______________ Church are so religious..and they dress funny too. They’re so brainwashed!” –No, they’re making their own decision to follow Biblical standards.
If we are going to use this false definition of brainwashing than we should use it universally. All children are brainwashed by their teachers; all people who want to lose weight are brainwashed by their newest diet guru; all sports fans are brainwashed by their favorite team; and television brainwashes everyone!
I consider myself a pretty independent person. I typically like to make my own decisions, make my own living, and make my own way in life –until God comes in. And believe me, He is always there. I gladly throw away every ounce of independence I may have, for His will. I could never be happier than to be influenced and controlled by God and his Word. What a privilege!