Summary: Part 2 of this message looks at the difference between Unity and Groupthink. Unity is based on faith and the knowledge of Christ while group think is based on persuasion and group pressure.
Unity and Sound Doctrine (Part 2)
Unity Vs. Group Think
One of the most powerful tools in the enemy’s arsenal is Group Think. There is a big difference between Group Think and Unity and it is just as much the Christian’s responsibility to avoid Group Think as it is to be unified. The Bible does NOT teach unity at all cost. It takes more love to rebuke than it does to allow fellow believers to continue in error. Proverbs 27:5 states it well when the Bible says that open rebuke is better than concealed love. Rebuke is not an ugly word – though it can be. Ultimately the foundation of every action in the Christian’s life is based on faith in God, His word and love. Rebuke can be hateful, but that is not godly rebuke. True rebuke is a pleading of the heart that desires the best for another person.
Let’s take a moment to define Unity and Group Think.
Group Think is based on peer pressure. Peer pressure does not end when we leave high school; in fact, the church can be one of the greatest sources of peer pressure most people will encounter. We experience peer pressure in every area where social encounters are present. How we feel that we are perceived among our peers also affects how we view ourselves. We do not like to feel like the odd man out. Group think is the affect of peer pressure directly dictating our opinions, viewpoints, actions and unwillingness to take action. Group think is when we allow the group of people in which we are influenced by to think for us. When a person submits to Group Think, they will accept the ideas of the group even when it goes against thier better judgment.
Asch’s experiment is a great example of this. In 1951 a psychologist named Solomon Asch conducted an experiment to prove that peer pressure could cause individuals to make a false statement even when the truth was irrefutable. He created a classroom test with 10 students at a time using a card with three lines printed on it – two short and one line that was clearly longer. The test was to identify the longest line. Nine of the students were instructed to pick the same line and declare that it was the longest line; the tenth student was unaware that the other nine were coached. When the tenth student was given the card after each person declared the same short line was the longest and was praised by the teacher, many reluctantly identified the same line as the majority even though it was clearly a false statement.
Well over one third of the students trusted the group’s perspective over the clear evidence before them. When you consider that the consequence of nonconformity was minimum, one third is an extremely high number. If someone went against the group in this test, there was little threat of rejection, yet they still succumbed. If you take the same strategy into a religious or political group where leaders are passionate about persuading others to their point of view, the number of those who give in will skyrocket. In a social group where rejection is real and the risk of being isolated causes people to fear, it is very, very difficult to go against the crowd.
Group Think is fed by the promise of reward and threat of punishment – even if that threat is only perceived. How did Jim Jones convince 914 people to drink poison? How did Marshall Applewhite persuade 39 people to commit suicide in the Heaven’s Gate cult in 1997. How does cult leaders like Sun Myung Moon persuade his followers to give everything they own to him? The list of examples is inexhaustible. People are drawn in by acceptance and then surrender their reasoning by fear of rejection. We see examples of group think in religion, politics, science, education and anywhere a social culture can be established.
Group Think is when an individual rejects their own discernment and ability to reason and allows the group to dictate what is to be believed, accepted and practice as well as what is not tolerated. It is not based on a concrete standard, but rather on the desires of the group at the moment. Situational ethics are preached in various flavors. In Group Think, standards are discouraged or mocked and those who adhere to standards are viewed as intolerant or troublemakers.
Group Think is often mistaken for unity when in reality the two are not the same at all. In the Bible, unity is the bond created by a common purpose and common principles. We should dispel the myth that the Bible teaches unity at all cost. In truth, the Bible commands us to evaluate the things we are being taught; evaluate those who are teaching; evaluate all doctrine and then to cling to what is good while rejecting that which is contrary to the Word. A church is unified by the love of God poured out in our hearts. We love the brethren – even if we are not able to remain in agreement with them. Even rebuke must be founded upon love or it will become destructive. In fact, the Bible teaches unity while at the same time warning not to allow false doctrine. Look at Ephesians 4:11-16