In Defense of J Gordon Melton

raisinChris Shelton has a great take-down of J Gordon Melton’s pro-propaganda for Scientology in his latest video.

Chris shows exactly why J Gordon is not to be relied upon by anyone who seeks the truth about the life of L Ron Hubbard and his Church of Scientology. In fact, Chris shows exactly how this guy is not a valid researcher for Scientology, or for many of the new religious movements he has written about. And Chris demonstrates how J Gordon is much more of a propagandist than a “cult apologist”.

While I searched the web for some more information on him, I found Melton’s reasoning for caution regarding an ex-member’s stories about their time in the cult to be a potentially tasty raisin of truth inside the larger turd of J Gordon’s work.

So I’ve picked it out and washed it off for you.

Let’s inspect it before we go any further, shall we?

On the website called ApologeticsIndex.org there is a page devoted to Dr. Melton. As I picked through it, here’s where I found the raisin.

“DR. MELTON: When you are investigating groups such as this, you never rely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members.

MR. MORGAN: Why?

DR. MELTON: To put it bluntly, hostile ex-members invariably shade the truth. They invariably blow out of proportion minor incidents and turn them into major incidents, and over a period of time their testimony almost always changes because each time they tell it they get the feedback of acceptance or rejection from those to whom they tell it, and hence it will be developed and merged into a different world view that they are adopting.

Much of the fecal material surrounding this raisin is in the absolutist generalizations he uses with his words “never” and “invariably”.

Most Exes I know, myself included, hear this criticism and it makes our blood boil. To have suffered cultic abuse and then to be called a liar by your former cult when you expose them is to be expected. But when non-cult members also call you a liar, it can be too much. It seems like the same cultic abuse is happening to you all over again, and that isn’t something which is easy to take for any Ex, or for any human being, really.

But I believe if an Ex-cultist is to fully graduate from his former cultic thinking and keep evolving and growing in a constructive manner after the cult, he should teach himself to listen to criticism, and to carefully determine if there might be something true coming from it.

After all, if there is one thing we all learned from getting out of the sway of a charismatic cult leader, no one has a monopoly on the truth – including you.

So let’s wash off this raisin that has come out of J Gordon Melton and see if it might provide us with something nourishing.

What if we hosed down his absolutist terms, and inspected it without them?

“DR. MELTON: When you are investigating groups such as this, you never rely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members.

MR. MORGAN: Why?

DR. MELTON: To put it bluntly, hostile ex-members invariably sometimes shade the truth. They invariably sometimes blow out of proportion minor incidents and turn them into major incidents, and over a period of time their testimony almost always changes because each time they tell it they get the feedback of acceptance or rejection from those to whom they tell it, and hence it will be developed and merged into a different world view that they are adopting.

How many Ex-members do you know who have changed their minds about their own time in the cult from “It was the best thing I’ve ever experienced!” to “It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced!” How many high profile blog owners, including myself, can you go back into their earlier posts and see them change their minds about things as they learn and grow after the cult?

Answer: Almost all of them.

Notice how he talks about taking minor incidents and turning them into major incidents. (See Magnification and Minimization)

Have you ever done this – even in your own mind and only to yourself?

And notice the process of feedback he mentions of acceptance and rejection from members of a new group of Exes, depending on what you say and how you say it. And what about how he says their stories “will be developed and merged into a different world view that they are adopting.”

Did this happen to you – even in the slightest bit?

It happened to me. And I have spent the last few years examining exactly how that happened to me. I think J Gordon Melton has identified a dynamic that exists for Ex-cult members and especially for ex-Scientologists who tell their stories to others in various fora on the Post-Scientology Internet. I’ve watched lots of Exes change their own experiences in Scientology, and their expressed attitudes about those experiences, in order to fit in and deliver what their new group wants.

So you know what? With some soap and water, I think this little raisin from J Gordon Melton just might be true.

Remember the lesson for why ad hom is a logical fallacy: even a fool can speak the truth. Even a liar doesn’t always lie. And some turds have actual raisins in them.

I know that what I am writing here is absolute blasphemy to Ex-Scientologists everywhere.

But I’m kinda into blasphemy lately.

I do know that if I tried to sell this raisin in a grocery store, the FDA would probably come down on me hard. But there is no law that says we can’t privately pick raisins from turds and wash them off for our own private nourishment, is there?

I’m swallowing this one from J Gordon Melton.

Won’t you join me?

Alanzo

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Guest

Melton may have a point about the evolution of ex-cult members. However, his assumption appears to be that the ex modifies or embellishes his/her cult experience, making the group worse than it actually was. I do not think this is reliable or even predictable.

Personally, I was much more angry and prone to embellishment leading up to and shortly after my SP declare. But, now, after a cooling-off period, my recollection and account of my experiences are decidedly more balanced.

While it may be true that in some cases, ex-members distort their experiences; it is equally true that the church has lied and distorted the truth about its actions and behavior. The latter is easier to validate than the former, given the abundance of depositions and court documents easily available. So, why doesn’t Melton cite those cases? Why would the church’s rendition be more bona fide than the departing member? When the church has a long established, institutional policy of lying (acceptable truth)?

There is another aspect of this which may be a factor. For those never-in, like Melton, there is an almost indescribable aspect of the cult experience that they may never grasp. I often see it in Ortega’s reporting. While he is well-versed in the materials, he hasn’t LIVED it. Melton, as a researcher, suffers the same liability. Without first-hand personal experience (e.g. living it, believing it, knowing it, feeling it), they are at a disadvantage when evaluating data. If they recognize that, and cultivate a wide range of members and ex-members, really roll-up their sleeves and do some real research, they may begin to gleam some insight. Anything short of that is intellectually lazy.

John Doe
Guest

Bravo.

One of the takeaways I value from my experience in Scientology is being aware of and even maybe a little over-sensitive to when someone is trying to manipulate me.

And really, the “fitting into a new group” and trying to meet that group’s expectations of me…well, maybe if I’m getting paid handsomely, but really, I’m not in 8th grade and going to a new school fer cryin out loud. I mostly don’t give a shit.

I have my truths, and my interest in continuing to evolve, to satisfy my curiosity, and wanting to improve and help others.

That’s enough.

Thanks for continuing to speak as honestly as you can, Alonzo, you friggin gadfly!

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