Hi thetruthneedstobetold, and welcome to the forum. Your user name is spot on – the truth does need to be told, whether that is about owning 16 house (16! really? what happened to the idea of storing up treasure in heaven?) bullying, hidden behaviours or attitudes to mental health.
That last one I find interesting for many reasons, as it seems they pretend it is not real if you are in SMC, but then members are told not to approach those who have left because they have mental health problems. So, if you do have mental health issues (and, let’s face it, we all have mental health just like we all have physical health) then the answer is to attend Struthers where these things apparently do not exist. Of course, people have exactly the same behaviours and symptoms but if you are in Struthers it is apparently no longer mental health – in spite of the fact that there is in fact pretty clear evidence that more people in SMC than outside of it suffer from depression and other difficulties. Not a problem for the Struthers leadership however - all you need to do is create a policy that it does not exist and the problem goes away. The individuals of course still have to struggle through, with leaders not lifting a finger to help.
I would in fact suggest that the vast majority of those in Struthers suffer from one particular mental health issue and that is “learned helplessness”. This is a recognised condition where people no longer try to do something as they have become resigned to failure.
Some of the first work in this area was by Martin Seligman (who also went on to look at the more positive side and authored an interesting book called “Learned Optimism”).
Seligman and Maier (in an experiment that would probably not be allowed these days) gave three groups of dog electric shocks. Two groups had different ways to escape the shocks and the third group did not. All three groups were then taken into a new environment and again given shocks. The two groups that had previously been provided with a means of escape discovered they could again escape, this time by jumping over a small wall.
The third group, who had previously not been given a means of escape, did not even try to escape, resigning themselves to the shocks. They did this even when placed in a group of dogs who did escape.
This sort of thing has been repeated endless times, for example in classrooms where a group of students is given anagrams to solve. What they do not know is that half of the class are given two very easy anagrams, and the other half are given impossible anagrams. They are all then given the same moderately hard third anagram. All of those in the group that had been given two easy anagrams solve the third one, but only about one in ten of those who had been given the two impossible anagrams solve the third one.
That demonstrates that people can learn helplessness in just ten minutes
! No wonder it is so hard for people to leave Struthers – they are taught three or four times a week that they are helpless, unable to make their own decisions or achieve anything. If they ask questions (for example, “how do you reconcile your statement that people outside Struthers have mental health issues with your unwillingness to support those in the church?”) then you are side-lined or told you have the wrong attitude. It does not take much of that treatment to teach you that you are helpless and should not even try.
So, what should folks do? A quick google search gives lots of advice, one article suggesting:
1. Change is possible. If you don't think your finances or life can improve, you won't take any steps to make them better. ...
2. Think big. ...
3. Get perspective. ...
4. Set goals. ...
5. Achieving successes. ...
6. Consider a different viewpoint.
All those in Struthers – do you think your personal situation can change? Do you think you can do anything to change things? If not, you may well be suffering from learned helplessness. Have a look at the above list and consider any you might apply.
1. Believe change is possible. Read through the other testimonies on this website or PM some of those who have posted here to find out more about their experience.
2. Think big – recognise that your purpose in life is not just to sit demurely in a meeting, you were made for more than that. Think about all you could do – work with a charity; meet new people, learn from them and influence them; write a book, explore new areas…
3. Get perspective. Is it really reasonable that a group of a couple of hundred people are the only truly spiritual people on the planet? Visit other churches, read other books (some of the CS Lewis ones not on the SMC approved list would be a good start) listen to sermons by people like Tim Keller, or attend good Bible teaching events like the Keswick Convention. (My opinion of course – there may be other and better options!) Or create an anonymous userID for this site and try to tease out what bits of the Struthers doctrine you do agree with and what bits (often not written down or explained explicitly) you are not in agreement with.
4. Set goals like speaking to some friends about what you actually believe and listening to how they make sense of their life. Invite folk for a meal (Jesus spent much of his life doing that) or reason with people (Paul did a lot of that). Or simply set a goal like getting fitter or taking better care of your finances. Realise you are not helpless!
5. Achieving Success. There are so many opportunities to succeed in work, family, sports, society, academic study. Set a goal and achieve something. I know Struthers has told you it is all pointless, but it is not – pursuing and achieving success is important (and can help you break out of the learned helplessness).
6. Consider a different viewpoint. Well, exactly: perhaps this should be number one on the list. As I said quite recently, what if Struthers is 99% correct – should you not try to see if you can find the 1% where they are wrong? Talk to people, read things, watch online sermons, visit other churches etc, NOT to see how they measure up to the (totally unbiblical)standard of Struthers, but in recognition that these are people who have experience and understanding that can be shared. Jesus after all used a huge number of illustrations that were along the lines of, “a shepherd was … a man was building a tower, a lord sent his servant…” In other words, He saw how people lived and how they managed situations and difficulties - and used that as a way of teaching people. Knowledge of society is to be used for learning, not despised.
(I actually feel much of this applies to some leaders as well by the way - they are stuck in their role and feel they have no power to change anything, but that is not the case, they can do what is right, all they need is the courage to do so.)
Sorry – a bit of a long ramble there, but I do worry that those in Struthers do feel totally powerless, and I would like them to know that is not the case. They actually do have the power to leave and experience new things (including a deeper walk with God by the way, no person in Struthers should believe they are missing out on anything by leaving).
Anyway, all that aside, Merry Christmas to all! Whatever your circumstances or beliefs, I hope you all have a peaceful time that recharges your batteries and that 2023 is the year your zest for life is greater than ever before.