According to Psychology Today, Groupthink is "a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the belief that dissent is impossible. The problematic or premature consensus that is characteristic of groupthink may be fueled by a particular agenda—or it may be due to group members valuing harmony and coherence above critical thought.
The term “Groupthink” was first introduced in the November 1971 issue of Psychology Today by psychologist Irving Janis. Janis had conducted extensive research on group decision-making under conditions of stress.
Since then, Janis and other researchers have found that in a situation that can be characterized as groupthink, individuals tend to refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus. In the interest of making a decision that furthers their group cause, members may also ignore ethical or moral consequences.
Wow, members may also ignore ethical or moral consequences- who does this sound like? Satan of course. Groupthink is the easiest way Satan can control large groups of people and do so without many of the people realizing what is happening to them or has already occurred to themself or their loved ones.
Today we will look at three different Groupthink has impacted our American society, the society of the world, and the Church. These three events took place over a period of time of almost 75 years but for many of the problems we have had during that time, the inability of many people to question these problems, and the shared ideas that our society has accepted to be true.
First, from the review of the (1946). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 6(1):51-51
We see the Book review of Herbert Holt on Peace of Mind. Joshua Loth Liebman. 203 pp. 1946. Simon & Schuster. $2.50
The principles of dynamic psychology are now being used in many fields other than medicine. The author of this book is a rabbi who recognizes the value of psychological orientation as an aid in handling the varied daily problems presented to him for solution by members of his ministry. He states that religion and dynamic psychology are mutually complementary since they both have the purpose of guiding individuals, and even nations, toward the good life of peace and happiness.
Liebman devotes the major part of his book to a clear and simple explanation of the essentials of dynamic psychology. He borrows his concepts from both Freud and Horney. His purpose is to acquaint the general public with the manifestations of inner psychic conflicts and their effect on the daily thoughts and actions of every human being. He condemns the tendency to repress conflicting thoughts and feelings, and stresses the need to acknowledge our inner conflicts without shame. In this way an individual can accept his problems and deal with them more effectively. He believes that inner peace can be achieved in no other way and that for the formation of a better society and universal peace it is essential for the individuals of the society to be psychically healthy. There is repeated emphasis on the importance of self-respect and self-acceptance as prerequisites to self-analysis and the elimination of immature expectations of self and others. A man without love for himself cannot love any other man.
His approach to religion is based on the Jewish concept of God where the emphasis is placed on the service man renders to God and not on the benefits accorded man by God.
If we carefully look at the book and this review we can see the center point of the beginning of Groupthink. We note the sentence: He states that religion and dynamic psychology are mutually complementary since they both have the purpose of guiding individuals, and even nations, toward the good life of peace and happiness. Here, Mr. Holt is picking up what the author had intended- to get people to think that psychology is equal to God or more importantly man is equal to God. This New York Times best selling book began a chain of events that elevated man’s relationship with himself and lowered man’s relationship with God. Why did not more people at the time question it?
If you go back to the findings of Dr. Janis and other researchers have found that in a situation like this one it can be easily characterized as groupthink, individuals tend to refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus. In the interest of making a decision that furthers their group cause, members may also ignore ethical or moral consequences. Doesn’t this actually fit in nicely? Now think who would benefit from such an occurrence? Does the name Satan come to mind?
Second, about twenty years later on April 8, 1966, Time Magazine had a cover that featured an all black cover with blood red lettering asking the question: Is God Dead?. Time Magazine no doubt was trying to sell magazines but this cover was named by the Los Angeles Times in 2008 as one the top 12 covers of all times by shocking the world. It was the first cover in the entire history of Time to feature just words and no pictures. They didn’t have to- the words spoke for themselves and the effect was immediate on the society at the time. It caused people to believe that God was actually dead- we did not need God now- we had science and science had all of the answers. Just like Peace of Mind did twenty years before, this article did not have immediate results in a complete loss of faith in God. It acted as yet another nail in the coffin for the Church for many people. Young people who were upset with corrupt politicians, wars, and civil rights issues quickly turned to other things then going to Church. These people quit going to Church, they did not raise their families in Church and now their grandchildren are not going to Church either. Three generations of power of Groupthink.
Third, COVID 19. Now it may seem strange that we put a disease as Groupthink artifact but the reason is because of how COVID 19 was handled and results. Almost 74 years after the publication of Peace of Mind in 1946, came COVID 19. This disease spread rapidly all over the world and got many people sick and died. This is and was true. The problem was the solution offered by many of the politicians.
Dr. Eric Christopher Cioe-Pena, the director of global health at Northwell Health in New York and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Hofstra University, says he worries the rulings may create a “huge hurdle” in the public health effort to fight the virus.
“It’s very challenging. I recognize people’s right to gather for worship, but I don’t view the public health restrictions as a restriction on religious freedom. It’s important to remember that the virus doesn’t care why you’re gathering. It’s not going to give you a pass because you’re gathering to worship,” Cioe-Pena added. “It’s potentially going to result in increased cases, increased hospitalizations, and more deaths.”
“Public health laws are ones that aren’t usually challenged in such a way until very recently” he noted. “In the same way we’ve asked people to kind of figure out how to connect with family members in other ways that are safer, run their businesses in ways that are safer, we need houses of worship to do the same thing.”
Several states in the United States and several countries around the world, placed either limits on Church attendance during the COVID 19 Crisis or banned Church attendance completely during that time. They called the Church a superspreader of the disease but then at the same time did not shut down other places of high human traffic such as Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart or the local grocery store. The phoney shutdowns or curtailment of Church services were fair as long as these other entities were able to operate daily with many more people. In fact, why did many people question the logic of this?
If you go back to the findings of Dr. Janis and other researchers have found that in a situation like this one it can be easily characterized as groupthink, individuals tend to refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus. In the interest of making a decision that furthers their group cause, members may also ignore ethical or moral consequences. Was it ethical or moral to deny people the right to worship (1st Amendment Right) but allow them to buy a 2 X4 piece of lumber? Is this the foundation of our belief system now?
Groupthink is in our society today. It has been creeping in the past 75 years and today we must fight it with everything that we have. If we do not do so today there will be no tomorrow for the Church. Amen