This morning I was searching for an online Church of Christ service so I could put a screenshot of an online service into my blog. I came across a Lord’s Supper prayer (you’re supposed to take the Lord’s Supper at home during Coronavirus, while everyone else watching the service takes it, so you’re taking it together). In the prayer I heard the familiar phrase: “Lord, help us to examine ourselves to see if we are worthy to partake of this Supper.” This is a misapplication/misquote from I Corinthians 11: 27
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Each one must examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
The apostle Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth because they were engaging in competitive picnicking as communion/eucharist. The apostle Paul said this was the opposite of the purpose of remembering Christ’s death. But the Churches of Christ I grew up in use the passage to make everyone feel guilty for taking the Lord’s Supper. If I have committed even one sin, then I am unworthy to take the Lord’s Supper. Which is also the opposite of why Jesus instituted communion: feeling forgiven by God.
So the Churches of Christ I grew up in required us to take the Lord’s Supper every Sunday (because the only example we have of the Lord’s Supper is on a Sunday, and Sunday comes every week, Acts 20:7). If you didn’t take it you had sinned (like a mortal sin in the Catholic Church, in danger of hellfire damnation). If you take it in an unworthy manner (or as misquoted: if you are unworthy of taking it–as everyone is) then you have also committed a sin (in danger of hellfire damnation).
So a nice neat double bind: one of the requirements of all sects and cults. If you take away all of the coercion in a sect, and just keep the tight community and wonderful singing, then it all falls apart. The Catch-22, No-Wins are the foundation of sects and cults.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses put out an edition of the Watchtower pamphlet every 2 weeks. Every member is expected to study it and answer questions about it at the next Bible Study. Every month or so a pamphlet will offer a slightly new interpretation of the Bible, not too radical from previous doctrines, but definitely a slightly new angle than they have taken before, or a new prophecy of when the Kingdom will come on earth. If you question the pamphlet, you are disciplined, and if you don’t accept the discipline you are kicked out. So the pamphlet insures that each member is toeing the line. You have a monthly eradication of all dissidents, the kingdom remains pure. A double-bind: I have to accept the previous doctrines, and then I have to accept changes to doctrines without questioning.
Double-binds keep us feeling helpless. The doctrines in the Churches of Christ I grew up in kept me in constant doubt about myself: Was I worthy? Of course not. Well then, why was I taking the communion? But what if I stop taking the communion? Several preachers would speak up and loudly proclaim that we had gotten that verse wrong and to stop using that phrase in our Lord’s Supper prayers, but the poor deacons kept using the phrase, and really, they were the ones who knew the true doctrines of the Churches of Christ, not the radical preachers: You are never allowed to know you are saved, you have to remain always in doubt. That is the most holy feeling: guilt and fear.
It is mostly empowered people who leave sects and cults, so keep the people disempowered. It is not poor destitute people who go on strike, it is the ones who have the most rights and the most empowerment who go on strike. It is seldom slaves who riot, it is slaves who have had a taste of freedom.