Linsly-Chittenden Hall on Yale’s old campus was the site of a ground breaking and in more ways than one a shocking experiment in human behavior in regards to authority. In 1961 a psychologist by the name of Dr. Stanley Milgram who received his PhD in social psychology from Harvard, performed a study the purpose of which was to gain insight into why the German population and more specifically members of the German military willing went along with or directly carried out acts of inhuman barbarism during WWII.
The study for those of you who are not familiar with the case involved an actor playing a person known in the study as a “learner”, a psychologist functioning as the authority figure running the session, and the subject of the case study average everyday people playing the role as the “teacher”. The gist of the study goes as follows:
The “teacher” would ask the “learner” a series of questions. For each question that was answered incorrectly the psychologist would instruct the “teacher” to administer an electric shock to the “learner”. The learner was situated in another room and the teacher would press a button that would administer the shock. The voltage was increased after each wrong answer to the point where the voltage could be deadly. Often throughout the process the teacher would comment to the psychologist that the learner may be hurt, and the psychologist would instruct the teacher to administer the shock anyway and to continue the testing. Even when the voltage was great enough to cause harm or possible death the teacher was instructed to continue. The learner while being shocked would sometimes yell out or say they wanted to stop. All the while the psychologist would urge the teacher to continue regardless of his or her wishes or the wishes of the learner. Of course there were never really electric shocks occurring, however as far as the teacher knew the shocks were real. Prior to testing colleagues of Dr. Milgram’s general consensus was that only 1% of subjects would administer the possibly lethal voltage, and that 1% would be psychopathic individuals. Unfortunately the consensus was wrong. In fact they were extremely wrong. The results showed that roughly 65% of individuals administered the shocks.
This series of tests occurred in the 60’s and was repeated in the last 5 years and the results were nearly the same. The results were that nearly 2/3 of individuals would willing inflict this pain on another human being. What do these results say about people? Well for those of us born again in CHRIST we should not be surprised with these results since we understand the state of fallen man. Nonetheless the results are quite disturbing. It shows that those Nazi’s and average Germans living under Nazi authority were in fact more willing a participant than we may have once thought. At the Nuremberg trials often the answer given for why they would commit such acts was that they were just following orders. The study shows how influential an authority figure can be when it comes to the decision making process of the individual. We will return to the ramifications of this result in a moment, in the meantime we will take a look at another study.
The second body of research involved a small group of people being asked questions by a teacher. The group was in fact just acting as if they were trying to answer the questions. They would purposely give the same wrong answer out loud, while one individual the actual subject of the study would then give his answer. Remarkably when the others gave the wrong answer the subject would more often than not go along with the group and give the wrong answer as well even when he knew the correct answer to the question. When he could give his answer in written form not read aloud before his peers he would answer the question correctly. Clearly peer pressure and go with the group mentality was markedly displayed in this case study.
Various researches have been done in regards to social interaction. As psychology was my main field of study in college this type of research is very interesting to me. As a Christian the results of these studies reinforce my belief that man is certainly a fallen creature without the redemptive power of the only begotten Son of GOD. So what does all this psycho-social behavioral study have to do with us as Christians?
From an everyday aspect it certainly has valid correlation to the way we minister to the lost. Does the way the world acts, the way the world perceives you affect your witness to the lost. We are no longer of this world yet we still live in this world and must go as sheep amongst wolves. Do you allow what the world thinks of you interfere with your trying to bring the message of CHRIST to those who desperately need salvation? Do you conform to the ways of this world when you are around your non-Christian friends? Do you allow what they may think of you change the way you act when you are around them? I’ll be the first to admit I have made that very mistake. There have been times that I should have brought up the message of salvation to a lost individual but allowed the group to dissuade my witness. It happens to most if not all Christians at one time or another. The lateness of the hour should behoove us to worry not what the world thinks and reach those who need the message of JESUS the most. They may think us peculiar. They may even hate us for it.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;” PETER 2:9
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. JOHN 15:18-20
The world or people of the world especially in Middle Eastern nations do hate Christians. The Christian church is persecuted by those in authority in many nations of the world. We in America have been fortunate to be able to live freely in our faith. Those days may be numbered. The bible clearly foretells of a time when admitting to being a Christian will be a death sentence. It is at that time that these studies in social interaction will become much more important and much more valid. If people who were under no real pressure chose to follow orders and chose to follow the crowd, can you imagine what their actions will be when part of a world dominated by the anti-Christ system. There has been much debate and speculation as to the role our military and police will play in a time of crises. When they are asked to go against the 2nd amendment and take away citizens right to bare arms. When they are told to round up dissidents or Christians or to fire upon their own populace, many believe that those soldiers will refuse. From the data that I have presented to you does it seem likely they will go against orders? There are many GOD fearing individuals in our military and they may very well refuse to do such a thing. However the data shows otherwise, and if it is after the rapture then I’d imagine the number that follow heinous orders will be closer to 100% than the 65% that the studies have shown.
I am a veteran. In my time in service we were always taught that it was our duty to disregard an unlawful order. I believe that good men and women who make up our armed forces are taught the same thing and it is my sincere hope that if or when such orders come to pass that they will do their duty not what they are told.
Are you a closet Christian?
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” MATTHEW 5:14
Time is running out and there is so much work yet to be done. Worry not if the world hates you. Worry less what the world thinks of you. Preach the word and reach the lost. As soldiers of CHRIST it is our duty.
There is so much darkness in this world let your light shine!!!
If you have any comments, questions, or prayer requests please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org