Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 28, 1966
NUMBER 12, PAGE 5b-6

Propaganda Methods

Arthur W. Atkinson , Jr.

The word "propaganda" has become somewhat of a synonym for any planned and/or concerted attempt to influence public opinion. We usually think of this attempt as being indirect rather than one which directly works on the minds of the people. However, as one sees the numerous propaganda methods at work we are made to wonder if this can really be thought of as indirect influence.

Propaganda is used in every day affairs quite extensively. Any time we use or come in contact with any of the present day mediums of communication we are at once subjected to various types of propaganda. We have a tooth paste for people who cannot brush after every meal. There is a cigarette that is made with a filter that appeals to the thinking man. A certain beer has been aged just the right length of time and another is the same bottle after bottle because it is registered.

What is the purpose of all of this? It is to fool us. Propaganda has the purpose of making us accept or reject something, i.e., certain people, various ideas, etc. without examining the facts. Propaganda is used not only with regard to products that we purchase but is used by our governments to arouse the patriotic feelings of constituents. It was used quite extensively in the last war both by our country and our enemies. It is used today in the "cold war" both by our country and by the Communists. It is used very effectively by the Republicans and by the Democrats relative to the coming elections. It is being used in our community by those who favor joining the Metropolitan Water District as well as by those who do not.

The appeal of propaganda is to the emotions of man rather than to his intellect. Since its purpose is to get us to accept or reject something without examining the facts -- it follows then that it must appeal to emotions and not to intellect. To appeal to intellect is to cause people to pause and ponder upon the facts of a given issue. Propaganda does not want this. Those who use propaganda methods want something accepted or rejected on the spur of the moment. They do not want people to have time to consider facts. They do not want them to weigh the evidence. They want them to make up their minds hurriedly as a result of what their emotions dictate in accord with what they have heard or seen.

The result of such methods as are used by propagandists is that a lazy, unthinking people are produced. The people cannot reason for they have long since given up their right to do so. They are too lazy to study the facts and to think for themselves and have come to accept at face value what is said by their leaders or the dispensers of propaganda. It is a sad day for a nation when people get in this state.

Propaganda In Religion

Whether we want to admit it or not propaganda is in religious matters. The Roman Catholic Church has used it for centuries and will continue to do so. In 1622, Gregory XV established the "congregatio de propaganda fide" (congregation for propagating the faith). It consists of a number of cardinals and less agents and is the central missionary association, of the whole Roman Catholic Church, superintending and guiding all the missionary activities of the Church.

Propaganda is usually thought of as a concerted and organized effort on the part of a group, nation, etc. to influence the thinking of others. However, we would like to suggest to you here that propaganda can be used, and is used, when there is no real organization back of its use. Sometimes those who use propaganda methods are doing so unconsciously. Other times it may be true that some individuals are conscious of the fact that they are using propaganda. Many times unthinking men and women parrot the propaganda they have heard and thus become the innocent tools of those who started the propaganda campaign. This is unfortunate but nevertheless true.

It is sad to have to consider that individuals in the church of the Lord have become quite adept at the use of propaganda. This should not be, but it is. Nor is it something that is just true in our own generation. In the first century the Judaizing teachers carried on a propaganda campaign against the apostle Paul. It was necessary for Paul to spend a great amount of time showing where their propaganda was false. If this was true in Paul's day we need not think that we can escape it in our day.

Propaganda was used by those who followed a liberal and modernistic trend a century ago. Those who were pushing the Missionary Society said of those who opposed it that they were just critical and wanted to abuse and obstruct a good work. Briney in his debate with W.W. Otey said:

Furthermore, these hundreds and thousands of men and women that have gone out in the name of the Master and sustained by these societies and are doing a grand & glorious work, shall they be called in, shall they leave the firing line, shall they leave the fields of labor, and leave those people there to perish for the lack of the bread of life? I cannot see how an affirmative answer could come to that question from any other source than on a perpendicular line from the depths of the very lowest perdition.

This portion of his speech was not based on any scriptures--only upon emotion. Briney was appealing to the emotions of the people and even went so far as to say that those who would oppose such work as was being done by the Missionary Society had to get their opposition from perdition--and notice, the "depths of the very lowest perdition." Now, what does all of this prove? Not one thing. It is a method of propaganda to appeal to the emotions of the people and cause them to dislike a person and a person's conviction. This is an ever present tendency of man. He starts something he feels is good and then because it is accomplishing some good he appeals not to the scriptures for its sanction but to the emotions of man.

However, this type of propaganda can be used by any religious organization for any of its work. The Methodists undoubtedly do some good. The Roman Catholics have been doing humane things for centuries. The goodness of a project does not make it scriptural.

In our next article we will notice some propaganda devices and make application of them to today's controversies. It is time that we as intelligent human beings were educated to the place where we are capable of determining the difference between propaganda devices and the facts. It might be fun for some people to be fooled and it might not do any harm in other fields of endeavor, but brethren, it is not fun in the religious field. Our souls are at stake. It is time for us to exercise our ability to think and in doing so determine what the facts are. It is time that the majority of brethren moved on to strong meat. "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14)