We think of indoctrination or brainwashing as a horrible, negative event. And, oftentimes, it is. But in many circumstances, indoctrination can be extremely pleasant.
Consider Daniel – a Hebrew captive in Babylon:
“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abednego” (Daniel 1:3-7).
Don’t kid yourself – the king, Nebuchadnezzar – had in mind one thing: to indoctrinate these Jewish lads into Babylonian (Chaldean) culture so that they would be useful to him. What did it look like to Daniel and his friends?
* A new name
* Good food
If you were a captive in a foreign land, fully expecting a life of menial and perhaps painful slavery, this list would sound heavenly.
But Daniel saw immediately that this was a program of indoctrination. He was fully willing to serve in his new home and to honor his new king, but he would not compromise his convictions – and that started with protesting the food, since it had most likely been offered to idols on an altar prior to being set on the table as dinner.
His convictions carried the day … as they did throughout his life, culminating in a night spent in the lions’ den for refusing to worship anyone other than the LORD God.
Of all the many, many lessons we can learn from Daniel, spend some time considering this one today: is our culture and are the people around us trying to give us a pleasant indoctrination into beliefs, attitudes, and actions that are contrary to our convictions? (Phrases like, “Appearances are everything,” “The one with the most toys wins,” and “If it feels good, do it” come to mind …)
Remember – indoctrination can be a very enjoyable experience. It’s the final exam that can prove fatal.