…Or Observations (On Documentaries On Cults).
I think I’m finished watching documentaries on cults. The last several have been just crushing, breaking my heart over and over. I’m much too sensitive, it’s honestly surprising that I’ve survived this long. I figured not to make it out of my teens, then for sure not seeing 30. Now, who knows? But it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable, like my heart is going to explode or actually literally break apart.
So, I might be done with them, but what I’ve learned is pretty valuable. You know the George Santayana saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Incidentally, this quote was on the wall of an outside sanctuary at Jonestown.)
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned that must not be forgotten:
* The story of each and every cult can’t be told without an understanding of our need to belong. We all ask, why? Why would they follow that guy, why would they do what they did, why would they poison the water, drink the Kool-Aid, kill the Congressman, whatever? Why? For the exact same reason we do so many of the things we do (good and bad): bully other kids at school, have sex, go out to eat, participate in violent hazing rituals, play sports, join a sorority, go to church, wear a Dallas Cowboys jersey, get married, everything I can think of. We all have a need to be with others that can be traced easily to the earliest men in the earliest accounts, “it is not good for man to be alone.” It is there, a hole in the deepest recesses of our souls. And it must be met, the only question is how. That’s why they/we follow.
* Why do they start? A cult begins with a man’s (or much less often, a woman’s) desire/thirst for power, money, or sex (most times all 3.) This isn’t too surprising, either. I guess this is our way of being significant, of being remembered, of being our own god.
Now, a rule of thumb, so we don’t go on repeating the past. If you see a group that wears the same colors or uniforms worshipping a guy that says “be a part of my special club – the only real qualification is that you sleep with/marry me,” or kill those that don’t belong, or kill those who do (including you), no matter how cool the people or the uniforms are, that’s probably not the best idea. Can we agree on that?
(I recognize the “don’t kill those who don’t belong” rule can lead to pretty interesting conversations about the Bible’s Old Testament. And a blog might not be the best place for that. What I can safely say is that we’re not in the Old Testament anymore, and when Jesus said, “Don’t kill,” He meant it.)
One more. I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you are a grown-up (kids don’t read anymore, they only play Fortnite and watch TikTok videos.) That’s important because we choose where we will belong. If you do decide to say Yes to the guru who wants you to be his 97th wife, give him all of your money, and contaminate water supplies with beavers (actually happened!!!!), that is your prerogative. You are free to do that, if you really want to.
The part of the cult documentaries that drove me away is the predilection of these leaders to sleep with (i.e. abuse, rape) children. You see, you are allowed to do what you want, but these kids don’t get that choice and lines must be drawn. It’s where curiosity and novelty pierced my heart and I can no longer roll my eyes or call it entertainment. I can no longer abide. When the ‘least of these’ (I mean no disrespect, I just use a phrase that describe the oppressed, the forgotten, the discriminated against, the minimized, the squashed, the abused, the raped… in other words, all of us at some point) are violated simply because somebody thought he had that power while we stood idly by, watching… well, that’s an agreement I can no longer tolerate.