Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Culture of Outrage — September 16, 2020

Culture of Outrage

Nowhere has been safe from 2020. In my small, idyllic town, we have had one unwelcome disruption after another. Recently, it was discovered that the elementary school is being swallowed by the earth (if the guesses are to be believed) and the administration KNEW it and inexplicably covered up (if the opinions on Facebook are to be believed).

I don’t have any idea if the ground is crumbling underneath the building and if eventually there will be a giant hole where the building now stands. No one does. But that doesn’t stop the trolls on social media from screaming and pointing fingers.

We’re all just one small step from losing our minds.

My very good friend calls it a culture of outrage. (She may have read it somewhere – and she may have even told me where, but I don’t remember so I’m happy to just attribute the wisdom to her.) We are constantly looking for offense. And if offense works like everything else, what we look for, we will find.

There is a school parents group on Facebook where parents wildly throw accusations and unfounded theories that are easily refuted, but the truth doesn’t seem too important so the same wild accusations are given the same weight and repeated and recycled. I wonder what we’re teaching our children. No, I know what we’re teaching our children, I just don’t like it.

The fabric of humanity is being stretched, threatening to tear us all apart. The isolation keeps us locked inside the stories we are telling ourselves, no matter how fantastical, and locked away from each other.

Then, this week a news report was released of absolutely unspeakable horror in this tiny, “perfect” town. Now, what will we do when faced with a new story? Will we come together or drift further apart? Will we hold each other in grief, or rip each other’s hearts out in anger and outrage? As in the lyrics of a Rise Against song, will we come alive or come undone?

If pre-COVID history is any indication, this community (with very few exceptions) will connect and find comfort together. However, we are no longer in a pre-COVID world, so it’s possible we’ll be thirsty for blood and revenge and most of all, blame. I hope we come alive, hope we remember that we are all a shared humanity and that the outrage subsides and is replaced by care and love. Instead of holding our opinions and rage, I hope we start holding each other again.

Army of Consumers — August 28, 2020

Army of Consumers

There were several people lining the Main Street of my town this morning painting buildings on canvases. We have a cool town square with an old theater, a college, and many small businesses – it’s a perfect place to paint and a better place to live. I like it here.

Anyway, immediately following these artists at work, on the outdoor chairs in front of the coffee shop were 2 kids, maybe 10 or 11 years old, both gazing at phone screens inches from their faces.

Sadly, I’m becoming an old man shaking my head about “these kids today.” I never wanted to be that guy, sweating through the crust on my face shouting from the porch to “Get off my lawn!!!” And yet here I am… I guess every person since the beginning of time swore they weren’t going to be their parents and then woke up one day with ear hair, wrinkly eyes and unreasonably strong opinions on underwear and weather.

Now that I have shamefully admitted to this condition, I can embrace it. It certainly looks like “these kids today” (like my own) are satisfied to consume, so what happens when there are no more producers? What happens when the painters are gone? What happens when the filmmakers are replaced by TikTok-ers?

Obviously, I love the blog format – it’s immediate and timely, perfect pictures and commentary of our rapidly changing culture. But will the things we create here last longer than a cycle? I wrote one called Echo 2 weeks ago that I was very pleased with, posted on both of my sites (!!), and it was well-received for a few days…and not read since. Will people be reading our heads & hearts in a year? In a month? Next week? Will the middle-schoolers in 2053 still be reading To Kill A Mockingbird and The Outsiders?

I know it’s not like no one under 25 is writing, it’s just an exaggeration. I’m just wondering out loud how much of an exaggeration it is. We wanted to write the Next Great Novel, now my boys and their friends want to be the next YouTube Fortnite sensation or Influencer (which is a legitimate thing to aspire to.) Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they just want to watch the next YouTube Fortnite sensation or be influenced.

I don’t know what that means for the poets and performers, but maybe COVID has already gutted that community anyway. Maybe it’ll be ok, just different. This is probably what our grandparents said when The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, isn’t it? On some level we all think the things we like are better than their replacement, and I should just chill out about it.

I just wish that kid I saw would’ve been painting, too.

Drama — August 23, 2020

Drama

Last weekend, I was scheduled to officiate a wedding for a couple I’ve never met. There is a website called Thumbtack where you can search for people who do certain things, like officiate your wedding, and you can find me there. Like they did. I have done this sort of work before and it has turned out beautifully. Sharing such a sacred space is a unique, cool way to create framework for a relationship. This isn’t surprising. Keanu Reeves said as much in Speed. (Or something similar. I don’t exactly know, he’ll always be Johnny Utah to me.)

Anyway. The wedding was Saturday and Friday night I got a text that said I was no longer needed. I know! What?!!?? Family drama was cited as the reason the ceremony was (I assume) cancelled. Family drama? I understand family drama, but this is a level I simply cannot fathom.

Could you imagine a mother or an uncle or cousin causing such a fuss that would necessitate the entire wedding be abandoned? It’s a horrific thought, but the truth is that you can imagine, right?

As the quarantine began, we heard of a “new normal,” and I wondered what that would be. Would it be a positive change, where we slow down, eat dinner together and appreciate each other? Would our priorities be realigned? Would our lives and, by extension, our planet notice a marked change as evidence of a new depth of care?

The answers to those questions, as it turned out, are no. There is a new normal, but it’s not the one I was hoping for. The time alone with our thoughts, emotions, social media accounts and our own 4 walls instead convinced us that we were the only ones whose thoughts, emotions, social media accounts and 4 walls mattered. We reinforced our boxes of us & them with vibranium. We decided we are right in every situation, and this decision must be defended at all costs, using any and all means necessary.

Of course if I don’t like the seating assignment or venue or color of the bridesmaid’s dresses, the wedding absolutely cannot go on. Of course. You say it’s “not about me,” but that’s where you’re wrong. Everything is. This is the new normal: my normal.

Yes, you’re right. This discouragement isn’t my true north. I think it’s what they call illustrating the absurd with absurdity. And though this seismic shift is obvious, I don’t think it’s permanent. Not at all. Once we return to actual contact and connection, we’ll realize that this whole us & them paradigm is a delusion – it’s all just us. Don’t get me wrong, family drama will still happen as long as there are families, but the drama will end in childish petulance at tables strategically spaced instead of demolition.

This garbage is over whenever we say it is. Hopefully it’s soon.

Echo — August 11, 2020

Echo

This post is about another documentary AND it’s about creativity AND Jesus AND should be required viewing for anyone who has ever loved a song or another person or being alive.

The documentary is called Echo In The Canyon (on Netflix) and deals with the music of the 1960’s. It’s mostly American music, barely touching on English bands like The Rolling Stones or the Zombies, focusing on the Laurel Canyon scene and the Byrds, Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield (whose members refer to as THE Buffalo Springfield), and the Beatles (who were English, but they were the focus of everything musically and culturally, it didn’t matter where they called home). 

Oooh baby, the songs!!! 

We’re not talking about how great the songs were, though. We’re talking about the daily news and our Facebook feeds instead in the context of the 1960’s southern California folk rock movement.

Producer Lou Adler describes the time: “You just felt like you could do anything, you know. You just felt like there was nothing stopping you.” And in the most inspiring moment, Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash asserted that the “power of music is undeniable. I truly believe it can change the world.” 

These hippies, in the middle of the consuming fear of a totally out of control world, made the revolutionary choice to imagine a new reality, one marked primarily by love. In the face of   tremendous social unrest, war, violence, all of the -isms (sound familiar???), they chose beauty and creativity. They chose imagination. 

Think about Adler’s words, “you felt like you could do anything…like there was nothing stopping you.” He was, by most accounts, wrong. There were an awful lot of things stopping him, so many obstacles. And Nash, “music can change the world?” – silly words of a dreamer who didn’t understand the complexities of the times. What resistance could poetry and a guitar possibly offer against the swinging wrecking ball of hate?

I know, I know. You can already see how I’m going to say they were right, can’t you? Well, I am.

I actually believe in the power of art, too. In the words of Frank Turner, 

“And I still believe (I still believe) in the sound, That has the power to raise a temple and tear it down. And I still believe (I still believe) in the need, For guitars and drums and desperate poetry. And I still believe (I still believe) that everyone, Can find a song for every time they’ve lost and every time they’ve won. So just remember folks we not just saving lives, we’re saving souls, And we’re having fun. And I still believe.”

I believe that when a song breaks your heart with the first words “all the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray,” it shows us that if something could sound like that, anything might be possible. That in the compositions on Pet Sounds, maybe the complexities of the times were no match for the soaring imaginations of a small group of brothers and sisters bent on peace and love, man. That “Fast Car” and “Hey Jealousy” and Thriller and Adele and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Panic! At The Disco are actively re-making the world around us.

I recognize that I could be mistaken about this, after all, it’s only music, right? It’s only an album or a song, right? But here’s where I’m right. All through this film, I saw utter selfless devotion to an idea based on faith, hope, and especially love. What I know now that I didn’t know when I was 12 or 22 or even 42 is that the idea that sparked my faith in songs & films and made me think that yes, absolutely all we needed WAS love wasn’t actually the chords or strings or drums, it was Genesis 1. It was Jesus. It was grace. It was the empty tomb of the resurrection. It was a New Creation.

And I still believe.

Either/Or or Both/And — August 6, 2020

Either/Or or Both/And

Bryson DeChambeau is a professional golfer who recently added 40 pounds of muscle and started outdriving everyone in golf history. Before we get into today’s post, I just want you to know that I, too, will be riding along with the sports media’s silence and will not be asking the obvious question…Unless somebody else does. And in that case, the public narrative will be feigned ignorance, surprise and outrage. This is protocol. We all agree that we don’t really mind if every athlete is doped up, hitting balls cartoonishly far, as long as they don’t rub our noses in it with positive tests or confessions. So, yes, Bryson DeChambeau is a weightlifter and all the distance records will fall and we’ll all be keep our mouths shut about it. I honestly don’t mind, even a little. The only offensive thing about this social contract is the aftermath, when we self-righteously pontificate about ‘ethics,’ ‘fairness,’ and the children.

We sure are silly sports fans, willing to accept anything to defend our childish ideals.

Anyway. I want to discuss something today that is probably unrelated to Bryson DeChambeau. Well, if they are related, the link is in the stories we tell ourselves to understand, explain, or rationalize our behavior.

I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. This alone created an environment that is easy to imagine, many of us were raised (or now live) in spaces where we felt as if we were “walking on eggshells.” Someone was unpredictable and volatile, often violently so, and to survive, we learned to be pleasers. We avoided conflict, suppressing emotions and opinions in the service of what we thought was peace (but was in reality it’s opposite). That’s the first thing.

I am also deeply sensitive and empathetic, with a gift for being able to truly see all sides of every argument. I do have deeply held principles, but they do not hinder me from this ability. It’s why I make everyone pretty comfortable. Ideally, this is the safe space from which they can honestly seek the truth. When there is disagreement, I often don’t confront. I listen and ask a million questions, believing that this safety is essential to growth, free of judgment, free to change.

Now. I am either crafting beautifully valuable soil…OR I am a child pleasing his father, afraid to confront and suffer wounds on the broken eggshells.

I wonder which one it is.

I am also a guy that tends to black & white, always & never over-generalizations. Last night my thought was that maybe my wondering which one is actually wandering down a misguided path. Like most things, I have learned, the answer is both. My ridiculously simplistic question, “which one?” is only answered with a “Yes.” I am crafting beautiful soil AND I am pleasing, ignoring the song of my soul and spirit. I read that wisdom is less what to do as it is when to do, because the right action at the wrong time ceases to be the right action. In fact, the “right” thing can destroy relationships and build thick, high walls of steel.

The answers we receive are directly related to the questions we ask. Flawed questions will never lead to true or meaningful truths. Today is a very good day because I think I’ve finally stumbled into the question that can lead me away from that familiar fear of a child and into the man I have been called to be. Now, I can wonder something altogether new and exciting; what that, what I, will look like.

 

 

The Fling — August 1, 2020

The Fling

On Saturday mornings, I attend a contemplative retreat. Long periods of silence and meditation aren’t everyone’s bag, but they are certainly mine. The pace and noise of life very easily prove overstimulating and leave me exhausted and empty, to check out for even an hour on Saturday mornings are like water in the desert.

This week was no different, but it is a seemingly throwaway comment made early during the hello’s and how are you’s that I wanted to talk about today. The woman, Susan, quoted a tv show called Northern Exposure: “It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself.”

I never watched the show, don’t remember the context she provided, and honestly couldn’t care less about either. The quote is absolutely perfect and vital to our every moment of every day, no matter if the show was great or terrible, no matter what they were flinging or why.

I might amend it slightly, to say “it’s not the thing you fling or where it goes (if it goes anywhere at all), it’s the fling itself.”

If I write this post for the likes or comments, with an eye towards potential advertisers and income… well, so many things will happen. I’ll probably, on some level, conscious or not, begin to tailor it to reach the most eyeballs. It will cease to be 100% honest, because authenticity is usually packaged with sharp edges. I will drift into what I think you want to read instead of who I am, carefully crafting the image of taste-making, (insert popular characteristic I can pretend to possess here), supercool famous blog rock star. I will shoehorn the “thing to fling” into the popular trend.

And if I don’t get enough response, then what? I’ll quit or I’ll put on some new clothes and opinions and try again to fit the current to achieve an imaginary idea of success. Either way, it’s superficial and fake. It’s what we used to call, back in the day, “selling out” and the internet is lousy with it.

As you may or may not know, I am the pastor of a small church and as far as I can tell, the Bible is (among other things) a library of books connected by the Art of Subtraction. We subtract all of the ways we invent to manufacture an image – in the Scriptures, it’s called hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is meant to describe actors on a stage, bending themselves into a role to be what the audience wants them to be. Except in this case, our lives are the stage and we bend ourselves so much and so often that we forget who the person is under the mask. It’s a focus on the ends, the responses, the rewards, instead of the life-giving passion and fulfillment that only comes from stripping the expectations until we are left with exactly who we have been created to be. We subtract all of the extraneous layers until we are left with the genuine true us.

Now, maybe that includes gigantic paychecks from YouTube and fame beyond your wildest dreams. Maybe I’ll be driving a fleet of Rolls Royce’s by next summer due to an avalanche of social media adoration. Maybe I’ll be the next darling of Instagram or TikTok. But if that pseudo-success includes any hint of pretense or masquerade, it’s going to feel hollow and leave us wanting more and more, trying to fill the hole that all of our different costumes can’t plug.

It’s the fling, the process, the naked transparency of being exactly who we are and doing exactly what we’ve been made to do (whatever the thing to fling or where it is flung), that tears down walls of division and builds something new, inspiring, significant and undeniably awesome.

The fling is what builds a beautiful life.

Princess Poppy — July 4, 2020

Princess Poppy

Yesterday I was working out and a song from the animated movie Trolls came on my playlist, “Get Back Up Again.” I’ll give you a second to find it and listen.

…. 

It’s great, right? But it isn’t the most masculine thing (or progressive or in any way ‘cool’) you’ve ever heard. Usually, I listen to punk rock and Morrissey and, well, right now I have a new song by Beck playing. My taste in music is exemplary, I take great pleasure in finding new and exciting artists and records. Then there is this embarrassing Trolls song that I repeated 4 times in a row during my workout. Just a sweaty dude listening to Trolls. 

If you were to know only that about me – that I LOVED “Get Back Up Again” – you could draw certain conclusions about me. Conclusions that would probably be wrong.

Todd Snyder wrote in one of his greatest songs, about a woman referred to by another as a prostitute: “I’m sure she is, but that’s not all she is.”    

She was all kinds of other things, too. So am I, and so are you. 

I write so much about this lately, (and in every election cycle), because I pay an inordinate amount of attention to social patterns and culture, and it’s impossible not to notice how we’ve been divided into groups based solely on 1 facet of ourselves. We’ve been sold the lie that this one facet is the only thing about us that matters. Now, this has always been a temptation, from the beginnings of history. In the Bible, a man asks (about Jesus) if He knows “what kind of woman she is.”

As Todd Snyder would say, “I’m sure she is, but that’s not all she is.”  

Yes, we are addicts, alcoholics, abusers, prostitutes, mask-wearers, non-mask-wearers, Republicans, Democrats, cheaters, liars, vegetarians, pescatarians, Keto, nurses, pastors, punk rockers, jazz elitists, smokers, non-smokers, people who read books on a Kindle, even people who LOVE an Anna Kendrick song from Trolls.

But that’s not all we are.

We are Children of the Living God, created in His image – Republicans and Democrats alike (gasp!!!) – and we’ve been created by, in, and for, love. This terrible lie has caused us to forget that simple, monumental fact. Almost nothing that is happening can be called love. Instead, it’s the same old violence, rained upon each other and upon ourselves.

I keep writing about it because I’m so sad to see how easily we’ve been manipulated into believing that we are so different, that these differences are irreconcilable, and that these differences are so fundamental to our existence that we would behave so awfully towards one another. I’m just so sad, the heartbreak compounded by the largely ignored truth that each act of violence originates from an unbearably deep reservoir of fear and pain in the violator.   

It’s another page in the us/them fictional dogma we accept. Huge segments (maybe all) of the things we see and hear are grounded in a desperate need to draw battle lines, where “we” are 100% right and “they” are 100% wrong. This pandering rips at the fabric of human decency and the only real desperate need is for revolution.

So, let’s do that. But it’ll be a revolution of love. We will show up to love each other – no matter who the ‘each other’ is. Our Each Others will be our neighbors and our enemies, our co-workers and our brothers and sisters, Republicans and Democrats.  

It’s an unlearning of centuries of curriculum, a complete overhaul of the theology of comparison and competition, and I can’t imagine that it’ll be easy or smooth or without some real setbacks, but as Princess Poppy sings, “Hey! I’m not giving up today. There’s nothing getting in my way. And if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.”

A Tale of Two 30 For 30’s — June 10, 2020

A Tale of Two 30 For 30’s

2 different documentaries were released by ESPN this year followed much the same outline: Huge star athlete brought down by scandal and where is he now? They clung pretty close to the template, but they felt like polar opposites.

Lance Armstrong won 7 Tour de France’s (Tours de France?) amid wide doping speculation that he vehemently denied, destroying the lives of all those who happened to get in his way. As it turns out, he was using performance enhancing drugs forever and if you search Tour de France winners, his name is excised. Nobody won those years.

Michael Vick transformed football by transforming the quarterback position – everything is different today directly because of his talent, success and impact…until he was jailed for nearly 2 years for dogfighting. He returned to football and was, again, successful on the field but still walks around with the criminal brand he earned.

Now, why are they so different? On the surface, it’s just 2 supremely gifted athletes who lost everything. And so what? Why do we care?

They are different because Armstrong continues to blame everyone else. He was, by all accounts, a mean, nasty, arrogant jerk. It is still not his fault. He admits his act through clenched teeth, but it is only in the context of “everyone else was doing it.” The real villains in his story are the people who blew the whistle to bring down such an American hero. The film ends and we did not enjoy it. We do not like him. We would NEVER trust Lance Armstrong.

They are different because Vick has looked (and continues to look) squarely in the mirror at his own wrongdoing. He has reasons but never excuses. He was the one responsible for his downfall. We did enjoy this film. We may not like or understand him, but we are proud of him. His is a story of redemption and beauty.

(I recognize 2 things. 1. That Vick’s crimes were far more heinous than Armstrong’s. I do not and could not ever defend what he did. 2. I never guessed that I’d call a film that included some of the ugliest behavior I’ve seen “a story of… beauty.”)

Now, so what, why do we care? Genesis 3 has a man passively, quietly stand by while the woman eats the fruit specifically forbidden. When God asks them about it, the man says, “She did it!” Then continues, “And as far as that goes, You put her here!” God asks her, and she says, “It was the serpent, he tricked me!”

Today has us all explaining that “He did it!” “She made me!” “I was scared what would happen if I didn’t go along.” I clicked because she didn’t…”

Genesis 3, Adam, Eden, 2020, me, you, Cleona, Los Angeles. “I’m sorry, but…” is just another way to say “you’re mad, but it’s not my fault.” It’s your fault, or his, or theirs. I only know it’s not mine, or if it is, I’m going to do any sort of contortion to avoid the responsibility of the action.

We care because blame is as old as human beings and it is still just as gross as it was the first time. It has never gotten less obvious or less pathetic.

The problem is that it’s such a lie. Dishonesty interrupts relationship, distracts from connection, until we are so far apart we have no idea what’s real and what isn’t. You and I will have conflict. You and I will disagree. I will let you down. You will, too. Each close relationship has countless hiccups, missteps and offenses that we endure. Blame is the wall that makes forgiveness impossible and prevents reconciliation absolutely, our arrogance in this deception keeps us behind masks of being “right.”

There is amazing power in “I’m sorry,” the kind of power that allows us to celebrate Michael Vick and shake our heads at Lance Armstrong. The kind that makes marriages work and friendships last. The kind that that gives fresh starts, leads us to grow and transform into brand new me’s and you’s and Michael Vick’s (but not yet Lance Armstrong’s), and sees what is possible instead of what has always been.

The Spider-Verse — June 5, 2020

The Spider-Verse

We watched Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse for the 10th or 20th time last night. It is an animated film. Technically speaking, that’s all it is. As my wife would say, it’s a cartoon. She’s wrong, though, it’s much more than that. It is an hour and 57 minutes that rearranges the notion of what is possible in film, story, technology. Historically, there have been movies that mark a clear before and after. An easy example was Pulp Fiction. Before its release, cinema followed certain accepted structures. After, those walls had been bulldozed and filmmakers, writers, actors were all free to run and chase their imaginations into spaces previously thought nonexistent.

This creative explosion happens in every area of humanity; athletics, architecture, music, education, even religion. I remember many instances that blew my rational mind, profoundly changing my tiny idea of what God could and would do in any circumstance. I’ve seen people transform seemingly in front of my eyes, organizations metamorphose into the butterflies we all needed but whose creators couldn’t have conceived.

These seismic shifts invite us to dream, to exorcise the despair that says what was will always be, that believes “it is what it is,” that lost the childlike hope of faith.

Then there are other moments that confirm that our wildest dreams of what is possible were not misplaced. Against all evidence to the contrary, our fantastical visions are validated and that gives us the strength to take one more step into the darkness. 

Yesterday was one of those for me. 2 young women, aged 19 and 20 (!!!), organized a protest to respond to this abhorrent racism that we all see and feel all around us right now. It’s a divisive topic and I can’t even begin to figure out why. Life is the most sacred gift we have, why would we not want to protect that for all of God’s children? Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. And it’s painfully obvious our silence hasn’t fixed anything, as if it ever could. Why would we not gather to express our collective pain?

Because it won’t work, or it’ll turn violent, or whatever. There are so many ‘because’s, so many ‘why not’s. When I asked my boys if they wanted to go, they were afraid of the riots on tv, the burned out stores and city street chaos. I guess it’s fear that mostly keeps any of us from challenging what has always been. We’re often scared to leave unfulfilling jobs, abusive relationships, unhealthy pattern because the unknown can be more terrifying than the now that is dismantling us. 

We went anyway, because we follow Jesus and that requires us to believe we’re all brothers and sisters , and that tomorrow can be different from today. That everything matters and we can…no, that we are called to bring, to make, peace. 

There were many colors and a sacred energy that what we were doing was vital to the healing of our world. It did not turn violent. Of course, there were reports of some regrettable behavior, which will happen when people get together, but no violence. There was kindness and kinship in our shared goal. Maybe it won’t work, but it certainly won’t work if we all stay home.

Now. Here’s what I have to tell you. We are not wrong. Our faith is justified, what we imagine possible, is. We can make a difference, we can change the world. It won’t be in our silence and it won’t be in violence. It will be in presence and love, and like yesterday afternoon, it will be amazing.

Observations (On Cults) — June 3, 2020

Observations (On Cults)

…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.