In this column, let us venture into the sociological world of politics in the present age through the eyes of a former member of a cult. This particular cult, like most cults, was grounded in religion, in this case Christianity.
This person would have claimed, by virtue of parental upbringing, to be a Christian of the Methodist sect, who during an upheaval in both their life and in the American landscape as a whole, fell in with a group under the pastorship of an evangelical minister ordained by the Assemblies of God sect. This is what scripture refers to as a “born again” experience with the whole of what that entails: speaking in tongues, the laying on of hands for healing, total immersion baptism and strict adherence to the premise that “the World” and all its fallen nature was to be eschewed.
So, no newspapers, no television, no reading material not of “the Faith,” no attending other churches, women wore long skirts only, children attended a private school located within the church building. You get the picture.
In this cult, unmarried men and women lived in communal houses known as Brother’s Houses and Sister’s Houses, usually five to seven a house, in case 13 young men lived in a two-story, six-bedroom domicile. Though unspoken the desire to get out of these houses, after a time, led to marriages within what was called “The Body” (as in they were the body of Christ) and this person married and soon had a family of four.
After seven years the light began to dawn and finally this person walked out of the cult, leaving his family behind, and living with the guilt of that to this day. If asked now about American Christianity and its influence on modern politics, this person would have much to say to those locked into a political cult all the while knowing it would be like talking to the wind.
By now, you have probably correctly assumed that the person profiled above is me. And while I do not have the time, nor inclination, to continue with further explanations, I will say that today I am on good terms with my former wife and her husband, and over the years Jenny and Steven and I have worked on our relationships so that today we have beyond just the love inherent in blood, we have come to respect each other’s talents and lifestyles. The work with my seven grandchildren is the same, they are learning a bit about me and I am learning more and more about them. So, all is well there.
Here is what the mindset was of those of us involved with this cult: we are right by virtue of the fact that God is on our side, period. For clarification, this is the Hebrew god Yahweh, not Greek or Roman or any of the myriad other gods. The basis of scores of Christian religions is what is the Gospel, a Hebrew word meaning Good News, which in a nutshell is that a long prophesied and long-awaited Messiah had finally arrived in a born-of-a-virgin man/god who was to be the savior of fallen humankind.
All one had to do was reject and denounce one’s past sinful ways, accept the sacrifice offered by Yahweh and henceforth live according to the words of 66 books compiled for the edification of a new life. There are millions of humans on the planet today who claim they are followers of this religion; these people claim to be Christians. And that is fine, to a point. But when that belief system, or any belief system, is touted as the only acceptable religion to the exclusion of all others and enters the realm of determining the lives of all people, then it can become a danger.
All I have here is what I have read and, more importantly, what I have experienced, but in my time as a member of this cult I was convinced, due mostly to what the New Testament told me in the Gospel of John, Chapter 3, Verse 16, that all those not in accordance with that proclamation were doomed to eternal perdition.
Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, Rastafarians, all Aboriginal belief systems (Native Americans included), and in fact all non-believers are among those hell bound. Oh, and the Jews, who never accepted Jesus as the Old Testament Messiah. We can only assume that post his death and aftermath that his mother and siblings, all Jews, came out all right.
Had any person found in the above categories, and many others, told me of the history and system of beliefs of their faith it would have made no difference to me. If you are not washed-in-the-blood of the sacrificial lamb of God at the time of your death, you are going to hell. At that time, I had a total unacceptance of anything not in accord with scripture.
Today our American political landscape has a large group whom I have come to believe are caught up in a cult. I will risk offending a long-time and close friend with this, but I think it best exemplifies this syndrome. My friend has led a colorful life, years of steady work and income mixed with years of illegality. Many activities that went undetected by law enforcement, but also many that were, the latter resulting in a fair amount of time incarcerated and much money spent in fines. Never once a claim of innocence, always accepting the troubles were self-inflicted.
But today, inexplicably to me, my friend believes in the innocent of a man and charges against this man are a witch hunt without merit, the sole purpose of derailing a bid to return to autocratic power. And my friend is not alone. When the day finally comes, as it must, and the bubble of belief bursts, then we who have been there can relate and offer what succor we can.
Take care. Peace.