Oh boy, a thinky post! I’ve been deep binging cult documentaries because I find them soothing. You’ve got soothing word salad from the original recordings, crossed with that sense of “wow, my life is hard some times, but at least I’m not cleaning toilets for a madman 20 hours a day because I bought into some word salad!” And naturally, this all made me think about Jesus.
Let’s talk Jesus! He said “God is Love”. And he said a whole bunch of other awesome things. But he also started a cult, didn’t he? I mean, he convinced the apostles to give up their lives. It was one organization with a powerful charismatic central leader who was followed blindly. This wasn’t a church with committees and a treasurer and obligatory meetings that are kind of boring, this was a cult that was all exciting and life changing and stuff.
But I think what is different about Jesus as presented in the bible is that he didn’t say “I am God, God is Love, you should only love me”. Don’t know what he may have said/done in real life of course, the bible is a highly edited historical document. But the people who wrote the bible purposefully picked and chose certain things and what they ended up with was a story that avoids the worst parts of the cults.
The worst thing about cults is that they cut out your ability to love anyone outside of the cult. And that is also their downfall, because humans will love other humans, and that is a power that can move mountains. That’s what I see in all these cults, they fear love. They fear the power of love because it is the one thing that can cut across and destroy them, if love starts going back and forth in horizontal lines instead of always upwards to the leader. So they try to cut the ties of love where ever they can. The nice thing is, love always finds a way.
Over and over again, no matter what cult it is, you see the same story. I was in the cult, I loved the cult, and then I had a child. Or I saw my child being hurt. Or I fell in love with a man/woman and saw that man/woman being hurt. Or my parents were in trouble and I suddenly had to go to them. And suddenly, that cord snapped, and I woke up.
One thing that really sticks with me with these cults is how often it is the father-child relationship that breaks things. The mother-child relationship, everyone expects that, the cult is prepared for it. But turns out, the father-child relationship can be just as strong. Very common story is all these kids who are brought into the cult with their mothers, because society puts kids with mothers. And for decades, their fathers search for them, wait for them. Years later, the adult children get out with nothing and somehow find a phone number for their father, who says “I love you, I have been waiting for you, I will send you money to get to me, just come home.” The cult didn’t know to protect against this love, it doesn’t occur to them that it exists, because it isn’t a love you read about in books, it is one you only know about if you are capable of feeling love yourself.
Father’s love is what I saw most often in these documentaries, but there were all kinds of love. Everyone preaches “God is Love”, but so few people live it, so few people truly honor all kinds of love where ever it appears instead of greedily trying to capture all of it for themselves.
And now I think about Jesus again. Jesus stayed connected to his own family through out and respected the family connections of others (bringing Lazarus back to life in order to please his sisters, attending a wedding). He didn’t even mind division, he knew Peter would betray him and Peter did betray him, and that was okay too. There was no “prove your devotion by dying with me” or anything like that. Just, you do you, and that is okay, I forgive you. Again, as presented by the bible writers who wanted to emphasize the idea of love and forgiveness above power and control.
I guess love is what it all gets down to. Jesus loved his followers (according to the bible version). He wanted his apostles to live, not die with him. He loved his mother, he loved his friends, he did for other people and died for other people. If you love people you aren’t necessarily very organized or with a grand vision, you just want to love them. And I guess the biggest thing is, you don’t fear love. Love is good, where ever it is. Love each other, care for each other, and know that God loves you.
And if you are in an organization that says “your love is deformed, wrong, bad, you need to fight against it and set it aside”, then it is that organization that is wrong and bad and deformed, not you.
I’m not saying everyone who calls themselves “Christian” lives like this. Or that people who don’t call themselves “Christian” do not live by love. But it’s Christmas, so I want to take a moment to honor the message Jesus brought and how it lives today.