Cult Confusion

Earlier this week, I got a text message out of the blue from a good, old friend of mine.

\”Do you remember, back when we were working at Cho Yeh, a counselor named Tyler Deaton?\”
\”Yeah why, what\’s up?\”
At this point, I fully expected to get the response that he died. Normally, (sadly) that seems to be the case when someone brings up someone I have a vague connection with from years ago that I literally have had no contact with for 8 years and (to be completely honest) had very little contact with while we were working together. At max, I interacted with him for a couple of months back in 2006, but even at that, tangentially.
\”I think I saw him on 48 Hours. Google his name. He was such a nice guy with great music talent. I was highly disturbed seeing the story on TV.\”
Well if that doesn\’t pique my interest, nothing will. I oblige and discover that this person whom I crossed paths with years ago essentially led an extreme \”Christian\” cult filled with sex, lies, and the suicide (or was it murder?) of a young woman who was married to him.
I have to say, I was shocked. How does that happen? How do seemingly sane people get caught up in this type of thing? It\’s a sad, sad story that makes me reflect on religious extremism and how things taken too far can get misconstrued and warped. It makes me reflect on my own religious beliefs and journey and all the people I\’ve interacted with throughout my life at their varying levels of religious fervor.

At first, when I heard about this, I was shocked. Out of all the groups I\’ve been affiliated with. Camp Cho Yeh would have been one of the last places I would expect to meet the kind of religious fanaticism that would grow to become something so disturbing.

It scares me. It really scares me to a very core part of my soul. Not this cult in particular, or this person who I can\’t even claim to hardly know. What scares me are the underlying ideas. The idea that truth and lies can be so intertwined. The idea that extremity can profoundly alter the way we think about ourselves and the world. The idea that someone else view of the world can superimpose your own view of the world. The idea that your inner voice, your inner truth and your inner authenticity can be drowned out by the louder and more charismatic voices of those around you. The idea that this happens all the time, at varying degrees, and that it is encouraged above all things. \”You must live this way in order to be good / saved / popular / pick your poison\”. The idea that no matter how hard I try to shake it, I can\’t help but fear that I could so easily fall victim to the same kind of trap. That my own truth can be easily swayed by the outside opinions of others (albeit, possibly not in such an extreme and destructive way), but what is the real difference? How do you distinguish the truth from the lies? How do you know without any doubt anything at all?

Belief is required to survive. It raises the stakes. It is of utmost importance not to make a mistake. The wrong belief can destroy you, but the right belief can set you free.

\”I think there is a tendency for people to get rigid and caught up in their beliefs of what is right and wrong, and they lose sight of humanity. Being human has to come first before right or wrong.\” – Matisyahu

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