I recently had a conversation with a friend about my experience attending a contemporary Christian service. I described it as being a combination musical performance and pep rally. Where God was involved I couldn't tell, but there was a lot of dancing. As my friend put it when she attended "It's like everyone was wearing the same Target shirt in a different color."
Was this a harmless meeting of like minded and non-violent Jesus people?
Or the beginnings of membership into the terrorist organization Hydra?
Now before you come to burn my house down in the name of (insert religious savior figure here) I know it wasn't. I was raised Catholic for most of my life, but I believe in the freedom and defense of all religions.
It's like white people saying "I have a black friend" but in my case it's "I know some Jews and Muslims too you know!" Everybody in my book is one big happy family.
But I hate cults.
Cult behavior should be looked out for as a sign that you are going down a dark path where men in black hoods steal infants and burn things and pray to disembodied goat heads. You know, Metallica stuff.
"...they ask you to wear the same colors."
This is sneaky one because it could describe a number of group activities. You could be attending a private grade school, working at your job, or going to a sports event. But a little "team spirit" never instructed you to kill the infidels.
Unless we're talking about soccer fans. Soccer fans overseas (or Football, sorry) have been seen starting fires in the stands, trampling each other after games, and even savagely beating fans of the opposing team. That's a cult.
Just be careful of who you affiliate with when you wear those team stripes (cult robes?) One moment you're attending a hockey game in Vancouver, the next you're trying to fish your fiance out of the rubble of a flaming car mid-riot because the home team won.
"...you recognize the leader from the 5 o'clock news."
Celebrity is great in this day and age. Unless you're known as the disgruntled former government employee who found God in his cheese sandwich and scrawled incantations into your skull to save your brain from the Tribe of Goldar.
Chances are if your group leader reached notoriety by being a former basket case with an axe to grind against society, it's unlikely he's changed.
If you think you've seen your group leader's mugshot on America's Most Wanted, or more likely, on an episode of FOX News (anchor or non-anchor) then you have my permission to get out of there as soon as possible.
If your cult leader is a former reality t.v. star however, you should probably stick around for a little bit. They are very lonely.
I like my group leaders to have a nice, mellow, forgettable quality. They are non-threatening and often make a mean pot of coffee, which facilitates long intellectual discussions. As opposed to the cult leader's; whose coffee kills you.
"...the Secret Truth is saved until the end of the meeting."
Any religion or group worth your time doesn't keep secrets. Well, maybe that's a little untrue, but I doubt the head of your book club ends a meeting with "That was a great discussion about Angela's Ashes, and now the reason we all came here... bring out the sacrificial goat."
What I'm saying is that you shouldn't get swerved by your group. Either you know what you're investing your time into or you don't.
Notice a fellow member's behavior when you bring up the Secret Truth in a group meeting:
Does he/she drop to the floor and begin praying in an ancient language you don't understand?
Do they start whispering to each other and you see a lot of 'throat slashing' gestures?
Or does the group leader point and condemn you in front of everyone?
If you answered 'maybe' to any of the above. Congratulations, you're in a cult.
"...everyone's chanting to the Obelisk but you."
It's like when a friend takes you to see their favorite band.
Everyone there knows all the lyrics and is singing along but you. You try to mouth some of the words but you know you're betraying yourself. So you slowly edge your way to the bar for a drink until someone stops you and wonders aloud why you aren't enjoying yourself.
Only this isn't a band. It's an ancient evil relic of untold dark power. And it's starting to bleed all over the place.
"C'mon, don't you like the Engorged Genitals of Cthulhu anymore? Just think how it will eviscerate your enemies in the Pits of Eternal Agony after the Final Orgy of the Gods! OOH URU CALA BATHRA OOOOMMM OOOOMMM."
"...there's a buffet. But it's filled with diary products."
Cultists are notorious for drenching every food item in Velveeta cheese. Broccoli, casserole, tuna salad, the whole spread. It's disgusting.
You get done with condemning the outside world and all you want is a nice salad. But no. You get 'Bacon Wrappers' with those awful Kraft cheese singles melted in.
And desert? Forget about it. Jello friggin everything and tropical punch with canned fruit. It looks like death.
I don't know what they mix in it either, but I haven't seen a single repeat member in months. I wouldn't come back either if I tried that stuff!