Anatomy of a cult member

I was looking through my google account in order to delete files and clear up more space. While looking I discovered this old poem or prose I had written years ago. I wanted to delete it because of the rawness of it. It was slightly painful for me to reread! But, I’m posting it just for awareness on cults and how they recruit. It’s not my personal story, but being in one is true to my own real life story. It’s written in second POV (using you instead of I or she/he), so that might be distracting to some people.

Possible triggers*** use of bad language, reference to child sickness/death, suicide; this is religious in tone.

Anatomy Of A Cult Member

Your girl delivered early: you watch the army of nurses take him away.

You’re stunned at his size–that you’re a father–that he might die because he’s premature. When your girl starts to cry–you cry too.

Weeks pass and the shock is your new normal. You learn how to feed your son through a tube. How to hold him with wires attached.

The nurses all know you and your girl by name when it’s time to take Carlitos home.

At home you’re fighting with your girl. You just want to watch the game with your friends, have a beer or two; to go back to the old life. Your girl won’t have it: She threatens to leave with Carlitos–to put you on child support.

One day a guy in a suit knocks at your door. He talks while you wait for a chance to say–you’re not interested. He asks if you wouldn’t mind him sharing a brief scripture.

“Sure if it’s brief. I gotta be somewhere.”

You almost stop him when he doesn’t read from the bible, but a booklet from his church instead. He shows you a picture of a happy family then reads Revelations 21:4.

” Notice something about the child?” He asks you.

” He’s sick or somethin.”

He points out a tombstone in the background.

” He’s been resurrected man. He’s gonna live forever now.” The man in the suit says.

WHAT THE FUCK! Whatever he’s selling, you WANT IT.

He goes on with the rest of his presentation inside your apartment. Even telling you how the Lord sends his messengers to those he’s chosen.

That’s it, you’re hooked.

You start attending their “meetings”; their “classes”. When things get weird you tell yourself it’s coming from the bible. Do it for Carlitos: No other religion is offering to resurrect him if he dies.

Now when the doctor tells you Carlitos time is closing in you sit there like a fucking joker thinking how the doc is out of the loop. Carlitos is going nowhere.

Your girl liked you with your goatee and street style; all gone; along with cussing, movies, reading (unless it’s from the church) and free time(that all goes to the “preaching work”). But the new you has you home and even proposing. She’s even happier when the new church throws you two a wedding (only after she’s a member too).

Years pass and you and sister Maria(your wife) are respected members. Every now and then exciting information trickles down from the “governing body”. A group of seven men that speak to Jesus directly. They say one of the signs has been fulfilled. Armageddon is imminent. That’s okay cuz you’ve since been bumped up to an elder position. Because of the title alone you and your family are surviving the Apocalypse!

You see things that are bogus that force you to see glimpses of reality, but you ignore them cuz you miss Carlitos so badly.

The “brother ” that beats his wife is still invited to get togethers. You counseled his wife to be yet more obedient like Sarah was to Abraham.

The “sister” that confessed she had suicidal thoughts due to not speaking to her children who are ex-members (apostates and ex members are shunned). You told her she was on the right track to remember she has new brothers-sisters and even new children in the faith. (When she blows her brains out her life is not celebrated, nor is her death mentioned among the congregation. She’s quietly disfellowshipped, even in death-because suicide is a sin.)

One day there is a special meeting for higher ups like you. Maria works the room as you settle into your seat. The meeting isn’t what you expected as you sit jotting down notes. You’re writing numbers and big ones. The expenditures of the governing body members.

$600,000 on a book from the late 1800s.

$950,000 on a book from the 1500s.

The room is in awe because these are ancient bibles the church now owns.

Even stripped of your identity, (you turned your back on your own mother)of money(because your day job interfered with “meetings”), of a normal wife(she might as well be a nun); you see something is off.

You bury the enlightenment like everything else. This time it chips away, silently- the bubble wall exterior.

One winter evening you’re forced to stay home. You tore your shoulder and battling flu at the same time(better be dying or rumors spread you’re becoming an apostate). Home alone and Maria at the “meeting ” you call to listen over the phone, but the hotline doesn’t work this day. You try to read church literature, but it’s too painful to flip the pages. Nothing to do, you pray for the hotline to work; to be able to hit the preaching work harder once you’re healed.

You decide to watch some TV, news should be fine. An hour goes by and you catch yourself laughing, haven’t done that in a while. This is great!

You miss Thursday’s meeting and Sunday with Maria’s insistence. Two weeks pass and so quickly your faith is spongy and porous. You even Google your church for the first time.

Ongoing lawsuits pop up. Haters gonna hate(your old slang is creeping up lately) Ex member websites(you’re forbidden to visit those). You’re satisfied with what you see until you catch the word molestation on a few website summaries–and rape. This starts you on a reading binge, you not only read through every website. Anger has you skimming through apostate sites where you’re introduced to the concept of mind control.

By the time Maria comes home you’re hitting your “church’s literature” desperate to go back-to rejoin the bubble.

Cuz no matter what you saw–you’re still afraid of Armageddon.

But–maybe this church isn’t the way to salvation?

You return to your church meetings, like a ghost watching the living carrying on. Before, you saw the happiest people on earth; now-zombies going through the motions of being human. Before, you saw an intelligent, deep study of the bible; now-repetition of church doctrine.

Congratulations. Your aha moment has arrived.

“Anatomy of a cult member”
By: Bel Nel

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