by J.D. Tuccille
March 29, 1997
Fast Track to Paradise
After last week’s downer-and vodka-fueled blast-off of Rocketship Fruitcake, I’m willing to place two bets: One, the human gene pool isn’t much worse off for the absence of 39 astronauts-in-training; two, some new, for-your-own-good intensified harassment of slightly off-the-wall religious groups is in the works.
Whatever the value of my assessment of the genetic impact of this Jonestown knock-off, my sure bet on the legal fallout doesn’t exactly require me to hijack Hillary Clinton’s direct line to Eleanor Roosevelt. Nope, I’m afraid that grim experience loaded the dice on this roll. We live in an age when Americans, despite fervent denials to the contrary, yearn, infant-like, for mommy- and daddy-surrogate politicians to save them from the monster under the bed. The monster comes in many forms: Big, bad drug dealers; totemic “assault rifles;” satanic child molesters; and now, sinister cults. Each time in recent years that one of these monsters has popped up to give the American people bad dreams, the result has been a shrill scream for comfort, and some opportunistic swine or other with the unfortunate sanction of official position has been there to respond.
“Here, here,” he says. “Let me put a law on that. Now, doesn’t that feel better?”
Well, no. It never does. It can’t. Beyond some fundamental basics, there’s really damned little that government can do to make life better or to chase the bogeymen out of the woodwork.
But, although it can’t make things better, there are certainly things that government can do, whatever the result.
In the months to come, religious groups that deviate from the norm are likely to find themselves under close scrutiny from the forces of law and order. Recruiting techniques will be scrutinized. Finances will be gone over with all the precision that the IRS can muster (although, after the example of the Scientologists, we can be fairly certain of an exemption for savvy, well-funded organizations wielding squadrons of lawyers and private detectives). More warnings will be sounded about the dangers of the uncontrolled Internet, with cultists presumably prowling hand-in-hand with pederasts and Nazis (Whoof! What an image that evokes). And do I need to even mention the red flag raised by true-believers who venture too close to a box of ammo?
Groups won’t have to be awaiting the 5:05 Venus Express to hear the knock on the door. And God (or E.T.) forbid that any new sect should arouse the ire of an adherent’s relatives, worried about cousin Jimmy’s new-found faith.
But how will proper society separate the weird cults from good, established, god-fearing sects like Mormonism and Quakerism? Whoops — maybe those are a bad example. After all, it wasn’t long ago that people chased Joseph Smith and his followers all the way from New York to Salt Lake City. And William Penn faced the death penalty for spreading his Quaker teachings in England. Clearly, those folks pissed-off proper society.
I meant to point to good, sensible folks like Congregationalists and Unitar—. Huh. That doesn’t work either. I mean, the Congregationalists high-tailed across the Atlantic one step ahead of the lynch mob, then spent a fair amount of time pissing on the Unitarians after a schism.
Well, you get the idea. The forces of social order will know the cults when they see ’em.
Oh, but now I’ve done it. I’ve gone and defended the rights of loons who castrate themselves, worship U.F.O.s, and pull a Jonestown with pockets stuffed full of bus fare for the little green men. Cmon, Tooch, don’t you know that some folks are beyond the pale and just cry out for that ol’ kidney massage with a nightstick?
Silly me. It’s not like they believed in anything normal, like talking combustible shrubbery or the birth of a holy man after his mother, honestly, didn’t have sex with anybody while hubby was away! And if the Heaven’s Gate bozos wanted to cut their nuts off, they should’ve done it to jazz up the church choir, like normal folks.
Theological bullshit is in the eye of the beholder.
But the cultists will be identified, and the authorities will leave as little room as possible for anyone to try to fast-track the road to the Pearly Gates.
And if the cultists get uppity? Then they’ll just have to be taught a lesson.
Hey, wait! I smell barbecue. Sniff. Ahhh. Smells like Waco.
So you think I’m full of it, eh? Then go to the primary source:
- 39 Men Die In Mass Suicide Near San Diego — CNN
- Heaven's Gate (mirror) — Pathfinder
- ARIC Journal: What Is a Cult? — American Religion Information Center
- Congressional Testimony on Waco Massacre — Ashes of Waco author Dick J. Reavis
- Group-Specific Links — American Family Foundation
- Views of Religious Liberty — Religious Freedom Home Page
Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.
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Copyright (c) 1997 Jerome D. (Il Tooch) Tuccille. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Il Tooch is prohibited. Mess with me and I’ll use your polished skull as a beer mug.