Zealotry

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by tonyb, Jun 13, 2020.

  1. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    Just yesterday I refreshed my memory of the Love Israel Family, a “cult” of some local fame/infamy in Seattle.

    The Family numbered roughly 300 (some estimates say as many as 500) at its height, in the early 1970s. Remnants of it exist still, mostly in the northeastern part of Washington state, where a handful of the faithful operate a winery, and in a couple-three houses in a Seattle suburb.

    The Family (The Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon) was led by one Paul Erdmann, who ditched that handle for the name Love Israel. All the members adopted the surname Israel and first names of some perceived personality attribute. (I recall once being picked up while hitchhiking by Diligence and Fun.) Family members handed over their worldly wealth to the church (to Love, really), which used it to acquire several houses on Queen Anne Hill, most of which was lost when a member left the Family (Richness Israel was his name among the members) and sued its pants off. (The Family settled before going to trial.)

    That, along with a revolt by some against Love’s absolute authority (the social structure was highly patriarchal as well, but that’s a tangent for another day), had the remaining Family decamping for a more rural setting a couple hours north, where, judging from most accounts, they got along well enough with the locals, operating a restaurant in town and hosting an annual “garlic festival” on their land. But investments that went south brought an end to that and now the land is a Jewish summer camp.

    Steve Allen’s son Brian was once a member. Logic Israel was his name. Yesterday I watched a video clip from a TV talk show c.1985 with Steve and Brian Allen discussing his time with the Family. (Steve Allen wrote a book on the subject.)

    Brian said something that stuck with me, which was, to paraphrase, that being a part of a “chosen” community satisfies a need in some people to be important. It’s a sort of grandiosity, a kind of self-centeredness, really, even when the rhetoric strongly suggests otherwise. And when people have so much of their identity so invested, well, they’ll do things they’d never otherwise do. (Think of that other “family” from about the same time, but some 1,100 miles or so to the south.)

    I mean really. Calling yourself “Love.” Sheesh!
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
    Feraud and Michael R. like this.
  2. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    Attributed to Frank Zappa ...

    “The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they own.”

    I don’t necessarily agree, but I don’t necessarily disagree, either.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2020
    Zombie_61 and Bushman like this.
  3. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    When I was living in California in the early '80s I often ran into the "Children of God," a cult devoted to the teachings of a man who called himself "Moses David," or "The Prophet Mo" for short. His followers were ubiquitous on the streets, preaching to passers-by, handing out pamphlets, and such -- in Santa Barbara, where I was living at the time, they had an encampment centered around the roots of the giant fig tree down at the end of State Street, and they'd fan out from there during the day to do their preaching. I hadn't thought of them in years until I heard that The Prophet Mo was actually a pedophile, who used the cult to recruit victims. The COG were also anti-Semitic and anti-black, which I hadn't known until I looked them up -- I always resisted taking their literature when I met them on the street.

    And lest we think these sorts of cults were a hippy-era thing, the Era was full of them. Some of them seemed relatively harmless -- the House of David, for example, was best known for its bearded barnstorming baseball team, but it was nevertheless a cult about which sexual allegations have been made. Or the Zion cult of Zion, Illinois -- which was actually a money-grifting swindle focusing on banking and securities fraud. Or the Pillar of Fire of Zarephath, New Jersey -- which seemed on the surface to be just another fundamentalist, millenarian sect, but which in fact received much of its funding from the Ku Klux Klan. And some were even more obvious in their purposes -- the British Israelite movement, which was overtly anti-Semitic and racist from the very beginning, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi myths of Aryan superiority, and which is the direct ancestor of the Christian Identity movement of today.

    There's something that makes Americans uniquely susceptible to these kinds of movements. For all our vaunted devotion to individualism, an awful lot of people in this country seem very willing to throw in with any cult leader who's willing to reinforce their prejudices.
     
    Zombie_61, Feraud, Cornelius and 4 others like this.
  4. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    Would it be inaccurate to say that mainstream religions originated as what we might these days call “cults”?

    I’m not suggesting that founders of religions are uniformly flimflam men, but rather that anything with a supernatural element is ripe for flimflammery.

    I admire Harry Houdini because of his disdain for hucksters who would portray sleights of hand — magic tricks — as anything but that, just as I disdain anyone who supplies “the answer” to the unanswerable.

    As to reinforced prejudices ...

    With God on our side, there’s no limit to the atrocities we humans will commit.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2020
    Zombie_61 likes this.
  5. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    I recommend Lawrence Wright’s “Remembering Satan.”

    The events recounted therein occurred near where I lived, so it was of particular interest when it first appeared in two lengthy installments in The New Yorker. It was later published in book form.

    What the story is, in a nutshell, is an account of entirely preposterous claims of “satanic ritual abuse” by two teenage girls against their father, a police officer, and others who worked at the sheriff’s department.

    Farfetched as the accusations were at their outset, they grew increasingly incredible as they dragged on.

    Thing is, while the allegations had absolutely no basis in fact, zero evidence in their support, the accusers weren’t lying so much as they were letting themselves believe, with the encouragement of others, that these fictional events actually took place. Such is the power of belief that even the accused father came to accept the accusations against him, seeing how he was a god-fearing sort, as were his daughters, who, as such, would never tell such a lie.

    The work of Elizabeth Loftus figures in Wright’s reporting. Loftus demonstrates how people can be convinced they witnessed events that never occurred.
     
    Edward, Zombie_61 and LizzieMaine like this.
  6. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Well, I don't think the actual, historical Jesus of Nazareth would recognize or want anything to do with the majority of what's been said, done, or built in his name over the past two thousand years. If the accounts we have are accurate, he actually spoke out rather forcefully against such things during his lifetime. And that goes for most of the iconic religious figures of world history -- most of them seemed to be rather strongly opposed to the practice of "Religion" for the sake of "religion."

    You can even extend that to secular figures -- someone like Lenin, for example, would have been appalled to see himself turned into a mummified figurehead the way he was. Do we really think Abraham Lincoln, would have wanted to be remembered as a graven idol on a big chair, a lugubrious face on a five dollar bill, a costumed mascot shilling for a used car lot, or a shape-shifting alien fighting the greatest villians of history alongside Kirk and Spock? Would Malcolm X appreciate being reduced to a image on a t-shirt? Do you get the essence of what Mister Rogers spent his life teaching when he smiles out at you from a tote bag?

    There is no message humanity can't reduce to a cheap, marketable commodity. Maybe that's why we keep screwing things up.
     
    Edward, Cornelius, seres and 4 others like this.
  7. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    ^^^^^
    I’m usually more amused than offended by such appropriation. Among my favorite cartoons is a one-panel showing Che Guevara in a Bart Simpson T-shirt.

    I once had a bathroom decorated in Christian kitsch, procured on the cheap at garage sales and thrift stores and such. The stuff is everywhere, man, everywhere.
     
    Zombie_61 and ChiTownScion like this.
  8. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    ^^^^
    Coincidentally, today is the 92nd anniversary of Ernesto’s birth.

    If not for the quarantine restrictions still in place, I’d suggest to the owners of a downtown hipster bar that they mark the occasion with a Che-themed happy hour or drink special or something.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2020
    Zombie_61 likes this.
  9. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I get a catalog now and again from a dealer in antiquarian radical/labor literature -- books, pamphlets, posters, etc -- and their slogan is "Fighting Commodity Fetishism with Commodity Fetishism." I don't know whether to be offended or to laugh out loud.

    When I was growing up, just about every house on the block had three portraits hanging in the front hallway: one of FDR, one of JFK, and one of Jesus. Not necessarily in that order.
     
    RBH, Edward, Haversack and 2 others like this.
  10. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    It seemed that “paintings” of JFK on velvet sprung up like mushrooms after a rainfall in late 1963 and for a few years thereafter. He was joined in such gaudiness by MLK and RFK in ’68.

    At a carnival c.1966 I witnessed a woman who had just won at a ring toss game and had her choice of prizes, one of which was a portrait of JFK on velvet. The man with her loudly offered that Kennedy was “a god-damned n****r lover.”

    It made an impression on me such that I remember it all these years later. We didn’t call it a culture war back then, but it would have been no less fitting if we had.
     
  11. Haversack

    Haversack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,125
    Location:
    Clipperton Island
    Another one of these groups in the Era was 'The Perfect Christian Divine Way' as espoused by William Riker. His group founded and incorporated a town called Holy City in 1926 at the summit on the road between San Jose and Santa Cruz. There they ran a restaurant, dance hall, peep show, zoo, barber shop, and several other tourist attractions. They also had their own radio station, KFQU, to broadcast Riker's message of white supremacy. The place went into decline in the late '30s and was largely put paid to when Hwy 17 was built and bypassed the town. It is now a ghost town marked most notably be a row of Santa Claus statues along the highway. Sfgate ran a story on the place earlier this year.
     
    tonyb likes this.
  12. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,356
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    One of the highlights of my month in Cuba was a tour of Che's cave hideout. The tour guide was very candid in regaling us with stories of Che's pathology. How his men allowed him to win at chess out of fear of being shot if they won. How he talked to his men and solicited their feedback but the men that held an opposing opinion seemed to disappear so Che tended to have no problem achieving consensus. Other than that he seemed to be a helluva a good guy.
     
    MisterCairo likes this.
  13. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    A dangerous number of these sects were white-supremacist/fascist/Nazi oriented, culminating in the "ministry" of the Rev. Gerald Winrod, a shady character from Kansas, known as the "Jayhawk Nazi." Winrod wasn't just parroting the Hitler line, he was, for a time, on a direct hookup to the Propaganda Ministry in Berlin, which was feeding him material for his pamphlets direct from Goebbels' office. Winrod's son is still active in the neo-Nazi-aligned Christian Identity movement today.

    And then there was Rev. Gerald L. K. Smith, who took over the remnants of Huey Long's movement and took it sharply to the hard anti-Semitic right. Smith met his match in Walter Winchell, however, who subjected him to a steady stream of ridicule on his broadcasts, mocking him as "Gerald Lucifer K-K-K-Kodfish Smith." (He even stuttered the Ks so you couldn't miss his point.)
     
    Benny Holiday and ChiTownScion like this.
  14. Benny Holiday

    Benny Holiday My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,572
    Location:
    Sydney Australia
    There seems to be no shortage of fruitcakes and nutters about. We were warned: "By their fruits you will know them." But still people fall for their crazy spiel. You can't have God and try to make Him in your image. Nor were people meant to be worshipped - they just can't handle it, can they, Elvis? Michael Jackson? etc, etc . . .
     
    Feraud and HoosierDaddy like this.
  15. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,714
    Location:
    My mother's basement
    Whatever fantasies of celebrity I may have ever harbored were kept in check by, 1.) the knowledge it wasn’t at all likely to ever occur anyway, leastwise not for anything which I believe people ought to be famous, rather than the reasons they often are, and, 2.) an appreciation for relative anonymity. You may not be greeted by strangers and made to feel like a big-shot, but you know who your friends and allies really are when you’re just a regular guy who will never have any fame or fortune to rub off on those who know him.

    When I was in a position to be of some benefit to local politicians, businesspeople, etc., my calls got answered. When I was no longer so positioned, those characters didn’t know my name. I learned how naive I was to think they would.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
    Benny Holiday likes this.
  16. Cornelius

    Cornelius A-List Customer

    Messages:
    499
    Location:
    Great Lakes
    For me, a bit later I suppose, it was a basement rec room dusty triptych of JFK, MLK, and RFK at seemingly every address where we gathered to play the latest Nintendo cartridge.
     
  17. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,780
    Location:
    London, UK
    "Cult" is a bit like "terrorist" - it's a value judgement rather than a noun. Certainly all major religions are just sects that became more popular than the others. Whether that's because they had something more to offer, sheer chance or politics is, again, another value judgment.

    Oh, absolutely. The worst bigotries I've ever heard spouted were cultural bigotries posing under the figleaf of theology. Guilt-free hatred. I've always felt a study of Bob Dylan's lyrics in "With God on Our Side" should be an integral part of any course involving ethics or citizenship...

    This was quite a phenomenon at one point in the eighties, with a major case in the UK. The human mind can easily be deceived - I remember studying an experiemnt where adults who had visited Disneyland as kids were shown photos of Bugs Bunny at Dinseyland, and invited to reminisce on their own memories of their visit. A significant proportion of them recounted their own meetings with Bugs Bunny. This didn't happen with the control group who were not shown the original images. Clearly the photos induced a false memory syndrome, for the simple reason that BB is a WArner Brother Character, and has never been at Disney: the photos were faked. The Satanic Panic was an extreme form of this, it seems. How this aspect of human psychology could be abused is truly terrfying.

    Theres' a lot of churches would be having to pick up their tables again if Himself dropped in today.

    Theres' something innately hilarious about the iconic image of a communist revolutionary being turned into a consumerist commodity.


    By their fruits indeed. True wisdom. Poor Elvis struggled terribly with the idolatry to which he was subjected; I think he found it all the harder becasue of his own faith. Michael Jackson was just a tragically damaged creature; abused as a child, and never seemed to gain a mental capacity beyond that of a damaged child. I think his biggest problem wasn't how the world treated him per se, but how cut off from it he was, and how surrounded by people who let him keep on spemnding way more than he earned.
     
    Benny Holiday and LizzieMaine like this.
  18. Not much on 'Religion' which has been used, abused beginning with the Pharisee's and can easily be criticized and discounted. I'm more concerned with and committed to simple grace and personal salvation.
     
    V.C. Brunswick, scotrace and Edward like this.
  19. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Michale Jackson was one of the most prominent victims of the most dangerous cult in the world -- the cult of Wealth. A delusional rich man whose fantasies are indulged by those around him because they're awed by his money and the power that money gives him is a danger not just to himself but to everyone who falls under his influence.
     
  20. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,923
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    I wouldn’t mind falling into that cult. Just a little bit, you know. :rolleyes:
     
    tonyb likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.