This story concerns a Salon article about the Mars Hill Church, which attracts throngs of young, tattooed and pierced congregants.Pastor Mark Driscoll’s plan is to encourage his flock to breed their way into local political and cultural dominance. But he’s leading them into the same tired, regimented conservative politics as more traditional churches do. Since I was raised in a cult, (Church Universal and Triumphant), I have a special understanding of the destructive forces at work in religion. The psychological damage of this type of environment cannot be understood by those who have not lived it. Unless you can pull yourself out of it through intensive therapy and introspection, it will ruin your life.
Church Universal and Triumphant is quite different than Mars Hill. It has less tolerance for sociocultural diversity, yet is also less intent on subjugating women. What both organizations share is a view of truth as revealed, rather than observed or discovered. This approach to belief is the basis of all religious pathology.
That these organizations take root at all is a testament to human weakness. As long as people have a choice, some of them will decide to embrace totalistic “belief systems” which ironically take away their freedom to choose. It’s hard for me to understand how modern liberated women could embrace such a misogynistic nightmare. The men who rely on a book to justify their insecurity and codify their domination of women are equally pathetic. When will men grow up enough to deal with women on equal terms? When will women learn to love themselves enough to stay away from these women-hating religions? How can both sexes continue to be so gullible?
Apparently for some, this abdication is preferable to a true and deep confrontation with their existential pain, uncertainty, and fear of death. We cannot have self-knowledge without this pain. While attractive at first as an escape, and an exclusive club for believers, cults are a psychological meat-grinder. They have one goal, and that is to destroy people’s uniqueness and break their will. Mars Hill promotes the illusion of diversity by its acceptance of modern styles. But no amount of allowances for personal expression, tattoos, etc. can make up for its theofascist demands for congregants to accept the bloody bible as literal truth. An auditorium full of pierced and tattooed fundamentalists is no less scary than one of the scrubbed-and-suited variety.
I wish there was a way to mount a secular response to this type of group, but I don’t think it’s possible. Secularists are generally strong individuals who would never go in for this sort of thing. They do not readily form communities, which would be needed to ‘compete’ with the likes of Mars Hill. Since we are all different, we have different needs. It would be like herding cats. It may take generations for today’s converts to discover the true price they are paying for their false certitudes. Unfortunately, a free society has no choice but to allow this process to unfold on its own terms.
Note: The Mars Hill Church collapsed into scandal and ceased operations in 2015. Former leader Mark Driscoll was sued by former members who accused him of running it like a “crime syndicate.” That suit was eventually dropped because the former members lacked the funds to pay legal costs. But this entire episode was predictable from the start. We don’t need to wait for churches to have scandals. By collecting funds for an invisible product which they can never deliver, churches represent grift–by definition. Smart church leaders keep their egos in check, so they can keep raking in the dough and building their congregations and real estate empires. The dumber ones start believing their own press, and get so full of themselves, that they commit obvious frauds and abuses, for which they can be later sued or prosecuted. It’s never going to end any other way. –Sean Prophet, August 2022