Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cult, Charisma or Just Plain Crazy?

For most of my 16 year-old's life, I have adored his friends. Some have been like family to me and I enjoyed having them around. Several years ago he became friends with a boy who was okay (to me) but something was never quite right. I was never really at ease with him around. He was kind of cold to my younger son, he broke a very expensive bracelet of mine and then denied it to my face...things like that just fueled my unease.

With the approach of the teen years, drama started. When one friend was the first to get a girlfriend, his friends did not respond well. Relationships were severed and new bonds made. I went along with it all - all the while remembering what it was like to be 15 and how it felt when your friends started dating before you. With the loss of my son's best friend, a new best friend came on the scene - you guessed it, Mr. Bracelet-breaker. For Nick's sake, I tolerated the friendship and even forced myself to get along with this kid and as time went on, it wasn't so much of a chore. Then I noticed my son becoming more and more moody. He was giving up possessions and stopped listening to music that he loved because this person told him to. Soon, other friends were complaining (to me, might I add) how this person was causing problems with his constant barrage of put-downs on all of them. I'd even had girls come to me complaining of inappropriate touching and how uncomfortable they were with this boy. At 16, I now liken this person to a David Koresch-type personality.

The final straw for me was when I found out that my son's group of friends had formed "The Circle". If you're group needs a name, you're verging on being a cult in my opinion. The point of 'the Circle' was to be a group of Christian friends who lifted one another up and offered spiritual help and prayer and it all sounded like a good thing. That is, until little Koresch started making rules. He would complain about the clothes Nick wore or the pictures Nick would post on his My Space page and even went so far as to show them to me behind Nick's back in hopes of outraging me. I thought they were funny! They weren't vulgar or offensive, it was Nick in make up from the movie "the Crow" with Brandon Lee. Koresch's comments were "See! See what he's doing?" Then came the interventions - again in front of me - where Nick was told that he wasn't right with God because of the music he listened to. Well, guess what? A few weeks later, who has the same music on his i-Pod that he's playing for their book-club teacher? One-hint: NOT NICK. The charasmatic leader of the circle convinced his followers that it was time to kick Nick out of the circle because he was causing too much strife and refused to get right with God. His crime? He argued with said leader. These are 16 year old kids!!!

I met with their youth group leader and then my son and another friend met with him to discuss this problem. I was pleased to see that this man is very wise and has actually witness this crazed behavior and is worried himself. He sees that this boy is using the Bible to hide behind without any theology to back him up and even went so far as to demand - DEMAND - that the church back HIM on what he's doing! This is a 16 year old boy telling a youth pastor what to do! He's not even a member of the church where they go to youth group and he's making demands on them that they follow him! His parents aren't members of this church either. The youth pastor likened him to trying to be the Pope over this group.

I have to admit that for a while, I thought I was just a crazed mom defending my kid and not seeing the big-picture, now I fear that we're not seeing enough! I see the way the other kids 'follow' him and do his bidding. He wanted lunch one day but he only had a few minutes before he was being picked up to go to a class. The rest of the group was deciding what to do for lunch and he sent one of the girls in to demand that the lunch run happen NOW because HE was hungry! And believe me, she was serious. She refused to eat after she was informed that lunch wouldn't be back in time and instead, gave this boy her money so that he could get himself lunch at his class! None of these kids parents seem to realize what is happening because he has charmed them. He knows the right things to say. His own parents believe his lies. His friends are affraid to go against him or disagree with him because of how they will be treated.

He wears a dog collar as if marking himself as "Top Dog". Give me a break. I saw a phrase similar to this in reference to Waco and Koresch and found it appropriate.

"The type of character exhibited manifests the worst sort of evil and wickedness in the guise of virtue. Wickedness as seen in his manipulation and control of people, most of whom do not have the same abilities and will power as he, an exploitation of those weaker for the purpose of fueling his pride and self-importance; yet, all the while, in the mien of piety and truth. What deception!"

I'm venting, I know. I just wish that parents would open their eyes to what is happening right in front of them. How do you think cults get started? Where do you think these leaders begin to fuel their massive egos? It all has to start somewhere and usually when everyone does finally take notice, it's too late.

Do we want our kids to be friends with a person bent on having control over them just for the sake of having friends or do we risk isolating them a bit in order to protect them? I'd rather have my son mad at me now that have him be a statistic later.

Think about it.

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