When I was a wee little thing of seven, I was a Jesus-freak.
My dad was transferred for a year to England. He brought us – my mother and the three kids – along for the ride, and put the kids into English schools. It was a valuable learning experience for us all. My parents learned how to drive on the left side of the road. I learned about Jesus.
Every other morning, the headmaster would stand up before an assembly of the entire student body and preach the word of God. We sang songs, we heard gospel, we were told how God created the world and how Jesus died for our sins.
I believed every word of it. Why shouldn’t I? I was a good kid, taught to believe that teachers were right. I was only seven.
The thing about seven-year-olds is that they have the mind of a child. Children easily believe without question most of what older people tell them.
And that’s the point. A good religion is based on blind faith. Kids believe without question things that older people tell them.
Children are vulnerable because they’re unsure, their minds are unformed. They’re easy to mold into an ideology. Adults – especially people in college, where everything is new all over again – can be the same way.
During the first week of school, how many campus groups come out to advertise themselves? Who are they? Gaucho Christian Fellowship. Campus Crusade for Christ. St. Mark’s. “Why don’t you just come to our meeting? I’m sure you’ll enjoy it,” they say. “We’re having a Bible study this Wednesday night, why don’t you think about coming?”
I’ve had people come out of the blue, asking me if I’ve “found Jesus.” It’s as if they’re expecting me to be afraid and looking for a rope to grasp for, for something to be assured of.
But of course. College means moving away from home, friends and everything that’s comfortable about your old life. These groups are offering a new home, new friends, a new sense of comfort. It’s attractive. And because it’s an invitation, it becomes a conscious decision on one’s own part to try it out … and, later, to accept everything that’s taught.
Christianity isn’t the only group that does this. The Hari Krishnas do it. Ananda does it. The Christian Scientists and the Scientologists do it. The Moonies did it. These groups offer happiness. They offer new friends when you feel like you have none. They offer a new home. They offer a path to follow when you’re stumbling without direction.
These are all called “cults” by everyone I know. We all laugh and wonder how people could fall for something like that, when it’s obviously just a scam. It’s stupid, right?
But it’s amazing how many people I know – college-aged friends and acquaintances – who have become “born again” in the past three years. They’ve “found Christ,” and suddenly are different people. They’re happier. They’ve got new families. They have new friends. They have a path to follow so they won’t stumble around without direction.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Perhaps because it’s the same thing.
Cults like Christianity take advantage of this clean slate we walk onto campus with. We young, open fools are quick to listen to new ideas, quick to try new things and quick to fill that emptiness that was created when we left home.
Quick to learn how to be good Christians.
I learned, all those years ago, how easy it is to be led off the cliff into oblivious acceptance. Now I tend to take invitations to meetings with a grain of salt, and question anyone who’s definite that they know “the truth” about anything.
I’m still open to new ideas. But every time someone talks to me about Jesus and “the right path,” I think back to when I was seven years old, and the idea sounds older and older.
I just wish everyone would learn how to think for him or herself, instead of letting a 2000-year-old book and a bunch of cultists do it for them.
Sarah Kent is one of two Daily Nexus opinion editors. She saw the light and decided she liked the dark better. Feel free to publicly tell her she’s wrong by emailing.