So, first thing this morning I get called into my boss's office for a closed door meeting. This is never good. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I did wrong. I've been in the squad house all of three minutes, not even enough time to grab a cup of stale coffee and a doughnut (yes, we eat doughnuts, get over it,) let alone do something bad enough to get summoned to the principal's office.
So I slinked into his office, slithered into the offered chair, and awaited whatever fate befell me. "Dallas," he said in a small voice, "you're the closest thing to an expert I have regarding religious cults."
He's right, of course. I am the closest thing. I learned all ever want to know about religious cults on my first case as a detective. You can read all about that case in S.C. Lang's thrilling first novel, Original Sin, coming soon on i Universe Books. It's not exactly a memory I wish to explore in any great detail here, so I'll just let you read about it. You'll understand my position when you do. Still, not wanting to recall that case, or deal with religious cults, didn't matter at all to my boss. He had that look in his eye. He was clearly upset over something, and with his opening line, I thought I knew what it concerned. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves. Like it or not, I was about to head back into the fire.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"I know all about your experience with cults, Dallas. I've read the files and talked to those I needed to talk to. I understand this isn't your favorite subject matter, and I'm sorry to have to bring it all back up for you now."
A ray of light, perhaps? This might not be as bad as I first thought. I nodded my head, both in acknowledgement of his understanding and for him to continue.
"In your opinion," he says, "what is your definition of a religious cult? Specifically, how does it differ from people who follow a particular religion such as Christianity?"
Oh. Is that all you want to know? Ok, simple. You have about a month? Because that's how long it'll take to sort through all the subtle differences and definitions, and requirements. In order for me to be of any service to him, he's going to need to be a bit more specific. I asked him what was going on, he didn't seem overly eager to tell me, but it finally said, "How does Christianity define a cult?"
Now we're getting somewhere.
Christianity considers any religious group that deviates from, or distorts certain fundamental teachings of Bible-based beliefs, such as Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit,) the resurrection, salvation through Holy Grace, to be a cult. A bit simplistic, I grant you, but there it is. Christianity considers such groups as Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, and the Mormons as religious cults. Mainly because these groups add to the Bible (such as the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, etc.) Jehovah's Witnesses actually changed the text of the Bible to make it conform to their Doctrine. As you can imagine, Christianity has a major problem with these additions to, and changing of, the Holy Bible. I relayed all of this information to my boss, who, I must say, sat at rigid attention and did not interrupt me once. props to him for being such a good student.
But wait, there's more.
Religious cults very often create their own rules, rituals and ceremonies that cast a certain meaning to the deeds and words of Christ. Ok, how do I explain that without writing a friggin' book? Ok, let me try to dummy this down a bit, for the sake of the blog, and not because I don't think you people can keep up. Christianity states that a firm and solid belief in Christ, and His Holy sacrifice upon the cross, is all you need to gain entry into Heaven. These other groups do not. They believe that a belief and Christ and His sacrifice is needed, but that you must also do certain "works" or "deeds" to gain entry into Heaven. The leaders of these groups will always site James 2:26, which states, "Faith without work is dead," to prove their point to their followers. Christianity, again, takes very severe exception to these interpretations of the Bible and its passages.
And so the debate rages on. See, I told you it would take a month to totally figure all this crap out. I'm not going to get into who's right or wrong here. I have my beliefs and I'm very happy and content with them. You go ahead and believe whatever you want, and more power to you.
My boss finally admitted he was inquiring due to "personal reasons." There's not a cop alive who's not smart enough to leave that alone. I figured if he really wanted me to know, he'd come out and tell me. Not that I wanted him to, mind you. All I cared about was that I wasn't about to be assigned another case concerning a religious cult - thank God.
Anyway, I think I've rambled on here long enough for one day. Until next time, this is Detective Dallas Holden signing off. Have a good one people. Now, where's my damn doughnut?