Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Of Cabbage Heads and Cults

I didn't mean to follow up my censorship post with another example of censorship, but I just read an article in this month's Writer's News magazine telling of a Mr. J. Lewis from Birmingham (Alabama, naturally) who faced being forcibly evicted from his church unless he disavowed his vampire novel. The church Deacons or Elders or Grand Wizards refused to believe a person could write about a sin without committing it in their hearts. So they chucked him out (you didn't think he caved, did you?).

This brought to mind another censorship incident from my own past. (And after working so hard all these years to repress the memories; I guess it's back to waking up at night screaming.)

Anyway, during my late teenage years, when I was looking for a group of people to tell me what to think, I fell in with a local cult. Now, these people would certainly take exception at being referred to as such--they considered themselves simply a group of Bible-believing, fundamentalists--but when you find your group in an earnest discussion about the righteousness of killing someone's body in order to secure his soul a place in heaven, then you, my friend, are in a cult.

We never committed the ultimate act of censorship, but routine censorship was simply a way of life. As with the aforementioned novelist, the thinking went: if lying is a sin, and fiction is a lie, then writing fiction is a sin. So there went my first eight years worth of journals, short stories, plays, and a whole bale of teenage angst-ridden poems; burned, all of it, along with anything else I owned (e.g. my modest album collection featuring the songs of those well known Satanist Simon and Garfunkle) that they deemed "not of God".

Forget, for the moment, that they did the world a huge favor by ridding it of some truly awful poetry, and try to imagine the medieval mindset these people must possess. They're words, for pity's sake, they're not going to jump off the page and bite you, so why are you so afraid of them?

I give Mr. Lewis credit for not backing down; when thoughts are stifled, when creativity is held in check, when ideas are considered dangerous, then civilization takes a backward step.

I was seven years in that cult, for no other reason than they filled my empty head up with the notion that there were no other options and I believed them. Gradually, however, stray ambitions crept in--which put me at odds with the leadership--and the desire to write never really left me. After a time, they decided I wasn't fit for their group any more and, like Mr. Lewis, I got the old heave-ho. (There was also this incident involving the minister's daughter, but we're not going there.)

For a while I felt like a shunned Amishite, but gradually I began to write again. I've had no truck with religion since then, and even less regard for people who think they have the right to run my life for my own good.

I guess, if there's anything to be taken from this rambling stroll down amnesia lane, it's that there is no shortage of narrow-minded people out there who like nothing better than the thrill they get from telling other people what they cannot do.

Avoid them; they are assholes. And keep writing, no matter what.

Next: Stupid Things Ex-Girlfriends Have Said to Me.


  1. Mike
    If you are writing before 7 00am you are truly a writer. I'm in the world of the half dead until dinner. Interesting, this cult thing. Doen'nt seem to have done you terminal harm. Does following a footbal team that seldom wins constitute a cult membership.

  2. Ken: I don't mean to be writing before 7 AM, but this job-thing really cuts into my day. My alarm goes off at 5 AM (I'd love to say I jump out of bed and go immediately to the computer, but that would be stretching the truth). By 8:30 AM, my writing day is over.

    And, yeah, football following is certainly a cult, but at least there is beer involved ;)

  3. Just found your blog and enjoyed your writing: I'm glad you're not in the cult any more!

  4. Daphne: Thanks! And I'm glad I'm not in the cult anymore, as well. ;)