It was the last straw. I finally lost that final sliver of respect I once had for the man.
Years ago, too many to count, at least four I'm sure, it began. My older brother, the man who looked out for me and who I had respected my entire life, changed. I didn't notice at the time. For a while he hid it from me, ashamed that I might find out. As time went on, things must have changed gradually. I don't even remember it happening, but it must have been. He had become the victim of a cult.
This cult monopolized his time. I hadn't really spent much time with him around then, because he was in college after all, but even I could see it. They required his service for at least two hours a week, usually more. He began to donate large sums of money to this cult, probably somewhere around ten percent of what he earned every week. They asked him to forsake his previous life of "sin".
My brother was not a shameful person. He wasn't entirely noble, but he was a good man, with a lot of heart. They took him and they made him ashamed of himself. They broke him down, they systematically told him that he was evil and that he must repent. They told him that he was insignificant, yet that it was important that he love their God. He bought in to their lies, like each one of them before him had bought into their own set of lies. And thus the chain continued, and he set about trying to spread the message of shame and self-deprecation to everyone he knew.
As I said, the change in him was slow. It took a long time for them to turn him, but they were able to do it with the help of his new wife, a devout follower of this cult. Gradually I began to feel the change in him, in his every day actions and his attitude towards himself and his life.
Recently, since he and his wife moved in together, things have only gotten worse. She has trained him to be her loyal servant. Everything he used to enjoy - Television, Sports, Fun... These things all have been taken away. She has taught him that they are sinful, and that he should be ashamed of enjoying these things. They still own a TV, but he wants to get rid of it because he says it prevents him from reading the cult's holy scripture. Instead of doing the fun things he used to do, he has become a mentor for children, the children of these other couples who are devoted to the cult. He raises them to be good little brainwashed children, afraid of feeling and afraid of being happy.
Afraid of being in control of their life.
We used to watch The Simpsons together, Billy and I. He still speaks of the memories fondly. You know he enjoyed the show. However, he now calls it "unwholesome" and is unable to appreciate the artistic value of it because it conflicts with the beliefs of his cult. His mind has been shut off. He no longer thinks and feels with his mind, but rather, he goes with the will of the collective consciousness of his cult.
I know these things because I was there. When I noticed the change, I was there. He invited me to become a part of the cult, and for a time I visited their meetings and got to know a few members. They were nice enough people, but they were seriously in a bad way. In very little time, I recognized that feeling they all shared. Shame. Being an expert on shame while dealing with my blossoming homosexuality, I sensed it right away. Shame kept them in line, told them that they were evil, sinful creatures and that they had to change the way they were living. They were once happy people, most of them. But no more. They walked in the vessels of the now-empty bodies, tossing about sadness coated in an appearance of cheer, and wallowing in sorrow while smiling to each other. It was a pit of despair, but everyone was singing and laughing and having what appeared to be the time of their life.
Gradually he corrupted my family. They all turned and began to follow him. Only my mother remained loyal to me, and even then only because she is above all things my mother and she cares for me very deeply even if she does not necessarily agree that the way I live my life is right. We now practice his rituals at every meal we eat together, and he invites his cult over to the house to have cultish services in my room, the basement. He encroaches on everything I hold dear, spreading the taint of shame and fear. I remember those feelings far too well than to let myself be taken in by them again. I seem to be the only one who can see shame for what it really is. Their shame holds them back, keeps them tied down. The manacles of shame keep my brother from running away from his cruel wife and being happy in another life, one where he is free to be himself.
The other day, the cultists were visiting my house, and things finally went too far. They were playing a card game, and asked me to join. They said that it was called Scum. I had never heard of Scum before, so I asked how to play. As they described it, I realized that they were referring to a drinking game, Asshole. I asked why they called it Scum when everyone else knew it as Asshole. They told me that they couldn't call a Christian game Asshole.
Words. It's all about words. They can dress things up as pretty as they'd like, but they alone are responsible for how they treat themselves. Scum. They chose the word, not me. They may not have been referring to themselves with it, anymore than drinkers consider themselves to be assholes, but you can see it in their eyes. They are scum, because they choose to be scum. They hate themselves.
There is no rescuing him. Society tells him that he is doing the right thing. Everyone gives him praise and credit for doing what he is doing. Perhaps I really am the evil one, for being true to myself and not allowing myself to feel shameful for who I am. In the end, he is simply his own person as much as I am my own person, and no amount of words spewing out of my mouth will change either one of us.
I know nothing about God, the beyond, spirituality, or even why I exist. I can't even speak for all religion, even for all forms of Christianity. All I know is that if a religion is about pain, and putting oneself down, treating oneself as scum... I will have no part of it.