Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Cult Cinema #13: Exiles, part 1

(I've already written about The Passion of Darkly Noon, as part of We Don't Go Back. As the completion of On a Thousand Walls and Cult Cinema becomes more urgent, I've got to revisit it, and, inevitably, Martha Marcy May Marlene, which comes next.)

 

Exiles


We've got the Moonies to thank for a lot of what we know about this sort of thing. The simple fact that Sun Myung Moon was a dyed in the wool hand rubbing Bond villain who freely owned the way he created structures of control means that we have a language of this. Moon codified the ways churches control us. And not just churches, any ideological group with the right tenor: inspired by a friend's experience with a hard-line leftist group, years ago I wrote a piece where I listed seven ways, I think it was, in which revolutionary Marxist-Leninists and conservative evangelical Christians closely corresponded, and managed simultaneously to outrage members of both constituencies, which was one of my finest moments, let me tell you.1

Leaving any extreme religious group is never simple. Even more mainstream ones leave their mark upon us. Churches have mechanisms of social control, even if they don't admit to them. And this is never more clear when you see what happens to people who leave, whether willingly or not. When you've been in a controlling and abusive religious movement, you don't just leave, because you had an emotional relationship, a human relationship, with that institution and the people in it. And as many people who have escaped from an abusive relationship that they had invested in will tell you, one of the feelings you rarely get warned about is the grief, the mourning for it, because the fact is, as hateful as that personal or institutional (or both) relationship might have been, it still leaves a gaping hole in your emotional life.