News & Views » Columns

Cultivating membership

The sun has almost baked my brain into a casserole, and I’m feeling dizzy from the heat of a summer barely even started.

"Perfect!" says the Lizard of Fun, handing me a tall glass of red Kool-Aid. "Drink this, you’ll feel much better."

I gulp it down, noting that it tastes a little bit less like strawberries and a little bit more like something I can’t quite identify.
"Tequila?" I ask.

"Cyanide," says the Lizard as I look at the empty glass in disbelief. "It’s a test of your loyalty."

I freeze, and then notice a suspicious twinkle in the Lizard’s eyes.

"You’ve been spending way too much time reading that cult book," I say, grabbing the copy of Marc Galanter’s Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion the Lizard has hidden behind its back. "The Jonestown thing is getting to be a little old."

"But it’s got a certain retro panache, don’t you think?" the Lizard replies. "Besides, how else am I going to get rid of the case of Kool-Aid mix I bought at Costco?"

I shrug, and the Lizard hands me a piece of paper. "Here," it says. "This is my cult-joining application. Read it over. Check the fine print. Feel free to consult your attorney. But I already know you’ll sign all your assets over to me."

"Hey, if you want to use the car, you just gotta ask," I say, but the Lizard ignores me, busy tying up its Nike sneakers.

I read over the application:

I, (your name here), being of some mind and a decent body, agree to answer the following questions in a manner which will not only ingratiate me to the Exalted Holy Lizard of Fun, but which will guarantee me everlasting life when the next comet flies by or the millennium arrives, whichever comes first, provided everything turns out as the Exalted Holy Lizard of Fun predicts.

I also promise to forgive the Exalted Holy Lizard of Fun if things turn out differently or if I come to my senses before all my assets are liquidated.

Answer the following questions now:

How did you hear about the Exalted Holy Lizard of Fun?

- a friend

- an enemy

- a guy on the street handed me this brochure. You mean I don’t get a free Happy Meal?

What is your current religious affiliation?

- Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist

- George Lucas

- the Home Shopping Network

What is your current annual income?

- less than $50,000

- more than $100,000, but I have a Porsche to support

- money means nothing in the face of spiritual wealth. My bank account is yours.

What is your idea of luxury accommodation?

- a cozy armed compound

- a castle with dozens of Rolls-Royces parked in the garage

- near the Dog Star, Sirius

Have you ever participated in any of the following cultlike activities?

- wearing white before Memorial Day

- lining up for movie tickets for more than an hour

- voting Republican

Where do you plan to spend this New Year’s Eve?

- anywhere I can afford to buy a beer

- in my emergency fallout shelter with candlelight and MREs

- awaiting enlightenment as a disciple of the Exalted Holy Lizard of Fun

Sign your name here: ___________________________

Bank account &/or credit card number:

____________________________

We will contact you if and when your acceptance is approved.

"Why only six questions?" I ask.

"Six is the sacred number of the Cult of Fun," says the Lizard. "It’s symbolic of a six-pack."

"How’s recruitment going?"

The Lizard sighs. "Slow. I need a better campaign. Something splashy, something outrageous. With the millennium coming, cults are getting big. I need to stand out from the crowd."

"Why not be more selective?" I ask. In Gisborne, New Zealand, where the first moments of the millennium are going to occur, the police are already on the lookout for potential cult-related mass suicides. The Israeli government has already deported members of a Denver-based cult who claimed to be waiting for the millennium to arrive so they could kill themselves. And a group called the Vissarionites has been camping out on Mount Sukhaya in Siberia, plotting to kill themselves in honor of the millennium.

"Hang on, where’s the fun in that?" asks the Lizard.

"My point exactly," I nod. "Why not start a day-after-the-millennium cult, and cash in on the survivors of all the mass suicides?"

"I still need a marketing gizmo."

I shrug. Religion is too ephemeral. Flowers and long robes are too ’60s. Paramilitary action is too aggressive. Spaceships and comets have been done to death, so to speak.

"I’ve got it!" it shouts. "I am the Lizard King."

"I think that’s been taken, too."

"Awww, just sign, will ya? I need the car tonight."

comment