The cult was having a sale and women’s ministry in the church wanted to go. When I pointed out to them that the store in question was run by a cult their plans didn't change. The only thing that changed was their attitude about me. It seemed obvious to me that there are certain things that Christians should not do and that if I made aware they would choose to avoid questionable behaviors. I was wrong.
I learned that many Christians only consider morality in the extreme cases such as theft and adultery. If the bible is not explicit then no thought is given to rightness or wrongness. People are free to do what they want and none dare question it.
This was surprising to me because I have questioned my own behavior since adolescence. There have always been things I clearly could not do because of moral concerns. There were other things I chose not to do when morality was unclear. Even as a teen I would not go to parties if alcohol was being served and I didn’t attend R-rated movies. I didn't want to chance it.
The sale at the cult-owned quilting store seemed something the women might want to avoid. The store in question was unique. It was the primary source of income for a small religious commune in Orange County. The leader of the cult was a feisty woman who defied government authority and who taught that Jesus was nothing more than a man. I did not think that the church would want to directly contribute to such a cult by patronizing its business.
My first thought when I saw the flyer for the shopping event was that the leaders were unaware of the store’s backstory. The store did not overtly proclaim its mission and theology, instead choosing to present itself as nothing more than a neighborhood country store. I assumed that when the leaders learned the full story of the store that they would choose to shop elsewhere. I was wrong. I was accused of being judgmental and legalistic, unreasonable and disrespectful.
When I asked how, knowing what they knew, they could justify encouraging women of the church to shop at the store their answer left me dumbfounded. I was told that the store stocked some hard to find items and that it would be inconvenient to try and find them elsewhere. My concern that making the shopping trip a church sponsored event might lead some to believe that the church was supportive of the store’s mission was dismissed out of hand.
Over the years I have learned that my attitude about morality makes me an outlier. I live in a world in which the majority of people are not guided by values and principles. What matters most is what people feel and what people want. If making a stand is difficult or inconvenient most people will choose not to make it at all.
The sad reality is that when values are sacrificed when they become costly, they aren’t worth anything.
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For those who are wondering, the cult store is still in business. It is the Piecemakers store in Costa Mesa, California.