How do you become a cult leader? 

It looks like there’s good money in it

The biggest story on the cable news channels last week was the arrest of Warren Jeffs, the breakaway polygamist cult leader who was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.

For two days, the news of his arrest dominated CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, pushing aside Iraq, the economy and Iran. It was all Warren Jeffs all the time.

But the coverage might have served to just give his religious cult even more followers. I’d never heard of the man before but after watching the cable news channels, I immediately wanted to sign up for his job.

I’ve never even had one wife, let alone six or 12, but I think I would like to be a polygamist cult leader. It’d be great to have millions in cash, tens of thousands of followers and 100 kids to call me dad.

My wives would work selling magazine subscriptions from home while I surfed the Net and played videogames all day. It sounds like a great life. Wake up, have breakfast made for you, sit around all day, issue various religious orders and watch TV. Who could ask for anything more?

I can see it now.

I’d summon my assistant. “From now on, my followers must never eat White Castles again!”
“Why, Reverend?” my assistant would ask.

“No reason,” I’d say. “No reason at all. Also, let it be known that Ron Artest is to be considered a holy man. The sect must start watching all Sacramento Kings games. Tell all followers to remove all red crayons from the children. They are evil. Now I must watch Curb Your Enthusiasm. I am not to be bothered for the rest of the day.”

“Yes, Reverend,” the assistant would say.

How hard is it to become the leader of a wacko religious cult? Is there a trade school or seminary that cranks out these guys? I want to enroll.

One urban legend has it that L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, started the religion on a bet. The Scientologists deny it, and there doesn’t seem to be much corroborating evidence of it, but I’d love it if it were true.

And I have a head start on being a cult leader, just by virtue of my Hoosier birth. The Rev. Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, got his start in Indianapolis. He was so charismatic that he convinced 900 people to kill themselves. That’s a pretty persuasive guy.

And Charles Manson spent time in Indiana, honing the skills that would allow him to become a wacko cult leader. So I like my chances of making it happen.

My paternal grandfather was a renegade Methodist minister, getting chased out of rural towns in Indiana for being a radical preacher. It’s in my blood.

Moreover, the history of America is filled with weirdo cult leaders who attract a bunch of followers. The leaders accumulate cash, help themselves to the wives of their followers and then fade away, kind of like President Clinton.

What’s tragic is when these cults start arming themselves. David Koresh would still be in his ranch at Waco if he hadn’t developed a taste for collecting automatic weapons. I’m not saying he was an admirable man, but being a wacko cult leader is still perfectly legal in America unless you start doing something illegal.

The Indianapolis Baptist Temple was not a cult, by any means, but the feds cracked down on them hard over tax issues. I don’t need that kind of attention. Nothing illegal will be involved in my ministry.

And come to think of it, I don’t want my cult to be a polygamist cult. For one thing, I have too many hobbies and outside interests to maintain 50 wives. Also, if Jeffs’ sect is any indicator, cults don’t exactly attract the A-list women like the supermodels and pro tennis stars I’m used to dating.

No, I just want a cult based on money, like most of organized religion today. Money and food. That’s really all I need. I don’t need any weapons to do that, I wouldn’t think.

If Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are smart enough to build ministries worth millions of dollars, then I am too. I’m greedier than they are, I have plenty of well-defined, if lunatic, religious and political ideas too.

All I need is that chance. I just know I can outdo the Heaven’s Gate cult if I could get that one lucky break.

This is where I need your help. I have a crackpot leader (me). What I need is a catchy name for my cult, boatloads of cash to get started and some gullible saps to buy into my fringe beliefs.

If you have a great name for my ministry and/or unlimited amounts of money to donate to my sitting around playing videogames, please contact me c/o this newspaper. There could be an assistant pastorship in it for you.

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