Samuel Shepherd said ‘Welcome to our first meeting. We call this our ‘Genesis’ event. But in that title we are not referring directly to the Old Testament book. It’s our personal coming together to define what we are and precisely what it is that we believe. Let me be clear that in no manner are we seeking to dismiss the book of Genesis, for Abraham was the vital founding root not just of Christianity but of Judaism and of Islam; he is still revered today by all three of these major world religions.’
Several of the audience were seen to be back to nodding again.
‘Who among us here believes a single word of what we read in today’s newspapers? I have certainly never seen an article about me or our new religious order that is without error. So then what is it that makes us believe that the Bible, published so haphazardly and so long ago, could be any more accurate? Today’s factual errors are published despite our current powerful libel laws and our country’s litigious nature; the very weaponry that I might choose to apply to remedy the misreporting of our Order.’
The camera showed that the smiles were coming back. They were starting to relax into the to-and-fro of the Leader’s presentation and had recovered some of their joy at being inducted into the priesthood of this new religious movement. For that was what they had each been drilled to think, not cult but ‘new religious movement’.
The Leader picked on another of his audience. ‘Rose-Marie. You trained as an attorney, so tell me. Should I take advantage of those weapons to correct my reputation?’
Rose-Marie was caught like a rabbit in the headlights, clearly unable to commit herself to a course of action, either way.
He paused long enough to make her feel uncomfortable, ‘Difficult choice, isn’t it? We all want our reputations to shine, but the world is by its very nature full of lies, deceit and misinformation. We cannot hope to convert this wicked world to see the Light. We have received His message for over 2,000 years and yet still the vast majority does not listen to it.’
He walked up to the girl and sat down on the floor beside her. ‘Rose-Marie, you will certainly be able to tell us all what the Israelites did while Moses left them to go up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.’
Now Rose-Marie was on safer, well-trodden ground. ‘They made a graven image, a golden calf and they worshipped it.’
‘Thank you, Rose-Marie. Moses was the great founding leader of the Faith, all three great religions are absolutely sure that this was a man who was selected, sanctified, touched by God. Those with him in the wilderness were his chosen people, they were the converted, and yet Moses was gone for such a short while before they turned their faith towards idols.
‘Let’s look at the other examples, and there are many. How short a time did Adam and Eve last before they were tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit? The Ark had to be built, Noah with his family and menagerie needed to be saved from the sinful world that had evolved some years later. Even Christ’s closest disciples lost their way, faithful Peter denounced him thrice. We just have to understand and to accept that this is the intrinsic nature of the world outside of our community. People are fickle, wrong-thinking, tempted by the wrong things, seeking out shallow temporal pleasures.’
He stood up effortlessly and looked around at them as he said, ‘I don’t need to tell you. You have all been out there, you know they’ll do anything rather than think. They fill their days with idleness, or they rush to accumulate material things. They worship only the hollowness of celebrity and thrash around loudly in their shallowness. They therefore completely squander the precious gift of life, waste the great potential of their minds. Only here, within this community will you be free to contemplate just who it is that we are, just what we are here for, and together we will establish quite where we are all going.’
He turned his back on the audience, paused, and walked back to the front of the room. Once he reached the stage, he looked up and to the right as if offering up a silent prayer. As he turned his face back to them a light that none had noticed before lit up his face, made him somehow sparkle; then it was gone as quickly as it came.
‘Jesus Christ had no such litigious weapons. Anyway, by the time the first three New Testament Gospels were written he had been dead for decades. Now you are a Perfect, you can be shown our innermost secrets.’ He walked the centre aisle. ‘Perhaps you already know that the Gospel of Mark was the one that came first, it was written in Rome. You may know how those of Matthew and Luke clearly drew from it and other source material to write theirs some time later. Most theologians and researchers believe that this other original source was lost.’ He smiled at them meaningfully, clearly indicating that these theologians were misled.
He suddenly burst into a strong and melodic baritone. ‘Those things that you’re liable to read in the Bible, they ain’t necessarily so.’