Now who art worthy, thousands cried holy
Bound for some, Son of our God
Daughter of Zion, Judah the Lion
He redeemeth us, Jesus bought us with his blood

- Blind Willie Johnson, “John the Revelator”

These dark and terrible words filled my mind as I watched the events unfolding around the Yearning for Zion compound, where Warren Jeffs’ cult performed their filthy rituals. The shocked and horrified expressions of the hundreds of pale, sickly children as they were led towards buses by armed and armored Texas Rangers and U.S. Marshals. The 19th century clothing, dazed looks, and confusion on the faces of the cult’s women, most of whom were pregnant and married by the dozen to much older men by the time they turned 15.

How could something like this happen in 21st century America? What kind of shadows lurk in the filthy underbelly of our country’s soul? Watching the Yearning for Zion coverage on dozens of 24-hour news channels, I was overcome and questioned my own sanity. Warren Jeffs calls his rampant cultism “religion,” but he is as crazy as he is stupid; filled with fire, brimstone and hubris and said to walk the desert naked at night alone in order to better communicate with God. I’d had a taste of the Jehovah craziness myself as a youth when I would often find myself wrestling the local priest over what he called “God’s own urges,” but even I was not prepared for what Prophet Jeffs had to offer. Even Conservative Nazis like Mike Huckabee, himself a known and dangerous lunatic, said Jeffs went too far by marrying dozens of 13-year old girls to their 45-year old uncles. The Mormon Church itself, which controls the entire state of Utah and parts of many others, condemned Jeffs and his sect, at least publicly.

So, how does something like the Yearning for Zion ranch happen? The safe answer would be to reply that only in a disturbed place like Texas could something like this happen. It is true that scientists have determined that there is more terrible insanity per square mile in Texas than anywhere west of the Congo. But, that answer would be wrong. The real answer is probably hidden deep in the bowels of our nation’s collective psyche and collective insanity. Some of this country’s first European conquerors were in fact religious fundamentalist whackos, called Puritans, who dressed and acted very similar to Prophet Jeffs group, minus the marriage thing. From this nations earliest beginnings it has been a haven for religious cults and sects that could not exist in the cultural confines of Europe. Quakers, Shakers, Mormons, Roman-Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Anabaptists, the list goes on and on. America was the final resting place of the some of the most disturbed and downright nutty cults in the world, and it has spawned many more.

In fact, it may well be that our Founding Fathers-all of them white slave owning zealots-included freedom of religion and separation of church and state in the Constitution not so that we had the right to meditate naked in front of a photo of Richard Nixon, but so the government did not have a right to crush out of existence silly, snake-worshipping, group-marriage, rapist, cults similar to the Yearning for Zion group. That is a dark and ponderous idea that hangs over my soul like a fat, dark spider. It’s an idea that even I didn’t want to believe right up until the Texas State Supreme Court ordered all of those scared, sad, crushed children back into the arms of their crazy, rapist families. That’s when I knew the Truth.

It’s over, folks. The inmates have taken control of the asylum. This fact has been hidden behind the electronic allure of IPOD sensations, “Reality TV” drivel, and internet jack-off sites. We are a nation of fundamentalist snake-handling hucksters of whom psychologist Dr. Steven Pinker noted, 25% believe in witches, 50% believe in ghosts, 50% believe in the literal idea of a devil, 50% believe that the horrible Book of Genesis is literally true (that the earth was created in seven days), 69% believe in angels, 87% believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and 96% believe in a god or some sort of universal spirit. 96%!!! These terrible numbers fill me with dread, because while there may be nothing wrong with trying somehow to conform your life to the Ten Commandments, there is something very wrong when you insist on slamming the Ten Commandments down someone else’s throat, especially when that someone else is a child who hasn’t even had a chance to realize that all religion is mythology. The real thing that fills me with fear is the knowledge that the same personality type that is flying airplanes into buildings in the name of Allah is bombing abortion clinics or keeping ten teenage wives in the name of Jesus or God. Insane is Insane, no matter what book you’re reading from.

But, what’s the point? I can’t win when-according to expert poles-96% of the country is basically living in a complete fantasy world of spirits, wood sprites, and fairies. So, as I watch those poor kids being returned to their “parents” at the Yearning for Zion compound, and as I wait for next terrible news story to filter through the cracks, I take hold of my newly purchased Bible and begin to pray.