Friday night comes around. Woohoo! I get on the bus and go to the city. I find the Celtic Club. I'm ready to rock!
But wait... how come there's no bouncer at the door? That's weird. There's a decent crowd inside, so surely that's a good sign? Everyone's playing limbo, though, which seems a little bit strange. And there's not a drop of booze in sight. I'm a little bit wary. I mean, we've got Australian uni undergrads... playing limbo... at a dry Irish club? It doesn't really add up. But I choose not to overthink it too much - I go with the flow and crack open a can of Fanta.
Edmund finds me, and with his help I start to meet some people. Everyone is very friendly. Actually they're little bit too friendly. You might even say they're suspiciously friendly. They're lovebombing me so much that I'm not sure if I should be flattered or creeped out. Honestly, I feel a little of each. One guy in particular is a very close talker and I'm starting to wonder if he isn't trying to pick me up. Thankfully he doesn't make a move. Eventually the party ends and I go home.
A week or so later, I see Edmund again and he asks if I want to meet some people later that night. I'd rather eat my own vomit, but I say OK. It turns out to be a church service, only it's in a building on campus instead of in a proper church. There's a sermon, and people are jumping around and yelling stuff like “Amen! Preach it, brother!” and “Bring it home! Bring it home, brother!” Everyone is singing their hearts out and swaying around. I can’t sing for shit and I despise OTT religious stuff; I find it all very repulsive. But like they did at the party, people are lavishing me with attention. I'm invited to a rugby training session....
I show up to rugby training. Everyone praises my skills and my physique. It rings hollow because I'm neither very fit nor co-ordinated.
Another week or two later, Edmund invites me to a second party. I really don't want to go, but for some reason I accept. Why can't I seem to say no to people?
The party venue is a flat in the suburbs, and again there's no alcohol. I had predicted this, which is why I rocked up bearing a six-pack of Coke. What I hadn’t predicted is that the high point of the party would be participating in a Bible reading. It's only my second university party and I'm already beginning to think the whole scene's overrated. Why isn't it like in the movies where everyone's drinking from red cups and all the girls are topless? I think I'd rather go to that sort of party...
So, the Bible reading. I was asked to read a passage and answer some questions about it. Had a go, basically, but my take on things hadn't impressed anyone (I kept saying that I had no idea about the "true meaning" of whatever Bible passage it was). I find religious texts utterly incomprehensible. They don't speak to me or move me in any way. I don't want to read them. I just couldn't give a toss, and I don't like pretending otherwise.
The shindig drags on. Someone's going around collecting money, and partygoers are forking out serious amounts of cash. I don't know why. At least I'm not expected to contribute (and being of mixed Scotch/Dutch parentage, I'm sure as hell not about to reach for my wallet anyway). As I'm pondering the money angle, the close-talking guy from the first party corners me and sings me a love song. He composed it himself; it's genuinely awful. I worry that I'm the target audience, so when he says it's for his girlfriend I feel very relieved. Then he casually mentions that after he sings it to her, he's going to ask her to marry him. And also that the church elders have to give their permission first. I'm left wondering if I was mistaken, or did this dude just say "church elders" in a sentence? What the fuck? I mean, those words are scary enough individually, but as a phrase they’re absolutely terrifying. And in that moment, despite all the clues I've been given so far, the penny finally drops...
Religious Nutbaggery 101 - Final Exam
a) parties featuring readings of religious texts
b) parties featuring tithing
d) boisterous religious services
e) controlling religious elders
g) all of the above ✔
I took stock of the situation. I asked myself if I wanted to get tangled up in a batshit insane cult or not. Funnily enough, the answer was no. The answer should always be no. Fuck, no!
I avoided Edmund until eventually he got the hint.