The public remembers Charles Manson as a vicious killer and a lunatic—at least one of those is correct. While demonstrably insane, Manson never killed anyone, at least not to our knowledge. The life sentence he is serving in California results from the sanctioning of the horrific Tate/Labianca murders, rather than his personal participation. The more I read about the Manson case, the more I realize that there was an unspoken, but ubiquitous motive for his prosecution: the man was just too good at being crazy.
His madness had influence. It had power. Whether or not he personally committed the murders in 1969 is immaterial. His astonishing ability to brainwash dozens of young men and women, to the point where he commands murder and they execute his wishes, is the hallmark of a man who has become too dangerous to exist on the outside. The trial of Charles Manson was not only about the murders that had happened, but what could potentially happen in the future. He had to be stopped. The trial was about stopping him.
Oddly, it didn’t start out that way. If you listen to interviews with any of Manson’s followers they all say that it began with messages of peace and love. Love your brother. Shed your old identity and become reborn. Abandon your old life and attachments in favor of developing a new existence with Charlie. For a while, it was glorious. Then Manson began telling his followers that a great war was coming and that he was the last vestige for salvation. Indeed, Charles Manson told his followers that he was Jesus Christ.
His followers believed he was Christ, often pointing to his last name as incontrovertible proof—Manson, the Son of Man. Jesus referred to himself as the same. (Mark 14:61; Matthew 24:44) Much of Jesus’ behavior and teachings parallel that of Manson’s. He advocated that people be reborn unto him, to shed their material possessions, and most importantly, to never love anyone more than they loved him. Jesus is often depicted as the archetypal non-violent figure, but scripture suggests otherwise. ”I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword,” Jesus said according to Matthew 10:34. In Luke 12:51 Jesus states, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division… The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother.”
It’s eerily similar to what Manson told his followers: that their parents were superfluous. The love that truly mattered was Manson’s love, and without him, they would perish in the coming day of judgement. Jesus regularly referred to the “death,” “weeping,” and “gnashing of teeth,” that awaited those who did not accept him as the true son of god. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me.”
Some may say “yes, but Jesus taught non-violence and love for thy brother.” To which I would say, yes, but so did Charles Manson. Shall we celebrate him for his teachings as well? Should we not pay attention to Jesus’ approbation of the violence in the old testament, such as killing disobedient children, owning slaves, and subjugating women? Should we overlook his violent behavior in the temples, and strict admonishments that anyone who did not agree with him would suffer eternal torture?
Or is it more intellectually honest to admit that both of these men were men of lunacy, egomania, and danger? When one accepts this about Jesus, the question then becomes: Is this why he was killed? Much like the trial of Charles Manson, the trial of Jesus may have been society’s referendum on a man who had become too delusional, yet too influential to keep preaching.
Like the California Supreme Court, did the Romans know that this man must be stopped for this reason? Obviously, his monotheistic preaching was deemed subversive by the establishment, but perhaps I am reaching. I am not a scholar of ancient Roman civilization, so I cannot honestly speak to this. What I can say is that in modern times, if a man were telling people who lusted after women “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out” and people were listening, he would certainly be a threat to civilized society. And if a man were claiming to be the son of god, I seriously doubt many would heed such a ridiculous claim.
Both Manson and Jesus preached an ending of violence. We got to see Manson’s; we never got the chance with Jesus. We never got to see Jesus in his fat Elvis period, with the bodies of 1,000 followers strewn around a bucket of grape kool-aid. This is why Jesus and his teachings have survived the ages. We never saw the end of the story. But look at recent history: David Koresh, Heaven’s Gate, Jim Jones, Charles Manson… there seems to be a common thread regarding the resolution of these cult stories. Some may say that Jesus was different, yet, I have shown excerpts from the New Testament that illustrate how Jesus either approved of violence, or was capable of it himself.
All cults start out as peaceful movements. All cons begin with the approach of a “nice guy.” To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, if you show people that you are genuinely interested in them, that’s how you get people to like you. And that’s what con-artists and cult leaders do. They make people feel special. They make them believe that they are cared for in a world that has forsaken them. They make them believe that they care more about them than they do themselves. Pretty soon, you have devoted followers who believe you are “godly.” That’s how you con someone. It’s a trick, and it’s as old as human beings.
Some people might argue that Jesus was different because he could perform miracles. I hate to break it to you, but Manson’s followers said the same thing about him. Pat Krenwinkel swore that she saw Manson “breathe on a bird and bring it back to life.” Jim Jones regularly cured people of various incurable ailments. It’s a trick. The magician doesn’t saw the lady in half. The psychic doesn’t tell you the future. And neither Jesus nor Charles Manson were the son of god.
Manson said he was Jesus Christ. As far as their behavior, is there really a strong reason not to agree with him? Manson said to abandon your family and follow him; so did Jesus. Manson said to forgo material possessions; so did Jesus. Manson issued stern warnings regarding the repercussions for those that did not follow him; so did Jesus. Manson convinced people he could perform miracles; so did Jesus. Manson advocated the deaths of those outside of his inner circle; so did Jesus. Manson initially influenced people by preaching peace and love; so did Jesus.
There is a word for what both of these men were: lunatics. These were men who desired deification, and their method was simple: preach love to convert them; preach fear to keep them. It is telling that the one sin in the New Testament that Jesus said was unforgivable was to deny the existence of the holy spirit. I am the son of god. I am the holy spirit. To be saved you must follow me. You must love me more than you love yourself. Me. Me. Me. Do you see the pattern? The standard operating procedure of a cult leader is to initially make a patron feel as if it is all about you. Flattery gets you everywhere. Once the leader has gained your trust, the truth emerges. It’s all about them.
I often tell religious people that I am the second coming of Christ. Most people either assume I am doing this to be funny, or to be a jerk. Neither. To this day, not one religious person has ever believed me, which illustrates my point: anyone, ANYONE, claiming to be the son of god is either a lunatic or a con-artist, or both, and some rational part of everyone’s brain knows that. I only hope that I never run across someone who believes me. Unlike cult leaders, I have no desire to be followed, worshiped, or immortalized. If I were less honorable, perhaps I would exploit their gullibility. Now, look inside yourself and ask the question: who is more holy—the man who dictates that either you worship him or you will suffer, or the man who would never ask such a thing of you? It’s too bad the followers of Manson couldn’t ask themselves this question until it was too late. The followers of Christ still have a chance.