It’s the dawn of the 90s. I’m a fresh face at uni, and pretty soon I meet an overseas student called Edmund. He’s in one of my English tutorial groups. He seems friendly. He invites me to a party on Friday night at something called the Celtic Club in the city centre. Of course I say yes. My first uni bash! I’m stoked because I have a feeling it’s going to be an absolute cracker.


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… that’s weird… there’s no bouncer at the door. Decent crowd, though, so that’s a good sign. Half of the people are playing limbo, which seems a little strange. And not a drop of booze in sight. Australian uni undergrads playing limbo at a dry Irish club? Yeah, something’s a bit off. But I don’t really drink much anyway, so who cares? I go with the flow and crack open a can of Fanta.

Everyone at the party is very friendly. Too friendly, actually. You might even say they’re suspiciously friendly. I’m getting so much attention from strangers that I’m not sure if I should be feeling flattered or creeped out. One guy in particular is a very close talker and I’m becoming convinced he’s trying to pick me up. Thankfully, he never makes a move. Eventually the party ends and I go home.


A week or so later, Edmund finds me at uni and asks if I want to meet some people later that night. To be honest I’d rather eat my own vomit, but I say OK. It turns out to be a church service, only it’s held in a building on campus instead of in a proper church. There’s a sermon, and people are jumping and yelling stuff like “Amen! Preach it, brother!” or “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, so 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 know for a fact that I’m neither fit nor particularly 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? Anyway, the party is held at a flat in the suburbs this time around, but again there’s no alcohol. I had predicted as much, which is why I rock 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. It’s definitely not like in the movies where everyone’s drinking out of red cups and all the girls are topless.

I find a chair and reflect on the Bible reading. I’d done my best, honestly. They’d asked for my interpretation of a certain passage and I’d given it, but I could tell that my take on things hadn’t impressed anyone. To be fair, though, I find religious text incomprehensible. It definitely doesn’t speak to me or move me in any way. I just couldn’t give a shit, and I don’t like pretending otherwise.

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 shit not about to reach for my wallet). As I’m pondering the money angle, the close-talking guy from the first party corners me and sings me a love song. It’s seriously bad. 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. Then he adds something about how he hopes he gets the permission of the church elders. ‘Church elders?’ I think to myself. What the fuck? I mean, those words are scary enough individually, but together they’re absolutely terrifying. And in that moment it finally dawns on me…


Parties where Bible readings are the highlight. Everyone is disturbingly friendly. And tithing! Boisterous church services. Controlling church elders. Limbo. It’s a cult. 100% guaranteed it’s a cult. And do I want to get tangled up in one of those?

Fuck no.

The next time I see Edmund, I ask him to leave me alone.

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