This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1991, Volume 8, Number 2, pages 251. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
Book Review - Tu eres el amor de Dios (You Are The Love of God).
Alfredo Silletta. Puntosur, Buenos Aires, 1990. 133 pages.
This is a concise collection of eight vignettes describing a few days in the life of a religious sect called Jovenes del Amor en Cristo. The book deals with how the life and teaching of this sect affect those involved and their loved ones. The story follows Andres, a 25-year-old newspaper reporter who is working undercover to learn about the group, and Natalia, an attractive young woman who has run away from home. Both Andres and Natalia join a group of about 30 youngsters who are visiting with the sect for the first time.
On their first day at the sect's farm, the visitors are greeted by sect members in a room covered with pictures of Padre Sam and Mick Jagger. Music by the Rolling Stones and wine flow freely. At this time the visitors have an opportunity to learn about the group and to tell their own stories. The dialogue reveals typical family problems, such as divorce, from which they have escaped. The young people spend a few days with the group. The men and women sleep in separate rooms; they awake early to cold showers before setting out to accompany members to sell flowers or proselytize. They also have meetings with the group's leader, Hermano Lucas, who briefs them on the history of the group and gives them his interpretation of the Bible.
The visitors' routine also includes therapy sessions, such as the so-called "Celestial," in which the young people enter a padded room after being blindfolded and undressed. Here they alternate between inhaling drugs to get closer to God, reading sensual materials, and listening to music by the Stones and Laurie Anderson. There is some sexual contact among the members. Other therapies that follow in later days last more than three hours and have similar formats and results.
For visitors who decide to join the group, such as Natalia, the therapy requires them to fast for 72 hours, while isolated in a room, exposed to pictures, recordings, and the group's literature, all the while taking drugs. The group's paraphernalia explains that prostituting oneself is equal to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and, through prostitution, the group will increase its power.
The book gradually reveals that Lucas successfully blackmails influential politicians who learn to tolerate the group's practices in exchange for not having their sexual behavior with girls from the sect exposed.
Natalia's preparation ends after three days when she is officially accepted into the group as a new member. From that point on she provides sexual favors to please both Lucas's demands and the corrupted politicians' desires until -- and due to a twist of events -- losing her place of preference in the group and her own life. Andres, in the meantime, manages to uncover the group's corruption, although not early enough to prevent Hermano Lucas's successful escape abroad.
The structure of the narration into vignettes gives the reader a rapid and concise view of what it is like to be among the members of this sect. Tu eres el amor de Dios could easily be read as a diary written by Andres or any other person who enters this scenario with a touch of skepticism instead of thirst for the ultimate answer to the problems of humanity. The succession of vignettes and their content, moreover, make this one of those fascinating and intriguing books that the reader will not put down before reading it all.
Gladys Martin. Berea, Ohio
Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1991