themes that do lurk in this book. And Inwould begin with a story of my own.nRecently, the local press reported a controversynwracking the University ofnMaryland—an otherwise calm behemothninstitution of no great distinction.nThe controversy involved the managementnof a “nonprofit” co-op lunchncounter where students could go rathernthan the local Pizza Hut or, worse, thenofficial student union. Rememberingninstitutional food as I do, almost anynalternative is welcome—even a nonprofitnco-op.nBut soft. The quarrel was not betweennthe university and its counterculturencompetitor. It was between two factionsnwithin the co-op struggling for the soulnof their enterprise. The issue was chocolatenmilk. Should it be sold? One groupnsaid yes because the customers wantednit and the sales would help their strugglingnlittle business. Others said no.nChocolate milk had additives thus compromisingnthe co-op’s chief doctrine:nnamely, only natural foods sold here.nThe controversy went on for months.nPerhaps it still has not been resolved.nThe ignorant will only laugh at whatnthey consider so much noise from solemnnassemblies. The learned will recallnthat in Gulliver’s Travels, the kingdomnof Lilliput was torn asunder by a similarnquestion of profound importance,nnamely, whether an egg should bencracked at the small or large end. Thenpartisans of the small end at the time ofnGulliver’s visit held the advantage althoughnthe issue had cost 11,000nLilliputian lives. It is true the co-op’sndeliberations are not the Council ofnTrent or even Vatican II, but they arentheological in nature. Those who favornchocolate milk sales are clearly advocatingna heterodox position within thenlarger faith that has touched us all. (Donnot, dear reader, be skeptical on thisnpoint. After all, the U.S. Department ofnAgriculture is seriously considering thenbanning of bacon.)nAdmittedly, the forces favoringnchocolate milk are probably in the majoritynat Maryland and across the coun­n.U)inChronicles of Culturentry. But the orthodox are more determined.nYou will recall that Athanasiusnat the Council of Nicaea could notnmatch his rival Arius in prestige, debatingnskill or size of following. Nevertheless,nthe less genial Athanasius endednup writing the Nicene Creed, and rodenArius out of the church and out ofnhistory.nMy purpose then is to invite seriousnconsideration of a broader problem illuminatednon occasion by Miss Mehtanand the recent controversy in CollegenPark. I speak of the culting of America.nThis is not to be confused with singleissuenconstituencies, much less thenevil of factions so wisely discussed bynJames Madison in The Federalist, No.n10. No. The culting of America is thentendency of our people to take any smallntruth, half-truth or some bit of utternnonsense and turn it into an entire waynof life. It becomes philosophy andntheology and the further it is from commonnsense and ordinary society, thenbetter. Remember the Latin word cultusnmeans care or adoration. Its old meaningndealt with the care of the gods—thatnis, beings outside and above their worshipers.nToday’s cults, including MissnMehta’s menagerie of holy men, usuallynreject the notion that anyone or anythingnis superior to them. They are reducednto the care and adoration of themselves—theirnbodies in particular. It isnno mere coincidence that our cults oftennanchor their “beliefs” in the ingestingnof some “sacred” substance—materialnranging from peyote to granola.nIs any of this really dangerous.” Ornare we merely dealing with an advancedncase of Me-ism.” After all, if people wishnto behave in a (more or less) legal butnfoolish manner, why should the rest ofnus complain? Is it not a constitutionalnright to behave like a jackass?nThe answer is both yes and no. Yes,npeople can act foolishly within the lawnthough that line is often trespassed asnthe recent shoot-out between Philadelphianpolice and a pseudo-African cultnattests. But having said that, the matternnndoes not end there. Until the earlyn1960’s, men and women of some tastenand learning had no trouble in labelingnthe lunatic fringe as just that—lunatic.nThe now-forgotten likes of Gerald L. K.nSmith and Gerald Winrod were regularlynpilloried for their beliefs, whichnranged from the merely goofy to thengenuinely malicious. But words likencrackpot (the American language isnsingularly rich in epithets describingnthe nutty) disappeared from our criticalnvocabularies, and soon the floodgatesnwere opened. It is no accident that thenlevel of public discourse sank while thennonsense index soared. The FirstnAmendment became an expression ofnapproval for any idea, no matter howninsane, rather than a law which merelyngranted permission to express that idea.nMeanwhile, the mass media, hungry fornthe novel, rejoiced in the prospect ofnendless examples of the bizarre.nOut there is more to it than mere acceptancenof balderdash even when wenknow better. All of these cults—theirnabsorption in their own minutiae—bearnsome real social costs. Political cultsndo the most obvious harm. From thenban-the-bombers to the back-to-natureists,nfew if any have examined thenconsequences of their beliefs. DoesnMiss Fonda really want to wash hernclothes by the banks of the Los Angelesnriver? I doubt it. But her splendidly irrationalnnotion about energy and fromnwhence it comes will in time reduce allnof us to similar plights. For the lesserncults, they too mean trouble. For thosenwho do nothing but follow their “littlentruths” to the end, their single-mindednessnmeans that they have little or nontime to practice civic virtue—whichnincludes everything from defendingnone’s country to curbing the dog. Fornthe cultists, it is the rest of us whonmust make it somehow work.nIn time, that simply is not going tonhappen, and that is not an amusingnprospect. Unfortunately, the consequencesnof Karma Cola await thenauthor’s second book. Dn