Kanye West's Sunday Services have generated a lot of speculation and theories and certainly have inspired more than a few evangelicals.

Back in December, Kanye West and Joe Rogan discussed the possibility that Kanye might come on Rogan's show to do a "serious interview speaking on mental health." However, the show was later canceled, and Rogan just recently stated that he thinks Kanye is "starting a new cult. It's clear, he's on his way," he said. "It's probably gonna be huge."

Kanye's Sunday Services have been drawing comparisons to cults since their inception. "It's got the early trappings [of a cult], I guess we could say," cult expert and sociologist Janja Lalich said to Vox. To better understand whether or not Kanye West is starting a cult, or if you're looking to start one of your own, here are five characteristics shared by the average cult.


1. Cults have charismatic, unquestioned leaders

Cults are nothing without their leaders. A great cult leader is able to persuade followers that they're the messiah, unquestionably knowledgeable and endowed with the secrets to the universe. Leaders often create stories about their own greatness, starting small and then building themselves into a messiah-like figure.

2. Cults use some form of brainwashing or indoctrination

Cults indoctrinate their members into the belief that their allegiances should always be to the cult above all else. They often do this by using a process called indoctrination, which slowly persuades people to fall completely for the cult's ethos. Cults use indoctrination to "break down a person's sense of self," according to How Stuff Works, using techniques like thought reform, isolation, induced dependency, and eventually, dread. As far as we know, Kanye hasn't yet done this.

The New Yorker

3. Cults use an "us versus them" mentality

Members of cults are taught to believe that all of their own beliefs are absolutely, unquestionably correct, while others' are fundamentally flawed. Interestingly, many cults actually aren't religious, though many cult members were raised religious but left their faiths.

4. Cults are exclusive—and lavish praise on their recruits

Most cults make their recruits feel special and seen, eventually convincing them that the cult is worth giving up their lives for. People who join cults tend to suffer from low self-esteem and a desire to belong to a group as well as naive idealism, according to Psychiatric Times, making them prime targets for cult recruitment.

5. Cults often exploit their members

More often than not, cults wind up exploiting their members, either monetarily, sexually, or both. Once recruits are totally indoctrinated into the cult, lavished with attention and completely convinced to swear loyalty to the cult, then the exploitation usually starts.

Judging by these criteria, Kanye West is probably not starting a cult.

West does have some characteristics of a cult leader in that he's always believed in his own genius; but for now, it seems like the Sunday Services are just experimental efforts to blend West's love of music promotion with his newfound born-again faith. Actually, most cults seem far more malicious than what Kanye is trying out—thus far, his organization has nothing on, say, the cult of capitalism, or the cult of Christianity.

Cults are part of the fabric of American life. Make sure you know the signs, and if you ever feel tempted to accept any form of Kool-Aid, think again.

TV Reviews

HBO's "I'll Be Gone In the Dark" Is a Complex Portrait of Serial Killer-Hunter Michelle McNamara

The improbably fascinating "I'll Be Gone In the Dark" subverts traditional serial killer narratives.

Michelle McNamara

In the years leading up to her death, Michelle McNamara haunted message boards, libraries, and Sacramento families to get to the bottom of the case that obsessed and consumed her.

McNamara, a true crime blogger whose interest in serial killers morphed into a compulsive desire to hunt and catch them, is the subject of a new HBO documentary series. The first episode, which premiered last Sunday, presents a small window into the mind of a woman who hunted serial killers until she accidentally overdosed on sleeping pills.

It's completely enthralling, a marked subversion of typical serial killer narratives as well as a commentary on their devastating and peculiar appeal.

I'll Be Gone In the Dark (2020): Official Trailer | HBO www.youtube.com

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Carrie Underwood Roasted Again for Her ‘Sunday Night Football’ Opening Song

A Building Tradition Football Fans Love to Hate

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On Sep. 9 right before NBC Sunday Night Football, Carrie Underwood kicked off the night by singing a new theme song — fans, however, were unenthused by the musical precursor.

Right away, 'Game On' features the Pepsi-Cola logo which immediately gives off a scummy advertisement feel — then it goes on to highlight Underwood in some kind of rave-y, epilepsy-inducing warehouse, singing and dancing to a simple song with a basic rock/country tune.

The theme video also featured select players drinking Pepsi and highlight reels from past games — there's really nothing different about this theme song in comparison to past years. It just seemed like something the network had to throw together to appease sponsors and feature celebrity appearances.

Both Underwood and football fans took to Twitter to complain — some hated all of her theme songs while others just wanted last year's back. Other Twitter users love Underwood, but dislike what she's doing with 'Sunday Night Football.'

However, it isn't just negative emotions — some fans were super excited to see Underwood on stage for another year and pumped her up on Twitter.

Compared to last year, this theme really wasn't that different — ' Oh, Sunday Night' featured the Verizon logo first, then a more "I love America" feel with the flag hanging off the side of a building. However, the song was catchier even though Underwood ended up on a stage — which then made it seem like we were watching the theme to the X Factor.

Underwood has been singing the theme since 2013 — before that, we had Faith Hill from 2008 to 2012 and Pink in 2006. To be perfectly honest, they all sound pretty much the same — the singers didn't even change that much in style.

Perhaps the network just want to play it safe — people tend to have adverse reactions to change, especially in a tradition as old as football. But wouldn't you want to hear, oh I don't know, maybe an R&B version of the theme song? Some say don't reinvent the wheel, but I say we should at least experiment with it.

Amber Wang is a freelancer for Popdust and various other sites. She is also a student at NYU, a photographer and intern at the Stonewall National Monument.

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