To complement the planned publication of Balloons of the Apocalypse
Very Soon Now!™ [IT’S OUT NOW!], I am presenting a series of articles about a group that features prominently in the book – the Ludite (pronounced LEWD-ite) Church.
The start of the series – Introduction to the Ludite faith – can be found here.
They say that travel broadens the mind.
It also broadens the faith base, if done correctly.
And the Ludite Church knows how to do travel correctly.
In the post-Big Fed era of limited long distance travel options, the Ludite Church recognized that bringing the flock to Beet City was not a viable long-term option for growing the number of the faithful.
So they sent out missionaries, to both preach to the unwashed masses and to market the desirability of Beet City as a vacation retreat for those with the means to travel.
But when your faith’s spread is reliant on brainwashed proselytizers, you can’t just take a newly minted convert and turn them loose on the world.
The Ludites learned this the hard way in the early days, when mass defections and deprogrammings occurred amongst their missionaries once they were out and about, free of Beet City’s cloying control.
So the Church evolved and took steps to prevent any but the most devoted from going on missions. This involved a series of activities and tests designed to crush any form of free thought or resistance.
Little is known about the first few years of indoctrination within the walls of Beet City, called the Rite of Composition, except that at one stage it involves a coffin-sized box, a stage magician with a sword, and asparagus-flavored marshmallows. But the end result is an evangelical with an undying love of Beethoven and an unending devotion to His music and return.
Once an Initiate has been deemed to have passed the Rite of Composition, he or she progresses to an Associate Second Stand position within the Church. At this stage, the adherent is deemed indoctrinated enough to trust outside Beet City limits.
They are shipped out to neighboring city-states, though never one where relatives are known to live. The Church is not willing to risk a deprogramming effort made on the part of distraught (and now either penniless or locked in property litigation [see second article]) family members. The Associate Second Stand’s mission is to spread the Lyrics and Music of the Church to new potential Initiates.
A complicated point system taking into account the number, wealth, and geophysical location of new converts is used to judge the Associate Second Stand’s progress, and when a certain point score is reached, they are said to have achieved Clarissimo and are elevated to Second Stand.
Attainment of this level is accompanied by a laminated certificate from Il Maestro, the Church’s leader, congratulating them on their success.
This point system is the closest thing to a bible the Ludite Church has. However, unlike religions that feel compelled to spread the word of their holy documents, the Ludites hold this system as a closely guarded secret.
The official Church line is that to know and fully appreciate the rules, adherents must slowly build up their spiritual readiness in a carefully controlled manner in order to accept it.
Others, who admittedly have not seen the writings, suggest it is because the rules would be immediately recognized as silly when viewed through an eye untarnished by extensive brainwashing.
Many books detailing the point system have been written, but are only available to church members for a more-than-nominal charge. Skeptics have joined the Church in order to gain access, but to date, all have succumbed to indoctrination and are now vocal supporters of the Church.
Each copy of the books is uniquely numbered, never allowed to leave Beet City limits, and carefully watched. And so, to date, a copy has never made it into non-secular hands for examination.
An investigative journalist with a platoon of mercenaries came close, which is how the outside world learned that the books were designed to explode once more than a meter outside Beet City limits.
This is also how the outside world became acquainted with that most fearsome weapon, the baton blaster.
It doesn’t need to be said that none of the journalist’s team, herself included, survived the incursion.
Her posthumous article on a baton blaster gap, however, both won a Peabody and started a baton arms race.
Which led to a lot of wasteful spending on musical accoutrements and more than a few nasty musical military industrial accidents.
Also, her ghost writer was pretty steamed about not getting any credit for the Peabody.