We Feared My Mother-in-Law Was in a Cult

Then we figured out she was running one

Alan Tabor
4 min readMar 22, 2022


Book Jacket — The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey

It all started with the ideas she brought back from the churches she was exploring. Aided and abetted by her friend, Gail, she seemed to be drifting toward the black hole of extremism.

We heard about prayer described as tactical magic gauged by impact (okay, typical), but it evolved into talk about the feeling you get when a demon passes by (yikes), or how evolution was questionable, and, mostly, about the congruence of ideas that eventually became labeled ‘spiritual warfare.’ Her bookshelf sprouted Karl Rove’s autobiography and Hal Lindsay titles.

This was happening back in the 90s when gay guys in San Francisco were the big bogeymen. (Replaced now, in part, by Critical Race Theory and those oh-so-scary trans kids.)

We were in San Francisco. The epicenter of the ‘homosexual agenda’!

She started calling and telling us the ‘prophets’ had predicted a big earthquake in our city. She feared for our well-being. One day 2 months' worth of dried food showed up. (Anyone need 10 gallons of dried beef stroganoff? It expires this year.) Another time she called to assure us that she’d reserved places for us in an evangelical compound near Truckee where we could hole up when the shit hit the fan.

Um, gee, uh, thanks, Mom!

The timing here was around 2005–2010…significant in that California passed Prop 8, an initiative to outlaw gay marriage in 2008. The political froth was way lathered.

During the height of it all, I found this in the local paper:

A bit of background. Calfornia passed Prop 8. The California Supreme Court overturned it. Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to challenge that court decision. Imperial County stepped in to mount a defense. (They lost.)

So, the two gentlemen from Imperial County pictured above were featured in the story. They are pastors. They are standing in their church. It is being



Alan Tabor

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at http://altabor.org/