My Friend Still Believes in ‘Mother God’ After Cult Leader’s Tragic Death

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I didn’t set out to watch a glorified snuff film when I turned on Max’s recent documentary series Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God. The death viewers witness was that of Love Has Won founder Amy Carlson, who called herself “Mother God” and was the self-proclaimed physical incarnation of God here on Earth. You’d think it’s bad enough to watch a person’s death livestreamed by her “disciples.” But it was that much more disturbing given that back in 1997—my freshman year at Occidental College—I was good friends with and lived in the same dorm as one of Carlson’s devoted cult members.

In those days he went by Gabriel Gomez—a handsome, wicked-smart, and sensitive soul who introduced me to the writings of James Baldwin, effectively blowing my 18-year-old mind. His room was right above mine. We used to talk about art and politics. He liked the poems I’d write on his and everyone else’s dorm room whiteboards. These were the analog days before cellphones, when we’d have dorm movie nights with a stack of Blockbuster VHS rentals.

People grow and change as decades pass, but few change as much as my friend Gabriel. Now, he’s “Commander Buddha,” and he is featured heavily in Hannah Olson’s three-part series both in the interview and footage portions of the development and dissolution of the Love Has Won cult. He still looks like the boy I once had a mad crush on. But there’s an enormous gulf between the person I knew and the “Commander Buddha” he’s become.

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