Growing up as a Jewish kid, I had a guilty pleasure. Every Saturday night at midnight, I would close my bedroom door, turn down the sound on my little TV, and sneakily watch Christian rock videos on the religious channel TBN. Lately, I’ve been doing roughly the same thing with Far Cry 5’s cult radio station.

My parents wouldn’t have been upset about my predilection for 90s Christian rock. My sister and I were raised Jewish, but my dad was a lapsed Catholic. At most they would have found it weird, the way they’ve largely found my lifelong exploration of faith. In the intervening years I worked at my undergrad’s Jewish center, took Zen Buddhist lay vows, got a master’s in theology, worked as a prison chaplain with the Jesuits, and even showed up in a photo book about Muslim punk rock. I’ve faith-hopped, like many people of my generation, eventually settling into a sort of Christian-adjacent space. As I usually glibly sum it up, God is incredibly important to me but I don’t really care if any of it’s real. Through all my searching I’ve always been drawn to Christian music, from awkwardly earnest Christian ska to 19th century Shaker hymns to Far Cry 5’s excellent soundtrack.

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The game is full of religious cult music that you can hear while traveling through its fictional Montana county called Hope. Each of its songs has a pop version you can hear on the radio and a choral version sung in the cult’s churches. The songs were written by Beasts of the Southern Wild composer Dan Romer. In an interview with NPR, he explained that the hymns serve the purposes of the game’s cult, The Project at Eden’s Gate, for “brainwashing and recruitment purposes. And so I was trying to write songs that would make you want to join this cult.”

Early in my time playing Far Cry 5, I stole a gray pickup truck, switched the radio to the cult station, and sat there listening. The game throws enemies at you pretty constantly. Enemy cultists will drive up and shoot at you. A cult helicopter might buzz overhead. The game is trying to cajole you into the fun of fighting them. I wanted to listen to the music. So I drove my truck in some bushes to attempt to listen undisturbed. At first glance it’s difficult to see how the music would work as a recruitment tool. The radio-friendly versions of the songs are modern and catchy, but they’re also insular, referencing people and beliefs only cult members would understand. “Keep Your Rifle By Your Side” has a generic if disturbing message that might appeal to some people, but it’s not likely to get the uninitiated into Eden’s Gate.

The hymns may not seem like they would convert anyone, but as songs sung by Eden’s Gate’s faithful, they illuminate the cult more than a lot of the game’s dialogue does. There’s a heavy political bent, speaking of disappointment with or distrust of the government that many people can probably relate to. One of my favorites, “We Will Rise Again,” combines politics with a religious angle, saying in part

The rich will get what they want

the poor will lose what they need

The devil knows our fears

he told all his friends…

Oh Lord, the Great Collapse won’t be our end

when the world falls into the flames, we will rise again.

The Great Collapse is the world-ending drama at the heart of Eden’s Gate’s eschatology, but its relationship to America’s financial crisis of 2008 is obvious. The fear of weathering a political crisis—and the promise that you’ll not only survive, but won’t be doing it alone—is relatable and moving, told here in plain language with a coffeeshop rock vibe.

The same politics appear in the honky tonk “Let The Water Wash Away Your Sins,” (sung by Romer), which also looks at the end of the world and politics. The song seems to see trust in the government as one of the sins Eden’s Gate can cleanse from its followers:

If you spent your whole life working for a world that feeds on doubt

Let the water wash away your sins

And those banks keep getting bigger, while your pockets empty out

Let the water wash away your sins

And if all the thieves and liars have been knocking at your door

Let the water wash away your sins

And they said they’d feed your family and you believed what they swore

Let the water wash away your sins

Other sins seem to include cold, dark, unhappiness, familial violence, and indecision. The darker hymn “Set Those Sinners Free” casts being unable “to tell wrong from right” as a sin, it shows the broad range of things the cult considers a sin and its unique take on the matter. Cult lieutenant John Seed in particular is concerned with this, reveling in these everyday, deeply human “sins” while also promising freedom from them through torture and “the power of yes.” Sin and politics might be employed as cultural shorthand, but there’s also a relatable undercurrent of weariness with our current world.

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Through its music, Eden’s Gate’s promises safety from these sins and what the cult sees as their inevitable bad end. Safety is a theme that comes up a lot in the cult’s music, not just in the idea of the government coming to take your guns or the world ending. There’s a real human fear of loneliness and a longing for family, for an abundant community and a safe place for it to thrive. The raucous “Oh John” says, “He’s finding us a family, he’s teaching us the faith/Oh John, keep us safe/he’s gonna march us right through Eden’s gate.” The Tom Waits-esque “Build a Castle” sings of a building where “we’re gonna be safe and sound tonight...Our house will still be standing when the world is all but gone.”

There are more solitary fears the cult can help with too. The melodic “Help Me Faith” is a play on Faith Seed, the cult’s drug-toting sister, but it also speaks to the things we want faith itself to do for us, with the plaintive singer asking Faith/faith to shield her “from sorrow, from fear of tomorrow...shield me from sadness, from worry and madness.” It’s one of the many things people go to religions of all sorts, including cults, for. We wish we weren’t lonely or scared. We want enough, or we want more, and we want to know we’ll get it, that we deserve it. We want to feel better, or at least think feeling bad is worth it.

Lots of religions, including cults, prey on emotions of loneliness and fear to control and exploit followers. Early on in my own religious life, I refused to pray out of any emotion besides “duty.” I never prayed when I was overwhelmed, sad, or scared because I thought it made me weak, a sucker turning to some made-up God just to feel better. Over time I came to see this self-righteous idea as a way of avoiding those unpleasant feelings altogether. Through bringing them to God, I started to learn how beautifully human all our emotions are. There are two kinds of vulnerability in admitting you want what all people want: being just as human as everyone else, and opening yourself—as the members of Eden’s Gate have—to someone abusing that humanness for their own ends.

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Eden’s Gate’s music shows why people would want to join the cult in a more moving and comprehensive way than the rest of Far Cry 5. Most of the cult members in the game itself seem to join because of the consequences of not joining. Sitting in my hidden truck, letting the songs cycle through, I got a clearer sense of what Eden’s Gate believes and why Hope County’s residents would want to believe it too. Far Cry 5 is Far Cry—it’s goofy and loud and you solve every problem with guns. But in its music, it’s raw, vulnerable, and relatable.