Culminating the Cult of Trumpism

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The Trump cult is like no other cult in American history.

When Steven Hassan speaks of cults and how to “deprogram” cultists, I suppose we should listen. The man is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on cults. He speaks and writes authoritatively not only because he’s spent years studying cults from an academic standpoint, but also because, decades ago, he had to be deprogrammed from his slavish involvement in the Moonie cult.

Mr. Hassan knows, perhaps better than anyone else, what defines a cult, what defines a cult member, what life inside a cult is like, and how to help a cult member see the truth and escape a cult.

So, yes, we—I—should pay attention when Mr. Hassan says, “To extricate someone from a cult such as Trump’s, you should also ask the person to think about people who have lied to them or people who took advantage of them. Ask them to reflect on an experience where someone hired them and then refused to pay them. Would they want to work for someone like that again? Would they trust someone like that again?”

The problem I found with Hassan’s advice is that I’d already tried it and had no success. As I’ve written before, many of my friends and relatives are loyal Trump cultists, and nothing I’ve said to them—including the type of reflection Hassan suggests—has had any positive effect. Indeed, every attempt I make toward reasoning with them only bolsters their loyalty to their hero. One of my Trumpist relatives will happily discuss any topic with me—except Donald Trump. She knows my opposition to her cult leader, so the moment I speak of him, our conversation ends. And she’s the least dedicated of my many Trump-devoted friends and relatives.

The Trump cult is like no other cult in American history. It is unmatched in the depth of its adherents’ devotion, and unequaled in its influence on the nation’s decision making. Other cultists, such as Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, controlled the lives—and deaths—of hundreds; Donald Trump controls the lives of millions directly, and hundreds of millions indirectly. The impulsive, daft decisions made by Trump—and heralded by his cultists—bear the authority to affect the life of every American, and even beyond that, of every person on the planet.

Donald Trump controls the lives of millions directly, and hundreds of millions indirectly.

And because Trump’s supporters’ devotion to him is cult level, nothing will dissuade that devotion. We’ve seen that absolute loyalty on numerous occasions. Many former administration staffers—including Cabinet members—have warned of Trump’s dangerously unstable personality. Rather than be alarmed by such warnings, his cult followers then turn on those “deep-state” traitors. Video and audio recordings have plainly revealed Trump’s many blatant lies and horrendous errors. Rather than registering any concerns over such lies and blunders, his cult followers turn against the “fake news” media, who, they assume, must be lying. Historians and Constitutional scholars have chronicled this president’s many violations of historic governmental standards and constitutional decrees. Rather than objecting to such abuses, his cult followers applaud his dismantling of the status quo.

I’d love to be able to sit down with my Trumpist friends and, in a calm and rational manner, “Ask them to reflect on an experience where someone hired them and then refused to pay them,” as Steven Hassan suggested. Sure, they’d agree that such behavior is wrong. But I know how they’d react if I were to then try to equate such behavior with the actions and character of their messiah. End of discussion. Please leave.

Not long ago, Jill Dennison asked me how we can reach my fellow evangelicals who have fallen into the Trump cult and help them escape. My answer was that I had no answer. The truth is that I think it’s simply too late for almost all of them. They made their choice and nothing will persuade them to repent. Now, we are at war, politically and culturally. Victory must be won through ballots. Please do everything you can to ensure that, November 3, all your sane, non-Trumpist relatives, friends, and acquaintances vote to remove Trump–and his lackeys in Congress. And for those so inclined, please pray it ends with ballots rather than bullets. Some cultists know no bounds in preserving their foolish faith.

11 comments

  1. As I was reading this very good post, I recalled that you are religious and even an evangelical, but not the extreme variety and you use good common sense.
    So my question to you is why do you think these trump cultists are in so deep?
    Luckily I’m around very few and I actually choose my life and friends to fit into my world view. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I can’t handle the toxicity and unbelievable willful ignorance of the trump cultists. It’s for my own peace of mind and my health.

    But in my little experience with a few, I can’t help but see several repeating common traits in these people.
    Usually white, to some fair degree racist, religious to the point that abortion and gay marriage rule all their concerns about religion, often not educated in a worldly way, never living out of the area they grew up in, not much experience in bigger cities,large universities, overseas travel and this names most of what I see.
    But the other thing that sticks out to me, especially the men and the women married to this type of man, is this need to be a bully of sorts, an “in your face” attitude and a disdain for people they view less than themselves..

    Just my observations and wonder what you see and in your case, considering your background of religiosity, if this comes to the forefront in your family and friends.

    I hope you don’t think I’m being insulting because in no way is that true..I’m just curious.

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    1. You asked, “Why do you think these trump cultists are in so deep?” I think the answer is that many of their prominent evangelical leaders proclaimed Trump to be “God’s Chosen Vessel.” They compared him to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, who came to believe in the Hebrew God, Yahweh, or to the Persian King Cyrus, who allowed the captive Israelites to return to their Promised Land. I know it sounds bizarre, downright crazy. But there’s no reasoning with them.
      As to the borderline racist and bully attitudes, yes, that’s true of many–but not all.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Thinking about it, remember how the people laughed at Noah while he was building his ark? They laughed until the laughter turned to gurgles as the floods came. Then God hardened pharoah’s heart when Moses approached him for the last plague, the Passover. Then Satan, who can’t act without permission from God, approached the throne & asked if he could make Job suffer to prove he’d lose his faith. God granted his request with a few exceptions. vulnerable people & some so-called, present day…the devil who adores Trump approaches God & says, “America claims to be “On nation under God, it seems to me they’ve forgotten you in the equation. I have a servant who can teach America a lesson. Let me act to deceive as many people as possible, including those with hidden prejudice, violent tendencies & the so-called Christian leaders who have wanted more than they’ve been given & put my servant in the Oval Office. We’ll see just how many stick with you.” God says, “Okay, but remember this, My people will remain faithful to me & will pray for America. You know that the prayers of the righteous are powerful. Some may be very angry at first but will soon remember what they have to do & quite frankly, Satan, your butt will get a walloping like you haven’t had since the first Easter. Game on!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    M’lord … this is quite scary!! Even though I don’t want to, “IT” is always in the forefront … my mind and in front of my eyes!!
    This is why: ‘Trump controls the lives of millions directly, and hundreds of millions indirectly. The impulsive, daft decisions made by Trump – and heralded by his cultists – bear the authority to affect the life of every American, and even beyond that, of every person on the planet.’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post Jerry. “Please pray it ends in ballots, not bullets.” That, my friend, is a quote I shall never forget.

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  5. Jerry, the best example I can think of is Daryl Davis, a black man who has talked over 200 KKK members to give up their robes and quit the Klan. He talked to them and listened. Then, he asked questions. Here is an article from NPR.

    I also liked Jill’s posting of The Lincoln project op-ed piece about Republicans who put country first over party. To me, we must used that tack to get folks willing to listen. I have a post coming today about responding to a Republican friend who felt we should support the president after I sent him the op-ed courtesy of Jill.

    To be frank, the hard core likely cannot be reached. My hope is the less hard core and independents may listen. But, I like using the Republican angle as Trump tells his followers it is the Democrats who just don’t like him. Keith

    https://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544861933/how-one-man-convinced-200-ku-klux-klan-members-to-give-up-their-robes

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  6. Good post. I haven’t found any good way of approaching Trumpists either. I wrote in January 2017 about how Trumpism was a new religion. If you actually try to follow Christianity, it is not all that easy. It asks you to listen to your “better angels” but Trump says, “forget that and listen to your worst angels.” So, it’s easier so that’s part of it. It has now become, quite literally, a death cult. It’s precisely *because* he is so bad on so many dimensions that they are so adamant about defending him. They *must* keep defending him vigorously in order not to hate him themselves.

    Consider what life looks like to the Trump supporter. Let’s say you voted for Trump and you supported him. You believed him when he said he was going to make America great. You believed him that all the “attacks” on him were made up stories: his assaults on women, his criminality, his lies — you believed they were all fake news.

    Now, Trump says, yet again, that the pandemic is no big deal and it’s going away soon and everybody’s out to get him. You have two main choices:

    1. You continue to believe everything Trump says. How do you feel? You feel good! Pandemic? A pain, but it will go away soon. He’s making America great! Wonderful! And best of all, YOU helped put him in office. The only thing that really frosts your cake is the people who are hating on him.

    2. You realize Trump is and has been lying. How do you feel? Horrible! Oh, NO! There’s a cruel bully cheater con man in the White House **destroying** America! There’s a pandemic killing tens of thousands of innocent Americans! And worst of all, YOU helped put him in office!

    https://petersironwood.com/2020/06/28/essays-on-america-happy-talk-lies/

    Liked by 1 person

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