“Cult?” : Kevin H.
“Cult” : Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work.
These past few years have led me to my current conclusion. But I believe it was the almost forty years before, that set the stage.
For nearly forty years, theologically conservative (and mostly white) Christians have been told that the Democrats, or the liberals, or the progressives, or the mainstream media, etc. represent evil. They have been told that the Democrats or the Socialists or the Communists (often they are grouped as one in the same) are out to get us. They have been told that a vote for a Democrat is a vote to kill babies, a vote for sexual immorality, and a vote to steal money from those who deserve it and give it to the undeserving. They have been told that Democrats are to be feared and must be defeated if America is to be maintained as a Christian nation. And they have been told, that even though the Republicans might have some flaws here or there, they are the party that stands for righteousness and must be voted for because they will gallantly stand for Christian values and morals and fight back the immoral Democrats who are trying to sabotage this nation.
Maybe the messaging isn’t always as bold, audacious, or obvious, but the underlying notion is pervasive and everpresent.
Along the way, American culture increasingly has been discarding traditional Christian values, especially in the areas of sexuality and gender. Concurrently and jointly in many ways, the laws of the land have been slowly but surely chipping away at religious freedoms, most specifically of those who hold to traditional Christian values. And if the law doesn’t get you, then the culture very well may and before you know it, you will be “canceled”. Prophecy is thus deemed fulfilled and all the more the reasons to fear the Democrats and liberals are lauded and justified. Now, more than ever, has the call become that the Democrats must be defeated if this country is to be saved and Christianity to be preserved.
Alas, a strongman comes along and proclaims he will save us and our country. He says he will make us great again. He vows to fight back the evil and radical Democrats and will protect Christianity, some close to him even going as far to say that he will save Christianity. The strongman says he will stand for the values and freedoms that are near and dear to our hearts, simultaneously claiming to be the most pro-life president ever, and he demonstrates his great strength and resolve for Christianity and our country by having the troublemakers forcibly moved out of the way so that he can symbolically and triumphantly stand before a church with a Bible raised in hand.
Some flocked to the man immediately, but others had their doubts and concerns. Over time however, as the rhetoric continues to be amplified and the flames of division are fanned stronger and stronger, more and more have come to see the man as their last great hope for their country and the faith within. Yes, the man has his flaws most will admit, but they will also maintain it is unmistakable that God raised up this man for a time such as this and we must support him if we are true Christians and/or are serious about our faith and righteousness. To not do so is to be doing the work of the enemy (Satan). Forty years of preaching the evils of the Democrats and the righteousness of the Republicans has culminated in this.
- The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader, and regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (e.g., the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
- The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
- The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders, or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
- The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.
Now, what we see today cannot be defined as a cult because it is much too broad and expansive and disorganized and fails to meet many other characteristics of a cult. But the conclusion I have come to is that many aspects of Trumpism are very cult-like and many people are caught up in the phenomena in a cult-like fashion. And distressingly, the largest body of people who seem to have taken up these cult-like ways are Christians.
I have said many times before that I actually agree with some things that President Trump says and does. I have also said many times before that I do not condemn anyone who voted for Trump in the last election or will do so again in this election. I understand and sympathize with and share some of the same concerns, even if I don’t come to the same end judgment, for why Christians would choose to vote for Trump given all the current state of our culture and country and the many difficulties and/or immoralities represented by the only other people or party who could viably win election.
The last thing I will do is judge someone’s faith or salvation based on how they choose to vote (or choose to not vote at all) in an earthly election that by necessity encompasses only fallen, sinful individuals. (Although this type of judgment sure seems to be a pretty popular take these days). But what I will say without reservation, is that we’ve got a major and very disturbing problem in the church. Specifically for me, it is the conservative evangelical (and mostly white) church that has this problem, as this is the segment of the church I call home, even as it is very broad in scope and definition.
All the more, I grasp at straws and often feel helpless and hopeless as to what to do about it. I may not always do so in the best or most effective fashion, but in whatever little way of influence I may have, I speak my peace in the best and most faithful way I know how in order to bring awareness to the problem and exhort Christians to follow after the ways of Christ and not those of a bastardized mash-up of Christianity and American politics. And I pray that God would change the hearts of the people of the church. Yet, the monster only seems to continually grow bigger and stronger and uglier.
We see this happening all over the news and social media and within our own little worlds of church and personal relationships. I suspect there are a good many who share my observations and feelings of dismay. Over the past four years I have seen quite a few friends, family members, and acquaintances, most who I considered to be solid Christians, gradually yet persistently reject the values and characteristics of their Savior and take on those of the man they have increasingly give their allegiance to. Even when asked, they show little concern for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc., all the while pridefully displaying greater and greater bluster, arrogance, crassness, dishonesty, slander, disdain, and discord.
More and more the willingness to listen or reason together is replaced by empty mantras and marked vitriol and the posting of snarky (and often deceptive and slanderous) memes. In greater and greater frequency, discussion of issues or concerns are rejected in favor of the opportunity to take injurious personal aim at the messenger or the one seen as the opponent or enemy. Plain and obvious immoralities or violations of God’s commands or virtues are increasingly ignored or minimized or justified or even praised to protect the leader and maintain the cause. Those who dare speak to the problems in their camp are called out and judged to be judgmental (isn’t that ironic) or divisive, labeled with the dreaded tag of pushing liberal politics or being a liberal (even if there is no evidence of such), and treated like the enemy. They are told that they are just brainwashed by liberals and the media and don’t understand what is all going on in the whole scheme of things, like they do. Overt realities, documented facts, and sympathetic or understanding postures are rejected if they might possibly get in the way of the end goal, whatever that may be in some misguided, if not shameful attempt to preserve God and country. It is all so very cult-like and it is all so very disheartening.
I fear that someday we’re going to look back on this era in history as a big ugly mark for American Christianity. Christians will look back with regret and condemnation that so many in the church at that time had gone astray from representing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and concerning themselves with His Kingdom in preference for preserving some kind of earthly “Christian” kingdom, all the while following after leaders and employing behaviors that have nothing to do with being Christ-like.
Lastly, I do not write to make it seem like all the problems of the church reside in conservative evangelicalism or that there is nothing good about it. I recognize and am grateful for the many good things that happen in the church (in conservative evangelicalism or otherwise) while also being more than aware that many other segments of the church have their own considerable problems and corruption. However, conservative evangelicalism is my home and this growing immorality hits me the hardest. It is all around me and I see many people I care about taking turns for the worse and going down treacherous paths ridden with all kinds of snares and destructive traps.
I pray that the church changes its ways before this big, ugly, cult-like driven mark gets any bigger. I pray that God would make me aware of whatever I may be doing to contribute to this mark. Because even as I believe I can see the blind spots of many in the conservative evangelical church today, I know I have my own, too. May we all be willing to listen to each other, even if it is sometimes painful to do so. May we always seek His Kingdom first.
Republicanitis isn’t part of my Christian faith, however, if one votes Biden Harris, i hope you’ve taken a hard look at Harris because, unless miraculously the party can keep Biden propped up for four years, you’ve just voted Harris into the office of President. Or worse, she steps down and you’ve got President Pelosi.
I think those who see Trump, the businessman, as a bad President are the ones drinking Kool-Aid… Dunno, thoug, do i. 🙆
I never liked Kool-Aid.
“Alas, a strongman comes along and proclaims he will save us and our country.”
Isn’t this the Biden / Harris / DNC battle cry right now — that they are here to save us and our nation from the evil Trump? What a bunch of cultists!
Maybe Kool-Aid drinkers have a personality defect… joking
Kevin H’s post IS good food for thought as most Born Agains should be discerning….. But, alas, God says we are sheep doing what the sheep (wolf?) in front of us does….
Good question MLD, good question…..
That’s exactly why I feel we need a different sheep (wolf?) in front of us.
A change of cults would be nice.
Bob, and that’s all it would be, another cult. I have been trumpeting (pun intended) for the past couple of months that the election means nothing (other than one side gets their guy in) and the issues will remain.
I would imagine that all the things Obama & Biden were bitching and moaning about in the 2008 campaign are the same they are bringing up today – and they did nothing to correct them during their own 8 years.
Remember, all of Hillary’s campaign complaints were coming out of the Obama / Biden administration.
I go back to Truman – you are older than me so maybe you go back one more to FDR – but nothing changes. So if we get a new cult, it will be the 14th cult for me.
I’m not that much older than you. 🙂
Point taken. That’s why I want a new cult.
This article is not meant to be an endorsement in any way whatsoever for Biden or any other candidate or party. Rather it is a commentary on how a disturbingly significant amount, and seemingly increasingly so, conservative evangelicals are conducting themselves.
Of course the Biden/Harris/DNC cry is that they are out to save us from Trump. But that’s not the group I’m addressing here.
And I’m also not addressing the failures of Trump, Biden, Obama or any other politician or party. Again, I am addressing the behavior of a particular group of people who are exhibiting cult like behavior, including the prideful exhibition and justification of sinful behavior in a public fashion, all the while claiming to be standing for Jesus and righteousness.
Nice to see an article from you again Kevin!
Thanks, Dan. Most of my writing thoughts over the past couple years have been related to Christian interaction in politics. But politics already get discussed enough around here even, when articles have little or nothing to do with politics. So I try to reduce Michael’s torment by not sending him too much. 🙂
“the laws of the land have been slowly but surely chipping away at religious freedoms,”
I haven’t noticed the chipping away of any of my religious freedoms. Which religious freedoms have you lost?
I just saw my sister and brother-in-law over the weekend (I only see them once a year). My bro-in-law is not a Christian. He doesn’t have any religious allegiances at all, except to his new Savior, Donald J Trump. Everything DT does is right and true. COVID-19 is a lie, and all the the lies will go away after Trump is re-elected. There is no discussion; only continuous repetition of anything on Fox News about Trump and his sayings. It’s scary.
I just mentioned to MLD a question regarding Dan 6 and his take on it.
I dont think ch 6 is directly pertaining to this post but I’m thinking ch.7 does. This is sorta my 10/2020 evolutionary location:
1. The Church is not a weighted average over 20+ centuries.
2. Point #1 Guarantees North American Evangelicals will be massively representive of what constitutes a Christian after the Resurrection, in the afterlife.
3. Evangelicalism is transforming into a civic religion. It can now be discribed ad having an earthly king.
4. There, the direction of my thinking is Evangelicals may emerge from Resurrection with their civic structure and loyalty to their earthly Head intact.
I realise I am proposing something outside traditional orthodoxy. Not because I deny orthodoxy, but because orthodoxy was not intended to apply to these sorts of questions.
Kevin @ 11:32
That is exactly why i felt you’d posted some good food for thought today….. 😘
Some may read this article and say that the author is being overly dramatic in his accounts of the Trump cult among white evangelicals. I can tell you that among Calvary Chapel Christians, this description is painfully accurate. So much so that my husband and I left Calvary Chapel after attending for over 3O years. The question is, what happened? Long before Calvary Chapel became so blatantly political, they seemed to demonize other groups in our community. They mocked seminaries ( calling them cemeteries), they constantly demonized the public schools, they claimed that psychologists and mental health medications were demonic and sinful, they implied that a college education was a wasted indulgence, and they even said very negative things about other churches in our communities, calling them “dead” churches, particularly fearing Catholics. They seemed to arrogantly revel in their supposed superiority to everyone else. God tells us that we are a ‘chosen’ but nowhere in the Bible does he tell us that we should be puffed up with pride over our salvation. Bothy of my children were designated as “gifted” intellectually after being IQ tested by their schools. When they notified us, I told them both that that did NOT give them any special status, that conversely, it meant that MORE was expected of them. I raised my children to have humility and to never look down on others. How has the church become so full of pride? Many years of this ‘Us Verses Them’ preaching from Evangelical leaders created a climate that enables the Trump Cult to take root in white evengelucal churches such as Calvary Chapels. “Pride goeth before a fall”; I see evangelism ready to take a great fall after their embrace of Republican politics and Trump. I also believe that too many Calvary Chapelites have sealed themselves in a Christian ‘bubble’ of sorts ( the evangelical ghetto), and they now have a grossly distorted view of the world. Not much different than the QAnon believers, I suppose
I have not personally had any loss of religious freedoms in this country. However, the documented cases of such in this country are continuing to grow, some more well known than others. I am far from one to cry persecution or claim that things like the removal of required school prayer are religious freedom losses, but I do assert that religious freedoms are being slowly chipped away.
We see cases like the Little Sisters of the Poor being mandated by the government to cover contraception, some that may even be considered to be abortificants, and having to fight endless legal battles about it since the passing of the ACA (even as I believe there were good parts of the ACA, too). There are the continually growing cases of bake shops and florists and photographers who are being made to provide their services to gay marriages even if it violates their consciences due to religious beliefs (even as I believe that in at least some of these cases, it would be the better Christian thing to do to provide the services without resistance). And there are more and more cases like this one: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/praying-coach-joe-kennedys-lawsuit-against-bremerton-school-district-thrown-out/ where a Christian high school football coach loses his job because he won’t give up his long established habit of kneeling and praying totally on his own after the completion of each game.
If we go back 10, 15, 20 years, these things were not issues and these people would have been able to conduct themselves according to their consciences and given religious freedoms. Today, it is much more of a possibility that people will get in trouble for doing so.
(by the way, I’m the author of this article) I hear you and can identify with a good much of what you say. Conservative Christians, Calvary Chapel and beyond have been conditioned in a good many ways to get caught up in this current event of Trumpism.
Yes, this can affect non-Christians, too, just as much as Christians. It’s just that Christians who already claim an allegiance to Jesus Christ should have a greater awareness that something’s not right when their allegiance is being taken away from where it should be.
Em, glad you found it good. 🙂
During this pandemic, thousands of congregations around the country collected billions of dollars in tax payer money to pay their clergy and other expenses. Taxpayers not only subsidized churches, but any religions. And tax deductions do so also on a regular basis. All that tax money contributes to the ability of religious people to effectively practice their religions. Perhaps they should thank their pagan neighbors for the handouts.
I can see one justification of sorts for evangelicals elevating Trump… He is outspoken in his respect for the Christian Faith as he understands it, perhaps. He comes out of a Presbyterian upbringing, but now declares himself nondenominational… As do i.
However, that can be a very broad brush – a bit loosie-goosey? For my part, i consider myself a Bible respecting, conservative non denom’ evangelical…. Can’t stand prosperity gospel as i understand it…..
AND a BIT of a libertarian political. . .
Jean @ 1:52
How did the churches do that exactly? ? ?
Em, they were included in the PPP program of the second stimulus bill. The Catholics reportedly took 1.3 billion. My little congregation took about $20k.
I have no idea what the Mormons, JWs, Adventists, Scientologists, Christian Scientists, Moonies, Mosques, synagogues, and assorted other temples and cults received.
My congregation took no PPP money. I as the congregational president I got together with the pastor and head elder to say no — we did not want their filthy lucre.
You had to fill out a form and tell them why you needed it – none of their business. Then you must tell the congregation why you took it. What are you going to say, “we can’t manage our church during a crisis?”
I think it was wrong for it to be offered to churches — but then at the same time, I was against bailing out the auto industry. 🙂
Nicely done and, sadly, accurate…
Em, Prominent Republican Ben Sas on October 16th said that , ” In private, Donald Trump mocks Christians.” If that is true, as he claims it is, then Trump surely does not respect the Christian faith. George Will, a brilliant Catholic political columnist and former Republican left the Republican Party when they nominated Donald Trump. George Will became a registered Independent ( as I have been my entire adult life). He chose his faith, and Jesus, over his political party. Many Christians believe that,Trump is “using ” Christians in order to stay in power. I know that Trump for all of his life supported a woman’s right to choose, and then changed his stance on abortion only when he ran for the presidency. Trump’s relationship to Christians is entirely transactional. Can a man like this really be trusted? So many Republicans are voting for Biden this time around; it is clear that they no longer trust Trump.
his life publicly claimed that he believed
That is a sad thing.. Unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…..
I have a hunch God smiled at MLD’s congregation… with Pope Francis at the helm, the RC’s have a list of items that go against God’s directives, it seems to me, i.e., Mary as co-redeemer? Yet there are many God fearing souls in that church, i believe
I don’t think it’s an either or. I think we can be appreciative of the freedoms that do and have long existed and benefit the church, while at the same time recognize that some religious freedoms are being reduced. I think there are far bigger concerns in this country than the small level (at this point) of freedoms that have been lost, but can still acknowledge that they are a concern.
B of C, i have heard that accusation also… Question is, is it the followers or the Faith? Or… Like most of us Trump just may spot the phonies, the exploiters of Christian sheeples
“He is outspoken in his respect for the Christian Faith”
If he gave a damn about the Christian faith, he would not hold super-spreader events and invite all his followers to them. Do you realize that the communities he visits, where he gathers 5-15k people in close proximity, where most people are unmasked, will be felt by those communities in the weeks and months that follow? He is doing this in contravention of his own CDC guidelines. No orthodox Christian doctrine supports this wickedness.
Jean, as a private person i have no idea what he thinks of us, but if he realizes our worth to the nation, he is an asset to our place in this nation….
One of the outspoken British atheists of our time observed that, although he did not believe in the God of our Bible, everywhere in the world where Christians resided were better places. Old age is blocking my recall of the atheist’s name – sorry
“everywhere in the world where Christians resided were better places.”
I agree 100%.
But when if the devil sent us a Trojan Horse, and we thought that this leader would support and strengthen Christianity in America? When if he promised to make Christianity great again? When if he promises to fill all our pews again?
But when if in reality, what he did was to destroy Christianity in large segments of the Christian church? Wouldn’t that be the greatest Trojan Horse in the history of mankind?
You see, many if not all of us would like to see a strong and growing Christian church in America. Who would not? But the way to there is where I part company with many.
Some of us who follow the Scriptures do not see a church that flourishes by secular power. Is there any book of the Bible supporting the view that secular power is there to grow the church?
I read of a church that suffers from secular power, but through suffering rejoices, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.”
I confess that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
These are not popular doctrines at all. They will not fill pews, support mega-church budgets or sell lots of books. I get all that. It’s foolishness and a rock of stumbling to many.
But, and this is very important, Christ will not remove the offense of the cross. And he will not allow any secular government to remove the offense of the cross.
I just want to say there’s good people on both sides and there’s some very nasty ones out there too. 😇😎
It does seem to me that a lot of energy is spent here trying to posture voting for Trump as immoral. 🤷🏻♂️ Meh!
I do see the caveats that are offered. Disclaimers are often just attempts to smear without blowback. Done it myself. So I’ll accept the pass and move on.
Cult Leader Dread
Kevin–you’ve nailed the thesis to the door, my friend. Many of Trump’s followers are ABSOLUTELY cultish and your description of the characteristics of cultic behavior and especially the techniques cults use is completely accurate. I highly recommend this book, “The Cult of Trump.”
It’s written by an expert in the techniques cults use to brainwash their followers. The author shows plainly how Mr. Trump uses these techniques in a diabolical (and darkly skillful) way to brainwash his followers. I’ve been using the hashtag #Cult45 on Twitter for some time now. It’s disgusting, dark, evil, and immoral. Dread..telling the truth is not a smear. A smear is a lie. What Kevin has written here is important and based in truth. And using cult techniques in order to control people is not funny in any way. Yes, of course there’s good people in the Trump cult. There were good people in Jonestown too.
Or maybe they’re not caveats but attempts to genuinely acknowledge not all is bad and even those caught up in cult-like behavior have some good motivations and valid concerns.
I’ll have to give that book a look.
Cults? I cannot see Born Again ones following anyone blindly…
Yet, lazy souls, hungering and thirsting, but not after righteousness – living by emotions? Maybe… Are they the seeds with no roots? Or Are they struggling pilgrims.. Dunno
something about searching scripture for verification of what is taught..
A funny one here to break the tension in both arenas. My son sent me a text saying, “if the Dodgers win the World Series will there be anything left to burn in LA when Trump wins next week?”
Come on, that’s funny 🙂
Jean, most of what you posted at 4:26, I’d have to agree with…. But is Trump a Trojan Horse? Not unless you are willing to elevate him to a mindless degree. An anti christ? People have worshipped Clinton, Obama, FDR…. Some people even worshipped Elvis, so ….. ? 🙆
Easy pickins for the devil… Lots of intelligent people and not so smart ones are looking for a god that suits them… sorrowful
Yes MLD that’s definitely a chuckle or two.
“I cannot see Born Again ones following anyone blindly…”
I’ve spent 20 years documenting the fact that they will do that no matter how wicked the one they follow…
Just checking in to see if the filet ‘o kevin is ready yet?
To follow the Bible’s example, judgement must begin at the house of the Lord.
And since anything/one put above/before Jesus is an idol, and functionally a cult leader, well, the church has had many cults.
Who here has identified themselves with some religious figure above/before Jesus?
There’s your cult.
The fileting hasn’t been too painful yet.
I TB’s manager hadn’t pulled Blake Snell so early, LA might still have things left to burn today.
Kevin – perhaps, but I do want to thank your town of Philadelphia for joining the Dodgers’ victory celebration and burning down their city too last night.
A great show of unity! 🙂
One of the hardest things, after one has accepted God’s redemption, may be the realization that we are still living in mortal sinful bodies…. Psalm 41 was my morning reading…
Michael’s mission seems to be healing the wounded and calling out the wounders…. Do real Christians get caught up in following abusive and false teachers? I bow to experience here… AND
I join Josh in praying for the Church to wake up, to follow God fearing teachers. I pray that we haven’t entered into God’s discipline, but……
Congratulations to MLD’s Dodgers and my funny is
Driving downriver a big tom turkey ran out on the road. I screeched to a stop and watched this big bird do a 180 on one foot and run back where he’d come from.. oh well, maybe you had to be th🙆ere……