The Cult of Trump

“I don’t recognize her anymore.”

Through choked back tears, a man shared these words today about his 74-year old mother. The last two years have seen their once-loving relationship deteriorate precipitously, now relegated to cold exchanges via text and strained small talk conversations at family gatherings—sandwiched between explosive screaming matches which are often followed by extended periods of radio silence.

He shared screenshots of his mother’s Facebook profile, littered with Alt-Right talking points, discriminatory memes, and effusive tributes to the President—always juxtaposed with hateful diatribes regarding our former President. The racism and homophobia and Islamophobia she generates every day is both shocking and devastating to her adult son.

“She just believes every word out of his mouth, everything she watches on FoxNews.” he said. “I can’t reason with her. It’s like talking to someone who’s been brainwashed. She isn’t the mother I grew up with.”

This is how cults work. They gradually alter people’s brains, attuning them to a singular voice, and weaponizing them against any dissenting opinions. To their manipulated minds, efforts to reach them with objective truth become acts of aggression against the one they see as divine—and trigger an ever-more passionate affection toward their leader. They will defend (even to relational death with people they once loved) that one person.

America is in a cultic crisis, and Trumpism is the cult. There is no other way to approach these days.

When you believe one man above Science, above our Intelligence agencies, above former CIA directors and retired generals and revered journalists—when you believe that one man above even your own eyes and ears—you are fully indoctrinated.

This hasn’t happened by accident, but by sickening design. Cult leaders prey upon emotionally vulnerable people, leveraging their loneliness, their disenfranchisement, their disconnection. They bombard their targets with a steady stream of misinformation, incendiary rhetoric, and chaotic prophecy—and into the swirling confusion created inside their heads, they come promising safety and security, while having no concern for them at all. They start a fire—and rush in with a bucket of water.

Donald Trump has mastered the art of emergency manufacturing and danger generation. We saw this during the near month-long Government shutdown. He convinced his followers that violent, drug-carrying immigrants were streaming across the border to duct tape and rape women, he then feigned courage by boldly and publicly vowing to protect them by shutting down the Government. He then did so, and after weeks of complete inactivity and not a single change, stood in the White House Rose Garden, claiming victory against a fictional adversary by stopping an unnecessary crisis that he alone created.

Every day he designs a false threat, steps in to the nonexistent battlefield, and declares himself victorious to a group of now emotionally dependent human beings, whose internal story and well-being depends on him winning. That’s the only way their world makes sense anymore, it is the only outcome they can conceive of.

People who’ve tried to rescue their loved ones from such inculcation will tell you how incredibly difficult it is to deprogram them after such repeated deception, such prolonged lying, such protracted fear. They will detail the excruciating efforts to reach parents and best friends and adult children, through the haze of their addiction to the connection they have come to feel with someone who is predatory toward them. And many will describe the long and bloody battles they’ve fought for the people they love—battles they  sometimes ultimately lost to the cult.

My friend said of his mother, “I’m going to keep trying to reach her because I know who she used to be. I’m still hopeful I can get her back.”

This needs to be the posture we choose now. No one willingly joins a cult. They are lured and tricked and coerced all way the up to the precipice of emotional and intellectual surrender—and then they fall in. Once there, it is nearly impossible for them to leave voluntarily. They can’t see that they are fighting against their own self-interest by aligning with the one holding them hostage.

Leaving isn’t an option, so someone who loves them persistently and fiercely needs to brave the wounding words and the violent opposition, to try and rescue them.

The only way they can do that, is by loving them in a way that the cult leader simply isn’t capable of—and by refusing to let his voice, be the only voice left that they hear.

 

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162 thoughts on “The Cult of Trump

  1. Sadly I share this son’s grief,my own blood family are so emboldened to #45 that they have forgotten family members who are not full white but 1/2 Japanese and 1/2 Native American are no longer family so I have chosen to alienate my #45 loving family member and I am better for it and once #45 is gone from the White House there wont be any healing in my family,we will part ways for life,this is wot #45 has done to my family.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve lost two friends who had been friends for decades. One since the mid 80s and one from the 70s. BOTH got nasty when I would refute their idiotic memes with facts and links. They would call it fake news, lies and finally one started to call me names.

    I PM’d him and asked what was up with being called a lemming and a*****e simple because I disagreed with is beliefs and that we had been friends for over 40 years?

    His reply was he could not believe how stupid I had become and brainwashed by the fake media. AND the most shocking was seeing his support for racism. NOTHING I had ever seen in him in 40 years. Not one bit.

    The other one surprised me as well with similar results.

    BOTH of them and your article reminded me of scientology. I lost a girlfriend to them for a few years and after she got out she actually had mental problems. 4 marriages within 15 years. Several failed relationships including three tries by me ( I really was smitten) and so many other things. Just sad and hate to say but yes maybe we need to find a way to finecomb the Constitution to find a way to make this sort of political speech labeled a hate crime if it is provably lies.

    The 1st Amendment does not protect you if you lie in a job app, it should not protect you when you lie and spew hate to the American people as a politician.

  3. Unfortunately, this is not a recent trend so the task is more difficult than one would imagine. Years ago I watched a television program about “Jesus Camps” where teenagers and preteens were indoctrinated into the cult of literally worshiping Pres. Bush – get them when they’re young, control their environment and education, and they are much harder to reach later.

  4. Well said. I’ve given up on my family, deciding our relationship really isn’t worth saving. It has been declining over the years and Trump is now who they follow. He brought them out of their self perceived religious persecution and they have re-adopted their rallying song of Onward Christian Soldiers. How handy that this already existed for them. I feel sorry for these people who live like this. Their poison affects everyone.

  5. Thank you for this post. I don’t have anyone close to me who is a Trump supporter (I am an introvert and a loner) but I have interacted with several online. They will not listen to reason, logic, or evidence. They are blind.
    On the other hand, someone made a point that it is not that the cult has grabbed and brainwashed these people, but instead, they always thought this way, they were always full of fear and prejudice, and they have found validation and an outlet in the top office of the land.
    Either way…

  6. When elderly parents arent around. they need to set the child controls on TV to block Fox News!
    “Gee, mom, I don’t know why its not working!” 😉

  7. This is why the word truth has no meaning these days. The “truth” was always the bond between us, the way we measured our realness to one-another. Thank you, John. As sad as it was to read this, I am glad you put this reality into words.

  8. If Trump’s core support is at 40%, that means that 40% are vulnerable to the mechanics of cultism. That alone should terrify the nation but, sadly, it won’t as a large majority are now dominated by their efforts to just survive.

  9. I know how you feel about your Mother I have the similar problem with my son! He thinks the man in the White House is great and doing a marvelous job! How this happened I don’t know his siblings don’t understand his devotion

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