Growing up in the ‘80s my mom was always worried about cults. I have no idea why, my guess is she saw something on 60 Minutes, or 20/20 and then was worried I would run off and join a cult. I do recall watching one of the news magazine shows with her as a teenager—it was one in which they described the signs you are in a cult.
Thirty some odd years removed from that memory I could not find that particular episode, or list of how you know you are in a cult. But I did find a more recent version of the list.
1. Opposing critical thinking
2. Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving
3. Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture
4. Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders
5. Dishonoring the family unit
6. Crossing Biblical boundaries of behavior (versus sexual purity and personal ownership)
7. Separation from the Church
I read that list and I see the modern day Republican Party, specifically, die hard Trump supporters. It is clear that they oppose any kind of critical thinking. Take the recent statement by Tucker Carlson of Fox News:
"If you're looking to understand what's actually happening in this country, always assume the opposite of whatever they're telling you on the big news stations.”
In other words, only listen to what we tell you. You do not need to think about it, just believe us, and only us. There is no need for you to take in information from other sources, there is no need to think about what we tell you—other sources are not real. Even the current White House resident does this daily in his Twitter feed.
The fake news, i.e. don’t listen to them, only to me. Don’t think about the issues, just take my word for it. I have seen this in my own friends who lean to the right. Recently, I posted this to my Facebook feed, “Taking kids away from parents is immoral.” The responses below are a combination of responses from conservative friends. ...
Him: It is Bill Clinton's fault (Screenshot of a tweet is provided as proof).
Me: No, it is not and here are three links from valid news sources, and one legal site proving why it is not.
Him: What about Elian Gonzalez
Me: That has nothing to do with the current situation.
Him: That was Clinton's fault too
Me: No, it was a custody battle between two parents who lived in different countries. The FBI went in armed as they feared that the house was being defended by armed Cuban expatriates. (Several links from multiple sources about this custody battle provided.)
Him: Pretty sure the genocide of native Americans is more shameful ... as well as our current treatment of them.
Me: There are a lot of shameful acts in our history - just because one is more shameful than another does not mean what is going on now is any less awful.
I would also be remiss if I did not point out that this is a classic case of whataboutism - in which an example of a shameful act is given in the original story; and in an effort (unconscious, or conscious) is made to deflect the horrible act the shameful act is being compared to by bringing up another equally as bad act.
Internment of Japanese-Americans = Bad
Treatment/genocide of Native Americans = Bad
Separating children from parents in detention centers = Bad
Him: Look at this section of US code. … It says kids should be taken into custody.
Me: Read that closer, that says unaccompanied minors.
Him: Well some of the kids are pretending to be parents...so they are unaccompanied.
Me: No they are not — provides multiple links
Him: If you support abortion you are being a hypocrite by being outraged over this.
Every one of those responses can be traced back to conservative media, every single one. And none of them have any basis in reality. The fact is that Jeff Sessions signed off on this zero tolerance policy. This is on the Trump administration—period. But in the eyes of a Trump cultist, he can do no wrong.
Isolating and penalizing members for leaving. We see this on a small scale every day, but there are larger examples as well. The Bush family has spoken out against this policy—not toeing the new Trump line. So, they were punished when Donald Trump Jr. canceled an appearance at a fundraiser for George P. Bush. Also, look how former Trump associates have been treated. Manafort, once the leader of the Trump campaign is now someone who once worked for Trump, and who Trump barely knew.
Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture, crossing Biblical boundaries of behavior (versus sexual purity and personal ownership), separation from the Church—I am combing these three as they all deal with religion. We can all see these. Taking children away from their parents is clearly not biblical—yet members of the Trump administration have repeatedly quoted scripture to defend this heinous policy. Right-leaning Christians claim the moral high ground, that marriage is between one man and one woman, that divorce should never happen, and adultery is a sin—these so-called Christians have strayed so far from the church that Jeff Sessions’ own denomination, the United Methodist Church, have charged him with violating church law:
Pursuant to Paragraph 2702.3 of the 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline, we hereby charge Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, a professing member and/or active participant of Ashland Place United Methodist Church (Mobile, Alabama) and Clarendon United Methodist Church (Alexandria, Virginia), with the chargeable offenses of:
- Child Abuse (examples: advocacy for and implementation of documented practices that indefinitely separate thousands of young children from their parents; holding thousands of children in mass incarceration facilities with little to no structured educational or socio-‐emotional support)
- Immorality (examples: the use of violence against children to deter immigration; advocating and supporting the separation of children from their families; refusal of refugee/asylee status to those fleeing gang or sexual violence; oppression of those seeking asylum or attempting to enter the United States with refugee status; directing employees and staff members to kidnap children from their parents)
- Racial discrimination (examples: stopping investigations of police departments charged with racial discrimination; attempting to criminalize Black Lives Matter and other racial justice activist groups; targeting incarceration for those engaged in undocumented border crossings as well as those who present with requests for asylum, with a particular focus on those perceived as Muslim or LatinX)
- Dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church (examples: the misuse of Romans 13 to indicate the necessity of obedience to secular law, which is in stark contrast to Disciplinary commitments to supporting freedom of conscience and resistance to unjust laws
Seeking inappropriate loyalty to leaders:
"He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same."
And finally, dishonoring the family unit. What could possibly be more dishonorable than separating children from their parents?
The Republican Party we knew no longer exists. This is the cult of Trump—and all cults eventually end badly.