Posts Tagged ‘Evangelicals’


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Of late, critics often accuse Donald Trump and his followers of being a cult. The problem is that they seemingly never define what a cult is, never define the characteristics of a cult, and of course never see how well Trump & co. match such characteristics. It’s time to do so.

Before I began writing AA: Cult or Cure?, I spent well over a year on research, much of it involving religious and political cults. I discovered that all cults, whatever their nature — religious, political, commercial (e.g., multi-level marketing scams) — have many characteristics in common. By the end of my research, I had discovered 23 separate characteristics common in cults; some cults exhibit almost all of them.

(Robert Jay Lifton in his groundbreaking and influential Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism lists eight cult-like characteristics; while I included Lifton’s characteristics in the list I compiled, I strongly believe that his book would have been better if he had included more such characteristics — ones I believe are obvious.)

Let’s see how many of the 23 Trump and his followers exhibit:

1) Religious orientation. Are Trump and his followers religiously based? Yes.

Trump’s core followers are conservative evangelicals. He received the votes of 81% of them in the 2016 election, and that level of support remains virtually unchanged. As well, Trump — who’s about as religious, and has about as much knowledge of the Bible, as the average poodle — routinely panders to evangelicals, flattering them endlessly and doing his best to ram through anti-choice, anti-LGBT judges and repressive, religiously inspired laws.

2) Irrationality. Are Trump and his followers irrational, do they discourage skepticism and rational thinking? Emphatically yes.

Trump and his followers are characterized by their ignorance of and contempt for science and rationality. The examples of this are manifold, with climate-change denial being the most obvious and dangerous. Climate scientists — who arrived at their conclusions through massive, decades-long research and application of the scientific method to the data they’ve gathered — are virtually unanimous in the conclusions that climate change is due to human activity (especially the burning of fossil fuels) and that it’s a dire threat to humanity. Trump and his followers irrationally and dangerously deny this.

3) Dogmatism. Are Trump and his followers dogmatic? Yes in the case of Trump’s followers, no as regards Trump himself.

Trump’s most fervent followers, evangelicals, Bible literalists, are by definition dogmatists. They believe (or at least insist that they believe) that a 3,000-year-old book written by Iron Age slaveholders is inerrant, true in every respect. This leads them to insist on absurdities, such as that the Earth is only 6,000 years old; that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time (or that the devil placed fossils in the earth to mislead humans); that, for that matter, the devil actually exists; that the sun stood still; that a dead man arose after three days and walked out of his tomb . . . The list of dogmatic absurdities goes on and on. In contrast, Trump himself is an amoral opportunist with no apparent beliefs who will say and do anything as long as he thinks it’s in his self-interest to do so.

4) “Chosen People” mentality. Do Trump and his followers have such a mentality? Yes.

Trump’s evangelical supporters routinely and self-flatteringly refer to themselves using terms such as “God’s people,” “the elect,” and “the righteous.” They also consider themselves above other people, especially atheists and muslims, with a great many evangelicals (and other conservative religious folk) saying they would never vote for an atheist or muslim for public office. Trump himself is a very privileged rich kid with a massive sense of entitlement. He was a schoolyard bully as a child; he believes he has the right to grope women — and has bragged about that groping; and seems to abuse almost everyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with him. Only someone who thinks he’s better than other people, who thinks he’s entitled to do such odious things, would do them. One might also mention “American exceptionalism” here, a belief apparently held by almost all of Trump’s followers and, perhaps, by Trump himself.

5) Ideology above all else. Do Trump and his followers elevate their ideology over experience, observation, and logic? Yes, absolutely.

Again, the most obvious example is climate-change denial. But other examples abound, such as the insistence that grossly ineffective abstinence-only sex “education” is the only type that should be taught in public schools; that a few cells the size of a pinhead are, somehow, a “person” (apparently in the same manner that an acorn is an oak tree); that massive tax cuts for the top 1% are somehow good for the bottom 99%; and that America is the land of “equal opportunity” in the face of gross differences in wealth and income and equally gross differences in the quality of education for the rich and poor.

6) Separatism. Are Trump and his followers separatists? No.

We might be better off if they were. Instead of being separatists, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us through the coercive apparatus of the government.

7) Exclusivity. Do Trump and his followers present themselves as the exclusive holders of the truth. Yes.

Trump’s core evangelical followers, biblical literalists, by definition consider themselves the exclusive holders of the truth. (The same holds for his Mormon and conservative Catholic backers.) Trump, with his constant blather about “fake news,” insistence that he’s the only source of the truth and should always be believed (despite his near-constant and blatant lying), and his bald-faced statement to his followers, “don’t believe what you’re reading or seeing,” is equally if not more guilty of this.

8) Special knowledge. Do Trump and his followers claim to have special knowledge that will only be revealed to the initiated? No.

Not unless you count Trump’s for-profit “university” scam, and that would be a stretch.

9) Mind control. Do Trump and his followers employ mind-control techniques? No.

Even Trump’s most hardcore followers don’t employ mind-control techniques such as sleep deprivation, deliberate near-starvation, hypnotic chanting, and thought-stopping techniques (e.g., reciting a mantra over and over again to ward off unwanted thoughts).

10) Thought-stopping techniques. Do Trump and his followers employ thought-stopping language? Not really. 

The childhood religious indoctrination of Trump’s religious-believer backers (evangelicals, conservative Catholics, Mormons), in which children are routinely warned that doubt comes from the devil (and, from my childhood, that you should pray the rosary to ward off doubt), is as close as you’ll get to thought-stopping language in the Trump movement.

11) Manipulation through guilt. Does Trump manipulate his followers through guilt? No.

Rather, Trump manipulates his followers through fear, hate, bigotry, and scapegoating. His appalling attacks on Mexicans and his fear-mongering about an “invasion” of immigrants is only the most obvious example.

12) The cult of confession. Do Trump and his followers use confession for purification and to tie believers to the movement? No. 

The closest any of Trump’s followers come to this is the practice of conservative Catholics who use that “sacrament” for purification and to tie themselves to the church.

13) A charismatic leader. Is Trump a charismatic leader, and do his followers treat him as one? Clearly, yes. 

I’d use many other terms in place of “charismatic,” but the adoration of the Dear Leader by his glassy-eyed followers is all too obvious. The fact that by their own lights he’s moral garbage matters not a whit to them. Nor do his constant, obvious lies and boasting, frequent self-contradiction, bullying behavior, and shameful self-serving. All too many of Trump’s followers worship him no matter what.

14) Hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Do Trump and his followers belong to a hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Yes, several of them.

First and most obviously, the Republican Party, which has been on a decades-long crusade to restrict individual rights (notably reproductive and LGBT rights), and which has likewise been on a decades-long crusade to entrench itself in power via gerrymandering and voter suppression on a mass scale — that is to entrench itself in power by destroying what passes for American democracy. As well, Trump’s conservative Catholic and Mormon followers (and to a lesser degree the evangelicals) belong to clearly hierarchical, authoritarian — “thou shalt”; “thou shalt not” — religious structures.

15) Submission of the individual to the “will of God” or God’s appointed representatives. Do Trump and his followers insist on such submission? Yes.

Trump, hypocritically so. But all too many of his followers are sincere in wanting to use the coercive apparatus of the state to force everyone to submit to that “will” (as they define it).

16) Self-absorption. Are Trump and his followers self-absorbed? Yes.

Trump’s narcissism and self-absorption could hardly be more obvious. It’s almost equally so with his Republican Party, with its phony, preening nationalism, and its amoral, ends-justify-the-means mentality that pursues permanent entrenchment in power no matter how foul the means nor how much damage to the country. The current attempt to steamroll the installation of a blustering, bullying, highly partisan, alleged (have to get that alleged in there) sexual predator and apparent perjurer on the Supreme Court is only the latest instance of the Republican Party’s self-absorption.

17) Dual purposes. Does the Trump movement have dual purposes, are its real purposes other than those it presents to the publicYes, absolutely.

This is very obvious in very many ways. Trump — who received over $400 million from his dad — presents himself as the champion of the working man, yet he’s intent on squeezing money from the poor and working classes, and what’s left of the middle class, and transferring it to the top. He just gave the largest tax cut in history to (primarily) the top 1%; he opposes raising the federal minimum wage; he opposes labor unions; he and his minions in Congress have partially dismantled Obama’s (grossly inadequate) healthcare plan and have offered nothing to replace it; and he opposes extending Medicare to all Americans, thus ensuring that tens of thousands of poor and working class Americans die from medical neglect annually. His “family values” followers by and large support his vicious policy of ripping apart immigrant families at the border and throwing children into cages. And Trump and those same followers demand “religious freedom” which really means the “freedom” to discriminate against LGBT people in public accommodations. The hypocrisy of Trump and his followers, their “dual purposes,” is simply nauseating.

18) Economic exploitation. Does Trump economically exploit his followers? Yes.

Sometimes directly, as with Trump “University,” more often via government economic and taxation policies which work to the advantage of Trump and his billionaire buddies and against the rest of us.

19) Deceptive recruiting techniques. Do Trump and his Republican Party use deceptive recruiting techniques. Yes.

In addition to hypocritically presenting himself as the working man’s champion, “Cadet Bonespur” Trump presents himself as the embodiment of patriotism. But Trump’s “patriotism” is the exact opposite of real patriotism, which is trying to do what’s best for the country and following one’s own conscience, doing what’s right in the face of disdain and abuse. For Trump and his followers, patriotism seems to consist of making a fetish of the flag (instead of honoring what it supposedly stands for), robotically engaging in submission rituals at the start of baseball and football games, military worship, impugning the patriotism of those with opposing political views, bullying dissenters, and, of course, “patriotic” bumper stickers. One might also mention the deception of Trump and other Republicans in posing as guardians of morality when they themselves are moral sewers.

20) Possessiveness. Does the Trump movement go to great lengths to retain members? No.

Cults often go to great lengths to retain members, doing such things as threatening permanent disconnection of family members who leave the cult. Trump doesn’t do this nor does he advocate it.

21) A closed, all-encompassing environment. Has the Trump movement created such an environment? No.

Many cults (e.g., Rajhneeshees, Branch Davidians, People’s Temple, FLDS) set up isolated environments in which they control all aspects of members’ lives. The closest Trump’s followers come to this is having a single primary news source (Fox News for 60% of them) and being immersed in the Facebook echo chamber where they hear almost nothing but views they already agree with. But this is a far, far cry from Jonestown.

22) Millenarianism. Does Trump prophesy the end of the world? No.

The closest he comes is dire warnings about what will happen if the Republicans lose power. But some of his followers, hardcore evangelicals, do prophesy that the end is near and are actively trying to bring about Armageddon (through enthusiastic support of Israeli militarism and expansionism) so as to usher in “the rapture.” Still, Trump is definitely not a millenarian himself.

23) Violence, coercion, and harassment. Do Trump and his followers engage in or encourage these things? Yes.

Recall Trump’s remarks that some of the murderous neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Then recall his attacks on the press as “enemies of the people” and his encouragement of violence against protesters at his rallies. Then recall the huge uptick in racist violence by his alt-right/neo-Nazi supporters since he took office. Finally, let’s not forget that some of Trump’s “right to life” supporters routinely stalk, harass, threaten, and occasionally bomb or shoot abortion providers.

IN CONCLUSION

So, do Trump and his followers constitute a cult? Many of the cults I studied while researching AA: Cult or Cure? exhibit almost all of the above characteristics: the Moonies 22 out of the 23; the Church of Scientology and People’s Temple 21 of the 23; and Synanon 20 of the 23. In contrast, community-based Alcoholics Anonymous only exhibits 11 of the 23, “institutional” AA  (the 12-step treatment industry, which I dubbed “Cult Lite”) exhibits 16 of the 23, and the Trump movement exhibits 13 of the 23, so it’s not entirely accurate to say that the Trump movement is a full-blown cult, though it does have distinct cult-like tendencies. However, and disturbingly, almost all of the cult-like tendencies exhibited by Trump and his followers are also characteristic of fascist movements.


(We ran two earlier, considerably shorter versions of this post in years past under the title “Nazi Germany and the U.S.A.” As you might have noticed, things have changed a bit lately, hence this update.)

* * *

REFERENCES TO FASCISM abound in American political discourse. Unfortunately, most of those using the term wouldn’t recognize fascism if it bit ’em on the butt, and use it as a catch-all pejorative for anything or anyone they dislike. But the term does have a specific meaning.

Very briefly, as exemplified in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, fascism is an extreme right-wing, phony-populist ideology and political-economic system (which Mussolini dubbed “the corporate state”), the key features of which are strident nationalism, militarism and military worship, a one-party state, a dictatorial leader with a personality cult, a capitalist economic system integrated with state institutions (to the mutual benefit of capitalists and fascist politicians), suppression of independent unions, government use of media as a propaganda instrument, suppression of civil liberties and all forms of political opposition, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

The racism, racial scapegoating, and racial persecution that permeated German fascism are not part of fascism per se, unless one wants to classify extreme nationalism as racism. There’s a case to be made for that, but for now let’s consider them as separate maladies. But since the topic of this post is the comparison of Nazi Germany to the U.S.A., we will consider racism as well as fascism in the following comparisons.

Getting to the headline topic, just how similar is the present-day U.S. to Nazi Germany? Let’s look at specifics:

 

Nationalism

  • Nazi Germany: See Deutschland Uber Alles, Triumph of the WillLebensraum, etc., etc.
  • US.: “American exceptionalism,” “God Bless America,” “Manifest Destiny,” “Make America Great Again,” etc., etc. From ideological justification for invasions, territorial annexations, and military interventions to everyday trivialities (Nazi armbands in Deutschland, flag worship in “the land of the free”), America gives Nazi Germany a run for its money as regards nationalism.

Corporate Capitalist Domination

  • Nazi Germany: The German industrialists (notably the Krup armaments company) were key Hitler backers, and benefited handsomely from his rule.
  • U.S.: Trump has filled his cabinet with people from the fossil fuels industry (e.g., Rex Tillerson, former head of ExxonMobil) and big banks, notably Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, et al.); Obama’s primary 2008 backers were Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical companies; Bush/Cheney’s were the energy companies.

Of late, Trump’s slavishness to the interests of the big corporations has become blindingly obvious with his dismantling of clean air and water regulations (which safeguard public health while impeding corporate profits), his attempts to open millions of acres of federal lands (including national monuments) to desecration by mining and fossil fuels corporations, his (and other Republicans’) attempts to restrict access to Medicaid, to allow the insurance industry to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, and his refusal to do anything about the obscene price of prescription drugs and the obscene profits of the drug companies. (Trump’s “plan” to reduce drug costs was complete bullshit designed only to string along the gullible while providing cover for the continued gouging of the public by big pharma. The fact that pharma stocks spiked immediately after Trump released the details of his “plan” tells you all you need to know about it.)

Militarism

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis constructed the world’s most powerful military in six years (1933-1939).
  • U.S.: Last year, U.S. military spending accounted for approximately 43% of the world’s military spending, and the U.S. has hundreds of military bases overseas. With the aid of his accomplices in Congress, Trump just boosted the “defense” budget to approximately $700 billion, not including the tens of billions in the “black budget.” The figures aren’t final yet, but it’s a good bet that current U.S. military spending not only considerably outstrips any other nation’s (China’s is hard to judge because of secrecy, but may be as high as $250 billion), but could quite possibly now account for a full half of the world’s military spending.

Military Worship

  • Nazi Germany: Do I really need to cite examples?
  • U.S.: “Support our troops!” “Our heroes!” “Thank you for your service!”

Military worship is almost a state religion in the United States. Tune in to almost any baseball broadcast for abundant examples; this worship even extends to those on what passes for the left in the United States: Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow.

Military Aggression

  • Nazi Germany: “Lebensraum” — you know the rest.
  • U.S.: To cite only examples from the last half-century where there were significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” Vietnam (1959-1973), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Grenada (1983), Panama (1988-1990), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Afghanistan (2001-present), Iraq (2003-2011). And this doesn’t even include bombing campaigns and drone warfare. Then there’s the matter of proxy aggression enabled via logistical and intelligence support by the U.S. The most horrific current example is the brutal Saudi intervention in the Yemeni civil war.

Misuse and Misrepresentation of Science

  • The Nazis suppressed “Jewish science,” financially supported and sponsored fringe pseudoscience (into the supposed superiority of Aryans, among other things), and based government policy (including the Holocaust)  on that fringe pseudoscience. They mutilated science to force it to fit into the procrustean bed of their ideology, and millions died as a result.
  • U.S.: Here, the misleading “science” is supplied by the major corporations and their bought-and-paid-for “scientists,” who denigrate real science while promoting corporate-sponsored studies that promote corporate interests. Prominent examples include the efforts of the tobacco, pesticide, and sugar industries to present their deadly products as safe while vilifying scientists whose research demonstrated the actual effects of their products. Tens of millions have almost certainly died as a result.

Currently, the most serious such assault on science is corporate-funded climate change denial. It’s been obvious for decades that climate change is real and a deadly threat, and over 95% of climate scientists agree — and have agreed for decades — that it is. Yet the fossil fuels corporations have funded and promoted the work of a very few contrarians (whose work doesn’t, upon examination, hold up) to cast doubt on climate change science so that they can wring every last dollar from coal, oil, and natural gas.

Now, official U.S. policy is based on climate change denial pseudoscience. Trump has filled his administration with science deniers, especially climate change deniers, notably Scott Pruitt at the EPA, who are busy undoing clean air and water regulations, are doing their best to promote use of dirty fossil fuels, and are discouraging the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Trump has even proposed public subsidies for money-losing coal-fired power plants that utilities are planning to close.

As in Nazi Germany, government policy is based on willful ignorance of science. Millions upon millions will almost certainly die as a result, unless the government drastically reverses its course and implements evidence-based policies based on the work of climate scientists.

(For more on all this, see Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science [revised & expanded], by John Grant. Full disclosure: See Sharp Press published Corrupted Science.)

Incarceration and Slave Labor

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis built concentration camps holding (and exterminating) millions, and employing slave labor.
  • U.S.: In comparison, the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, far outstripping China, with only Russia’s incarceration rate being anywhere near that of the U.S. Slave labor is routine in America’s prisons.

Justice System

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis had a three-tiered “justice” system: one for the rich and powerful (who could get away with virtually anything); a second for the average citizen; a third for despised minorities and political foes.
  • U.S.: There’s also three-tiered “justice” system here: one for the rich and powerful (who can get away with virtually anything); a second for middle-class white people; and a third for almost everyone else.

Obama’s “Justice” Department never even investigated the largest financial fraud in world history that led to the 2008 crash, let alone charged those responsible. Prosecutors routinely pile on charges against average citizens to blackmail them into plea bargaining and pleading guilty to charges of which they’re not guilty; it’s no accident that America’s prisons are filled with poor people, especially blacks and hispanics who can’t afford bail and good legal representation; at the same time cops routinely get away with murder of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites.

Suppression of Unions

  • Nazi Germany: In Nazi Germany, the government tightly controlled the unions, and used them as arms of the state.
  • U.S.: In the U.S., the government merely suppresses strikes when “in the national interest” and allows corporations to crush union organizing drives through intimidation and by firing anyone who dares to attempt to organize.  Of late, the Supremes have further crippled the unions by outlawing the collection of fees from nonmembers who the unions represent in collective bargaining. (Admittedly, the sell-out, hierarchical, visionless AFL-CIO unions bear considerable responsibility for this sad state of affairs.)

Free Speech

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression of free speech; direct government control of the media.
  • U.S.: There’s near total corporate control of the media, and suppression of free speech when it shows the faintest sign of threatening, or even embarrassing, the government or the corporations that control the government. The Obama and Trump administrations have viciously gone after whistleblowers and reporters who have exposed their wrongdoing — Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, James Risen, Reality Winner, et al.

Trump routinely attacks journalists who report anything even slightly embarrassing to him, or who point out any of his almost innumerable lies. Of late, he’s upped the ante by attacking the press as the “enemy of the American people” in a transparent attempt to intimidate the press and provoke the anger of his worshippers.

As well, Trump routinely lies about damn near everything, great and small — Politifact clasifies 69% of his statements as being “mostly false” or worse — counting on the fact that the press (e.g., New York Times) is reluctant to label his lies as lies, allowing Trump to muddy the waters and mislead the public.

Fortunately, Trump doesn’t have complete control of the media. But he does have the sycophantic tools at Fox “News,” Breitbart, InfoWars, and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber. Almost worse, 67% of Americans get at least some of their news from social media sites such as Facebook, with an unknown percentage getting all of their news from these platforms (predominantly Facebook). What makes this dangerous is that Facebook feeds them news reports that, based on their previous “likes” and other use, reinforces their existing beliefs and prejudices.

Add that to Trump’s denigration of the free press and you end up with a significant part of the population that’s woefully misinformed.

Other Civil Liberties

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression.
  • U.S.: Suppression when individuals exercising those liberties show the faintest sign of threatening the government or the corporations that control the government. The coordinated suppression (by the FBI, local governments, and corporate security agencies) of the Occupy Wall Street Movement nationwide in 2011/2012 is the latest large-scale example.

Spying Upon Citizens

  • Nazi Germany: The government had a massive eavesdropping operation. No citizen was safe from government scrutiny.
  • U.S.: The FBI, DHS, and NSA — and let’s not forget Facebook — make the Nazis look like amateurs.

Free Elections

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression
  • U.S.: U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote for the millionaire and billionaire representatives (over half of Congress at last count, plus the president) of the two wings of the property party: one wing being authoritarian, corporate-servant, science-denying theofascists, the other wing being merely authoritarian corporate servants who routinely betray those who elect them. As well, the Republicans are doing their best to destroy what passes for American electoral democracy through egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression on an industrial scale.

Racism

  • Nazi Germany: Do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.: (We’ll restrict ourselves here to the present.) The “justice” system imprisons blacks at a rate over five times that of whites, and hispanics at a rate about 30% higher than whites. Cops routinely get away with murdering poor people, a disproportionate number of them blacks and hispanics. Median household wealth for whites is 13 times that of blacks. And median household income for whites is 60% higher than that of blacks and hispanics.

As well, the Republican Party’s longtime “southern strategy” — and its largely successful attempts to disenfranchise black voters — was and still is designed to appeal to racists.

Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and racial scapegoating of Mexicans and other hispanics is merely the cherry atop this merde sundae.

Victimhood

  • Nazi Germany: Hitler and the Nazis whined constantly about the German people being victims of the Jews (under 1% of the population at the time) and the supposedly vast Jewish conspiracy permeating all facets of social and economic life, even depicting Jewish people in propaganda films as vermin: rats. In short, Hitler stirred up hatred of a powerless minority by presenting them as victimizers rather than victims.
  • U.S.: Trump whines constantly about an “invasion” of Latin American immigrants — fleeing horrific violence and political and social repression — who he portrays as rapists, murderers, drug dealers, and gang members endangering the nation through a supposed crime wave. (In reality, per capita criminal activity by Latin American immigrants is lower than that of Americans as a whole.)  In short, Trump stirs up hatred of a powerless minority by presenting them as victimizers rather than victims.

Personality Cult

  • Nazi Germany: Again, do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: Trump worship is rampant on the evangelical right, who see this steaming pile of viciousness, hypocrisy, and narcissism as the means to their theofascist ends. And Trump encourages such sycophancy. The cringe-inducing filmed cabinet meeting last year in which cabinet secretaries heaped fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise and thanks on the dear leader is but one example. Another example: Last July presidential aide and Trump toady Steven Miller said on Fox “News” that Trump — who would likely flunk a fourth-grade English test — was the “best orator to hold that office [president] in generations.” All hail the Glorious Leader.

 

Yes, there still are significant differences between Nazi Germany and the U.S.A.  But they grow smaller with every passing day.


Christians are fond of pointing out that the devil can quote scripture, and on Thursday Jeff Sessions did so, citing the Bible as justification for his and Trump’s policy of forcibly separating immigrant families. That policy has involved federal agents ripping babies and small children from their mothers’ arms; this is not hyperbole — Sessions’ and Trump’s uniformed thugs are doing exactly that.

Appropriately, Sessions cited Romans 13. Here are its first two verses:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Just why was it so appropriate for Sessions to cite this passage? It can be used to support any government and any of its actions, no matter how horrific. (Not coincidentally, Romans 13 was widely cited at the time of the American Revolution by royalists opposing the Revolution, and was likewise widely cited by slavery advocates in the run-up to the American Civil War.)

One can see how handy this passage is for the Trump regime.

What was Sessions trying to justify here? The Trump administration’s decision to rip immigrant families apart, to separate children from parents — a decision labeled child abuse by the American Association of Pediatricians.

Typically for Trump, he and his underlings have refused to take responsibility for their horrific actions: they’re attempting to shirk responsibility, to blame them, somehow, on others, in this case on the Democrats. As if they’re helpless to reverse the decision they made, helpless to reverse the policy they implemented. Their gutlessness is beyond slimy.

Almost worse, the Republicans have introduced bills in Congress to reverse this policy, but that also include $25 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall. So, they’ve torn children from their parents’ arms, are inflicting grievous psychological harm on the children, and are holding them hostage.

And Romans 13 gives them exactly the justification they need.

One would think this would make most Christians, especially those espousing “family values,” uncomfortable. Wrong. I just took a look at the web sites of the two most prominent “family values” political groups: James Dobson’s Focus on the Family site, and Tony Perkin’s Family Research Council site. There’s not a single damn word about this disgusting assault on vulnerable families on Dobson’s site.

And Perkins’ Family Research Council web site attempts to justify Trump’s and Sessions’ vicious policy: “It’s impossible to feel anything but compassion for these kids, who must be dealing with a great deal of pain and confusion. But the origin of that pain and confusion isn’t U.S. law or the Trump administration. That burden lies with their parents who knowingly put them in this position.”

As if Trump and Sessions bear no responsibility for this atrocity. This abusive policy was never implemented under any previous administration. And no, somehow, it’s not the fault of those who implemented it, but rather the responsibility of its victims. (And yeah, right, one can almost feel the compassion oozing out of Perkins.)

To be fair, evangelist Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, has denounced Trump’s assault on families.

But most Christians, especially most evangelicals, haven’t.

Why? Let’s take another look at Romans 13. Fundamentalists claim to believe in the Bible literally (they don’t — only in the hate-filled, authoritarian parts of it that justify their cruelty), so they use it as a “get out of jail free” card for this horrible form of child abuse and the nauseating hypocrisy of the “ordained of God” Trump administration. They treat it as a “divine right of kings” card, more accurately a “Christians must kiss their authoritarian butts” card.

In fact, if you take Romans 13 literally, Christians must kiss all authoritarian butts that are seated in power, no matter who the butts belong to, and no matter what their owners’ political persuasions.

One would think that this would give pause to fundamentalists. For if Romans 13 is true, God ordained the suppression of Christianity in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin.

If you believe literally in the teachings of Romans 13, you should have no problem with this. No problem with either Lenin or Stalin — they were “ordained of God,” as were their actions.

Hitler? The Holocaust? Not a problem. He was “ordained of God,” and those who resisted him “received unto themselves damnation.”

Many Christians have attempted to interpret Romans 13 in a way that blunts or negates its obvious meaning. Please. It speaks for itself. Others have pointed to more humane passages in the Bible, as if they mitigate the horrific message in Romans.

Either Romans 13 is true or it isn’t. And if it’s true, the passages humane Christians cite that contradict it point to only one conclusion: the Bible is a man-made artifact filled with contradictions. It’s not the word of God.

The other lesson from this sad, tawdry affair is that “pro-family Christians” who support Trump’s and Sessions’ vicious treatment of families are disgusting hypocrites, utter moral garbage.

 


Here’s the latest installment in our ever-popular Internet Crap series, which mixes links to sick and absurd but amusing crap with links to useful crap. Enjoy!

  • Feeling a bit down, a bit left out, like you just don’t fit in? You might be a psychopath. Then again, you might not. Find out now with Channel 4‘s  Psychopathic Traits test. Their Spot The Psychopath game is also good, clean fun.
  • If you’re a writer, you’ll want to check out Ralan.com. It has by far the best collection of useful links for writers that we’ve ever seen. (Thanks to Ted Weber, author of Sleep State Interrupt, for this one.)
  • We hear a lot lately about Donald Trump and fascism. For a good, short dissection of the topic, check out Chris Hedges’ “Trump and the Christian Fascists.” (If the title of the piece aroused your curiosity, no, veteran journalist Hedges is not a militant atheist — he’s an ordained Presbyterian minister.)
  • If you’ve ever wondered why so many MLM and other scams target conservative religious believers, wonder no more. Mette Harrison does a good job of explaining it in “10 reasons Mormons dominate multi-level marketing companies” on the Religion News Service site.
  • The Guardian reports that earlier this year, a 21-year-old Spanish student, Cassandra Vera from the Murcia region, was convicted of “glorifying terrorism” and sentenced to a year in jail for a series of jokes she posted on Twitter in 2013. The funniest one concerned the 1973 assassination of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, the Spanish prime minister during the last years of the Franco dictatorship.  Carrero Blanco was killed when the Basque terrorist group ETA detonated a huge bomb beneath a street as Carrero Blanco’s car passed over it, with the explosion hurling the vehicle nearly 70 feet into the air. That’s a long set-up for Vera’s joke, but necessary to understanding it. Here’s the joke, and it’s worth the wait: “ETA launched a policy against official cars combined with a space program.”
  • In these days of “fake news” and deliberate muddying of the waters by the president and his enablers, how do you tell what’s real from conspiracy theories? Hero whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was viciously persecuted by the Obama administration and spent nearly two years in jail as a result, tells us how in “How to Challenge Media Narratives Without Being Called a Conspiracy Theorist.”
  • Ever wonder what’s the most effective thing individuals can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Environmental Research Letters reports that, as should be blindingly obvious by now, the most effective individual action by far is to have fewer kids. (Of course, organized crime — the Catholic Church, LDS church, et al. — will never admit this, because they don’t care about the environment nor the common good; they just want more money and more blindly believing foot soldiers.)
  • We seem to constantly hear about the “civilizing effects” of religion. Here’s a prime example from a deeply devout area, in this case a deeply devout Islamic area. The title says it all in the CNN report, “Pakistani village elders order retaliatory rape of 17-year-old girl.” One can only imagine what these people would be up to without the “civilizing effects” of their “great religion.”
  • Since no Internet Crap post would be complete without at least one link to a cybersecurity how-to story, here you go. The Intercept has an enlightening piece in comic-book format titled “How to protect yourself against spearfishing: A comic explanation.”
  • If you were puzzled as to why so many Alabama “values voters” were ready and willing to vote for an alleged (have to get that in there) pedophile, Kathryn Brightbill does a good job of explaining it in her Los Angeles Times op ed, “Roy Moore’s alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles.”
  • Finally, in still more religion news, the AP reports that “a woman shot her boyfriend in the head after he asked her to kill him because he thought the leader of a cult they belonged to was a reptile posing as a human.”

And . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


There’s been a lot of head scratching, both from the corporate media and from the left, about why white evangelicals were attracted to Donald Trump in the first place (81% voted for him), and why they’re sticking with him — a sad excuse for a man who, by their own moral standards, is garbage: a narcissist, hypocrite, habitual liar, boastful sexual predator, mob crony, bully, swindler, scapegoating racist, and entitled rich kid who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life.

Why are evangelicals sticking with and fervently supporting  this walking embodiment of the Seven Deadly Sins (as Grant Brisbee so eloquently puts it)?

Pundits have provided many answers to this question, some correct in part. Here are a few of the most common answers:

  • Trump’s hatefulness and racial scapegoating appeal to evangelicals, because evangelicals are racists. In a lot of cases, this is undoubtedly true. (Check out the maps of evangelical religious belief in the U.S. and maps showing the locations of lynchings: the maps almost perfectly overlap. Even though most lynchings took place decades ago, religious beliefs have largely remained static [evangelical] where the vast majority of lynchings occurred.)
  • Trump finds it easy to manipulate evangelicals, because evangelicals are dumb and uneducated. There is an inverse correlation between IQ and religiosity, and among predominantly white religious groups evangelicals are among the least educated.  So, Trump’s anti-science, anti-intellectual, “ignorance is strength” rhetoric is tailor made to appeal to evangelicals.
  • Trump plays to evangelicals’ sense of victimization. Many evangelicals are so unhinged that they believe Christians are being persecuted in a land where Christians comprise 70% of the population and over 90% of lawmakers. The “religious freedom” (to discriminate) bills so popular with evangelicals and their political manipulators are testimony to this. Trump flatters evangelicals, plays to their delusions, and presents himself as their defender.

There’s much truth in the above, but there’s more to it. In addition to presenting himself as evangelicals’ defender, Trump has also positioned himself as being as mean spirited and authoritarian as most of them are. For once, one suspects that Trump is being genuine. To quote Fred Woodworth, viciousness and vindictiveness run “like a white hot wire” through American evangelicalism, as they do through Trump’s rhetoric. To cite but one of innumerable examples of the viciousness that characterizes evangelicals, among American religious groups evangelicals are the most likely to support torture.

But most importantly, white evangelicals are authoritarian. They’re ready, in fact eager, to use violence and coercion to impose their beliefs on others, and they see Trump as a convenient tool to that end. His viciousness, hypocrisy, and authoritarianism bother them not a whit. (Undoubtedly, many evangelicals are willfully ignorant of these things — blind to the blindingly obvious; others probably admire these qualities, because of mutual resemblance.)

Evangelical pastors laying hands on Donald Trump

To evangelicals, the ends justify the means, even if that means is a steaming pile of moral toxic waste. Even though Trump isn’t one of them, they see him as the means to their ends.

That is why evangelicals overwhelmingly support Donald Trump, and that is why they’ll continue to do so.

 

 


It’s been a while since we visited the wild, wacky world of religion, but the time has come. Hold onto your hats.

  • We’ll start with a classic organ grinding story. According to The Smoking Gun, Jerry Childress, organist at the Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, stuck his penis through a hole in a public bathroom stall “and waited” for a moment of glory from the street sweeper in the next stall. That moment of glory never came, and neither did Childress. The street sweeper wasn’t amused, called the cops, and Childress was subsequently arrested for indecent exposure. And, yes, you’ve already guessed the state in which this incident took place.
  • On a more serious note, according to The Daily Beast, “suicide is now the leading cause of death among 10- to 17-year-olds in Utah.” Could this have anything to do with the Mormon Church’s overt homophobia? In less than three months after the Church ramped up its bigotry last November, declaring that same-sex married Mormons are apostates and that the Church will not baptize their children, 26 Utah LGBT young people committed suicide.
  • In 2014, Kessler Lichtenegger, at the time a vacation Bible school volunteer at the Westside Family Church in Lenexa, Kansas, and now a convicted sex offender, sexually assaulted two under-14 girls on church property. Subsequently, the girls and their families filed suit against the church. On June 15, that Southern Baptist church asked the presiding judge to refuse to allow the lawsuit to proceed unless the underage sex-abuse victims and their families publicly identified themselves. This is yet another example of a church making concrete the words of the Bible: “Suffer the little children.”
  • Last November, members of the Word of Life Christian Church in Chadwicks, New York, including the victims’ mother, father, and half-sister, beat brothers Lucas and Christopher Leonard for 12 hours in the church. They killed Lucas and beat Christopher so badly he had to be hospitalized. The brothers’ “sin”? They wanted to leave the church. In June, their father Bruce Leonard, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault. Why was he allowed to plead guilty to these relatively minor charges? This devout Christian father agreed to provide state’s evidence in the trials of the  other defendants in the case.
  • In another fine example of Christian parenting, Crimesider reports that in 2013 “the parents of a diabetic boy who died from complications related to starvation and neglect waited two hours before calling 911 in 2013 when they found him not breathing.” At the time of his death, 15-year-old Alexandru Radita, of Calgary, weighed 37 pounds. His parents, Emil and Rodica Rodita, have been charged with murder.
  • From the Islamic world, CNN reports that “The leader of a Pakistani Islamic council has proposed a bill that allows husbands to ‘lightly beat’ their wives as a form of discipline. “
  • Not to be outdone, Christian fundamentalist Steve Haymond is, according to Patheos, selling “chastening” instruments, in other words, child-beating sticks.
  • And finally, speaking of assholes, Metro reports that a Turkish imam has been suspended after going to the hospital because of “bleeding in the anus and rectum and foreign object in the rectum.” The “foreign object”? A cucumber.

Religion is truly the gift that keeps on giving, so we’ll put up another of these posts sooner rather than later.


WASHED IN THE BLOOD, adj. phr. As considered by fundamentalists, the ideal state of personal hygiene.

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover