Donald Trump is more than just a president. Trump is the leader of a cult.
This cult worships Trump above all other gods, and Trump likes it that way. He prefers it that way.
I have studied cults since I was an undergraduate at Oregon State University. Back then, the biggest cult on the West Coast was the Moonies. Remember them? They were (are) followers of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Much like Trump, Moon was a political as well as a religious leader. Americans found Moon particularly appealing because of his outspoken opposition to communism and his embracing democracy as a divine path toward establishing the Kingdom of God.
The Unification Church (home base for Moonies) preached a message of reconciliation during the Nixon Watergate scandal. “Forgive, Love & Unite” was the message Moon urged his devotees to adhere to. They even staged a 3-day love fest in support of Nixon at the Capitol building, praying and fasting for the president, who was under immense pressure to resign.
Yeah, well Jerry Falwell Sr. became one of Moon’s most ardent supporters after Moon was convicted and sent to prison for tax evasion in the mid-80s. Of course, it helped that Moon gave millions to Liberty University. Yes, that’s right. A cult leader giving millions to a Baptist university. Follow that money trail, folks.
My, what a tangled web Evangelicals weave!
Like Trump, Moon knew that the best way to maintain control over the masses was to do their thinking for them. Moon loved being in front of a crowd. He loved all the pomp and circumstance of being a cult leader. Like Trump, he could speak incoherently for hours to masses of people enthralled to be in their leader’s presence.
I witnessed this same feverish response while in DC for Memorial Day last year, back then Trump was a candidate for president. Like Moon, Trump has a propensity for overstating the size of his cult. While there were thousands in DC for the Memorial Day events, there were less than a 1,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial to hear Trump speak. But those who were there were nearly orgasmic in their response to Trump.
“There he is! There he is! He’s coming!” one overly excited woman called out as she and her family members rushed to the rope line in hopes of being touched by the Messiah Trump.
Speaking of which, the one area where Moon got in trouble with Evangelicals was when he claimed to be the Second Coming of Christ. But even that claim didn’t dissuade Jerry Falwell Sr. from offering his support to Moon.
Follow that money trail.
As I point out in my book Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ’cause I need more room for my Plasma TV (Zondervan), there is a money trail that connects most of these mega-churches one to the other.
Church is big business around the world.
Like Trump, Moon built a vast empire from the monies of others.
Consider this 1997 report from the Washington Post:
It is a sprawling collection of churches, nonprofit foundations and for-profit holding companies whose global operations include computers and religious icons in Japan, seafood in Alaska, weapons and ginseng in Korea, huge tracts of land in South America, a university in Bridgeport, Conn., a recording studio and travel agency in Manhattan, a horse farm in Texas and a golf course in California.
In the Washington area, the Unification Church’s investment is an important cog in a global machine that Moon uses to boost his credibility, spread his spiritual doctrine and win political influence, according to current and former church members.
As the Unification movement evolved from selling roses on street corners to acquiring control of a nationwide cable channel, the nation’s capital became the epicenter of Moon’s U.S. holdings. Those include the Washington Times newspaper, a video production firm and a stately old church, once the pride of the Mormons, along 16th Street NW. Washington-area property owned by the church, its affiliated companies or senior church officials is worth more than $200 million, according to property and corporate records.
Trump, who had never been religious prior to the election of 2016, has realized that he missed out on great opportunities of amassing more wealth by discounting the Evangelical crowd.
Now he panders to them.
For good reasons.
Those of us who have not yet fallen prey to Trump’s cultish spell are often chided to just “go along to get along.” We are urged by Van Jones and Anderson Cooper to talk across the divide.
J. D. Vance, who wrote a diatribe disguised as a memoir, tells us that the problem isn’t Trump. It’s that we have overlooked our struggling Appalachian cousins. Ron Howard was so impressed he’s turning Vance’s book into a movie, surely with the hopes of reaching across the Appalachian gap of the “haves” and the “have nots”.
FoxNews just wants to label all non-believers as infidels and banish us to a land void of clean air and water and health insurance.
But they are all overlooking the fact that Donald Trump is a cult leader.
He displays almost all the characteristics common to cult leaders throughout history:
- Over the top personality
- Sole authority belongs to him
- Obedience is demanded
- Loyalty a must
- Deviant sexual behaviors (Sex abusers)
- Demands conformity
- Disavows anyone who questions them
- Claims to be ultimate source of truth
- Limits outside knowledge or contact
- Declares disbelievers as “the enemy”
- Boast of special powers
- Disdains accountability to anyone since they consider themselves to the higher power
- Answers to no one
- Justifies all their actions as the Right Path
- Employs a pyramid structure which puts them in ultimate power and all others in a subservient position beneath them
The problem is that most devotees fail to recognize these symptoms except in hindsight.
There is an assumption that we all make – a self-serving bias as it were – that we are all individually too smart to ever fall for a cult. But the truth is that cults are full of smart, educated, thoughtful people who fell victim to the seductions of the cult leader. It has happened throughout history and is happening today as I write this.
The first fallacy any cult-member makes is to believe they are beyond such seductions.
We are all susceptible.
Each and every one of us.
Money and power and sex are themes in movies and books for a reason. Human nature is easily seduced.
We all fall prey to these influences every single day in a thousand different ways.
But once you’ve fallen into the cult, getting out of it is particularly difficult. Consider the thoughts of one former Moonie:
During all of this, my parents showed extraordinary patience. Rather than outright confrontation or, as some parents chose to do, kidnapping me and hiring de-programmers to deconstruct the Moon mirage, they quietly pointed out the inconsistencies. They reminded me that it was odd for a ‘messiah’ to be investing in the manufacture of guns and munitions (including a Korean arms factory); they stressed, correctly, that Moon had had several wives and that his sexual past was far more lewd than anything he was trying to combat in the U.S. or Britain, and they gently pointed out that faith should not be confused with certainty.
With all due respect to Van Jones and Anderson Cooper and Ron Howard, no amount of “talking across the divide” is going to heal this nation from the damage that Trump is inflicting.
Trump is a cult leader.
His devotees are not solely adherents to a political persuasion – they are devotees to a cult personality.
Until they begin to think for themselves, until they begin to question his ultimate authority over them, until they become disenchanted with his demands and his lies, the rest of us can do very little to dissuade them from their feverish worship of Trump.
There is very little we can do in the meantime, other than point out the inconsistencies and hold the cult leader accountable at every turn. Every minute of every day.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma TV (Zondervan) & Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining How Fear Erodes Our Faith (Zondervan).