The Cult of Trump

Joe Navarro M.A., a former FBI agent, studied the psychology of cult leaders for years and has listed, at Psychology Today, traits "that, at a minimum, say caution, this individual is dangerous, and in all likelihood will cause harm to others." (link) What I find most disturbing, though, is discovering these traits not among cult leaders, proper, but among local pastors, businessmen, and Donald J. Trump. Worse, we have religious frauds like Pat Robertson, Jay Sekulow, Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Jim Bakker et al. demanding allegiance to the cult of Trump.

Having studied for years the likes of cult leaders Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson and Marshall Heff Applewhit (Heaven's Gate), what is primarily characteristic of such is that "they were or are all pathologically narcissistic." (link) Let us define our two terms, cult and narcissism, asking ourselves how such applies perhaps not only for Donald Trump, and his Religious Right supporters who demand loyalty to their politically Republican god, but even to some local pastors in the average church.

Our English word "cult" derives from Latin, cultus, referring to worship. We use the term to denote a context containing extremist views that are not generally accepted: "a religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false [generally affirmed], with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader." (link) Remember that the cult leader, or the man with cult-leader attributes, is also a pathological narcissist, narcissism being "a personality disorder characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy." (link)

Whether we are discussing raging narcissists like Donald Trump, or evangelicals like Perry Noble and Steven Furtick, such men (and they are always men) do not have to be leaders of a cult proper in order to exhibit cultlike attributes. I will list former FBI Joe Navarro's traits of a cult leader and follow with commentary, connections, and sourced statements.
1. He has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.
Because the man is a narcissist, his whole world revolves around his ideas and desires, as he believes that he is a proverbial Superman -- he can accomplish whatever he puts his mind to, regardless of whether such is good for all involved, so long as he, meaning his ego, is served; and he wants others to join his Me-campaign, furthering his cause, advancing, really, him. So he will carefully choose to surround himself with those who are pro-Him, pro-His cause, convinced of his right-ness.
3. Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
4. Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.
Trump hosted a cabinet meeting that provided opportunity for his cabinet members to praise him and laud his cause (link); because that is what raging narcissists do -- they demand loyalty, as Trump is now infamous for seeking (link), and pathological narcissists require admiration in order to fuel their ego-driven alt-reality. But evangelical leaders, too, demand loyalty to Trump; and they seek to accomplish this by manipulation.

Apostate Pat Robertson, including Pat's sidekick Jay Sekulow (Trump's personal lawyer), manipulate their followers into believing the lie that to oppose Donald Trump is to oppose God's plan for America. (link) Religious huckster Franklin Graham is guilty of perpetuating the exact same concept. (link/link) Jim Bakker affirms this political idolatry by insisting that opposing Trump is "the spirit of the Antichrist." (link) This is how the Religious Right garners its followers: deception and manipulation that demands unquestioned loyalty as such is expected of them from God.
7. Is arrogant and haughty in his behavior or attitude.
8. Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws.
19. Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling is part of his personality.
Little needs to be noted here, at least from my perspective, as I view Donald Trump and far, far too many evangelical leaders as arrogant, authoritarian, and controlling. Still there are others who view "humble" Trump as merely attempting to fix what is wrong with Washington and this country; they do not view him as arrogant, authoritarian, and, hence, controlling. Trump's deceived flock refuses to see him in any other light than the Light of this country. His superficial and deceptive charm, yet another trait of a cult leader, has worked on his cultic flock.


Former FBI agent Joe Navarro states: "When a cult or organizational leader has a preponderance of these traits then we can anticipate that at some point those who associate with him will likely suffer physically, emotionally, psychologically, or financially." (link) What is tragic, though, is that the victims will not likely understand that they are being influenced by a cult leader. "If these traits sound familiar to leaders, groups, sects, or organizations known to you then expect those who associate with them to live in despair and to suffer even if they don't know it, yet." (emphasis added) (link) Navarro's advice is to run!
11. Is hypersensitive to how he is seen or perceived by others.
12. Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
21. When criticized he tends to lash out not just with anger but with rage.
22. Anyone who criticizes or questions him is called an "enemy."
23. Refers to non-members or non-believers in him as "the enemy."
24. Acts imperious at times, not wishing to know what others think or desire.
25. Believes himself to be omnipotent.
28. Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior.
This group is telling: the pathological narcissist is also a bully; and we all know by now that bullies, driven either by inherent insecurity or by overt arrogance and self-importance, tend to belittle others in order to appear and feel superior. Donald Trump exhibits mastery over every one of these traits. He cannot be criticized in even the slightest manner possible; but lashes out when anyone dares to correct or challenge him. He will humiliate anyone who is deemed expendable. This is who the Religious Right declares God chose as His "godly" man to reform and bless this country -- a man so comfortable dehumanizing others, so familiar with lying that such is his native tongue. This speaks volumes of the toxicity of 81% of evangelical Trump supporters and Religious Right leaders.
13. Makes members confess their sins or faults publicly subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation while revealing exploitable weaknesses of the penitent.
39. Tries to control others in what they do, read, view, or think.
These two expose many fundamentalist "Christian" movements who use shame as a means to deceive, manipulate, and control the lives, the thinking, the spending, the thought-processes, of their members. A former evangelical confesses: "I am 30 years old and I am struggling to find sanity. Between the Christian schools, homeschooling, the Christian group home (indoctrinating work camp) and different churches in different cities, I am a psychological, emotional and spiritual mess." (link) Can you blame her? Though I, personally, view the fundamentalism that she was exposed to as a false version of Christianity, she is, regardless, a victim of a toxic brand masquerading as "orthodox" and "biblical."

Focus on perfection (sanctification), sexual purity, tithing and modesty and avoiding secular music and movies and going to church twice on Sundays, Wednesday night prayer, Sunday school and Bible studies at someone's house -- many Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have become neurotic about the Christian faith that is supposed to focus on the saving grace and atoning work of Christ. Do not forget, however, that part of being a good conservative Christian is voting "pro-life," which means always voting Republican, no matter how devilish the candidate.

CONCLUSION

Do not be deceived: God will not be mocked. While advocates of cultic Donald Trump -- e.g., Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Mike Pence, Ben Carson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., et al. -- demand our loyalty, we are obliged to inform the same that we are, first and foremost, aligned to one Leader and His name is Jesus. Secondarily, we cannot be loyal to this faux president because he is not a president but a cult leader, the leader of the cult of Trump. We will have no part of a cult.

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.