Treating Trump like Jesus: Indictment proves MAGA is a cult

The book “When Prophecy Fails” is a classic work of social psychology that examines a UFO doomsday cult waiting for the end of the world. Of course, the special day arrives, and the world does not end. How do the cult members respond to this failure? By becoming more convinced that the prophecy is correct.

Donald Trump is at the center of a similar pseudo-religious cult prediction as well. His most loyal followers truly believe him to be a type of divine, messianic, and all-powerful leader. In reality, there is nothing divine or messianic about Donald Trump. He is a mere mortal who has been credibly accused of many serious crimes. Nevertheless, right-wing Christian evangelicals and Christofascists (to the degree those two groups are distinct and separate from one another) have rationalized their support of Donald Trump (and Trumpism) through the biblical myth of Cyrus. The belief is that God uses a wicked man as a tool of divine destiny and will.

Donald Trump is not a practicing Christian; moreover, he looks very uncomfortable in church and at other religious gatherings. In reality, Donald Trump is a pathological malignant narcissist and compulsive liar who is the God of his own personal religion and self-contained universe. Trump views right-wing Christians in a transactional way. They are a tool to help him get and keep more power.

Still, white right-wing Christian evangelicals’ faith in Trump the prophetic figure was rewarded grandly. While president, Trump enacted a range of policies that furthered the creation of a white Christofascist theocracy in America. The white right views him as a revolutionary leader, a force of destiny and history, a Destructor who will force a new age where diversity, pluralism and globalism are destroyed and replaced by a White Christian empire where white men rule unopposed over all things. The QAnon conspiracy cult with its apocalyptic obsession over Trump’s retributive act of destruction known as “the Storm” is one example. 

The inherent nature of cults, prophecies and divine (paranormal) predictions is that they do not obey the rules of rationality, empiricism, or reason. As such, these prophecies and other such acts of magical thinking can be twisted to fit any scenario or desired outcome.

To that point, at his recent 2024 presidential campaign rally in Waco (which was attended by more than 10,000 followers), Trump spoke of being a victim of a conspiracy, and a man who is being persecuted as part of a witch hunt. Trump of course, channeling Hitler or some other great tyrant, promised to be a force of retribution and revenge who will engage in a “final battle” against his and the MAGA movement’s so-called enemies. 

The BBC described Trump’s Waco rally in the following way: “Thousands of the former president’s supporters wandered through Trump merchandise tents, where they bought t-shirts emblazoned with “God, guns and Trump” and “Trump won.” 

Through this logic, any attempt to hold Trump accountable under the rule of law is translated into being an attack on the members of his MAGA movement and personality cult.

The timing and choice of Waco to hold Trump’s first major 2024 presidential campaign rally was not a mistake or coincidence: that city is a type of holy ground for the white right and larger American antigovernment movement because of its connection to the tragic 1993 raid by law enforcement on the Branch Davidian compound that resulted in the deaths of more than 80 people. By hosting his rally in Waco, Trump presented himself as a type of cult leader and martyr figure who is willing to die and kill for his followers.

In a story at the Daily Mail, members of the Branch Davidian cult, including its current pastor, explained how they view Trump as a type of prophet and “God’s battering ram” for their cause:

The Branch Davidians are said to consider the former president as ‘the battering ram that God is using to bring down the Deep State of Babylon.’

The FBI’s raid on the group’s compound, Mount Carmel, which the Branch Davidians view as a government overstep, is similar to what they claim happened to Trump.

The former president, 76, is set to hold a rally in Waco this afternoon, coinciding with 30th anniversary of the FBI raid on Branch Davidians formerly led by David Koresh.

Trump’s holding of a rally in Waco is ‘a statement — that he was sieged by the F.B.I. at Mar-a-Lago and that they were accusing him of different things that aren’t really true, just like David Koresh was accused by the F.B.I. when they sieged him,’ Koresh’s successor, Pastor Charles Pace, told the New York Times.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump peacefully surrendered to law enforcement authorities and was arraigned in a Manhattan courthouse for alleged crimes connected to hush-money payments he made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump is now the first former president to be indicted on criminal charges in the country’s history.

Trump’s followers – at his encouragement – have taken his indictment (and now arrest) as “proof” that he is being “persecuted” like Jesus Christ or some other type of divine mythological figure.

In a recent feature at Vice, reporter Tess Owen provides these details:

The former president has long played a key role in the imaginations of Christian nationalists, who believe America is an inherently Christian nation, should have Christian laws, and that Trump is their savior. Christian nationalist language has seeped into MAGA-world rhetoric, but Trump’s imminent arrest has taken it to new heights. 

Lawyer Joseph McBride, who is representing a handful of Jan. 6 defendants, thinks that the timing of Trump’s likely arrest is notable.

“President Trump will be arrested during lent—a time of suffering and purification for the followers of Jesus Christ,” McBride wrote on Twitter. “As Christ was crucified, and then rose again on the 3rd day, so too will @realdonaldtrump.”

When he faced some pushback on comparing Trump’s plight to Jesus Christ’s hours-long torture, McBride doubled down. “JESUS LOVES DONALD TRUMP. JESUS DIED FOR DONALD TRUMP. JESUS LIVES INSIDE DONALD TRUMP,” McBride tweeted. “DEAL WITH IT.”

Other Trump supporters see eerie similarities between the Manhattan DA and the Romans who crucified Jesus.

“Rome tried to silence a peaceful leader via political persecution, and ended up creating the most pervasive & permanent religious figure in all of world history,” MAGA-world influencer Reanna Dilley wrote on Twitter.  “Good fucking luck, New York.”

Owen continues, “On Monday night, a Christian nationalist group called Pastors for Trump held a National Prayer Call on his behalf. Trump allies Roger Stone and Michael Flynn joined the call, hosted by Pastor Jackson Lahmeyer.

“Father, right now, I thank you for President Donald J. Trump and God I thank you for all that you’ve done to him and through him and for him over the last eight years,” Lahmeyer said. “We ask that every single person that refuses to submit to your will in Washington D.C., you would uproot them and you would remove them and replace them with men and women who will submit to the will of God.””

On Tuesday afternoon, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene held a poorly attended rally in support of Trump outside of the Manhattan courthouse where the disgraced former president was being arraigned. During an interview before the event – which Greene retreated from after being heckled by a much larger group of counter-protesters – she also elevated Trump to the level of Jesus Christ.

“Trump is joining some of the most incredible people in history being arrested today. Nelson Mandela was arrested, served time in prison. Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government.”

Rolling Stone reports how the disgraced former president wanted a high-profile surrender for purposes of propaganda and political theater, during which he would show the world how he is a “Jesus Christ”-like figure:

The Secret Service had argued in favor of holding the proceedings outside of court business hours, at night with minimal cameras and less risk. But Trump, a source close to his legal team says, wants to create the type of scene that he believes will galvanize his supporters.

“It’s kind of a Jesus Christ thing. He is saying, ‘I’m absorbing all this pain from all around from everywhere so you don’t have to,’ ” says the source. Describing the message Trump hopes to send his supporters, the source says: ” ‘If they can do this to me they can do this to you,’ and that’s a powerful message.”

The elevation of Donald Trump to the level of god or prophet or some other tool of destiny by his followers and enablers represents a much larger trend among the American right-wing, “conservative movement” and other neofascists and malign actors. Today’s Republican Party and “conservative” movement have abandoned any pretense of normal politics and instead have fully committed themselves to anti-rationality, anti-intellectualism, a rejection of learned real expertise, religious fundamentalism, conspiracism, “alternative facts” and the “Big Lie.” This is a type of religious politics that is antithetical to real democracy.

Trump’s indictment and arrest may not result in massive and immediate violence by his followers, but the danger should not be minimized.

Public opinion and other research show that millions of Trump followers are radicalized and support (and a not insignificant number of which are willing to participate in) acts of violence on Donald Trump’s behalf in the name of a MAGA holy war if he were to issue such a declaration. As seen on Jan. 6 and beyond, such people are capable of doing anything to get and keep corrupt power. Why? Because they are engaged in a holy war by their “God.”

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