Think Q silly? Think those who attacked Congress can be squashed by indictments, or prison terms? Be aware: what once was mocked, squashed, tends to rise again. That’s true whether it was the small, local, ministry of Jesus, or Q and the worldwide wave of White Nationalism.
Who imagined, during the time of Jesus, and especially after the crucifixion, the Empire would shift from mostly polytheists, and Jews, to a widespread Christian kingdom?
Who imagined after WWI, or after Hitler’s putsch, that an all too cult-like movement would end up as ruling another empire with its blood thirsty mad Fuhrer, helped by cults of an Emperor and Mussolini. Together this Trinity almost conquered the world.
Who thought, after a decisive WWII defeat, almost 100 years later, Nazis would proudly goosestep in Charlottesville claiming, “Jews will not replace us?” And a president call some “good people?”
Who imagined, after last summer, the crowd that loudly condemned BLM and (supposed) Antifa violence in our streets; would violently attack Congress just a few months later. Beating cops with flag poles. Dragging them face down down cement stairs and beat them again. Plant pipe bombs. Constructing a gallows to hang, among others, their own VP?
I am not saying all these groups are exactly the same. Just cults, or cult like, dismissed at first as less than consequential, groups that will just go away. When the Jews first did battle they too were considered much what we would now call a cult and dismissed. I am warning about how cults, and cult-like groups, are almost always under estimated.
”Cult” not necessarily bad nor good; just not orthodox, not accepted, often small. Historically what were once called cults often (not always by any means) became more mainstream, even considered orthodox. Beliefs many laughed at become dogma. Jesus wasn’t respected by anywhere near all in his faith (Judaism) during his time, though like Donald Trump people tend to think large gatherings proved such conclusions. Certainly not respected by most orthodox Jews, or Jewish leaders, during that time. A whole new religion had to be created. They packed his bags and moved their revised concepts of Jesus, and what they claimed he taught, claimed he said, to a new home called Christianity. And, eventually, an Empire was conquered. Just not as Messiah seeking Jews thought it would happen during his time and before.
Who knows what Donald Trump may become. A frightening concept… what if his followers: disciples Greene, Boebart, Gosar, Biggs, Hawley, Gohmert, maybe even McConnell who denied him many times, were ‘smart’ enough to have some ‘Judas’ betray him? I’m sure Trump might approve Liz Cheney for filling that role. I’m sure he might think she’s been auditioning. Especially if Trump goes to prison. What if he gets killed in prison and it becomes all part of some “deep state conspiracy?” Certainly a cross MAGA would approve of for the plot.
The demand for absolute loyalty from all certainly seems cult-like.
Why did I mention “killed?” Because the murdered martyr’s message not only may be magnified, but can be controlled, shifted; made even worse, more effective. His followers will claim what he “really meant.” Even if they denied or persecuted him. (Isn’t it interesting cult leaders tend to be male.) What they push very well may eventually be considered canon. Someone like DeSantis or Greg Abbott could become the new Paul, the next president, and lead the cult into the new orthodoxy.
It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.
To be clear: I know of no specific plot.
One hopes followers of Q do not follow the path of other cults. Not just Jim Jones, but the Essenes. When the Empire tried to bring the Essenes to justice many years after the crucifixion. They were held up in Herod’s palace. Once it became obvious they would be defeated they committed mass suicide, including the children. The power of the cult is both frightening and enlightening.
I have little doubt Jim Jones knew of this historical event when he decided on flavoring the end of his ministry, and the end of his loyal followers, and their children, with Flavor Aid.
We mock Q much like Jesus was mocked by hanging a sign: “King of the Jews.” Don’t automatically dismiss them as silly and think, “Hey, it will will fade.” Hitler, who went to jail, was dismissed before his rule. Dismissed many times. Many dismissed Jesus and those who followed him. The followers of history’s cults were mostly dismissed at first.
Good or bad is not my point here. It’s the pattern those we would call cults now have followed and what it may mean now, why it’s dangerous just to dismiss them, laugh them off. Jesus and his followers were dismissed just as Q followers have been, White Nationalists, MAGA. Just like many try to get us to dismiss January 6th. Just like crowds gathering; waiting for risen from the dead JFK to return and rule with Trump are dismissed.
Who could have imagined so many Congressmen and women enabling the cult? Who could have imagined they would help Donald Trump in his constant efforts to myth make via misdirection, what about-ism, misinformation and strawmen? One wonders if any trial might be framed by his cultists as akin to Pilate and Jesus. And just like the crucifixion what happens after is one hell of a wild card. My guess: a severe split. A split like followers of Jesus from Judaism where eventually Jews were blamed for murdering Jesus. Like the Democrats split into two parties pre-Civil War: north and south.
Indictments? Prison? Those who carried Christian beliefs forth were eaten by wild beasts. You think convictions or indictments will stop true believers, make them hesitate? Think Roger Stone. I doubt even the threat of wild beasts might make him hesitate for a moment. He is the G. Gordon Liddy of Trump world, of course with roots back to Nixon.
Lesson for a new year: never under estimate the power of cults. After the crucifixion there was a struggle between what would become orthodox and what would be considered heterodoxy: a term created by Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman meaning the beliefs of what would be considered cults. A useful synonym for heresy.
Orthodox and heterodox: together would that be a… pair-a-dox-y?
How does this apply to our times? The arguments that the election was stolen, that 1/6/21 was no more than a peaceful protest, that their right to free speech was violated: s for now these are considered heterodox. But we need to understand with constant efforts of true believers that could become orthodoxy, especially as we attempt to move on, or when they don’t ignoring them. Just like a small group of heretical believers grew into organized Christianity, or a small group of haters became the Nazi regime.
As unimaginable as it may seem what seems crazy now may become accepted belief later. I’m sure among most more orthodox Jews and the mostly polytheistic citizens in the Empire thought the followers of Jesus eventually BEING the Empire unimaginable.
Again… for the new year: never under estimate the power of cults.
As 2022 rolls on remember: anything considered cultish, “out there,” may become main stream. Sometimes the best we can do is pick sides if we must, stay out of the way of the carnage if we can, and hope the way they arise next time will be less crazy, kinder.
So far: not promising.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for almost 50 years, first published in fall of 1972. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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