Jul 27, 2021

Playhouse Abuses w/ Andrea Geones and Michael Laskin

Playhouse Abuses w/ Andrea Geones and Michael Laskin
July 21, 2021

Returning this week are actors, Andrea Geones and Michael Laskin. 

Andrea and Michael teamed up to create a code of ethics for acting classes with one goal in mind: to create a safe and healthy environment for actors and acting students. After experiencing the unhealthy and cult-like culture fostered within many acting classes where sexual, financial, and psychological abuse were the norm, they created https://www.findyouractingclass.com/ and wrote a code of conduct for acting teachers to agree to and endorse, as well as guidelines to help teachers ensure that they are running their classes ethically. 

Andrea is a Los Angeles native. In addition to acting and piano, she has studied singing, guitar, and flute. She currently is in school earning a b.s. in nutritional sciences while she pursues her career in acting. She is also a freelance writer for online publications, including where she originally wrote about the cult-like atmosphere of acting classes. 

You can find her article here.

Michael Laskin has been a working actor for over 40 years, across all platforms: film, theatre, and television. Twelve years ago he started The Michael Laskin Studio, an acting studio in Los Angeles. His book, “The Authentic Actor - the Art and Business of Being Yourself” has been praised as a fresh, newly examined, and non-dogmatic approach to the work and the life of an actor. In the second half of Rachel's two-part discussion with Andrea and Michael, the actors break down their code of ethics and describe the personal experiences that directly inform many of the guidelines. Andrea explains the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness that acting students often feel and shares about the emotional abuse she experienced from teachers. Michael provides more insight from his perspective as an experienced teacher and explains how his outrage at the abusive practices became a catalyst to join Andrea in pursuit of a healthier and safer environment for students. 


Satanic Temple suit against Boston moves forward

SALEM, MA: September 27, 2019: Lucien Greaves of the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo By Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
Boston Herald
July 22, 2021

The Satanic Temple’s lawsuit against Boston has more than a snowball’s chance in hell, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs allowed several of the complaints from the Salem Satanists to move forward — while sticking a fork in some other ones — as The Satanic Temple, or TST, takes issue with it not being allowed to give the opening prayer for a City Council meeting.

The devil’s advocates initially attempted to sue the hell out of the city in January, arguing that since the council allows various mainstream religions to speak, it’s against the First Amendment to pick and choose who gets to give invocations.

The city has countered that it’s not about discriminating one religion from another — it’s just enabling councilors inviting pastors, rabbis, priests or imams from Boston’s communities to address the body. And further, the city says, it’s just simply tough luck for the temple if no one invites them.

The devil, of course, remains in the details, as the judge allowed certain parts of the suit to continue even as she threw out others. Burroughs agreed with that line of thought from the city and spiked the Satanists’ arguments that the councilors’ ability to choose to invite specific religions and representatives is itself discriminatory and a violation of the 14th Amendment.

But the judge said the argument that this runs afoul of the Establishment Clause can continue on, as case law isn’t settled on what schemes to allow minority religious groups work constitutionally.

TST co-founder Lucien Greaves remained steamed, saying in a statement, “By tethering TST’s invitation to its political clout, the City has engaged in a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group which is decidedly not a legitimate governmental interest.”

Greaves told the Herald in January that this “should not be contextualized as Satanists against Christians.”

“It’s clearly the definition of discriminatory when you allow functionaries of the state deciding what viewpoints are allowed in the public square,” he said. “What we’re asking for is exactly what religious liberty is and what it looks like.”

And there could be hell to pay — or at least the temple’s legal costs, which the suit seeks to have covered.

Greaves has said the temple is “non-theistic” — they don’t literally believe in and worship Satan — but that doesn’t mean they don’t take their religion seriously. He said they “hold this iconography as a fight against tyranny.”


These Australians were cast out by their religions. But they have no regrets

RN Religion & Ethics reporter Nick Baker
ABC Radio National
July 24, 2021

After taking on one the world's most powerful institutions, Peter Kennedy has spent more than a decade living "in exile".

But that's exactly where the 83-year-old wants to be.

Mr Kennedy was a well-known Brisbane Catholic priest, but after challenging church orthodoxy and practising his own controversial brand of Catholicism, was dismissed in 2009.

He says he has now moved far away from the Catholic Church.

"I don't believe in the Catholic Church or even the Christian faith. For me, I think it's really all about justice. It's all about the poor and the broken."

Mr Kennedy is part of a small group of Australians who have been cast out of their religions.

For some, it's a badge of honour after a long fight. For others, it can be a deeply traumatising event.

"It was not easy ... but I have no regrets at all," Mr Kennedy says.

"I'm very glad for this journey."
From Catholicism to 'finding your own truth'

For years, Mr Kennedy made headlines for deviating from Roman Catholic practices at St Mary's church in South Brisbane, including allowing women to preach and blessing LGBTQIA+ couples.

After repeated warnings and attempts at conciliation, church authorities removed Mr Kennedy from office, so he and his flock set up a separate faith entity called St Mary's in Exile.

Described as "a pop-up church", St Mary's in Exile meets every weekend in the Queensland Trades and Labour Council Building, and is far more progressive than its Catholic namesake.

"We said we won't go down that toxic, patriarchal path … We changed the sexist language, we've had women leading and co-leading liturgy," explains Mr Kennedy's co-agitator, Terry Fitzpatrick.

Mr Fitzpatrick was an associate priest at St Mary's who stood by Mr Kennedy, so was also removed by the Catholic Church and is now with St Mary's in Exile.

"[The Catholic Church] just doesn't seem to be looking towards the future," he says.

For these former Catholic priests, the scriptures were "never meant to be taken literally". Instead, it's all about exploring the metaphorical messages and "finding your own truth".

Mr Kennedy says in his later years, he's been drawn to "the mystics and mysticism" and its focus on individualism and contemplation.

The same goes for Mr Fitzpatrick, who says he follows "mysticism and the Gnostic Christians, the non-literalist Christians that were persecuted by the literalist Christians in the early church system".

But while Mr Kennedy and Mr Fitzpatrick had an entire community support them as they left their religion and started on a new path, other Australians go through this in a much lonelier way.

For some, the process can lead to years – or even a lifetime – of struggle.
Losing family and friends

When Paul Grundy was expelled from his church, he lost a lot more than just a place to worship.

Mr Grundy was brought up in a family of devout Jehovah's Witnesses, in what he describes as an extremely insular religious world.

But later in life, he came to the conclusion that the religion was "just not telling the truth", so he created an anonymous website that strongly criticised Jehovah's Witness teachings.

The church figured out that Mr Grundy was behind the website and expelled him – a process known in the religion as "disfellowshipping".

And in the Jehovah's Witness faith, a disfellowed member can be "shunned," or as Mr Grundy describes it, "people cut you off from their lives, virtually completely".

"I lost most of my family and my friends. I went into mourning over that, knowing that was the end of my relationship with my mother and father and sister. It was almost like they died … I fell into a real state of depression."

Mental health experts say that shunning and similar extreme practices can have a significant effect on people.

"You may see PTSD, or low self-worth, even a loss of identity and a loss of self," says Nicola Stevens, a registered counsellor who has researched religious trauma.

"You can almost compare it to a form of coercion or an attempt by the religious institution to maintain power and control over the individual by saying, 'we'll use isolation'," she says.

The Jehovah's Witnesses did not respond to questions from the ABC about the effects of disfellowshipping and shunning.

But Mr Grundy says in the long term, he "definitely made the right choice" and is "very happy" with where he is now.

"Today I'm 'ignostic' … I think the whole discussion of whether there's a God or not is completely meaningless, because God doesn't reveal himself, no one knows who he is."
An ancient practice

Methods of temporarily or permanently excluding followers who break the rules are as old as religions themselves, according to experts.

Andrew Singleton, a professor of sociology and social research at Deakin University, says "it goes all the way back to when humans invented religion".

"The second thing they invented was heresy. And the third thing they invented was being removed for heresy," he says.

"[The Catholic Church] allows flexibility, but at some point, if you're speaking out in a way that's clearly against the doctrine, they will at that point clamp down."

For the Catholics, these penalties range from being "removed from clerical office" — like in the case of Mr Kennedy and Mr Fitzpatrick — to excommunication.

Professor Singleton says religions with greater "hierarchy, authority and history" are more likely to eject people for standing up to them, but "charismatic religions" are far less likely to do so.

"Charismatic religions are ones where anyone has the authority to hear from the spirits or gods. So it's not clear cut what constitutes heresy."

Professor Michele Riondino is the director of the Canon Law Centre at the Australian Catholic University.

He says for the Catholic Church, the legal structure and penalties laid out in the Code of Canon Law are to ensure "order" and "the good of the community".

Professor Riondino says in recent years, most clerical dismissals in the Catholic Church were due to sex-abuse crimes, rather than individuals standing up to church authority.

"All the sanctions in the church's Code of Canon Law, they have three purposes … To restore justice, reform the offender and repair the scandal," he says.

Professor Riondino says some penalties are "expiatory" while others are "medicinal", which are meant "to help the person understand the grave and the deep break between them and the church and to help them to be part of it again".

"The imposition or declaration of each kind of penalty … is one of the most significant expressions of the church's power and for this reason, every kind of penalty is exercised with great care, and with pastoral attention."

But while being pushed away from a religion can bring an enormous emotional toll, some Australians are fortunate to have had a much more positive experience.
'Just enjoy the ride'

Sue-Ann Post talks about her excommunication from the Mormon church in an almost joyous way.

But that's to be expected from someone who has described herself as "Australia's favourite six-foot, lesbian, ex-Mormon, diabetic, comedian and writer".

In the late 1980s, Ms Post started drawing on her Mormon upbringing for comedy material. Fifteen years on, church authorities eventually had enough and officially excommunicated her.

Ms Post was born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon church) but began drifting away from the faith in her teens.

"I probably would be a messed-up Mormon housewife if I hadn't gone to university and at age 18 realised that lesbians existed and went 'oh my God that explains everything'," she says.

"There were two years of battling that, praying and fasting and asking God not to make me gay until I finally accepted [my sexuality] … Then I thought, if they're wrong about that, what else are they wrong about? And I worked my way out with logic and a bit of anger."

Material from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says, "the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is".

Ms Post says for her, life is "all just one big adventure".

"I do not fear death. I do not fear an afterlife. If there is a God, I'm prepared to argue toe-to-toe with him."

And the ex-Mormon comedian has a piece of advice for people who go through a similar experience to hers.

"It was an absolutely scary but wonderful liberation … If you get expelled from a faith, just enjoy the ride."
Post-traumatic growth

Counsellor Nicola Stevens also says there can be positives, no matter how traumatic the split is.

"People are pretty incredible and I think even when they have been through traumatic experiences, there is a thing that we call 'post-traumatic growth'," Ms Stevens says.

"People can experience growth and make some sense after what has happened, and find a way to accept that it's happened.

"With resilience and strength … people can find ways to create a life worthwhile and meaningful for them, even after an event like this."


CultNEWS101 Articles: 7/27/2021 (Mother Teresa, Podcast, QAnon, Term Cult, QAnon, ICSA Event)

Mother Teresa, Podcast, QAnon, Term Cult, QAnon, ICSA Event

The Turning: Highway of Broken Glass (Part nine - Is this a cult? How do you leave?  Janja Lalich)
"Thousands of women gave up everything to follow Mother Teresa, joining her storied Catholic order, the Missionaries of Charity. But some found that life inside this fiercely private religious order was not what they'd imagined. Former sisters who worked closely with Mother Teresa describe her bold vision and devotion to charity and prayer. But they also share stories of suffering and forbidden love, abuse and betrayal. If you make a lifelong vow, what does it mean to break it? What is the line between devotion and brainwashing? Can you truly give yourself to God?"

Religion Dispatches: 'Cult' Is An Inaccurate, Unhelpful and Dangerous Label for Followers of Trump, QAnon, and 1/6
In the twentieth century the word "cult" (originally meaning "worship") became a pejorative word that people apply to a group or movement that they do not like and perhaps fear. The word "cult" implies a stereotype that involves what sociologist James T. Richardson has termed the "myth of the omnipotent leader" and a corresponding "myth of the passive, brainwashed follower." These are just that: myths. They're inaccurate assumptions about groups and movements with unconventional beliefs: no leader can become a dictator without complicit lieutenants who prop up his (or her) authority; the "brainwashing thesis" has been judged to be unscientific by the American Psychological Association and American judges and has been debunked by social scientists; in fact, people frequently change their minds and leave a group when they lose faith in its ideology.

In 2013 I wrote an essay titled "The Problem Is Totalism, Not Cults," which argues that instead of using the pejorative word "cult," which prevents unbiased research and dehumanizes believers, the term "totalism" better conveys what people were actually worried about: groups whose members live in isolated communities, where people are controlled and not permitted to leave when they choose. Such totalistic institutions range from some unconventional religious or political groups to prisons, concentration camps, and authoritarian governments of nations. Americans generally agree that they're abusive.

Currently it's fashionable to use the word "cult" to describe all sorts of groups and movements that people don't like. It's said that people who support former President Donald Trump constitute a "cult"; the diffuse QAnon movement is called a "cult"; and the January 6, 2021 insurrection against the United States Congress meeting in the Capitol has been alleged to be a "cult." However, these are diffuse movements, not insulated, totalistic communities. "Cult" used in this manner is constructed to refer to the worst characteristics that people can imagine, which is what Yale historian Joanne Freeman did in a June 22, 2021 podcast with Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson (no relation to James T. Richardson) when Freeman stated that members of a "cult" believe their side is righteous and that anyone opposed to them is evil and "must be defeated, executed."

A statement like this says more about what Freeman imagines a "cult" to be than it does about the research of scholars who have studied alternative and emergent religious movements, including millennial movements. Starting by imposing one's own constructed definition of "cult" on movements and groups inhibits careful investigation and analysis, as indicated by Freeman and Heather Cox Richardson comparing the QAnon movement to three different historical episodes in entirely different communal contexts: the Salem Witch Trials in 1692-1693, the Oneida Perfectionist community, and Jonestown.

"I wrote my 4th book, The Cult of Trump for Simon and Schuster and it was published on October 15th, 2019. In it, I discuss the stereotypical profile of many cult leaders: that of malignant narcissism and compare Trump with Moon, Hubbard, LaRouche, Jones, and others. I discuss his childhood and influences, including his father Fred, Norman Vincent Peale, Roy Cohn and others and go into the history of propaganda and disinformation, then persuasive communication patterns of a cult leader's playbook. Then to influencers like Putin, The Family, Opus Dei, New Apostolic Reformation, Libertarians, the Alt-right, the NRA and other groups with agendas which include Dominionism as well as shrinking the government. I discuss the followers and then have a chapter on how to talk with true believers, using my Strategic Interactive Approach. It is clear that calling names only further polarization. So does saying the other side is brainwashed. Effective communication demands understanding how people are believing and how they are operating."

International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA): 2021 Conference is Still Available
The 2021 online annual conference was a great success, with more than 425 attendees!! If you missed it, no problem, because for the FIRST TIME EVER -- you have the opportunity to watch 65 conference session recordings until August 15, 2021!

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.

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Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

Please forward articles that you think we should add to cultintervention@gmail.com.


Ex-NXIVM president Salzman: I didn't protect daughter from 'likely' psychopath Raniere

Says she failed to shield Lauren Salzman from "a sex-crazed power hungry man taking advantage of damaged people"
Says she failed to shield Lauren Salzman from "a sex-crazed power hungry man taking advantage of damaged people"

Robert Gavin
Albany Times Union
July 27, 2021

Nancy Salzman, former NXIVM president and the one-time ally of Keith Raniere, now calls Raniere "likely a psychopath" and says she did not protect her daughter, Lauren Salzman, from him.

NEW YORK – In a letter to a federal judge seeking leniency for her daughter, former NXIVM president Nancy Salzman said she failed to shield Lauren Salzman from Keith Raniere — a man she now describes as a "sexual predator, a narcissist and likely a psychopath."

Nancy Salzman, who co-founded the cult-like personal growth organization in Colonie with Raniere in 1998, told Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis to "please consider how young Lauren was when she met Keith and my personal failure as a mother to protect her and guide her."

Lauren Salzman, whose crimes include her role in Raniere's confinement of a Mexican woman to a room in her parent's townhouse for nearly two years simply because the woman kissed another man, pleaded guilty in 2019 to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.

She will be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

“Of all the regrettable things I have done with Keith and NXIVM, this by far is the one that gives me the greatest personal sadness,” Salzman told the judge in a letter filed in a sentencing recommendation from her daughter’s lawyers. “I am responsible for Lauren being before you, having endured arrest, prosecution and successful cooperation and now facing her own judgment.”

Lauren Salzman, a former high-ranking NXIVM member who became the prosecution's star witness at Raniere’s 2019 trial, has been in home detention for three years. In that time, the 45-year-old Halfmoon resident has tried to rebuild her life working with dogs and specializing in their skin and coat issues, the defense memo said.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Lauren Salzman faces up to nine years in prison. Federal prosecutors asked the judge to sentence her below the guidelines without giving a specific number.

"Keith's behavior ultimately was cruel and domineering and I (very belatedly) lost belief in the good faith I had harbored for so long," Nancy Salzman told the judge. "When the NXIVM world was unraveling, it was easier for me than it was for Lauren to understand that Keith had lied and withheld information from people, including us, for his own demonic purposes."

Nancy Salzman, who will be sentenced on Sept. 8 for her guilty plea to racketeering conspiracy, admitted she conspired to commit identity theft to get the names and passwords of email accounts of NXIVM's perceived "enemies." Investigators seized boxes containing files on the "enemies" -- and more than $515,000 -- from the basement of her Oregon Trail home in Halfmoon. And prosecutors at Raniere's trial showed jurors a video of Nancy Salzman parroting Raniere's words at a meeting of Jness, a women's group in NXIVM, inside the former Apropos restaurant on Route 9. She repeated Raniere's claims that the age of consent in some places is as low as 12 and that some little children are "perfectly happy" having sex with adults.

Still, when she read the evidence in the government's case against Raniere, Nancy Salzman said she finally understood Raniere was "not the laid-back genius he pretended to be, but was instead a sex-crazed power hungry man taking advantage of damaged people to achieve his sick goals. "

She said her daughter needed time to see Raniere for what he was and what he had done. "Over time, at my urging and with the aid of her attorneys she came to see that Keith was a sexual predator, a narcissist and likely a psychopath," Nancy Salzman told Garaufis.

"When I made the decision to plead guilty and seek to cooperate, I suggested that Lauren do the same," she wrote.

Lauren Salzman, a 1994 graduate of Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, met Raniere at 21, before she graduated from SUNY Oswego.

Her mother became involved with Raniere professionally and sexually. Lauren Salzman eventually conducted a more than 20-year involvement in NXIVM and its Executive Success Programs (ESP). In 2017, she became a '"first-line master" in Raniere's secret club, Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), an organization in which female "slaves" took lifetime vows of obedience to "masters" in a supposedly all-female sorority. But it was run by Raniere, who invented its protocols as means to control women, force their labor and have sex with them.

Women in DOS were burned with brands of Raniere's initials on their groins, forced to wear chains to symbolize collars, starved on low-calorie diets and deprived of sleep.

Lauren Salzman, in a separate letter to Garaufis, said she has nightmares in which Raniere starts DOS again and she is unable to get out. She said that Raniere was cruel to her and her mother, penalizing them for "breaches" if they dared to show interest in other men. It was the same reason Raniere punished the woman kept in the room, which Lauren Salzman has called her worst crime.

In March 2018, the younger Salzman was with Raniere when police arrested him in Mexico. She said he hid in a closet and she faced officers pointing guns at her.

In June 2019, jurors convicted Raniere of all charges, including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering charges that included underlying acts of possessing child pornography, exploitation of a child and extortion. Garaufis sentenced the Halfmoon man to 120 years in prison.

Nancy Salzman, 66, who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in March 2019, told the judge she was too ashamed to tell Lauren, the eldest of her two daughters, that she had been romantically involved with Raniere, now 60, and hoped she would never find out.

"It was part of Keith's evil genius to figure out how to play one person off against another so that everyone would remain weak and insecure," Nancy Salzman told the judge. She said when she learned Lauren was involved with Raniere, she thought he was eccentric but well-intentioned and did not understand the "depth of his derangement and that he was damaging my daughter."

Michael Salzman, Lauren's father, also wrote a letter to the judge, saying Raniere demanded she sever ties with him.

More than 25 letters, filed by defense attorneys Hector J. Diaz and Andrea S. Tazioli, were in the file, including submissions from family members, former classmates and new work clients. One letter writer identified himself as a former member of Britain's Manchester United soccer team, though the person's identity — like most of the names on the letters — was redacted.

Robert Gavin covers state and federal courts, criminal justice issues and legal affairs for the Times Union. Contact him at rgavin@timesunion.com or 518-434-2403.


Jul 21, 2021

Stolen: A Memoir Elizabeth Gilpin

Actor and producer Gilpin debuts with a searing indictment of the billion-dollar “Troubled Teen Industry” and the boarding school that upended her life. She relates how in high school, she was a successful student who also battled depression and rage. After months of clashing with her parents, she was taken to an “educational consultant” who recommended she be sent to a behavioral modification program. Following the program’s protocol, professional escorts pulled 15-year-old Gilpin from her bed one night and took her deep into the Appalachian Mountains, where she was forced to live in the wilderness and partake in humiliating group therapy sessions. Three months later, she was sent to Carlbrook, a boarding school in Virginia that touted a therapeutic curriculum but in reality applied a shame-based “one-size-fits-all treatment plan” to students who suffered from everything from opioid addiction to “playing too many video games.” Gilpin is a captivating writer, made even more impressive by the fact that her formal education at Carlbrook wasn’t just abysmal, but involved psychological torture—such as having a flashlight beam shot into her eyes nightly as she attempted to sleep—until she graduated at age 17. By confronting the ugliness of a system that almost killed her, Gilpin emerges victorious in a narrative that radiates with humanity. This unflinching account is impossible to put down. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (July)

Mindfulness meditation can increase selfishness and reduce generosity among those with independent self-construals

Michael J. Poulin 
July 16, 2021

When Japanese chef Yoshihiro Murata travels, he brings water with him from Japan. He says this is the only way to make truly authentic dashi, the flavorful broth essential to Japanese cuisine. There’s science to back him up: water in Japan is notably softer – which means it has fewer dissolved minerals – than in many other parts of the world. So when Americas enjoy Japanese food, they arguably aren’t getting quite the real thing.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to food. Taking something out of its geographic or cultural context often changes the thing itself.

Take the word “namaste.” In modern Hindi, it’s simply a respectful greeting, the equivalent of a formal “hello” appropriate for addressing one’s elders. But in the U.S., its associations with yoga have led many people to believe that it’s an inherently spiritual word.

Another cultural tradition that has changed across time and place is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental expansive awareness of one’s experiences, often cultivated through meditation.

A range of studies have found mindfulness to be beneficial for the people who practice it in a number of ways.

However, very little research has examined its effects on societies, workplaces and communities. As a social psychologist at the University at Buffalo, I wondered if the growing enthusiasm for mindfulness might be overlooking something important: the way practicing it might affect others.

A booming market

In just the past few years, the mindfulness industry has exploded in the U.S. Current estimates put the U.S. meditation market – which includes meditation classes, studios, and apps – at approximately US$1.2 billion. It’s expected to grow to over $2 billion by 2022.

Hospitals, schools and even prisons are teaching and promoting mindfulness, while over 1 in 5 employers currently offer mindfulness training.

The enthusiasm for mindfulness makes sense: Research shows mindfulness can reduce stress, increase self-esteem and decrease symptoms of mental illness.

Given these findings, it’s easy to assume that mindfulness has few, if any, downsides. The employers and educators who promote it certainly seem to think so. Perhaps they hope that mindfulness won’t just make people feel better, but that it will also make them be better. That is, maybe mindfulness can make people more generous, cooperative or helpful – all traits that tend to be desirable in employees or students.

Mindfulness migrates

But in reality, there’s good reason to doubt that mindfulness, as practiced in the U.S., would automatically lead to good outcomes.

In fact, it may do the opposite.

That’s because it’s been taken out of its context. Mindfulness developed as a part of Buddhism, where it’s intimately tied up with Buddhist spiritual teachings and morality. Mindfulness in the U.S., on the other hand, is often taught and practiced in purely secular terms. It’s frequently offered simply as a tool for focusing attention and improving well-being, a conception of mindfulness some critics have referred to as “McMindfulness.”

Cultural differences in how people think about themselves are subtle and easy to overlook – sort of like different kinds of water. But just as those different kinds of water can change flavors when you cook, I wondered if different ways of thinking about the self might alter the effects of mindfulness. Not only that, mindfulness and Buddhism developed in Asian cultures in which the typical way in which people think about themselves differs from that in the U.S. Specifically, Americans tend to think of themselves most often in independent terms with “I” as their focus: “what I want,” “who I am.” By contrast, people in Asian cultures more often think of themselves in interdependent terms with “we” as their focus: “what we want,” “who we are.”

For interdependent-minded people, what if mindful attention to their own experiences might naturally include thinking about other people – and make them more helpful or generous? And if this were the case, would it then be true that, for independent-minded people, mindful attention would spur them to focus more on their individual goals and desires, and therefore cause them to become more selfish?

Testing the social effects

I floated these questions to my colleague at the University at Buffalo, Shira Gabriel, because she’s a recognized expert on independent versus interdependent ways of thinking about the self.

She agreed that this was an interesting question, so we worked with our students Lauren Ministero, Carrie Morrison and Esha Naidu to conduct a study in which we had 366 college students come into the lab – this was before the COVID-19 pandemic – and either engage in a brief mindfulness meditation or a control exercise that actually involved mind wandering. We also measured the extent to which people thought of themselves in independent or interdependent terms. (It’s important to note that, although cultural differences in thinking about the self are real, there is variability in this characteristic even within cultures.)

At the end of the study, we asked people if they could help solicit donations for a charity by stuffing envelopes to send to potential donors.

The results – which have been accepted for publication in the journal Psychological Science – detail how, among relatively interdependent-minded individuals, the brief mindfulness meditation caused them to become more generous. Specifically, briefly engaging in a mindfulness exercise – as opposed to mind wandering – appeared to increase how many envelopes interdependent-minded people stuffed by 17%. However, among relatively independent-minded individuals, mindfulness appeared to make them less generous with their time. This group of participants stuffed 15% fewer envelopes in the mindful condition than in the mind-wandering condition.

In other words, the effects of mindfulness can be different for people depending on the way they think about themselves. This figurative “water” can really change the recipe of mindfulness.

Of course, water can be filtered, and likewise, how people think about themselves is fluid: We’re all capable of thinking about ourselves in both independent and interdependent ways at different times.

In fact, there’s a relatively simple way to get people to shift their thinking about themselves. As the researchers Marilynn Brewer and Wendi Gardner discovered, all you have to do is have them read a passage that is altered to have either a lot of “I” and “me” statements or a lot of “we” and “us” statements, and ask people to identify all of the pronouns. Past research shows that this simple task reliably shifts people to think of themselves in more independent versus interdependent terms.

Our research team wanted to see if this simple effect could also shift the effects of mindfulness on social behavior.

With this in mind, we conducted one more study. This time, it was online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we used the same exercises.

First, however, we had people complete the pronoun task mentioned above. Afterwards, we asked people if they would volunteer to contact potential donors to a charity.

Our results were striking: Engaging in a brief mindfulness exercise made people who identified “I/me” words 33% less likely to volunteer, but it made those who identified “we/us” words 40% more likely to volunteer. In other words, just shifting how people thought of themselves in the moment – filtering the water of self-related thoughts, if you will – altered the effects of mindfulness on the behavior of many of the people who took part in this study.

Attention as a tool

The take-home message? Mindfulness could lead to good social outcomes or bad ones, depending on context.

In fact, the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard said as much when he wrote that even a sniper embodies a type of mindfulness. “Bare attention,” he added, “as consummate as it might be, is no more than a tool.” Yes, it can cause a great deal of good. But it can also “cause immense suffering.”

If practitioners strive to use mindfulness to reduce suffering, rather than increase it, it’s important to ensure that people are also mindful of themselves as existing in relation with others.

This “water” may be the key ingredient for bringing out the full flavor of mindfulness.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Jul 20, 2021

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Traumatic Narcissism and Recovery Leaving the Prison of Shame and Fear

By Daniel Shaw

This book looks at the trauma suffered by those in relationships with narcissists, covering topics such as surviving a cult, dysfunctional families, political dysfunction, and imbalances of power in places of work and education.

This new volume by author and psychoanalyst Daniel Shaw revisits themes from his first book, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation. Shaw offers further reflections on the character and behavior of the traumatizing narcissist, the impact such persons have on those they abuse and exploit and the specific ways in which they instill shame and fear in those they seek to control. In addition, this volume explores, with detailed clinical material, many of the challenges mental health professionals face in finding effective ways of helping those who have suffered narcissistic abuse. From within a trauma informed, relational psychoanalytic perspective, Shaw explores themes of attachment to internalized perpetrators, self-alienation, internalized aggression, and loss of faith in the value and meaning of being alive.

This book will be especially illuminating and rewarding for mental health professionals engaged in helping patients heal and recover from complex relational trauma, and equally valuable to those individuals who have struggled with the tenacious, often crippling shame and fear that can be the result of relational trauma.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction  
2. A Prison of Shame and Fear 
3. Make Someone Happy  
4. Double Binds, Unhealing Wounds  
5. Working with Dissociated Aggression in Traumatized Patients  
6. Authoritarianism and the Cultic Dynamic  
7. Psychoanalysis, Meet Religion  
8. The Problem of Self-Alienation

Author(s) Biography: 
Daniel Shaw, LCSW, is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City and in Nyack, New York. Originally trained as an actor at Northwestern University and with the renowned teacher Uta Hagen in New York City, Shaw later worked as a missionary for an Indian guru. His eventual recognition of cultic aspects of this organization led him to become an outspoken activist in support of individuals and families traumatically abused in cults. Simultaneous with leaving this group, Shaw began his training in the mental health profession, becoming a faculty member and supervisor at The National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York. He has published papers in Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalytic Dialogues. In 2014 his book, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, was published for the Relational Perspectives Series by Routledge, and was nominated for the distinguished Gradiva Award. In 2018, the International Cultic Studies Association awarded him the Margaret Thaler Singer Award for advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence.

A peek at the system churning out super-rich pastors

Nigerian megachurch pastor, Dr David Oyedepo
The Citizen
July 8, 2021

Nigerian megachurch pastor, Dr David Oyedepo

These are by no means inconspicuous, as they are often seen donning flashy attires, living in luxurious mansions, and driving expensive cars. They are usually flanked by half a dozen or more security men with dark glasses, and some even own multiple private jets. They are important people, and they want you to know it.

The world has a new breed of preachers – the superrich pastors.

These are by no means inconspicuous, as they are often seen donning flashy attires, living in luxurious mansions, and driving expensive cars. They are usually flanked by half a dozen or more security men with dark glasses, and some even own multiple private jets. They are important people, and they want you to know it.

The richest of them is Kenneth Copeland. Living in a $20 million mansion, and owning a $36 million jet, Copeland is the poster boy for superrich preachers. In fact, with an estimated net worth of at least $300 million, no one else comes close. While names such as Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, TB Joshua, Joel Osteen, and Benny Hinn are more recognizable, those in the know understand who the true prosperity gospel patriarchs are, and Copeland ranks very highly.

The second name in the list of who is who among the superrich pastors is possibly the most interesting one, and that is the Nigerian megachurch pastor, Dr David Oyedepo. A university lecturer-turned-preacher, Dr Oyedepo presides over a ministry with branches in 65 countries. He is a founder and president of Covenant University, Landmark University, Faith Academy, and over 150 secondary schools, and presides over one of the largest churches in the world, with an auditorium that can sit at least 50,000 people. He has a net worth of $150 million.

It is difficult for those beyond Pentecostal circles to understand how powerful these preachers are. In a world full of misery and pain, these preachers offer a remarkably appealing alternative, so it’s no wonder that many respond to their message. However, at some point we must ask, how does a person who calls himself a full-time minister amass that kind of wealth?

To start with, it is important to recognize that there is a reason why this has become almost an exclusively Pentecostal (or Charismatic) phenomenon. It comes down to their understanding (or possibly misunderstanding) of certain doctrines.

Firstly, proponents of prosperity gospel preach that faith is a ticket to wealth and health. Thus, believers are called upon to exercise their faith by giving generous gifts as ‘seeds of faith’. While giving is nothing new, one doesn’t need to be a theologian to understand that Jesus’ apostles were quite poor, and often needed assistance. Have these modern preachers uncovered something that the apostles didn’t know? Something is not being said and, as a result, millions give sacrificially to people who only get richer and richer.

Secondly, since Pentecostals believe that God works miracles through prayers, they believe that there are some who have been ‘anointed’ to do more of that. That is, they have special divine unction to overcome obstacles of life. Thus, the anointment is the Pentecostal holy grail – and one of the ways of achieving it is by giving to those who are already uniquely anointed. So, if you have thousands of followers who consistently offer gifts to you to tap into ‘your’ anointing, it is only a matter of time before you start to swim in immense wealth.

Thirdly, beyond the two doctrines, many of the megachurch pastors are voluminous writers, a fact which helps to take their message far and wide. It is also a powerful way to create wealth. Often, they use their churches as exclusive distribution networks that guarantee millions of sales. For example, Bishop Oyedepo has published over 70 books, which are exclusively being sold in hundreds of churches across 65 nations. That’s a money-spinning sweet spot. While there is nothing wrong in getting royalties for one’s work, there is a problem in using one’s community as personal property.

Finally, there is a reprehensible lack of financial accountability in many Pentecostal churches, especially the non-institutional ‘ministry’ types. As generous as people are, they are never informed how the collections are used. Often, that is a loophole that unscrupulous ministers use to enrich themselves. I know of two cases in Tanzania where people contributed to the building of churches while no one knew where the sites were or where the money went! While many red flags are being ignored, sometimes the answers are not so direct.

For example, how do you explain a situation where a preacher who has four jets (a true story) asks his followers to send donations for him to purchase a fifth one? To many, that is a red flag, but what good is a prosperity preacher who doesn’t show off his blessings? The more people see and believe that God is working through him, the more they will want to tap into that stream of blessings by sending him money! You have to think like a Pentecostal to understand the system.

Now, we should not generalize that all pastors are unscrupulous swindlers, or that all givers are mindless zombies. That is simply not true. Moreover, we should not generalize that all millionaire pastors are corrupt. Many may simply be beneficiaries of the system that created them. However, we have to point out that there is something wrong with a system that is designed to enrich ministers while ignoring suffering members.

That system needs to be changed.


Extremist Content Online: Neo-Nazi Propaganda Promoting Violence Located On DeviantArt

Counter Extremism Project
July 20, 2021


(New York, N.Y.) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists to exploit the Internet and social media platforms to recruit followers and incite violence. CEP researchers located over a dozen neo-Nazi propaganda accounts on DeviantArt that encouraged violence and glorified white supremacism. CEP researchers also found multiple neo-Nazi accounts on Instagram that posted white supremacist propaganda and drawings of the Christchurch attacker, as well an account that offered knives and pepper spray for sale. CEP also located a white supremacist clothing store on Etsy. On Facebook, nine pro-ISIS accounts were discovered. Finally, an extreme right prisoner support group encouraged the sending of “white identity” magazines to incarcerated individuals.

Neo-Nazi Propaganda That Promotes Violence and Hate Located on DeviantArt

The week of July 11 to July 17, CEP researchers located over a dozen accounts on DeviantArt that posted propaganda that encouraged violence, sought to recruit for an extremist group or glorified white supremacism.

The oldest account had been on the sight for approximately two years, while the most recent account, which posted a wide variety of neo-Nazi content, including content promoting white supremacist mass shooters Patrick Crusius and Robert Bowers, had been created in July 2021. An account that had been created on DeviantArt in March 2021 posted recent propaganda from the neo-Nazi group The Base, which included a recruitment email address for the group. An account also created in March 2021 posted content praising the Christchurch terrorist attack and encouraging additional violence. At least three DeviantArt accounts had similar user names as two individual users of the Fascist Forge forum and posted remarkably similar images to art and propaganda that appeared on the forum.

DeviantArt’s Terms of Service prohibit using the site “to upload, post, or otherwise transmit any material that is…offensive…unlawful, threatening, menacing, abusive, (or) harmful.” While several pieces of content were removed after they were reported, numerous pieces of reported content, including those that glorified white supremacist mass shooters, sought to recruit for a neo-Nazi extremist group, and posted various neo-Nazi symbols remained on the site.

Pro-ISIS Accounts Located on Facebook

CEP researchers located nine pro-ISIS accounts on Facebook during the week of July 11 to July 17. Content posted on the profiles included at least one full-length ISIS propaganda video, multiple video clips taken from official ISIS videos, propaganda photo sets, and text-based propaganda. In many cases, ISIS logos used in propaganda clips were covered up by emojis or other graphics. Accounts began posting ISIS content between mid-June and mid-July. Most video clips located on Facebook had between 15 and 125 likes or reactions. Two of the nine accounts were removed by Facebook after CEP reported them. Four days after the content was reported, ISIS propaganda was still available on the seven accounts not removed, including clips taken from the group’s official videos, as well as text and imagery supporting the terrorist group.

Neo-Nazi Content, Drawings of Christchurch Attacker, Store Offering Knives and Pepper Spray Located on Instagram

CEP researchers located multiple accounts on Instagram that spread neo-Nazi propaganda or glorified acts of white supremacist terrorism. CEP found six accounts that either posted propaganda supporting the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division or used the group’s iconography in their profile photos.

CEP also located a post that included an edited photo from the Christchurch terrorist attack video and digital drawings of the perpetrator. An account was additionally found that used a drawing of the Christchurch attacker as its profile photo and contained white supremacist and antisemitic text in the account’s profile.

A Ukrainian Instagram store with almost 11,000 followers was also located that sold knives and pepper spray and used neo-Nazi and white supremacist imagery. In March, CEP previously found a similar store offering pepper spray and neo-Nazi t-shirts. Two of the seven accounts that CEP reported were removed by Instagram, which included the store selling pepper spray and knives. The five accounts that Instagram did not remove included profiles that posted Atomwaffen Division propaganda or used the group’s logo.

Pepper spray sold on Instagram by a white supremacist store with almost 11,000 followers 
Pepper spray sold on Instagram by a white supremacist store with almost 11,000 followers
White Supremacist Clothing Store Located on Etsy

On July 13, CEP researchers located a clothing store operated by a known white supremacist on Etsy. The store offered t-shirts and other clothing and accessories using imagery including modified black suns/sonnenrads, modified swastikas, and an image of the notorious founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell. Etsy removed the store after CEP reported it.

Extreme Right Prisoner Support Group Encourages Sending “White Identity” Magazine to Incarcerated Individuals

An extreme right-wing prisoner outreach organization encouraged its followers to send a “white identity” magazine to incarcerated white supremacists. In August 2020, the same group urged their supporters to send articles to imprisoned white supremacists to help them radicalize other inmates. The group was founded in December 2019 and seeks to provide money, books, and letters to white supremacists in prison, including mass shooters such as Dylann Roof, Robert Bowers, and Patrick Crusius, and various members of the Atomwaffen Division and The Base. In May, the group began accepting the privacy cryptocurrency Monero. The group’s website has published antisemitic writing from prison by the accused Poway synagogue shooter, John Earnest. The organization maintains a Telegram channel, Gab account, and a website that uses Cloudflare as its name server and registrar.


July 11, 2021

WHAT SEPARATES A CULT from other groups of passionate, like-minded people coming together in service of shared beliefs? Religions, political groups, multi-level marketing businesses, and self-help movements all fit the bill. The most common answers to this question are probably “a charismatic leader,” “no free will,” or “the inability to leave whenever you want.”

This 2016 film proves how dangerous a cult can be — all while making a point to avoid these traditional cult calling cards.

Rebirth is a 2016 Netflix original psychological drama written and directed by Karl Mueller. It stars criminally overlooked actor Fran Kranz as Kyle, a loving husband and father who uses his English degree to write social media posts for a bank. One day, an old friend tells him about a unique self-help weekend retreat known only as “Rebirth.”

Begrudgingly, Kyle agrees to attend, launching him headfirst into an experience unlike any other. At first, he’s in a hotel room and must follow clues, escape-room style, to find his way onto a bus that will take him to the actual retreat. Once he gets there, the vibe is like a rave for dads: just a bunch of men in their thirties, thrashing and cheering and chanting.

Get up. Go to work. Come home, dinner, bed, do it all again. That's life, every day, every year, until you die „ unless you've got what it takes to be reborn. Rebirth gives a new lease on life, but only if you're willing to pay the price.

Feds seek lenient sentence for sex cult ‘slave master’ turned witness

Giuliana Bruno
July 19, 2021

Federal prosecutors are recommending a lenient sentence for trial witness Lauren Salzman, a former high-ranking member of the Capital Region-based sex cult, NXIVM.

They say Salzman provided “substantial assistance” to the court about the criminal activities of Keith Raniere, the former leader of NXIVM, and his co-conspirators. They say her cooperation was essential in convicting Raniere, and that her decision to plead guilty likely played a role in other defendants’ decisions to do the same.

The applicable advisory guidelines range for Salzman’s crimes, racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, is 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment.

Feds similarly asked for a sentence below the guidelines range for former actress and NXIVM member Allison Mack, who was sentenced to three years on charges she manipulated women into becoming sex slaves for Raniere.

Lauren Salzman’s sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 28.

​'Cult' Is An Inaccurate, Unhelpful and Dangerous Label for Followers of Trump, QAnon, and 1/6

Religion Dispatches
JULY 19, 2021

In the twentieth century the word “cult” (originally meaning “worship”) became a pejorative word that people apply to a group or movement that they do not like and perhaps fear. The word “cult” implies a stereotype that involves what sociologist James T. Richardson has termed the “myth of the omnipotent leader” and a corresponding “myth of the passive, brainwashed follower.” These are just that: myths. They’re inaccurate assumptions about groups and movements with unconventional beliefs: no leader can become a dictator without complicit lieutenants who prop up his (or her) authority; the “brainwashing thesis” has been judged to be unscientific by the American Psychological Association and American judges and has been debunked by social scientists; in fact, people frequently change their minds and leave a group when they lose faith in its ideology.

In 2013 I wrote an essay titled “The Problem Is Totalism, Not Cults,” which argues that instead of using the pejorative word “cult,” which prevents unbiased research and dehumanizes believers, the term “totalism” better conveys what people were actually worried about: groups whose members live in isolated communities, where people are controlled and not permitted to leave when they choose. Such totalistic institutions range from some unconventional religious or political groups to prisons, concentration camps, and authoritarian governments of nations. Americans generally agree that they’re abusive.

Currently it’s fashionable to use the word “cult” to describe all sorts of groups and movements that people don’t like. It’s said that people who support former President Donald Trump constitute a “cult”; the diffuse QAnon movement is called a “cult”; and the January 6, 2021 insurrection against the United States Congress meeting in the Capitol has been alleged to be a “cult.” However, these are diffuse movements, not insulated, totalistic communities. “Cult” used in this manner is constructed to refer to the worst characteristics that people can imagine, which is what Yale historian Joanne Freeman did in a June 22, 2021 podcast with Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson (no relation to James T. Richardson) when Freeman stated that members of a “cult” believe their side is righteous and that anyone opposed to them is evil and “must be defeated, executed.”

A statement like this says more about what Freeman imagines a “cult” to be than it does about the research of scholars who have studied alternative and emergent religious movements, including millennial movements. Starting by imposing one’s own constructed definition of “cult” on movements and groups inhibits careful investigation and analysis, as indicated by Freeman and Heather Cox Richardson comparing the QAnon movement to three different historical episodes in entirely different communal contexts: the Salem Witch Trials in 1692-1693, the Oneida Perfectionist community, and Jonestown.

As a scholar of the varieties of millennialism, I suggest that analysis of the QAnon movement and its relation to the January 6 insurrection is better understood as being a continuation of a Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement, which has existed since the twentieth century and whose believers have been anticipating a revolution against the federal government for decades. Participants’ aim is to set up a collective salvation on earth for white people who regard themselves as the true “natives” of the land that is now the United States.

In the 1990s, participants in this white supremacist movement that had no name, which I have termed the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement, were waiting and preparing to carry out a “Second American Revolution.” When Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995, he was hoping to spark the Second American Revolution. Instead, people were shocked at the loss of 168 innocent lives in the bombing. As a result, the militias that had formed, especially after the aggressive handling of the Branch Davidian community by ATF and FBI agents in 1993, became quiet until Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Over the past few years, as demands for the removal of Civil War monuments from public spaces have increased, people in the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement began to speak more openly about their preparations for a “Second Civil War.” The fervent members of this diffuse movement containing many different small groups and associations to which the term “White Nationalism” is now applied, responded to President Trump’s call to attack Congress on January 6, with the intention of forcing Vice President Mike Pence to declare that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election, which he had definitively lost. This assault on Congress was simply an initial blow in the expected Second Civil War, in which other enthusiastic Trump supporters were caught up. According to the FBI, it’s possible that other extremists in this QAnon/White Nationalist movement will carry out violence in the future to further their aim of a Civil War against the United States government and people who support it.

“Millennialism” (or “millenarianism”) is a term used by scholars to refer to movements in which people believe there will be “an imminent transition to a collective salvation, in which the faithful will experience well-being and the unpleasant limitations of the human condition will be eliminated.” The collective salvation may be considered to take place on earth or in a heavenly realm. “The collective salvation will be accomplished either by a divine or superhuman agent alone, or with the assistance of humans working according to the divine or superhuman will and plan.” Millennial movements may or may not have “prophets,” persons believed to be speaking a message from God or some other higher being. Millennial movements may or may not have a “messiah,” someone who’s believed by followers to be empowered by an unseen source of authority to create the collective salvation for the “elect.”

A range of behaviors is associated with millennial belief. People may wait for divine intervention; an example is the saying in the QAnon movement, “Trust the plan.” People may engage in social service, or perhaps engage in politics by voting or running for elected office, to work to create the desired collective salvation; millennial political activism is presently seen in the Trumpist version of the Republican Party. Some people may carry out revolution, or, if lacking a critical mass of participants, take terrorist actions in their attempts to create their desired collective salvation. On January 6, 2021, it probably seemed to a number of participants and supporters in the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement that they had finally achieved the critical mass of adherents to overthrow Congress.

There are many varieties of millennialism. As I wrote in The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism:

“A nativist millennial movement consists of people who feel under attack by a foreign colonizing government that is destroying their traditional way of life and is removing them from their land. Nativists long for a return to an idealized past golden age. Many nativists have identified themselves with the oppressions and deliverance of the Israelites as described in the Christian Old Testament.”

A range of behaviors may be found among nativist millennialists. Some resort to forms of prayer to request divine intervention. Some retreat to isolated communities to try to preserve and recreate their traditional way of life. Some are revolutionary and try to overthrow their oppressors. Scholars have reported on many nativist millennial movements among populations whose way of life has been disrupted by colonialists. Such movements include the Pai Marire movement among the Maori in New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s, and the “Ghost Dance” movement among Native Americans in the Western United States in the late nineteenth century.

In the 1980s and 1990s in the United States, white people, especially farming families and people living in rural small towns, felt that their way of life and ownership of land and property were threatened by their inability to keep their farms and agriculture-related businesses due to government lending practices; their inability to repay loans and pay their taxes; and resulting seizures of their property. This provided impetus to the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement, many of whose participants believed the federal government was controlled by ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government) intent on exterminating white Americans and their way of life, thereby expressing their anti-semitism based on the dangerous and debunked conspiracy theory.

The Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement has partial roots in a racist and anti-semitic form of Christianity called Christian Identity, which developed out of an earlier British Israelism movement from England. White people who believe in Christian Identity believe they are the true “Israelites.” They believe that people of color are animals and that Jews are children of Satan. Since the 1990s, participants in the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement have called themselves “Patriots” or “Christian Patriots.” They may be Identity Christians, Neo-Nazis, or adhere to racist forms of Paganism; they may even be secular but still expect to participate in a revolution that will destroy the federal government and create a collective salvation for white Americans.

People who call themselves “Sovereign Citizens” or “Freemen” believe they have deciphered the secrets of the American Constitution and “Common Law,” so they can benefit themselves when they state the “magic” words in documents they file in lawsuits and when they appear in court. Today, younger generations participate in the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement or White Nationalism in America, in groups such as the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys, while adherents to the older Christian Identity, Neo-Nazi, racist Pagan, and Sovereign Citizen groups and movements are still around. All of these make up the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement, and what they have in common is their racism, frequent anti-semitism, and belief in white supremacy.

The Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement lacked a messiah figure until Donald Trump ran for president of the United States in 2016. Trump benefited from a convergence of two movements that regarded him as a messiah to create their respective ideas of a collective salvation. Self-described “apostles” and “prophets” in the Pentecostal movement called the New Apostolic Reformation described Trump as being anointed by God as a messiah modeled on Cyrus the Great of Persia mentioned in the book of Isaiah in chapter 45.

People in the New Apostolic Reformation and many fellow evangelical Christians have regarded President Trump as being God’s instrument to make the United States into a Christian government. Consisting of people of various ethnicities, the movement is not necessarily white supremacist. More directly related to the Euro-American Nativist Millennial Movement is QAnon, designed to be an addictive Alternative Reality Game (ARG). It’s been attractive to white people who are secular as well as many evangelical Christians.

“Q,” alleging to be a person with a high-level security clearance in the government, is the unseen source of authority that believers have viewed as empowering President Trump to destroy the “Deep State” from within, and eliminate Democrats who are described as a Satan-worshipping cabal of pedophiles who kill children to obtain their life essence. The individual who was posting “Q drops” online hasn’t posted since Trump lost the election to Joe Biden, nevertheless the QAnon conspiracy outlook remains influential.

Subsequent to Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election, members of the millennial movement(s) that view him as their savior have reacted in ways that believers in other failed prophecies have reacted. Some have given up their faith in Trump. Trump has rationalized the readily apparent loss of the election by promoting the view that he really did win but the election was stolen. Some have set later dates for Trump to become president. Sovereign Citizens, for example, provided March 4, 2021, the date originally stipulated by the Constitution for a presidential inauguration, as when he would be sworn in as president for a second term.

Lately, Trump and some supporters have begun to claim that he will be “reinstated” as president in August 2021, after there have been recounts in some states where, they believe, widespread voter fraud has taken place. (It shouldn’t be necessary, but sadly it is, to note here that there is no meaningful evidence of widespread voter fraud or that any recount would affect the result of the election.) This repeated setting of dates is reminiscent of the Millerite movement that expected the Second Coming of Christ in 1843-1844. Eventually the Millerite faithful had to concede a “Great Disappointment” on October 22, 1844, but believers channeled their reinterpreted apocalyptic expectations into creating subsequent Adventist movements and institutions, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Key to discussions of some new religions, including some millennial movements, is the role of the “charismatic leader.” When scholars of religions use the term “charisma” or “charismatic leader” they aren’t referring to an individual viewed as charming by followers. Based on my comparative study of religions and building on the relatively vague definition of “charisma” by sociologist Max Weber, I define “charisma” as when followers believe that the leader (or sacred book, or sacred place, or sacred object) has access to an unseen source of authority. Therefore followers attribute charisma to leaders whom they regard as being prophets or messiahs. The leader’s charisma is socially constructed, and followers can withdraw their faith at any time. Trump was seen by participants in the New Apostolic Reformation as being anointed by God to carry out a task. Followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory similarly have seen Trump as the instrument of the unseen “Q” to create their idea of a collective salvation.

Some charismatic leaders use the charisma attributed to them responsibly; they try to benefit their followers and others, and they frequently attempt to downplay or give away the charismatic authority granted to them by followers. However, sociologist of religion Lorne L. Dawson has pointed out that a charismatic leader may “mismanage” his or her charisma due to her or his own psychopathologies, and thereby cause harm. Frequently this involves clinging to the role of the charismatic leader, no matter whether the lives of followers and others are endangered.

Since losing the 2020 election, Donald Trump has consistently demonstrated that his narcissism, and likely his fear of prosecution, are prompting him to mismanage his charisma by clinging to the role of U.S. president, to the detriment of American democracy, individuals, and families. Additionally, his assertion that he didn’t lose the election is being supported and disseminated by powerful media representatives on Fox News and One American News Network (OANN), along with a not insignificant number of elected members of Congress. A great deal of the concern on the part of white people is over their potential loss of status in America. This concern is being expressed in current Trumpist Republican efforts to curb access to voting by people of color and the social panic being fomented about “Critical Race Theory,” which has been turned into a pejorative term by people who either don’t understand what it refers to, or who are deliberately distorting it for political gain.

In contemporary society, the word “cult” comes with a readymade explanation that is illogically and pejoratively applied to groups and movements with differing characteristics. People are using the term “cult” to stigmatize groups and movements that they simply do not like. On June 23, 2021, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a congressional hearing that he wants to understand “white rage,” what caused “thousands of people to assault” the Capitol and “try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America.” This important question deserves analysis from a variety of scholarly disciplines and areas of research, not a simplistic answer by applying a word that conveys an inaccurate stereotype. The study of the varieties of millennialism in the past—varieties that continue to animate wide segments of society today—can help General Milley and others who are seeking to understand the motivations of the coalition of citizens who attacked the United States Congress and the police officers defending it on January 6, 2021.