It took me a long, long time to realize I’d been raised in a cult, because Southern Christian white culture is already so cult like. Conspiracy theories are treated as gospel truth. Evolution is considered a threat to faith. Women are second class citizens and everyone relies on their uncompensated labor. My cult didn’t stand out in the Bible Belt, it blended in.
So what can we do? First we can recognize this question isn’t new. Everyone in the United States has probably heard of one hate cult, Westboro Baptist Church. The WBC made themselves infamous by staging protests where they scream antiLGBT slurs at queer funerals and claim God loves IEDs which kill US soldiers at military funerals. They are loud and hateful, with garish neon signs.
Many people have counter protested these stunts. Motorcycle riders surround the bigots with their bikes, then rev their engines so the hate speech is drowned out. Queers and Christians and military families joined together to say “Fuck these guys”. That’s what’s needed here.
Queers and Christians, military and Muslims, juveniles and Jews need to join together to say ” Fuck these guys” about the Nazis, Klansmen, and white nationalists currently having a moment. Engaging with bigots one on one around the family dinner probably won’t do much. Actively looking after the needs of their targets, and joining together to fight the evil, can do so much more.
Usually when you see someone in a cult, I want you to show them kindness. Even the nastiest, most racist and abusive cult member is simultaneously a victim. But that victimization doesn’t forgive all their sins. Culpability in cults is a complicated question. Racism isn’t. Racism is bad and should be protested. If the cult member you encounter belongs to a hate group, I want your kindness extended to their targets instead.
We have a long road ahead of us but we can make the journey less dangerous by looking out for each other. There has always been a minority of whites who objected to our nation’s racism – Quakers, abolitionists, Freedom Riders. The only thing keeping good whites the minority is white culture. Hate groups are a centuries old tradition in the US, and their views are never quite as fringe as we’d like to believe. We, and only we, can change that. Let’s do it.