Tribes and Cults


I’ve read two books recently: Jack Donovan’s “The Way of Men” and Lauren Drain’s memoir about growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church. I didn’t intend for this, but the two play off each other in interesting ways.  Donovan is a homosexual who is, nevertheless, easy to agree with regarding his view of masculinity.  The Wesboro folks are also easy to agree with (especially their strong stance against homosexuality), but are hard to like.

I was going to post a picture of Lauren Drain but after Googling her, found that the Westboro folks who kicked her out were right: she became a whore, doing all sorts of provocative photo shoots.  I get the feeling she dove off the deep end as a way to get back at her father (and maybe the church) for how she was treated.

Reading Drain’s memoir is like reading an adolescent girl rant about her mean daddy.  Only in this case, she’s empowered by our Godless society and embellishes freely, knowing Americans couldn’t care less about being fair to the Westboro Baptists.  They want dirt, shame, and ill-will, after all.  Accuracy and fairness don’t play well in the American media.

Nevertheless, Drain shows some restraint, managing to lay out the Westboro folks’ beliefs without too much scoffing.  They’re Calvinistic Baptists, King James Onlyists, and hold to a form of Premillennial Dispensationalism.  But laying out their theological views is only half the picture.  They’re also typical mid-western Baptists and all that implies:  a matriarchal family structure, openness to pop-culture, willing participants in government school, and they center their lives around their pastor Fred Phelps.

Anyone who thinks this is odd need only attend a Baptist apologetics conference where Norman Geisler is the main speaker.  The man is almost worshiped as a demigod.   I went to one a few years back.  He strutted around like he already had his halo.  They did all but roll out a red carpet for the man.

I was familiar with his work, of course, but had never seen a picture of him.  While browsing through a book table, he approached me, asking my name in an authoritative voice.  I told him, then asked him his.  He chuckled, as if it were funny I didn’t know him.  “Why, I’m Norm Geisler.”  (He actually said “why”…talk about archaic).  Anyone familiar with American Baptist culture will recognize Wesboro’s relationship with Fred Phelps as typical of the hero-worshiping / guru-following Baptists.

Don’t let my criticisms fool you though; Westboro’s willingness to oppose and mock Satania is admirable.  They even oppose modern jewry, which ought to win them points with White Nationalists.  Unfortunately though, even the WBC are unwilling to break American racial taboos.  That’s what’s so annoying about them:  they imbibe the very culture they claim to hate.  For example:  they realize how evil the American education system is, yet they send their children there anyway.

I wonder what would have happened had Lauren Drain never been sent to a government school?  She’d likely still be in the Westboro Cult.

Despite having admirable viewpoints, the Westboro Baptists function like a textbook cult, where in-group values are constantly maintained by culling the herd and using group humiliation tactics.

But who cares?  If they’re a cult, they’re a benign one – and who doesn’t love seeing American pagans squirm when told they’re going to Hell?  I know I do.  Once you accept the slaughter of infants and support vile sexual degeneracy on a national level, my compassion for you has effectively run out.  You no longer need to be evangelized, you need to be opposed.


This is a great point to talk about Donovan’s book and how it relates.

Donovan is careful to draw a fine philosophical distinction:

There’s a difference between being a good *man* and being a *good* man.  Notice the difference in emphasis.

Donovan realizes that, as a homosexual, many will likely claim he’s not a *good* man.  He takes pains to separate the virtues of masculinity from the virtues of goodness.  Masculinity, he says, is defined by four virtues:  Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor – all four of which can only be manifested by men and in a tribal context.

I agree with his four virtues but I’m not sure we can so easily separate what makes a good *man* from what it takes to be a *good* man, as Donovan tries to do.  While he acknowledges that standards of masculinity differ from tribe to tribe, as a Christian, I believe my standard is the superior and true one to which all others must bow.  And if they don’t, well, by God, we’ll make them, whether through winning intellectual arguments or dominating the heathen on the battle field.

Nevertheless, Donovan deserves his place in the canon of Alternative Right literature.  His clarification of tribal psychology and why we need in-group relationships (vs. one-world egalitarianism) was enlightening.  I realized, while reading, that I had always thought of the world this way; it took Donovan’s book to articulate and refine my thoughts.

…which brings me to the WBC:

They’ve created for themselves a sort of pseudo-tribe, one with its own system of shame, its own ethics, and its own ways of attaining honor.  But cults are a special form of a tribe – maybe an aberration.  They’re not organic parts of nature, rather, they form around a shared set of talking points combined with in-group inclusion of those who are exiled from other tribes.

Will the WBC last?  I doubt it, not unless they manage to relax the strict policing of members and the controlling day-to-day inquisitions; they also need to relax entry and exit procedures, making it easier to gain access to the tribe and making it less traumatic to leave.  (How they’d manage this theologically is anyone’s guess).  Making it easier to leave, by the way, would effectively relax in-group relations, making them deeper and more genuine.

…in other words, the WBC needs to lighten up.

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2 Responses to Tribes and Cults

  1. Matt Parrott says:

    “They’ve created for themselves a sort of pseudo-tribe, one with its own system of shame, its own ethics, and its own ways of attaining honor. But cults are a special form of a tribe – maybe an aberration.”

    While Phelps’ cult does indeed fall short of being a genuine tribe, Donovan’s conception of tribe is more appropriately understood as a gang.

    On the Venn Diagram where the Cult and the Gang intersect, therein lies the Tribe, …which hosts the potential for authentic and sustainable ethnogenesis.

    • I was disappointed by Donovan’s “How to Start a Gang” chapter, which amounted to little more than a pat on the back and a suggestion to hang around local guys.

      I know he wasn’t aiming for a practical how-to guide though, so I can’t really fault him. Tom P., on the other hand, knows all about the topic and could probably write a book on the practical aspects of white gang-making. I’d buy it.


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