A cult can be defined as a group sharing an intense devotion to a figure, philosophy, or activity considered to be misguided by the larger society. A sect can be defined as a close association of fervently held religious views that are regarded as extreme by the majority. As the far right-wing strengthens its grip on the Republican Party, conservatism in America is being pulled into this dangerous realm with alarming speed.
Earlier this year, I explained how immigration reform would be the defining issue for the future of the GOP. If the party establishment was able to pass a comprehensive package that included a pathway to citizenship, it could wrest control from its Tea Party faction and shift the Republican Party in a more appealing moderate direction. If not, then the GOP would certainly continue on its current foray into extremism with potentially destructive consequences to it as well as for the nation. With immigration reform legislation seemingly going nowhere in the House of Representatives, it appears that the Tea Party is winning this battle so far.
In 1905, Max Weber published one of the foundational works in sociology titled The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In it, he emphasized the cultural influences within ascetic Protestantism as the genesis of laissez faire capitalism. Weber ascribed the Calvinist ethic of predestination as the moral justification for economic inequality which a humane society would naturally anguish over. This laid the groundwork for Church-sect typology and the later study into cults.
Conservatism in America today is distilling into an ever-purer cultural synthesis of unrestrained free-market capitalism, intransigent Christian fundamentalism, and intolerant ethnic homogeneity. As increasing societal opposition to its radical character is encountered, conservatives must reduce themselves further in a vain attempt to protect their cherished ideology. But because that philosophical construct is so flawed, purification will produce an inevitable death spiral for this particular brand of conservatism. It is now a sectarian cult, and it could likely cause the demise of the Republican Party.