Who joins gangs and hate groups?

Former and recovered neo-Nazi, Christian Picciolini, states “Everybody in these movements are there because they are broken to a certain degree and they’re looking to project their pain onto somebody else.”

Joiners can lack power, status, appropriate mentors, healthy self-esteems, and a sense of family, identity and purpose and expected privilege.

They can feel there is a void in their lives. They may have felt a sense of abandonment in childhood, and may have been alienated and bullied. They are marginalized, vulnerable, and may have experienced childhood trauma, poverty, or mental health issues.

Joiners are looking for security, protection, belonging, camaraderie, attention, empowerment and acceptance. They want to air their grievances and blame others for their pain. They need a channel for their energy.

The rise of these groups is a symptom of our country’s decline in emotional and spiritual health. The emotional and spiritual health of our people is not being met. We’ve experienced a break down of family, and a breakdown of community (like the Moose Lodge and bowling leagues) and religious organizations. Many of our people are lost and are seeking for meaning and belonging, and are searching for the cause of their discontent. In their mind, it must be the other, those unlike themselves that are the cause of their pain.

Christian Picciolini says these people are broken, but I fear our country is broken. We need good paying jobs, well-funded schools, a culture that values and celebrates all work, and a rebuilding of community, faith centered and otherwise.