Sunday, February 19, 2017

Right-Wing Authoritarianism and Trump Supporters: What to Do with Religious Worldview That Thrives on Generating Imagined Enemies?

Brandon Withrow, "Trump & Putin: Our New Biblical Kings":

Psychologists, adds [Jason] Slone [author of Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t], frequently look at the brain like a computer, that is, as an "information-processor," that happens to have "two very different operating systems.” The first is “irrationality” and it is “fast, automatic, unconscious, emotional, and prone to reasoning errors." The second is "slow, conscious, effortful, accurate, and 'rational.'"
"So how a person thinks and behaves," he adds, "is largely determined not by what they believe, or what they believe they believe, but rather by which system is operating." It is when "humans feel threatened" that the first system engages and the second shuts down. 
As it turns out, this right-wing authoritarianism finds a stronghold when people are threatened, and according to [Dan P.] McAdams [Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology and Director of the Foley Center for the Study of Lives at Northwestern University], it is most-frequently associated with white religious fundamentalism. He notes that while many later supported Trump reluctantly (e.g. party reasons) during the general election, early support was driven by right-wing authoritarianism.   
"Right-wing authoritarianism," says McAdams, "is a pattern of attitudes and values revolving around strict adherence to society's traditional norms, submission to authorities who personify or reinforce those norms, and deep antipathy (to the point of hatred and aggression) for those individuals who are perceived as violating the traditional norms of society."
He notes that in studies evangelical Protestants score "significantly higher" on right-wing authoritarianism "than Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Jews."

My question in response to this valuable analysis: What do you do when an entire religious ideology — the worldview of a whole set of believers — is dominated by the mythic belief that the group is always under assault?

What do you do when an entire religious group thrives on confabulating and attacking mythic enemies, and claims it has a right to engage in those attacks because God has placed the nation in that group's hands?

What do you do when that group moves from seeing those abolishing slavery as the enemy, to Jews and communists and homosexuals as the enemy, to black citizens seeking rights as the enemy, to women seeking rights as the enemy, to liberals and bible scholars and theologians as the enemy, to immigrants and Muslims and transgender human beings as the enemy — and claims it has a God-given right to assault all these citizens in the name of "religious liberty"?

What kind of Christianity ravenously needs enemies, generations after generations, while proclaiming its own unsullied righteousness and its divine right to attack others? 

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