Evangelical Authoritarians and their Angry God (cw: religious abuse, rape, incest, anti-LGBTQ discrimination)

For people who don’t understand how the evangelical, usually Protestant, far-right exerts its influence on conservative Republican politics: let me explain, from the perspective of a social scientist and as a survivor of an evangelical Republican household who held these kinds of beliefs. If you’re unfamiliar with how authoritarian evangelicalism works, it seems utterly ludicrous that Republican politicians continue to pursue their anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ political agenda despite increasing public opposition. Marriage equality and legal abortion enjoy the support of a majority of Americans, but Republicans continue to oppose it steadfastly.

The God of these evangelicals is an authoritarian God who brooks no dissent from the party line. People who disagree with them are members of The World, working to advance Satan’s mission and subvert the will of God. Politics is not merely about competing policies and legislative priorities; it’s spiritual warfare. When conservative Christians battle against marriage equality, transgender rights or abortion, they literally believe that they are using political positions to battle against Satan and his legions of demons. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: if you don’t follow your denomination’s rules exactly, you’re going to hell. Permanent separation from God and his kingdom, and eternal torture as punishment. They’re inculcated with a visceral fear of going to hell, and they don’t want you to go there either. This results in conservative evangelicals encouraging theology and public policy that mandates conformity to their moral and social code, or ostracism for those who don’t. Persuasion isn’t enough for authoritarians. They want you – and the rest of society – to comply. It’s like the Borg from Star Trek; they want you to be assimilated.

Acts 10:34, a Bible passage often misused by conservative evangelicals to justify their position, states that ‘God is not a respecter of persons’. Within a more progressive Christian practice, God’s not being a ‘respecter of persons’ means rejecting partisanship, ethnocentrism and humanity’s foibles: our pettiness, our need for approval instead of doing what is right for those around us, our selfishness, our wantonness, our indifference to others’ suffering. For authoritarian Christians, however, this passage means rejecting the humane in favour of the inhumane in the name of God.

Evangelical Protestant preachers also teach that salvation comes not from good works, but through unalloyed faith in Jesus. It doesn’t matter whether you hide away in a gilded tower, hoarding wealth and treating poor people with disdain, or if you devote your life to helping your community. What matters ultimately is your devotion to Christ. Good works are encouraged by some evangelicals, but they are secondary. Naturally, devotion to Christ means adherence to all the legalistic rules that the authoritarian right considers necessary for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s easy to support laws that starve poor and disabled people when acts of decency are secondary.

This is why Republican governors like Mike Pence and Pat McCrory push through regressive laws attacking reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights in their states, or why the Republican National Committee produced the most anti-LGBTQ platform in their history during the 2016 Republican National Convention, or why Republican politicians like the supposedly ‘moderate’ Marco Rubio and John Kasich support abortion bans without exceptions for rape or incest. They literally do not care about equal protection. Caring about equality means that they reject authoritarian Christianity. Worldly stakes don’t matter in comparison. They won’t budge because they’ve been conditioned to believe that changing their minds about marriage equality, abortion or trans rights means that they’re going to be roasting in hell after they die. This is why authoritarian conservative evangelicalism is so dangerous: it promotes social inequality and discrimination under the guise of devotion to a loving God, and it inoculates itself against dissent by promising eternal torture to everyone who strays away from the straight and narrow.

Can we put ‘economic anxiety’ to rest?

One month after the election and there’s still people with their hot takes about Why Hillary Lost, Why It Must Be Economic Anxiety! If Bernie Had Won, He Would Be President!

So Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer and David Duke must be economically anxious. People saying stuff like ‘Trump That Bitch’ are economically anxious. People who’ve been calling Obama the N-word for 8 years must be economically anxious. The Ku Klux Klan celebrating Trump’s ‘win’ must be economically anxious. People waving Confederate flags at Trump rallies must be economically anxious. Two Trump supporters beating up a homeless Latino man in Boston in Trump’s name must be because of economic anxiety. People trying to ram through unpopular anti-LGBTQ laws like North Carolina’s bathroom bill must totally be economically anxious.

No, no, no, and a million times, fuck no. This is bullshit. This is an attempt to dismiss what’s being done to women, people of colour, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ+ people and anyone else who’s at risk under Trump. Basically Trump got ‘elected’ because of a perfect storm of reasons and you’re going to say that it’s just because Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate and she should’ve ignored PoC and women in favour of the ‘Reagan Democrat’ white rust belt voters?

Look, I voted for Bernie. But this is bullshit. It’s dangerous, specious, racist garbage that I’m really fucking tired of hearing from a bunch of entitled white dudes who will be just fine under Trump. I know these guys won’t lift a damn finger to help people who are more vulnerable to what Trump, Pence and the rest of the Republicans are going to do.

I’m not saying Clinton was a perfect candidate. But she got almost 3 million more votes than Trump. There were things that hurt her towards the end like certain partisan Republican FBI agents like James Comey and the NY office that was close with Rudy Giuliani. Russia was out there trying to swing the election for Trump and there’s growing evidence that Trump’s campaign knew about it. Republican voter suppression was a thing in a lot of states, including swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina that would’ve helped Clinton. This was the first general election without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

And you’re going to say that it’s just because of economic anxiety. Do you know how I read that? ‘Shut up, minorities, we don’t care about you, and we will gladly throw you under the bus.’ You basically want a left-wing Trump-centred entirely on white interests and continuing to marginalise women, POC, religious minorities and LGBTQ+ people. Fuck you, and fuck the racist Cheeto you’re making excuses for. You are not helping.

Fascism’s at the door. Vladimir Putin’s just threatened our sovereignty. The Klan is marching in the South. And you’re still whining about Bernie Sanders? Give me a fucking break.

Trumperdämmerung

The United States has gone in the direction of other Western countries that have allowed right-wing white nationalism to infect their countries via the election of Donald J Trump.

Don’t tell me that Trump voters chose him because of mere economic anguish on its own. White Trump voters chose racism, bigotry and the systemic oppression of women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, Muslims, Jews and anyone else who doesn’t fit into the idealised cisgender, white, straight, Christian, abled, male mould. It’s the Southern Strategy in its grossest form, originally perfected by Richard Nixon and continued by the Reagan and Bush administrations. Would Bernie Sanders have beaten Trump? Probably not. As much as I liked his advocacy for decreased income inequality, voters of colour didn’t choose him in the Democratic primaries. Trump’s specific appeal is the racism. It’s the sexism. It’s the hatred of marginalised people. Even if individual Trump voters may not be stereotypical Confederate flag-waving, slur-using, racists, they are insulated from racial oppression. Trump’s highest margins came from the whitest regions in the country. These people live their lives without interacting with PoC, or Muslims, or people whose political views are drastically different from theirs, and so they can vote for Trump without thinking of the consequences.

If it were truly about economics, those people would have turned out for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. They would have supported Elizabeth Warren. Instead, they went to Trump, who promised in his words and actions that he would restore blatant white supremacy in the United States. The backlash against a black president, and the strong likelihood that a woman whose policy was based on inclusion would succeed him, sent them running into Trump’s arms. Never mind that Trump is an inveterate liar, a craven opportunist, an abuser of women and an amoral con artist. He said he’d make America white again. He fed right into fantasies of the old order before the Civil Rights Movement and the Obama presidency.

This man hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet, and his supporters are already emboldened. There have been numerous reports of people of colour, women, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, Muslims and Jews being physically and emotionally assaulted by Trump supporters who feel that his election gives them carte blanche to exact revenge on everyone they consider Other. This is similar to what happened in the UK after the Brexit vote–again, they thought the vote gave them licence to abuse and marginalise others.

If you voted for Donald Trump, you are complicit. If you enabled Trump by stressing ‘economic anguish’ over the hatred he promulgated for the past year, you are also complicit. If you reported on Trump dispassionately without condemning his behaviour, you are also complicit. I will not go out of my way to empathise with ‘poor, suffering Trump supporters’, since most of those Trump supporters had higher incomes than the Clinton voters. If you voted for Trump, you told me and people like me that our lives are worthless.

Dark days are ahead. I’m struggling. I know people reading this may be too. As long as I’m here, I’ll keep writing.