Authority First: The Enclave Strikes Back
“I sat in the waiting room wasting my time, and waiting for Judgment Day. I praise liberty, the freedom to obey.” – Green Day, “21st Century Breakdown,” 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
Fundamentalists force an inhumane choice on reflective, empathetic individuals who grow up in their enclave communities: assent that 2 + 2 = 5, or, if you can’t, shut up about it or leave. Conservative Evangelicalism is a variety of Christian fundamentalism, and, make no mistake, the data tells us with overwhelming clarity that (apart from the “special demographic” of Vladimir Putin, Mitch McConnell, and James Comey), white Evangelicals are the one demographic most responsible for electing the most patently unqualified and dangerously demagogic president in modern American history. I am often asked how they could vote for someone so impious, which is a question I’ve addressed multiple times, generally referring to white Evangelical subculture’s pervasive authoritarianism and its politics of Providentialism (which can lead them to conclude that God can use Trump as a “vessel” despite his imperfections).
Perhaps a more interesting, or at least less frequently addressed, question, is how Evangelicals could vote for a candidate so manifestly, indeed flamboyantly, incompetent. But the two questions are very much of a piece, and the answers will take us down similar paths. Authoritarianism in power is always accompanied by anti-intellectualism, pseudo-intellectualism, and post-truth conditions. Fundamentalism is authoritarian by definition–it accepts a vision of “the Truth” that is sacrosanct, unquestionable, and, when found to be incompatible with reality, protected through the generation of “alternative facts,” which themselves become unassailable truths within the enclave community that is built up to sustain the fundamentalism in question.
Why go to such extreme lengths to maintain false “truths” instead of simply accepting new information? Because, thanks to abusive socialization and indoctrination, one’s entire identity is tied up with being right about these particular truths, making it so painful to face (actual) facts that for most fundamentalists doing so is simply impossible, leading to deflection, whataboutism, and extreme manifestations of psychological defense mechanisms such as projection and defensive fetishes.