Authoritarian Followers

Authoritarian Follower: An individual who, for whatever reason, accepts what an accepted authority tells them, regardless of whether or not it makes sense.

Compartmentalization: term describing the ability of authoritarian followers to keep separate the ideas, given by their authorities, that prove each other wrong.

There are different causes for this inability to comprehend reality. One of the more common involves severe punishment of very young children for asking questions or not accepting the statements of their parents. When a child feels like it is in danger, due to anything ranging from frightening yells and screams to extreme “spanking”, because it challenged the words of their parents, they develop a survival mechanism called compartmentalization. This allows them to not have to ask questions, and risk the hurt or fear of hurt they were (usually repeatedly) subjected to. These children become Authoritarian Followers, following the authority of their parents, regardless of their parents accuracy. As the children get older, the mantle of authority gets passed on to the religious and political leaders the parents themselves follow. The fear of questioning is a directly attached to their sense of survival, so anyone trying to reason with them causes a fear reaction, usually masked as anger.

This pattern is often found in members of the fundamentalist churches who teach “spare the rod, and spoil the child”. Political power mongers, realizing the power in numbers, have played on these peoples inability to question discrepancies and turned them into the “religious right”. Their political views are about as full of misunderstanding and deceit as a religion in which Jesus teaches kindness and compassion, but who’s followers practice abuse of their children and hatred for those Jesus said to love.

This is how the Tea Party was formed: by playing on that fear of questioning authority, regardless of how ridiculous the claims may be. I have to remember that their anger is really fear, so I can pity them, instead of hating them.

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Growing Up Conservative

I fully recognize that my religious and political beliefs mesh together very closely. It is hard to describe one without the other. This text was written to give others an understanding of how and why I believe the way I do, and to document the “why”.

I grew up an Air Force brat, heavily involved in Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) and Southern Baptist churches. These denominations form several vertebra in the spine of ultra-conservative politics, and more often than not, politics and political activism are, by design, blended into the teachings received from the pulpit.

Many of my earliest memories occurred in IFB churches. From first grade until the last quarter of 6th grade I was educated in an IFB church school. In my most formative years, life revolved around a religion that was about as conservative as one could possibly be. Even though I was six at the time, I followed the “read the Bible in a year” chart that the adults of my church were following. When things didn’t make sense, I asked questions. I used Ungers Bible Dictionary (a staple in Conservative Christian circles) and my mothers Thompson Chain Reference Bible to try to understand the whole picture. Using the Bible as my definitive source, and Ungers (a source accepted by many conservative religious leaders) to explain cultural differences, I developed my beliefs on what Christianity should be. I asked questions, got answers that involved “you take that passage to mean this”. Often, to my child’s mind, the official version just didn’t match the actual words.

I thirsted for the ability to make sense of it all. I read the passages listed in the weekly bulletin for the following Sunday’s sermon. I read the passages necessary in the “read the Bible in a year” chart. I came into church ready to learn and understand. If something didn’t make sense, I asked questions. Lots and lots of questions. I was a nerd, even at the beginning of my elementary school career. I asked such difficult questions that at the age of 6, my pastor, Pastor Shattuk (sp?) told me that he just wouldn’t discuss religion with me anymore. He retired shortly thereafter. I used my mothers Chain reference Bible (which had links to other similar passages in the margin) to try to understand and make sense of it all. I attended Christian school. I was taught conservative Christian values from every direction.

I learned. I studied. Math and science were awesome! They allowed me to see how things fit together. I liked seeing the pieces of the puzzle of learning fit into the proper spots. When they didn’t fit, it bothered me. I read. I asked questions. My first/second grade teacher encouraged my desire to learn, and introduced me to encyclopedias, dictionaries, and library books. “Cause and effect” came to life for me. She encouraged my search for how and why. Mrs. Teterude, wherever you are, I thank you for your understanding and patience. If I could nominate Saints, you would be one. My fate was sealed. Since then, little would stop me from trying to make sense of things.

I had a different teacher for third through sixth/fifth (not a typo, explanation to follow) year. Mrs. Downs started out much like Mrs. Teterude, encouraging my curious mind. Unfortunately, not only was I the classroom nerd (complete with era appropriate black plastic glasses), but I was also the poor kid who was there on a “scholarship”, meaning that we attended the church that hosted the school, and even though we couldn’t pay the tuition for this private school, they let my sister and I attend, so as to protect us from the evils of the secular world. The only other scholarship children that I remember were a rather shy girl (and for a short time, her foster sister), and the children of the missionaries to the local Native Americans. Nathan Adler, the missionary kid, decided to take great and frequent pleasure in bullying me. He was quite skilled at timing things so I was just standing up and preparing to defend myself when any adults were able to turn to see what was going on. In that world, Nathan was untouchable. He was a Missionary kid. By default, that made him devout, trustworthy, and above reproach in the eyes of the adults. My school life took a serious turn for the worse. This was the beginning of my “discipline problems”. When I defended myself, I was taken to the principal, who believed Nathan’s version, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. The rips in my pants and the skinned up knees from hitting the pavement meant nothing. Not actually true. The hole in my knee meant I didn’t conform to the dress code. Nobody bothered to try to remember the condition of my clothing when I arrived. The punishment for “lying” about “the innocent, falsely accused” Nathan was to be forced to drop trou, grasp my ankles, and take blows from a 2×6 with shaped handle, and holes drilled through for extra speed in execution. A minimum of 3 swats from a grown man, swinging this board as hard as he could. Letting go of your ankles or losing balance resulted in starting over. Worse was happening at home, and my father usually used this as an excuse to repeat the process with his belt when I was home. When my mother tried to reason with the principal, Mr. Fried’s response was to berate her for challenging a missionary’s word, and to accuse her of neglect, because she wasn’t taking proper care of my clothing. The more obvious it became that I was the wronged party, the quicker and more harsh the punishments were. It was my first experience with the “accept only the parts that fit the preconceived notion” mentality.

Third through sixth grade was a swirl of learning this, and asking about that, all while avoiding the painful reality of my status as a social outcast, and refusing to accept that my bullying was indeed my own fault. That was my problem. I refused to just curl up and give in. I refused to let my spirit break. I kept asking questions, I kept trying to make sense of the overall picture, I kept fighting: fighting to learn, fighting to understand and fighting to defend myself against my bully. Learning occurred. Teaching occurred. Then, during my 5th grade year, I was consciously introduced to politics. Before then politics revolved around keeping the Military strong to protect us from the Communists who wanted to take away our ability to worship God. Now, there was a liberal in office (Carter), and God punished the USA for it. Innocent members of our great country were captured and held hostage by a country under the control of a Satanic religion called Islam. This was God’s way of showing our country the error of allowing sinful liberals to have a say in our country. Our country was corrupt enough with the conservatives. Liberals were knowingly in league with Satan, and were turning our country over to Satan and his Muslim minions. I was angry at these liberals for letting our country get so damaged, and I was scared. Was it going to be the communists or the Muslims that burst out from under our beds, grabbed us by the ankles, and dragged us to hell? This was an actual worry of mine. I was taught to worry about this! Later, I was better informed. Nobody was jumping out from under the bed, but there would likely be a homosexual that would try to kidnap me off a street corner and take me to straight to hell. It would be funny…if it weren’t what I was actually taught.

At the first teacher conference of my 6th/5th grade year, Mrs. Downs complemented me on my maturity, telling my parents that talking with me was like discussing things with another adult. Then, later that same school year, I embarrassed Mrs. Downs by asking a question about how one thing we were taught as science a few weeks before did not work, according to the rules of science we were taught, with this other thing we were being taught as science. She became rather upset when “because that’s the way God intended” was answered with “But you said God made these rules of science, and they show otherwise”. She started screaming at me, grabbed my ear, and dragged me to the principals office, where I was punished in the usual way for disrupting class. There were days of upheaval that ended with Mrs. Downs and Mr. Fried demoting me from 6th grade, back to 5th, since I was obviously too immature to handle being in 6thgrade. Since 3rd through 6th grade were being taught all in the same room, by the same teacher, the location of my desk didn’t even change. My grades were not called into question; my outcast status was. To this day, since it had no effect on what I was being taught, how I was graded, or even where I sat, I believe that it was a tactic designed to shame me into compliance. My thirst for understanding how things work wouldn’t let me comply. It became a battle between me, my teacher, and the truth. My mother tried to help, but couldn’t do anything. Close to the end of the school year, I was given another lesson in politics. Communists were trying to take over Space, so they could put up satellites to launch nuclear weapons at us, and we had to boost the military and the space program to stop them. Once again, liberals were trying to stop us, and the Communists raining fire from above was going to be part of the Second Coming of Christ. Once again, liberals were handing us over to Satan.

Something happened at the end of the third quarter of my new 6th grade year. I don’t remember what it was, but my mother pulled me from that private Christian school, and I finished my new 6th grade year in the public school on the Air Force base. Anyone who has not been immersed in that life really can’t understand what it took for a woman to stand up to church leaders like that.

That summer, my father’s orders moved us to mid-state New York. I spent 7th and 8thgrade in public school. I was still an outspoken outcast, poor, and with all sorts of unusual beliefs from my separation from society in general. I did well in classes, but not in society. I spent more time confronting bullies about their mistreating of me and others (followed by the inevitable fights) than I did learning. My mother finally had enough, and home-schooled me for my 9th and 10th grade years, using a Christian based curriculum under the guidance of one of the IFB church schools located an hour or so drive away. She would try to get us to the actual school at least once a week. Once again, I was introduced to politics. We were allowed to watch TV to watch history in action when Challenger was launched and exploded in mid-air. That next Sunday, we were told how this was, once again, God reaching out, and letting us know that the liberals were pulling our country apart. This was God’s warning for us to stand up and fight against liberals, who were trying to get research done to cure that disease that God sent to wipe out homosexuals and their evil from the face of the earth. Basically, God blew up a space shuttle because liberals were fighting for funding to find a cure for what we now call AIDS.

My father retired. We moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As usual, my father found a small IFB church. My mother finally stood up to him, and insisted on attending the larger Southern Baptist Church from her childhood. It was the most conservative church in the area that actually let women have an opinion, so long as it was with other women or children. Now, not all liberals were in open alliance with Satan; some were just very misguided people who Satan had misled. Gays were still evil, and they were still trying to take everyone to hell with them.

There were people in the church that saw our home life, and helped my mother get away from my father, which was a horrible, but necessary sin. My mother tried to support us on what she could, but we became some of those people who fell between the cracks. We experienced life. We were now poorer than we ever had been, and my mom tried anything to keep us afloat. She accepted government assistance, and shortly thereafter, we changed churches. I suspect the two were connected. We went to a few churches, but never found a place to settle in.

I was in public school. Math was still wonderful. Science started making more sense. As science started to make more sense, I found myself in a position to recognize that if one changes their expected result to match the facts, instead of “accepting only the parts that fit the pre-conceived notion”, then the overall picture CAN make sense. I applied my “cause and effect” thinking to almost everything. I was finally able to find out from liberals what they believed. Believe it or not, there were actual Christians that were liberals. I was still a conservative, but I realized I had a lot of thinking and research to do. I grew up rooting for President Reagan, and I voted for Bush, because we couldn’t let liberals continue to let our country be taken in by those Muslims.

I went to college to fulfill my dreams of becoming a medical doctor bush pilot missionary. I enrolled in the “pre-med” track at the University of Southern Mississippi. I went to the Baptist Student Union. I wasn’t comfortable. I went to church once with a pentecostal girl-not-really-but-kinda-girlfriend. I was unsettled. I caught Mono, and not in the fun way, either. My grades plummeted. My dreams were dashed. I went back in with a new dream – elementary education. The Reagan/Bush policies didn’t pass “cause and effect”. Because the “effect” was pretty directly in negative correlation to what it was supposed to do. I lost my conservative politics. I had to question everything. I had a crisis of faith. I tried very hard to be a Christian. I reread the Bible from front to back, like I used to before, except I did it in a few months. I realized that the direct words of Jesus, minus the “this means this” from the pastors painted a much different picture than I had been taught. Everything fell apart. My political beliefs were proven wrong, my religious beliefs were proven a sham, and the “Truth” I had been taught was so superior was now just a collection of traditions instead of facts. I was devastated. I stayed with the teachings of Jesus, instead of the teachings of Christianity. I picked my head up, and I looked around. I saw a common thread in many religions that was similar to what Jesus taught. I applied the words of Jesus to my conservative religion, and realized that more often than not, it was in direct violation of Jesus teachings. This was a point I had been fighting against my entire time growing up, but now I had to accept it. Both the teachings of Jesus, and simple “cause and effect” reasoning made it impossible for me to be conservative. Both the teachings of Jesus, and “cause and effect” reasoning made it impossible for me to be what was called Christian. Search for the truth made me liberal, and that same search for the truth took away the entire structure of what I was taught. I tried to keep my original faith/politics, but they failed me. I lost my faith in organized Christianity. I did not, however lose my faith in God. I began to see God working everywhere around me. I examined many organized religions, but none of them fit. I kept my awe of God, and something started to click… I was finding a spirituality outside of organized religion. I was finding a core truth that resonated throughout most religions, until people in power started shaping religion to direct those with less power. I settled into a faith that God shows up in nature. Sometimes I talk to God directly. Sometimes I drum, and let the vibrations connect me with God. Sometimes, I just don’t think about it and go on with life. All are valid. I have settled into a shamanistic approach to God, with the morals I found in common with most religions… mostly the messages Jesus was trying to teach, that get so altered in the process of “which means”. So I am still an outcast, and I am still looking for “cause and effect”.

Morally, I follow the teachings of Jesus (without the hype), because there is a universal truth to his teachings. I am no longer a Christian, even though I follow the teachings of Christ much closer than those who claim to be Christians. I also follow much of the teachings of Buddha because they reflect the same universal understanding. I follow the teachings of many pagan religions, also because they reflect the same universal truths.

The end result is that religiously, I am shamanistic, because I it feels comfortable, it feels right, and it makes sense to me. Politically, I am liberal, because it works with “cause and effect” reasoning, and I no longer have to ignore facts. Now you know how I went from an uber-conservitave Christian to a liberal drumming bear.


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