“If they don’t stand, fire them.”
It might just be a written comment on Facebook or Twitter, but the tone sure comes across as plainly as if it were spoken on t.v.: authoritarian.
There’s a reason the Supreme Court of the US ruled that an employer cannot fire its employees for choosing to sit during the pledge or the anthem. “Do this or else!” is an authoritarian demand and demanding blind patriotism and faith leaves no room for dissent or freedom of speech.
The ruling is difficult for those who belong to the fairly large component of our nation that also invokes authoritarianism: religion. I spent years in ‘the Church’ and over and over the authority of a supreme being is preached and consumed with vigor. It’s His way or the highway. There’s no discussion, there’s no negotiation: Either believe in Jesus or go straight to hell. There’s no room for individualism – people are highly discouraged to look for outside sources of information – the Bible is the only and final solution. “God is a jealous God” He doesn’t accept any behavior except being worshiped and adored (a human who acts thus is considered a narcissist, by the way). It’s Him and Him alone and He has the last word always via the Bible. The idea is furthered by the scriptural uttering that the husband is the head of the household, his word is final and therefore also…. authoritarian.
There’s a kind of feedback loop that is occurring which exacerbates the authoritarian streak: Most Christians are prone to watch only a certain news channel and only certain televangelists. So whatever is said on that singular channel becomes infused with religion and then repeated, ad nauseam, from the armchair preacher selling apocalyptic food stores. Hence, authoritarian phrases such as “Kneel or else” gets drilled down upon and affirmed on more than just one level. When the same is preached from the local pastor on Sunday mornings, authoritarianism becomes ingrained in many. Consequently, there’s a decent sized population in our nation that is predisposed to project that authoritarianism onto our national, democratic principles and would happily sacrifice those principles for the mere conformity and idealism that is esteemed in Church.
It’s my observation that this ingrained authoritarian attitude is related to a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. I worship an all-or-nothing god who would throw me to the wolves if I once deviate from his command. However, if I comply without complaint, if I submit without a whimper, if I follow like a sheep, then that same God will feed and take care of me and, maybe, he’ll even allow me to prosper like that guy on t.v. with a mega-church.
Within the four walls of a building, adopting authoritarianism isn’t all that damaging to a nation at large. It is when the notion spills out of the structure and into the streets where democracy, equality, and freedom of speech are paramount that problems arise. There will be conflict when authoritarianism, especially in the form of “Kneel or else,” rears it’s head in a democracy where citizens are accustom to absolute freedom. Just look at the conversations going on these past few days.
It’s a helpful point to understand. Realizing that authoritarianism is a by-product of the largest religion in our nation allows us to understand why so many are willing to ignore liberty and demand allegiance. I don’t know that the knowledge is helpful in any discourse between individuals, but it does provide some insight into the mechanics of this current moment of social unrest. Perhaps there is someone out there who can find a way to bridge the gap and inspire a deeper love for democracy over religiously ingrained authoritarian inclinations.
I am open to suggestions.
Much peace to each of you…