Some of the people out there don’t understand what it is like to grow up in an evangelical home. I can’t say my story speaks for everyone, but I think it speaks to a common mentality found in certain areas.
The mentality is this:
We are always right. Your parents are always right. You may know something that we don’t, but we are right about it by being your parents and therefore being older and wiser than you.
This is why reason doesn’t win.
You can argue all day long about the overwhelming evidence of something. It doesn’t matter. And it won’t matter what that thing might be.
For instance: My father has argued with me about the meaning of the word “tenure”. I work in higher education. I have attended 3 different colleges and universities. I know what tenure is. I know someone who was fired who had tenure. However, he argued with me that it meant that people could not be fired. I told him that it did not. The argument devolved quickly into a nasty “IT DOES, TOO!!” from him.
I was 38 years old at the time.
I gave up. He will never see my wealth of experience and knowledge or my professional level as being ever equal to something he heard some guy say on a Fox News show or during a sermon from the right kind of preacher.
I could literally write a book on something, and someone from that world would gladly tell me I was wrong about something that I had studied for years.
This is something beyond gaslighting.
This is a systematic devaluing of the knowledge of the younger generation, regardless of what their scope of knowledge is. Some of it is mansplaining, but I also got it from the female members of my father’s family.
This is belief based in “rightness.” And they believe in being right about everything. The pattern of your wallpaper or what color car you should buy, even. And that is what makes it hard to pin down as what it is. It isn’t that everyone must fit a certain pattern, it is that everyone must fit the pattern that has been determined by someone else with more perceived “rightness.”
It is about the belief that all other white people are also Protestant and Evangelical, and that they are also Republican and listen to Country music and want and are expected to have exactly the same lives as their parents.
It is the notion that you will marry someone most likely from your hometown even if you don’t even live there anymore.
It is the idea that you want to live in a certain area even though you have never even voiced a desire to do so. It is the assumption that you want what they think you should want without asking you.
It is constantly saying, to younger people who know something, that some mysterious “they” have you “convinced” of something – that the Muslims you work with every day aren’t planning your doom when they ask you where the scotch tape is, that tenured professors are fire-able.
I can only imagine some dark cabal out there determining that one must sneak around and “convince” us “dumb” people who actually work in a certain field what terms in that field mean, and that these meanings are somehow different from their actual secret meaning, which is somehow known to these other people out there. Or that entire groups of people would decide “Let’s be nice about the office supplies and conduct ourselves graciously. That’ll be how we get ‘em!” The ongoing fallacy is that there is some secret code between individuals, who may have never met before now, and are deciding to do this complete social con game, full-on convincing other people into believing something. The fallacy that YOU disagreeing with them on a point about global warming or Charles Darwin means that that weird blob of random strangers has done their secret handshake behind the screen and has “convinced” you.
And this “having you convinced” will be proclaimed as truth–even though the person making this proclamation about you hasn’t managed to convince you of anything since 1983. Because you just aren’t easily convinced.
But that screws with everything in their perception of you. They want, nay, they NEED for you to fit the mold of a dumb kid, easily convinced of things by fancy people.
If I was a brain surgeon, I’m sure that would come up too. And I would hear how wrong I was about something dealing with the brain. How someone had me “convinced” about the benefits of some treatment or another. If I sold cars, I would be told that some mysterious “They” had me “convinced” that one model was better than another. I have heard my father argue with historians on TV. I have heard him argue with scientists about the behaviors of tigers during wildlife shows.
Right Right Right.
That is what evangelicalism has to have. Because that’s how evangelical preachers talk to their flock. Admonitions rather than research and theological debate. Evangelical preachers don’t care who disagrees with them or the level of knowledge of that person.
“I KNOOOOOOOWWWWW that the Lord created Adam and Eve in six days, the scientists and the atheists are trying to convince yoouuuuu that you came from a monkey… “
There is always the desperation of rightness. There is always a verbally confrontational tone, which we see now in national politics. The preachers I grew up hearing were all too happy to tell you that they didn’t care if they were told they were wrong, were called bigots for their views on gays, or anything else. They didn’t care. Because the name-calling people were going to hell anyway.
Small towns in the red states are ruled by this type of thought pattern. It doesn’t matter, even, if that person has never been to church in their life. The thought pattern is “I am right. It doesn’t matter what you show me, I am right. It doesn’t matter how many sources you list, I am right. It doesn’t matter how many experts you have, I am right. It doesn’t matter if you tell me you saw it yourself, I am right.” The big kicker is that my father wasn’t always very religious, but he was always “right” about everything. His turn toward religion more seriously has been a product of a lot of life upsets. My not-actively-church-going relatives are also “right.” That is why they voted for Trump and other individuals who pop up in news feeds with stories that make most of America shake its head. He reminds them of themselves in his constant insistence of his own rightness.
“I’m Right. I’m Right even if I’m Wrong.” That is the core attitude that is held by current politicians and constituents in the red states that the Democrats and many moderates fail to understand. But I know it. I’ve lived with from birth. Christians who are from mainline belief systems don’t understand that this certainty of rightness is exactly why Evangelicalism is so very appealing. There is no consideration of multiple meanings or historical changes to word definitions. There is only Rightness.
This mentality requires blinders. You have to ignore that your cardiologists’ last name is Hussain, that the person cutting your hair is a gay man. You have to seek to actively “not get it.” To be so inside your own head that it never dawns on you. To actively assume your bubble is the one that everyone else is living in, too. Or to live so externally as to be perpetually worried about what other people are going to say about you or think about you or feel about you, so much so that it supersedes the realities of your life happening all around you. Either way, the result is a triumph of non-awareness that is impressive.
I don’t argue with my father about anything anymore. I avoid it as much as possible and seek to avoid saying anything that betrays my real thoughts on any subject where differences lie. Arguing is pointless. The only thing that does work is letting him find out the hard way.
It is hard. But there is nothing that works nearly so well as failure. Arguing is a desired outcome. They want you to argue. They think it is a fun exercise to argue. They don’t want to learn anything. They don’t want to absorb information from you. They just want an excuse to be snide from the beginning of the argument. The only way to win…
Is to let them think they have. To be more mature. To avoid the problem. Then, go do what you want anyway. And you let them lie in the bed they made for themselves.
I can tell you the story of a teacher from my hometown. She had a husband that was politically passionate. Put up signs. She would help and do and volunteer and give money, but when she went to vote, she voted for the other person, every time. It must have been a hell of an act.
I think of that lady from time to time. I wonder who she voted for in the last election.