What authorizes an authoritarian to be an authority?
There are two ways to be an authoritarian: one is to be the follower of a particular authority, the other is to be the authority. The passives submit to the authority and defend the authority’s stature in society. They don’t lead, yet with extreme devotion they blindly follow those who take charge. They mimic the arrangement within their own families, using the tradition of a man in charge, and the women and children who submit to his will.
Gigantic evangelical super-churches with thousands of members who flock to highly populated services where they passively follow the show-biz leader’s televised, amplified, melodramatic moralizing illustrate the Evangelical authoritarian theology. They present glossy showmanship and scripted passions. They speak to the ‘audience’ not the individual. People enjoy the show-like ‘service.’ They don’t want fellowship, where everyone knows their name, they want the society of a fast food joint. They walk in, encounter strangers, watch some moralish show-biz presentation and then leave. No muss or fuss. Passions are best raised when someone else is being condemned. Pick on outcasts to develop serious passions and genuine animosity in the crowd. It sells even better than speaking in tongues! The audience walks away having felt something significant. Their prejudices and fears have been justified. They shared a commonality with a big room full of strangers. And guess what, no thinking! This wan’t complicated, it was simple and powerful. The band was great, the lighting spectacular and the sermon was funny and did you see that hairdo? And, Oh yeah, they said, “Jesus” a lot.
This whole event accommodates the anonymity of those in attendance. The edge of the stage, which serves as a barrier between performer and audience prevents genuine interaction. The social pressures of ‘political correctness’ can easily be dismissed in this environment. So, while the spectacular service is a far cry from a KKK rally, similar sentiments can thrive. They condemn the LGBTQ population with a particular vehemence that parallels the rhetoric of the KKK. This creates a specific “us” (the Christians in the room) and places them in opposition to both the specific, and often un-named “others” who exist “out there.” Muslims? Fags, People of color? Immigrants? Whatever frightens you are the enemy. Evangelicals get away with blatant bigotry under the guise of a moral, god-sanctioned, charlatan-lead, feel-good scam. Want fries with that?
I have spent my life in showbiz, both commercial showbiz and fine art, non-profit theatre, ballet and opera. I know the high-end tricks of the trade so to speak. I know the cheap tricks too. We use the full range of theatrical techniques to accommodate the needs of what is being communicated; we search for subtext and implied meanings of the presentation to find the appropriate level of spectacle required. Rock shows are all spectacle. Industrial trade shows are meant to sell something, they use gimmicks and cheap theatrics and spectacle. Serious art uses the sophisticated, subtle dramatic effects sparingly, only in accordance to the needs of the show and not for the sake of spectacle alone. When a church starts using mindless spectacle to sell its product, that is the sign of a lack of substance and a commercial intent.
Now, a glorious cathedral with incense and music and costumes and grand architecture and cannibalistic rituals (eating the body and blood of a man/god) is a spectacle. But, this spectacle is focused on the teachings of the church, it is the same at every performance whether five or five hundred people attend the service. What ever opinion you may have of the event, it is always coherent and purposeful. The showbiz spectacle of megachurches seems to be focused upon a more commercial intent. Their goal is numbers and dollars and if some moral imperative is not popular, like say divorce, well it kind of disappears from the program. The people on stage aren’t interchangeable the way priests are. The personality is the draw; so star personalities are the selling point not the principles of the faith.
I have been going to USITT conferences since the mid 1970s. This is the US Institute of Theatre Technology. At some point in the 1990s perhaps, I recall, a major shift that added the category of ‘religious theatre’ technology to the concerns of the Institute. It was a clash of cultures to start, but once the realization that money was readily available from evangelical churches for equipment, technology and employment they started to fit right in. Rock-shows had always been the big money innovators in lighting and sound technology. Suddenly, these churches had more cash and desire to buy the tech than fine art theatres did.
So, a Mass is a Mass, but a megachurch is not another megachurch, they are selling different
entertainments and their message is flexible. A lot of money is involved and their flexible moral foundations allow for mulligans for horny politicians the way Catholics sold indulgences in the middle ages. Trump is the perfect star for this kind of production. His salesmanship and showmanship provide the ultimate con for gullible and unthinking followers. Trump is the Pied Piper of the submissive authoritarian Evangelicals.