Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Arrogance and the psychology of Evangelicals

Many people, after encountering Evangelicals, consider them to be a bit arrogant, and perhaps a little bit obsessive. The Evangelicals, if accused of being arrogant, usually try to explain that they had a life-transforming experience, and that God talked to them, and they cannot forget it. It is difficult to argue against the idea that the transformed evangelical actually communicated with God. After all, you cannot peer into their heads and read their minds and verify if they actually experienced what they claim. Unfortunately, with subjective experiences such as spiritual epiphanies, there is no way to confirm or verify that they are genuine. We, as the outsiders, have to step aside and argue around the topic.

Consider this possible explanation for the perceived arrogance of Evangelicals (and indeed any religious people who try to sell their religion to you).

At the time of their epiphany, the Evangleical feels that they are finally right about something. All of their lives, they "sinned" and behaved wrongly, but now, after their spiritual enlightenment, they are finally on the right track, and living their life correctly. God, and the Bible, is their guidebook to everything that is right and good, and they feel that as long as they have faith, trust God, and read the Bible, they will always be right. Many of them even say things like "I answer to nobody but God."

Imagine if a person had a direct link from their brain to a supercomputer full of information. They could call up facts on the fly, and always have the correct answers. This is how many of the evangelicals feel about their new way of life. They feel that they are right about everything, and that if they have questions, faith and reading the Bible is the way to find the answers. They've found God, and they're now right. What they think in their heads is now guided by God, and many Evangelicals claim to talk directly to God, and so they just know that they're right now.

From the point of view of an unbeliever, it seems that many true believers don't distinguish between what they're thinking, and what God tells them when they talk to God. Perhaps after a while, the believers become so accustomed to the feeling of communication with God, and it becomes second nature to them that even they can't tell their own ideas from God's. UNfortunately, the unbeleivers cannot tell if the believers are delusional or genuinely receiving divine inspiration.

Whatever the case is, Evangelicals do tend to believe that they are always right, and it stems from the idea that God is telling them what's right. UNbelievers are often accused of being arrogant because we criticize believers, but as far as I'm concerned, objectivity always trumps subjectivity -- in other words, an objective fact, which is documented and can be demonstrated, always trumps what a person feels or believes in their heart that the facts are. When a person talks as though they are always right, and they try to throw the authority of their experience with God in your face, which you are not allowed to question, how is that NOT arrogant?

There is a difference between being right objectively, and simply proclaiming that you're right. Evangelicals need to learn a little objectivity if they don't want to look arrogant.

1 comment:

Bacorn said...

I couldn't agree more that evangelicals behave in a way that is sometimes arrogant. I believe an important part of Christ-like humility is making a distinction between our own thoughts/feelings and the thoughts/feelings of God. Believing that one's own thoughts/feelings flow directly from God is nothing but an authorization to do whatever you feel like doing. From personal experience, I have seen how such a mindset leads directly to selfish behavior that is disrespectful to others and that is outright arrogant. Evangelicals mean well, but I see some blatant problems with the way they operate. I'll have nothing to do with them!!!!