the tarkin effect
Reading Time: 7 minutes It's true.
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Hi and welcome back! The news has been busy lately with this story about Kent Hovind getting arrested for domestic violence against his (third) ex-wife/girlfriend/whatever. The details that have emerged about these charges are are very dark and disturbing. They are also not in the least surprising, either. Evangelical culture has no clue how to deal effectively with anger, so evangelical men tend to be really touchy and over-reactive to triggering situations. Today, let me show you the lies evangelical leaders teach men in their culture — and how those lies lead to the vast anger we see in the tribe nowadays.

a cute baby showing anger
(Ryan Franco.) The anger of babies <3

The First Evangelical Lie About Anger: Mirroring Their God.

As we saw yesterday, evangelicals carefully draw a line between permissible anger, which they call righteous anger, and impermissible anger, which is everything else.

Righteous anger simply mirrors their god’s imagined emotional state. If they’re angry at the same things their god would be angry about if he existed, then this kind of anger is perfectly okay.

Every other kind of anger is unapproved. It is the product of what they call sin, which is any offense against their god’s over-reactive, touchy sensibilities. (Weirdly, their god is exactly as touchy and over-reactive as they are, and about the exact same things.)

And thus, the emotion itself becomes sinful.

There exists only one penalty for sin in the evangelical world: eternal torture. In this case, it’s eternal torture meted out purely because someone felt their feelings in a way that evangelical leaders don’t like.

But you can’t spell Christianity without thoughtcrime. This off-limits emotion must be dealt with — but in a way that conforms to evangelicals’ worldview and beliefs. Otherwise, the rest of the tribe will simply negate and hand-wave away whatever that angry person might say.

Why This First Lie Matters So Much.

I can deal with the fact that [this female congregant is] upset. I appreciate that she is attempting to communicate with me.

The problem? She was caustic, rude and unkind. Not at all like Jesus.

How sad.

I recently attempted to point out to another parishioner how important it is to be like Jesus when you’re outraged. [Source]

Evangelicals use a lot of manipulation methods to deal with unwanted situations in their lives. They especially like to negate and silence people presenting them with any unwanted engagement. We see them doing it constantly. Most of our drive-bys draw upon this tactic, in fact. And they do so because it works in their cultural bubble.

By carefully marking off allowed and disallowed anger, evangelicals can easily sail past any angry people they don’t want to talk to. If that person’s anger falls into the not allowed box, it is invalid anger. That person just needs to get over it. Or go away. Either is fine.

Women tend to get the brunt of this negation, since the tribe allows them even fewer valid angers. We’ll talk about that much more when we tackle women’s anger. However, men get it too. We saw this in action when we examined Thom Rainer’s advice to pastors about anonymous complaints.

Evangelicals must learn to couch their angry outbursts in extremely Jesus-y ways for it to be accepted as valid. Anything else gets ignored or even criticized as sin.

The Second Evangelical Lie About Anger: Fixing It.

Evangelicals use a broken roadmap to navigate through their own anger. We see this problem repeated constantly in their writings on the topic:

The truth of the Gospel, however, frees us from this nasty cycle. If your identity and purpose in life come from God, it won’t bother you nearly as much when others insult you. You don’t have to fight back because you know God loves you for who you are, and His opinion alone is the one that matters. [Source]

When I surrendered my anger, He lovingly rebuked my sin and taught me how to correct this sinful response. He helps me train in righteousness. [. . .] If you are struggling with anger, the path toward healing can start today. [. . .] It starts with admitting your sin and calling on Jesus to open up the road to freedom. [Source]

I pleaded with God to change my life—to transform me into a good husband and father. Something had to change. [. . .] I prayed for God to change my life, and he did, but not the way I imagined. Following God’s leading, Sherry, Ellie, and Nikki left me and moved two thousand miles away. [Source]

When I reached out to give anger to Jesus, He held his hands open, but I never let go of anger. No wonder I did not feel a release. Jesus stood there like a gentleman, patiently waiting for me to release anger. I was the one who wrestled with opening my hand. I was not ready to drop the anger into his hands. [Source]

Those of us who are believers in Jesus can bring these burdens to God. Through prayer and reflection, we can experience ease from the anger that goes along with these burdens. [Source]

This is all stuff I heard as a Christian myself. The party line hasn’t changed a single bit in 30 years!

Here, then, is the first lie evangelicals learn about anger:

A magical invisible wizard friend stands at evangelicals’ command to magically heal them of their emotions — if they will only cooperate with him.

Why Evangelical Men Can’t Fix Their Anger.

Obviously, no magical invisible wizard friends are doing anything at all for evangelicals. No amount of prayer or sportsball visualizations will help them here. When they’re done, the anger will remain exactly how and as they left it. And there’s a reason for that.

Evangelicals have a lot of trouble understanding how their triggers, predispositions, and vengeful, hair-trigger attitudes all vastly impact their reactions. When they get up from their prayer sessions and Bible studies, they return to the situation they left. Those triggers are still there. Their predispositions haven’t changed, nor their attitude. They aren’t changing their overall response pattern to any of it, either.

Worst of all, evangelicals outright reject the real therapy and counseling measures that would help them for real.

Instead, about all they can do with these busy-work exercises is give themselves a brief time-out. That might help some angry people cool off, but it won’t help enough of them enough to fully divest themselves of the rage they’ve built up. And it won’t stop them from exploding again later.

For the rest, evangelical men simply return themselves to the same angry mood they had before. And now they have fully exhausted their entire tribe-approved repertoire of responses to unapproved anger.

Evangelicals’ Roadmap Doesn’t Work, and They Don’t Care.

Even other Christians have noticed how incredibly angry evangelicals tend to be nowadays. With the rise of QAnon and Trumpism, evangelicals have become indelibly associated with fear and rage. They don’t seem to know how to exist in any other state anymore.

But they can’t acknowledge that their roadmap is broken, much less explore any other paths that it might contain that could lead them out of the mess they’ve created for themselves. To do so would be to invalidate the last 40 years of tribalism and authoritarian indoctrination.

Most of all, such introspection might lead evangelical men to explore the biggest trigger of their 24/7 state of inchoate perma-rage:

Their sheer frustration over losing almost all of their cultural power over just the past decade or so, and suddenly being seen as ignorant, bigoted, science-denying plague rats and worse by the society around themselves.

The road they follow on their roadmap is the road of narcissism and entitlement. It leads them to their dream state of lordship over all they survey. So they don’t want to find another road.

Another road won’t lead them to lordship. It won’t be marked every three miles by signs that read:

XYZ miles to Your Ultimate Lordship in Jesus’ Name!

Even the infinitesimal chance of that goal is enough for them to throw everything they have into plodding along their chosen road. After all, any other road will give them zero chance of reaching that desired destination.

The Narcissism and Entitlement That Pass All Understanding.

We’ve talked many times about the narcissism and entitlement of evangelicals, particularly of evangelical men. Often, these men believe that Jesus Christ himself has told them they shall rule over all the rest of us. That they deserve power. That they should be happy with nothing less — in his name, of course, as his ambassadors. Ahem!

Evangelical men have never learned to deal with frustration because they always got everything they ever wanted. They wanted ultimate power over women, and thus their leaders delivered it to them in the form of complementarianism. They wanted political power, and thus their leaders schmoozed with Republicans till the Grand Old Party became the Guns-Racism-and-Jesus Party. And they wanted plenty of people to hate and rule over, and thus their leaders handed them culture wars and barely-disguised white nationalism and theocracy dreams.

All along, from their childhoods, evangelical men learned the rules of authoritarian power. They learned how to navigate their labyrinthine political spheres, how to gain power at others’ expense, how to network with the other power-holders, and how to appeal to, gain, and hold followers. They learned to speak the languages of spitefulness and vengeance, and they speak them fluently.

And then everything changed.

Inevitable Anger.

Now, suddenly, evangelical men’s followers and their power are slipping right through their fingers. The more tightly they grab for control, the less they retain.

the tarkin effect
It’s true.

The crony network isn’t protecting them against repercussions the way it should. Whistleblowers are revealing their leaders’ dark secrets — left, right, and center. News outlets aren’t afraid to reveal their scandals — they used to be, but not anymore.

This is not the world that evangelical men were promised since boyhood. Even their cultural bubble’s operations have changed.

And we wonder why evangelical men are so angry all the time?

We shouldn’t. Anger seems absolutely inevitable. And since evangelical men have never learned any effective ways of dealing with this anger (and wouldn’t want to learn that stuff anyway), all they’ve got left is explosive rage.

NEXT UP: 1st-Century Friday! See you tomorrow!

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...