The American Tea Party people, and all right wing authoritarians, are dangerous people. They will succeed in their destructive agenda, unless concerned people begin to think, speak-out, and act.  As Führer Hitler is reported to have said: “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.”

Within the Church as well there is a vocal and militant minority of Tea Party-style Catholics who blindly and unthinkingly follow the orders of authoritarian and regressive “leaders.”

Seven qualities characterize the behavior of such right wing authoritarians. And they are hardly the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit!

(1) Authoritarian Submission

(2) Fear

(3) Self-Righteousness

(4) Hostility

(5) Lack of critical thinking

(6) Group empowerment

(7) Dogmatism


Authoritarian submission:

Tea Party people seem to believe unquestioningly whatever their leaders say. Manipulative right wing authorities such as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and Sarah Palin can proclaim outlandish and utterly false statements; and their followers reverence their every word. They are happy to let others do their thinking for them.


The Tea Party people announced that President Obama’s health care proposals would set up “death panels” that would euthanize weak or infirmed Americans like Down’s syndrome babies. And a number of influential American bishops announced that the final heath care legislation would pave the way for more abortions. All untrue. Fear, however, is a convenient way to control people.


Self-righteousness reigns strongly in authoritarian leaders and followers. Combined with fear, it unleashes powerful aggression. Tea Party people describe themselves as “the good Americans,” “the true Americans,” “the people,” and “the American Patriots.”  Yet they abuse and threaten their “opponents,” and spread malicious gossip about them.


Hatred for “the other” characterizes all right wing authoritarians. It thrives in hate campaigns, demonstrations, and labeling people as “liars,” or “Communists” or “heretics.” Along a rural road in southwest Michigan a sign went up (but didn’t stay up long) shortly after the election of Mr. Obama: “We Used to Hang Niggers — Now We Send Them to Washington!” 

Lack of Critical Thinking:

I am amazed at the number of people who accept, without question, the nonsense that still flows from Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and other right wing demagogues about Barack Obama: that he is a closet Muslim, that he is a socialist, or that he is not really an American. And we have the ongoing nonsense from some Catholic leaders, who assert that pedophilia is due to homosexuality, that “abused” teenagers themselves had “invited abuse,” or that all children are homosexuals, until they are taught not to be.

Group Empowerment:

Authoritarian followers are highly conforming people. Assembled in a group of like-minded believers, they are more likely to do things, especially aggressive things which they would not ordinarily do alone. So for instance: the lynch mobs and KKK gatherings in the South, angry and fearful people winding each other up, yelling slogans of untruth and deception. We still hear the echoes of one mob refrain: “Obama is a tyrant!”


Authoritarians are intrinsically dogmatic. When leaders establish opinions and beliefs for their followers, they are carved in stone. Dogmatic edict and blind obedience and blind faith go hand in hand. Condemnation or death to all “traitors.”

2 thoughts on “Right Wing Christians and Tea Party People

  1. I generally agree with your characterization of the Tea Party folks, but I miss two important further thoughts. First, that many of the characteristics you list are equally true of the crazy left (and other extremist groups/tendencies). Second, that there is reason for fear of government, for the loss of faith in institutions generally which leads to extremist responses whether from left or right.

    1. Thanks John. I agree with you. The problem of authoritarianism is hardly restricted to just the”right.” And the loss of faith in all institutions is a serious problem that opens the way to anarchy and social chaos. We live in difficult times. BUT all the more — we need to speak and seek truth and encourage constructive critical thinking that is upbuilding rather than simply destructive…

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