By Patrick Anderson, editor

William Glasser, the late American psychiatrist who developed a technique for individual counseling called “Reality Therapy,” maintained that counselors should never ask their patients “why” they engaged in the behaviors that were problematic to them. Rather, he insisted, that focus should be relentlessly placed on the behavior itself. He said that when counselors become fixated on causes for the behavior, believing that the identification of the “why” of behavior would lead to understanding the behavior and therefore possible solutions, they push their clients to grasp for any explanation, no matter how farfetched, to satisfy the therapist’s hunger for an answer to the “why.” Glasser viewed that as a great waste of time.

I think of Glasser’s theory when considering the MAGA phenomenon, something that consumes a great deal of my energy. I wonder why in the world the great majority of Republicans who claim to be Christians, believe that Donald Trump is the savior of America, God’s chosen one to fulfill God’s plan for America. The behaviors resulting from that belief include voting for Trump regardless of what he says or does, or what he believes or does not believe.

A great many articles and books written by very insightful and knowledgeable people have sought to answer the “why” question. Two examples are Heather Cox Richardson’s Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America and Timothy Alberta’s The Kingdom, The Power, and The Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism.

Many writers make comparisons between Trump’s MAGA and the rise of Adolph Hitler’s Naziism in Germany. Historians have long explored the answer to the question, “Why/how did a strong democracy like Germany, with such a strong economy and educated population, fall for the lunacy of Hitler? How did they become virtual zombies in following that despotic madman?” Alberta’s book directly addresses the support Hitler received from a huge swath of Christianity in 20th century Germany, and how a similar swath follows Trump in 21st century America.

Like most of us, I know lots of MAGA Christians — in my family, in my church, everywhere. My efforts to understand “why” they honor Trump have been futile. Attempts at rational conversation have been frustrating.

Perhaps the approach of Glasser holds a glimmer of hope for us. Let’s stop trying to figure out the “why” and focus instead on the behaviors. Asking “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD) is the only antidote to MAGA that I know of. I can think of no other comparison so diametrically disjointed than MAGA vs. WWJD.

In addition to Glasser, I have recently contemplated the quote, most often cited as Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. I really do not attribute malice to the motivations of my MAGA family and fellow church-goers. And I know that the term “stupidity” sounds harsh and offensive. I have tried very hard to be open-minded to opposing viewpoints—a philosophy that has become increasingly difficult to maintain. In my mind, Hanlon’s mutually exclusive causes, malice or stupidity, gain strength. What else can it be?

New York Times columnist, David French, concluded his February 4th essay about MAGAworld’s fixation with Taylor Swift’s support for President Joseph Biden this way:

“This era of American politics will end, one way or the other. And when it does, historians are likely to debate whether its defining characteristic was stupidity or malice. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind, but I now realize that the two traits have almost fully merged. Malice is creating stupidity, and stupidity is creating malice (emphasis mine).”



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