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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The SAT Word of the Day: Obsequiousness

Written by: on October 26, 2019

Often students studying for their college entrance exams (SAT), review words they believe will have a likelihood of appearing on their exams. Many schools write the SAT Word of the Day on white boards for students to learn in preparation for the test. Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries uses the word “obsequiousness” frequently, like the SAT Word of the Day, in Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership in his chapter on Trumpmania. Obsequiousness is used by Kets de Vries to describe the constant flattery and subservience of team Trump, who follow President Trump at all cost, even compromising their reputations and dignity (Kets de Vries 2019, Kindle Loc. 570).  Kets de Vries also describes this obsequiousness as a way of identifying with the aggressor. Obsequious is the perfect word to describe the many followers of Trump who ignore the shameful and disgraceful acts that are daily displayed or twitted by the President of the United States of America. What is most difficult to understand is how many Evangelical Christian leaders have caught Trumpmania, attempting to lead credibility to a new type of mania that goes against some of the very principles that Jesus taught, such as love thy neighbor as thyself.

Trumpmania spreading within Evangelical Christianity can possibly be explained by the social theory of domination as described by Theodor Adorno in Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction by Anthony Elliott. Although I do not subscribe to everything in the social theory of domination, Adorno’s theory, described by Elliott is interesting,

For Adorno, as for Freud, the individual, when in a large group, is likely to identify less with its own ‘ego-ideals’ and more with impersonal ‘group ideals’. This identification with the group involves the undoing of various repressions at the level of the individual, and Adorno argues that fascist propaganda transposes aggression into hatred of the outgroup – in short, racism (Elliott 2009, 31).

This obsequiousness to President Trump or Trumpmania may be a type of group-think that takes over individual thought and may even surpass Christian beliefs leading to fascist potential. Elliott describes Adorno’s emotional traits of those with possible authoritarian tendencies, including: authoritarian submission and aggression, stereotype and superstition, power and toughness, and destructiveness and cynicism, to name a few (Elliott 2009, 33).

While it is easy to fit people into categories and use words such as obsequiousness to describe how people act, as Christians, we need to also recognize that humankind has a propensity toward sin. On one Sunday, that we call Palm Sunday, the crowd shouted praises to Jesus, saying ‘Hosanna to God in the Highest’ and just a few days later the fickle crowd shouted, ‘crucify Him’! The Bible shows us that ‘group-think’ and blindly following others in power has been around for a long time. Social Theory that points out the pathology of leadership is helpful to recognize destructive tendencies; however, we must never forget the real issue is one of sin.

References

Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Kets de Vries, Manfred F. R. Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership: Leadership Pathology in Everyday Life. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2019.

 

About the Author

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Mary Mims

I am a licensed and ordained Baptist minister and have worked with the children and youth for the last seven years. I have resided in the Washington, DC area for the last 30 years, but I am originally from Michigan. I am also bi-vocational and work at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the Scientific Library.

6 responses to “The SAT Word of the Day: Obsequiousness”

  1. mm Karen Rouggly says:

    Good post here, Mary! I really appreciate when others draw out other texts as well into each weeks reading. I really enjoyed this chapter too, and found Kets de Vries to be spot on – as are you!

  2. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mary,
    Thanks so much for your thoughts and well-woven threads of thought. It is good to be reminded that we live in a fallen world and our brokenness flows out of our sinful tendencies. I appreciate thoughtful writers like De Vries that tie leadership principles to contemporary events. I appreciate your thoughtful reminder that we all need our Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit even more.

  3. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thanks Mary. I’ve always been amazed at the fickleness of the crowd during the Passion Week but then am humbled by own. It is sobering. I think your reminder of sin is spot on and one we need to remember – and it helps me to battle in prayer more than I am naturally inclined to when I remember the spiritual unseen war that is being waged.

  4. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    So true, Mary, it has been troubling to watch some evangelicals promoting the president without also addressing his blatant non-Christlike behaviors and verbal tirades. It seems as long has he stays true to the two or three hot topics there is unwavering support. I do not understand how we reconcile this and I would be very interested to know if these leaders have ever addressed the president privately regarding his offensive language in particular.

  5. Thank you Mary for reminding us to be wary of obsequiousness and to remain true to our Lord and master Jesus.

  6. mm John Muhanji says:

    You tickled me Mary with the two birds one asking the other the opposite of the word ‘obsequious’. What I know is that we are all wired differently as human beings. although we are equally made in the same image of God, we were differently molded and got different finishings. What amazes me is how some people see somethings bad while others see them as good. The question I have is when the evangelicals pray, they say God protects Trump against his opponents and other Christians pray saying God remove Trump from power soonest. Whose prayer does God listen to?

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