Alpha Gods and the Men Who Represent Them - On Big Apes and Presidents

Sex, Power, and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense of Our Political Divide - Hector A. Garcia 2019

Alpha Gods and the Men Who Represent Them
On Big Apes and Presidents

The prehistoric role of the “strong man,” as protector and conqueror, is a continuous theme in the Judeo-Christian Bible and may even be how Trump won fully 80 percent of the white Evangelical vote.37 Evangelicals tend to be staunchly conservative, and we have now demonstrated that conservatives are wired to be threat-sensitive, to be wary of outsiders, and to seek comfort from dominant males with fighting abilities. Nearly all of biblical patriarchs were warrior-kings or fighters, as was the Judeo-Christian god, per the Bible: “The Lord is a man of war.”38

In my book Alpha God, I detail how the god of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is based on the dominant, territorial, protective males of our evolutionary past.39 Like male primates, that male god protects against outsiders and acquires territory for his in-group (e.g., “I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory”40); provides resources necessary for survival (e.g., “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven”41 and “He hath given meat unto them that fear him”42); and even protects against predators (e.g., “But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen”43).

In many ways, men like Trump offer the same protections. By claiming Mexico is sending America its rapists, and promising that Mexicans would finance a wall to keep themselves out, Trump simultaneously addressed the tribe's primal need to protect women (as we have discussed, warring tribes often stole and raped each other's women), and defined territorial boundaries (in plainest terms by literally erecting a border wall) and competed-for resources (by making Mexico pay for said wall). Other world leaders have promised to address our evolutionary fears in more sublimated ways. Trump's tactic was simply to be incredibly concrete about it all.

For the religious, whose devotion is spent striving to draw closer to the protective embrace of their omnipotent male god, powerful men have always been ready to serve as proxies. History is filled with examples of dominant men possessing divine authority, considered walking gods on Earth, or having a special war alliance with God. For example, Trump's closest religious advisor, Evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress, claimed, “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”44 For believers, being aligned with the most powerful male in the universe is sure to relieve fear, particularly in bloody conflict with outsiders. US general William Boykin, a man central to the “war on terror,” once claimed of George W. Bush, “Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”45 When Somali warlord Osman Otto was captured, Boykin pitted the Christian god's size against the god of Islam: “He [Otto] went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, ’They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.’ Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his.”46

Never mind the fact that size should be irrelevant to an omnipotent being without physical form, as the god of Christianity is described. Size is not psychologically irrelevant to us humans. Larger size even has influence on the ranks of men in church hierarchy; research has found that height can predict whether one is a bishop or a priest.47

But recall again that size connotes strength, and strength has been used in violent (and by definition inegalitarian) male mate competition far before we humans developed anything that could be described as political ideology. Bearing this legacy in mind, it should be no surprise that our political efforts to create egalitarian societies so often strain against the evolved ambitions of men.