American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
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Twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists first spoke of the United States becoming a Christian nation that would build a global Christian empire, it was hard to take such hyperbolic rhetoric seriously. Today, such language no longer sounds like hyperbole but poses, instead, a very real threat to our freedom and our way of life. In American Fascists, Chris Hedges, veteran journalist and author of the National Book Award finalist War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, challenges the Christian Right's religious legitimacy and argues that at its core it is a mass movement fueled by unbridled nationalism and a hatred for the open society.
Hedges, who grew up in rural parishes in upstate New York where his father was a Presbyterian pastor, attacks the movement as someone steeped in the Bible and Christian tradition. He points to the hundreds of senators and members of Congress who have earned between 80 and 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy groups as one of many signs that the movement is burrowing deep inside the American government to subvert it. The movement's call to dismantle the wall between church and state and the intolerance it preaches against all who do not conform to its warped vision of a Christian America are pumped into tens of millions of American homes through Christian television and radio stations, as well as reinforced through the curriculum in Christian schools. The movement's yearning for apocalyptic violence and its assault on dispassionate, intellectual inquiry are laying the foundation for a new, frightening America.
American Fascists, which includes interviews and coverage of events such as pro-life rallies and weeklong classes on conversion techniques, examines the movement's origins, its driving motivations and its dark ideological underpinnings. Hedges argues that the movement currently resembles the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '30s, movements that often masked the full extent of their drive for totalitarianism and were willing to make concessions until they achieved unrivaled power. The Christian Right, like these early fascist movements, does not openly call for dictatorship, nor does it use physical violence to suppress opposition. In short, the movement is not yet revolutionary. But the ideological architecture of a Christian fascism is being cemented in place. The movement has roused its followers to a fever pitch of despair and fury. All it will take, Hedges writes, is one more national crisis on the order of September 11 for the Christian Right to make a concerted drive to destroy American democracy. The movement awaits a crisis. At that moment they will reveal themselves for what they truly are -- the American heirs to fascism. Hedges issues a potent, impassioned warning. We face an imminent threat. His book reminds us of the dangers liberal, democratic societies face when they tolerate the intolerant.
think “independently” or “courageously.” It presents its ideology of creationism, repackaged as “intelligent design,” as an alternative to Darwinian theories of evolution. The power of these non-reality-based movements is that they appeal to our deepest-held, most primitive prejudices, our classism, sexism, racism—perversions based on fear of complexity or change. So the propaganda contains much of what we already yearn to believe. Its subversive message is that it’s OK to believe what we want,
can find it endorsed in scripture, whether it is tucked into the back pew rack of a liberal Unitarian church in Boston or a megachurch in Florida. The mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches, declining in numbers and influence, cannot hope to combat the hysteria and excitement roused by these prophets of doom until they repudiate the apocalyptic writings in scripture. The writers of Genesis, as the Reverend William Sloane Coffin has pointed out, who wrote about the creation of the world in
Middle East who would deny us oil fields and hegemony, of federal regulatory agencies, social welfare programs, public education—in short, the destruction of all people and programs that stand in the way of a Christian America and its God-given right to dominate the rest of the planet. The movement offers, in return, the absurd but seductive promise that those who are right with God will rise to become spiritual and material oligarchs. They will become the new class. Those who are not right with
one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper. It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up.10 The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil’s sake. They
Religious Right Anti-Gay Speech,” Hatecrime.org, http://www.hatecrime.org/subpages/hitler/hitler.html. 7. P. Gibson, “Gay Males and Lesbian Youth Suicide,” in M. R. Feinleib, ed., Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, Volume 3: Prevention and Interventions in Youth Suicide (Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Public Health Service; Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration, 1989; DHHS publication ADM 89–1623), 110. 8. Pat Robertson, quoted