New York Times reporter, Chris Hedges, has written an extraordinary book, American Fascism: The Christian Right And The War On America. Having survived a Christian fundamentalist background myself, I marvel at the timely urgency of Hedges’ book, but also, at the obtuse disconnect most Americans have with the pivotal thesis of his book: the power of the religious right in the United States to bring forth a nation whose totalitarian repression could dwarf that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. As Hedges notes, we are well on the path toward such a reality, and the Domionist Christian right is a principal player in the process. While the nucleus of that movement is small, measuring only about 1% of evangelicals and led by the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and John Hagee, those leaders are supported by throngs of evangelicals sympathetic to their theocratic views who dutifully preach the consummate tenet of the movement, submission. Citizens must submit to their government officials, particularly the ones who claim to be born-again Christians and receiving their orders from God; wives must submit to husbands; children must submit to parents; and everyone must submit to the teachings of the bible as interpreted by evangelical Christianity or burn in hell. I will herein use the term “Christian fascism” or “Cristo-fascism” as synonymous with a worldview and political philosophy which are both fundamentalist Christian and fascist in nature.
Recently, I viewed a chilling documentary “Jesus Camp”, which examines “the evangelical belief that a revival is underway in America that requires Christian youth to assume leadership roles in advocating the causes of their religious movement.” The film follows a group of evangelical kids who attend a summer camp where they are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in God’s army. Under the leadership of control-freak youth pastor, Becky Fischer, who makes Nurse Ratchet in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” look like Snow White, the children are told that theirs is a unique generation -- perhaps the last on earth before the return of Christ to rapture his church, and that just as Muslim children learn at an early age to carry and use automatic weapons so that they can die for Islam, Christian kids must learn to fight in the Jesus army in order to save souls and take back America for God -- and be willing to die for Jesus.
One not need be a licensed mental health professional to find the emotional manipulation, indoctrination, and outright brainwashing of the Jesus camp both repulsive and enraging. Its squeaky-clean, almost exclusively white, puerile participants mouth all the right jargon, concepts, and scripture verses impeccably and robotically like good little Christian boys and girls -- or more chillingly, like Hitler youth. Jesus Camp is nothing less than childhood spiritual abuse on steroids, leaving me personally and eternally grateful that as a child growing up in fundamentalism, I wasn’t subjected to anything worse in the context of religious services than the raspy screams of bible-thumping preachers
Hedges’ brilliant article, “The Christian Right And The Rise Of American Fascism” outlines several principles inherent in Christian fascism, and to his list, I will add a few of my own:
1) Apocalyptic Violence -- A central tenet of Cristo-fascism is the belief that after the Rapture or Christ’s returns to rescue Christian believers and take them to heaven, a period of seven years, or the Tribulation, will ensue in which an Anti-Christ will dominate the world, and every horror imaginable will be unleashed on humankind. Those who do not submit (again a pivotal word for Christian fascism) and accept Christ as their personal savior, will be martyred but will be assured of spending eternity in heaven with Christ. Those who do submit will be condemned eternally to hell. After the Tribulation period, Christ will return again with the “army” of Christians in heaven, and the battle of Armageddon will be fought against the Anti-Christ and his armies. The latter will be slaughtered by Christ and his followers who will set up Christ’s kingdom on earth where he will reign for one thousand years, followed by the total and complete destruction of earth as Christ and his followers return to heaven.
Sounds like a scene from the movie “Independence Day”? Actually, that movie cannot begin to capture the heinous barbarity that Christian fascism fantasizes will befall the earth and those who reject Christ. That scenario is a bloodbath of unimaginable, avenging horrors. Note that not only will non-Christian human beings be decimated, but so will the earth itself, the outcome being twofold: Humans who do not submit to Jesus will be destroyed, and the planet itself will be annihilated. How delicious the vindication for the Cristo-fascist psyche! Not only will people who reject their Jesus be grotesquely punished, but their God will prove himself more powerful than the very planet on which they live. Obviously, no need here to worry about global warming -- at least the kind created by humans. God will incinerate the earth -- his own instantaneous global warming, triumphing over all enemies of both himself and the Christian fascists. As Hedges notes, these fantasies of monstrous cruelty are appealing to many within the Christian-fascist movement because “The loss of manufacturing jobs, lack of affordable health care, negligible opportunities for education and poor job security has left many millions of Americans locked out. This ideology is attractive because it offers them the hope of power and revenge. It sanctifies their rage.” And if any group of people on earth is enraged, it is the Cristo-fascists whose rancor is every bit as caustic and virulent as that of any Islamist fundamentalist on a suicide mission.
2) One reason Hedges labels these individuals fascist has not only to do with their positioning themselves on the political right, but specifically, their fanatical insistence on submission to theocratic government. Had George Orwell been a born-again Christian, twenty-first century Cristo-fascists would probably declare him a saint. (War is holy, and killing is sacred.) Their preferred polity is biblical totalitarianism in which the principles embraced by secular society are perceived as untrue and antithetical to their God and his Word. Unquestioning obedience to fundamentalist Christian theology and its resultant theocracy are the cornerstones of Cristo-fascism in twenty-first century America.
3) As a result, adherents are diametrically opposed to a secular world view and the tenets of modern science. As I have commented in other articles in recent years, fundamentalist Christianity generally distrusts, and often despises human reason. Millions of children in America are being home-schooled, and 75% of them are children from fundamentalist Christian homes. Home-schooling can offer an extraordinary alternative to attending public school, but for fundamentalist Christians, it serves, among other things, to shield their children not only from grappling with such issues as evolution and global warming, but learning the scientific method itself and the basic principles of critical thinking and logical analysis.
4)Cristo-fascism is overwhelmingly a white Anglo-American movement. While one sees growing numbers of African Americans and Hispanics joining their ranks, the movement remains predominantly white and rabidly Islamophobic. Most outspoken on this issue is San Antonio’s megachurch pastor, John Hagee, who perceives Islam as the new Satan which must be destroyed by Israel and the United States.
5) While Christian fascism cannot give enough lip service to the “culture of life” it is morbidly death-obsessed in its raging support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and capital punishment. The popularity of the grisly, sado-masochistic “The Passion Of The Christ” among fundamentalist Christians, as well as the Jesus Camp’s indoctrination of children to be willing and proud to “die for Jesus” further belie Cristo-fascism’s death fetish.
6) A new Christian Gestapo is in the works as the Christian right is working vehemently to take control of military chaplaincies and create in Hedges words, “America’s Holy Warriors.” He points out that during the last century communist and fascist movements each built paramilitary forces that operated beyond the reach of the law. The frightening popularity and proliferation of the private security firm, Blackwater, founded by a mega-millionaire right-wing Christian, Erik Prince, has not only become a giant mercenary force in Iraq, but was heavily used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Increasingly, Cristo-fascists are becoming more blatant about their wish to force conversion to Christ through the barrel of a gun. A typical image of this concept, dripping with testosterone, may be viewed at the website of Force Ministries.
Just this week, conservative theologian, Doug Giles, appeared on Fox News arguing that Christian males should be tougher because “Jesus wasn’t a bearded lady”. Christians, he said, should stop raising nice boys and raise warriors who can fight terrorism.
In answer to the question of what is to be done, I would assert as I usually do: Knowledge is power. Fundamentalist Christianity is inherently delusional. One cannot reason with its adherents nor influence them with facts. What one can do is understand first of all that the United States has become a fascist empire. If one takes seriously Mussolini’s definition of fascism, “the corporate state”, then this nation was well on its way even before the ascendancy of the Bush II administration and September 11, 2001.
Furthermore, it is time for those who consider themselves politically progressive to stop “tolerating” Cristo-fascists. Certainly, these individuals have every right to believe whatever they choose to believe, but when one comprehends the inherently fascist nature of both their religion and their politics, one must necessarily confront not only their ghastly disregard for separation of church and state, but their implacable commitment to engineering a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the United States.
The exponential growth of the Cristo-fascist movement in the past six years is yet another symptom of empire and a somnambulant society in the throes of collapse. Whether or not one embraces Christianity or any religion, for that matter, it is instructive to engage in reality-checking the actual teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, and specifically, the gospels and other sacred writings which were excluded from the bible in the fourth century for political and socio-economic reasons in order to streamline Constantine’s hierarchical, imperial, Christian regime -- the world’s first but not last, Christian theocracy. With that in mind, I highly recommend The Jesus Mysteries, by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy.
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. is author of a forthcoming book, Coming Out from Christian Fundamentalism: Affirming Life, Love and The Sacred. Her recent book, U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook! Didn’t Tell You, is available at her website: www.carolynbaker.org.
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