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Christian Fascism's Threat to America

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    The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy By Chris Hedges Truthdig February 8, 2007 http://www.alternet.org/story/47679/ Dr. James
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2007
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      The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy
      By Chris Hedges
      Truthdig
      February 8, 2007
      http://www.alternet.org/story/47679/


      Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity
      School, told his students that when we were his age -- he was then
      close to 80 -- we would all be fighting the "Christian fascists."

      The warning, given 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and
      other radio and television evangelists began speaking about a new
      political religion that would direct its efforts toward taking control
      of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the
      government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a
      global Christian empire. This call for fundamentalists and
      evangelicals to take political power was a radical and ominous
      mutation of traditional Christianity. It was hard, at the time, to
      take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the
      buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us
      against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he
      said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their
      ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of
      the Bible.

      He was not a man to use the word fascist lightly. He had been in
      Germany in 1935 and 1936 and worked with the underground anti-Nazi
      church, known as the Confessing Church, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
      Adams was eventually detained and interrogated by the Gestapo, who
      suggested he might want to consider returning to the United States. It
      was a suggestion he followed. He left on a night train with framed
      portraits of Adolf Hitler placed over the contents of his suitcases to
      hide the rolls of home-movie film he had taken of the so-called German
      Christian Church, which was pro-Nazi, and the few individuals who
      defied the Nazis, including the theologians Karl Barth and Albert
      Schweitzer. The ruse worked when the border police lifted the tops of
      the suitcases, saw the portraits of the F├╝hrer and closed them up
      again. I watched hours of the grainy black-and-white films as he
      narrated in his apartment in Cambridge.

      Adams understood that totalitarian movements are built out of deep
      personal and economic despair. He warned that the flight of
      manufacturing jobs, the impoverishment of the American working class,
      the physical obliteration of communities in the vast, soulless exurbs
      and decaying Rust Belt, were swiftly deforming our society. The
      current assault on the middle class, which now lives in a world in
      which anything that can be put on software can be outsourced, would
      have terrified him. The stories that many in this movement told me
      over the past two years as I worked on "American Fascists: The
      Christian Right and the War on America" were stories of this failure
      -- personal, communal and often economic. This despair, Adams said,
      would empower dangerous dreamers -- those who today bombard the
      airwaves with an idealistic and religious utopianism that promises,
      through violent apocalyptic purification, to eradicate the old, sinful
      world that has failed many Americans.

      These Christian utopians promise to replace this internal and external
      emptiness with a mythical world where time stops and all problems are
      solved. The mounting despair rippling across the United States, one I
      witnessed repeatedly as I traveled the country, remains unaddressed by
      the Democratic Party, which has abandoned the working class, like its
      Republican counterpart, for massive corporate funding.

      The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who
      rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the
      reality-based world to one of magic -- to fantastic visions of angels
      and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and
      Jesus will guide and protect them. This mythological worldview, one
      that has no use for science or dispassionate, honest intellectual
      inquiry, one that promises that the loss of jobs and health insurance
      does not matter, as long as you are right with Jesus, offers a lying
      world of consistency that addresses the emotional yearnings of
      desperate followers at the expense of reality. It creates a world
      where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become
      true -- the very essence of the totalitarian state. It includes a dark
      license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this
      vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to
      submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious
      oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens.

      We now live in a nation where the top 1 percent control more wealth
      than the bottom 90 percent combined, where we have legalized torture
      and can lock up citizens without trial. Arthur Schlesinger, in "The
      Cycles of American History," wrote that "the great religious ages were
      notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary
      sense -- not only for their acquiescence in poverty, inequality and
      oppression, but for their enthusiastic justification of slavery,
      persecution, torture and genocide."

      Adams saw in the Christian right, long before we did, disturbing
      similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party,
      similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social
      instability or a national crisis, see American fascists rise under the
      guise of religion to dismantle the open society. He despaired of U.S.
      liberals, who, he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes
      about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and
      impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure
      of evil or the cold reality of how the world worked. The current
      hand-wringing by Democrats, with many asking how they can reach out to
      a movement whose leaders brand them "demonic" and "satanic," would not
      have surprised Adams. Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those
      who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that
      for him was an integral part of the biblical message, would come from
      the church or the liberal, secular elite.

      His critique of the prominent research universities, along with the
      media, was no less withering. These institutions, self-absorbed,
      compromised by their close relationship with government and
      corporations, given enough of the pie to be complacent, were unwilling
      to deal with the fundamental moral questions and inequities of the
      age. They had no stomach for a battle that might cost them their
      prestige and comfort. He told me, I suspect half in jest, that if the
      Nazis took over America "60 percent of the Harvard faculty would begin
      their lectures with the Nazi salute." But this too was not an
      abstraction. He had watched academics at the University of Heidelberg,
      including the philosopher Martin Heidegger, raise their arms stiffly
      to students before class.

      Two decades later, even in the face of the growing reach of the
      Christian right, his prediction seems apocalyptic. And yet the
      powerbrokers in the Christian right have moved from the fringes of
      society to the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
      Forty-five senators and 186 members of the House before the last
      elections earned approval ratings of 80 to100 percent from the three
      most influential Christian right advocacy groups -- the Christian
      Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. President Bush
      has handed hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid to these
      groups and dismantled federal programs in science, reproductive rights
      and AIDS research to pay homage to the pseudo-science and quackery of
      the Christian right.

      Bush will, I suspect, turn out to be no more than a weak transition
      figure, our version of Otto von Bismarck -- who also used "values" to
      energize his base at the end of the 19th century and launched
      "Kulturkampf," the word from which we get culture wars, against
      Catholics and Jews. Bismarck's attacks, which split Germany and made
      the discrediting of whole segments of the society an acceptable part
      of the civil discourse, paved the way for the Nazis' more virulent
      racism and repression.

      The radical Christian right, calling for a "Christian state" -- where
      whole segments of American society, from gays and lesbians to liberals
      to immigrants to artists to intellectuals, will have no legitimacy and
      be reduced, at best, to second-class citizens -- awaits a crisis, an
      economic meltdown, another catastrophic terrorist strike or a series
      of environmental disasters. A period of instability will permit them
      to push through their radical agenda, one that will be sold to a
      frightened American public as a return to security and law and order,
      as well as moral purity and prosperity. This movement -- the most
      dangerous mass movement in American history -- will not be blunted
      until the growing social and economic inequities that blight this
      nation are addressed, until tens of millions of Americans, now locked
      in hermetic systems of indoctrination through Christian television and
      radio, as well as Christian schools, are reincorporated into American
      society and given a future, one with hope, adequate wages, job
      security and generous federal and state assistance.

      The unchecked rape of America, which continues with the blessing of
      both political parties, heralds not only the empowerment of this
      American oligarchy but the eventual death of the democratic state and
      birth of American fascism.


      Chris Hedges is the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York
      Times and the author of "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning."

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