Wednesday, February 21, 2007

American Fascists

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America is the latest book from Chris Hedges, former chief Middle East correspondent for the New York Times, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, son of a Presbyterian minister, and currently a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. The author hold a master's in theology from Harvard and the author of two previous books.

(All blog quotes in italics are taken from a interview of Hedges by Amy Goodman on 02-20-07.)

I was pleased to discover that we need not place the entire mass of Evangelicals, Born Again Christians, even fundamentalists into the category of "American fascists". Hedges' belief is that there is a smaller, but very powerful and heavily funded sub-set of this large "evangelical" Christian group whom he labels -- "Christian dominionists". This faction desires to establish a theocratic state in which their species of Christianity is for all extent and purposes ---- the state religion. Episcopalians, Catholics, Prebyterians, Quakers, even many Evangelicals would be considered "inauthentic" Christians, or maybe, not really Christians.

The terms "dominionist" was suggested by the passage in Genesis in which man supposedly is given dominion over the earth and its beings. The Christian dominionists believe that God has destined them to have dominion over our republic which they believe has strayed from its original roots. For me, it is difficult to understand how these Christian reconstructionists can believe that the main figures in the founding of our republic were Christians in a mold similar to theirs. In fact, most of our founding fathers would be rejected by this group as "Christians in name only". Take Jefferson, for example, who rejected for his own use the New Testament gospels, and "cut out and pasted in place" the parts of the gospels that he sensed were truly the words and deeds of Jesus.

Chris draws a comparison between the birth of the Nazi movement during the Weimar Republic in Germany to the rise of these religious fascists in today's America. During the Weimar Republics many Germans felt dispossessed: poor or with low wage jobs, left out of the picture.

Many working class Americans today feel dispossessed, are frustrated as decent wage jobs are shipped overseas and they must take low wage service jobs as replacements. They feel left out, stranded along the road as traffic moves by them

The dominionists offer to these people, especially in their mushrooming mega-churches, places where they are with their own; where they are taught that God loves them and that he is on the side of true Christians like them. Their problems are largely caused by the atheists,, materialists and secular humanists who have taken over our nation. Things will be set aright when real Christians take control of America.

James Luther Adams was Hedges' ethics professor at Harvard. He had spent the years 1935-36 in Germany working with Dietrick Bonhoeffer in the Confessing Church or anti-Nazi church and evntualliy was picked up by the Gestapo and told to leave the country. He saw in the U.S. during the 1980's .... the articulation of this new political religion, this religion that talked about seizing control of mainstream denominations, as well as institutions, creating a parallel media empire through Christian radio and broadcasting, and ultimately taking control of the government itself.

The "dominionists" -- like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell---have made an unholy alliance with those forces in corporate America that, ironically, are to a large extent the cause of many Americans' plight----to forge a new Republican party that serves the interests of corporacracy while gaining millions of sincere but deluded Christians who believe the present GOP is the "party of God." At the same time, the dominionists gain power and money from the wealthy and corporations to enable them to eventual seize control of America.

Traditional fundamentalists always called on believers to remove themselves from the contaminants of secular society, shun involvement in politics.

The dominionists -- seeking church control of the state -- ...have completely perverted and distorted and manipulated the Christian message into something that is the antithesis of what Jesus preached in the Gospels.

Questions arise in my mind as to why some of the most impoverished people in America--those living not in Appalachia or the Deep South -- but the forlorn farmers and ranchers of the Great Plains vote Republican? The Democrats are traditionally the party that cares about the downtrodden, short changed, the poor, the victimized --- the workers of our country.
(The same people Jesus really cared about.)

That is the question addressed by Thomas Frank is his well received book of two years ago:
What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

The poorest county in America is in Kansas, and in the last election 80% of its citizens voted (against their better interest) for the GOP! As a friend of Frank's asks him in his book: How can someone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?

Thomas Frank, a native Kansan, returned to his home state to gather statistics, to talk with people, and to consider what the answer to her question could be.

Basically, as I understood this ,book the answer is that these misguided persons believed that the GOP stands for the "American Way", it stands for Christianity and Christian values, and that, it in a phrase, is the "Party of the Good "(or of God).

The face the GOP shows to these inhabitants of the Great Plains is its Christian fundamentalist face projected by the dominionist segment of the Republican Party. They do not reveal the hidden countenance of corporate greed, gathering wealth for a few, and a disdain for those who "have not made it" --- which is the other persona of the GOP.

In fact the votes received to elect Bush the first and the second time from the downtrodden poor of the Great Plain were gathered under false pretenses, and went to a political party that had no intention of helping to better their ordinary, everyday, practical lives.

A Rove masterpiece!

Hedges believes that these Christian dominionists are not truly a religious movement, but a political one that gathers the sheep from the flocks into their guidance and direction not for any spiritual benefits, but to help them attain ultimate polical control of the nation.

The dominionists tend to create leaders who are not be questioned. To question these political and pastoral leaders is to betray that one is under the influence of Satan.
They stress the cult of masculinity and the disempowerment of women. We see these two aspects in their vision of the male dominated family and in the male leader dominated mega churches.

A good example of the male person of power and charisma who invokes almost worship in his followers ---despite what he is really up to --- is Pat Robertson.

When we look at the sort of empires that people like Pat robertson run, you know, this man is worth hundreds of millions, some people say up to $1 billion, suirrounded by bodyguards, flying around on private jets, investing in blood diamonds in Sierra Leone. He has rock star status, I mean, if you've ever been to an event where he appears, people are weeping and want to be touched by him. There is no question, he essentially runs a despotic little fiefdom.

As I read once more the above quote from Hedges, the image of Jesus, with a straggly band of followers, with little of this world's goods traversing the dusty roads of the Holy Land comes to my mind. Then I see Robertson again. The first is Christ. What is the second? Anti-Christ? In a real sense, Robertson and others like him are Anti-Christs. The Oxford Dictionary says that anti- means against or opposed to. Certainlly the message, persona and deeds of the "Robertsons" of this world are against Jesus, opposed to his message, persona and deeds.

You know, I covered the war in Central America, and Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell came down to support the murderous rampages of Rios Montt in Guatemala, the military dictatorship that were running death squads that were killing 800 to 1,000 people a month in El Salvador, and, of course, the Contras, whose main contribution in Nicaragua was walking into towns drunk out of their mind, raping the women and killing the men and burning the villages. And they describe these battles as essentially a war against Satan, against Satanic forces, godless communism that had to be defeated. There are no international boundaries in Satan’s kingdom, if you look at it from their ideology. I think that the kinds of the wholehearted support for genocidal killers in Central America, which Pat Robertson was one of the stalwarts, is a tip-off as to, you know, without legal restraints, what they would like to do within our own borders.

Bush has been a big disappointment to this dominant dominionist Christian faction which seeks to install a state religion. This time they will seek someone more devoted, determined, and dedicated. Perhaps Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas??

A final word from Chris Hedges:

....this movement (the dominionist) talks about acculturating the society with a Chrisitian religion. In fact, it's the inverse. What they've done is acculturate the Chrisitan religion with the worst apsects of American imperialism and American capitalism.