Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy

If you have a minute, go check out The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy over at AlterNet. The title is sure to piss some people off, but Chris Hedges makes some valid points, as I try to outline below. I'm not sure if things are as dire as Hedges suggests, but he clearly gets the source of the issue.

Here is the key section:
[ Dr. James Luther Adams, Hedges ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School] 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.

It's rare to see someone actually get what is happening from a big picture, worldview position. Maybe Sam Harris is having more impact that I thought.

I tend to think that Hedges is a little over the top, especially because it seems that the far right is losing some of its power over the last year or so. But he makes one very valid point, one that does scare me a bit -- and I hope it never happens:
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.
He is spot-on correct here. The only way to alter a worldview is to change the life conditions that created it or allowed it to rise. This is classic Spiral Dynamics, and it is something that I believe to be true. The question now, when so many of our politicians bow down before the far right even if they don't agree with them (they fear them), is how do we fix it before it does get as bad as Hedges suggests, or before that next event that destabilizes everything?


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