This is a very alarming portrait of some of the darkest forces at work in America, or anywhere for that matter. Hedges argues that the extreme wing of the contemporary Christian movement in the US shares much with the actions and worldview of other historical fascist movements, movements that often mask the full extent of their drive for totalitarianism and their willingness to make concessions only until they achieved unrivaled power. There is little in here that I was not aware of, as far as the overall goals of the Christo-fascists, but as he explores some of the details it was illuminating, and even more disturbing than I had already realized.
He describes how a dominionist-based ideology is at the root of a radical movement that seeks to shred the barriers between church and state. The new radical churchies would have been familiar to George Orwell, with the attempt to redefine our very language to their sinister purposes. They are systematically attempting to subvert the root institutions and beliefs of America, intent on ushering in a theocratic state, disenfranchising any who object, attacking the other, whether for sexual or religious preference. He points out how the leaders of this movement have evacuated core Christianity of its meaning, substituting inside the false cover of the Christian name a core of exclusion, violence, victimization, and dehumanization that is very much worth fearing.
There is a reasonable swath of examples from which to choose here. Perhaps I am picking nits, but I felt that, while his take was compelling, I would have been more impressed with more detailed, point by point comparison of contemporary and historical movement actions. Also, the information seemed more anecdotal than scientific. Maybe that might have been addressed by referring to other, more precise, less popular works that detailed the trend by the numbers. But, overall, Hedges makes a compelling and very alarming case that there is considerable darkness afoot and all who value core American values like separation of church and state and the first amendment would do well to pay attention, and take action where possible.
America and the Christian religions have no monopoly on goodness or saintliness. God has not chosen Americans as a people above others. The beliefs of Christians are as flawed and imperfect as all religious beliefs. But both the best of American democracy and the best of Christianity embody important values, values such as compassion, tolerance and belief in justice and equality. America is a nation where all have a voice in how we live and how we are governed. We have never fully adhered to these values—indeed, probably never will—but our health as a country is determined by our steadfastness in striving to attain them. And there are times when taking a moral stance, perhaps the highest form of patriotism, means facing down the community, even the nation. Our loyalty to our community and our nation, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “is therefore morally tolerable only if it includes values wider than those of the community.”
These values, democratic and Christian, are being dismantled, often with stealth, by a radical Christian movement, known as dominionism, which seeks to cloak itself in the mantle of the Christian faith and American patriotism…Dominionism seeks to redefine traditional democratic and Christian terms and concepts to fit an ideology that calls on the radical church to take political power. It shares many prominent features with classical fascist movements, at least as it is defined by the scholar Robert O. Paxton, who sees fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cultures of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
While traditional fundamentalism shares many of the darker traits of the new national movement—such as blind obedience to a male hierarchy that often claims to speak for god, intolerance toward nonbelievers, and a disdain for rational, intellectual inquiry—it has never attempted to impose its belief system on the rest of the nation. And it has not tried to transform government, as well as all other secular institutions, into extensions of the church. The new radical fundamentalism amounts to a huge and disastrous mutation. Dominionists and their wealthy, right-wing sponsors speak in terms and phrases that are familiar and comforting to most Americans, but they no longer use words to mean what they meant in the past. They engage in a slow process of “logicide,” the killing of words. The old definitions of words are replaced by new ones. Code words of the old belief system are deconstructed and assigned diametrically opposed meanings. Words such as “truth,” “Wisdom,” “Death”, “Liberty,” “Life” and “death” mean life in Christ or death to Christ, and are used to signal belief or unbelief in the risen Lord. “Wisdom” has little to do with human wisdom but refers to the level of commitment and obedience to the system of belief. “Liberty” is not about freedom, but the “liberty” found when one accepts Jesus Christ and is liberated from the world to obey Him. But perhaps the most pernicious distortion comes with the word “love,” the word used to lure into the movement many who seek a warm, loving community to counter their isolation and alienation. “Love” is distorted to mean an unquestioned obedience to those who claim to speak for God in return for the promise of everlasting life. The blind, human love, the acceptance of the other, is attacked as an inferior love, dangerous and untrustworthy.
Dominionists wait only for a fiscal, social or political crisis, a moment of upheaval in the form of an economic meltdown or another terrorist strike on American soil, to move to reconfigure the political system. Such a crisis could unleash a public clamor for drastic new national security measures and draconian reforms to safeguard the nation. Widespread discontent and fear, stoked and manipulated by dominionists and their sympathizers, could be used by these radicals to sweep aside objections of beleaguered moderates in Congress and the courts, those clinging to a bankrupt and discredited liberalism, to establish an American theocracy, a Christian fascism.
The movement is fueled by fear of powerful external and internal enemies whose duplicity and cunning is constantly at work. These phantom enemies serve to keep believers afraid and in a state of constant alert, ready to support repressive measures against all who do not embrace the movement. But this tactic has required the airbrushing out of past racists creeds—an effort that, sometime after 1970, saw Jerry Falwell recall all copies of his earlier sermons warning against integration and the evils of the black race.
Those in the movement now fight, fueled by the rage of the dispossessed, to crush and silence the reality-based world. The dominionist movement is the response of people trapped in a deformed, fragmented and disoriented culture that had become callous and unforgiving, a culture that has too often failed to provide the belonging, care and purpose that make life bearable, a culture that, as many in the movement like to say, has become a “culture of death.” The new utopians are not always wrong in their critique of American society. But what they have set out to create is far, far worse than what we endure. What is happening in America is revolutionary. A group of religious utopians, with the sympathy and support of millions of Americans, are slowly dismantling democratic institutions to establish a religious tyranny, the springboard to an American fascism.
[people] who do not conform to the ideology are gradually dehumanized. They are tainted with the despised characteristics inherent in the godless. This attack is waged in highly abstract terms, to negate the reality of concrete, specific and unique human characteristics, to deny the possibility of goodness in those who do not conform. Some human beings, the message goes, are no longer human beings. They are types. This new, exclusive community fosters rigidity, conformity and intolerance. In this new binary world segments of the human race are disqualified from moral and ethical consideration. And because fundamentalist followers live in a binary universe, they are incapable of seeing others as anything more than inverted reflections of themselves. If they seek to destroy nonbelievers to create a Christian America, then nonbelievers muse be seeking to destroy them. This belief system negates the possibility of the ethical life. It fails to grasp that goodness must be sought outside the self and that the best defense against evil is to seek it within. When people come to believe that they are immune from evil, that there is no resemblance between themselves and those they define as the enemy, they will inevitably grow to embody the evil they claim to fight. It is only by grasping our own capacity for evil, our own darkness, that we hold our own capacity for evil at bay. When evil is always external, then moral purification always entails the eradication of others.