Thursday, February 08, 2007

Christian fascism: New Developments in the Theology of Empire?

In this review of Chris Hedges's new book, Carolyn Baker outlines what she considers to be the principles of a rising new "Christian Fascism" or "Christo-fascism" in the United States including:

1) A belief in the goodness and necessity of apocalytic violence to cleanse the world of evil and sin;

2) A belief in the necessity of a theocratic government in the United States

3) A possible belief in maintaining the purity of an all white society

4) A commitment to the notion of "a culture of life" that opposes abortion rights

5) The need to maintain Christian para military, or security, forces to protect the righteous.

In this interview, Hedges depicts the growing movement of so called "Christian Fascism" in terms very similar to what Marcus Borg, in our interview, called idolatry--taking articles of faith and objectifying them. In the case of the radical right, according to Hedges, the idea is to build a "creation state" that would unify different Christain groups against secular decadence.

It seems clear that the prominence of the Christian right in politics over the last 20 years has spawned a backlash among humanists. Several new books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett describe what they see as the fundamental irrationality of religion in the modern world. Jack Huberman talks about the media strategy needed for this humanist group: ridicule the believers into submission by comparing belief in God to belief, for instance, in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

Is there such a thing as Christian Fascism? Is there a way to talk about the sacred that is not tainted by empire or dismissed as irrationality?

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At 3:49 PM , Blogger Michael Faris said...

Thanks for sharing this, Joseph. You got me thinking (I wrote about it here).

At 4:15 PM , Anonymous parisa said...

It's hard to doubt that there is such a thing as Christian fascism -- the evidence is all around us. I don't know about the 'fascist' label as such -- but a reactionary fundamentalism exists, and it is one extreme of what is happening. I haven't read Hedges' book yet, though I'm a fan of his writing.

I know your question is rhetorical but OF COURSE there are ways to be religious without being irrational. It's how most people have done it for most of history. The institutional church may have some wacky ways of explaining things, and wish that all its people subscribed to every word of it, but the reality is that in most times regular people have taken the word of the church, the word of their own hearts, and used their own minds to make their lives.

Liberal Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist teachings are all quite in line with the use of reason and science to expand and inform the life of faith. If ONLY we on the religious left could get the kind of play the religious right does!

At 5:22 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Michael: I think I'll hire you to be the writer for Engage! A very thoughtful piece. One bit to wonder about: I agree that listening to one another is an important ethical principle for a democratic public sphere. However, what is involved in this dialogue, this listening and speaking, in a society with uneven power? You and I both know Habermas and Iris Young well--but it seems to me that taking up the task of creating democratic dialogic space really is crucial at this juncture in history if we want to avoid the slide toward authoritarian politics that Hedges hints at.

At 5:25 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Parisa: I don't know if its completely a rhetorical question. I haven't read Harris, Dawkins, or Dennett on the secular humanist side, but it seems that the spiritual progressive element is being left out of the discussion in favor of these broad dismissals of faith. Maybe what we need is to bring back the "ethics of belief" debates from back in the 1890s! William James, where are you now?


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