Author: Chris Hedges
Date Published: 2007
The Christian Right and the War on America
They disseminate their ideas on the alternative broadcasts networks and through their own publishers and schools. Their intellectual leaders demand the complete dismantling of the secular state; their followers have been roused to a fever pitch of resentment and despair. Describing themselves as true patriots, they wrap themselves in the flag – but all it might take is one more September 11 for the Christian Right to seize power and reveal themselves for what they really are: The American heir of Fascism.
I initially came across Chris Hedges at Truthdig, in ‘Celebrating Slaughter: War and Collective Amnesia‘, an article about war memorials sanitizing the true nature of war, causing them to be an effective form of propoganda for future conflict. I was skeptical and prepared to read a disenfranchised university student’s attempt at being controversial, however it turned out to be a very interesting piece. It was this article that caused me to research Hedges publications and purchase ‘American Fascists’ (it sealed the deal when I saw that he had written a book called ‘I Don’t Believe In Atheists’. Personally, I’m intrigued by an author who is willing to make enemies with everyone.)
Chris Hedges is a journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner, a senior fellow at the National Institute and authored ‘War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning’ and ‘What Every Person Should Know About War’ amongst other books. He was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades and has covered conflicts in Latin America, Africa, The Middle East, The Balkans and The Gaza Strip. Hedges is also a Christian and he speaks of his upbringing in detail. His Father is a Presbyterian Minister and Hedges attended Harvard Divinity School (he graduated, but was not ordained).
Hedges’s Christianity is extremely important in ‘American Fascists’. Despite its bold title and blurb, Hedges doesn’t attempt to simplify the extremely broad range of religious institutions in America, nor does he lump them together. Hedges thesis of fascism rising amongst Christian America is referring to Dominionists:
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 Christian faith and American Patriotism. Dominionism takes its name from Genesis 1:26-31, in which God gives human beings “dominion” over all creation. This movement, small in number but influential, departs from traditional evangelism.
He outlines his discussion, as well as how Dominionism effects the rest of America and how it is perpetuated, in ten chapters:
- The Culture of Despair
- The Cult of Masculinity
- The War on Truth
- The New Class
- The Crusade
- God: The Commercial
- Apocalyptic Violence
Hedges not only deconstructs how the desires and traits of Dominionism align with fascism, he attacks the real causes and dangers this form of fascism presents, as well the events that have already occurred – including the secret meetings of the Council of National Policy (CNP), the Bush Election voter fraud through the Diebold Election Systems, diversion of secular public money toward often ineffectual faith-based organisations and the public acceptance of the ‘War on Terror’.
Particularly worrying is the way people within the Dominionist movement’s reach are enclosed in a reality separate from the rest of the world.
Tens of millions of Americans rely exclusively on Christian Broadcasts for their news, health, entertainment and devotional programs…during the rest of the year [churches] demand nearly all their social, religious and recreational time. These believers are encased in a hermetic world…There are anywhere between 1.1 million and 2.1 million children, nearly all evangelicals, now being home-schooled. These children are not challenged with ideas or research that conflicts with their biblical worldview. Evolution is not taught…These young men and women are often funnelled into Christian colleges and universities, such as Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Pat Robertson’s Regent University. They are discouraged from critical analysis, questioning and independent thought. And they believe, by the time they are done, a host of myths designed to destroy the open, pluralist society.
This closed circuit of learning, the ridiculous and disturbing development of creationist ‘museums’, the advent of Intelligent Design and the fallacious redefinitions of excepted scientific theories such as Evolution, creates an environment of ignorance that is appalling and hardly imaginable to other western nations. I have witnessed the results of this education online – through blog posts, blog comments and you tube videos by Christian Fundamentalists. This has caused a backlash amongst humanist and atheist communities, with many blogs springing up to ridicule and deconstruct Dominionism and creationism in the public sphere (the famous youtube ‘Why Do People Laugh At Creationists?‘ series by thunderfoot comes to mind).
Also important to ‘American Fascists’ is Hedges understanding of why people are drawn into the influence of Dominionism and the root causes of fundamentalism in history. Hedges describes the role of vulnerability, poverty and despair in the conversions. People are not drawn to fundamentalism from irrationalism alone, but are ‘love bombed’ by manipulative people praying on the state of despair in others – he tells their stories honestly and without the impulse to deride – an impulse a secular author may have given into. He is not compassionate towards those that benefit from treading on others, including the rich backers of mega churches and other charlatans such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
Though Hedges’ language is direct, it is not slanderous. However, there are problems with ‘American Fascists’ – Hedges has a tendency to repeat himself and his intensity should have been softened due to the length of the book. The definition of fascism by Umberto Eco is a bit lofty, including it’s ur-fascism title, and because of its placement at the beginning of the book it could cause the reader to think twice about continuing. I believe a more suitable definition of fascism could have been found.
‘American Fascists’ is an extremely important read for Americans as well as other nationalities. Although George W. Bush and the Republican Party, and by association the Dominionists, have been voted out at the moment, the effects of their policies are long reaching and are felt worldwide. Hedges has created an extremely effective snapshot of this movement – from its roots to its capabilities – and identified the real threats, as opposed to the generalisation that all Christians, moderates included, support a fundamentalist worldview.
♥♥♥♥½ – 4½/5