The greatest moral failing of the liberal Christian church was its refusal, justified in the name of tolerance and dialogue, to denounce the followers of the Christian right as heretics. By tolerating the intolerant it ceded religious legitimacy to an array of con artists, charlatans and demagogues and their cultish supporters. It stood by as the core Gospel message—concern for the poor and the oppressed—was perverted into a magical world where God and Jesus showered believers with material wealth and power. The white race, especially in the United States, became God’s chosen agent. Imperialism and war became divine instruments for purging the world of infidels and barbarians, evil itself. Capitalism, because God blessed the righteous with wealth and power and condemned the immoral to poverty and suffering, became shorn of its inherent cruelty and exploitation. The iconography and symbols of American nationalism became intertwined with the iconography and symbols of the Christian faith. The mega-pastors, narcissists who rule despotic, cult-like fiefdoms, make millions of dollars by using this heretical belief system to prey on the mounting despair and desperation of their congregations, victims of neoliberalism and deindustrialization. These believers find in Donald Trump a reflection of themselves, a champion of the unfettered greed, cult of masculinity, lust for violence, white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, religious intolerance, anger, racism and conspiracy theories that define the central beliefs of the Christian right. When I wrote “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” I was deadly serious about the term “fascists.”
Tens of millions of Americans live hermetically sealed inside the vast media and educational edifice controlled by Christian fascists. In this world, miracles are real, Satan, allied with secular humanists and Muslims, is seeking to destroy America, and Trump is God’s anointed vessel to build the Christian nation and cement into place a government that instills “biblical values.” These “biblical values” include banning abortion, protecting the traditional family, turning the Ten Commandments into secular law, crushing “infidels,” especially Muslims, indoctrinating children in schools with “biblical” teachings and thwarting sexual license, which includes any sexual relationship other than in a marriage between a man and a woman. Trump is routinely compared by evangelical leaders to the biblical king Cyrus, who rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and restored the Jews to the city.
The ideology of the Christian fascists panders in our decline to the primitive yearnings for the vengeance, new glory and moral renewal that are found among those pushed aside by deindustrialization and austerity. Reason, facts and verifiable truth are impotent weapons against this belief system. The Christian right is a “crisis cult.” Crisis cults arise in most collapsing societies. They promise, through magic, to recover the lost grandeur and power of a mythologized past. This magical thinking banishes doubt, anxiety and feelings of disempowerment. Traditional social hierarchies and rules, including an unapologetic white, male supremacy, will be restored. Rituals and behaviors including an unquestioning submission to authority and acts of violence to cleanse the society of evil will vanquish malevolent forces.
Christian fascism is an emotional life raft for tens of millions. It is impervious to the education, dialogue and discourse the liberal class naively believes can blunt or domesticate the movement. The Christian fascists, by choice, have severed themselves from rational thought. We will not placate or disarm this movement, bent on our destruction, by attempting to claim that we too have Christian “values.” This appeal only strengthens the legitimacy of the Christian fascists and weakens our own. We will transform American society to a socialist system that provides meaning, dignity and hope to all citizens, that cares and nurtures the most vulnerable among us, or we will become the victims of the Christian fascists we created.
— Chris Hedges, Truthdig, Onward, Christian Fascists, December 30, 2019
As someone who has been warning for years about the dangerous and anti-social lunacies of the evangelical right, I can hardly say how it gladdens me to see this kind of commentary trickling into the mainstream.
The greatest moral failing of the liberal Christian church was its refusal, justified in the name of tolerance and dialogue, to denounce the followers of the Christian right as heretics.
As Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, “Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” In fairness, some liberal Christians do fight against the Christian Right. But they’re few enough that the Christian Right has, by default, become the face of Christianity in the US.
I, too, know some liberal Christians who do what they can to make a difference. I may be an atheist, but we share some common enemies, so we work together for the good of our country.
I read this book a few years back. The concerns that thinking people have about the religious right and it’s ethos have never been more clearly and accurately expressed. A must-read for anyone who is worried about what this coalition would do if they gained unassailable power.
This is one of the most accurate, penetrating, analyses of any political, cultural, religious, grouping I have ever read. I’m keeping it for future reference and will quote it when I have opportunity.
I wonder what would be worse, to live in the bible belt or to live in mormon Utah? I’ve never lived in either. Here in NJ, religion isn’t so in your face, although the orthodox Jewish enclaves continue to get larger and larger. There was a netflix special about the difficulties in leaving hasidism. We have freedom of religion, but when people leave it behind, its almost like they become internal refugees inside of America.
Chikirin, as a fellow NJ resident who lived my 1st 24 years in Tennessee in the belt buckle of the Bible belt, I can tell you they are completely 2 different worlds. I live in Bergen county on the border of Rockland county, NY where one of the biggest enclaves of Hasidic Judaism is, and it’s still NOTHING compared to the overwhelming saturation of evangelical Christianity of the South. Sure, you will find some liberal Christians and maybe some Jews in the cities of the South, but the cultural and religious diversity is severely lacking. Here in NJ we can be atheists and our non practicing Jewish neighbors, the Catholic lady across the street, and the Hindu family 2 doors down don’t care. But when I visit family in TN, there’s Jesus paraphernalia everywhere. My daughter is a student at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and she says in the city you can see a billboard for the one Planned Parenthood in the area, but if you drive a few miles outside the city you start seeing the “Jesus saves” and “Prepare to meet thy god” and Ark Encounter signs. She says when she leaves the city, it’s like being in a separate country. Plus, everyone is white or black, and she isn’t used to that (her best friend growing up is 1st generation Japanese, another friend was born in Philippines, another friend is Dominican).
I guess NJ isn’t so bad. Here’s a blog post I found about non-Mormon’s experiences living in Utah: http://udink.org/2001/03/29/utah-sucks/
Chris Hedges had me right up until “We will transform American society into a Socialist system ….” And isn’t this the problem? The Christian Right is already there. They want us to prostrate ourselves to a higher authority where there is only one voice to instruct us on how to live, how to dress, how to talk, one book for an education. The thoughts and sayings of the Holy Bible. THIS is Socialism! Not Free Enterprise capitalism! They want govt to hand them everything. Why else would they diss Darwin? He’s their enemy! Do these people ever read Darwin’s theory …. Natural Selection by Free Enterprise Competition? One thing the secular movement does NOT NEED right now is another concept of Socialism to replace the current crop! We need to fight back. We need to clearly label “them” as the backward socialist thinkers they really are. They think a higher power/ authority is going to take care of them. They no longer possess the education to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Armed revolution is their last and only recourse. And please, don’t expect the Democrats to ride to the rescue with their miserable brand of Socialism. They’ll be picked off right out of their saddle before they even reach the Dixie Line.
The term socialism is frequently misinterpreted. Our United States, with its
long functioning and valuable social programs has been operating as an undisclosed socialist country.
I’m in the South, if you consider Florida the South, which I do, except for a couple of large cities. And yes it’s a different world in the South, embarrassingly so. How did they get so backwards? Although from what I read, there are pockets of this in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest, so I don’t know.
And the rest of Western world; Europe, New Zealand, Australia etc. have very little of this religious extremism.
A good friend of mine who was an evangelical Christian in our populated part of New England married a guy from a more rural area who was also an evangelical Christian. He was always more socially conservative than she was, and I thought it had something to do with the more rural area he was from. My friend died after a long illness, and her husband moved to Florida. By all accounts he has become a real extremist about evangelical Christianity. I assume it is because of the more evangelical environment he finds himself in now. He’s also a very black/white personality with a judgmental attitude about anyone and anything different from him. I never liked the guy for these reasons but tolerated him and his ways for my friend’s sake. I’m sure there are some awesome things about the South in general, but in this climate of division I have no desire to spend my money or time there. I feel like I live in a different country when I hear stories like the ones I read here from people who have experiences in other parts of the country where religion is a BIG deal. It’s foreign to me in the same way the mores and traditions of other countries are foreign to me.
I live in Memphis, which was once known as the city with more churches than gas stations. It’s quite a progressive city, despite the number of evangelicals. And though I’ve said many times that I want to retire somewhere more enlightened, in truth, I’ve traveled in the United States quite a bit. There are conservative Christians in California, and they seem very well represented in the Pacific Northwest, which is my favorite part of the nation for its natural beauty. According to what I’ve read on this blog, they are powerful in the Midwest, too. So I take exception to the comment “I’m sure there are some awesome things about the South in general … but I have no desire to spend my money or time there.” I guess there’s always New England? But I knew someone who moved to Pennsylvania and came back telling me that it’s just as religious there as in the South.
I was raised in Detroit, and now live in a North Carolina town dominated by a Southern Baptist seminary. There are pious nutjobs everywhere, but in the south they run things; it is all-pervasive. “Where do you go to church?” is a conversation-starter here.
I’m never impressed when liberal Christians decry fundamentalists as un-Christian. When an evangelical does so, it means something.
Yes, Brunetto, it means the evangelical burro of fantasy has taken fundies further into the badlands of Christian delusion! Don’t try to tell me that fundies are somehow more honest! This is not about Character but Delusion. Maybe I am missing your point but it sounds to me like you see the evangelical view as one with more Character?
Brunetto …. Good post. In a more extreme version but historically accurate, the Nazi Party in the very early 30s under Meuller and the SA decried the fundamentalists who were not true Nazi Socialists and attempted to remove them (the Hitlerites and SS). Hitler moved first and eliminated Meuller and confiscated the millions of SA into the Wehrmacht. Liberal Christians R part of the problem and they R also the solution IF AND ONLY IF we turn them before the fundies finally absorb them, as well.
“These believers find in Donald Trump a reflection of themselves, a champion of the unfettered greed, cult of masculinity, lust for violence, white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, religious intolerance, anger, racism and conspiracy theories that define the central beliefs of the Christian right.”
This is it!… they love trump because he’s just like them!
And the ironic thing is that my boomer generation went through the 60’s as liberal hippies! Now, they’re acting just like their parents did…amazing!
I don’t see that Goyo… where did the hippies congregate? I grew up in the sixties and did my hippy-ish outsider thing and I never became my parents in that way at all, though I do participate in the debt-society and am part of the problem in some respects regarding how we have disrespected the earth. But there are millions of young people who are the children of boomers who are aware and socially active. It is these young people who will impose a new vision for the world (if the world will wait, can wait).
I think the believers you speak of are another subset of the 60’s. Think the Bible Belt and the South, not all of us.
With the rise of the banal into the limelight (Trump) I want to see young people rise up with new eyes less fettered by flags and nationalistic ignorance. They will never see the office of the president as the fantasy-god-leader. Trump has ended that fantasy forever, I trust. The hippies made great strides but The Donald may finally go down in history as a bow on the consciousness gift for America, the destruction of nationalistic fantasies, the leader as sacred. Thank-you, Donald, you asshole from hell.
Brian, when comparing liberal Protestants to evangelicals, I view evangelicals as more authentically Christian. And so, when an evangelical upbraids the evangelical majority over an unchristian position, it is more meaningful than when a liberal Christian, totally out-of-touch with Biblical Christianity, criticizes the evangelical church. The latter is of no more importance to evangelicals than if the Dalai Lama gave his opinion on theories of the atonement.
I was raised among evangelicals of character. Sorry, but just because I’m an unbeliever now, that doesn’t mean I disregard the high character of moral, committed evangelicals.
“… the high character of moral, committed evangelicals.”
Religion and character are different things, and there is no necessary relationship between one and the other. The commonplace religious demand for obedience may injure character, however.
The definitive discussion of this is Plato’s Euthyphro, written ~ 400 B.C.
Brian Vanderlip …… I’m glad to see the Evangelical Right swarm around their leader to offer their absolute support! Trump was badly needed to expose their mass hypocrisy. No other leader could have done that. He was the right man for the right job at the right time. He is crass, bullying, lying, narcissistic, perhaps even a gangster. He has aided our side greatly. We can now use him as an example. But don’t blame him for all the shit going down in America. He was what you folk needed to expose the very core of America’s problems. That core is indeed rotten to the center. There are 11 cultures spread across America but the nation is comprised of 2 very separate countries. The evangelical Confederacy and the Union. One must never forget that the Confederacy was subdued, NOT destroyed. It was brought back into the Union, against its will, at gunpoint. A million casualties and destruction of the evangelical South was how hard they fought to clearly indicate that they were different from the societies making up the North. The former and current Presidents (Bush Sr., Bush Jr. and Trump) have made it very clear to us that secular people R not true Americans! AND …. they R in fact, absolutely correct. Their vision of America is NOT yours. The vision of a Confederate America is VERY DIFFERENT from the United America that most secular people belong to. ALL this turmoil stems from the fact that United Americans simply can’t or won’t see this. It’s not the Confederacy that needs to wake up, it’s the Union. When the Confederacy first left the nest, the parent Union grabbed it back and then proceeded to smother it to death. That was a huge mistake. It’s like an adult unwilling to get rid of an old bike that they can no longer ride. Trump’s best move is not only to drive a wedge between the two warring factions, but to break up an artificial nation. The Dems never listen! They want to impeach him! They should instead offer an out for those 12 States, from the Union. Then Trump could not be impeached. He would instead, probably become the founding father of a new America BACKED by the Republican Party ….. a Confederate America! Scientists and engineers would then abandon it as it sinks into religious voodooism. The Putin – Trump alliance could in fact, be the catalysis, to reinvigorate a new scientific Union. Even my country of Canada can see this. We would almost be willing to join the North. I say …. cut them lose!!!
I agree. I so wish the racist backward South could indeed split away with trump and the republicans as their leader or that the rapture was true and would take these idiots away for good and leave the rest of us in peace.
Bob, my grandmother and my great aunt and my teachers and one of my former pastors are more meaningful to me than Plato. I don’t have an ax to grind with evangelicals who aren’t hypocrites. I can never be evangelical again, because I was never truly evangelical material (straight). But there are some fine people who get their direction from the Christian Bible.
The significance of Plato is that he worked, and debunked, the marketing lie that “our club makes people good” more than 400-years before Jesus was born and the Jesus movement appropriated that spurious claim.
Again, religiosity and character are different, and not necessary related, things. As somebody or other once said — Christopher Hitchens, I think — good people do good things, bad people do bad things, but to make good people do bad things needs religion. Recall, for example, that the Southern Baptists were organized around a theological defense of slavery.
I don’t have an ax to grind with evangelicals who aren’t hypocrites. -Bruno
I don’t want to grind axes about the honesty of true believers but I keep myself ready to disagree with their lunacy. Part of that lunacy is the nonsense teachings of stupid hatred toward people whose desires tend to be different than some Biblical interpretation, some societal norm or whatever. The evangelical Christian church is a harmful house and I grind my axe about it quite alot.
Sometimes it seems to me that if the church would wake-up as inclusive, you would join right up again. How much Kool-aid is enough? Because you wish to stand with your grandmother and others suggests to me that they were important people to you but was that because they were Christians or in spite of it? Just wondering and I thank you for the input.
By the way, I think Bob Felton’s comment about the significance of Plato points to something very valuable. Did the club make your grandmother the person you care for so much?
B. Felton …. you’re correct about S. Baptists organized around the defence of slavery. N. Baptist’s broke away from this and the two have never reconciled those differences. It’s all about human nature.