The Christian Right and the War
by Chris Hedges
Free Press, 2006, paperback
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully
as when they do it from religious conviction.
Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies'
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance
of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who
are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society
against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will
be destroyed, and tolerance with them... We should therefore claim,
in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.
We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places
itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance
and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider
incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the
slave trade, as criminal.
theologian Richard Fenn
Unless the churches, Protestant and Catholic
alike, come together ... they will continue to make it legitimate
to believe in the end as a time when there will be no non-Christians
or infidels ... Silent complicity with apocalyptic rhetoric soon
becomes collusion with plans for religiously inspired genocide.
The mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches, declining in
numbers and influence, cannot hope to combat the hysteria and
excitement roused by these prophets of doom until they repudiate
the apocalyptic writings in scripture.
Human kindness is deeply subversive to totalitarian creeds, which
seek to thwart all compassion toward those deemed worthy of moral
consideration, those branded as internal or external enemies.
Faith presupposes that we cannot know. We can never know. Those
who claim to know what life means play God. These false prophets
- the Pat Robertsons, the Jerry Falwells and the James Dobsons
- clutching the cross and the Bible, offer, like Mephistopheles,
to lead us back to a mythical paradise and an impossible, unachievable
happiness and security, at once seductive and empowering. They
ask us to hand over moral choice and responsibility to them. They
will tell us they know what is right and wrong in the eyes of
God. They tell us how to act, how to live, and in this process
they elevate themselves above us. They remove the anxiety of moral
choice, the fundamental anxiety of human existence. This is part
of their attraction. They give us the rules by which we live.
But once we hand over this anxiety and accept their authority,
we become enslaved and they become our idols. And idols, as the
Bible never ceases to tell us, destroy us.
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.
... These values, democratic and Christian,
are being dismantled, often with stealth, by radical Christian
movement, known as dominionism, which seeks to cloak itself in
the mantle of the 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 evangelicalism.
Dominionists now control at least six national television networks,
each reaching tens of millions of homes, and virtually all of
the nation's more than 2,000 religious radio stations, as well
as denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention. 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
0. 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."'
Dominionism, born out of a theology known
as Christian reconstructionism, seeks to politicize faith. It
has, like all fascist movements, a belief in magic along with
leadership adoration and a strident call for moral and physical
supremacy of a master race, in this case American Christians.
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.
... These values, democratic and Christian,
are being dismantled, often with stealth, by radical Christian
movement, known as dominionism, which seeks to cloak itself in
the mantle of the Christian faith and American patriotism.
Dominionism, born out of a theology known as Christian reconstructionism,
seeks to politicize faith. It has, like all fascist movements,
a belief in magic along with leadership adoration and a strident
call for moral and physical supremacy of a master race, in this
case American Christians.
Dominionism preaches that Jesus has called on Christians to build
the kingdom of God in the here and now, whereas previously it
was thought that we would have to wait for it. America becomes,
in this militant biblicism, an agent of God, and all political
and intellectual opponents of America's Christian leaders are
viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan. Under Christian dominion,
America will be no longer a sinful and fallen nation but one in
which the 10 Commandments form the basis of our legal system,
creationism and "Christian values" form the basis of
our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim
the Good News to one and all. Labor unions, civil-rights laws
and public schools will be abolished. Women will be removed from
the workforce to stay at home, and all those deemed insufficiently
Christian will be denied citizenship. Aside from its proselytizing
mandate, the federal government will be reduced to the protection
of property rights and "homeland" security. Some dominionists
(not all of whom accept the label, at least not publicly) would
further require all citizens to pay "tithes" to church
organizations empowered by the government to run our social-welfare
agencies and all schools. The only legitimate voices in this state
will be Christian. All others will be silenced.
The best propaganda is that which, as
it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without
the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.
Robert 0. Paxton, Anatomy of Fascism
Hitler and Mussolini ... had not tried
to seem exotic to their fellow citizens. No swastikas in an American
fascism, but Stars and Stripes for Stars and Bars and Christian
crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the Pledge
of Allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves,
of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory
litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy."
There are at least 70 million evangelicals in the United States,
about 25 percent of the population - attending more than 200,000
evangelical churches. Polls indicate that about 40 percent of
respondents believe in the Bible as the "actual word of God"
and that it is "to be taken literally, word for word."
Applied to the country's total population, this proportion would
place the number of believers at about 100 million. These polls
also suggest that about 84 percent of Americans accept that Jesus
is the son of God; 80 percent of respondents say that they believe
they will stand before God on the Day of Judgment. The same percentage
of respondents say God works miracles, and half say they think
angels exist. Almost a third of all respondents say they believe
in the Rapture.
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 the 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 gospel of prosperity - which preaches that Jesus wants us
all to be rich and powerful and the government to get out of the
way - has formulated a belief system that delights corporate America.
Corporations such as Tyson Foods-which has placed 128 part-time
chaplains, nearly all evangelicals or fundamentalists, in 78 plants
across the country-along with Purdue, Wal-Mart , and Sam's Wholesale,
to name a few, are huge financial backers of the movement.
The power brokers in the radical Christian Right have already
1 moved from the fringes of society to the executive branch, the
House of Representatives, the Senate and the courts. The movement
has seized control of the Republican Party. Christian fundamentalists
now hold a majority of seats in 36 percent of all Republican Party
state committees, or 18 of 50 states, along with large minorities
in the remaining states. Forty-five senators and 186 members of
the House of Representatives earned approval ratings of 80 to
100 percent from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy
groups: the Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource
The 2004 Election Day exit polls found that 23 percent of voters
identified themselves as evangelical Christians; Bush won 78 percent
of their vote.
The Bush administration has steadily diverted billions of dollars
of taxpayer money from secular and governmental social-service
organizations to faith-based organizations, bankrolling churches
and organizations that seek to dismantle American democracy and
create a theocratic state. The role of education and social-welfare
agencies is being supplanted by these churches, nearly all of
them evangelical, and the wall between church and state is being
The Bush administration has spent more than $1 billion on chastity
programs alone. Thirty percent of American schools with sex-education
programs teach abstinence only.
... abstinence-only programs can sometimes
get teenagers to delay sex, they also leave young men and women
unprepared for sexual relations, resulting in higher rates of
teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The Christian Right and radical Islamists, although locked in
a holy war, increasingly mirror each other. They share the same
obsessions. They do not tolerate other forms of belief or disbelief.
They are at war with artistic and cultural expression. They seek
to silence the media. They call for the subjugation of women.
They promote severe sexual repression, and they seek to express
themselves through violence.
In an August 14, 2003 fund-raising letter, Walden O'Dell, CEO
of Diebold, told Republicans that he was "committed to helping
Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Tens of millions of Americans rely exclusively on Christian broadcasters
for their news, health, entertainment and devotional programs.
These followers have been organized into disciplined and powerful
voting blocs. They attend churches that during election time are
little more than local headquarters for the Republican Party and
during the rest of the year demand nearly all of their social,
religious and recreational time. These believers are encased in
a hermetic world. There is no questioning or dissent. There are
anywhere from 1.1 million to 2.1 million children, nearly all
evangelicals, now being home-schooled. These children are not
challenged with ideas or research that conflict with their biblical
worldview. Evolution is not taught. God created the world in six
days. America, they are told, was founded as a Christian nation
and secular humanists are working to destroy the Christian nation.
These young men and women are often funneled into Christian colleges
and universities, such as Jerry Falwell's Liberty University,
Pat Robertson's Regent University, and a host of other schools
such as Patrick Henry University. They are taught, in short, to
obey. 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
General William Boykin after leading American troops against a
I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew
that my God was a real God and his God was an idol."
Radical Christians now hold roughly 50 percent of chaplaincy appointments
in the armed services and service academies, and increasingly
use their positions to openly proselytize cadets and denigrate
other religious faiths.
Major General Jack Catton, an advisor to the military Joint Chiefs
My first priority is my faith. I think
it's a huge impact .... You have many men and women who are seeking
God's counsel and wisdom as they advise the chairman [of the Joint
Chiefs} and the secretary of defense."
The pain, the dislocation, alienation, suffering and despair that
led millions of Americans into the movement [radical Christian
fundamentalism] are real. Many Americans are striking back at
a culture they blame for the debacle of their lives. The democratic
traditions and the values of the Enlightenment, they believe,
have betrayed them. They speak of numbness, an inability to feel
pain or joy or love, a vast emptiness, a frightening loneliness
and loss of control. The rational, liberal world of personal freedoms
and choice lured many of these people into one snake pit after
another. And liberal democratic society, for most, stood by passively
as their communities, families and lives splintered and self-destructed.
These believers have abandoned in this
despair their trust and belief in the world of science, law and
rationality. They eschew personal choice and freedom. They have
replaced the world that has failed them with a new, glorious world
filled with prophets and mystical signs. They believe in a creator
who performs miracles for them, speaks directly to them and guides
their lives, as well as the destiny of America. They are utopians
who have found rigid, clearly defined moral edicts, rights and
wrongs, to guide them in life and in politics. And they are terrified
of losing this new, mystical world of signs, wonders and moral
certitude, of returning to the old world of despair. They see
criticism of their belief system, whether from scientists or judges,
as vicious attempts by Satan to lure them back into the morass.
The split in America, rather than simply economic, is between
those who embrace reason, who function in the real world of cause
and effect, and those who, numbed by isolation and despair, now
seek meaning in a mythical world of intuition, a world that is
no longer reality-based, a world of magic.
What is happening in America is revolutionary. A group of religious
utopians, with the sympathy and support of tens of millions of
Americans, are slowly dismantling democratic institutions to establish
a religious tyranny, the springboard to an American fascism.
Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the
Rise of the Germanic Ideology
They attacked liberalism because it seemed
to them the principal premise of modern society; everything they
dreaded seemed to spring from it: the bourgeois life, Manchesterism,
materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political
leadership. Even more, they sensed in liberalism the source of
all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness;
their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers,
a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion
that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied.
Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for making outcasts of
them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their
The loss of manufacturing jobs has dealt a body blow to the American
middle class. Manufacturing jobs accounted for 53 percent of the
economy in 1965; by 1988, they accounted for 39 percent. By 2004
they accounted for 9 percent. This is the first time since the
industrial revolution that less than 10 percent of the American
workforce is employed in manufacturing?
The so-called red states, which vote Republican and have large
evangelical populations have higher rates of murder, illegitimacy
and teenage births than the so-called blue states, which vote
Democrat and have kept the evangelicals at bay. The lowest divorce
rates tend to be found in blue states as well as in the Northeast
and upper Midwest. The state with the lowest divorce rate is Massachusetts,
a state singled out by televangelists because of its liberal politicians
and legalization of same-sex marriage. In 2003, Massachusetts
had a divorce rate of 5.7 divorces per 1,000 married people, compared
with 10.8 in Kentucky, 11.1 in Mississippi and 12.7 in Arkansas
Couples in former manufacturing states
such as Ohio have to find two jobs to survive. The economic catastrophe
has been accompanied by the erosion in federal and state assistance
programs, the cutting of funds to elementary and secondary education,
the reduction in assistance to women through the Women, Infants
and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program, along with reductions
in programs such as Head Start and federal programs to assist
low-income families, elderly people, and people with disabilities
who once turned to the government for rental assistance Federal
abandonment of the destitute came at a time when these communities
most needed support. As the years passed and the future began
to look as bleak as the present, this despair morphed into rage.
The tactics of conversion come with layers of deceptions including,
we soon learn, false friendships and cooked testimonies, the promise
that the evangelists are giving the "free gift" of eternal
life and that what they preach is the inerrant word of God and
cannot be questioned. Conversion S supposed to banish the deepest
dreads, fears and anxieties of human existence, including the
fear of death. This is the central message we are told to impart
to potential believers. But along with this message comes a disorienting
mixture of love and fear, of promises of a warm embrace by a kind
and gentle God that yearns to direct and guide the life of the
convert toward success, wealth and happiness, and also of an angry,
wrathful God who must punish nonbelievers, those who are not saved,
tossing them into outer darkness and eternal suffering. The message
swings the faces of this Janus-like God back and forth, one terrifying
and one loving, in dizzying confusion. The emotions of love and
fear pulsate through the message. God will love and protect those
who come to Him. God will torment and reject those who do not
come to Him. It becomes a bewildering mantra.
Conversion, at first, is euphoric. It
is about new friends, loving and accepting friends; about the
final conquering of human anxieties, fears and addictions; about
attainment of wealth, power, success and happiness through God.
For those who have known despair, it feels like a new life, a
new beginning. The new church friends call them, invite them to
dinner, have time to listen to their troubles and answer their
questions. Kennedy tells us that we must keep in touch in the
days after conversion. He encourages us to keep detailed files
on those we proselytize. We must be sure new converts are never
left standing alone at church. We must care when no one else seems
to care. The new converts are assigned a "discipler"
or prayer partner, a new friend who is wiser than they are in
the ways of the Lord and able to instruct them in their new life.
The intense interest by a group of three
or four evangelists in a potential convert, the flattery and feigned
affection, the rapt attention to those being recruited and the
flurry of "sincere" compliments are forms of "love-bombing,"
the same technique employed by cults, such as the Unification
Church or Moonies, to attract prospects. It was a well-developed
tactic of the Russian and Chinese communist parties, which share
many of the communal and repressive characteristics of the Christian
Right. This intense showering of affection on an individual, as
psychiatrist Margaret Thaler Singer described in her 1996 book
Cults in Our Midst, is often very effective:
As soon as any interest is shown by the
recruits, they may be love-bombed by the recruiter or other cult
members. This process of feigning friendship and interest in the
recruit was initially associated with one of the early youth cults,
but soon it was taken up by a number of groups as part of their
program for luring people in. Love-bombing is a coordinated effort,
usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term
members flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal
seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots
of attention to their every remark. Love-bombing--Or the offer
of instant companionship-is a deceptive ploy accounting for many
successful recruitment drives."
The new convert is drawn gradually into
a host of church activities by his or her new friends, leaving
little time for outside socializing. But the warmth and embrace
soon brings new rules. When you violate the rules you sin, you
flirt with rebellion, with becoming a "backslider,"
someone who was converted but has fallen and is once again on
the wrong side of God. And as the new converts are increasingly
invested in the church community, as they cut ties with their
old community, it is harder to dismiss the demands of the "discipler"
and church leaders. "Backsliding" is a sin. Doubt is
a sin. Questioning is a sin. The only proper relationship is submission
to those above you, the abandonment of critical thought and the
mouthing of religious jargon that is morally charged and instantly
identifies believers as part of the same, hermetic community.
The psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton describes this heavily loaded
language, the words and phrases that allow believers to speak
in code, as "thought-terminating clichés." 1'
"Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior" or "The
wages of sin are death" are used, in this instance, to end
Rules are incorporated slowly and deliberately
into the convert's belief system. These include obedience to church
leaders; the teaching of an exclusive, spiritual elitism that
demonizes all other ways of being and believing; and a persecution
complex that keeps followers mobilized and distrustful of outsiders.
The rules create a system of total submission to church doctrine.
They discourage independent thought and action. And the result
is the destruction of old communities and old friendships. Believers
are soon enclosed in the church community. They are taught to
value personal experience over reason, and to reject reason. For
those who defy the system, who walk away, there is a collective
banishment. The exit process is humiliating, and those who leave
are condemned as "backsliders" no longer favored by
There is a gradual establishment of new
standards for every aspect of life. Those who choose spouses must
choose Christian spouses. Families and friends are divided into
groups of "saved" and "unsaved." The movement,
while it purports to be about families, is the great divider of
families, friends and communities. It competes with the family
for loyalty. It seeks to place itself above the family, either
drawing all family members into its embrace or pushing aside those
who resist conversion. There are frequent prayers during the seminar
for relatives who are unsaved, who remain beyond the control of
the movement. Many of these prayers, including one by a grandmother
in my prayer group for her unsaved grandchildren, are emotional,
and it is not unusual to see saved Christians weeping over the
possible damnation of those they love.
This control, while destructive to personal
initiative and independence, does keep believers from wandering
back into the messy situations they fled. The new ideology gives
the believers a cause, a sense of purpose, meaning, feelings of
superiority, and a way to justify and sanctify their hatreds.
For many, the rewards of cleaning up their lives, repairing their
damaged self-esteem, and joining an elite and blessed group are
worth the cost of submission. They know how to define and identify
themselves. They do not have to make moral choices. They are made
for them. They submerge their individual personas into the single
persona of the Christian crowd.
Their hope lies not in the real world,
but in this new world of miracles. For many, the conformity, the
flight away from themselves, the dismissal of facts and logic
for magic, the destruction (even with its latent totalitarianism)
of personal autonomy amount to a welcome and joyous relief. The
flight into the arms of the Christian Right, into blind acceptance
of a holy cause, compensates for converts' despair and lack of
faith in themselves. And the more corrupted and soiled they feel,
the more profound the despair, the more militant they become,
shouting, organizing and agitating to create a pure and sanctified
Christian nation, believing that this purity will offset their
own shame and guilt. Many yearn to be deceived and directed. It
makes life easier to bear.
The most susceptible people, we are told
in the seminar, are those in crisis: people in the midst of a
divorce; those who have lost a job or are grieving for the death
of a close friend or relative; those suffering addictions they
cannot control, illness, or the trauma of emotional or physical
abuse. We are encouraged to target the vulnerable. In The Varieties
of Religious Experience, William James wrote that those who experienced
dramatic conversions might have been born with a "melancholy
disposition," a chronically "divided" mind-or else,
he suspected, they had drunk "too deep of the cup of bitterness."
2 It is easier to bring about a conversion when the person being
proselytized is in crisis.
The point the evangelists are instructed to make is that eternal
life cannot be achieved through good deeds or even a good life.
It I is impossible to earn your way into heaven. We must accept
that we have sinned, will always commit sins, and ask to be born
again so Jesus will take our sins upon Him. Once this is done
we can learn to live a new way, a way that, while not totally
free of sin, allows us to live a life approved by God, a life
in which, with the help of the church, we learn to reject sinful
acts. The believer can learn to condemn and avoid sinful acts-acts
defined for him or her by church leaders as anything that doesn't
please God or is a transgression of His law. The leaders determine
these acts, rousing the believer against what they label as sins,
such as abortion or homosexuality. The emphasis, once the conversion
is made, is on acts, acts that please or displease God. The believer
can delineate these acts only with the aid of church leaders.
There is a calculated destruction of individual conscience. All
must submit to the will of those godly men who define the communal
good. Sin, in short, is anything the leaders do not like.
Karen McCarthy Brown
[Fundamentalism] is the religion of those
at once seduced and betrayed by the promise that we human beings
can comprehend and control our world. Bitterly disappointed by
the politics of rationalized bureaucracies, the limitations of
science, and the perversions of industrialization, fundamentalists
seek to reject the modern world, while nevertheless holding onto
these habits of mind: clarity, certitude, and control.
Popular Christian conservative leader and talk-show host James
Dobson has built his career on perpetuating these stereotypes.
Born to evangelist parents, Dobson grew up in Louisiana, Oklahoma
and Texas. He says he was born again when he was three at one
of his father's church services. He attended Pasadena College
and received a PhD in child development from the University of
Southern California, where he went on to teach.' His first book,
Dare to Discipline, encouraged parents to spank their children
with "sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely."'
It has sold more than 3.5 million copies since its release in
1970. He has built a massive empire based on his advice to families
as a Christian therapist. He is heard on Focus on the Family,
a program broadcast on more than 3,000 radio stations; runs a
grassroots organization with chapters in 36 states; and runs his
operation out of an 81-acre campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado,
a campus that has its own zip code. He employs 1,300 people, sends
out four million pieces of mail each month, and is heard in 116
countries. His estimated listening audience is more than 200 million
worldwide, and in the United States he appears on 80 television
stations each day. He is antichoice, supports abstinence-only
sex education exclusively and is fiercely antigay. He calls for
prayer in public schools, but only if led by students, since teachers
might encourage Christian students "to pray to Allah, Buddha
or the goddess Sophia." He has backed political candidates
who call for the execution of abortion providers, defines stem-cell
research as "statefunded cannibalism" and urges Christian
parents to pull their children out of the public school system.
These male church leaders, as Susan Friend Harding observed in
The Book of Jerry FalwelI, speak almost exclusively in their public
pronouncements to other men. They implicitly privilege men in
their rhetoric. She recounts a story of Faiwell joking in 1986
at Temple Baptist Church about surrendering unconditionally to
his wife, Macel. FaIwell said he let Macel get what she wanted.
This was a decision he made. As an aside he quipped that, while
he had not thought of divorce, he had thought of murder a few
"The anger and the threat of force
here were ironic," Harding wrote, "but still served
as little reminders of men's ostensible physical authority, their
More unambiguously, this flash of rhetorical
violence revealed to whom the entire joke about his marriage was
addressed. It was addressed to men. In this way it not only upheld
public male authority, it enacted it. Indeed, the whole sermon,
the entire Moral Majority jeremiad, and fundamentalism in general
were addressed to men. The joke, the sermon, the jeremiad, and
fundamentalism were essentially men's movements, public speech
rites that enacted male authority. Not that they were "for
men only" but that they, their rhetorics, were addressed
primarily, or rather directly, to men. Women were meant to overhear
"These men suffered a loss of their
own masculinity," Roberta Pughe says, "so they have
taken on this extreme form of masculine power, the power to oppress
and to dominate. On the extreme end of the masculine continuum,
it is the oppressive force that kills, that destroys. There is
no room for anything else. Everything else is a threat. The feminine
is a threat. Children a threat. Homosexuality is a threat because
it embraces a feminine, nurturing side between men. All power
has to be concentrated at the top and be destructive."
"The goal of the movement is to create a theocracy, but they
must dominate women first to keep the system in place," Pughe
says, the late afternoon light spilling into the windows of her
office. "They want to have one nation under God, based on
their view of God and their interpretation of the rules that this
peculiar God puts in place. They are doing this underground. They
have huge networks. They are deeply connected, and they're connecting
with people who have lots of money and lots of power, and these
people are very smart and savvy. They know how to put forward
a public front that hides the private agenda. They have found
a niche to be heard, to provide something. They run home Bible
studies. They offer people a sense of belonging and connection.
They know the family's falling apart. The divorce rate is high.
Families are in flux. Roles are in flux. Men and women are trying
to figure out what we're doing together. And the church is filling
the niche, providing the extended family. There is no extended
family, so the church is providing it for these people. Their
ticket to power is family values. That's the hook. People are
hungry for that. But with this church family comes the imposition
of an extreme male power structure. First, they use this power
structure to control the family, then the church, and finally
The use of control and force is also designed
to raise obedient, unquestioning and fearful children, children
who as adults will not be tempted to challenge powerful male figures.
These children are conditioned to rely on external authority for
moral choice. They obey out of fear and often repeat this pattern
of fearful obedience as adults. Refusal to submit to authority
is heresy. Raised in a home and a school where he or she is taught
to see the world as one where the possibility of attack and danger
lurks behind every crevice, the child learns to distrust outsiders.
The benign and trivial take on satanic proportions. There is no
safety. Satan is always present. The pathology of fear, ingrained
in the child, plays itself out in the constant search for phantom
enemies who seek the destruction of the adult believer. These
elusive and protean enemies, always there to lure the believer
toward self-destruction, must be defeated to establish a world,
ushered in by Christ's return, where no one will be able to do
them harm, where the irrational is abolished and the binary lines
of right and wrong are enforced by a Christian government. Only
then will the /believers be safe.
... This conditioning of children to fear
nonconformity and blindly obey ensures continued obedience as
adults. The difficult task of learning how to make moral choices,
how to accept personal responsibility, how to deal with the chaos
of human life is handed over to God-like authority figures. The
process makes possible a perpetuation of childhood. It allows
the adult to bask in the warm glow and magic of divine protection.
It masks from them and from others the array of human weaknesses,
including our deepest dreads, our fear of irrelevance and death,
our vulnerability and uncertainty. It also makes it difficult,
if not impossible, to build mature, loving relationships, for
the believer is told it is all about them, about their needs,
their desires, and above all, their protection and advancement.
Relationships, even within families, splinter and fracture. Those
who adopt the belief system, who find in the dictates of the church
and its male leaders a binary world of right and wrong, build
an exclusive and intolerant comradeship that subtly or overtly
shuns and condemns the "unsaved." People are no longer
judged by their intrinsic qualities, by their actions or capacity
for self-sacrifice and compassion, but by the rigidity of their
obedience. This defines the good and the bad, the Christian and
the infidel. And this obedience is a blunt and effective weapon
against the possibility of a love that could overpower the dictates
of the hierarchy. In many ways it is love the leaders fear most,
for it is love that unleashes passions and bonds that defy the
carefully constructed edifices that keep followers trapped and
enclosed. And while they speak often about love, as they do about
family, it is the cohesive bonds created by family and love they
Joost A. M. Meerloo, the author of The
Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide,
and Brainwäshing, wrote:
Living requires mutuality of giving and
taking. Above all, to live is to love. And many people are afraid
to take the responsibility of loving; of having an emotional investment
in their fellow beings. They want only to be loved and to be protected;
they are afraid of being hurt and rejected.
It is important for us to realize that
emphasis on conformity and the fear of spontaneous living can
have an effect almost as devastating as the totalitarian's deliberate
assault on the mind. Trained into conformity the child may well
grow up into an adult who welcomes with relief the authoritarian
demands of a totalitarian leader It is the welcome repetition
of an old pattern that can be followed without investment of a
new emotional energy."
In the megachurches, the pastor, nearly always male, is obeyed
by the congregation. It is the pastor who interprets the word
of God. This pattern is established on a smaller scale in the
home. The male leader governs through a divine mandate, a mandate
that cannot be challenged since it comes from God... These concentric
male fiefdoms, radiating out from the home, do not permit revolt,
discussion or dissent. And once women buy into this message, one
that supposedly protects their families, makes their boys into
men, their husbands into protectors and themselves into godly
Christian women, they cede personal, political and economic power.
Those who are weak or different, those who do not conform to the
rigid stereotype, those who have other ways of being, must be
forced by the stern father to conform and obey. If they do not
bend, they will be destroyed by God.
When Pat Robertson was asked by Jerry Faiwell if God had allowed
the attacks on September 11, both the question and its answer
stoked this fear of divine wrath and apocalyptic judgment:
I believe that the protection, the covering
of God that has been on) this great land of ours for so many years,
had lifted on September 11, and allowed this thing to happen.
God apparently had good reasons for exposing the U.S.A. to such
destruction, given the many sins that Americans have committed
ever since the Roe versus Wade court case and the Supreme Court's
decision to keep God out of the schools... The point is not just
that Americans have been bad and forfeited their entitlements.
It is that unless they reform themselves in a hurry, something
far worse may happen to them.
Should another catastrophic attack occur,
what will prevent these preachers from calling for the punishment,
detention and quarantining of gays and lesbians-as well as abortionists,
Muslims and other nonbelievers-to safeguard the nation? What will
stanch the hate crimes and physical attacks against those deemed
immoral by fearful and angry Christians, those condemned by these
preachers as responsible for the nation's abandonment by God?
How will the nation function rationally if homeland security depends
on an elusive piety as interpreted by the Christian Right? And
most ominously, the fringe groups of the Christian Right believe
they have been mandated by God to carry out Christian terrorism,
anointed to murder doctors who perform abortions and godless Muslims
in Iraq. In a time of anxiety and chaos, of overwhelming fear
and Uncertainty, how may more will be prodded by this talk of
divine vengeance to join the ranks of these Christian extremists?
When [Americans are] asked for their views on human origins, only
13 percent of respondents in a 2004 Gallup poll said life arose
from the strictly natural process of evolution. More than 38 percent
believed God guided evolution, and 45 percent said the Genesis
account of creation was a true story.
When Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology was published in 1830-1833,
it challenged the prevailing views of how Earth had been formed.
Lyell questioned the assumption that unique catastrophes or supernatural
events-such as Noah's flood-shaped Earth's surface. He wrote that
a once tumultuous period of change had slowed to today's calmer,
more leisurely pace. The date of the Earth's sudden creation,
up until then, had been widely accepted as 4004 BC based on the
creation story in Genesis. When Charles Darwin published The Origin
of Species in 1859, his findings further eroded the biblical account
of creation. Lyell's and Darwin's works were catastrophic for
biblical literalists. Evolution and natural selection shattered
the comfortable worldview of many Christians, who saw themselves
as created in the image of God. Evolution reduced the human race
to the status of a species, one descended from primates. The scientific
accounts of creation and the origin of species became in the eyes
of fundamentalist believers the materialist foundation for the
human race's moral and cultural decline. It dethroned Christians
from their self-constructed platform of moral and ethical superiority.
It challenged the belief that God intervenes in human affairs
to protect and guide believers. The ideological pillars of literalist
Christianity, which viewed the universe as revolving around and
serving the interests of anointed Christians, were destroyed.
Literalist Christians believe that death
did not exist before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden
of Eden for disobeying God. Death and suffering were introduced
by God as a punishment for living in a sinful, fallen world. Jesus'
suffering and crucifixion, however, atoned for Adam's sin and
made possible a return to a deathless paradise. But if the Darwinian
account of evolution is correct, then death and suffering were
always and always will be a part of human existence. Evolution
implicitly challenges the possibility of miracles, the Second
Coming of Christ, the Resurrection, and an apocalyptic end to
human existence in which the saved are lifted up into heaven.
For believers who have found in the certitude of Christian fundamentalism
a shelter from despair, a despair that threatens to consume them
again if they return to a reality-based world, evolution is terrifying.
The miracles they insist they see performed around them, the presence
of the guiding, comforting hand of God in their lives, the notion
that there is a divine destiny specially preordained for them,
crumbles into dust under the cold glare of evolution. Evolution
posits what they fear most: a morally neutral universe. It obliterates
the fantastic constructs of their belief system. And the steady
efforts by creationists to erode the authority of evolution and
discredit Darwin are, because of all this, unrelenting and fierce.
There can be no liberty for a community
which lacks the mean by which to detect lies.
The triviality of American popular culture, its emptiness and
gossip, accelerates this destruction of critical thought. It expands
the void, the mindlessness that makes the magic, mythology and
irrationality of the Christian Right palatable. Television, the
movement's primary medium, allows viewers to preoccupy themselves
with context-free information. The homogenized empty chatter on
the airwaves, the banal amusement and clichés, the bizarre
doublespeak endlessly repeated on cable news channels and the
huge spectacles in sports stadiums have replaced America's political
social and moral life, indeed replaced community itself.
Vice President Henry Wallace asked by the New York Times in 1944
- What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? His answers were
published on April 9, 1944
"The really dangerous American fascist
... is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American
way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American
fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison
the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem
is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best
to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist
and his group more money or more power.
They claim to be superpatriots, but they
would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They
demand free enterprise but are the spokesmen for monopoly and
vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their
deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using
the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously,
they may keep the common man in eternal subjugation."
Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless. We cannot
reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement
based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion.
It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches
Sunday school. Naive attempts to reach out to the movement, to
assure them that we, too, are Christian or we, too, care about
moral values, are doomed. This movement is bent on our destruction.
The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humorous
if the stakes were not so deadly. These dominionists hate the
liberal, enlightened world formed by the Constitution, a world
they blame for the debacle of their lives. They have one goal
- its destruction.
We must dismantle the corporate state. American democracy has
become a consumer fraud. If we do not halt the corporations that,
in the name of globalization, are cannibalizing the country for
profit, we will never blunt the appeal of the radical Christian
Right to those the corporate state casts aside.
Corporations and their enraged and manipulated followers in the
Christian Right, tens of millions of them, if left unchecked will
propel us into despotism. The corporate state has now rigged our
system, hollowed out our political process and steadily stripped
citizens of constitutional rights, as well as federal and state
protection and assistance. This may be the twilight of American
Russian novelist Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate
Human history is not the battle of good
struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great
evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But
if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now,
then evil will never conquer.
I do not believe that America will inevitably become a fascist
state or that the Christian Right is the Nazi Party. But I do
believe that the radical Christian Right is a sworn and potent
enemy of the open society. Its ideology bears within it the tenets
of a Christian fascism.