american fascism: the christian right

Many people seem surprised that the Christian Right – which, by now, includes the Republican Party – claims to be the champions of morality while they themselves act in very immoral ways. For instance, I have seen countless comments calling out the Christian Right for its tendency to lie when it suits their purpose, even when those same Christian Right activists extol the virtues of the Ten Commandments, which include a prohibition on lying. The Christian Right is willing to use the mechanisms of democracy when it results in their desired policies being enacted, but they are willing to undermine those mechanisms when public sentiment is against them; compare the Christian Right’s petulant response to protests over the passage of Proposition 8 in California, to their constant attempts to slip anti-abortion legislation past the people of states who have constantly voted against such laws.

Those people who are surprised at this moral duplicity fail to recognize a core characteristic of the Christian Right. They see the word “Christian”, and hear the leaders of the Christian Right talk about the “Bible” and “Jesus”, and assume that they are sincere in their beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Christian Right uses the cover of Christianity, but it is not at heart a religious or theological movement. It is a social movement that seeks political power to enact a radical and reactionary social order, and it has learned that hiding its motives beneath the veil of religion serves its purposes.

The Christian Right is a fascist movement.

The term “fascism” has been so overused that its meaning has been diluted. Sometimes that overuse has been innocent, as when teenagers accuse mall security of being “fascists” for taking away their skateboards; other times, dilution and confusion are the intent, as when Republicans recently began charging President Obama with fascism, even as they charged him with being a socialist – two ideologies that are mutually hostile and utterly incompatible. This has led to a majority of Americans having a fundamental misunderstanding of fascism as a political movement; thus, they fail to see its characteristics, even when those characteristics should be blatantly obvious.

There have been many attempts to define fascism. One of the most well-known was penned by Umberto Eco in his essay, “Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt”. I am going to list the features he identifies as characterizing the fascist:

  1. The cult of tradition
  2. The rejection of modernism
  3. Action for action’s sake
  4. Disagreement is treason
  5. Fear of difference
  6. Appeal to a frustrated middle class
  7. Nationalism, and obsession with a plot
  8. Humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies
  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy/life is permanent warfare
  10. Contempt for the weak
  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero
  12. Will to power transferred to sexual matters
  13. Selective populism
  14. Newspeak

Each of these is characteristic of the Christian Right in America. There are other definitions of fascism, and the Christian Right meets their criteria as well.

There is much danger in invoking the legacy of Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini or Augusto Pinochet, all exemplars of fascism. One may be accused of violating Godwin’s Law. However, Godwin’s Law refers only to invalid use of those names or the specter of Nazism; when the comparison is valid, then it does not apply. Invoking Godwin won’t work here; the only thing that separates the Christian Right in America today from Nazism in 1930s Germany is the lack of a charismatic leader, and the Christian Right continues their search that person daily.

When that fundamentalist Hitler does appear, there may be no time to reflect on the warning signs that have been clear for decades, and which are now impossible to ignore. The Christian Right has enormous power in governments across the United States. It has infiltrated organizations from your local school board to the Department of Defense and every branch of the military. It exerts control over, if not outright ownership of, major corporations, including news and entertainment outlets. It has spent the last several decades building a parallel universe of fake universities and research institutions to give its policies the veneer of respectability.

Its dream is the same dream that motivated the Taliban to transform Afghanistan into a hell on earth, only with Jesus in place of Mohammed. The Christian Right is truly an American Taliban.

They recruit members through tactics perfected by religious cults. They have created a closed and self-reinforcing world – again, in the manner of cults – to prevent members of learning the truth about the nature of the movement with which they have become involved. The great majority of those who embrace the Christian Right for solace and comfort in a cruel world are not motivated by evil, nor do they desire to do evil to others, but that is the direction in which this movement is taking them. They see the world through the fantasy that their movement pushes on them, and use tactics ranging from projection to denial to refuse to accept what is actually stunningly obvious to them. Remember, the Germans never saw the death camps or smelled the odor of burning bodies, even as they lived right next door to them.

I intend to go through Eco’s list point by point and show how each applies to the Christian Right. I will also go through the lists of others and do the same. Fascism cannot survive the light of day; it works through subterfuge and deception, and examination is its enemy. My work will not bring an end to the movement itself, but perhaps it can reach individuals slipping into that night before it is too late, and maybe it can impress upon those already fighting the Christian Right that this fight is far more important than they might want to think.