Art by Gary Martin
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
By Chris Hedges
Free Press, 2007
How far along the road has the advance-guard of fascism marched in the United States?
Chris Hedges warns in his new book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, of the immediate threat presented by an organized group of religious fanatics – Christian fascists and extremist evangelicals. The group forms a significant constituency supporting President George W. Bush and in their religious doctrines and political positions advocating totalitarian policies. They support amending the Constitution to make the United States a Christian nation and a definition of liberty as liberation from Satan.
Who is Satan? The devil, the chief of the fallen angels cast out of Heaven by God.
Hedges sounds the alarm: This kind of mumbo-jumbo, or God talk, is endangering rational thought and stimulating pathological trends throughout America. He calls on all Americans “to give up passivity, to challenge aggressively this movement’s deluded appropriation of Christianity and to do everything possible to defend tolerance.” But he declares emphatically that it is a grave error to tolerate attacks by Christian radicals, for example, in hate radio broadcasts on Muslims, Jews, immigrants, gays, lesbians, women, scholars, scientists and “secular humanists.”
“The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God,” he writes.
Democratic and Christian values are being dismantled, often with stealth, by the radical Christian movement known as dominionism. Dominionism takes its name from Genesis 1:26-31, in which God gives human beings “dominion” over all creation; the movement looks to the theocracy John Calvin implanted in Geneva, Switzerland, in the 1500s as its political model.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is among those public officials steeped in dominionist ideology. 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 Council.
The importance of Hedges’ book resides in its exposition of the movement’s components, tenets and objectives, however, it comes up short on analysis and contextualization.
While he refers to such earlier works as Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here (1935) and Crane Brinton’s The Anatomy of Revolution (1965) and to such past pro-fascists as Father Charles E. Coughlin and Gerald L. K. Smith, Hedges does not consider the myths, contradictions and failures of America, the corruption of its officials and institutions, the unknown and uninvestigated influence of organized crime from City Hall to the White House, the militarization of U.S. society or the power of corporations and monopoly capitalism, all of which form the background to the phenomenon of Christian fascism.
He mentions only briefly the circumstances and events since the end of World War II that have put us in the current fix: the National Security Act of 1947, the political trials of Alger Hiss and numerous others, the blacklists and persecutions, the diminution of the trade union movement, the McCarthy era, the wars and covert actions, and the absurdity of nuclear weapons.
He does include an excellent bibliography for further reading.
Hedges himself is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and the author of Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America and What Every Person Should Know About War.