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American Fascism
January 7, 2007 9:07 PM   Subscribe

"[T]he heart of the Christian religion, all that is good and compassionate within it, has been tossed aside, ruthlessly gouged out and thrown into a heap with all the other inner organs. Only the shell, the form, remains. Christianity is of no use to Parsley, Blackwell and the others. In its name they kill it." From Michelle Goldberg's searing Salon interview with Chris Hedges, whose War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning I admired the hell out of.
posted by adamgreenfield (126 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. I think that was about 15 seconds between reading the link on the blue and completing my amazon prime order. Thanks for the link, I hadn't heard about this book. Hedges is probably one of the best people I can imagine to cover this topic.
posted by verb at 9:21 PM on January 7, 2007


...We were taught that those who claimed to speak for God, the self-appointed prophets who promised the Kingdom of God on earth, were dangerous. We had no ability to understand God's will. We did the best we could. We trusted and had faith in the mystery, the unknown before us. We made decisions - even decisions that on the outside looked unobjectionably moral - well aware of the numerous motives, some good and some bad, that went into every human act. In the end, we all stood in need of forgiveness. We were all tainted by sin. None were pure. The Bible was not the literal word of God. It was not a self-help manual that could predict the future. It did not tell us how to vote or allow us to divide the world into us and them, the righteous and the damned, the infidels and the blessed. It was a book written by a series of ancient writers, certainly fallible and at times at odds with each other, who asked the right questions and struggled with the mystery and transcendence of human existence. We took the Bible seriously and therefore could not take it literally.

...We are saved, in the end, by faith - faith that life is not meaningless and random, that there is a purpose to human existence, and that in the midst of this morally neutral universe the tiny, seemingly insignificant acts of compassion and blind human kindness, especially to those labeled our enemies and strangers, sustain the divine spark, which is love. We are not fully human if we live alone. These small acts of compassion - for they can never be organized and institutionalized as can hate - have a power that lives after us. Human kindness is deeply subversive to totalitarian creeds, which seek to thwart all compassion toward those deemed unworthy of moral consideration, those branded as internal or external enemies. These acts recognize and affirm the humanity of others, others who may be condemned as agents of Satan. Those who sacrifice for others, especially at great cost, who place compassion and tolerance above ideology and creeds, and who reject absolutes, especially moral absolutes, stand as constant witnesses in our lives to this love, even long after they are gone. In the gospels this is called resurrection. . . .
First Chapter
‘American Fascists’
By Chris Hedges
posted by y2karl at 9:33 PM on January 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


SCARY!
posted by growabrain at 9:43 PM on January 7, 2007


Nut of the interview:
I don't think [the fundies] are up for grabs [politically] because they have been ushered into a non-reality-based belief system. This isn't a matter of, "This is one viewpoint, here's another." This is a world of magic and signs and miracles and wonders, and [on the other side] is the world you hate, the liberal society that has shunted you aside and thrust you into despair. . . . And now they believe that Jesus has a plan for them and intervenes in their life every day to protect them, and they can't give that up.
My fundie mom has by now basically lost faith in the Religious Right as a political movement. She did in fact believe in the Immaculate Installation miracle of 2000, only to have the reality of Republican Party's mendaciousness gradually become apparent to her, via its actions.

Another angle of discussion I see is the politicization of the pulpit. The Megachurches and associated media networks are still a rather pivotal political force in this country, and the political preachers, from what I've seen firsthand at my sister's fundie megachurch down in Riverside County, revel in the the power and access to power this gives them.

The Republican defenses of Creatiionism in schools, their KulturKampf wrt the 'Culture of Life', their disavowal of the Separation of Church & State, and their wholehearted support for Bush's FuhrerPrinzip are part & parcel of a quite scary movement.

It's no accident the Regnery Press back catalogue is equal parts character assassination of Democrats, defense of Creationism, apologetics for Wealth Concentration, and AEI/neocon planning papers.

The 2006 midterms are an interesting reversal to this force, but 2008 is going to be the Battle Royale for the future of this country.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:44 PM on January 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Looks like an interesting article. Thanks! My eyes are too heavy to read it now, but it's on my list for tomorrow.
posted by The Deej at 9:52 PM on January 7, 2007


The culture is devoid of meaning, economic prospects are dim and communities are no longer self-supporting. Into this void comes the ancient promise of redemption all sexed up with conquest and purpose and of course people buy into it. The appeal is emotional and comes from their feeling disenfranchised. Such people will flock to what feels like a means to power and identity. This much makes sense.

So what would help such people to have a saner alternative than this pseudo-christianity? What would that look like and what would it take to get that moving?

It would have to be something like real christianity, no - something that lived what it preached and did real good works for real people and something that was angry and denouced these false leaders for the hypocrites they appear to be.

Are there any groups out there that are trying to evangalize the evangelicals? I'm serious - this is a fire and in some sense you need fire to fight fire.
posted by sirvesa at 9:57 PM on January 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Payback: Bothering Mormons.
posted by nickyskye at 10:01 PM on January 7, 2007 [2 favorites]




Awesome post, thanks much. Chris Hedges is saying much of what I've been trying to articulate since the 2k election made me wake up and start paying attention. I can't help but wonder whether George Lucas saw the same thing, and this was the "dark side" of which he warned. It sure fits for me.

From page 3 of the interview:
Look, you could always tell in a refugee camp in Gaza when one of these kids joined Hamas, because suddenly they were clean, their djelleba was white, they walked with a sense of purpose.

As part of the Christian movement of the mid 70's, I saw this very sort of thing very often. We offered people with little a new sense of community and belonging they were missing. At the time I was indeed aware of differences. I traveled around the country (a homeless teenager) and saw how some preachers/congregations spent more time on negatives (hate) and others spent more time on the positives of compassion and love. As a teen, I lacked the understanding of how important this was and simply avoided the negatives.

The negative, 'dark side' is indeed the easy way. It is so much easier to get people fired up over something to fear and hate than it is to get them energized over the positive. This makes sense, for the negative presents as a danger needing attention. The positive is something we can reward ourselves with after dealing with the danger.

One message I see in the Christian Gospel is the idea that we should deal with the negative dangers by embracing the positive. Kind of like, by loving eachother, we diminish the power of the haters. The alternative is what? To hate the haters? Then we become them.

Where things get very complicated (as regards Christian ideology) is with democracy. In a democracy, we all take on responsibility for the nature and actions of our government. It becomes irresponsible to ignore some things while focusing on others. The other difficulty is understanding the difference between how we should political/social issues vs. our own internal emotional life. The Gospel core of Christianity offers only indirect counsel on these matters, as modern demcracy wasn't within the considerations of either the Apostles or the early church.
posted by Goofyy at 10:06 PM on January 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


That is a very frightening interview, especially when he describes his bewildered liberal Kosovar friends being rounded up and herded into boxcars -- they never saw the assholes coming. Makes me more seriously considering moving out of the US again.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:26 PM on January 7, 2007




What would Jesus do?
posted by wobh at 10:41 PM on January 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


True enough, cenoxo, but unfortunately, those movements are much, much less deep and visible than their counterparts on the right.

This interview is phenomenal.

For a long time, I had that sense that everything would just work out. The judgment of history would come, today's Republicans would be shown to be a bit extreme and demagogic, and that would be that.

But the past few years of US politics-- to say nothing of the events abroad that Hedges has covered-- reveals that view to be mere Panglossianism.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:58 PM on January 7, 2007


Thanks Adam.
posted by The God Complex at 10:58 PM on January 7, 2007


I am a big fan of Chris Hedges - it was the reprint of a speech he gave at a graduation event in Granta that first turned me on to him. The reaction is as priceless as the speech itself.
posted by greycap at 11:26 PM on January 7, 2007


greycap: amazing speech . . . I hung on every word, but I do think it would make a really f-ing lousy commencement speech.

This part: "The real injustices—the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. . ." was Hedges intentionally touching one of our sociopolitical 'third rails'.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:40 PM on January 7, 2007


I wish I had something to contribute but my thanks for the link in the post and the discussion that followed will have to do.
posted by rfbjames at 12:06 AM on January 8, 2007


amazing speech . . . I hung on every word, but I do think it would make a really f-ing lousy commencement speech.

I can't remember a single thing that was said at my commencement. I can't even remember who gave the damn address. This one by Hedges, on the other hand, is a great example of everything the pomp and ceremony of academia claims to stand for but far too infrequently actually does. Just freaking awesome.

I'm sure it'd be painful viewing, but I have to admit part of me would love to see a video recording of it, just to see how he goes about plowing on through the mindless feedback.

Oh, and as is maybe quite clear by now, I couldn't recommend War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning more highly. I can't think of another book that comes close to it in terms of explaining where war comes from.
posted by gompa at 12:20 AM on January 8, 2007


Great post.

The mystery to me is, where are all the reasonable Christians? It is their faith that the Christian Right is hijacking. I would think they would be more vocal.
posted by Mentallo The Brain God at 12:25 AM on January 8, 2007


Mentallo, I suspect the moderates and liberals tend to move on to a more generalized spirituality, rather than sticking with by-the-book Christianity. When you're independent and think for yourself, examining the Bible will inevitably reveal that it's not literally True In All Ways; I don't think you can be a moderate or a liberal and be a bible-thumper.

It seems like the religious zealots crave certainty above all things. Moderates and liberals can't offer that; they live in a world of maybe and greyscale and constantly trying to understand better, and admitting they were wrong five minutes before. They can't stand up and preach fire and brimstone; instead, they want to have a discussion and arrive at a consensus with other folks who believe in the Bible as a guidepost.

This has zero appeal to people who want certainty.
posted by Malor at 12:42 AM on January 8, 2007 [5 favorites]


Interesting piece, and as much as I agree with the author, let's not forget that the threat of American Christianism is hardly a new thing.
posted by bardic at 1:04 AM on January 8, 2007


He mentions Hannah Arendt a few times, and The Origins of Totalitarianism, and it really is a very good book. Skip the sections on 'Imperialism' and 'Antisemitism' and jump directly to the 'Totalitarianism' section if you're short on time.
posted by Ritchie at 1:51 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a brilliant post, and a brilliant interview.

My only concern is, it pretends that this is only happening in the United States, and that unique circumstances in the US are causing it to happen. This clearly isn't true; hard-right "Christians" are trying the same tricks in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain even.

What about them?
posted by Jimbob at 2:07 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just got back from visiting my family and friends in the US for the Christmas. When Hedges says that there has been a "Weimarization of the American working class, and ... a terrible instability in the middle class," it jives with a couple of things I noticed on my trip.

Everyone seemed to be a little more poor than they were, struggling harder just to keep up. I lost count of the number of times that the lack of security regarding healthcare was brought up in the family gossip. I wish I could describe it better, but I got the feeling that everyone I knew was poorer than they realized, or were aware of their situation but at a loss as to how to improve it.
posted by moonbiter at 2:26 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Best heckle ever:

Atheist stranger!

from the commencement speech link
posted by srboisvert at 3:09 AM on January 8, 2007


There's so much quotable in this story, but this one struck me hardest:
"For me, the engine of the movement is deep economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been obliterated, whether that's in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home again. You can't deform your society to that extent, and you can't shunt people aside and rip away any kind of safety net, any kind of program that gives them hope, and not expect political consequences."
posted by brownpau at 3:10 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


What about them?

'Acceptance' of Evolution:

U.K.: 75%
U.S.: 25%

[1]

Problem is that here in the US the Forces of Idiocy are winning. Somehow, don't ask me how, we've got a majority of (very) conservative catholics now on our Supreme Court.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:12 AM on January 8, 2007


Great post. Thank you.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 3:39 AM on January 8, 2007


Heywood it's true that the UK (and also Canada) is far more secular than U.S. but there are signs here and there of the Christian push back. There were actually some "war on Christmas" complaints in the England this past holiday season. Nothing like America but they were made by leaders in the State Church. Maybe some long time UK residents can say whether this is a growing trend or not (I wouldn't know having only been here a few years). There were definitely signs of a Christian surge in Canada.
posted by srboisvert at 4:36 AM on January 8, 2007


I'm sobered by Hedge's vision, but part of me wonders whether a war correspondant who puts himself in harms way and seeks by choice to acquaint himself with the worst sides of humanity will have a skewed perspective of any religious or political movement.
posted by mert at 5:01 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


But it sounds like his witnessing horrible events has only strengthened his faith. His aim is pretty precise here -- those who would hijack a message of peace and tolerance for the sake of financial and political gain.
posted by bardic at 5:36 AM on January 8, 2007


Speaking of gutting central tenets of Xtianity to serve certain ends, any of yall read this book? It's a whole other extreme take on Xtianity -- God the Father as abusive parent of Jesus the Son, thereby sanctioning violence -- and its proponents do some of the same "pick and choose" type theology that the fundies do in advocating their views.

I was thinking of FPPing about it, but burying it in this thread doesn't seem too much of a derail...I hope.
posted by pax digita at 5:36 AM on January 8, 2007


Chris Hedges is one of the heroes of our time. (Another strong recommendation here for War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning.) Thanks for the post, adamgreenfield.
posted by languagehat at 6:05 AM on January 8, 2007


One group of Christians prominently and solidly on the Christian Left is Sojourners. Jim Wallis, CEO and editor of their epynomous magazine, wrote God's Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong and The Left Doesn't Get It. They're a good place to start when looking for evangelicals who want Christians to actually follow what Christ teaches.
posted by lhauser at 6:38 AM on January 8, 2007


[blush]

I like this guy!!

Yeah, it's me with my [grind, grind, grind, grind, grind] favorite subject here.
I gotta say, hey Chris, preach it brother!!
My favorite quote (from y2karl's NYT link):

This is why Genesis is worth reading, indeed why the Bible stands as one of the great ethical and moral documents of our age. The biblical writers have helped shape and define Western civilization. Not to know the Bible is, in some ways, to be illiterate, to neglect the very roots of philosophy, art, architecture, literature, poetry and music. It is to fall into a dangerous provincialism, as myopic and narrow as that embraced by those who say everything in the Bible is literally true and we do not need any other kind of intellectual or scientific inquiry. Doubt and belief are not, as biblical literalists claim, incompatible. Those who act without any doubt are frightening.

"There lives more faith in honest doubt," the poet Alfred Tennyson noted, "believe me, than in half the creeds."

posted by nofundy at 6:45 AM on January 8, 2007


[P]art of me wonders whether a war correspondant who puts himself in harms way and seeks by choice to acquaint himself with the worst sides of humanity will have a skewed perspective of any religious or political movement.

mert, I'd argue that it gives him a depth of field, as it were, that most of us are unable to achieve.

So many of us spend our lives trying to deny the evidence of our senses - and I'm not entirely unsympathetic, as pain and especially the pain of others is a heard thing to bear. But Hedges has spent his engaging, witnessing, that pain, and it gives his work a clarity and a texture that few writers will ever achieve.

The experience to make illuminating comparatives is, in this context, just a bonus, although a terribly productive one. (I found the anecdote about his Kosovar friends hair-raising in the extreme, as well as a potent corrective for conspiracy theories in general.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:50 AM on January 8, 2007


(Seconding the Arendt recommendation, BTW, and following it up with ones for her immortal Eichmann in Jerusalem and that other black favorite of mine, Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago.

Even though its three volumes amount to something like 1800 pages, the latter should be read through to the end. A, the subject more than justifies the level of detail; B, it just keeps getting better.

You will find no surer guides to what happens when societies adopt the course Hedges is warning us about.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:59 AM on January 8, 2007


Count me as unimpressed. From the picture Hedges paints, one would expect to see evangelical churches across the country burning effigies of leading Democrats. As is, I never got the sense that he took the time to learn more than a superficial opinion of the people who make up evangelical churches. "They're innocents being led astray," is basically his summarization. Thats an insult to their intelligence. To believe that Pat Robertson is a Hitler in waiting is a ridiculous and extreme position.

Rather, what I interpreted from the interview was a person seeing exactly what they wanted to see with the contrast of radical Islam (or politics in general). Interestingly enough, its unfair to refer to radical Muslims as fascists (which the Right has done), but all right to label conservative Christians?

The fact that he believes that Bush acts out of belief in God, shows his bias in the situation. Bush does not act out from God, he answers to himself. Religion has always been more a political tool for our President, rather than a religious lens to view the world. Bush did not invade Iraq in the name of God, he did it in the name of Bush.

Rather, Hedges appears to have taken different pieces from different jigsaw puzzles and within his mind successfully joined them together in a puzzle picture all his own. The radical Christian right is in a no better position to rise to fascist power than equally radical liberals. Like it or not, not all evangelicals are sheep being herded about by evil shepherds bent on the annihilation of all who disagree. His argument is only as powerful as the willingness to agree from the readers.
posted by Atreides at 7:11 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Awesome post. Thanks.

wobh: Excellent link; probably the best thing I've read in a year.

Atreides:To believe that Pat Robertson is a Hitler in waiting is a ridiculous and extreme position.

I live down the street from CBN. I've seen Robertson's group grow from nothing to it's present incarnation. I've heard his ravings my whole life. He is a zealot from the exact same mold as Hitler. If you don't believe me, try honestly to picture what things would be like if he were running things. We ignore Robertson and other absolutists at our own peril.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:25 AM on January 8, 2007


I live down the street from CBN. I've seen Robertson's group grow from nothing to it's present incarnation. I've heard his ravings my whole life. He is a zealot from the exact same mold as Hitler. If you don't believe me, try honestly to picture what things would be like if he were running things. We ignore Robertson and other absolutists at our own peril.

There are a lot of people out there who can fit the mold of Hitler. Does that mean they will become Hitler? No. America has had types like Roberts around since forever and the most they have ever managed to achieve is a limited media exposure and little, to none, true political power. Were he an elected Senator or Executive, that'd be another thing. Its just that in our world today, anyone who is conservatively religious is automatically labeled a future demagogue.
posted by Atreides at 7:35 AM on January 8, 2007


Is Robertson going to invade Poland? No. But he was instrumental in forming the new political form of "christianity" (and he did run for president).

Robertson (and his allies) are much more politically astute now, though. They don't need to be the power - they just need to be the power behind the power. It's easier to hire a Hitler than be a Hitler; you're much less likely to hang for your beliefs if it all blows up.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:41 AM on January 8, 2007


Robertson (and his allies) are much more politically astute now, though. They don't need to be the power - they just need to be the power behind the power. It's easier to hire a Hitler than be a Hitler; you're much less likely to hang for your beliefs if it all blows up.

When Robertson begins to regularly play a role in the daily cabinet meetings of the President of the United States, I'll be alarmed. Right now, it seems this argument is descending into the shadowy world of puppet masters and intrigue.
posted by Atreides at 7:48 AM on January 8, 2007


When Robertson begins to regularly play a role in the daily cabinet meetings of the President of the United States, I'll be alarmed. Right now, it seems this argument is descending into the shadowy world of puppet masters and intrigue.

You're right, Atreides, the assertion that Robertson or Hinn is going to resurrect fascism in the immediate future is a bit alarmist. The problem is, (possibly because of the widespread invocation of Godwin's Law) it's become impossible to actually discuss fascism without things getting horribly derailed. Such is the hazard of defining an ultimate contemporary evil, I suppose.

More to your point, I think you're underestimating just how much political power these folks actually have. Robertson had enough economic and political clout to support a 1988 run at the presidency (and pulled in more votes than Bush I in a couple states in the primary, IIRC), and a lot of the mega-churches that are fueling the rise of this new brand of Christianity have no problem openly advocating for candidates. I'll try to steer clear of name-calling, but the level of success charismatic pastors are having with swaying their congregations to support their own political goals does not speak well of the mental resiliency of these folks, and means that we're not just talking about puppet masters and intrigue, we're talking about major factors affecting national elections.
posted by Mayor West at 8:06 AM on January 8, 2007


Dude, I am not a conspiracy nut by any means. I have nothing against Christians - even the intolerant and hate-spewin' ones. The problem we are facing is the increasing commingling of ultra-conservative and intolerant religious beliefs with the administration of a demonstrably secular government. To say that this country has not become more theocratic in the last twenty years is just absurd, in my opinion.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:08 AM on January 8, 2007


Fascinating and terrifying interview. Thanks.
posted by ND¢ at 8:08 AM on January 8, 2007


Mentallo -

Part of the problem is that the crazies have succeeded so well in equating the religious right with Christianity in general, that just admitting your religion with certain groups immediately kills your credibility. In that situation it takes a very brave and confident person to stand up and fight for the reputation of Christianity without alienating themselves from those who share your other political/social values.
posted by chundo at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


...Somehow, don't ask me how, we've got a majority of (very) conservative catholics now on our Supreme Court.

heywood, I don't mean to necessarily single you out, because you're far from the first mefite who I've seen equate these two, but the Catholic Church isn't the one pushing creationism here in the US or anywhere else. That's a purely fundamentalist teaching.

Or was there something else you meant to imply by those incogruent (to me, anyhow) statetments?
posted by contessa at 8:17 AM on January 8, 2007


Mayor West: The problem is, (possibly because of the widespread invocation of Godwin's Law) it's become impossible to actually discuss fascism without things getting horribly derailed. Such is the hazard of defining an ultimate contemporary evil, I suppose.

Bingo. Fascism has become irrevocably associated with an emotionally overblown, unrealistic comic-book image that makes it nearly impossible to discuss seriously.

If I may be lazy and recycle an old comment of mine (coincidentally, from an old thread also titled "american fascism"):

People expect "fascism" to blare out "LOOK WE'RE EVIL MUAHAHAHA!!!", complete with marching ranks of drab jack-booted thugs systematically kicking down doors in broad daylight, burning huge piles of books, hanging dissidents in public, stealing candy from babies and all other sorts of exciting cinematic nonsense. No one wants to believe that fascism is equally capable of bearing a friendly smile, a firm handshake, and lofty appeals to the values of family and good old-fashioned honest hard work. Especially when there's still plenty of food eat.

Hell will freeze over before any modern-day Western government bungles its PR to the point of getting universally labeled "fascist", regardless of what it actually is.


/ Fascism is and has always been deceptively "normal". If it wasn't, then it wouldn't be such a @(#$*&^! to deal with in the first place.
posted by PsychoKick at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2007 [7 favorites]


People expect "fascism" to blare out "LOOK WE'RE EVIL MUAHAHAHA!!!", complete with marching ranks of drab jack-booted thugs systematically kicking down doors in broad daylight, burning huge piles of books, hanging dissidents in public, stealing candy from babies and all other sorts of exciting cinematic nonsense.

Right you are. And, if there's one thing history teaches us, it's that the majority of the population will never be convinced of how bad things are going until they're getting herded into railroad cars. Hell, even when that happened, an astonishingly large number of people if Germany/Italy in the 40's refused to acknowledge exactly how bad things had become.

Also, I kind of like the idea of 'jackboots.' There exists no real definition for what they are, so the term just gets thrown around to mean 'the footwear of those with whom I disagree.' We need more linguistic constructs like that.
posted by Mayor West at 8:37 AM on January 8, 2007


Fascism, like any good means of mass control, uses the peoples' wants and desires against them. Thus, most go willingly to their demise. Some quotes from Mussolini to chew on:

"The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State--a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values--interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people..."

"Fascism recognises the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade-unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which diverent interests are coordinated and harmonised in the unity of the State..."

"The Fascist State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the State..."


It always amazes me the length that many people will go to apologize for the powerful - the very ones who can make their own excuses. I say stand for something, or you'll fall for anything.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:54 AM on January 8, 2007


The problem we are facing is the increasing commingling of ultra-conservative and intolerant religious beliefs with the administration of a demonstrably secular government. To say that this country has not become more theocratic in the last twenty years is just absurd, in my opinion.

Thats a big assertion, to claim that the country has become more theocratic. Jump back fifty years and I'd be willing to bet that the presence of religion in politics is equal to now if not more so. The difference is that a higher proportion of the population is not as religious, and thus, those religious attributes which have really been common to American politics stand out more for criticism.

The truth of the matter is that politicians are politicians. They will invoke God on the campaign trail, but as present politics have shown, do very little while in office to represent a theocratic agenda. There is a reason why the term Christian Coalition is no longer bantered about in D.C. The great evangelical support of the Republican Party is waning from its peak in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

This is not to say that evangelical churches are any less in stature, but that a cohesive evangelical political movement is faltering. The name escapes me, but just recently a leader was chosen, then rejected, after he came to the conclusion that it was no longer successful or right to follow the agenda of pushing Pro-Life and Gay politics. He's vowed to establish and build his own organization to match the one he was removed from. Evangelicals are re-examining their very position in politics, much in the same manner as ranchers, and even the NRA, have reconsidered their allegiances due to environmental concerns and access.

As for Pat Robertson's primary success, I think the historical study of presidential primaries in general will show that they are by far a poor evaluator of mainstream politics and political success.
posted by Atreides at 8:54 AM on January 8, 2007


A note I forgot to mention, in terms of Fascism, I am far more worried about the liberty eroding policies of our present Administration done not in the name of God, but in the name of Security. The history of liberty in America has rarely, if ever, been marked by threats based in religion. Rather, those actions taken which contradict or violate the essence of our established freedoms have always come in the name of securing the safety of our country, and nearly always in times of war.
posted by Atreides at 8:59 AM on January 8, 2007


Also, I kind of like the idea of 'jackboots.' There exists no real definition for what they are, so the term just gets thrown around to mean 'the footwear of those with whom I disagree.'

Hate to split hairs, but there is such a thing as a jackboot, and when it's invoked as a metaphor, it's usually referring to something perceived to be totalitarian in character. Also generally Western and Christian - you don't often hear the Taliban, for example, referred to as "jackbooted."

And Atreides, the modern megachurches may be too brand-conscious to actually burn effigies, but from most of the serious in-depth journalism I've read on them, they scorch liberals and other internal enemies with absolutist, dehumanizing rhetoric with some frequency. They also carry greater weight than 1930s European fascist rallies in some respects, because they are delivering their messages directly from the pulpits, and their followers presumably equate them with the will of God in a way that not even the most rabid Nazi would've done with Hitler's invective. It may not be Kristallnacht yet, but I think we've seen a few latter-day Beer Hall Putschs already, at the very least.

If you're waiting for a Sec'y of State Robertson to be convinced that theocratic fascism is a growing problem in the US, you probably won't buy it till it's far too late.

And on preview: One of the creepiest things about the Bush Administration is that it equates national security with God's will more directly than any other US government in history. Practically speaking, it doesn't matter if you waive your constitutional rights in the name of God or the War on Terror, the power you cede goes directly to the heavily corporatized state calling the shots.
posted by gompa at 9:07 AM on January 8, 2007


The forces of empire and oppression have tried to keep the church in captivity since Constantine convened the first ecumenical council.

This is why the state immediately crushes any arm of the church which escapes this captivity. If and when liberals speak out against the captivity of the church, we face the same prospects.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:18 AM on January 8, 2007


When Robertson begins to regularly play a role in the daily cabinet meetings of the President of the United States, I'll be alarmed. Right now, it seems this argument is descending into the shadowy world of puppet masters and intrigue.


Where have you been? It's not Robertson himself, it's worse than that.

NPR has the story here, but don't just take their word for it:

Hear it straight from the bastards themselves:

"We talk about that kind of stuff... and I think it's a huge influence, because you have many men and women who are seeking God's council and wisdom as we advise the Chairman and Secretary of Defense, Hallelujah."

(http://www.christianembassy.com/files/CEVideo.html)
posted by fake at 9:22 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


atreides has it more in perspective than many of you ... there are several things evangelical fascism would have to do to gain power in this country

1 - they would have to come to an understanding and accommodation with 70 million catholics

2 - they would have to come up with an economic program ... filling the "emptiness" of americans' lives is only going to take them so far if their wallets are empty, too ... and it would seem that the attempts that have been made so far to come up with a "social gospel" have been rejected

3 - at the same time, they would also have to come to an understanding and accommodation with the corporate elite who run our economy ... or put themselves in utter opposition to it

right now, condition 1 is an uneasy truce, condition 2 is not being met and condition 3 is a half-comfortable but untested truce

add to this a fourth condition - that whatever they do to serve god has to make them tons of money and the conclusion is obvious - TALKING about a social revolution is profitable, as long as you don't tick off the corporate elite ... actually making one happen is going to cost money, so they're going to reluctant to do that

right now, it's a non starter ... put us in the middle of a depression and it could be different ... but they'll still have to adjust their message
posted by pyramid termite at 9:23 AM on January 8, 2007


I'm sure it'd be painful viewing, but I have to admit part of me would love to see a video recording of it, just to see how he goes about plowing on through the mindless feedback.

Ask and ye shall receive.
posted by EarBucket at 9:28 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Jump back fifty years and I'd be willing to bet that the presence of religion in politics is equal to now if not more so."

Sure, and while you're back there in 1956 take a look around and tell me what else you see. Tell me how the non-white folks, the women, and the gay folks are doing back in 1956.
Now Jump in your time machine and go to 1976. Troubled times, for sure, but how's everybody doing in the era where religon as a presence in politics has reached an all time low?
posted by 2sheets at 9:42 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


the Catholic Church isn't the one pushing creationism here in the US or anywhere else

IMO, there are two catholic churches, one liberal, and one conservative. The conservatives have the whip hand in some areas, currently.

While "intelligent design" is not on their front burner, it is still an
open issue
for the church.

There's an Opus Dei / Straussian / AEI / GOP axis of interests that is pretty weirded out.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:49 AM on January 8, 2007


brownpau said:

There's so much quotable in this story, but this one struck me hardest:

"For me, the engine of the movement is deep economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been obliterated, whether that's in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home again. You can't deform your society to that extent, and you can't shunt people aside and rip away any kind of safety net, any kind of program that gives them hope, and not expect political consequences."


I recently spent a few months in Lexington, KY. It was my first experience in decades with a non-northeastern city. I was really struck by how depressing it was. Not only was there a real lack of public transportation (requiring everyone to drive everywhere) there are hardly any sidewalks and nothing resembling community or public space. Parks were soccer/baseball fields on the outskirts of town, not a central community space that people spend time in for its own sake. It's like it was purposely constructed to be as isolating as possible. No wonder the 'christian' population of the area is so suspicious, non-empathetic and, well non-christian.

I've been wondering ever since whether this was part of a conscious plan by the religious right: remove every iota of community from an area so that your church is the only possible outlet for human interaction. More and more I think it may be the case.
posted by overhauser at 9:53 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks, fake, for bringing up something rather important about the political power of the Religious Right.

There's also Grover Norquist's Wednesday Meetings.
quote (from here):
" "We were sort of like the Mensheviks after the Russian Revolution," recalls Marshall Wittmann, who attended the first meeting as a representative of the Christian Coalition."

"The "Wednesday Meeting" of Norquist's Leave Us Alone Coalition has become an important hub of conservative political organizing. George W. Bush began sending a representative to the Wednesday Meeting even before he formally announced his candidacy for president in 1999. "Now a White House aide attends each week," reported USA Today in June 2001. "Vice President Cheney sends his own representative. So do GOP congressional leaders, right-leaning think tanks, conservative advocacy groups and some like-minded K Street lobbyists. The meeting has been valuable to the White House because it is the political equivalent of one-stop shopping. By making a single pitch, the administration can generate pressure on members of Congress, calls to radio talk shows, and political buzz from dozens of grassroots organizations. It also enables the White House to hear conservatives vent in private — and to respond — before complaints fester"."

More on Grover and his little cadre of political flypaper. Power brokers and the gatekeepers to access. Gotta love being on the wrong side of their talking points.
posted by daq at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've been wondering ever since whether this was part of a conscious plan by the religious right: remove every iota of community from an area so that your church is the only possible outlet for human interaction. More and more I think it may be the case.

This is a compelling statement. I don't think it is something that has been engineered by the religious right, however. I would wager that the communitylessness of communities is a reality of non-urban american life that the right has picked up and ran with.

There certainly does appear to be the common refrain that churches, or more specifically, megachurches, are the 'community' that conservatives are making for themselves nowadays. Mix a little pop psychology, a dash of 'these-colors-don't-run' patriotism, energetic, feel-good, Jesus-is-my-buddy music, Nintendo for the lil'uns, and fancy coffee at the door. They're like little indoctrination centers.
posted by contessa at 10:19 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Gompa, you write:

And on preview: One of the creepiest things about the Bush Administration is that it equates national security with God's will more directly than any other US government in history. Practically speaking, it doesn't matter if you waive your constitutional rights in the name of God or the War on Terror, the power you cede goes directly to the heavily corporatized state calling the shots.

So which is it? Is it done in God's name or GWOT's name? You imply that it doesn't even matter, which, but rather that its the corporate state. This relegates the whole point of arguing about a theocratic take over of the American government.

I have never attended a mega church, but I have attended evangelical services, and lived for six years in the thick of the Bible belt. My experience has been that yes, there are some evangelicals who take an extreme position on hot fire topics, but, and this is where I base my conclusions upon, they do not represent all evangelicals, not even a majority. We can read journalistic endeavors, but we should also rely on our own experiences.

The second I firmly believed that democracy in America was about to be overthrown, I'd happily purchase a rifle and raise a revolution. As is, in the same manner that so many different minor events accumulated to convince people that Communists were running amuck in the government fifty years ago, people are now convinced that there is a coherently planned and organized attempt to turn America into an evangelical theocracy. Bullocks.
posted by Atreides at 10:21 AM on January 8, 2007


2sheets wrote:

Sure, and while you're back there in 1956 take a look around and tell me what else you see. Tell me how the non-white folks, the women, and the gay folks are doing back in 1956.
Now Jump in your time machine and go to 1976. Troubled times, for sure, but how's everybody doing in the era where religon as a presence in politics has reached an all time low?


By this same line of reasoning, lets jump back to the 1860's. There was a religious man who invoked God's name, worked biblical imagery into his speeches, and was prepared to accept slavery as politically necessary. Must have been a terrible, terrible, person. His name was Lincoln.

Essentially, to blame the political and social positions of blacks, women, and gays, on the amount of religiosity in the political context is to put the blame squarely on religion. Religious leaders are blamed for taking absolute positions, which it seems you are as well with regard to religion, itself. Notably, Christianity has been a mainstay in American politics for centuries, and cannot, should not, be blamed absolutely for every social ill of those eras.
posted by Atreides at 10:30 AM on January 8, 2007


...and this is where I base my conclusions upon, they do not represent all evangelicals, not even a majority.

Atreides:

This is where things get tricky: we're discussing theocracy and fascism and you still want to think of it in democratic terms. A group intent on implementing their agenda doesn't have to represent , or get along with, or even acknowledge a majority of anything. If they can be successful lobbying the powers that be and, legislate changes, then they can shove the changes down everyone else's throats. You are still looking for agreement and concensus ( a good, and ingrained, American habit) when it doesn't necessarily have to be there. Fascism, by definition, is government from and by power, not concensus.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thats a big assertion, to claim that the country has become more theocratic. Jump back fifty years and I'd be willing to bet that the presence of religion in politics is equal to now if not more so.

The Line "Under God..." was added to the pledge of allegiance during the 50s as part of the McCarthyist scare. Now, considering the Red scare started in America just as the Third Reich was collapsing and the CIA began secretly recruiting former Nazi intelligence operatives, and the fact that prominent industrialists like Ford and Rockefeller supported the Nazi movement before its collapse, and yeah, I'd say it all started about 50 years ago--with a bunch of jackasses who literally believed in state power as religion. My two cents.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2007


but back on topic: excellent FPP adamgreenfield. thanks!
posted by saulgoodman at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2007


The second I firmly believed that democracy in America was about to be overthrown, I'd happily purchase a rifle and raise a revolution.

I'm sure there were many in the Weimar period - hell, many Jews in the Weimar period - that satisfied themselves with similar posturing.

But that's not how it happens - I mean, we know this from history. We know that it begins with pushing the limits of acceptable discourse a little further every day, with a general coarsening in which it is no longer possible to isolate every characterization of the Other as less than human. This is how it happened in Rwanda, this is how it happened in the former Yugoslavia, this is what is meant by discernments between the "righteous" and the "ungodly."

By historical terms, Atreides (!), we're well into the overture. The question remains as to what we will (be able to) do about it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:56 AM on January 8, 2007


ibmcginty said: ...unfortunately, those movements [Democratic Christians] are much, much less deep and visible than their counterparts on the right.

Perhaps one reason for the Christian right's hypervisibility is that they make an easier — and more media appealing — target. Any publicly outspoken Christian pastor or politician can be skewered for one belief or another, and all the more deliciously so when caught in ear-tickling hypocrisy. The same could be said for any Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or other believer. There, but for the grace of God (and lack of a 60 Minutes TV crew at our front door), go we all.

Yet, for every Christian sucked into the media spotlight, tens of thousands are not and go about their daily troubles. The church (interdenominationally speaking) is a corporate body of believers in Jesus Christ, but they're not a monolithic block of unthinking, right-leaning people bent on taking over the planet. If that were so, it would have been a lot easier in the First Century A.D. than now.

Hitchens needs to take a break from war and politics, and look for meaning in more promising venues.
posted by cenoxo at 10:56 AM on January 8, 2007


A group intent on implementing their agenda doesn't have to represent , or get along with, or even acknowledge a majority of anything.

except firepower and the ability to disrupt things ... if one looks at how these things have turned out in the last 20 years, one group actually getting the power they want tends to be rare ... instead, they push their political opponents to the point where they arm themselves and fight back and all hell breaks loose ... or a low grade civil war results
posted by pyramid termite at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2007


They're like little indoctrination centers.

No need to qualify that statement, contessa.

So which is it? Is it done in God's name or GWOT's name? You imply that it doesn't even matter

I don't imply that; I baldly state it. Strange bedfellows and all that. Born-again, chosen-by-God Bush to please the fundies, Cheney and Rove to bully and/or finesse the equally terrified but less faithful. For the megachurch crowd, the War on Terror is a de facto defence of Christendom, which is virtually synonymous with a defence of America. For the rest, a sufficient level of free-floating fear to convince them that whoever makes the best show of airport security should be in charge. (Perhaps analogous to the non-brownshirt support for the Nazis, which came from - for example - farmers pleased with the new road to the market town after years of crippling economic strife.)

The second I firmly believed that democracy in America was about to be overthrown, I'd happily purchase a rifle and raise a revolution.

To my mind, democracy in America came into grave peril the moment the Supreme Court summarily abdicated its oversight role by ordering the stoppage of the counting of ballots in a free election. And so successful was the victor at clouding over this core issue that it was deemed politically impossible to even examine the irregularities in the next election. Right or wrong, the Democrats appear to have assumed that the American people not only were not demanding but could not even tolerate a careful forensic accounting of the process by which they allegedly freely choose their leaders. (By the same token, the Pelosi Congress apparently believes that a sheen of bipartisanship is more important than the rule of law.)

The problem, to my mind, isn't the imminent threat of a clear-cut evangelical coup, but rather a more Huxleyan kind of totalitarianism in which civil society is so fractured and distracted it no longer even understands what it's supposed to be, what it stands for. To oversimplify a bit: you might not need a majority to endorse an openly theocratic leader; you might simply need enough people to believe America was founded on Christian (as opposed to Enlightened secular) principles, and enough others to think Jesus was an American, and enough others to think voting on American Idol or owning a 3500-sq-ft house was the same as being free.

I don't think America is fascist, or is on the verge of becoming so, necessarily, but I trust the battle-honed radar of a man like Hedges on the issue more than a brigade of NYT and WaPo columnists. As I understand it, he looks at how far the American people were willing to compromise their values in the wake of 9/11, and then imagines a second hard push in that direction somewhere down the line, and having seen firsthand how quickly civil society can collapse, it scares the shit out of him.
posted by gompa at 11:02 AM on January 8, 2007 [11 favorites]


I've been wondering ever since whether this was part of a conscious plan by the religious right: remove every iota of community from an area so that your church is the only possible outlet for human interaction.

heh, my [conservative Catholic] Congressman wrote this policy statement for the new House in 1996:

"Think of society as a chair. The legs of the chair represent four different and separate institutions. Government is just one leg; the others are families and the institutions that support them, religious and civic institutions, and business."

God, Family, Business, Government in Equality. Amen.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:27 AM on January 8, 2007


The history of liberty in America has rarely, if ever, been marked by threats based in religion.

Huh? No. Not true. Not true at all.

We had to, and still have to, pry our rights from the clutches of religious dogmatism. The witch trials? The justifications for why women shouldn't vote, why blacks should be enslaved, were all justified with religious scripture.

Certainly the overt intrusions into liberty are, as you say, based in "national security" phantoms. Those are obvious.

But the hard work at the expansion of (and pressure to contract) liberties stem from the having to deal with the Faithful and our traditional religious history. It's been a slow and steady movement of oppression for centuries.

Fascism itself has ALWAYS been a religion.
posted by tkchrist at 11:55 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackboots

A jackboot is a type of combat boot that reaches mid-calf, has no laces, and typically has a leather sole with hobnails and heel irons.

Although dating from before Napoleon, since the twentieth century jackboots have been strongly associated with totalitarian motifs. The word is commonly used in Britain as a synonym for totalitarianism, particularly Fascism, although jackboots and similar types of footwear have been worn by various British regiments since the 18th Century. Following the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared that the democratic rights of the Falkland Islanders had been assaulted, and would not surrender the islands to the Argentine "jackboot".

The term is perhaps less used in America, although in 1995, National Rifle Association (NRA) president Wayne LaPierre sparked controversy when he referred to overzealous federal agents as "jackbooted government thugs"; the comment caused former U.S. President George H.W. Bush to resign his lifetime membership in the organization. The resignation of so public a figure as Mr. Bush prompted an open letter from the association to the former president to be published in major newspapers; the letter included a litany of alleged and settled cases of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms abuses and an assertion that LaPierre and the NRA were merely borrowing a well-worn phrase uttered by other public figures in their calls for reform of the agency, among them Representative John Dingell of Michigan.[1]

The boots are connected to Fascism, particularly Nazism, as they were issued by the Wehrmacht and SS during early phases of World War II before Germany encountered leather shortages. It is notable that the same style of boot had been in use with German armies in World War I and before.

Jackboots can also be associated with the former USSR and East Germany. Jackboots are still a part of the modern parade and service attire of the army of Russia.
posted by stenseng at 12:01 PM on January 8, 2007


In light of this discussion, might this be considered a bad sign of things to come?

Remember how back when Clinton was Prez, the more zealous fundies were bombing abortion clinics every week or so? Oh yeah--and they used to send anthrax letters all the time, too. Where do you suppose all those restless little buggers are putting their energy now?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2007


Favorite Quote:

"I wouldn't describe myself as particularly pious but I certainly would describe myself as religious. And when I see how these people are manipulating the Christian religion for personal empowerment and wealth and for the destruction of the very values that I think are embodied in the teachings of Jesus Christ, I'm angry."
posted by saulgoodman at 12:42 PM on January 8, 2007



But the hard work at the expansion of (and pressure to contract) liberties stem from the having to deal with the Faithful and our traditional religious history. It's been a slow and steady movement of oppression for centuries.


Yet, the most fiery abolitionists fought for the cause of emancipation from a religious stand point. The Salem Witch trials have been bantered about back and forth, from ultra conservative religious dogma, to being a tool of certain elements of a small community to take economic advantage of their neighbors. Part of the Feminist movement originated from Christian sponsored outreach programs. The Civil Rights campaign originated in part in black churches.

It has been and continues to be a mistake to simply pin all problems and no beneficial events on religion. What should be discerned is that Christianity has been at war with itself for nearly as long as it has existed, often representing two sides of multiple affairs.
posted by Atreides at 1:29 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


and enough others to think voting on American Idol or owning a 3500-sq-ft house was the same as being free.

This is why I'm extremely curious as to the course of China. The Communist Party there is hoping that it can convince its billion plus population that material wealth is a substitute for true democracy. In essence, its an experiment to see if materialism can overcome the desire for democracy.

I've always recognized that Fascist movements begin and often end with minorities. Majorities are not required for such systems to take control. However, perhaps it is my American naivety, but I believe that the American populace can withstand only a certain amount of liberty erosion before it reacts peacefully or violently. Regardless, I do not believe that evangelicalism will lead or even greatly assist any movement towards this extreme form of government.
posted by Atreides at 1:38 PM on January 8, 2007


Yet, the most fiery abolitionists fought for the cause of emancipation from a religious stand point.

Which is NOT supported by scripture, BTW. You will find much much more scripture in explicit support of slavery than against it. Even n the new testament. John Brown debated this at length. He and others eventually felt that it was the American idea of Liberty that superseded some of what the bible - a book slave holders quoted constantly - said.

As for the witch trials? C'mon. "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live" Pretty clear right there.

As for civil rights, churches, historically where the ONLY place blacks were allowed to congregate in mass and not be molested. It had to start there. They had no other infrastructure.

And it should be noted that Christianity was IMPOSED on American blacks. They did not choose it. their own traditions and cultures were striped. Though selective scripture was certainly used. One could just as easily return to scripture to justify apartheid and segregation. IMHO MORE easily in fact.

Religion was IMPOSED on people in early Puritan America. It's very mechanism was Fascistic. People had no choice but to attend church or be put in stocks and stoned.

Let's not get in this bullshit about what TRULY motives what. Ok. Yeah sure. Somebody at the top always has an agenda beyond getting into heaven. But that is NOT what motivates or justifies the deeds of the overwhelming remaining masses.
posted by tkchrist at 2:12 PM on January 8, 2007


...will lead or even greatly assist any movement towards this extreme form of government.

How can you say this? It already has.

We are a fifth of the way there right now. If not for the evangelical block we wouldn't have this president. We wouldn't have HIS policies. We wouldn't have his war. Our executive wouldn't have used religious terms to frame his foreign policy and religious terms to deride and alienate it's detractors. Iraq is a holy war to huge number of people on BOTH sides.

The only thing that stops a major overt religious fascist movement is the fact: A) they are incompetent, and, B) there are still a handful of people with integrity and resources who recognize the threat. But those people are out numbered by the mindless faithful.
posted by tkchrist at 2:23 PM on January 8, 2007


Humans are a social creature: we are, at our core, tribal beings.

There is little offered by our Western culture to fulfil this need. Gangs and religions are about all we have as options.

It's proving very unhealthy for our society.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:25 PM on January 8, 2007


I don't think religion can be blamed for social problems [1] in the U.S. I think it comes down to Americans' [2] wholesale rejection of socialism, in which they are unique in the western world.

The social part of "social democracy" means, "I share in the responsibility for the well-being of my fellow citizens." This is the core value which Americans as a culture reject. In other nations, this value is expressed in tax rates and how this tax money is used for health care, social programs, affirmative action, etc. (as opposed to having the major tax priority being creating more and new ways to blow up other people)

This missing value gets expressed in the American flavour of christianity, because it is deeper than religion. As has been often pointed out, original christianity was strongly socialist. How much more socialist can you get than early churches pooling all their possessions and sharing them, or Christ's instruction "sell all you have and give to the poor"?

[1] By which I mean: much higher crime rate, much higher percentage of citizens living below poverty line, inequitable health care, unacceptable levels of incarceration of minorities, etc.(all by comparison to the other western industrial nations)

[2] As a culture -- obviously there exist individual Americans who believe in social responsibility.
posted by lastobelus at 5:40 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


From saulgoodman's link to Pat Robertson's decree that God told him there would be a mass killing in a U.S. terrorist attack:
"The Lord didn't say nuclear."

:: sigh ::

Of course not! The Lord says "nucular."
posted by The Deej at 5:57 PM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


There is little offered by our Western culture to fulfil this need.

Actually, there's plenty offered; after all, all you need for social activities are people.

The problem is, people don't want it. They're scared to go out - what if they're mugged? They want to put grandma in the home, instead of the spare bedroom. They'd rather watch TV or play WOW than join a social club. They'd rather pay for a gym membership and jog on the spot with their iPod in their ears than go outside to the park. They'd rather a private holiday home than a camping trip. They'd rather their children play with their Wii than join the scouts.

I've seen a question on Ask Metafilter, where someone wanted to know if there are places in the United States where you're likely to be stopped by police if you're simply out walking...the answers came think and fast; yes, lots!

There's nothing our society lacks that prevents social activity, except the will.

Speaking in broad generalizations, of course.
posted by Jimbob at 6:12 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe socialism ('I give to the greater good') is all the tribalism we really need. I pay higher taxes, which makes it possible to provide a universal social security net that provides for one's basic needs, which reduces desperation, which increases personal security and increases personal freedoms.

The bigger your tribe the free-er you are. Go Canada!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:20 PM on January 8, 2007


Liberals need to adopt the official position of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM as soon as possible. They need talking points on it, and they need to clearly frame their opposition. This will force the snake out of the mouth of the religious right. The public needs to finally see the whackos openly defend their desired religious monopoly and their mandatory government cult. Most liberals have fallen into a common fundie guilt trap and talk sideways to avoid the discussion.
posted by Brian B. at 6:35 PM on January 8, 2007


Jimbob: tribalism isn't about entertainment, it's about a shared set of beliefs and co-operation toward improving one's lot in life. Your local bridge club is a sorry excuse for a tribe in comparison to the Marines, Amway, or New Life Church (the latter kicks in a bonus: improving one's lot in the after-life!).

In most of the first-world nations, we recognize that we're we're all in this together and have to do our best to pull together and make a go of it. It's a form of tribalism: I am willing to pay higher taxes so that Canada's needy have the support they need. I do it for the greater good of Canada.

The USA doesn't seem to have that form of tribalism. It seems more about individualism: "I'm looking out for my own, buddy." I'm not sure that's a long-term workable framework for a society.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:36 PM on January 8, 2007


This is why I'm extremely curious as to the course of China. The Communist Party there is hoping that it can convince its billion plus population that material wealth is a substitute for true democracy. In essence, its an experiment to see if materialism can overcome the desire for democracy.

The answer to this question can be found in the same region, albeit on a micro scale, because this is exactly the proposition that has been happily accepted by the people of Singapore.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:13 PM on January 8, 2007


Probably coming too late to this discussion, but way upthread Mentallo asked where all the reasonable Christians are. That’s a great question, and I have been pondering it for a while. As a conservative, thinking, but reasonable Catholic (I know this combination of words may be difficult for some MeFites to believe, so try to take my word for it), I can say that my own attitude, as well as the attitude of my conservative Catholic friends, is definitely one of ambivalence towards our wacky fundamentalist “friends”. There is a certain sympathy for them, since they do believe in Christ, in a way, even if their belief is extremely confused, highly unhistorical, and yes, occasionally infuriating. (Biblical literalism, for instance, has never been part of traditional Christianity – as is pointed out by Hedges in the y2karl excerpt. And most of us Catholics don’t appreciate being told by self-important fundies that we’re not really Christian... and they’ve got plenty of quotes in their Bibles to prove it to us. Never mind, of course, that the contents of those Bibles were determined by the Catholic Church itself over a thousand years before the Reformation.) But there is definitely a reluctance to judge the intent of these people, which, as Hedges rightly points out, is in most cases good.

Still, theologically, we’d be all over them, except for this simple fact: on some issues, they are our greatest allies in the “Kulturkampf” (as Heywood so... pleasantly put it), and the Kulturkampf is of more immediate importance to most of us than trouncing our divorced brethren on points of theology. Abortion, same-sex marriage, nasty stuff on TV, etc. are all huge issues where wacky fundamentalist Christians and non-fundamentalist Christians substantially agree. 1.5 million abortions per year is, from our perspective, much more important than theological differences.

Ok, calm down. I know. If you don’t share our view on abortion, and you see people being blown up in Iraq on a daily basis, rationalization of torture, indefinite detention of accused terrorists, and especially if you see a fascistic push for power by wacky fundies, that seems ridiculous. Well, a basic point of Catholic moral teaching is that evil cannot be intentionally done even if good results, and I think a lot of Catholics are starting to realize that the two major parties are no longer the “evil party” and the “stupid party” but rather the “evil party” and the “evil party”. Not much of a choice – and a fair number of conservative Catholics sat out the November elections (based on my admittedly unscientific sampling of conservative Catholic bloggers, at least). That certainly doesn’t mean that orthodox Catholic support has switched to the Dems, but if the fundies continue to unreflectively stick with the Republicans, I think you might see more criticism of them from some quarters as more and more sensible conservatives realize that they’re a little too willing to get in bed with Caesar and that furthering some hugely important goals cannot be done at the expense of abandoning other important moral convictions. Speaking for myself, I was not unhappy to see the Republicans get the boot, but I’m certainly not happy to see the Democrats replacing them.

As a bit of an aside, I think it’s more than a little sad that the rather stark and reflexive political divisions we see in the West (and I don’t think it’s a phenomenon limited to the US, since I see the same thing in Canada, at least) prevent us from getting a lot of good accomplished. On this point, I would gently counsel some of the more irate liberals here that painting with an overbroad brush (all Christians are crazy, all people who oppose abortion must be irrational and hate women, all those opposed to same-sex marriage hate gays, etc, etc) satisfies the hardcore base but does little to attract potentially sympathetic individuals to your cause. Though I have hardly ever commented, I do read MeFi a lot, and I’ll sometimes find myself flirting with some (some!) liberal positions, as there are many things reasonable people agree on: the alienation associated with the loss of community, rampant commercialism, etc. Unfortunately, I am regularly turned off by the vociferousness and anger, not to mention the snide side comments, which almost always seep into these discussions. This thread has been a surprisingly good one, though. Pax!
posted by fhangler at 12:00 AM on January 9, 2007


Every tree is known by its fruit; even a child is known by its actions. Aren't those words taken from the Bible itself?

Those who defend Christianity as in institution in this thread do so in determined ignorance of the fact that it has been co-opted not just once, but again and again and again. I consider them accessories to each of those atrocities.

I used to be absolutely fascinated by the courage of the people memorialized in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs... until I discovered that Christianity has many more - perhaps even several times more - victims than actual martyrs.

If God existed, Christ was His ambassador, and the Bible His revelation, don't you think he would have intervened well before Christians reached that juncture in His name?

Some may consider this attack on the proponents of Christian doctrine the equivalent of "flung shit", but I will not apologize. I will fling shit or any other projectile I can muster; I will spit in their faces. I will oppose Christianity with every fiber of my being.

I could not do otherwise with clean conscience.
posted by The Confessor at 6:36 AM on January 9, 2007


fhangler, I truly appreciate that contribution. What you've said above definitely jibes with my discussions with and observations of conservative american Catholics that I know, who voted for Bush entusiastically in 2000, and with some reservations in '04. I asked them point blank if they appreciated having their voting numbers co-opted by a comparitively small group of vocal, hateful people (fundies) who, incidentally, thought they belonged to a cult. And the responses I got all tended to boil down to "well, I don't really agree with the fundies or neocons on most things, but the abortion issue is very important to me and they said they would do something about it."

I've seen more and more of these same people turn away from the whole ugly mess (some after the farce that was W's first administration, and most of the rest came around later, after the debacle of the war), with the realization that their single issue vote helped make things what they are today.
posted by contessa at 7:37 AM on January 9, 2007


I will fling shit or any other projectile I can muster; I will spit in their faces. I will oppose Christianity with every fiber of my being.
....

Uh. You do that.
I'm just curious. How do you oppose something like Christianity? How do you oppose it with every fiber of your being? I tried opposing Hinduism once and I scrunched my eyes up and concentrated real hard but I got a headache.

(Do I get bonus points irony points for posting from inside a church?)
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:23 AM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


CitrusFreak12

Uh, kind of like this?

posted by The Confessor at 8:27 AM on January 9, 2007


and I think a lot of Catholics are starting to realize that the two major parties are no longer the “evil party” and the “stupid party” but rather the “evil party” and the “evil party”.

fhangler, there was always a thick irony in people like myself labeling the parties as one being stupid, the other evil, because it was always a joke on the "stupid" party. You see, evil is subjective and dogmatically superstitious, but seeing "stupid" is neither. Taking the joke seriously is rather astounding, with predictable results too.
posted by Brian B. at 8:31 AM on January 9, 2007


Confessor:
I'm more confused now. You just answered my question by referring me to the post I was questioning.

Or, are you saying that you oppose something "with every fiber of [your] being" by posting about it on metafilter..?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:03 AM on January 9, 2007


no, he's just saying he has to concentrate really hard when he's typing something
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 AM on January 9, 2007


I used to be absolutely fascinated by the courage of the people memorialized in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs

I prefer Marty's Book of Foxes. Hubba!

But really, doesn't all of this come down to our own personal responsibility?

I remember when John Hinckley shot Reagan, there was a big fuss that he had a copy of Catcher in the Rye on him. In the church circles I was in at that time, there was a lot of outcry to pull that book from school libraries. My church friends would get frustrated with me when I disagreed. I would tell them that more loonies have used the Bible to justify their killings and evils than probably any other book. Evils and loonies will use whatever is handy.
posted by The Deej at 9:17 AM on January 9, 2007


CitrusFreak12

Just determinedly ignoring the snark. 'Every fiber' is obviously a figure of speech.
posted by The Confessor at 9:20 AM on January 9, 2007


'Every fiber' is obviously a figure of speech.

Relevance, your honor?

I'm quite familiar with the metaphor, Confessor. However, you still haven't answered my question.

When one says,"I will fling shit or any other projectile I can muster" (Which leads one to ask, "how does one muster an object?); I will spit in their faces. I will oppose Christianity with every fiber of my being," one damn well better know how one intends to do it.

I was asking how you intend to oppose Christianity. Will you protest? Boycott? Hunger strike, perhaps? Or should I take your shit flinging remark literally?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:36 AM on January 9, 2007


When one says,"I will fling shit or any other projectile I can muster"

maybe he's hoping for flying monkeys who can fling themselves
posted by pyramid termite at 9:42 AM on January 9, 2007


Pryamid:
haha, I've been trying to find that animated gif of the guy who types furiously on his computer and bashes his head into it several times, but my search for "funny head bash keyboard picture" have come up with nothing. But. It would have been a humorous response to "no, he's just saying he has to concentrate really hard when he's typing something"

Pity.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:51 AM on January 9, 2007


The Deej

I've never read Catcher myself, and while logic suggests that you may be partially correct in your estimation of humanity's innate capacity for evil, I alway come back to the Typhoid Mary analogue (which is basically just a secularization of the Biblical tree/fruit statement): how could anything so often accompanied by ignorance, intolerance, aggression, and atrocity be considered 'good' or 'right'?

Were a person capable of such divisiveness, one might suspect the presence of a narcissitic personality disorder.

I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist; just a layman looking for context.

CitrusFreak12

I thought I'd already made that clear with my first post: by confronting it wherever I find it.

You see, there's this whole world of figurative, metaphorical speech where the meaning of a phrase or sentence is not necessarily the sum of the definitions of the individual words there-in.

But I'm sure you already knew that. Which makes your own posts troll-bait. Which means that I'm not inclined to spend any more time responding to them.
posted by The Confessor at 10:01 AM on January 9, 2007


... beyond this, which I found by googling 'computer frustration animated'. It's one of my favorites also.
posted by The Confessor at 10:07 AM on January 9, 2007


fhangler: As a bit of an aside, I think it’s more than a little sad that the rather stark and reflexive political divisions we see in the West (and I don’t think it’s a phenomenon limited to the US, since I see the same thing in Canada, at least)--

As a Canadian, my subjective impression is that the divisiveness, polarization, and bitterness in the US are much deeper. (Both Clinton and Bush have been polarizing figures.) The major division in Canada is linguistic rather than partisan.

More Chris Hedges: On War, a December 2004 review essay in the New York Review of Books. He also moderated a panel on the future of American diplomacy (RealMedia, Windows) at the George F. Kennan centennial conference.
posted by russilwvong at 10:09 AM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I tend to think of questions as "answer-bait."

I thought I'd already made that clear with my first post: by confronting it wherever I find it.

You intend to oppose Christianity by confronting it.

I see.

You're aware that "oppose" and "confront" are synonyms, yes?

You're talking in circles, and giving me nothing but figurative, metaphorical, empty rhetoric.

Which means that this:
I will fling shit or any other projectile I can muster; I will spit in their faces. I will oppose Christianity with every fiber of my being.
Is a whole lot of nothing. Shit flinging for shit flinging's sake. This, I would say, is troll like.

Also: YES!! That was the exact animation I was searching for. Thank you!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:14 AM on January 9, 2007


"There are those who posit legitimate arguments questions, and then there are trolls.

And there are also people who lack the resources or determination to deal with answer the former, and thus label legitimate arguments questions as troll-bait so to marginalize them sans confrontation."
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:20 AM on January 9, 2007


CitrusFreak12

I assumed legitimacy until you proved otherwise.
posted by The Confessor at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2007


I tried to have a little fun and ask a question. Instead of answering the question, you decide to talk in circles and get into some perceived pissing contest.

How hard is it to answer this question:
"How do you oppose something like Christianity?"

Your first answer is a link to the post which I was aking you about. Circle number one.

Your second answer was "by confronting it wherever I find it."
Since "oppose" and "confront" are synonyms and interchangable, you've gone around in a second circle.

Why can't you just give me a straight answer? How was my question not "legitmate?"
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2007


CitrusFreak12

Honestly, you're just seeming kind of dense here.

I oppose Christian belief by confronting it with rhetoric whenever it seems appropriate.

Which is why my initial response was to link back to the post.
posted by The Confessor at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2007


Ok. I give up. I am completely lost here. This whole thing is going in circles, and I assume you're just messing with me.

On the off chance you're saying what I think you're saying: I'm not a Christian. I'm a janitor in a church as a part time job when I'm not at college. You're not opposing Christian belief by making obfuscatory posts. You're just confusing me, which is not much of an achievment; it doesn't take much, sometimes.

And now, back to the original point of this thread before accidental derail.

Apologies all around.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2007


I was never attempting to confuse you. And I apologize without reservation if I gave you that impression.

Apologies all 'round on my end as well.

Admins, please feel free to delete this tangent.
posted by The Confessor at 11:03 AM on January 9, 2007


"Admins"? That's pretty telling...
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:19 AM on January 9, 2007


adamgreenfield

Pure laziness.

Six characters for admins versus twenty-one for mathowie and jessamyn.
posted by The Confessor at 11:58 AM on January 9, 2007


The Confessor

how could anything so often accompanied by ignorance, intolerance, aggression, and atrocity be considered 'good' or 'right'?

Were a person capable of such divisiveness, one might suspect the presence of a narcissitic personality disorder.


Well one reason the Bible is so much more a source for loonie-bait than, say, Catcher in the Rye, is that the Bible has been read, at least in part, my uncounted millions of people. "Man Inspired by The Beautitudes Feeds the Hungry" gets no attention. And shouldn't. Following scripture demands that your good deed be done in secret. Evil acts have a way of getting found out.
posted by The Deej at 12:58 PM on January 9, 2007


...the Bible has been read, at least in part, by uncounted millions of people.

Which would weight the averages, of course.

Apologists for religion among atheists and agnostics tend to cite its 'good' (or at least not directly injurious) fruit as reason enough to at least humor their proponents. There was even a recent conversation to this effect on Metafilter.

My complaint with this view is that it confuses causation with correspondence. Sacred music, religious artwork, and Christian charity were evidence of religion's power and prominence at the time, not of any innate worthiness.

But even if we accept that these incredible advances were nurtured and cradled by religion, using them to justify religion leads us into some incredibly shaky moral ground.

How many dead Jews and Arabs was Handel's Messiah worth? Bach's Der Geist hilft motet? How about Samuel Barber's choral setting of Twelfth Night? Michelangelo's sculpture of David?

And for those (such as DNAB in the linked thread) who would claim that similar atrocities would take place under a different banner absent religion: prove it. Yours is the outrageous statement; the onus is on you to prove that the Jewish people would endure such suffering absent the Bible's ominous statement that the onus of Jesus death would be borne by the Jewish race.
posted by The Confessor at 4:09 PM on January 9, 2007


Well, people will always blame something for evil, and credit something for good. There are even Christians (and people of other religions as well) who will say that there is no real good outside of belief in their religion.

There have been atrocities in the name of religion, both for and against. They were all done by people. There have been incredible acts of kindness and charity done by Christians, Muslims, Atheists, etc. All done by people.

I certainly wouldn't credit only religion for all the world's good, any more than I would blame atheism for its evils. Or vice versa. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own actions, although it is amazing how much our actions can be influenced by others.
posted by The Deej at 4:39 PM on January 9, 2007


When one says,"I will fling shit or any other projectile I can muster" (Which leads one to ask, "how does one muster an object?); I will spit in their faces. I will oppose Christianity with every fiber of my being," one damn well better know how one intends to do it.

I was asking how you intend to oppose Christianity. Will you protest? Boycott? Hunger strike, perhaps?


why obviously, he will enlist with the intrepid 101st atheist keyboarders.
posted by quonsar at 6:15 PM on January 9, 2007


Abortion, same-sex marriage, nasty stuff on TV, etc. are all huge issues where wacky fundamentalist Christians and non-fundamentalist Christians substantially agree. 1.5 million abortions per year is, from our perspective, much more important than theological differences.

So don't have abortions, don't marry guys, and don't watch porn. Why must you force everyone to toe your line?

There is ultimately only one necessary law: do not cause harm to non-consenting or uninformed others' and their possessions. Which, flipped about, means respect others' property and person: do unto others.

If I choose to have an abortion, that's an issue between me and God, not me and you.

We live in a multicultural, multireligious, multisocial country. Get used to it.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:30 PM on January 9, 2007


if you choose to have an abortion you are causing harm to non-consenting or uninformed others. if you choose to rob a bank is that an issue between you and God, not me and you? we live in a society. get used to it.
posted by quonsar at 7:35 PM on January 9, 2007


That's a pretty pathetic response, quonsar. You can figure out for yourself why bankrobbing is harmful to others. As for abortion, you might as well compare it to putting down a horse with a broken leg, for all the use "consent" and "informed" can apply to that creature.

If you decide to give it another shot, please focus on "informed, consenting adults" as the metric; children's rights are not nearly as easily definable, and less so are the embryo's. We should start with a simple case, not the most complex.

Refer to Ain't Nobodies Business If You Do for details. It's a pretty comprehensive primer on the importance of individual rights and freedoms.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:51 PM on January 9, 2007



if you choose to have an abortion you are causing harm to non-consenting or uninformed others.


Not as far as I'm concerned. Others? Other whats? Not legal persons; that's a given. Whether a foetus can be informed or give consent is a red herring, in any case, since minors of any stripe can't give consent of any kind, and people too young for language skills can't be informed. We can't legally harm toddlers, and it has nothing to do with being informed or giving consent. So, again, red herring.

As an aside, I'm kinda of puzzled why fhangler lives in Vancouver. Maybe one person in fifty in Vancouver proper opposes abortion or gay marriage. It'd be like me moving to Mobile, AL or Swift Current, SK and complaining about how my socially liberal ideals have been paved under.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:51 PM on January 9, 2007


"Righteous" people scare me. Atheists don't go door to door thumping on their ideas, demanding everyone agree to the same views. The right to party scares me too, which is I think what the grads were focussed on in the commencement speech: ‘We’re not going to listen. We’ve listened enough. You’ve already ruined our graduation. Don’t ruin it any more, sir.’
posted by Listener at 9:45 PM on January 9, 2007


Maybe one person in fifty in Vancouver proper opposes abortion or gay marriage.

Not especially interested in arguing abortion or gay rights (yet again) but how you define the area Vancouver proper to arrive at this stat?

Here's the wiki on it. Ref the 'religion' section toward the bottom. Half the residents self-identify as some or another religion. The Sikh population alone would exceed the 2% figure. Anyway if close to a half of all these self-identifiers follow what they supposedly follow the stat would be more like 1 in 5 oppose not 1 in 50, and that'd be assuming all folks who did not self-identify don't oppose, which is unlikely. Many people are socially conservative without relying on religion to justify their inclinations.
posted by scheptech at 10:44 PM on January 9, 2007


We live in a multicultural, multireligious, multisocial country. Get used to it.
posted by five fresh fish


Nuh - uh!!!! I live in Montana!
posted by The Deej at 11:07 PM on January 9, 2007


You mistake "opposing abortion" for "supporting anti-abortion laws."

I oppose abortion: I think it is irresponsible to rely on it for one's birth control, and thus one should avoid having an abortion by both being prepared to accept pregnancy as a potential outcome of sex, and to use pre-conception birth control methods with utmost care.

I wholly support unrestricted access to abortion services. I think it is reprehensible to force women to undergo pregnancy agains their desire.

The correct means of dealing with the issue of abortion is not to attempt to prevent it from occurring, but to provide support and services that make it unlikely to be needed.

And that, I might add, is where religion is failing to do its duty by making it nigh impossible to properly educate children and make pre-conception birth control methods readily available to any and all.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:12 PM on January 9, 2007


Scheptech, I was being hyperbolic. But in Vancouver, at least, you can't equate "religious" with "holding archetypcal conservative social stances". There've been any number of local newspaper and TV polls showing support for gay marriage and abortion rights in the high 80s.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:15 PM on January 9, 2007


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