Tolerance is a virtue, but not towards fascists

Chris Hedges book, “American Fascists,” is a hard-hitting and thought-provoking critique of the U.S. Christian right. He explains the grave threat to democratic freedoms posed by them. Hedges is a former New York Times reporter.

He accuses the right wing that supposedly Christianity supports of trying to the establish a religious police state in America. In the wake of the recent Supreme Court abortion decision, many are concerned about just that.

Hedges argues this cadre of far-right zealots “are slowly dismantling democratic institutions to establish a religious tyranny, the springboard to an American fascism.” Hedges defines Dominionists as those who “seek to politicize faith,” taken from Genesis 1:26-31 in which “God gives humans dominion over all creation.” He warns not to confuse radical Christians (or Christo-Fascists) with the millions who are traditional evangelical Christians, some of whom have begun to embrace progressive causes.

Dominionists are a mutation of traditional fundamentalist, backed by several billionaires and six national television networks.

Under Christian Dominion, government would become an extension of the church. The Ten Commandments would form our legal system. Creationism and “Christian values” would dominate.

And “Labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools would be abolished.” Women would be forced to stay home. And dissidents deemed insufficiently Christian would be denied citizenship.

Christo-Fascists conceal their aims by using “terms and phrases that are comforting to most Americans,” but their words have a new meaning says Hedges. “Liberty” no longer relates to freedom, and is newly defined as “the extent to which America obeys Christian law.” “Love” would mean “an unquestioned obedience to those who claim to speak for God in return for the promise of everlasting life.”

Hedges warns the Christian right has control of the executive branch. (Monica Goodling, former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, holds her law degree from Pat Robertson’s Bible-oriented Regents University, as do 150 other members of the Bush administration.)

Hedges examines what attracts people to the Christian right. This “culture of despair” prevails in American society and Dominionists have “latched on to the despair, isolation, disconnectedness, and fear that drive many people into these churches.”

The converted feel a sense of belonging with readily identifiable targets to scapegoat, e.g. gays, abortion rights activists, liberals, secular humanists (all 3,000 of them in the American Humanist Association), etc.

Hedges believes the success of religious fanatics will be due to “the moral failure of those, including Christians, who understand the intent of the radicals yet fail to confront them, those who treat this mass movement as if it were another legitimate player in an open society.”

The writer says many leading institutions that defend tolerance such as mainstream churches, great research universities, the Democratic Party, and the media fail to challenge these far-right radicals. The “awful paradox” of the present situation, Hedges argues, is that “there arise moments when those who would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible should no longer be tolerated.”

The author cites professor Dr. James Luther Adams, from Harvard Divinity School. Adams, himself a German church refugee from Nazi tyranny, warned his students twenty-five years ago that in twenty-five years “we would all be fighting Christian Fascists.” Adams’ also warned of the liberal “solutions” that failed in Germany.

The religious right has carried out an assault upon the truth, especially in science, says Hedges. Science is a primary target because it offers the facts and explanations, which undercut the doctrinal nonsense of the Christian right.

Christian rightists preach male dominance. Women are treated as second-class citizens. Hedges explains, “The hyper masculinity of radical Christian conservatism, which crushes the independence and self-expression of women, is a way for men to compensate for the curtailing of their own independence.” Men, in turn, have already surrendered their will to a male-dominated authoritarian church.

Hedges writes a wakeup call to Americans calling for a confrontation and fight back against the Christian right. Americans have to stand up and speak out against this grave threat to freedom in the U.S. The radical Christian right is truly “a sworn and potent enemy of the open society” and the people must subdue and render harmless the fascist beast in religious cloaks.

Hedges concludes, “Tolerance is a virtue, but tolerance coupled with passivity is a vice.”

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America By Chris Hedges Free Press, 2006 Hardbound, 254 pp., $25.00