[I, too, as did Chris Hedges, studied theology before turning to another career.  One of my teachers at Union Theological Seminary, Reinhold Niebuhr (no pacifist — he had urged U.S. resistance to fascism and Nazism)  had also warned of the hazards of the degenerate, simplistic religion being promoted by the fundamentalists of that day,  particularly the apparently benign Billy Graham. See Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. on this subject:


It does not take too much of a stretch of imagination to see the rampaging of ‘born again’ Bush with his notion of his divine mission to bring American nationalized religion to the Middle East in this light.  Bush, as so many religionists of the past, has confused a Gospel call to help those in need as an excuse for making war big time.  No, untrammeled capitalism is not what the globe needs at this juncture.  The unleashing of the greedies is bringing extreme suffering to so many — if not by genocide then by starvation and disease as the developed nations cruelly exploit the resources of the under developed.

Let us not forget the earlier depredations that are well remembered by those who suffered them — the destruction of the Arbenz government (1953-4) in Guatemala, for instance, in 1953 at the behest of Chiquita Banana (United Fruit) which punished the Arbenz threat to its monopolies on fruit-growing throughout Latin America or more immediately the CIA subversion of the Mossadegh government in Iran in 1952-3 on behalf of British and U.S. oil interests there:


Why is it that our news reports on Iran always begin Iranian history with the hostage taking of the U.S. diplomats in Iran in 1979 rather than with the brutal reign of the Shaw whom we had installed from 1954 until his regime was overthrown by a Muslim cleric?


I assume that Chris Hedges, too, became aware of the dirty side of Christianity during his theological studies — its attacks not only on other religions (the Crusades), but its brutal cruelties to people (the Inquisition) in the name of Jesus, its internecine wars between Christian states, and most destructive of all, the imperialistic drive to dominate the world and to destroy all peoples and cultures that stood in its way this past half millennium?  It really is amazing that some of these (India and China) actually survived.  Africa is largely a basket case trying to recover from the European colonization — and is  still largely dominated the ‘global’ economy which favors the developed nations.

Frankly I, too, would characterize the Middle East excursions of the neocons supported by the right wing fundamentalists as fascism lite.  Hopefully some evangelicals — Jim Wallis’ Sojourners and individuals on their own — are beginning to awaken from this mad religious nightmare — a dream of world domination in the name of a Jesus  — who bears absolutely no resemblance to the original man of peace!

To quote scriptures here:

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15-20 KJV)

Yes, I agree with Christ Hedges.  This current American aberration is not authentic religion.  It is fascism.  Ed Kent]


The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy
By Chris Hedges
February 8, 2007

Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity
School, told his students that when we were his age — he was then
close to 80 — we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”

The warning, given 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and
other radio and television evangelists began speaking about a new
political religion that would direct its efforts toward taking control
of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the
government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a
global Christian empire. This call for fundamentalists and
evangelicals to take political power was a radical and ominous
mutation of traditional Christianity. It was hard, at the time, to
take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the
buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us
against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he
said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their
ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of
the Bible.

He was not a man to use the word fascist lightly. He had been in
Germany in 1935 and 1936 and worked with the underground anti-Nazi
church, known as the Confessing Church, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Adams was eventually detained and interrogated by the Gestapo, who
suggested he might want to consider returning to the United States. It
was a suggestion he followed. He left on a night train with framed
portraits of Adolf Hitler placed over the contents of his suitcases to
hide the rolls of home-movie film he had taken of the so-called German
Christian Church, which was pro-Nazi, and the few individuals who
defied the Nazis, including the theologians Karl Barth and Albert
Schweitzer. The ruse worked when the border police lifted the tops of
the suitcases, saw the portraits of the Führer and closed them up
again. I watched hours of the grainy black-and-white films as he
narrated in his apartment in Cambridge.

Adams understood that totalitarian movements are built out of deep
personal and economic despair. He warned that the flight of
manufacturing jobs, the impoverishment of the American working class,
the physical obliteration of communities in the vast, soulless exurbs
and decaying Rust Belt, were swiftly deforming our society. The
current assault on the middle class, which now lives in a world in
which anything that can be put on software can be outsourced, would
have terrified him. The stories that many in this movement told me
over the past two years as I worked on “American Fascists: The
Christian Right and the War on America” were stories of this failure
— personal, communal and often economic. This despair, Adams said,
would empower dangerous dreamers — those who today bombard the
airwaves with an idealistic and religious utopianism that promises,
through violent apocalyptic purification, to eradicate the old, sinful
world that has failed many Americans.

These Christian utopians promise to replace this internal and external
emptiness with a mythical world where time stops and all problems are
solved. The mounting despair rippling across the United States, one I
witnessed repeatedly as I traveled the country, remains unaddressed by
the Democratic Party, which has abandoned the working class, like its
Republican counterpart, for massive corporate funding.

The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who
rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the
reality-based world to one of magic — to fantastic visions of angels
and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and
Jesus will guide and protect them. This mythological worldview, one
that has no use for science or dispassionate, honest intellectual
inquiry, one that promises that the loss of jobs and health insurance
does not matter, as long as you are right with Jesus, offers a lying
world of consistency that addresses the emotional yearnings of
desperate followers at the expense of reality. It creates a world
where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become
true — the very essence of the totalitarian state. It includes a dark
license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this
vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to
submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious
oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens.

We now live in a nation where the top 1 percent control more wealth
than the bottom 90 percent combined, where we have legalized torture
and can lock up citizens without trial. Arthur Schlesinger, in “The
Cycles of American History,” wrote that “the great religious ages were
notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary
sense — not only for their acquiescence in poverty, inequality and
oppression, but for their enthusiastic justification of slavery,
persecution, torture and genocide.”

Adams saw in the Christian right, long before we did, disturbing
similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party,
similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social
instability or a national crisis, see American fascists rise under the
guise of religion to dismantle the open society. He despaired of U.S.
liberals, who, he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes
about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and
impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure
of evil or the cold reality of how the world worked. The current
hand-wringing by Democrats, with many asking how they can reach out to
a movement whose leaders brand them “demonic” and “satanic,” would not
have surprised Adams. Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those
who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that
for him was an integral part of the biblical message, would come from
the church or the liberal, secular elite.

His critique of the prominent research universities, along with the
media, was no less withering. These institutions, self-absorbed,
compromised by their close relationship with government and
corporations, given enough of the pie to be complacent, were unwilling
to deal with the fundamental moral questions and inequities of the
age. They had no stomach for a battle that might cost them their
prestige and comfort. He told me, I suspect half in jest, that if the
Nazis took over America “60 percent of the Harvard faculty would begin
their lectures with the Nazi salute.” But this too was not an
abstraction. He had watched academics at the University of Heidelberg,
including the philosopher Martin Heidegger, raise their arms stiffly
to students before class.

Two decades later, even in the face of the growing reach of the
Christian right, his prediction seems apocalyptic. And yet the
powerbrokers in the Christian right have moved from the fringes of
society to the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Forty-five senators and 186 members of the House before the last
elections earned approval ratings of 80 to100 percent from the three
most influential Christian right advocacy groups — the Christian
Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. President Bush
has handed hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid to these
groups and dismantled federal programs in science, reproductive rights
and AIDS research to pay homage to the pseudo-science and quackery of
the Christian right.

Bush will, I suspect, turn out to be no more than a weak transition
figure, our version of Otto von Bismarck — who also used “values” to
energize his base at the end of the 19th century and launched
“Kulturkampf,” the word from which we get culture wars, against
Catholics and Jews. Bismarck’s attacks, which split Germany and made
the discrediting of whole segments of the society an acceptable part
of the civil discourse, paved the way for the Nazis’ more virulent
racism and repression.

The radical Christian right, calling for a “Christian state” — where
whole segments of American society, from gays and lesbians to liberals
to immigrants to artists to intellectuals, will have no legitimacy and
be reduced, at best, to second-class citizens — awaits a crisis, an
economic meltdown, another catastrophic terrorist strike or a series
of environmental disasters. A period of instability will permit them
to push through their radical agenda, one that will be sold to a
frightened American public as a return to security and law and order,
as well as moral purity and prosperity. This movement — the most
dangerous mass movement in American history — will not be blunted
until the growing social and economic inequities that blight this
nation are addressed, until tens of millions of Americans, now locked
in hermetic systems of indoctrination through Christian television and
radio, as well as Christian schools, are reincorporated into American
society and given a future, one with hope, adequate wages, job
security and generous federal and state assistance.

The unchecked rape of America, which continues with the blessing of
both political parties, heralds not only the empowerment of this
American oligarchy but the eventual death of the democratic state and
birth of American fascism.

Chris Hedges is the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York
Times and the author of “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.”

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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