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Of course there are Christian fascists in America. How else to describe, say, the administrator of a faith-based drug treatment program who bound and beat a resident, then subjected her to 32 straight hours of recorded sermons?
Hedges was a longtime foreign correspondent, for The New York Times and other publications. But he writes on this subject as a neophyte, and pads out his dispatches with ungrounded theorizing, unconvincing speculation and examples that fall far short of bearing out his thesis. To reach it, he relies on a body of thought devised long ago to explain the rise of totalitarianism in the middle of the previous century — ideas about how alienation, economic dislocation, the deformation of language and exploitative authoritarian leaders become both the necessary and the sufficient cause for imminent purgative violence.
This is an argument in the subjunctive mood. Instead, he insists, they must be fought — by anyone which should be everyone who believes in the open society. Not too long ago, during another high tide of a culture war, purgative right-wing vigilantism occurred at regular intervals.
Just to take a few examples: in , pacifists were found shot in the back of the head on a dirt bank in Richmond, Va. Self-identified evangelical Christians have carried out acts like this in the past. But virtually none have occurred in years. There may now indeed be millions more Americans than ever who fantasize about the purgation of their spiritual-cum-political enemies. The message people seem to be imbibing from these novels and from their preachers, however, is not: Take vengeance.
It is: Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. Hedges is worst when he makes the supposed imminence of mass violence the reason the rest of us should be fighting for the open society.
We should be fighting for it anyway. Book Review Christian Empire. Home Page World U.
Hedges is a former seminary student with a master's degree in divinity from Harvard Divinity School and was a long-time foreign correspondent for The New York Times. Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:. Citing the psychology and sociology of fascism and cults , including the work of German historian Fritz Stern , Hedges draws striking parallels between 20th-century totalitarian movements and the highly organized, well-funded ' dominionist movement,' an influential theocratic sect within the country's huge evangelical population. Rooted in a radical Calvinism , and wrapping its apocalyptic, vehemently militant, sexist and homophobic vision in patriotic and religious rhetoric, dominionism seeks absolute power in a Christian state. Hedges's reportage profiles both former members and true believers, evoking the particular characteristics of this American variant of fascism. His argument against what he sees as a democratic society's suicidal tolerance for intolerant movements has its own paradoxes. But this urgent book forcefully illuminates what many across the political spectrum will recognize as a serious and growing threat to the very concept and practice of an open society.
Onward to the apocalypse
Twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists first spoke of the United States becoming a Christian nation that would build a global Christian empire, it was hard to take such hyperbolic rhetoric seriously. Today, such language no longer sounds like hyperbole but poses, instead, a very real threat to our freedom and our way of life. In American Fascists, Chris Hedges, veteran journalist and author of the National Book Award finalist War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, challenges the Christian Right's religious legitimacy and argues that at its core it is a mass movement fueled by unbridled nationalism and a hatred for the open society. Hedges, who grew up in rural parishes in upstate New York where his father was a Presbyterian pastor, attacks the movement as someone steeped in the Bible and Christian tradition.