Archive for October 16th, 2011

Book Review:
Yesterday, I finished reading:  “American Fascists – The Christian Right And The War On America“, by Chris Hedges (2006©).  The book is a call to arms against the takeover of America by right-wing Christian religious fanatics who would seek to impose their religious views on all of America.
(Full disclosure – I am a “yellow-dog Democrat” and a practicing Roman Catholic.  I am a firm believer in God, but I am not one to impose my religious views on others.  I have examined other faiths and find them equally valid “intellectually” but – for me – not spiritually.  Therefore, I remain a practicing Catholic.   I am not a scientist – by training or trade – but I believe in the scientific method.  I do not find this makes me less of a Catholic or person of faith.)
The premise of the book is that there are those on the Christian Right who would destroy America in order to “save” America.  After fifty years of living experience and thirty plus years of hearing the Christian Right on both TV and radio, I would tend to agree with the premise.
America was founded on a belief of religious freedom as one of several core values.  Many of the founders were NOT Christians – although they appear to have been deists (believers in a “universal creator”).  They believed firmly in the separation of church and State and that no one faith should have a place of prominence in American politics or active support by the national government.  For example:  George Washington attended a Christian church for many years without receiving communion.  When it was pointed out to him that this was disturbing to some members of his church who felt it might raise questions about his faith, Washington stopped attending church.  Thomas Jefferson “created” his own bible by removing all references to Christ’s miracles – which Jefferson believed to be pure fabrication.  Even those founding fathers who were Christian believed in the separation of church and state.  For an interesting handling of this, read my review of Moral Minority (or better yet, look the book up on line and buy a copy).
This is not deny an obvious truth that religious beliefs have had a profound and pervasive impact on American society and in American history (or world history for that matter).
The author goes down the standard list of liberal objections to the political involvement of the Christian Right – including: Creationism vs. Evolution, Right to Life vs. Right to Choose, and of course, sexual perversion and the threats against Christian marriage.  There is also repeated coverage of the obsession of the ministers of the Christian Right with accumulating wealth – mostly at the expense of their followers.
For the record:
I am not aware of a single shred of evidence that Creationism is fact or truthful.  There is not a single shred of evidence that Evolution is incorrect OR in opposition of Christian beliefs.  In fact, the Catholic Church accepts the theory of Evolution.  I believe there must be a balance between the rights of the unborn and the rights of the mother.  My faith tells me it should be absolute (for the unborn), but my heart says until such time as society is willing to accept and finance the mother and the child through to adulthood, society has no business dictating the mother what to do with her body.  The cycle of poverty is a prison for many women (married and otherwise) and their children.  I admit I am not Christian enough to support all my fellow countrymen in a purely socialist society.  Therefore, abortion for non-rape and non-incest pregnancies should remain a legal option.  I believe for cases of rape and incest, abortion is always an option.  I am opposed to late term abortions except when the pregnancy directly threatens the life of the mother.  By “late term” I mean post-viability.  This will be a moving target as our medical knowledge and skills increase, but fundamentally – life is precious, a gift from God and should be cherished and preserved.  Finally, I believe American politics needs to stay out of America’s bedrooms.  I have been happily married for over 25 years.  How some committed homosexual relationship – legally married or not affects me, is beyond my understanding.  It doesn’t affect me any more or less than a non-married but committed heterosexual relationship does.  What “matters” to me is love in their relationship, but even that does not “affect” me personally because it’s not my relationship.
Back to the book review:
Is it likely that America will turn into a fascist state?  Fundamentally, if you believe a fascist state is one in which the interests of corporations (not business) are promoted by the state to the exclusion of the individual worker, I would argue we are already in a fascist state.  Calvin Coolidge is frequently quoted as saying:  “The business of America is business.”  Note – what he actually said was:  “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.”  This is not the same thing if you are interested in the public’s rights versus the corporation’s rights.  At this point in history, I would argue in the interest of promoting the people’s interests in business, we have confused these interests with those of the corporations, and because of this, the government is the last defender of the people from those few (the 1% of) Americans who accrue over 20% of our annual national earnings and own over 30% of our national private wealth.  (For a discussion of these figures, please see a report from UC Santa Cruz:  “Wealth, Income and Power“)
The author (Hedges) contends these “fascist” interests on the Right are the individuals supporting the conservative think-tanks, Christian universities and Conservative Christian (fundamentalist) churches and their political activity.  Again, I believe this is true.  The problem I have with the author is his flat statements we can no longer tolerate the intolerant within our society and that he offers no legal method for opposing them.  Other than making us aware of the problem – what do you propose to do about it?  Nothing is suggested by the author!
In Hedges defense, I will say, short of passing a Constitutional amendment specifically limiting the political powers of corporations (they are not people and should therefore have limited rights to free speech particularly regarding political support) and enforcing the current laws limiting political speech in churches, I am not sure there is anything which can be done.  A final note on the limits of speech in churches.  To my knowledge, it is not against the law to make political speeches or take political stances in church.  You simply surrender your tax free religious status by doing so.  This (religious tax status) is why the Conservative Right seeks to break down the wall between church and state.  Then they will be able to promote “conservative” (Christian) religious candidates without the loss of the church’s protected tax status.  The assumption is a Conservative religious person (someone on the Christian Right) is the same as someone on the conservative Right.  I would argue they are not – for a true Christian and a modern “corporate” conservative Right – we should always remember Jesus’ words:  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)
As for the “ministers” of the Christian Right getting rich off the fleecing of their flocks – it has long been true that no one ever lost money betting on the ignorance of the American public.
The book is interesting, but I did not find it an easy read – partly because it tends to be too strident and partly because it seems to cover a lot of different topics without offering resolution (as covered above).  I would recommend the book to all and highly recommend it to anyone seeking a better understanding of a moderate Christian’s view of the Christian / Conservative Right.  It certainly crystallized my understanding of both the Dominionists, the fundamentalists and the dangers of either of them increasing their political power in America.  In the end though, the book will not make any converts for either side – the gulf is too great!

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There is a germ of religion in human nature so strong that whenever an order of men can persuade the people by flattery or terror that they have salvation at their disposal, there can be no end to fraud, violence, or usurpation.
     —     President John Adams
[There must be a similar set of germs in human nature for nationalism.    —    KMAB]

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