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December 14, 2007


I thought well of Hedges "War". My partner uses excerpts from it when teaching ethics to freshmen at a Jesuit university and finds that it provides them with a context they would otherwise lack (teaching ethics to freshmen is an all too direct encounter with the deficiencies of US high school education.) Have not tackled "Fascists" because I shy away from explanations of our plight that lean heavily on Rushdoony -- though my friends at Political Research Associates have long insisted we had to pay attention to these very dangerous people.

I'm looking forward to your series.

I found "American Fascists" to be a thoughtful and important book -- as well as a frightening one. What surprised me most was Hedge's sympathy for fundamentalist christians, many of whom are seeking help and hope amid dislocated lives and disruptive families. It reminds me of a recent book by a marine captain (just came out, can't remember who)who described the soldiers under him as kids from broken homes, addicted to dip and video games, often ignored by their families, as "perhaps this nations first generation of disposable children" -- kitted out with heavy weapons and sent to Iraq to fight for "democracy" and oil.

Hedges, too, has his fingers on the pulse of something seriously wrong with our society. the perversion of Christianity to justify militarism is one important symptom of it.


I see here an attempt by these kind of books and discussions to sanitize religion and beliefs by applying a lot of tags, labels, and Acronyms to further intellectualize doctrines and eventually simple personal beliefs.

Frankly this kind of discussion may be satisfying to some who believe they are superior to people with simple belief systems, but it will not allow any real understanding, and most probably will only taint any contact between the two groups.

Sara my dear,

bmaz informs me that you are having a wee bit of a problem accessing Firedoglake.

He told me that you have Windows XP and use AOL and its Explorer to access the web.

Can you give me a step-by-step description of the problems you're having?

I'll give it my best shot at assisting you.

From your friendly techie who like you is shivering in Minnesota (St. Paul to be precise).

Sara,I look forward to the next installment.

Sara, I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of this series, since I consider you a serious thinker on these matters. It is with some reluctance that I make this suggestion: Is it possible to have someone look at your postings before they're posted? There are some writers who really benefit from editing, and I think you may be one of them.

Janinsanfran -- I agree, alone, Rushdoony is a minority of a minority, an offshoot of super-strict Calvinism. Hedges of course as a son of the Presbyterian Manse also stems from a Calvinist origin, but the more forward thinking branch of the Scots Presbyterian tradition. In the US, the Presbyterians fractured in the 19th Century over Slavery, and unlike most of the other Protestant denominations, was never successful in reunifying the institutional and denominational structures. (The Methodists did it in 1939.) Over time, some of the branches linked to the Southern Presbyterians have become quite radical -- Kennedy of Coral Gables, the minister (was his name Hill?) who committed murder at the Abortion Clinic and was executed in Florida, and others. In contrast, Mainstream Presbyterian Institutions would include places such as Columbia and Princeton.

Hedges makes the point that Rushdoony has had far more influence on the Southern Baptists than he has had on any group associated with the Calvinist tradition in America. The core idea, that the US is a Christian Nation that has fallen away, and must be restored to a strictly Christian identity, ruled by the elect (in the Calvinist sense of that term), has been far more widely accepted within the Southern Baptist Convention. Hedges develops this in terms of both Homosexuality and the role of women in society. The Southern Baptist Convention resolution that women are the subject of their husbands -- is just one of Rushdoony's recommended programs leading toward his idealized society.

Rushdoony, as Hedges points out, also is a corruptor of the meaning of words as an element in his strategy. Hedges points to his particular usage of "Freedom" and "Liberty" in his writings -- terms we all recognize now as some of GWB's favorite's. But what Rushdoony means by "Liberty" for instance, is theocratic tyranny. I rather wonder if GWB (or his speechwriters) is influenced by this pecular usage, and if it isn't signing into the Christian Right of something otherwise understood by many listeners. It might be an interesting exercise to go back and re-read the Bush second inagural with the Rushdoony notion of Liberty in mind. Hedges is convinced that within the Christian Right this influence is very widespread.

Ultimately, I suppose many of us are put off by Hedges using the title "Fascist" with respect to this particular part of the American Religious Right. The term has been so overly and misused by so many over the years, it has lost its clarity. But I suggest Hedges is quite correct in his usage. He is afterall discussing the use of Religion to persuade vast numbers to give up their authentic human rights, their mental powers to question, and submit to the manipulative will of a particular class of preachers. Ultimately, this is very close to what the Fascist Nationalists of the 1920's through the 50's and 60's accomplished (I include Franco and Salizar in this group). People submitted to the will of the leader in the name of an idealized Nationalism -- and all the questions as to why so few protested or resisted need to be grounded in that process of submission. Perhaps we need to renew ownership of the term Fascist.

I used Hedges book first for a reason. He makes the point that one of the important Holocaust Deniers is Rushdoony. (One might even argue less a denier, more a justifier.) Rushdoony's approach is to both quibble with the 6 million number, and at the same time justify extermination of those considered immoral or not subject to reform or re-education. He argues that the Jewish decendents of the Hebrew people of the scriptures forfitted their right to be a Chosen People because they failed to establish "God's State" before the Christian era, and that they have been replaced by Christians from which this is expected. Rushdoony's racial and cultural attitudes are little different from Hitler's eugenics theories -- in fact they go further, as Rushdoony recommends the death penalty not only for murder, but for adultery, striking a parent, blasphemy, homosexuality, astrology, incest, and only for women, unchastity before marriage. (That would be one massive extermination!!!)

One of the Christian Right preachers who has recently gotten considerable TV Play, and who has apparently supped at the White House, is John Hagee. From Texas, Hagee is founder of Christians United for Israel, and does quite large fervid rallies, complete with the congregation waving Israeli Flags, dancing while holding up a variety of Bibles and Torah Scrolls; The events appear to be a kind of mix and match effort between sawdust trail Alter Calls, and Hasidic dances. It was actually the visual of this on TV that stimulated me to wonder about its roots. It is a strange tale.

In terms of his mega-church in Texas, John Hagee teaches a literal fundamentalism very close to Rushdoony's. His personal emphasis is on "End-Times Theology" an interpretation of the Book of Revelations that depends far more on the left-behind novels of Tim LaHaye, Hal Linsey's "Late Great Planet Earth" than actual scriptural criticism for its depiction of the rapture, the end-times, and Armageddon.

And thus the profound irony. For those who Preach or believe this end-times theology, the Revelations story ends with the Jews of Israel either being converted to a narrow Christian Fundamentalism, and being raptured -- or dying along with the rest of unbelieving humanity in the bloody Armageddon battle. In this cosmology, the rational for the reconstruction of Israel as a modern Jewish State -- and the return of all Jews to that state, is all about having the right population, and geography for that predicted Armageddon Battle. What doubles the irony is the place Hagee, and other Christian Zionists have come to occupy in what John Mersheimer and Stephen Walt term "The Israel Lobby". Why, to put it broadly, would organizations such as AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee or the Anti-Defamation League, partner up with a movement that basicly sees both Jews and Israel as a stage set on which to play out their end-times beliefs, and produce a play that ends in the extermination of all who refuse to convert?

And, as Kevin Phillips points out in "American Theocracy" -- you can easily deconstruct the End-Times story, and arrive at a full and complete description of George Bush's Middle East policy. But before we get to Phillips, I want to review Mearsheimer and Walt.

Yes, I'm sorry but sentences like

So for anyone making their way from the Manse through the best schools, and the Harvard Divinity and then 20 years reporting on blood and gore for the NYTimes. I hope the return to theology and religious history is a little squared.

are incomprehensible to me. I am interested in what you are talking about but I can't understand what you are saying.

tatere, it makes sense to me. I agree Sara's writing is not easily skimmed, but I find what she writes to be worth the time and effort of reading slowly anyway. In this case, read "squared" in the meaning of "a square deal" -- just, fair, completed, satisfying, like a balanced bit of bookkeeping. At least, that's how I read it.

Sara I think,in the interest of better understanding
the writings, has immersed herself into
the rhetoric and nonsensical prose of
authors who are overly presumptious, pendactic, and didactic
and essentially full of "mud" and some of it has rubbed off.

But then with "overly presumptions, pedantic, and didactic" I start to get a little messy and bogged down in the muck myself.

: )

I hate to say this but I agree with tatere. I lurk here, I am interested in this subject, I've got a ph.d. myself in a related field and I found this first installment by Sara nearly incomprehensible--so badly written, underpunctuated, and inside baseball that even knowing as much as I already do about Hedges, his history and work I was swimming in confusion. Do not hit post until you have let the piece sit overnight and asked someone else to read it. It reads like margin notes.


Sara - Great to see you doing a Religion and Politics thread here at TNH!

ttfn, back during reflective time...

Hey aimai, did this meet with your approval?

"In effect, Hedges does not believe the theology of Falwell, Robertson, Dobson or Kennedy is much different from what he witnessed in Bosnia and Kosovo. It is eliminationist, and he thinks we should pay attention. Hedges acknowledges alternatives, but he sees these as fairly weak voices against the blood and gore he has witnessed, and the bullets he has dodged."

Since you claim to know something, why don't you in a pleasant, respectful, positive way, point out to Sara where you weren't 100% clear on what she meant. emptypockets did something similar and judging by the high quality of your comment, you can too. I'm unclear about how insulting the post's author is in any way helpful. If you're a lurker, than you know Sara is an extremely gifted writer with unbelieveably detailed knowledge over an incredibly wide range of topics. She has entertained and informed us about the First MN at Gettysburg, the Peace Corps, US Military studies on US occupations, the history of the Democratic party in MN, stoves/ovens, George Marshall, GLBT history, FDR, and a ton more. Unless I missed the tip jar, we all get to read Sara's stuff at NO CHARGE.

tnh is going through a big transition. Maybe you want to start posting here? Maybe they'd look at something you've written? Nobody pays any attention to Jodi-bot, but you're not a troll and imo, you owe Sara an apology for the tone you took with her.

I read Sara as an artist, as much as a writer. The same energy is always there - sometimes it's taut and insightful (like her comment at 17:26,) and sometimes she takes the whole bucket of information and splashes it on the canvas, like this post on Dominionism.

Personally, I like it both ways because it works different modalities of cooperation in the comments, but that's jmvho.

If we were going to do strictly point/counter-point from a doctrinal point of view on this topic, I would undoubtedly learn a lot, but not necessarily feel comfortable wading-in to the conversation, even though I come from a Pre-revolutionary, small, rural, Presbyterian, farming family in South Carolina.

We didn't know it as Dominionism growing up. It was 'the way it is.' Questioning wasn't allowed. Common Sense was stressed over 'thinking too much.' Everything was done 'the way it's always been done.' Change was Bad.

As it was practiced by ours and, as far as I know, all the surrounding farms, Dominionism is very close to a clannish, blood-purity ideology that sees itself as The Only Right Formulation of God's Will on Earth.

I've never seen it, myself, but I have heard that Protestant settlers came to the Colonies packing a New Bible from King James - the early editions of which contained a frontispiece or dedicatory that essentially empowered the Colonists with the authority of God through the King to 'subject' all the non-English peoples to the Colonists' Dominion.

Not surprisingly, as it's practiced, Dominionism is not Authoritarian - it's Totalitarian, like Fascism. You don't run plantations with slaves as an authoritarian - that's too weak an approach to constrain the human drive to be Free.

As I experienced it, Dominionism is 100% pre-ordained Fate. You were either born right or born wrong - with all that came with it. So, you were either 'in the clan' or you were 'one of them.' Amongst members in the clan, measures of God's favor are things like 'long life' or a 'strong body' or 'good hair' or 'good eyesight' or a 'big plantation.'

I can't stress enough how difficult change is for these folks - most will get violent if they even think they are being questioned, and all of them will consider killing before 'losing control.' Even if the Law changes - such as Freeing the Slaves - to the Dominionists, it doesn't change their relationship to the World one bit - which they believe was empowered by God himself. They just go 'underground' and practice the 'wink and nod.'

That's the Deep South, in a nutshell, imo, since the Civil War. In their heart of hearts they really believe the Country went wrong when it elected Lincoln, and it won't be right again until 'social order' is restored.

And their Front Daddy for that Agenda is Bush the UE.

I really liked this phrase by ALEX above, the perversion of Christianity.

I'm not here to make the case that institutionalized Xtianity can be saved. I hope it can, but I think the arguments that it cannot are very powerful. Historically, however, it's not Jesus of Nazareth's fault that his 1st century ce teachings are so twisted. Something like this, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them," Luke 6:32; is completely irreconcilable with torture or unjust war. Calling these lunatics "fundamentalists," gives most of them way, way too much credit. They are very selective literalists. They pick out one obscure verse, usually something vague that they can twist, and then act as though the rest of scripture doesn't exist.

All religions mediate the transcendent with a symbol. For Xtians the symbol is Jesus, for Islam it's Mohamed. The philosophical problems of reconciling a being trapped in space and time with something outside space and time, exist for all religions.

The most popular surviving records of Jesus of Nazareth are the four canonical gospels and Paul's authentic letters. The largest problem with these is that they are all Greek versions/impressions of Judaism and Jesus. The Jewishness of Jesus (he never tried to be anything except a Jew, he never tried to start a new religion) did not survive because the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 and 125. It was that catastrophe that caused the surviving Jews to expel "the followers of the Nazarean," (Jesus). It was that event which caused the NT to be written. Paul's letters predate the Roman slaughter and give a very accurate picture of the tensions that already existed between semitic Jews and Greeks who wanted to follow Jesus. In Paul's time there was no context outside Judaism to do that. Other non-canonical sources, the Nag Hamadi, Dead Sea Scrolls confirm how Greek the surviving canonical documents, the NT, turn out to be.

Being a Xtian doesn't mean you can say or do whatever you want. However, you define Xtianity, all Xtians agree in theory that you have to filter it through the prism of scripture. Modern biblical scholars now understand that Paul's letters and the canonical gospels are the closest canonical glimpses we get of the communities that formed after Jesus' death. We don't have snap shots of Jesus directly. We can only vector on the historical Jesus from the different sources. It's precisely the PLURALISM within these views that helps scholars bring the historical Jesus into focus. The Lucan infancy narrative, the virgin birth, was not the only account of Mary's pregnancy. According to Matthew, Mary was pregnant by someone other than Joseph. John, Mark, and Paul avoid the topic all together. By the time they close the canon @270 ce, no one knew which version was correct. The closing of the canon omitted many writings that are very similar, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, the Didache, but the canonical materials, different as they were, all were included.

Again most scholars would add non-canonical sources which overlap substantially with the canonical gospels and Paul's authentic letters.
For those interested the Jesus Seminar makes excellent books available on this subject.

Where I find progressive attacks on religion lacking is that they make their job tougher by often appearing to attack religion in general. (Sara does not fall victim to this, imo, I'm just venting on her thread.) Given the damage religion has done, in practically driving so many to atheism, this is very understandable. My hope is that gradually progressives, who attack religion, will focus more on the internal hypocrisy inherent in so many Xtian denominations who have simply become un-moored from their central symbol. I think it's easier to make that case and it alienates fewer people.

Boo Radley,

"Given the damage religion has done..." could easily be replaced by saying

given the damage mankind has done ...

... and

Others (newer) ,

some in this blog attack the messengers when they don't have the ability to attack the message, but I don't think I really have to explain it to you from what I have seen.

Jodi, even better, how about the damage "men" have done. If I take your point Jodi, you want to emphasize that women really are subservient to men. Jodi, do you really think women ought to be allowed to private property? Shouldn't ownership be left to "mankind?" If women cannot own property, why bother with divorce?

As far as organized religion doing damage, that's a historical fact. It's also true that religion has provided great benefits. Jesus was a great religious leader. Without the religious impulse and institutions, we'd still have slavery and legalized white supremacy, throughout much of the West. Xtian LEADERS, the clergy, however, have had a very difficult time integrating REVELATION which Xtians believe is ongoing, with the basic historical tenets of Xtianity.


"Man"kind is both genders, and hu"man" also means both genders, and also a per"son" is both genders and all words made from these.

Let us look beyond word and linquistic games. Go play 3-D Scrabble if you like those things so much.

Religion, politics, business, greed, insanity, et al, have done great harm to this world, and will continue to do so.

... and by the way, Boo, I am now a fully converted Mike Huckabee advocate. Now I do admit that along the way like all us hu"mans" he developed a few warts, but I think far fewer than the rest of the current candi"dates" and I am not speaking of the fruit.

: )

I thought I would give you a more solid target!!

Jodi-bot is dodging the question about whether wo-"men" should really be allowed to own property.

It is false to blame Rushdoony. His followers are predisposed to believe some such things and he provides them with the pseudo-philosophical package. In fact, he follows them.

They are also far more numerous than you wish to think, but that does not make them legitimate. Were they 99%, they would still be wrong.

You are compelled to minimize both their number and their agency because you wish to declare them illegitimate (which they are), but the only way you know how to do that is to also declare them inauthentic (which they are not).

In fact the Christian Dominonists are merely totalitarians. Totalitarianism is exactly the same in every time and place; local differences in terminology may be very colorful but are never significant.

Totalitarianism always starts with sadism: the emotional compulsion to degrade and humiliate other humans.

Next after that comes the choice of a class of victims. The victim class is always domestic; where it appears to be foreign, the foreign enemy is always an allegory for a domestic faction.

Next after that comes the choice of a pseudo-philosophy to justify the degradation of the victims. A new one may be invented if an old one does not come to hand. Religion is often convenient for this purpose.

Next after that comes the cooptation (or creation, if necessary) of an institution through which to seek power.

Last and least comes the choice of a Leader, a [typically] charismatic figurehead who is the public personification of the movement. This person is always completely irrelevant. He originates nothing. It is a grave (if universal) mistake to be distracted by him.

That is totalitarianism. It is always and everywhere the same. There is no "right" or "left" totalitarianism. There is never any meaning in any specific pseudophilosophy, be it religious, economic, racist, or whatever. It is the siding on the house.

Frank, in no way do I discount the folk who follow an essentially Rushdoony theology, even if they have never heard of him. We all witnessed the degree to which Americans were willing (and still are willing) to give up civil rights, privacy rights and all, in the interests of a vague promise of national security. We all know how willing folk were to divide on the premise that "Well, I am not a terrorist, so I don't mind if folk read my E-Mail and listen in to my phone calls," If you are worried about something like that, you gotta be super guilty of something or other, you know. We all know that argument.

But look at who the Rushdoony folk believe need to be eliminated. If you accept the notion of Totaliarianism, then punch in the folk who will be first offed in the perfect uber-Calvinist Christian Reconstruction of N. America.

Hi Sara,

Great discussion! I look forward to your future posts on this.

One quick point. I haven't read the book yet, but I have noticed that among the people I know who have read the "Left Behind" series of books, their views of the End Times have been formed not by their own Church or its teachings but more by the "Left Behind" books. I suspect this is largely a result of their ministers and preachers not addressing this topic in their Sunday sermons.

So, I wonder how far and wide-ranging the impact these books have had on spreading this particular "End Times" view? I was surprised to learn that there are Woman's Church groups reading and discussing these books to better understand Revelations than actually studying the scriptures themselves. One of the Women's Church Groups was of the Methodist faith. So, imagine my surprise to find that the "End Times" viewpoint has spread into even more mainstream dominations, outside of the Minister's Dais.

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