8.04.2006

Salon.com - The Rise of Christian Nationalism

Salon.com was the pioneer of the online magazine genre, beginning about the time Apple Computer stock was at $20, and everyone was glad they were able to sell in time. Had we only known then what we know now....

Anyway, one of their veteran writers, Michelle Goldman, has written an interesting article plugging her new book.

In the book, called
"Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism", she asserts, with fairly in-depth sources, that the renaissance of the "religious right" movement in politics here in the US, with its mixture of church and state, strident activism by a minority, groups claiming religious symbolism and responsibility as a motivation for extreme political stances, etc, has overtones of another era with which you will be familiar. In an article about the book she spends significant space talking about Roy Moore, the Alabama judge who was sued as a result of having a large statue of the Ten Commandments errected at the state Supreme Court building. She moves on to talk about his actions pre- and post- this event, noting that he was once in the practice of leading juries in prayer. She recounts a ruling where he once awarded custody of three small children to an (allegedly) abusive father, rather than giving them back to their lesbian mother. In his written decision, he wrote:

Homosexuality is "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God upon which this Nation and our laws are predicated," and argued, "The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle."


He's a man who writes rhyming poetry decrying the teaching of evolution and who fought against the Alabama ballot measure to remove segregationist language from the state constitution.

From there she moves on to the entire movement he spawned, speaking of the group American Veterans in Domestic Defense, various televangelists, interest groups, and even politicians who took up his cause. After he was sued by the ACLU (a case that was dismissed on a technicality) the monument was taken across the south "on tour" to church groups, rallies, etc. Christian homeschool catalogues offered copies of a video titled "Roy Moore’s Message to America." When Moore suggested he might run for Alabama governor, state polls showed him with a double-digit lead.

She then switches gears to a story that ran in the New York Times on the eve of Bush's second inauguration headlined "Warning from a Student of Democracy's Collapse" about Fritz Stern, a refugee from Nazi Germany, professor emeritus of history at Columbia, and scholar of fascism.

The NYT article quoted a speech he had given in Germany that drew parallels between Nazism and the American religious right. "Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics," he was quoted saying of prewar Germany, "but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured [Hitler's] success, notably in Protestant areas."

Reading his forty-five-year-old book "The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology," one shivers at its contemporary resonance. "The ideologists of the conservative revolution superimposed a vision of national redemption upon their dissatisfaction with liberal culture and with the loss of authoritative faith," he wrote in the introduction. "They posed as the true champions of nationalism, and berated the socialists for their internationalism, and the liberals for their pacifism and their indifference to national greatness."

While this nation isn't in danger from true "fascists", its idealogy and aesthetics are similar to the Christian Right movement here and now. The "mobilizing vision" of fascist movements is "the national community rising Phoenix-like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it". The Ten Commandments "Stones on Tour" has become a potent symbol of this dreamed-for resurrection on the American right.

An interesting quote from the Goldman article:

In many places, local religious leaders and politicians lend their support to AVIDD's cause. And at least some of the people at these rallies speak with seething resentment about the tyranny of Jews over America's Christian majority.

"People who call themselves Jews represent maybe 2 or 3 percent of our people," Cabaniss told me after a January 2005 rally in Austin. "Christians represent a huge percent, and we don't believe that a small percentage should destroy the values of the larger percentage."

I asked Cabaniss, a thin, white-haired man who wore a suit with a red, white, and blue tie and a U.S. Army baseball cap, whether he was saying that American Jews have too much power. "It appears that way," he replied. "They're a driving force behind trying to take everything to do with Christianity out of our system. That's the part that makes us very upset."

Ed Hamilton, who'd come to the rally from San Antonio, interjected, "There are very wealthy Jews in high places, and they have significant control over a lot of financial matters and some political matters. They have disproportionate amount of influence in our financial structure."

Is it just me, or is that CHILLING to you too? When the rally in San Antonio was over, Moore's Ten Commandments monument was on the back of a flatbed truck a few yards away. An American flag was perched on one side, and on the other, a flag bearing an eagle perched atop a bloody cross.

Goldman notes that there is even a high school curriculum now developed for use in instilling the "proper view of Christianity" in our youths, and adults can enroll in a year-long seminar series called "worldview training", which include meetings in Washington, D.C., online seminars, "mentoring," and several hours of homework each week. "The program will be heavily weighted towards how to think," the web site says. It's intended for those who work in churches, media, law, government, and education, and who can thus teach others to think the same way.

Those who don't have a year to spare can attend one of more than a dozen Worldview Weekend conferences held every year in churches nationwide. Popular speakers include the revisionist Christian nationalist historian David Barton, David Limbaugh (Rush's born-again brother), and evangelical former sitcom star Kirk Cameron. In 2003, Tom DeLay was a featured speaker at a Worldview Weekend at Rick Scarborough's former church in Pearland, Texas. He told the crowd, "Only Christianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world. Only Christianity."

Goldman's article ends with this quote, written by George Grant, former executive director of televangelist D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries:

"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less...
Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ."


I think I might be scared now. I'm going to go suck my thumb in the corner.

8 comments:

for what it's worth said...

I will be joining you in the corner. I believe in Christ. I believe in loving and serving my fellow man. I believe in standing as an example by my actions, and my deeds.
But if being "Christian" means that I am following the adversarial mandate that these people are proposing and supporting, then I am scared too.
I have read the same Bible as these people...I don't recall anywhere about fear mongering and overthrowing the rest of the nations. Then again, maybe that's just my interpretation. I guess it's time to read it again. Perhaps they should do the same.

That One Guy said...

You know, I'd be okay with the whole Christian Values voter thing if the idea were to restore equality to mankind, erase human abuses, bring the riches of life to all, etc.

This is so far around the clock-face of my post entitled "The Education of Hatred" here
that it's all the way around the face and back to the same thing, just under a "God By Another Name"

That makes this idealogy no better than the kind we in the West call neanderthalic. It's morally bankrupt and bereft of any "God-like" influence whatsoever. The shroud is torn, and one can easily see the REAL manifesto: "Think like me, or you have no value whatsoever."

It SHOULD be embarrassing to all who call themselves "Christians."

I could go on, but I restrain and, therefore, refrain.

Reach Upward said...

The nutcakes of the Christian fascist movement are something to be concerned about, but not to the exclusion of the nutcakes of the Leftist fascist movement.

My Dad grew up in Nazi Germany and was extremely turned off by all of the "Deutchland ├╝beralles" nationalism he was fed as a kid. He was stunned to see the precise same attitudes displayed among John Birchers when he came to the US. But he was equally stunned to see the strong anti-nationalism push by the anti-religious literati in the US.

Indeed, today plenty of anti-Semitic speech and literature comes from the most educated among us. They also have their indoctrination prgrams, but they are taxpayer funded rather than being privately funded. In fact, it seems kind of odd hearing criticism of Jew-hating Christians when one of the main criticisms nowadays is that the religious right supports Israel too ardently.

Either way -- nutcake right, nutcake left. It's all bad. There's a place somewhere in the middle that seems more inviting than either of these fringe edges.

That One Guy said...

"it seems kind of odd hearing criticism of Jew-hating Christians when one of the main criticisms nowadays is that the religious right supports Israel too ardently."

Interesting comment, Reach, I was thinking the exact same thing when I was reading the article for the first time - I had heard a group of Evangelicals who were stating that the ONLY possible position to take as a result of their beliefs is one of strict and ardent support of Israel in this conflict. A quote stuck with me:

"It's because Israel is the only nation on earth that God himself created."

That's exactly what this one pastor said. Pretty amazing.

Reach Upward said...

The only nation? Maybe the only one specifically discussed at length in the Old Testament. That preacher will probably say something different at his next sermon.

For a liberal's take on the hate and intolerance that exudes from the far Left, see this article.

That One Guy said...

Just read the article there... Lieberman is in a tough spot for sure, even his own party are haters when it comes to him, and they don't want him... kinda like how the conservatives don't want Tom Delay in there in Ohio. This is interior party politics where the party leadership is trying to make sure they put the lipstick on the right (correct) pig.

Apparently Leiberman has the wrong face for the Iraqi war, and Delay has the wrong face because of the Lobbyist Abramoff scandal. Both parties want their men on the bench, or off the team.

I beleive BOTH are in primaries today - it'll be interesting.

That One Guy said...

That's TEXAS for Delay. No primary today for him either... he actually just barely agreed to bow out of his reace for November. There's the update.

d nova said...

"The program will be heavily weighted towards how to think," the web site says. It's intended for those who work in churches, media, law, government, and education, and who can thus teach others to think the same way.

well, after all, religion is a virus, isn't it?