Wednesday, October 5, 2011

7 Features of Christian Fascism

Some of these features are borrowed from Umberto Eco's definition of Ur-fascism, or Eternal fascism.

1. Confusion of national identity with religious identity
. The interests of the nation are given priority by rhetorically fusing them to the interests of the religion. For instance, in the crusades, the interests of the nations involved in fighting Turkish invasions was rhetorically framed as fighting for the sake of Christianity, confusing political victory with the mission to preach the Gospel. This was also the case during the age of discovery, when European nations expanded and conquered foreign nations under the guise of spreading the Gospel. (In contrast, Jesus commanded his disciples to travel two by two, not with an army, and rely on their reception as guests at particular homes in particular towns. If they were not treated well and their message not accepted, they were to leave and shake the dust from their feet. The apostles in the book of Acts also followed this protocol. They advanced the Gospel by preaching as guests, with humility, not as owners making claims for a higher power. At the heart of the Good News was that the closed nationalism of the Jewish identity had been opened to receive those from every tribe and nation as one catholic family of God. Thus prioritizing one nation over another results in the destruction of this catholic identity, just as the formation of an imperial Christendom in the image of the Roman State defeats the individual reception of the Gospel on the basis of grace through faith.)

Surrounding the various nationalistic faces of Christianity is an array of symbols, used as propaganda to capture the imaginations of the people so that they will remain obedient to the ruling national and clerical elite. For instance, the Roman fasces, a bundle of rods tied to an ax carried by the lictor, who attended the magistrate and used the fasces to clear the crowd, became a symbol of authority. It was the official symbol of Benito Mussolini's Italian Fascist Party, but it also appears on the Great Seal of the US American Senate. Other Roman symbols also follow the various rebirths of Roman politics throughout Western history, such as the eagle and the wreath. Similarly, the Christian cross often appears in various forms on flags, or is pictured with it in popular, patriotic art. The Cross of Lorraine appears in front of the fasces on a propaganda poster of the Italian fascists in order to convince Christians that to serve the state is to serve God. Implied was the claim that the state was serving God. When Christians in the United States claim that it is the Christian's duty to maintain the state and make sure it is serving God, the question must be raised if the weapons of the Roman state are an adequate means, and if this conflicts with the mandate to preach the Gospel of reconciliation in a non coercive manner, especially when the cross symbolized the victory of God over the powers through Christ's willing victimization by them. And it should also be asked why the early Christians went from being victims of the weapons of the Roman state, starting with Christ's crucifixion, to wielding them. How did Jesus' followers go from being "licked" by the lictor, as was Paul, to the ones carrying the fasces?

From this schizophrenic identity stems all of the following:

2. An obsession with fixing cultural degradation. Instead of focusing on morality as a response to the faith received by grace within the community of believers, the moral imperative is transferred to the surrounding culture through the progressive seizure of the political power and media forms of that nation to create a parallel culture and powerful special interest group, mobilized to eventually take control of the country "for God".

3. Widespread fostering of xenophobia and plot obsession. The media is used to spread fear of the competing agendas of other groups that are different, claiming that they are trying to take over the world, are destroying the economy, the family, etc. It feeds off of experiences of humiliation or financial instability. Instead of the fearless faith in the power of God and the resurrection that gave early Christian martyrs the courage to love their enemies even as they were being fed to lions, the enemies of the nation are seen not as souls in need of the Gospel, but as objects to be destroyed by the nations' weapons. There is also a disdain for immigrants, and efforts to tighten border security, despite the fact that those claiming to uphold the "law"often are descended from immigrants that came when there were no such laws or security measures in place. Historically, when national borders have been heavily regulated, it eventually had the adverse effect of keeping those inside who wanted to leave. Rather than blame the nation, it is always the fault of the foreigner.

4. An obsession with strength, machismo and weapons. Fear breeds the despising of weakness, especially in one's self. Women thus are given passive status, weak men are ridiculed with women's status, and strong, macho men who are "brave" enough to kill (i.e., die) for the cause are exalted into heroes and given active status. Yet heroism is also rhetorically given to those who keep to their place and act out their lives within their narrowly defined social status. This, they are told, is true freedom, a glorious calling, etc.,etc.

5. An obsession with hierarchical human structures. Claimed as divine structures, the consequences can conveniently be transferred to God, giving the enforcers of these hierarchies immunity from inward and outward criticism. Most of the support for this view comes from a confused interpretation of the first few verses of Romans 13, in which Christians are exhorted to submit to human rulers because God ordained them to carry out vengeance. But they were NOT exhorted to become them or imitate them. Vengeance was not part of the Christian calling. Rather, the pacifist character of the early Christians existed in order that the Gospel be advanced through their own weakness in order for all power and glory to be given to God; and the message received voluntarily by grace through faith, not human coercion.

Government hierarchies are also transferred to the household, as in ancient Rome, in order to keep everyone in their place and uphold the broader social structure. Again, various New Testament epistles are cited, but their purpose can arguably be attributed to both the pacifist character of the early Christians toward surrounding culture, waiting for change from the inside out by the work of the Spirit (they viewed their time as apocalyptic, the ends of the ages, a new creation where the forms of the old creation were passing away), or practical necessity, especially for women coming from a society in which they were not educated and often did not even speak the worship language. Any evolutionary maturing beyond these early concessions is systematically denied consideration because of...

6. An obsession with tradition. Not tradition as a growing, maturing organism, but tradition as a closed, final, absolutist, monolithic belief system that is immune to inward and outward criticism and denied the ability to mature alongside evolving criteria, experience and theology. An oft used tactic is to claim that various traditional beliefs have always been universally held down through the ages of Christianity, despite evidence that tracks their evolution and their varying nuances, not to mention sharp disagreements, within the historic faith community.

7. Perpetual and Failing Warfare. This worldview of hierarchy and control would cease to exist if there was not a perpetual need for enemies to justify political power. They at once claim victim status ("We are the only ones not tolerated") yet insist God is on the side of their country in any international conflict, even in wars that cannot but fail, because of the vagueness of the enemy (drugs, terror, for example), as well as the dwindling resources of the taxed population to finance both the wars and the fake reconstruction contracts given to multinational corporations. Where the money goes is anybody's guess, while the schools, roads and hospitals designated for rebuilding continue to lie in ruins.

In summary, then, the fusion and confusion of national and religious identities has left a wide swath of death, genocide, ethnocide and ensuing environmental destruction in its wake. It has reared its ugly head in many guises throughout history, masquerading as an angel of light, but it is known by its fruit. Where there is a carcass, there the vultures gather.

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