Fascists promise moral renewal, a return to a lost golden age. They use campaigns of moral purity to justify state repression
The Supreme Court is relentlessly fueling the rise of fascism: Roe v. Wade is only the most visible example
By CHRIS HEDGES
The Supreme Court is relentlessly funding and empowering Christian fascism. It not only overturned Roe v. Wade, ending a constitutional right to an abortion, but ruled on June 21 that Maine may not exclude religious schools from a state tuition program. It has ruled that a Montana state program to support private schools must include religious schools. It ruled that a 40-foot cross could remain on state property in suburban Maryland. It upheld the Trump administration regulation allowing employers to deny birth control coverage to female employees on religious grounds. It ruled that employment discrimination laws do not apply to teachers at religious schools. It ruled that a Catholic social services agency in Philadelphia could ignore city rules and refuse to screen same-sex couples applying to take in foster children. It neutered the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It watered down laws allowing workers to combat sexual and racial harassment in court. It reversed century-old campaign finance restrictions to permit corporations, private groups and oligarchs to spend unlimited funds on elections, a system of legalized bribery, in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. It permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. It undercut the ability of public sector unions to raise funds. It forced workers with legal grievances to submit their complaints to privatized arbitration boards. It ruled that states cannot restrict the right to carry concealed weapons in public. It ruled that suspects cannot sue police who neglect to read them their Miranda warnings and use their statements against them in court. Outlawing contraception, same-sex marriage and same-sex consensual relations are probably next. Only 25 percent of those polled say they have confidence in Supreme Court decisions.
I do not use the word fascist lightly. My father was a Presbyterian minister. My mother, a professor, was a seminary graduate. I received my Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister. Most importantly, I spent two years reporting from megachurches, creationist seminars, right-to-life retreats, Christian broadcasting networks and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with members and leaders of the Christian right for my book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,” which is banned at most “Christian” schools and universities. Before the book was published, I met at length with Fritz Stern, the author of “The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the German Ideology,” and Robert O. Paxton, who wrote “The Anatomy of Fascism,” two of the country’s most eminent scholars of fascism, to make sure the word fascist was appropriate.
The book was a warning that an American fascism, wrapped in the flag and clutching the Christian cross, was organizing to extinguish our anemic democracy. This assault is very far advanced. The connecting tissue among the disparate militia groups, QAnon conspiracy theorists, anti-abortion activists, right-wing patriot organizations, Second Amendment advocates, neo-Confederates and Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 is this frightening Christian fascism.
Fascists achieve power by creating parallel institutions — schools, universities, media platforms and paramilitary forces — and seizing the organs of internal security and the judiciary. They deform the law, including electoral law, to serve their ends. They are rarely in the majority. The Nazis never polled above 37 percent in free elections in Germany. Christian fascists constitute less than a third of the U.S. electorate, about the same percentage of those who consider abortion to be murder.
Fascists win power by creating parallel institutions and seizing the internal security organs and the the judiciary. They don’t need a majority.
This flagrant manipulation of law was displayed in two of the most recent Supreme Court decisions, where those who support this ideology have a 5-3 majority, with the less extremist Chief Justice John Roberts often adding a sixth vote. In overturning Roe v. Wade, the court, in a 6-3 decision, argued that states have the power to decide whether abortion is legal. The same court conversely came down against “states’ rights,” in striking down strict restrictions on carrying concealed firearms.
What the ideology demands is law. What the ideology opposes is a crime. Once a legal system is subservient to dogma an open society is impossible.
Blow by blow, autocratic power is being solidified by this monstrous Christian fascism which is bankrolled by the most retrograde forces of corporate capitalism. It looks set to take control of the U.S. Congress in the midterm elections. If Trump, or a Trump-like clone, is elected in 2024, what is left of our democracy will likely be extinguished.
These Christian fascists are clear about the society they intend to create.
In their ideal America, our “secular humanist” society based on science and reason will be destroyed. The Ten Commandments will form the basis of the legal system. Creationism or “Intelligent Design” will be taught in public schools, many of which will be overtly “Christian.” Those branded as social deviants, including the LGBTQ community, immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims, criminals and those dismissed as “nominal Christians” — meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible — will be silenced, imprisoned or killed. The role of the federal government will be reduced to protecting property rights, “homeland” security and waging war. Most government assistance programs and federal departments, including education, will be terminated. Church organizations will be funded and empowered to run social welfare agencies and schools. The poor, condemned for sloth, indolence and sinfulness, will be denied help. The death penalty will be expanded to include “moral crimes,” including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy and witchcraft, as well as abortion, which will be treated as murder. Women, denied contraception, access to abortion and equality under the law, will be subordinate to men. Those who practice other faiths will become, at best, second-class citizens. The wars waged by the American empire will be defined as religious crusades. Victims of police violence and those in prison will have no redress. There will be no separation of church and state. The only legitimate voices in public discourse and the media will be “Christian.” America will be sacralized as an agent of God. Those who defy the “Christian” authorities, at home and abroad, will be condemned as agents of Satan.
How did the historians of Weimar Germany and Nazism, the professors of Holocaust studies, the sociologists and the religious scholars manage to miss the rise of our homegrown Christian fascism? Immersed in the writings of Hannah Arendt, Raul Hilberg, Saul Friedländer, Joachim Fest, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Theodor Adorno, they never connected the dots. Why didn’t church leaders thunder in denunciation at the grotesque perversion of the Gospel by the Christian fascists as they sacralized the get-rich-with-Jesus schemes of the prosperity gospel, imperialism, militarism, capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy and other forms of bigotry? Why didn’t reporters see the flashing red lights that lit up decades ago?
How did the historians, the sociologists and the religious scholars miss the rise of Christian fascism? They told us, “Never again,” but refused to use the lessons of the past to explain the present. It was not ignorance. It was cowardice.