Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Chris Hedges tonight. He is the former New York Times Middle East bureau chief and author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Hedges is the son of a Presbyterian minister and has a master's degree in theology from Harvard. His latest book is entitled, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America.
“American Fascists” argues that dominionism seeks absolute power in a Christian state. According to Hedges, the movement bears a strong resemblance to the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '30s.
Here is the transcript of the interview.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Why did you write this book?
CHRIS HEDGES: Anger. I mean, I grew up in the Church and, of course, as you mentioned, graduated from seminary, and I think these people have completely perverted and distorted and manipulated the Christian message into something that is the very antithesis of certainly what Jesus preached in the Gospels.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are “these people”?
CHRIS HEDGES: These are -- you know, they’re not -- we use terms like “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” to describe them, and I think that those are incorrect terms. Traditional fundamentalists always called on believers to remove themselves from the contaminants of secular society, shun involvement in politics. Evangelical leaders like Billy Graham's always warned followers to keep their distance from political power. He, of course, was burned by Richard Nixon, came to Nixon’s defense and then when it publicly came out that Nixon lied, it taught a lesson to Graham.
This is a new movement, as embodied by people like James Dobson or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, who call for the creation of a Christian state, who talk about attaining secular power. And they are more properly called dominionists or Christian reconstructionists, although it’s not a widespread term, but they're certainly not traditional fundamentalists and not traditional evangelicals. They fused the language and iconography of the Christian religion with the worst forms of American nationalism and then created this sort of radical mutation, which has built alliances with powerful rightwing interests, including corporate interests, and made tremendous inroads over the last two decades into the corridors of power. Read More
Check out this part of the interview where Amy Goodman asks him about the "Evangelical Explosion":
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about some of the meetings you attended, from the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation to the Evangelism Explosion that was a seminar taught by Dr. D. James Kennedy?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, the Evangelism Explosion was a one-week seminar taught by Kennedy, was about certifying people to be able to go out and teach this conversion technique. And what was fascinating about it is how manipulative and dishonest it was. You know, what they do is essentially they cook the testimonies. They promise people that if they commit themselves to Christ, they can get rid of the deepest existential dreads of human existence: the fear of mortality, you know, grief, one of the -- we were supposed to read testimonies. We would turn them into the teachers, and they would send them back. And it was always about, you know, I have 100% certainty that I know that if I die tomorrow, I will go to heaven. Or, I lost my son -- one of the examples was -- in the war in Vietnam, but I don’t grieve, because I know I’m going to meet him in heaven.
And they talked about targeting people who are vulnerable. They used a technique very common to cults. It’s called love-bombing -- it’s a term taken from Margaret Singer -- where you -- three or four people go and you sort of focus intently on the person and are fascinated by everything that they say. You build false friendships. And eventually, of course, the goal is to draw them into these megachurches.
This movement talks about family, but it is the great destroyer of family. And I would stand up in these -- or I would be in these meetings and see people stand up weeping, and they would be weeping for unsaved spouses or children, because once you get sucked into these organizations, your leisure time, your religious worship time, you end up becoming involved in groups, you’re essentially removed from your old community and placed into this authoritarian community, where there is no questioning of those above you. You’re often assigned -- you’re called a baby Christian when you first come, and you’re assigned spiritual guides to teach you to think and act in the appropriate manner.
When I went to the National Religious Broadcasters Association in California, the most interesting thing about it was how these radical dominionists, these people who have built an alliance around the drive to create a Christian state, have taken over virtually all Christian radio and television stations. And there are traditional evangelicals who would like to step back from this political agenda, and they have been very ruthlessly brushed aside.
You saw it in the purging of the Southern Baptist Convention, when essentially dominionists like Richard Land took it over in 1980. There were many ministers who were very conservative and thought abortion was murder, were no friends to sort of gays and lesbians, but they didn’t buy into that political agenda, which of course has been fused with rapacious capitalism.
I mean, this movement talks about acculturating the society with a Christian religion. In fact, it’s the inverse. What they’ve done is acculturate the Christian religion with the worst aspects of American imperialism and American capitalism. And there’s that kind of uneasy alliance with many of these corporate interests. But it serves their turn. I mean, when you’re creating the corporate state, it’s very convenient to have an ideology that says, “Don’t worry. You don’t need health insurance, because if you have enough faith, Jesus will cure you. It doesn’t matter if all of your jobs are outsourced and there are no labor unions, because, you know, God takes care of his own. And not only that, but God will make you materially wealthy.” This is, you know, the gospel of prosperity. So, essentially, what we’ve seen is that fusion between those who want to build a corporate state and this ideological movement that thrusts believers who come out of deep despair into a world of magic and miracles and angels.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are the corporations that are part of this?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, DeVos, a guy who founded Amway; Target; Sam's Club. You know, they bring in -- a lot of these corporations like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club and others bring in these sort of dominionist or evangelical ministers into the plants as a way to mollify workers. Subscribing to this belief system is essentially about disempowerment.
On the local front, ConcernedTNCitizens made page three of Sunday's Johnson City Press with the following pic and caption:
It was a cold day, too. Here are some more pics thanks to Amanda Finley. Every Saturday at two you are invited to join them (and sometimes me) on the corner of Roan and Mountcastle in Johnson City. Check ConcernedTNCitizens for the schedule of other events and to read and comment.
Also, several of us are going to DC on March 16-17 for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. We are making final plans this week. If you wish to go e-mail me!