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Another Theocracy! Book…Yawn

John on January 9, 2007 at 10:43 am

[Attention Joe Rago: This post is brief (but not too brief), well written and contains the USDA recommended daily dosage of irony.]

Well, it’s Tuesday so it must be time for another Christian bashing book warning us that theocracy is just around the corner.

Viola! Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

I won’t be buying this one, but from the review in the LA Times it sounds as if Hedges’ book employs the same villains and even the same “spiritual tourism” formula offered in books by Michelle Goldberg, Kevin Phillips, James Rudin, Randall Balmer, Lauren Sandler and everyone else that’s a part of this particular publishing cottage industry.

How many books treading this same ground do we really need? As many as secular paranoiacs will buy, I suppose…

Hedges apparently tries to maintain interest in his rather late entry into this cycle by going farther than other writers. Where Sam Harris is willing to say that “religion must be destroyed” and Richard Dawkins is willing to equate Sunday school to “child abuse”, Hedges has a two prong attack. First he explicitly compares Christians to Nazis in Weimar-era Germany (Not the first time that’s been done, of course, but he apparently makes a more sustained attempt). Second, he proposes that to avoid Germany’s fate we need to make some religion illegal. Now that, so far as I know, is novel:

Hedges concludes that the Christian right “should no longer be tolerated,” because it “would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible.” What does he think should be done? He endorses the view that “any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law,” and therefore we should treat “incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal.” Thus he rejects the 1st Amendment protections for freedom of speech and religion, and court rulings that permit prosecution for speech only if there is an imminent threat to particular individuals.

Well, it didn’t take long. Just over 18 months ago Frank Rich was a voice of one crying in the desert, warning us of the impending theocracy to come. Less than two years later he has a herd of disciples and, with Hedges book, our first call for banning religious speech. Incidentally, both Rich and Hedges work for the NY Times. Maybe they had bull-sessions on this?

In any case, the irony of criminalizing certain viewpoints while claiming your opponents are fascists seems to be lost on Chris Hedges and his readers. As is the fact that D James Kennedy — to whom all these books point as an example of burgeoning Christian fascism — is 75 years old and had a heart attack just after Christmas. He no longer requires a ventilator and is recovering nicely, but will likely be unable to participate in the beer hall putsch which Chris Hedges and others foresaw for him.

For the record, I don’t think we’re two steps from secular totalitarianism at the moment, but as a nation we’re certainly closer to that than we are to theocracy.

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