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Chris Hedges Cares Deeply About Christianity

John on February 14, 2007 at 10:15 am

I wrote about Chris Hedges’ book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the war on America, here. I noted that Hedges goes farther than other Andrew Sullivan type commentators:

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.

Hedges appeared on the Colbert report the other day to promote the book and had this exchange [HT: Newsbusters]:

Chris Hedges: “Well, because what they have done is pervert, destroy, and hollow out the actual heart of the Christian religion. I mean look at the little empires that people like James Dobson or Pat Robertson run. They are despotic, Third World fiefdoms where these guys fly around with bodyguards and Leer Jets and amass hundreds of millions of dollars taken from — people who live on the margins of American society.”

Colbert: “Their success is evidenced that they are blessed by God. God wants you to be rich, sir.”

Hedges: “–and it sells, to people in despair. And they run that cut line, you know, with the 800 number for the love offering, and tell people to mail in their rent checks.”

Colbert: “They are all full of love and you sound very angry, so who’s the Christian here?”

Hedges: “I don’t think anger’s a bad thing. I mean, Augustine said: Hope has two children, anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and courage to make them better. And I look at this movement as a movement that is destroying a faith that I care deeply about. I mean these people don’t speak about compassion. They don’t speak about the poor. They have turned, they have perverted the religion into this gospel of prosperity where Jesus will make us all rich and powerful and bless us.

Have you ever watched the 700 Club, Chris?If you want to argue that Pat Robertson has a bit of “prosperity Gospel” going on, I can buy that. I have no idea how hawking diet shakes fits in with the overall mission of CBN, much less the great commission. But I think it’s really a stretch to say “these people don’t speak about compassion. They don’t speak about the poor.”

Have you ever watched the 700 Club, Chris?

Yeah, it tends to be a bit treacly and silly, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it and not seen some discussion of Pat Robertson’s “Operation Blessing.” In case Chris Hedges is reading this, here’s what the Operation Blessing website says about the organization:

Since 1978, Operation Blessing International has touched the lives of more than 184.9 million people in 96 countries and all 50 states, providing goods and services valued at more than $1.1 billion.

Again, I’m willing to believe Pat has some serious issues. We’ve called for him to “shut up!”on at least two occasions. But Hedges makes himself ridiculous when he claims that “these people don’t speak about compassion.” It’s simply not true in Robertson’s case.

The other person mentioned in Hedges’ rant was James Dobson. Again, I’m not a particulary huge fan. I don’t listen to him, don’t send him money, but I think the idea that he is a prosperity Gospel preacher is a real stretch. Dobson runs a “para-church ministry” which for those who don’t know the lingo means a corporate ministry focused on a single issue or concern. As the name “Focus on the Family” implies, he’s not trying to focus on the poor. Judging his organization a failure because it doesn’t do something it wasn’t set up to do makes about as much sense as judging Starbucks a failure because it dosen’t sell waffles.

Concern for the poor is a critical part of a healthy faith, but it’s not the only part. The family is a legitimate area for Christian ministry. Again, I would encourage Mr. Hedges to visit the Focus website. The major navigation headings are as follows: Relationships and Marriage, Parenting, Faith, Entertainment, Life Challenges, Social Issues. If Mr. Hedges wants to debate which of these heading (or their various subheadings) don’t belong, go ahead and make that argument. But the Christian faith provides ample reason for giving attention to issues related to a healthy family life. In other words, there’s nothing about the concept of “Focus on the Family” that’s a perversion of the faith. Read Malachi.

Pat Robertson and James Dobson may be failures in certain ways. I’m even willing to concede some of those ways are significant. But Chris Hedges’ attacks — as with those of Michelle Goldberg and some of the secular critics — give me the definite impression he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

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Category: Religion & Faith |

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