Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Religious Fascism: The Faith Masquerade

"When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." (generally attributed to Sinclair Lewis)

I grew up in eastern North Carolina. My immediate family converted to Catholicism when I was seven. Some of our relatives were convinced that we were going to hell for worshiping statues, praying to the Virgin Mary, and not being baptized in the name of Jesus only. In other words, I grew up with crazy fundamentalists in my family. However, I never feared their beliefs. They talked a lot but didn't appear to pose a threat to others who did not believe as they did.

But today I came across an organization known as the  The Liberty Counsel and their stated goal is Restoring the Culture by Advancing Religious Freedom, the Sanctity of Human Life and the Family.

Doesn't sound so scary in and of itself, but the Liberty Counsel doesn't literally mean freedom to believe or not believe as you wish. The Counsel believes that it is its mission to advance our freedom to believe in a Christian God. The anchor of the Counsel is its fully accredited law school, Liberty University School of Law, located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Its web site touts its "40 years of training champions for Christ." From its mission statement: "The proficient use of reason informed and animated by faith and a comprehensive Christian worldview is the means to revitalizing what is central to the American legal system--the rule of law." (There are 202 attorneys in the 112th US Congress out of a total of 535 members of Congress. Washington Wire, 1/5/2011).

The web site also features a video with a special message from Newt Gingrich. Presumably Gingrich is comfortable with the law school's blend of law and religion, and its goal of injecting that blend into the rule of law.

The document that lead me to the Counsel was a piece entitled Declaration of American Values, with excerpts posted to Facebook by author Pam Spaulding. (I count on Pam to lead me to interesting material and she never fails to do so.) The Declaration appears to be the Counsel's proposal for a new Declaration of Independence and contains such gems as the following:
  • To secure our national interest in the institution of marriage and family by embracing the union of one man and one woman as the sole form of legitimate marriage and the proper basis of family.
  • To secure the free exercise of religion for all people, including the freedom to acknowledge God through our public institutions and other modes of public expression and the freedom of religious conscience without coercion by penalty or force of law.
  • To secure the moral dignity of each person, acknowledging that obscenity, pornography, and indecency debase our communities, harm our families, and undermine morality and respect. Therefore, we promote enactment and enforcement of laws to protect decency and traditional morality.
  • To secure the individual right to own, possess, and use firearms as central to the preservation of peace and liberty.
There are ten declarations in all, plus a preamble and a closing vow asserting that an unidentified "we" pledge their names, their lives, and their honor to upholding this declaration of American values. 

The Christian fundamentalists of my childhood were goodhearted people for the most part who sincerely believed that it was their duty to try and save the souls of sinners. They were not interested in controlling the government; they sought their guidance from their churches and did their proselytizing via their churches. Today's Christian Right is a different breed. They are not not necessarily fundamentalists; they adhere to a literal reading of the Bible only when it suits their purposes.  As a whole, they are better educated than their fundamentalists predecessors, churned out by private religious colleges and universities.  They encompass middle and upper class demographics. They seek power and control, and view religion as a tool to achieve both. They are dangerous. 

It is not enough that they share their beliefs with those who embrace the same values. What they want is to impose their beliefs, their will, on the rest of us. Fanaticism begets a rabid vigilance to convert or destroy all who would dare walk to a different drummer. There is no group more dangerous than those who believe or profess to believe in some mythological anointment of their cause by a supreme being. History is littered with atrocities perpetrated in the name of someone's God.

Please understand that it is not genuinely held personal faith or spiritual belief that I'm speaking of, but a rigid fanaticism in which one group insists upon imposing its views, its beliefs, its will upon others. I'm speaking of groups such as this Liberty Counsel, which adorns itself with the trappings of law, wraps itself in the American flag, and with its Bible clasped in one hand is as dangerous and frightening as any fascist.

Such groups must be revealed, dragged into the light if necessary. Their power lies in their chameleon like ability to blend in, to appear to be simply promoting sensible values that will benefit all of us. We must be vigilant and unafraid in shouting to the rafters that not only does the emperor have no clothes on, the emperor is also a liar and a fraud.

Definition of FASCISM

often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
: a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control 


Vagabonde said...

I think this is an excellent post and I agree with your observations. I believe these people are called “Dominionist” as they certainly believe that all the people of this country should adhere to their bible-based cult. When I became an American citizen I studied the history of the USA and learned about the separation of church and state. This organization and others like it say they are patriots but their members are not harmless Christians like members of your family, they want to change the historical USA and they are dangerous. They are trying, by deceitful means to gain political leadership and then they will force their ideology of biblical law upon the citizens of this land. It is a terrible threat and people here should be more aware of it – thanks for pointing it out.

Dannelle said...

Oh my goodness, we definitely aren't in Kansas anymore,let alone the small lamp-lit rooms of our forefathers (and mothers)who wanted freedom to choose and express beliefs without fear and domination by a controlling group.
I always applaud your entries and thank you! I am sorry I cannot express my views as eloquently as you do, but I sure am on your bandwagon!

Lisa :-] said...

I know this is far from funny, but I had to laugh just a little at their Declaration. Here we are, going on loftily about marriage and morality and indecency and religion, and all of a sudden, *bang*--"we all have to be free to own guns!" How did they manage to sneak that one in there? Presumably in order to deal with those who do not necessarily prescribe to their personal ideals? On second thought, maybe NOT a laughing matter...

Leslie Parsley said...

Excellent post. They are very scary people indeed. That "they" may be better educated than their fundamentalist forebears is debatable, I think. Just because they have a law degree from a two-bit school doesn't make them educated. Maybe wealthier and more ruthless and I doubt if the majority of folks who buy into their philosophy are educated at all. They're certainly fascist, though. Am sharing.

Sybil said...

Hi Sheara, like Dannelle I do so agree wth all you have written It takes people like you to alert us to such things.. I am sure although it is happening in teh US it is also happening over here in teh UK.. and I hope that your words will have lots of publicity..
love Sybil x

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

It is a scary time.

Bea said...

oooh... I needed to read this post... good timing, Sheria!

Beth said...

I think this really began with Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority back in the '80s. I thought that with the demise of the Moral Majority (As Linda Richman would say, the Moral Majority is neither moral nor a majority. Discuss amongst yourselves.) a while back, we were done with these people. It seems that the rise of the Tea Party brought them all the undead rising from their graves. [shudder]

So I guess we'll never be done with them completely. We can only stand up, as you have done here, and loudly denounce them in the name of decency and humanity. I'll be standing right by your side, my friend.