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501 of 534 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Unquestioned Obedience Is The Only Test Of Faith
Most great artists and thinkers are outsiders in some sense or another. This ability to observe from the outside often uncovers patterns that are invisible because they are too close. Chris Hedges spent most of his adult life outside of the United States, covering wars and despotic regimes. On his return to America, he was able to see our society with an eye unblunted...
Published on January 25, 2007 by W. Szewai

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157 of 190 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read, but one that doesn't really demonstrate its thesis
As a student of politics twenty or so years ago, I was warned by my professors to beware when the word 'fascist' was used against an individual or group. The word was too easily bandied about, too frequently employed to damn enemies without a good understanding of the meaning of the word. Then we were taught the meaning of fascism through a study of some of the movements...
Published on February 11, 2007 by Alan Broomhead


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501 of 534 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Unquestioned Obedience Is The Only Test Of Faith, January 25, 2007
By 
W. Szewai (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
Most great artists and thinkers are outsiders in some sense or another. This ability to observe from the outside often uncovers patterns that are invisible because they are too close. Chris Hedges spent most of his adult life outside of the United States, covering wars and despotic regimes. On his return to America, he was able to see our society with an eye unblunted by habit or assumptions, which, combined with his theological education and visceral experience and understanding of totalitarian systems, gives him a uniquely penetrating perspective into the growing movement known as the Christian Right.

In "American Fascists," Hedges never makes the simplistic claim that the Christian Right is the Nazi party, or that Bush is Mussolini, or that America will inevitably become a fascist state. His investigation is much more nuanced, identifying the incipient stirrings, invisible to many Americans, of a complex, mass political movement that is mobilizing and gaining strength and support beneath the surface of our democracy.

In characteristically muscular and clear prose that fuses the minister and veteran reporter, Hedges not only details multiple facets of the movement, but also examines the ideological undercurrents that drive them and how they translate into political consequences.

At The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which "prove[s] that God's word is true," Hedges writes "The danger of creationism is...that it allows all facts to be accepted or discarded according to the dictates of a preordained ideology."

At a Love Won Out conference, an organization founded to "cure" those who suffer from "same sex attraction," and which denounces and warns against unrepentant homosexuals who seek to corrupt children and destroy the family, Hedges observes that "This cultivated sense of persecution - cultivated by those doing the persecuting - allows the Christian Right to promote bigotry and attack any outcry as part of the war against the Christian faith. A group trying to curtail the civil rights of gays and lesbians portrays itself, in this rhetorical twist, as victims of an effort to curtail the civil rights of Christians."

Of the gospel of consumerism relentlessly peddled by televangelists on massive Christian broadcasting networks, which promises its 141 million viewers that all they need to fix their lives is belief in Jesus and a regular "love offering" in American dollars to the network, Hedges writes, "...when faith alone cures illness, overcomes emotional distress and ensures financial and physical security, there is no need for...social-service and regulatory agencies to exist. There is no need for fiscal or social responsibility... To put trust in secular institutions is to lack faith, to give up on God's magic and miracles. The message...dovetails with the message of neoconservatives who want to gut and destroy federal programs, free themselves from government regulations and taxes and break the back of all organizations, such as labor unions, that seek to impede maximum profit."

Among other events and interviews, we also see an Evangelism Explosion workshop run by D. James Kennedy at his Coral Ridge mega-church which trains participants to convert non-believers, an anti-abortion weekend organized by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an Ohio Restoration Project rally where the Christian cross is superimposed upon a huge American flag.

The collective portrait is that of a non-reality-based movement, based on magic and miracles, which no rational argument can penetrate. The leaders of the Christian Right claim they speak for God, and as such, can brook no dissent. Unquestioned obedience to these ambassadors of God becomes the only test of faith. In totalitarian movements, the responsibility of making decisions about right and wrong is lifted from the people, along with the anxiety that attends that responsibility. But the surrender of conscience only comes with the abdication of democratic power and civil rights.

Yet it would be a mistake to view "American Fascists" as nothing but a frontal assault on the Christian Right. It is also an unexpectedly compassionate hearing of the stories of despair and pain that are the hidden, private side of this movement. Hedges clearly makes a distinction between the leaders and the followers, and his anger at how the movement exploits the shame and guilt of its followers for political and economic purposes is one of the driving forces of the book. The Christian Right is built on economic and personal despair, Hedges argues. Again and again, he encounters followers whose lives were shattered by sexual abuse, drug addiction, child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, extreme poverty, multiple abortions, broken families, and profound alienation and loneliness. It was this despair that drove them to embrace the Christian Right, which promises them miraculous solutions and apocalyptic revenge against those who had destroyed their lives. These stories of despair turned to rage are vital to understanding this mass movement and its power.

The Christian Right seeks to destroy that which it claims to defend. Hedges accords them no religious legitimacy, as they trample the core values of Jesus' teachings, love and compassion, and seek to use the veneer of religion as a route to political power. There is a vast difference between the "religion" of the Christian Right and the true meaning of faith. Near the close of the book, Hedges writes:

"The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil's sake. They commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and at the end of time all those who oppose them must be destroyed. The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness. This is true for all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism. Dreams of a universal good create hells of persecution, suffering and slaughter. No human being could ever be virtuous enough to attain such dreams, and the Earth has swallowed millions of hapless victims in the vain pursuit of a new heaven and a new Earth. Ironically, it is idealism that leads radical fundamentalists to strip human beings of their dignity and their sanctity and turn them into abstractions. Yet it is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in tiny, unheroic acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive as a community and as individual human beings."
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250 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I could not recommend this book more highly, January 25, 2007
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
This is an excellent study of fascism, its past and present grips on the Religious Right and the catalysts that might usher in a Christian Fascism movement in the United States.

As a Christian with experience in both conservative and liberal evangelical congregations, I found useful insights into the political and religious shifts I've witnessed since the 1970s and that we've all seen accelerate after 9/11. How is it that well intentioned churches and their members have come to believe that homosexuality is THE problem facing the U.S. today? How can self-professed Christians become unabased cheerleaders for war? How do Christians get so caught up in television personality cults masquarading as Christian ministries?

These and many many other questions are asked and answered by Hedges. The historic background and his logic in reaching those answers are accessibly presented. Where those answers eventually lead is a cause for concern to all U.S. citizens and, as a Christian, the author makes it clear that the responsibility for standing up to the unholy rise of Christian Fascism falls squarely on the shoulders of Christians.

The more "religous" you are, the more important I think it is that you consider the points made by the author. You're not going to like most of them. But I think you will come to agree with too many of them to ignore his overarching concerns.
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217 of 245 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Progressive Christian confronts the Christian Right fringe, February 8, 2007
By 
David R. Cook "Dave Cook" (Menomonie, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
Chris Hedges has all the personal and experiential credentials to take on the Christian "dominionists" that pose a danger to our democracy and, by extension, the world. First, he is a fine writer. Second, he has covered from the ground most of the wars of the second half of the 20th Century. And third, he thinks deeply and personally about religion, theology, ethics and morality. His admired father was a Presbyterian minister who cared deeply about tolerance and community. Having said all that, Hedges does not pull any punches in equating the small group of dominionists (about 7% of Christians) with the behavior and belief systems that were part and parcel of fascism. He has read deeply in analyses of fascism, such as Hannah Arendt, and, being the good reporter that he is, has attended some of the different gatherings of dominionists and talked to those who have been affected by their involvement in the cult like movements that pass for Christianity.

America today faces many internal threats to our democracy. Not least of these threats comes from the imperialistic presidency with which we have been inflicted by Bush and Cheney. Would they were the only purveyors of American imperialism, but they have only taken this bent to a new level. The Christian Right, led by the dominionists, is directly tuned in to this imperialism, turning it into "God's will", with the exciting twist that we are heading for the apocalypse when only the saved will attain heaven. Because these so-called Christians are heavily funded and control a disproportionate number of radio and TV outlets, their influence far exceeds their numbers. Elsewhere, it has been observed that history shows that nations cannot maintain an empire abroad and democracy at home. Preserving democracy at home will eventually require giving up the empire. Hedges argues that it will take many acts of faith in the political realm to counter these fascists, two examples of which are passing hate crimes legislation and universal healthcare legislation. Ending the Iraq war will help also.

This is a book intended for consciousness raising about a threat within our democracy that we ignore or placate to our peril. I urge my "mainstream" Christian and secular friends to read this book.
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112 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling & Disturbing Read, February 5, 2007
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
If you tend to agree with fundamentalist Christians you will be irate about this book. If you are a progressive, you will cheer. Whatever your perspective, Hedges outlines a compelling case about the dangers of dominionist strains of fundamentalist Christianity in the US today.

The question that readers should ask is not whether the book is "hateful" or "intolerant" but whether the core facts are true and implications are valid. Hedges tries to use factual statements about dominionist behavior and then suggest implications of the behavior. Much of the material is disturbing. For example, there is no question about the historical overlap between this group of Christians and many ugly aspects of out past including segregation, tax evasion, the John Birch Society, etc. Nor is there serious disagreement about the ugliness of many of the attacks by Falwell, Roberts, and others on gay people, Muslims, progressives, etc. Nor is there much disagreement on their efforts to re-define the US as a Christian country instead of a secular country with a Christian majority. Nor is ther much disagreement about the profoundly anti-intellectual/rational bias in the movement (just look at intelligent design or Christian oriented history books). Or about the well nurtured and well documented paranoia of the group. Or the overtly greedy, financially questionable, sometimes illegal behavior of many of its leaders. All of the many examples cited by Hedges suggests that he may not be reaching too far when he categorizes the group as "fascists." However, agree or disagree, the book is challenging and troubling. And it is well worth reading.
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94 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A strong -- but temperate -- argument, February 4, 2007
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
I heard about this on Bob Edwards Weekend and was interested enough to go check out the book. To be honest, I wasn't expecting to read more than a page or two. I already have strong and informed opinions about the dangers of religious zealotry, but more to the point, I find name-calling and snide assumptions of superiority to be very offputting. Based on the title, I expected an atheistic screed cum political rant.

Instead, Mr. Hedges opens with Umberto Eco's excellent and thought-provoking description of the essential nature of fascism. Then he goes on to show the ways in which "dominionism", a politically active sort of Christian fundamentalism, conforms to those criteria. Hedges treats with compassion many of those he disagrees with, and he generally refrains from cheap shots and personal attacks. He keeps his focus on the dangers of an ideology that would impose by force rigid conformity of belief (regardless of scientific truth) and behavior (regardless of opposing personal or cultural norms).

There is not a lot of new information here, at least for those who pay attention to the coverage of the alliance between Evangelicals and officials at the highest levels of American government. But Hedges' closely-reasoned, lucidly explained arguments make this a must-read.
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74 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking .., March 1, 2007
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
I found this book while scanning the bookcase in the political section in Borders on a date with my husband. I finished this one in several days as it was very compelling and very thought-provoking. May I be honest? It was very much of a relief to read this book because my husband and I thought we were the only ones who thought we were seeing something like this occurring in America.

Let me clarify something. We are Christians. But we are not fundamentalist Christians and we definitely do not belong to a megachurch. This book is a relief for us because this author shared a lot of similar thoughts that we believe in ~~ and it is a relief to know that we're not alone! Now, this is not an opinionated book, Hedges did a very careful study of his beliefs and backed them up with examples. Sometimes, I thought he was going a little overboard with some of the stories he was sharing with his reader, so I did some research. He did study the issues. He talked to people and he attended some of the events that these ministers attended. He is definitely well-informed on the Ohio events that gave Ohio to Bush in the second election. (Chapter 8 was my favorite chapter in the book ~~ it went into details about Blackwell, and his quest for Bush and it brought to light for us about the Ohio Restoration Project and the Patriot Pastors ~~ which we have not heard about in our local newspapers!)

This is an eerie book. It is a disturbing book. It is a book about people. It is about people who are misinformed. It is about people taking advantage of other people's miserys to get their points across. It shows examples of intolerant people in the name of Christ.

And those people who cannot get enough of the End Times or Revelations ~~ it is so incredibly violent and bloodthirsty and it just keeps bringing to the mind of the Old Testament God that strikes at anyone or anything because he can. Whatever happened to the message that Christ brought to the world? The one of peace and love and forgiveness? You don't see that these days among a lot of those popular ministers. This book shows countless of examples of a disturbing trend among those pastors trying to convert our nation into their own disturbing vision of what it should be. And it is scary.

3-1-07
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426 of 509 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imperial theology and Corporate fundamentalism, February 19, 2007
By 
Preston C. Enright (Denver, CO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
Hedges does a great job of exposing how the Christian Right serves fascism - fascism defined as the marriage of corporate power and the government, along with beligerent nationalism and the utilization of state violence. There's no better example of that marriage than our massive military industrial complex and the growing prison industrial complex. It can be difficult to get normal, healthy human beings to support invasions, overthrows, economic injustice and global class war; but when people like Pat Robertson and James Dobson are there to put a smiley, pious face on it, then "good" Americans will rally behind the cause of Christo-fascism.
Hedges isn't the only one sounding this warning, Michael Weinstein's "With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in the US Military" touches on the same themes. While Weinstein has first-hand experience as a member of the US Air Force, Hedges' experience comes from living in the countries that have suffered the violence of our so-called Christian nation. He has been to Guatemala, El Salvador, the Occupied Territories, Iraq and many other parts of the world where our investment in war and our training of proxy armies has killed thousands upon thousands of people. Pat Robertson has been particularly supportive of dictators that the US likes, such as Charles Taylor in Liberia, and Rios Montt in Guatemala. Robertson was also in Nicaragua to support the terrorist Contra army that the US created.

Not surprisingly, the high priests of Christo-fascism, people like Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager and others spend countless hours on this nation's airwaves to rally the troops. Oftentimes accusing our victims of the sort of terror and plans for world domination that our masters of war have been implementing for generations.
That's one aspect of this pseudo-Christian movement Hedges should've spent more time on, the role of right-wing talk radio to misinform an intellectually vulnerable segment of the US population. Then again, there are those who simply want to be deceived, since they are the ones who have been pulling the triggers on the Apache attack helicopters and the .50 caliber machine guns.

As Sinclair Lewis said, "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."
It's here.
For some hopeful suggestions as to what to do about it, I read journals like Sojourners, Utne Reader and Yes! magazine, and support progressive media efforts like "Democracy Now!" and "Head on Radio" with Bob Kincaid.
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76 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, February 26, 2007
This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
I was waiting for this. A book by a Christian (I am one as well) that synthesizes my belief that the modern right wing "Christian" movement is emphatically and uneqivocably against Christ's teachings, in fact a satanic, pro-war, sexist, materialistic, movement that glorifies death, destruction, judgmental self-righteousness and the confining of women to subordinate roles. True faith, and true adulthood (as an intellectual) exists in humility and in knowing that one cannot claim to speak for God. In constrast, fundamentalism peddles absolute, easy answers and appeals to the desperate. It is obsessed with wealth and worshipping earthly success, in a complete rejection of gospel values. Anyone who says that this book is mischaracterizing fundamentalism has obviously never read the book. If you have ever tried to engage in "dialogue" with a fundamentalist you know that there is nowhere to go, their dogmatic beliefs are so absolute and unyielding that they find it impossible to think independently or critically. They've created a though system that completely negates the possibility of real communication or dialogue. That being said, there is one criticism some people have that concerns me. I was very, very impressed with Hedges' intelligence, sensitivity, and reflectiveness, and I thought his observations and comments were right on target. However, I wasn't sure what he proposed to do about these fascists (who, doubt it not, would undo the constitution if we gave them half a chance). He seemed to say we cannot tolerate the intolerant, and I think (and hope) he meant that we have to passionately counter them in word and deed whenever possible. I hope he was not calling for any state intervention into their right to say whatever they want to say. I don't think he was, but I can see where some thought it was a bit unclear, because he didn't spell out what he really intended (or wanted concerned citizens to do) to counteract their message.

You don't want to leave these things ambiguous, so that's my only critique. Overall, however, a brilliant and sensitive expose of the hollowness of this movement. If you're not familiar with its perversities, you really should read this and learn about their frightening culture and the extent to which they are willing to manipulate people, and the truth, for their own ends. I think a lot of people in some areas don't even know about things like what goes on in this book, and they need to. We all do. I agree with Hedges, elitists ignore this movement -from the Left Behind series to the "Christian" "Amusement" centers to the Creation "museum" at their own peril. They ignore this dogmatic rigidness and blind refusal to accept reality at their own peril. They ignore this ideology directed toward supporting war, the wealthy, and further marginalizing those already on the margins at their own peril. Please, heed this warning.
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118 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vauablel Cautionary Tale, January 14, 2007
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
In American Fascists, Christopher Hedges posits that fascism has arrived in American, clothed in the clerical garb of the Christian Fundamentalists of the "Dominionist" persuasion. These are the evangelicals who are plotting to remake America in their own image. These people are Bible literalists, actually semi-literalists, because they cherry pick the more vicious biblical edicts. They propose severe penalties up to and including death for abortion, for being gay, and for adultery. They are people of "Faith" which means they already have THE ANSWERS and thus have no need to be amenable to reason. At one level, they resemble any other fundamentalists of Islam or whatever sect. Instead of a swastika as a symbol, "Patriotism" of a particularly virulent sort and a semi-selective literalism involving the most vengeful biblical passages are the symbols for this movement. Hedges provides a detailed and formal definition of Fascism, then illustrates how Christian Fundamentalists such as the above conform to this. The "Enemy" needed for Fascism to take root in a country, aside from gays, loose women and non-Christians in general, includes, peculiarly enough, secular humanists, a group that in this writer's experience have been remarkable for their intellect, generosity of spirit, and high ethical standards.

In considering Hedge's theses, I Googled such phrases as "Death Penalty, Homosexuality, Adultery." I readily found such as the following:
American Advocate president and Christian Dominionist Gary DeMar stated that "adulterers, men engaging in homosexual acts, and abortion doctors should be executed."
The following is noted, among other sites, on People for the American Way: On the September 4, 1998 Armstrong Williams talk show, Colorado talk-radio personality Bob Enyard called for the death penalty for gays and adulterers.
Additionally, a Christian radio talk-show host in Costa Mesa, California said, "Lesbian love, (and)sodomy are viewed by God as being detestable and abominable. Civil magistrates are to put people to death who practice these things." The announcer urged listeners to contact legislators and ask that they enact capital punishment for homosexuality. The station manager called the program "an honest dialogue concerning Christian beliefs."
Former Congressional candidate Randall Terry, who is also the former head of Operation Rescue, extended this view of "Biblical law" to include "Biblical slavery" and capital punishment for rebellious teenagers.
Hedges points out that Fascism, to flourish widely in a society, needs times of change, of social discord and stress. The economic depression of the 1930's, for instance, brought "good Germans" to Hitler's banner. The same is true for the collectivist Fascism of Josef Stalin's era. Thus while we tend to think of the Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons James Dobsons and other American Fascisti as a marginalized fringe group, it is this writer's view that they have already been major players in giving us issues of great current political concern. (War in the Middle East is considered to be a necessary prelude to the second coming of Christ).
Hedges, long time war correspondent for the New York Times, is also the author of War is a Force That Gives us Meaning, a National Book Award Finalist. The son of a Presbyterian minister, he holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity. His American Fascism is a valuable cautionary tale for those of us who cherish the highest and best in our religious and political traditions.

§
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88 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritarian thought control under the guise of religion, January 20, 2007
By 
Kristin Belko (Jackson, Wyoming) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover)
This book, written by a Harvard Divinity School graduate, takes a critical and thought provoking look at the militant branch of evangelicalism. Ever wonder how self described Christians can so eager champion war and killing? How self described followers of Jesus can hate so many? How people who claim to believe that the Bible is the literal word of God seem to skip over the portions of the New Testament dealing with tolerance, love and compassion? Chris Hedges explains it all. With a scholarly yet very readable approach, Hedges shows how the militants have appealed to the ever growing desperate segments of American society. This authoritarian approach to religion feeds upon and encourages the angriest hatred for "others" - Muslims, Jews, less militant Christians, gays, liberals, feminists, just about anyone who does not submit to the rigid, right wing formula of the evangelicals. Read this book before the next terrorist attack empowers these authoritarians to shut down all civil liberties as threats to Christian America.
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American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America by Chris Hedges (Hardcover - January 9, 2007)
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