The Rise of the Christian Fascists

The Specter of a U.S. Theocracy and Why the People Must Stop It

by Larry Everest

Revolutionary Worker #1263, December 26, 2004, posted at

After the elections a friend of mine, with long experience following U.S. politics, said he felt like he was living in 1930s Germany—right after Hitler became chancellor but before the Nazis burned down the Reichstag and used the incident to consolidate power, crush opponents, and institute fascism. Then he said that if we don’t have courage and resist now, in a year or two—maybe sooner—it might be too late.

I agreed.

Bush’s re-election represents a major leap in the power of the extreme right-wing centered around Bush—the dominant core of which are Christian fascists—and in their determination to aggressively escalate their reactionary agenda globally and domestically.

The agenda of Bush and the Christian right is not limited to criminalizing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, forcing children to recite prayers in school, and mandating the teaching of Biblical creationist ignorance. Their ultimate goal is Christian fascist theocracy. Now, following the election, they feel emboldened—and compelled—to take their theocratic project to a whole new level.

"They want to see a religious rule in this country," RCP Chairman Bob Avakian argues, "a rule that...entirely throws out the separation of church and state—insists that this is a Christian nation, and forces a fundamentalist view of the official basis for law in this country and for rule in this country... If that’s not fascism, it’ll do." ("Christianity and Society—The Old Testament and the New Testament, Resistance and Revolution," Summer 2004).

There is an overall consensus among the various factions of the U.S. ruling class over their savage campaign to reorder the whole world through intervention and war—and lock in and extend U.S. global hegemony. The rulers as a whole also see a need and opportunity to accelerate the political, economic, legal, cultural and ideological restructuring of U.S. society in order to serve the lean, mean, killing-machine needs of their global capitalist empire.

At the same time, there has been much struggle within the ruling class over just how to accomplish these sweeping goals. But within the current governing mix (which includes neocons, more "traditional" Republicans, and others), the Christian fascists have gained enormous momentum. They are setting the political and ideological terms within the bourgeois order. Their people are increasingly situated at key points in government, media, and other aspects of society. They have organized a social base of unthinking followers. They have a coherent, all-encompassing agenda. And they have the Christian fascist-in-chief, George Bush, sitting in the White House.

The theocratic agenda of the Christian fascists aims to transform life in this country in unprecedented ways—ripping up the existing social compact and overturning the previously accepted legitimizing norms of bourgeois democratic society, some of which have been in place since the U.S. was established: the rule of law, the separation of church and state, the right to privacy and certain political rights, and the notion that decisions are based on reason and science, not superstition. (The U.S. Constitution never mentions god.)

After the election, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (who supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq) wrote that Bush supporters "don’t just favor different policies than I do—they favor a whole different kind of America... It felt as if we were rewriting the Constitution, not electing a president. I felt as if I registered to vote, but when I showed up the Constitutional Convention broke out." (11/4/04).

New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg wrote (11/11/04) that Bush’s plans for tax and social security restructuring "constitute a fundamental revocation of an American social contract that was hammered out 70 years ago during the New Deal."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made a very heavy comment comparing the divisions today to the situation leading up the Civil War: "It’s like the 1840s and 1850s. This is going to go on and on. This is genuine disagreement over the future of the country. This isn’t a divided government—it’s a divided country." (Cited in Matthew Continetti, "An Uncivil War," Weekly Standard, November 11, 2004)

The U.S. is not yet a theocracy, but many elements are already in place. And if the Christian fascists are able to fully implement their agenda, the U.S. would be plunged into a high-tech Dark Ages—a nightmarish combination of modern weapons and police-state technology coupled with medieval ideology which has the potential to wreak far more death and destruction than anything history has yet seen. (Note: Hitler didn’t have nuclear weapons.)

This must NOT be allowed to happen.

Christian Fascist Theology

The Revolutionary Communist Party’s new statement "The Battle for the Future Will Be Fought from Here Forward!" begins, "You think you know...but you have no idea...just what Bush has in store world...our future!" (see

That’s true. Even many with a deep gut-hatred of Bush don’t fully understand—or are in denial about—the full extremity of the right-wing fundamentalist agenda and just how far advanced that agenda is.

The RCP statement points out, "Bush and his people aren’t just ordinary Republicans. And they’re not ordinary Christians either." They’re biblical literalists—for them, every word of the Bible is god’s truth and the highest authority, trumping law, treaty, reason, logic, and history.

What are these "biblical norms" that these forces believe in? Bob Avakian has been calling attention to the dangers of the Christian right ideology and agenda for years (in works like Liberation Without Gods and Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones ). In a new talk, "Christianity and Society — The Old Testament and the New Testament, Resistance and Revolution," Avakian breaks down how the Bible was written by humans, not any imaginary god, thousands of years ago, long before the rise of science and modern technology. This was a time when cities and agriculture had just begun to emerge and most people were part of tribes of clans frequently at war with one another and subject to the horrors of war, starvation, famine, and disease. Life for most was brutal, ignorant and short.

The Bible reflects and supports all that goes along with these class and social relations: wars of conquest and pillage; traditional relations of patriarchy and male domination; the division of society into rich and poor, exploited and exploiter; and the absolute power of rulers over ruled. Avakian points out that as one example of all this, the Bible calls for the death penalty for many things that most people today would not even consider crimes—let alone a crime worthy of the death penalty—defiance of parents by their children, worshipping of "pagan" gods, working on the Sabbath, and homosexuality.

Dominionism—Imposing the Biblical Nightmare on the World

The Christian fascists don’t believe religion should be an individual choice. They believe all of society, and indeed the whole world, must be ruled according to biblical law—in short, they believe in a theocracy with no separation between church and state.

Very powerful figures in the U.S. ruling class are proponents of this program. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of Bush’s favorites and possible replacement for Chief Justice Rehnquist, has written that "government...derives its moral authority from God. It is the ‘minister of God’ with powers to ‘revenge,’ to ‘execute wrath,’ including even wrath by the sword."

In a speech at Christian fundamentalist Bob Jones University, former Attorney General John Ashcroft declared, "Unique among the nations, America recognized the source of our character as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal....we have no King but Jesus." He called the separation of church and state "a wall of religious oppression."

A leading organizer of this movement writes that "Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.... World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish." (George Grant, The Changing of the Guard, Biblical Principles for Political Action , pp. 50- 51, cited on

Accumulating Power Under the Radar

The Christian right has been around for years, but most people don’t realize how much power they have accumulated, how much backing they have from powerful factions of the imperialist establishment, and the degree to which they have marginalized their opponents.The Christian fascists are deeply dug in at every level of government—from local school boards, to state legislatures, to the courts, the military and the Congress.

Bush’s government appointments look like a who’s who of religious obscurantists. David Hager—a doctor who refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women and who has written that Christian prayers can be used to treat PMS, headaches, and cancer—was named to the Federal Drug Administration’s Reproductive Drug Advisory Committee. James Leon Holmes —who has stated "Christianity transcends the political order and cannot be subordinate to the political order"—was appointed to an Arkansas federal court. William Pryor—who declares "God has chosen, through his son, Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians to save our country and to save our courts"—was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11thDistrict.

Such outrageous appointments will no doubt skyrocket in the coming months.

The religious right now dominates the Republican Party, which has savaged and emasculated the Democrats—via everything from public scandals to legislative gerrymandering—and is now attempting to institutionalize its dominance.

Esther Kaplan’s book, With God on Their Side, details how the Bush administration has systematically used its control of the state apparatus to organize and strengthen the Christian fascist movement. This in- cludes Bush’s "faith-based initiative," which has been used to fund and organize right-wing religious groups as well as place religious fundamentalists in key positions throughout government. To take one example, Kaplan describes (p. 64) how the Bush regime has targeted its opponents by removing mainstream scientific, professional and policy organizations from influential advisory boards and replacing them with right-wing ideologues. The American Medical Association no longer advises U.S. delegations to UN summits on children’s issues—a right-wing family values group does. And the American Bar Association no longer vets judicial nominees—the right-wing Federalist Society does.

The effort to organize and promote the religious right extends well beyond government. For instance, the New York Times reports that over the last decade Christian publishers "forged closer relationships with stores like Wal-Mart and Costco; Wal-Mart carries 1,200 ‘inspirational titles’ (i.e., religious tracts) at any given time."

The Christian fascists have infiltrated the armed forces and now have enormous influence in the military. In his 1998 article on the Clinton impeachment, "The Truth About the Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer," Bob Avakian cites from the book Making the Corps by Thomas Ricks. Ricks writes that "the military increasingly appears to lean toward partisan conservatism" and points to high-ranking officers who denounce "cultural radicals" and "people who hate our Judeo-Christian culture" and feel that "the next real war we fight is likely to be on American soil."

Since then, things have gone further. Army General William Boykin, openly and in uniform, calls the Iraqi people the "face of Satan," declares that the Christian god is the only true and "real" god, and says that "god himself" put Bush in the White House.

Those who don’t believe the Christian fascists will "get away with" their extreme agenda because the majority doesn’t share it should think long and hard about the strength of the Christian right in the military (and in the right-wing militia movement) and understand that they are preparing to forcibly ram their agenda down our throats if need be.

"Now Comes the Revolution"

Bush’s re-election signals a leap in the power of the Christian fascist forces within government and society. They’re emboldened and on a roll. And they feel they have a window of opportunity, with their man in the White House, to make big advances in consolidating their hold on power and society. Christian right guru Richard Viguerie declared while watching the election returns, "Now comes the revolution. If you don’t implement a conservative agenda now, when do you?"

This arrogance is mixed with a concern and a perceived need to move quickly and forcefully, bullying and bludgeoning their way, including in relation to other sections of the bourgeoisie. The leadership of the religious right is very much aware that hatred of Bush and their agenda is massive and deep. The U.S. is in the midst of an unbounded global war of empire—and Iraq, while not yet a total disaster for the U.S., has the potential for becoming one.

Bush’s supporters—who have never politely accepted their opponents’ electoral victories—now basically tell anyone who questions any of Bush’s policies: "Shut up, the election is over, we have a mandate to do whatever we want." One of their first targets after the elections was Republican Senator Arlen Specter, who had to make humiliating pledges of total support for Bush before he was allowed to take his position as chair of the important Judiciary Committee. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd characterized the prevailing political mood as having the "feel of a vengeful mob— revved up by rectitude—running around with torches and hatchets after heathens and pagans and infidels."

Here are some telling snapshots of a few things that have taken place just since the election:

Without hearings or debate, the Republicans grafted an "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act" onto the budget bill, which, according to the Los Angeles Times (11/28/04), "legalizes discrimination, allowing any physician, hospital or health insurer [or employer] to refuse to perform or pay for abortions and even to tell pregnant women that the option exists."

In early December, the Bush administration filed a brief in a case concerning two Kentucky counties, urging the Supreme Court to permit Ten Commandments displays in courthouses, stating that religion "has played a defining role’’ in U.S. history.

The New York Times (12/13/04) reports that "conservative Christian advocates across the country are pushing ahead state and local initiatives on thorny issues, including same-sex marriage, public education and abortion."

On the local level, one right-winger in Ohio talks of "building an army" of Christian cadres and running school boards, town councils and county prosecutors’ offices within several years. ( NYT, 11/26/04)

In his December 12 column, the New York Times’ Frank Rich cites numerous instances of the Christian right openly intimidating any opposition or criticism in the media—and the media going right along, including a New York public TV station killing an ad for the movie Kinsey , a North Carolina public radio station telling an international women’s rights organization they couldn’t use the phrase "reproductive rights" on air, and the major TV networks refusing to broadcast a paid ad "in which the United Church of Christ heralded the openness of its 6,000 congregations to gay couples."

Lunacy with an Imperialist Logic

Some people simply can’t believe the idea that the powers-that-be in an advanced capitalist country in the 21st century would actually impose a biblical-literalist, Christian fascist theocracy. It seems like lunacy, not politics. It is lunacy, but it’s lunacy with an underlying capitalist-imperialist logic.

Deep forces, emerging from the compulsions of global capitalism and empire, are driving this Christian fascist agenda—in particular the profound changes in U.S. society and the world, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Bob Avakian analyzes this in depth in "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy..." He shows how the logic of world domination and global capitalism demands ongoing war abroad and wrenching changes in this country. In these unprecedented circumstances, powerful forces in the U.S. ruling class feel that only an extreme version of Christianity can be the ideological and political glue that holds the fractious and diverse USA together. As Avakian writes:

"[I]n the present period and the present ‘global environment,’ the requirements of the capitalist economic and social system not only demand that the lords of capital be able to carry out their supreme commandment, ‘let us prey,’ in a more unrestrained and more ‘mobile’ way, on a world scale. They also demand, within American society itself, a slashing of major social programs and a heightening of the repressive powers of government, along with the fostering of a repressive social atmosphere. They demand what the organization Refuse and Resist! has called the politics of cruelty, or the politics of poverty, punishment, and patriarchy."

Avakian argues that these developments, together with the sweeping social, cultural, and demographic changes that have taken place in the U.S. over the past decades, have caused a great deal of turmoil and upheaval while eroding the basis for the traditional patriarchal family and "traditional family values."

There has been much struggle within the imperial establishment over how to respond to these transformations and contradictions (struggle which continues). Over time a force has emerged that insists that the old legitimizing norms and ideological glue—including different variants of pluralism (such as "multi-culturalism")—was too loose, too inclusive, too expansive, and too hopeful. Instead, Avakian explains, those who have gained dominance among the U.S. rulers are those "political leaders and forces who insist that ‘traditional morality,’ as embodied in the patriarchal family as well as ‘right or wrong’ patriotism—and rationalized in terms of fundamentalist Christianity—must be the basis for maintaining the cohesion and solidity of American capitalist society and the dominant position of imperial America in the world arena. In the vision these people profess, contemporary America —not just the government but the society as a whole—is in cultural and moral decline. More, it is in danger of disintegration and destruction."

What better ideology for a time of unbounded war, demanding enormous carnage and demanding unthinking, cold-blood killers and heavy sacrifices, than Christian fundamentalism, which celebrates vengeance, cruelty, punishment, and mass murder, and demands unquestioning, unthinking obedience? As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has pointed out (11/24/04), the Christian fundamentalist "Left Behind" book series "enthusiastically depicts Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian." And in this period of lean, mean global capitalism and financial turmoil that demands slashing wages, benefits, job stability and social services, what better justification than Christian fundamentalism, which locates the source of suffering not in capitalist exploitation and oppression, but in sin and abandoning traditional values?

The Urgency of Resistance—and of a Whole Different Future

America’s theocratic fascists must be not simply denounced or protested—they must not be allowed to have their "Reichstag fire." They must be stopped from consolidating their power and implementing their whole agenda. It is not hyperbole to say that the consequences of failure to stop them are too horrific to contemplate, and that it could well take generations to reverse their course.

But at the same time, the very extremity of the changes demanded by the Christian fascists and their rupture with the current legitimizing norms of U.S. society greatly heighten the potential for major crises to erupt, including sudden intensification of contention and conflict within the ruling class. And such developments could create openings for mass upheaval—even revolution—from below. Sudden crisis could create the basis for an eruption of opposition unlike anything this country has ever seen.

But first we must soberly confront what we are up against—including how late it is in the game and how difficult it is to "undo" a fascist regime once it becomes established. In short, time is not on our side. As one Nation editorial put it, concerning the course Bush is on, "Somewhere along that road lies a point of no return."

Right now, to be frank, Bush and the Christian fascists have the momentum—and the power of the state behind them—and the people are woefully behind where we need to be in stopping this nightmare from becoming even darker. The Bush gang is not going to be stopped without the most energetic, self-sacrificing, determined, and organized struggle. And it won’t be stopped without a major, major leap beyond past—albeit very important—forms of opposition and protest. We need a whole new level of resistance.

As the RCP statement put it, what is needed is "resistance, in the words of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, ‘that refuses to be bound by the terms of mainstream politics or the notion that this politics represents the "ultimate word" on the "will of the people." Resistance that will not just protest the juggernaut of war and fascism but go all-out to STOP it. Resistance that will reach out and win over people who have been deceived by this madness but whose deepest interests are opposed to it. Resistance that will be united—but will still include space for dreams and debate.’"

There is an urgent need for many people, of diverse viewpoints, to come together—right now—to strategize, transform the current situation, and forge such a resistance, including by mounting a major society-wide rejection of the Bush inauguration/coronation on January 20.

This current juncture in human history screams out for a whole different vision of how society and the world should be organized, a whole different conception of what life is about and the morals and values that reflect that, and a whole different envisioning of how the future should unfold.

Bob Avakian has developed a deep analysis of the current order, including the particular juncture we confront today, as well as a profound and sweeping vision of a radically different and truly liberating future. This too is something that many, many people, of diverse viewpoints, need to come together—right now—to discuss, strategize about, and boldly take up.

Our future—the future of humanity—depends on stopping Bush and the Christian fascists from determining the future.