Sunday, January 7, 2007

Fascists, Dogmatists, or Just Bigmouths?

Rick Perlstein reviewed Chris Hedges' new book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America in the Jan. 7 NY Times Book Review, and concluded that while Hedges may have some good points, he is a neophyte at studying the religious right, and concludes wrongly that evangelicals are more likely to turn to violence than they were in the past. Now, I loved Hedges' book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, and I hate to pick on him when some conservative Americans take pleasure in not just chiding him, but physically beating him.

Nevertheless, without reading Hedges' book, I think Perlstein has a point here. There are many authors, from the ones cited by Perlstein to the long-time students of the right like Chip Berlet, who have studied famous evangelicals like James Dobson and their less-famous bretheren for years. They have carefully observed when such groups choose violence, and when they merely talk a good game. People ask me if I ever feel threatened, living in an evangelical town like Colorado Springs. I tell them that the only evangelicals that talked violence tended to be anti-tax militants that clung to the Amendment 2 crowd in 1992, and they are long gone. There is plenty to criticize in Dominionist philosophy, and a lot of warning signals to send. But the left uses the word fascism too much, and Perlstein is right in suggesting Hedges may be too quick to assume evangelicals are ready to enforce right-thinking with violence.

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