Christian fascism

Christofascism (the name being a portmanteau of Christian and fascism) is a concept in Christian theology first mentioned by Dorothee Sölle, a Christian theologian and writer, in her book Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future in 1970.[1][2][3] To Sölle, Christofascism was caused by the embracing of authoritarian theology by the Christian church. According to Sölle, it is an arrogant, totalitarian, imperialistic attitude, characteristic of the church in Germany under Nazism, that she believed to be alive and well in the theological scene of the late 20th and turn of the 21st century.[4][5] Usage of the term became much more prominent in 2006–08,[6] as a backlash against increasing usage of the word Islamofascism by conservatives in the U.S., such as David Horowitz.[7]

Theological viewpoints

Tom Faw Driver, Paul Tillich Professor Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary in New York, expressed concern "that the worship of God in Christ not divide Christian from Jew, man from woman, clergy from laity, white from black, or rich from poor". To him, Christianity is in constant danger of Christofascism, stating that "[w]e fear christofascism, which we see as the political direction of all attempts to place Christ at the center of social life and history" and that "[m]uch of the churches' teaching about Christ has turned into something that is dictatorial in its heart and is preparing society for an American fascism". Christofascism allows Christians, or disposes them, to impose themselves upon other religions, upon other cultures, and upon political parties which do not march under the banner of the final, normative, victorious Christ.[5][8][9][10]

George Hunsinger, director of the Centre for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, regards the conception of Christofascism as being an attack, at a very sophisticated level of theological discourse, on the biblical depiction of Jesus Christ. He equates what is viewed as Christofascism with "Jesus Christ as depicted in Scripture" and contrasts it with the "nonnormative Christology" that is offered as an alternative by some theologians, which he characterizes as extreme relativism that reduces Jesus Christ to "an object of mere personal preference and cultural location" and that he finds difficult to see as not contributing to the same problems encountered by the Christian church in Germany that were noted by theologian Karl Barth.[11]

Douglas John Hall, Professor of Christian Theology at McGill University, relates Sölle's concept of Christofascism to Christomonism, that inevitably ends in religious triumphalism and exclusivity, noting Sölle's observation of American fundamentalist Christianity that Christomonism easily leads to Christofascism, and that violence is never far away from militant Christomonism. (Christomonism, accepts only one divine person, Jesus Christ.) He states that the over-divinized ("high") Christology of Christendom is demonstrated to be wrong by its "almost unrelieved anti-Judaism". He suggests that the best way to guard against this is for Christians not to neglect the humanity of Jesus Christ in favour of his divinity, and to remind themselves that Jesus was a Jewish human being.[12][13][14]

American history and politics

American historians and political commentators have also used the term to refer to politico-religious tendencies in American society.

Chris Hedges and David Neiwert observe the beginnings of American Christofascism during the Great Depression, when Americans espoused forms of fascism that were "explicitly 'Christian' in nature."[15]:88 Hedges writes that "fundamentalist preachers such as Gerald B. Winrod and Gerald L.K. Smith fused national and Christian symbols to advocate the country's first crude form of Christo-fascism."[16]:140 Smith's Christian Nationalist Crusade said that "Christian character is the basis of all real Americanism."[16]:140 Another prominent advocate of Christofascism was William Dudley Pelley.[15]:88

By the late 1950s, followers of these philosophies became the John Birch Society, whose policy positions and rhetoric have greatly impacted modern dominionists.[16]:140 Likewise, the Posse Comitatus movement began with former associates of Pelley and Smith.[15]:90 The 1980s saw the Council for National Policy[16]:140 and the Moral Majority[17][18] carry on the tradition, while the patriot movement and militia movement represented efforts to mainstream the philosophy in the 1990s.[15]:90

The term is also used to describe modern tendencies. Episcopal priest Carter Heyward, professor of theology at Episcopal Divinity School, uses the term to describe political and social policies that exclude nontraditional families in the name of Christianity, a practice she described as "arrogant and blasphemous."[19] Jonathan Turley referred to conservatives who wished to make Representative Keith Ellison, a Muslim, swear in on a Bible as "Judeo-Christofascists," in response to the use of "Islamofascists."[20] Incidents of anti-abortion violence, including the bombings committed by Eric Robert Rudolph and the assassination of George Tiller, have also been called Christofascism.[15]:90-91[21] The term caused controversy in 2007, when Melissa McEwan, a campaign blogger for then-presidential candidate John Edwards, referred to religious conservatives as "Christofascists" on her personal blog.[22][23]

See also

References

Further reading

External links

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