Young Christian Soldiers
Perhaps most disturbing, the rally included an endorsement from President Bush, as Sunsara Taylor reported:
It began with fireworks so loud and startling I screamed. Lights and smoke followed, and a few kids were pulled up on stage from the crowd. One was asked to read a letter.Taylor filed an earlier report at Counterpunch, and likewise noted Battle Cry's ties to the White House, including the appointment of founder Ron Luce to the White House Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities, and extending to Bush's circle of contacts with the religious right:
Behind their multi-million dollar operation that sends more than 5,000 missionaries to more than thirty-four countries each year, are some of the most powerful and extreme religious lunatics in the country. Their partners include Pat Robertson (who got a call from Karl Rove to discuss Alito before the nomination was made public), Ted Haggard (who brags that his concerns will be responded to by the White House within 24 hours), Jerry Falwell (who blamed September 11th on homosexuals, feminists, pagans, and abortionists), and others. Their events have been addressed by Barbara Bush (via video) as well as former President Gerry Ford. This weekend's event will include Franklyn Graham who has ministered to George Bush and publicly proclaimed that Islam is an "evil religion."I first noticed BattleCry when they held their San Francisco rally a couple of months ago. After reading up on them and listening carefully to their rhetoric, I think Taylor's labeling of them as "fascist" is not exactly correct. Rather, I think they're a classic case of pseudo fascism:
Unlike the genuine article, it presents itself under a normative, rather than a revolutionary, guise; and rather than openly exulting in violence, it pays lip service to law and order. Moreover, even in the areas where it resembles real fascism, the similarities are often more familial than exact. It is, in essence, less virulent and less violent, and thus more likely to gain broad acceptance within a longtime stable democratic system like that of the United States.And further:
The familial resemblance of fascism's architecture is unmistakable, but it is not fully fleshed out. It is like a hologram, a skeletal outline, of fascism.The main component of fascism that is missing from Battle Cry is the real, beating heart of fascism: its eliminationist violence. There's plenty of pretend violence, and certainly plenty of demonization of the "enemy," all of which build toward the real thing. But there's relatively little talk, yet, of "crushing" or eliminating or exterminating the enemy, which is really the signal characteristic of the Brownshirt.
That doesn't mean they don't have the potential to morph into something very dangerous indeed, in large part because their message is so potent in the national environment of fearfulness that has been the core of the Bush administration's appeal since 9/11.
Recall, if you will, the description of the "exemplary dualist" mindset ( also here ) on which this appeal is based, drawn from "Religious Totalism, Violence and Exemplary Dualism: Beyond the Extrinsic Model," by the sociologists Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins:
It has been a staple of recent American cultural analysis and criticism that the contemporary United States increasingly lacks a consensual and compelling social ethic and that in consequence, the 'covenant' uniting the American people has become, in Robert Bellah's words, an 'empty and broken shell.' One consequence of the lack of an integrative ethic, we have intimated above, is a diminished capacity of parents -- who are themselves wrestling with the fragmented selves that result from the lack of an integrated ethic -- to serve as persuasive role-models or identification figures for their children, and thereby to transmit a coherent set of values. In this context parents may tend to treat their children as 'self-objects' in the sense of evaluating them in terms of tangible, purely external criteria such as their apparent social-academic-vocational 'success' or competence. This pattern enhances the anxiety over the themes of success, competence and power on the part of children, who are more likely to develop a fragmented or polarized self composed of a grandiose, all-powerful or omnipotent self which is split off from a devalued, pathetic, failed self.As I went on to explain (also here), the "underlying worldview has a much broader audience in the field of mainstream fundamentalism and so-called cults":
Nine characteristics which appear to us to be shared by authoritarian personalities, fundamentalists and authoritarian cults such as Hare Krishna, the Unification Church, etc.:As I noted, much of Anthony's and Robbins' work builds upon the work of sociologist Robert Lifton and his colleague Charles Strozier, whom they cite extensively:
Both writers have explicitly linked totalism and fundamentalism. Interestingly, they tend to define fundamentalism in terms very close to descriptions of authoritarianism: for example, fundamentalist childrearing practices -- allegedly strict, repressive, corporally punitive and guilt-inducing -- resemble the familial milieux associated with authoritarian personalities. The emphasis by Lifton and Strozier on fundamentalist scriptural literalism, textual fetishism, obsession with disorder, nostalgia for a strongly ordered golden age less chaotic than the present, and emphasis on restoration keyed to inerrant scriptural texts, appears to evoke classic descriptions of authoritarian personalities.This is the basis of pseudo-fascist appeals, and any effort to confront it effectively will have to come to terms with how it arises.
Michelle Goldberg -- whose new book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, really is a must-read -- describes the depths of the challenge well:
To write "Kingdom Coming," I traveled all over America, going to megachurches and ministries, attending rallies and conferences, and visiting some of the government-funded faith-based initiatives that, under Bush, have slowly begun to replace secular social services. I immersed myself in the literature of the movement and even took to listening to Christian radio. I began to realize that what I was encountering was as much a totalistic political movement as a religious one. What I describe as Christian nationalism is not synonymous with evangelical Christianity or even Christian fundamentalism. It is, rather, a movement that purports to have extrapolated a complete governing program from the bible, and that claims divine sanction for its campaign of national renewal. It promotes a revisionist history in which the founders were conservative Christians who never meant to separate church and state, and in which America's true Christian character has been subverted by several generations of God-hating leftists. It explicitly condemns the Enlightenment and denies that Enlightenment values had anything to do with our nation's original ideals. The movement's literature is so vast, its alternative skein of pseudo-facts so intricate, that it often seemed totally impervious to outside argument.When we see groups like this taking shape, we need to understand that they are a warning sign that something is coming that the politics of the past may be inadequate to contain. It means we need to reach deeper and find something that dispells the cloud of fear that conservative rule has shrouded over the nation.
Editor's Note : For in-depth coverage of Ron Luce's "BattleCry" by a research pair who have covered the group for nearly a decade, see:
Young Christian Soldiers | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)
Young Christian Soldiers | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)