Chris Hedges: Trump’s Barrett Nomination Another Step Toward Christian Totalitarianism

All fascist and totalitarian movements paper over their squalid belief systems with the veneer of religious morality.

By Chris Hedges | ScheerPost.com

The Christian Right is content to have the focus on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett revolve around her opposition to abortion and membership in People of Praise, a far-right Catholic cult that practices “speaking in tongues.”

What it does not want examined is her abject subservience to corporate power, her hostility to workers, civil liberties, unions and environmental regulations. And since the Democratic Party is beholden to the same donor class as the Republican Party, and since the media long ago substituted the culture wars for politics, the most ominous threat Barrett’s appointment to the court represents is going unmentioned.

All fascist and totalitarian movements paper over their squalid belief systems with the veneer of morality. They mouth pieties about restoring law and order, right and wrong, the sanctity of life, civic and family virtues, patriotism and tradition to mask their dismantling of the open society and silencing and persecution of those who oppose them.

This is the real game being played by Christian fascists, who since the early 1970s have been building institutions with tens of millions in corporate donations to take power.

Donald Trump, who has no ideology, has allowed the Christian Right to fill his ideological void. He is the useful idiot. And the Christian Right, awash in money from corporations that know their real political intent, will mobilize in this election to use any tool, no matter how devious, from right-wing armed militias to the invalidation of ballots, to block Joe Biden and Democratic candidates from assuming office. The road to despotism is always paved with righteousness. This was as true for Soviet communism as it was for German fascism. And it is true in the United States.

Capitalism, driven by the twin obsessions of maximizing profit and reducing the cost of production by slashing worker’s rights and wages, is antithetical to the Christian Gospel, as well as the Enlightenment ethic defined by Immanuel Kant.

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Shakespeare, Faith, and the Narrow Gate

Over the past few months, my wife and I have been using our non-voluntary time staying at home to watch our way through performances of all Shakespeare’s dramatic works, using the BBC productions filmed between 1978 and 1985 (and available on Britbox). I posted about this project, and now we have completed the process, 37 out of 37. But who’s counting? (!). I am here offering some further thoughts, referring to the plays we have watched more recently. Most of these plays were certainly not new to me, but seeing them produced changes and sharpens perceptions.

I am absolutely not suggesting that these BBC plays were the best productions ever made, and a couple were frankly not that good, but some were cosmic. If there ever was a better Hamlet than Derek Jacobi’s, I don’t know it. Then there was the Richard II, starring, um, Derek Jacobi. I see a theme emerging here. Anyway, there were lots more fine non-Jacobite plays as well. Much of the appeal of the BBC series was that, for better or worse, they served as a time capsule of concepts of performing and visualizing Shakespeare as they existed in that long-dead geological era forty years back. And yes, 1981 probably was the last time you could do a major Othello production with a white actor in the lead, even if it was Anthony Hopkins.

Spiritual And/Or Religious?

Watching or reading Shakespeare, you get an unparalleled look into the values and assumptions of the Early Modern world, and that is so critical for teaching or researching on the era. That is doubly true in matters of religion and the spiritual, broadly defined.

Shakespeare’s own religious attitudes have been a matter of mystery and debate for centuries. Yes, you can certainly find biographical hints of Shakespeare’s Catholic ties, or make him an atheist, as you wish. But it’s the perpetual dilemma of deducing an author’s personal views from what s/he writes. Because they write something, does that mean that it reflects their personal beliefs or attitudes? Are we hearing the singer or just the song? Continue reading

QAnon Didn’t Just Spring Forth From the Void — It’s the Latest From a Familiar Movement

If you’ve been online at any point in the past year—if not, welcome!—your aimless clicks and doomscrolling may have brought you glimpses of the “world” of QAnon: the conspiracy theory that argues that US President Donald Trump is in the midst of a secret war against sex-trafficking, Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Its increasing prominence and power, especially as a worldview dissociated from fact, have compelled many an analyst, journalist, and pundit to festoon their analyses of QAnon in religious language. According to this speculative genre, QAnon is a new American religion, or even a cult. It’s an abusive cabal unlike any other form of belief and practice preceding it.

Enter religious studies scholar Megan Goodwin, co-host of Keeping it 101: A Killjoy’s Introduction to Religion, and author of Abusing Religion: Literary Persecution, Sex Scandals, and American Minority Religions. Fluent in the place of religion in the media, and with a recent book on the religio-political history and power of sex abuse allegations, Goodwin contends that QAnon is far from unprecedented. Goodwin traces the group’s prominence and lineage, as well as its zealous determination to “save the children,” to the rise of the New Christian Right and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s.

Calling QAnon a cult or religion marks the movement for its alterity and supposed irrationality, and hides how its practices are born of American social and political traditions. Its apocalypticism and accusations of pedophilia are but a contemporary symptom of a religiously-inflected political strategy older than Christianity itself. Historical precedents further suggest that the state lacks the tools and incentives to curb the group’s rise. Continue reading

Holy Smoke podcast: Have the churches been betrayed by their bishops? 

Last week I was sent a copy of a devastating 7,000-word letter accusing the Catholic bishops of England and Wales of grossly mishandling the coronavirus crisis by lobbying the government for a complete shutdown of their own churches, even for private prayer. The author called herself (or, more than likely, himself) ‘Fiona McDonald’ – and used a heavily encrypted email service in order to avoid being tracked down. Continue reading