31 July 2023

Fascism and cultists.

A lot of Americans didn’t pay attention in their high school history classes, and therefore aren’t all that clear about what fascism is. Which is understandable; too many history books don’t define it, and too many historians insist, “Well it’s not really that; it’s more like this.”

Fascism was the movement led by Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. It was… pretty much whatever Mussolini said it was, ’cause the movement was tightly connected with the man. And what he was all about was

  • NATIONALISM—defining “Italian” by race, and insisting all “non-Italians” conform or get out;
  • AUTARKY—a self-sufficient economy which needs nothing from other countries;
  • HIERARCHY—the wealthy or noble are the proper leaders of society, men should rule over women, and traditional gender roles should be enforced;
  • WARTIME STATUS—the nation should be on high alert against any enemies, with everyone contributing to national defense;
  • LIMITED RIGHTS—or in some cases eliminated rights for undesirables.

In general, fascists think we have too much freedom, and it permits people to be immoral. Well, they wanna fight “immorality”—however they define it, and they have some really wide definitions. They’ll consider entire religions and entire political parties, “immoral.”

If you grew up Fundamentalist—particularly the sort of Fundie whose church was actually an authoritarian cult, whose fathers tried to establish their own little mini-patriarchy where Dad was king and ruled with an iron fist—fascism isn’t gonna be a new worldview to you at all. You grew up under fascism. If you didn’t flee those cults and their fruitless, godless behavior, but instead adopted their mindset, you might even think it’d be good for the country as a whole. In other words, you’d be fascist too.

This is why fascism has always had a foothold in the United States. Always; the mindset predates Mussolini. It’s been around since the very beginning, when some of the first English colonies were created to be little religious oligarchies in which Puritans (or Baptists, or Catholics) ruled. Thankfully the United States ultimately adopted the Quaker position of religious freedom. But y’notice a lot of Fundies chafe at this idea—because to their minds, the Puritans had the right idea. The U.S. was founded as, and ought still be, a Christian nation, with all non-Christians required to either conform to Christian principles or leave. And the government should have the power to enforce it—a power which includes imprisonment and death.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not writing this to alarm you—“The fascists are coming; the fascists are everywhere!—we gotta fight them before they gain power!” Like I said, they’ve always been around, and way more Americans are antifascist (“antifa” for short) than not. I’m writing this to inform you. Like herpes, fascism is a problem which is never really going away, but there are steps we can take to tamp it down really hard, and make sure it doesn’t consume us.

And it starts by knowing about one of its most popular breeding grounds: Cults.

Cults aren’t democratic, y’know.

The Fundamentalist church I grew up attending, practiced direct democracy. We had monthly membership meetings, and voted on stuff. You had a say in how things ran. True, democracy isn’t a church governance structure described in the New Testament… but when your church members are mature Christians, the system works just fine. (Just don’t let hypocrites become members!)

Now that’s my old Fundie church. Not every Fundamentalist church lets people have a say. Cults certainly don’t. In such churches, the head pastor is firmly in charge, and you don’t get to publicly critique the way the church runs, and usually can’t privately critique it either. Any other leaders are likewise under the head pastor’s thumb. Any “elections,” if they hold any, are really just polls, and the head pastor can nullify them if he pleases. It is a dictatorship in miniature.

And no surprise, it’s nearly always a fascist dictatorship. It’s got tight borders, and doesn’t allow just anyone to join the church. It’s got a hierarchy, and with very rare exceptions (say, when the dictator’s a woman—but not always even then!) it’s sexist. It prides itself in being independent and self-sufficient. It’s always on alert against the devil and its imps… and against sinners, and people of other political parties. It’s legalist to the core.

It gets away with being authoritarian and fruitless, by pointing to its orthodoxy. Lookit its faith statement! All the stuff the church proclaims—it’s all historical, all biblical, all ancient, all Christian. So it can’t be a cult, they insist; cults are heretic and they’re not. Meanwhile, like I said, no fruit. No love, no patience, no peace, no grace. Plenty of fear though.

No surprise, the head pastor is nearly always a Christian nationalist. Somehow he got the idea the United States is New Israel, somehow acquired a national covenant with God, and because we permit so much sin, we’re violating that covenant like crazy and Jesus is gonna smite us at the second coming. So we gotta turn this around by taking over the country! Vote! Vote for fellow nationalists!

And if that doesn’t work… cheat. Because we gotta stop America from being destroyed by its enemies within. So (exactly like all the Christians in popular End Times novels regularly lie, cheat, and steal in order to battle the Beast), the ends justify the means. Cheat! Cheat like your eternal life depends on it.

Yeah, cults and fascists aren’t all that moral either. Should that surprise us?

Enemies to Christianity.

While a lot of Christians might unthinkingly figure, “Well what’s so bad about being a more Christian nation? What’s wrong with the government promoting Christian morals, brotherly love, more piety, more devotion, more compassion?”

Oh there’s nothing wrong with those things! But if you think that’s what Christian nationalists are all about, man alive do they have you fooled. They don’t seek power so they can promote the kingdom of God. They seek power so they can fight “immorality.” They don’t seek Jesus’s vision for the world; they seek their own. And their vision looks exactly like their cults.

Take a look at the Christian nationalists we’ve already elected to office. You see any good fruit in them?—that is, assuming you’re taking an honest look at them, and aren’t looking at them through partisan lenses. Are they promoting love for the refugees, for widows and orphans, for strangers, for the sick and naked and people in prison? Or are they actually promoting policies which’ll just create more of them?

When they talk about promoting Christianity, and demoting other religions, is this the sort of behavior which demonstrates any form of love towards the people of those other religions? Any sort of grace, which might get them to compare the absence of grace in their own lives, and be drawn to Jesus as a result? Any sort of kindness, which—even if they never become Christian themselves—makes them say, “Oh, you don’t need to fear these Christians; they’re the nicest people”? That’s the reputation we absolutely should have; is that the Christianity we see among cultists? Not in the slightest; and it’s not the Christianity we see among fascists either.

So it’s all kinds of stupid for us to vote them into power. They’re just gonna spread more Christianism and less Christ—and if the cultists successfully convince people their vision of Jesus is the actual Jesus, good luck sharing Jesus with anyone! They’ve already made my efforts at evangelism way harder than they oughta be, and when they get more power, it’s only gonna get harder.