Jami's Reviews > American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America

American Fascists by Chris Hedges
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Mar 31, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: political, non-fiction
Recommended for: everyone
Read in May, 2008

So, Ellis and I just finished reading this as Book #1 in our newly-founded 2-person book group, and while it wouldn't have been my first pick, I actually really enjoyed reading it, and it was an excellent book for discussion.

Chris Hedges describes the idealogy of the extreme Christian Right group based here in America, and frankly, I found it to be pretty scary. The idea behind creating an entirely Christian nation (as the Christian Right would like to do) is not only un-democratic, but it is also completely intolerant of any person's beliefs or religion that is not Christian. Isn't freedom of religion and individual rights what our country was founded upon?

Hedges believes that forcing Christianity upon people or nations will only lead to a fascist state. I loved the quote by Luis Palau, a protege of Billy Graham, who does not conform to the ideas of the Christian Right. He says that "change comes from personal conviction, not by Christianizing a nation. If we become called to Christ, we will build an effective nation through personal ethics. When you lead a life of purity, when you respect your wife and are good to your family, when you don't waste money gambling and womanizing, you begin to work for better schools, for more protection and safety for your community. All change, historically, comes from the bottom up."

The Christian Right, however, feel that violence and intolerance must be used to rid the nation of evil, or those that they see as evil (ie: non-Christians, gays, pro-choice advocates, scientists, etc). Hedges says that, "This rhetoric of depersonalization creates a frightening moral fragmentation, an ability to act with compassion and justice toward those within the closed, Christian circle yet allow others outside the circle to be abused, silenced, and stripped of their rights."

"The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God."

Hedges main idea is that we simply cannot be tolerant of intolerance. He says that, "I do not deny the right of Christian radicals to be, to believe and worship as they choose. But I will not engage in a dialogue with those who deny my right to be, who delegitimize my faith and denounce my struggle before God as worthless."
9 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read American Fascists.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Ellis Amen, Chris.

message 2: by Amanda (new)

Amanda What made you decide to even read a book like that? It sounds interesting and is something that I had no idea was going on.

Jami Actually, it was Ellis's choice. We take turns picking out books, and then we discuss them. Ellis had the first pick, and I was a little skeptical at first when he chose this. It was really fascinating, though, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I was going to.

message 4: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea I agree, it's scary as....hell.

That almost half of Americans thing we're going through the endtimes as predicted in the book of Revelations, and that this might even be driving US foreign policy, is a national nightmare from which I hope we soon awake.

Ellis You know what kills me, regarding US foreign policy and the Armageddon seekers, is our policy concerning Israel. The Israelis must think we are a bunch of Tools for supporting them against their enemies so that they later can be destroyed by their enemies in Armageddon. It must take an enormous amount of humility and desparation to accept help from a group who considers you Messiah killers just so you can be destroyed in the near future.

I just heard one of the big Evangelical church leaders (I don't remember who) say that we should attack Iran because it will hasten Armageddon. GENIUS! And if Armageddon did bring their Savior, what would he have to say to those that chose to bring war and death on a nation just to get Him here sooner. I thought Jesus said something about peace and meekness...

message 6: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea Yeah, well, the sooner we wrest power from the hands of these people and turn the national discourse back to sanity, the better.

I don't mind people having religion, but it should be private, not involved in politics and it should not - under any circumstances - be driving US policy here or abroad.

Ellis Abigail,

Your questions and points are important. I think that the perfect means for maintaining the proper functioning relationship between religion and politics have been laid out by the framers of the constitution and have more recently been alluded to by JFK and Barak Obama. What we need is separation of church and state. Neither one need be elevated or diminished, but they shouldn’t be together. A person’s faith should be something held inward that guides one’s actions and decisions. We aren’t in any danger of the people who act in this way. We are, as you mentioned, in danger of fundamentalists and the intolerant movements they champion that are based on fear and hatred. Chris Hedges tells us in this book, and I agree with him wholeheartedly, that we can’t tolerate intolerance. We can’t listen to intolerant views without speaking against them or voicing disagreement.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve really tried to put this into practice and it’s been really rewarding. Lots of times people say intolerant things because they don’t realize that others disagree with them, or because they think they are being really funny. I’ve made it a point to respond to all emails, largely spammed by my brother, containing political libel and other ridiculous statements. It’s been really interesting, and since I use the “reply to all” option on the big group emails, I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with neoconservatives wondering who the unknown “lefty” is that’s writing them. I’m sure I haven’t changed how anyone will vote in November, but I think I have caused some people to think before they speak. It’s been fun.

You won't be disappointed you added this book to your list.

message 8: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea lol I am not one to preach intolerance lightly, as you know, Abigail, but I am wrestling with my own demons on this issue.

I have to say, probably arrogantly, that my brand of intolerance would likely be a bit softer and forgiving than theirs seems to me. Maybe I would like to believe that, but I don't tell them they must believe as I do - rather that they can believe as they like as long as they aren't imposing or infringing against others.

Further, there is no doubt in my mind that a religious person's religion will play a part in their values and how they vote, but for goodness sake, I wish we were a little more enlightened and progressive. I wish our religious Right were more tolerant, I guess.

I think the whole discussion of a political figure's religious beliefs to be a non-starter. It honestly doesn't matter to me, excepting Fundamentalism, what a leader believes. I don't believe being a Christian makes a leader better; you can't ask for better evidence than our current POTUS on that score.

So, yes, while I realize our Western values are based on Judeo-Christian principles in part, they were also influenced by people who had no religious affiliation at all, or who sought freedom of/from religious tyranny.

With the rise of fundamentalism, especially in the USA, moderate voices were often drowned out in the furious rhetoric flying around.

I would like to counsel a return to a more stable, open dialogue, absent words like 'traitor', 'seditionist', and ideas like Hurricane Katrina was G-d's punishment for a gay pride parade. And I certainly don't think our foreign policy should be decided on which event would most hasten Armageddon.

Ellis So, several months ago, in the effort to be "fair and balanced", and to get to know the oposing candidates better, I watched a debate between the Republican presidential candidates that was held by Fox "News". When introducing each candidate, a little fact list about the candidate appeared. The second thing on the list, right below the candidate's name was their religion. I was amazed! I shouldn't have been too surprised given the network that held the debate, but I was really disturbed by the importance given to a candidates stated religious preference. It's almost as if that tidbit of information was used to reassure us that each candidate was a good person. I wish it were so simple, but unfortunately for the Right, and all of us really, a person's belief doesn't really tell us anything about whether a given person will act ethically/morally.

message 10: by Robert (last edited Feb 09, 2010 04:43PM) (new)

Robert Tackett I found and read Jami's review, and frankly found it quite offensive. To stand from a pedestal and exclaim (as many do these days)... "Out with Christianity", I find to be at the core of this movement today that I will forever exclaim, is anti-American. We are at war today, and it is civil! In case you dont't remember, back in a day when most of our population was Christian, it was often said "United we stand, divided we fall". Well go on and preach your herressy... this country, this world will not be able to stand much more of it. Isn't it amazing, 2000 years later, all a person has to do is whisper the name of Jesus and all of a sudden, the man who came to save sinners, of which all are guilty, is the same who is forever to be hung on a tree. Are you any different Jami? Do you wince at the name of Jesus? Shame on you if you do... Oh prideful man, who will free you from your body of sin? Do you not know that you too possess a soul? Or are you too one of those who oppose the studying of the soul? Or did you not know that psychology is the study thereof? Oh mortal man, are you so vain as to fight the armies of God? When Jesus returns, He returns only to take His Bride home to glory,,, will you be found there?

message 11: by Jami (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jami Well, Robert, you are certainly entitled to your very impassioned views that sound (dare I say?) as if delivered from the very pedestal you preach against; however, I wonder if you in fact read my review very carefully, or if you even happened to have actually read this book. If you did read either, you will understand that neither my review nor the book is anti-Christian. I'm kind of confused how you came to that conclusion.

As a devout Christian myself, what does offend me is the use of Christianity to promote violence and intolerance. And even though I am a Christian, our country is, in fact, not a Christian nation. It is a FREE nation. A nation that our founding fathers established to be a place of refuge for any seeking such -- not just Christians. I find it very offensive, judgemental, and condescending to assume that every person must feel and believe as YOU believe to have a right to live in this country or to be united as Americans.

Religion should not a governmental tool, or it will always be misused by power-hungry individuals and turned into a manipulative tool.

message 12: by Robert (last edited Feb 09, 2010 04:41PM) (new)

Robert Tackett First of all, when you want to start calling anything that would prolong the existance of Christianity scary, that is what triggerred my response, and I quote, "Chris Hedges describes the idealogy of the extreme Christian Right group based here in America, and frankly, I found it to be pretty scary". The only reason why a Christian hopes to extend the existance of Christianity is to allow as many that would, come to repentance. If I may, I would like to quote Adolf Hitler, whose ideology, I suspect, is very much alive today.

Night of 11th-12th July, 1941:

"National Socialism and religion cannot exist together.... The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.... Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things".
Also, for the record, I am not an advocate of "forcing" as you put it, (or Hedges) Christianity, I am however at (Spiritual) war with all oppositions of the Christian standard which is... Jesus.

message 13: by Jami (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jami Wow, this seems to be yet another example of someone commenting on something they appear to be ignorant about. It is very clear to me that you have not read this book, nor have you understood my review of it. What we are talking about here is not "prolonging the existence of Christianity;" this book is about the ideology of the extreme Christian Right groups! These are groups who promote violence and intolerance, all in the name of Christianity, which in my mind is the very opposite of how a true Christian would act. THAT is what is so scary to me.

And quoting Hitler in this instance made very little sense to me. If you'll remember, the founding fathers of our country made it very clear that separation of church and state was essential. Not only that, but Jesus himself refused to get involved in government even though that is what the Jews had hoped and expected him to do.

In the future, I think you would be wise to refrain from critiquing books you have not read.

message 14: by Robert (last edited Feb 11, 2010 12:49AM) (new)

Robert Tackett As far as I am concerned, I totally agree with you there. It was a most excellent thing that the founding fathers did make that part of the constitution...separation of church and state, I mean. Isn't it something though too, that while that phrase is hard to define, though I agree with it whole heartedly, we have some who are in power straight seeking to re-write/ re-engineer the constitution to further their causes?
Furthermore, when two groups having different ideas/ opinions that oppose eachother, there is no doubt a point at which both have to come to terms that both are intolerant of the others point of view. That Jamie, is called an argument.
To be using violence to force ones opinion, I would have to agree that in some cases (I don't believe it is the high way), I support violence. For example, I think it is wise, though I do not agree with it, that we are opposing the terrorism of the Islamic faith. At some point, there comes a need to fight fire with fire. I will quote Sir Isaac Newton, even though we know he was referencing the laws of physics, most of us use this quote as it seems true that ''To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions''.
You are right Jamie, there is no room in government for people to be pressing their "religion". There is however a moral obligation that each person in power should make sound decisions according to "his/her" specific doctrine, which I think, all in power, including Obama, are doing. What I seek to encourage, is to only support the laws which are in place which support "my" doctrines, and if they do not support my doctrines, I seek to vote them down.
Too often these days I hear people say that our founding fathers did not right the constitution from a Christian point of view. Though that "might" be true, I don't believe that it is. And also, if I am not mistaken, most of the people in this country (WWII and prior), were Christian... at least having Jesus as the core of their doctrines. Just ask some of the people that you know who are at least 80 years old, what religion are you? I am sure that most of them will tell you "this or that denomination of Christian faith" And what I am seeing, especially since the 60's, is this movement, like a tidal wave, to bring in anything other than that which is moral, much less than, that which would be deamed "Christian".
You are right Jamie, again, that I did not read the book. I did however take the time to read most of the posts here regarding your original post and from many of them, I was able to come to a conclusion as to what the book was promoting. I hope now, you see clearly my convictions regarding this kind of propoganda. Though it is subtle, it is obvious and the heart behind this movement, I believe, cannot be stopped. That is why I look forward to a different Kingdom, for this place is not my home, and that new Kingdom is a perfect Kingdom without corruption. So if you want to support the homosexuals, the fornicators, the adulterers, murderers, and all matter of evil, and say that "all is well, God will accept you", I agree, God will accept everyone, as I was just as guilty as any man to break even the smallest commandment of God, but unless people repent, as the scripture says, those peoples inherritance will be the lake of fire which burns forever. Let me ask you one thing Jamie, is it wrong to murder? If so, how do you know? Well, you might well say because my heart tells me so. That is an excellent frame of referrence. However, since mans heart was tainted by original sin, God by His Spirit, using men, I believe, wrote the Bible for use in correcting our erring hearts. It is a sure way where everything else is all just a matter of opinion. For the Bible says, "Let God be true and every man a liar" Romans 3:4.
One more thing before I go, I live in California and there is a strong push here, as I am sure you are aware of, for homosexuals to have the right to marry. We Christians are not here to condemn, but to say with 1 voice that it is not something we want to be a part of our country, in hopes to reform this backsliding nation. It may be something that is coming, our nation, a world without morals, but I will not support it or sugar coat it. All that God has written in His word I believe is true, and I support His way. Isn't it better? I noticed you are married, I don't know if you have any children or not, but aren't you hopeful that your husband has convictions as to never cheat on you? This is even a simple and obvious matter. God's ways are "only" for our good. In none of His commands are any one of them burdensome, but life and health is what they are there for. None of us have been perfected, but there is this hope that " if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1John 1:9. Well Jami, I know I have said some things that were probably not always friendly. I am doing my best to further His purposes as I see and know them. I have only been a Christian for the past 5 years and so, in saying that, obviously there is so much more wisdom yet to gain. But I like Paul am pressing "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". Phillipians 3:14. Blessings towards you and all who are in your thoughts. In Him, Robert Tackett.

message 15: by Jami (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jami Using violence to protect oneself, one's country, or one's family may be necessary. Using violence to force one's opinion, however, is never right. That is not an ideology that Christ ever promoted. Nor is it in anyone's right to judge the beliefs of others. Actions, such as murder, must face consequences. But no one has the right to tell someone how they must feel or believe.

Disagreeing about those beliefs is one thing. Promoting intolerance, however, is quite another. Treating someone cruelly, physically harming, taking away rights, or treating with bias against someone who is of another race, religion, or sexual persuasion is intolerance. That is not the same thing as simply arguing with someone.

Sadly, you have misjudged this book drastically. Again, that happens when you haven't actually read it. The author strongly promotes Christian ideals and morals. Unfortunately, many of these extreme Christian Right groups have forgotten what it actually means to be Christian.

message 16: by Robert (new)

Robert Tackett I wonder, xox, do you have any faults?

back to top