Why I Started Using Christian Fascism Instead of Christian Nationalism
During graduate school, Chris Hedges took ethics classes with James Luther Adams, an American theologian who spent time in Germany during Nazi reign and who worked alongside the “confessing-church” in resistance to Nazism. In American Fascists, Hedges writes about Adams, who was around 80 when Hedges took his course, telling his students that by the time they reached his age that they “would all be fighting ‘Christian fascism.’” After reading works such as Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism, Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works, Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny, Elizabeth McRae’s Mothers of Massive Resistance, Kristin Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne, Anthea Butler’s White Evangelical Racism, Candida Moss’ The Myth of Persecution, and countless other texts and listening to numerous podcasts, I’ve come to use the term Christian fascism to describe much of the rhetoric and positions of evangelical Christianity.
I did not come to using this term lightly. For the longest time, I stuck with Christian nationalism because Christian fascism carries with it a myriad of connotations that individuals don’t want to confront. As Americans, when we use the term fascism, we use it in relation to specific historical regimes and moments, notably Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, two of the Axis nations during World War II. We view ourselves as the saviors of the free world and the promoters of democracy because we defeated fascism. We prop ourselves up, ignoring the fact that Russia, Polish resistance, French resistance, and countless others fought together to defeat the fascist regimes. We prop ourselves up forgetting multiple parts of our domestic history, like the German American Bund, denying refugees entry into the nation, placing American citizens and immigrants in concentration camps, and more.
At the time of the course Hedges mentions, he and his classmates saw Adams’ warning as something in the distant future, something that couldn’t possibly happen. Adams, for his part, warned them against their “intellectual snobbery” that would say, “It can’t happen here.” He pointed out that those who inherited Nazi fascism in America “found a mask for fascism in patriotism and the pages of the bible.” I remember vividly church services that would praise the military, praise our service members…