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What’s in a Name?
Who is a Fascist? Who is not?
An article by Contributing
Editor Susan Humphreys
A recent online chat discussed the characteristics and nature of evangelical Christians and why they voted for 1 -- and continue to support -- President Trump. One man suggested that people read an article about “The Psychology of Fascism." He implied that evangelical Christians are fascists.
Both those on the right and on the left like to call the other some derogatory name: communist, socialist, fascist, etc., in an attempt to demean and demonize the “other" -- those people who are not like them! So I wasn’t surprised to see this comment in an online chat.
BUT my first thought was NO I wouldn’t call the evangelical folks that I know "fascists." I certainly don’t like some of their values. But are they really fascists? That is going too far.
I located the recommended article in the Information Clearing House web site. It was written by Robert J. Burrowes. 2
It is an interesting article. In it, Burrowes lists characteristics of fascists as identified by several different writers. As I read through the characteristics I realized that MANY (note: I said many not all) evangelical Christians that I know do indeed have many of these listed characteristics:
- Belief in a mythic (false) past;
- Propaganda to divert attention and blame from the true source of corruption (what we might call scapegoating);
- A belief in the ‘common man’ while deriding ‘women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities who seek basic equality as if they are actually seeking political and cultural domination.’
There are more characteristics listed. They come from Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University. An article in the New Haven Independent titled ‘Prof Sees Fascism Creeping In U.S.’ lists Stanley's "10 Characteristics of fascist Politics." 3
Burrowes describes the psychology of fascists giving what I would call a standard Freudian explanation—people become fascists because they are abused as children. Childhood trauma turned them into fascists.
I’m not a Freudian psychologist but I can see some truth to his points. Especially since in his seventh point he confirmed an observation I made in my two-part essay about Moral Foundation Theory.
“Children who become fascists have been terrorized into accepting a very narrow-minded and dogmatic belief set that excludes consideration of those in other social (including gender, racial, religious or class) groups."
Burrowes goes on to say:
“In addition, the belief set of fascists includes a powerful and violently reinforced ‘lesson’: ‘good’ means obedient: it does not mean intrinsically good, loving and caring."
I find it quite satisfying to have my insights confirmed by others!
It is all about OBEDIENCE to God and the leaders of ones particular church group, towards the President, a political party and the party leaders, to ones parents -- especially the male parent -- and to other authority figures, such as police, military, and local leaders. There is also the sanctification of these authority figures, so that to be disobedient is considered a major sin.
BUT I kept thinking what separates fascists from the evangelical Christians that I know. Calling them fascists is wrong. In Burrowes ninth point I found the difference.
“Ninth: fascists have a compulsion to be violent; that is, they are addicted to it."
The evangelical Christians that I know are NOT violent people. They are peaceful folk who wouldn’t harm a fly! They are pro-life but would never stand outside a family planning clinic calling women entering the clinic murderers. They would never attend a Trump political rally. I don’t have the statistics but I suspect that if we compared the numbers of people at Trump rallies to the number of those who voted for him we would find the rally participants are a small minority of his supporters. I would also suspect -- though I have no proof of this -- that there are many at the rallies that are observers not rabid participants! This is an important distinction. The majority of evangelical Christians are not violent people and thus do not become fascists.
I disagree with many of evangelical Christian beliefs. I believe that their blind support for Trump is a serious flaw on their characters because they fail or refuse to see all the harm he is doing to our society, and the harm they are doing by supporting him. Still, they are NOT violent people.
So what’s in a name?
A lot. Before you call someone you disagree with a fascist, or communist, or socialist, I recommend that you educate yourself about that title, to see if it honestly fits.
In the end, with or without religion, good people will be good people, not-so good people will be not so good, and downright evil people will be evil.
Religion can help bring out the best in them -- the better angel side of their nature. Or it can be weaponized -- used to belittle, demean and demonize the “other" -- all of those who are different, those that reject their beliefs, those that aren’t just like them. Religion can become a tool to justify and sanctify fears, bias, prejudice, to bring out people’s baser instincts, and to give approval of mean words and actions directed towards those “others". Religion can be used to bring out the worst in people.
But remember there are people in this world who are judgmental, hypocritical, self-righteous, and prefer ‘alternative facts’ to real facts. BUT they are NOT violent people and they are NOT fascists. So, please don’t call them one.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Ed Stetzer & Andrew MacDonald, "Why Evangelicals Voted Trump: Debunking the 81%," Christianity Today, 2018-OCT-18, at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/
- Robert J. Burrowes, "The Psychology of Fascism," Information Clearing House, 2018-OCT-24, at: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info
- Thomas Breen, "Prof Sees Fascism Creeping In U.S.," New Haven Independent, 2018-JUL-11, at: https://www.newhavenindependent.org/
Original posting: 2018-NOV-21
Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys